Significant Others II: (Luther College Student Reviews) (Winter 2015)

Airgood, Ellen. 2015. The education of Ivy Blake. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 227pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0399162787.

Young adult fiction can still pull heartstrings and challenge the intellect of readers older than the intended audience. A companion novel to Prairie Evers, this emotional and vibrant tale of 11- year old Ivy Blake, utilizes powerful imagery and characterization to captivate and transport readers into Ivy’s turbulent and damaged life of coping with an unstable and often frightening mother, while trying to maintain a “normal” childhood like that of her best friend Prairie. A conventional coming-of-age story, The education of Ivy Blake is appropriate for middle school aged children (10-13), without mollifying Ivy’s inner and external turmoil. Readers are inspired by Ivy’s persistence to give herself an interesting, healthy, and fulfilled life through artistic mediums such as writing, drawing, and filmmaking; focused more on character development and growth than a clean-cut plot line, the life of a confused, searching, and seemingly misplaced preteen is empathized through detailed scenes of friendship and a redefining of family. (KSR) 

Alborough, Jez. 2014. Billy the goat’s big breakfast. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). 32pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-190-3.

Billy the Goat visits Nat the Cat’s house for breakfast, but arrives too early and has to wait for Huge Hare to come. While waiting, Billy Goat grows impatient, eats half of the food, and gets a big tummy ache. With the help of Nat and Huge Hare, children will discover the important themes of patience, forgiveness, and honesty. At the end of the book, Nat makes up a song that provides an enjoyable extension to the story. Children can sing and play along using the included sheet music. The author’s poetic and rhythmic style paired with his gentle and inviting illustrations make this story engaging and appealing to all readers. (AT)

Alko, Selina. 2015. The case for loving: The fight for interracial marriage. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 40pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-47853-3. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.

An early elementary (6-8) aged audience will enjoy this biographical book about true love and family. A white man named Richard Loving falls in love with a colored woman named Mildred, and they want to get married. However, at this time interracial marriage is illegal in Virginia, which is where they are living. The couple decides to go to Washington D.C. and become legally married. When the two return to Virginia, the police arrest them and they are forced to move to D.C. The Lovings take the Loving v. Virginia case to the Supreme Court. Although the two decide to stay home with their children, Mr. Loving’s voice is heard as his lawyers quote him at court saying, “Tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.” The Lovings win their case and return with their children to their home in Virginia. The authors provide a list of sources as well as suggestions for further readings to encourage children to continue reading about racism. (MS) 

Al Mansour, Haifaa. 2015. The green bicycle. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 346pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-52542806-0.

Placed against a well-timed Middle Eastern setting, The green bicycle is an appropriate and relevant novel to introduce middle grade readers (ages 10+) to the world around them. Based on the 2012 film, Wadjda, Al Mansour’s debut novel is full of childhood dreams, mischievous behavior, parental conflict, and a need to be understood. From the cover, Wadjda looks like she could be any US American 11-year old. Even her basic description of her personality could read: she loves music, making bracelets, and desperately wants a new bike. The powerful impact this story then leaves on the reader is substantive: The green bicycle invites readers to reflect more on the similarities of people than their differences. A stereotype shattering tale, the subtle directness of Al Mansour’s storytelling transports the reader into a world not that far from home. (KSR) 

Alvarez, Jennifer Lynn. 2015. The Guardian herd: Stormbound. HarperCollins Publishers. 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-228609-3. Illustrated by David McClellan.

This fictional tale includes adventure, suspense, and trust. The Gaurdian herd: Stormbound is an appropriate choice for children and young adult readers, ages 8 – 12, who enjoy stories about overcoming conflict with friends and trusting oneself. The sequel will keep the reader anticipating the author’s next move as they join in on the escapades with Star, the main character. Star accepts his own fate of acquiring powers since his days as a young Pegasus, a unique horse breed. His powers have turned many away, but he overcomes this to lead those who still trust him with their entire herd. The setting of the story, Anok, is uniquely descriptive and imaginative and establishes the mood of the book. As an epic animal fantasy, The Guardian herd: Stormbound is filled with plot twists and thrills. Readers will be on the edge of their seats, racing against time with Star to help save the threatened herds from the antagonist, Nightwing. The theme of the story includes overcoming one’s owns conflicts to help others in need. Alvarez writes with a page-turning and well-paced style. (KI) 

Angelberger, Tom. 2015. Star Wars return of the Jedi: Beware the power of the darkside. Disney Book Group. 412pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48470913-9

In this retelling of a popular tale students are engaged in the battle between good versus evil, a common contemporary theme apparent in the news or in everyday life (for example, bullying). This retelling not only connects to a younger audience, but can be enjoyed by those who know the original story. The constant struggle between good and evil seems unnatural and it intrigues every reader. For example, when Luke and his gang faces Jabba, the Emperor, and Darth Vader it seems impossible that good could triumph over all of it. But the reader has a sense of hopefulness and determination. Not only are the conflicts intriguing by the expansion of reality as readers know it. Star wars is all about an adventure in a place that is unknown to readers, but the author creates a credible setting. The creatures with human qualities and those with unusual characteristics propel the reader to an alternate universe. The conflicts, characters, setting, and themes challenge readers to question what is really known about space and all of the galaxies far, far away. (RKC) 

Anstee, Ashlyn. 2015. Are we there yeti?. Simon & Schuster. 37pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814- 3089-0. Illustrated by Ashlyn Anstee

Children in kindergarten through third grade will enjoy this exciting adventure. The illustrations are colorful and cheerful. The shapes help keep children engaged with the story. Objects, like the bus, are similar in shape to real school buses. However, there are some exaggerations to draw readers into the story. The varying textures intrigue readers. As Yeti and his friends travel through different landscapes, students cognitive development will benefit as they begin to categorize shapes and colors. (KH) 

Appelt, Kathi. 2014. Mogie: The heart of the house. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8054-4. Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal.

A well-developed plot and characters are essential in creating a memorable story. As readers follow the story of Mogie and his unique characteristics, they will observe person-against- society conflict. Mogie does not behave like other dogs do; he is neither a search and rescue dog nor a show dog. Instead, Mogie has his own set of unique skills. Mogie’s talent is making hospitalized children feel better again. When Mogie mistakenly strolls into a hospital house he befriends a young boy who has lost all of his passion and energy in life. Mogie helps him find that love and positive energy once again. Even though Mogie is different than most dogs, the reader finds joy when discovers his gift of helping children regain their health. (ZJH) 

Armand, Glenda. 2015. Ira’s Shakespeare dream. Lee & Low Books. 40pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-155-7. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper.

Armand creates an engaging biography about African American, Ira Aldridge, and his journey to overcome discrimination to achieve his dream of becoming a successful Shakespearean actor. An afterword about Ira at the end of the story goes further into detail about his life and includes a real photo. There is also a list of the author’s sources of books and websites as well as quotations used throughout the story. Ira’s Shakespearean Dream takes place in the United States and in England during the 1800s. Armand’s style includes famous Shakespearian words and dialogue to engage young readers. Ira has a passion for acting and encounters slavery and discrimination, but that does not stop him from following his dream. Cooper produces simple illustrations from erased oil washes. The light on each page defines the focal points. Warm faded colors and soft shapes help set a calm mood. Children ages 7 to 12 will learn perseverance and hard work will be rewarded and will encounter famous words of William Shakespeare. Ira’s biography will inspire people of all backgrounds to follow their dreams and overcome challenges coming their way. (EKF) 

Arnold, Caroline. 2013. Too hot? Too cold? Keeping body temperature just right. Charlesbridge Publishing. 32pp. $7.95. 978-1-58089-277-3. Illustrated by Annie Patterson.

This is an informational book that could be used for elementary aged students while explaining the way that our bodies and other animals’ bodies use temperature. The information is supported with illustrations that pair nicely with the text. The information can be easily read and the language used helps to get the ideas across. (MH) 

Arnold, Tedd. 2014. A pet for fly guy. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-31615-6.

This picture storybook works well for early elementary students. It follows the story of a boy, Buzz, and his pet, Fly Guy. The illustrations in this book help to move the plot along with the use of line. As Fly Guy flies around the pages, lines are used to show the reader his path. He moves from page to page trying to discover the perfect pet. This story can help to tell young readers’ a funny story about friendship. (MH) 

Atkinson, Cole. 2015. To the sea. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-148470813-2. Illustrated by Cole Atkinson.

Early childhood readers swim alongside two fish out of water as they learn about making, helping, and keeping friends. Tim feels invisible at school until he stumbles across Sam, a big blue whale who makes a wrong turn on his way back to the ocean. Literally stuck in Tim’s neighborhood, Sam makes Tim feel valued and loved, and the two form an unlikely, yet lasting friendship. Hues of dark blue and green help readers connect with Tim’s melancholic feelings as he struggles with acceptance and self worth. And although Atkinson uses familiar geometric shapes to construct Tim’s school, bright orange light spills out its windows, warning against the stressful environment inside. Sharp, vertical lines of rain dominate the background of each page, further adding to the gloomy mood. Eventually, the storm finally lift, and the mood shifts to a warm and meaningful conclusion. This heartwarming tale is the perfect story for teaching beginning readers what it means to be a friend. (SDP) 

Avi. 2015. Old wolf. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 146pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9921-8. Illustrated by Brian Floca. 

Newbery Medalist, Avi, creates an engaging contemporary realistic fable aimed towards children ages 8-12. Old Wolf is a quick read sharing two alternating stories about hunting in the Iron Mountain region of Colorado. Wolves and ravens are in desperate need for food and the old leader of the wolf pack, Nashoba, follows Merla the raven through the woods to hunt for a meal. Nashoba experiences a person-against-self and a person-against-nature conflict while dealing with the theme of power and control when a younger wolf questions his leadership of the pack as Nashoba searches for food to survive. The other story involves a 13-year-old boy, Casey, who enjoys playing the videogame “Bowhunter” and receives a real bow and arrow for his birthday. Casey faces a person-against-nature conflict when the complexity of nature reveals itself as the two different hunting techniques of humans and animals clash. Avi’s style creates a suspenseful and dramatic mood through quoted dialogue as the reader follows the stories of Casey and Nashoba. This fable’s simple characters deal with conflicts leading to self-discovery in a realistic setting. The detailed and realistic black and white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca, help paint a picture in the reader’s head through pencil lines showing characters’ emotions and set a dramatic mood through his use of shading to show contrast of light and dark, hope and fear. (EKF) 

Austin, Mike. 2014. Monsters love school. HarperCollins Publishers. 40pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-228618-5. 

Preschool to early elementary (ages 4-8) aged children will identify with this picture storybook about common fears associated with going back to school after summer ends. The plot develops quickly when one of the monsters realizes that he has to start school and he is not sure when he will get to eat or if other monsters will like him. Trying to make school enjoyable for him, the red teacher and bright green, yellow, and pink monster friends are full of energy and have smiles on their faces as they sing rhyming songs, show him what school is about, and encourage him that he will make friends. In the end, he overcomes his fears about school and discovers that school is fun because he is learning his ABCs and 123s, monster history, how to read, write, and spell, and he gets to make cool things in art. He also made lots of new friends. (MS) 

Averbeck, Jim. 2015. One word from Sophia. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481405140. Illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail. 

One Word from Sophia is a picture book depicting a young girl’s progression of persuasive presentation to various family members about her “One True [birthday] Desire”, a pet giraffe. Intended for young readers ages 4-8, Averbeck’s precocious protagonist’s request for a giraffe is continuously rejected by her parents, uncle, and grandmother. As the story progresses, Sophia learns how to more effectively communicate and argue her point and soon realizes sometimes fewer words can be persuasive. Filled with eye-catching and memorable illustrations, this book will introduce readers to concepts of organized debate and hard work through Sophia’s charts, graphs, and other sources of rational persuasion, and leave them with at least eight new vibrant vocabulary words. (KSR) 

Barrett, Ron. 1989. Cats got talent. Simon & Schuster (Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9451-0. 

This short story follows the three cats who, through different life circumstances, end up in an ally wishing for a better life. The basic plot line would be perfect for young students; however, advanced vocabulary elevates this book to an appropriateness level for older readers. This story would be an amazing addition to any classroom of older elementary students who are animal lovers and are working on advancing their vocabulary. (LW) 

Barrowman, John & Carole. 2015. Hollow Earth: The book of beasts. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 325pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48144230-5.

Separated by different worlds and times, twin siblings Matt and Emily Calder, must be united to fight off the monsters from the world Hallow Earth and shockingly their father, who are planning to destroy the world. Emily lives in the present time at the Abbey with her mother on the west coast of Scotland, but Matt was left behind back in the middle ages on the west coast of Scotland. They are time eras apart, yet they must work together to save the world. At first they get glimpses of the issue in the night with similar dreams, they become fully immersed in the problem, jumping between the different times. Matt and Emily use their special gift of Animare, the ability to create drawings which then become a part of reality, in battles to save themselves and the world. Finally, with help from friends and their mom, Matt and Emily are reunited, Matt is brought back to present time, and the world is saved.

Hallow Earth: The Book of Beasts is a modern fantasy in a strange and curious world. The main aspect of this strange and curious world, which suspends disbelief for the reader, is the Animare abilities of the characters. The thought of drawings becoming a part of reality, suspends disbelief for the reader, especially young readers. Since children have vast imaginations, often times stuffed animals, imaginary friends, and drawings do come to life for them. This detail allows for the author to use Animare to suspend the reader’s disbelief. Another way the author suspends the reader’s disbelief is through the visions which appear in the night to alert Matt and Emily of the rising problem. This suspends disbelief because these visions are similar to how real dreams can seem to a person. Dreams can be vivid, they can seem real. The authors extend dreams in the story by making the visions present and physical in the room of Matt or Emily.

The main literary elements of this story are the setting, plot and conflict, and characterization. The story takes place on the west coast of Scotland, but there are three different time periods, present day, the 1800s, and the middle ages, which the characters jump through. The person against person/beast conflict hooks the reader. As the book jumps between time periods, the reader must wait to find out what happens next in the conflict in one time period which also captivates the reader. Though the characters have extraordinary abilities, they still have realistic qualities, suspending disbelief. The extraordinary abilities of Animare and telepathic communication make the characters exciting but they still display typical emotions of twelve year olds. These fanciful characters and the world they live, in all hold qualities of a child’s imagination which makes this book intriguing. (COD) 

Barry, D. 2015. The worst class trip ever. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 224pp. $13.99. ISBN 978-148470849-1. Illustrated by J. Cannell. 

In this hilarious realistic fiction novel for preteens, readers follow Wyatt Palmer on an 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. Complete with drama over girls, threats to national security and trouble with the teacher, Wyatt is an average middle schooler, Miami native, and self-proclaimed nerd, trying to preserve his reputation. In accordance with other contemporary realistic fiction, young adolescent readers connect to Wyatt’s struggle to maintain positive peer relationships despite the embarrassment he already faces on the plane ride north. D.C. Barry’s use of exaggeration and sarcasm, as well as his employment of ridiculous situations, keep readers laughing alongside Wyatt as he learns not to take life too seriously. With its realistic dialogue and theme suggesting friends should support rather than hurt each other, this book will keep young adolescents chuckling at Wyatt’s precarious adventures in the nation’s capitol. (SDP) 

Barton, Byron. 2014. My bus. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-228736-6. 

Early elementary students and kindergarteners will love following the animals as they sail, ride, and fly away in this exciting counting story. Students will notice the child-like illustrations allow readers to count the number of animals as they grow from one to ten in the bus before subtracting back down to one again. The use of bold organic and geometric shapes portray the animal’s safety throughout the story which should relieve any fear a student might have for the dogs and cats. Students will love to follow the story until only Joe and his dog are left to return home at the end of their journey. (LW) 

Barton, Chris. 2015. The amazing age of John Roy Lynch. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 50pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8028-5379-0. Illustrated by Don Tate. 

This informational children’s book about the history of civil rights for African Americans is an excellent choice for the classroom because it is highly accurate and authentic, has a clear purpose, offers different perspectives, and the illustrations enhance the plot. At the back of the book, there is a historical notes page, a timeline of John Roy Lynch’s life and national events during this time, an author and illustrator’s note, and a further readings page. This reflects the research supporting the narrative about John Roy Lynch and the Reconstruction Era. The purpose of the book is to educate young students about the reconstruction era through the interesting and personal story of John Roy Lynch. The language is comprehensible for elementary students because Barton uses simple vocabulary and explains complicated concepts throughout the book in a way elementary school students can understand. The book also starts off with John Roy Lynch as a child and students can relate to children. It offers different perspectives throughout the book, such as the viewpoint of John Roy Lynch’s father and Mrs. Davis. Lastly, the illustrations enhance the story because students can understand the feelings of each character by observing pictures. The illustrations help readers get a firmer grasp of the content and attitudes of the people at the time. This book needs to be in the elementary school classroom because it introduces the reconstruction era to young students in an captivating, readable way. (DJ) 

Baskin, Nora. 2015. Ruby on the outside. Simon & Schuster. 176pp. $16.99. ISBN 9781442485037. 

Appropriate for readers fifth through twelfth grade, Ruby on the Outside is the story of a girl in search for a best friend. Although it is an easy read for older students, the characters are topics are all teens will recognize. When Margalit moves into Ruby’s apartment complex at the end of summer, Ruby sees potential. Margalit is someone with whom Ruby feels like she can be herself. However, as connections are made between the two girls, Ruby learns she has more secrets to keep. Students are able to connect with Ruby as she learns to trust Margalit and starts middle school. The characterization of Ruby is very intriguing. Her life is carefully compartmentalized which makes her a relevant character for students as they struggle to keep home and school lives separate. This book follows a coming of age theme as Ruby learns and grows. Baskin’s style is exciting to read and will draw students in. She writes the way a middle schooler thinks causing accurate confusion, feelings, and emotions in the reader. 

Baxter, John. 2014. Disney during World War II: How the Walt Disney Studio contributed to victory in the war. Disney Enterprises, Inc.. 192pp. $40.00. ISBN 978-142318027-2. 

Disney during WWII discusses ways in which the Disney Studio created and distributed training films, propaganda, entertainment shorts, and military insignias during the war. The book shows favorite Disney characters and the ways Walt Disney used them to support the war efforts and align them with the United States. Multiple historical images created by the Disney Studio during the war contribute to an in depth discussion of the role Disney played in the war. Due to the heavy amount of text in the book, it would not be suited for students below the middle school age, but may make an excellent resource for discussing the role Disney Studios played in WWII. (HJM) 

Beatty, Robert. 2015. Serafina and the black cloak. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-148470901-6. 

Serafina and the black cloak is a story about a curious and heroic girl living in the basement of Biltmore Estate with her father. However, none of the rich people living upstairs in the Biltmore Estate know Serafina exists. Since Serafina explores the shadowed corridors in Biltmore Estate, she knows the person kidnapping children at the estate, a petrifying man in a black cloak. She decides she has to do something to help these disappearing children and teams up with Braeden Vanderbilt, the nephew of the Biltmore Estate owners. Together they must discover the identity of the man in the black cloak before more children disappear. Serafina’s search for the children leads her to a forest she has learned to fear. In the forest she uncovers magic and must defeat her darkest enemy and reveal her own identity. One of the main themes of the story is the challenges of growing up. Serafina must discover her own identity and use the knowledge of herself to defeat the man in the black cloak. Discovering one’s own identity is a task every child faces growing up. (WNW) 

Beebe, Katy. 2014. Brother Hugo and the bear. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 34pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5407-0. Illustrated by S.D. Schindler. 

This story would be good for older elementary aged students. The intricate pictures and story would be intriguing to them. It would also be a good tool in a classroom to promote conversation about this time of history before computers and how books used to be printed by hand. This would also be great to use to talk about monks and how they live, and could even be used in middle school, as it incorporates some advanced vocabulary. (JO) 

Benson, Kathleen, 2015. Draw what you see: The life of art and Benny Andrews. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-104877 

The story of Benny Andrews is a captivating one. The young boy who grew up on a plantation has a love of art that is bigger than life. Benny loves to draw what he sees around him, which in the first part of the story are the people working on the farm around him. As Benny grows older, he is presented with the opportunity to receive a secondary education. After he receives his education he enlists in the Air Force and travels all around the United States and never stops drawing. Eventually, art is what gives Benny his living. He is featured in museums and uses his talents to teach those around him, and the first thing he teaches is to draw what is around you. This book is a great way to teach about the struggle that African Americans went through early on. Teachers and caregivers can use this to present an intense topic in a less intense way. (ZH)

Bentley, Jonathan. 2015. Little Big. Wm.B.Eredmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5462-9.

In Little Big a young boy wishes for nothing more than to be bigger and better. He compares his desires to animal traits, and by the end of the book, he realizes that his size isn’t so bad after all. This book includes dialect that will spark imaginations, as well as pleasant illustrations. The soft colors and lines create a comforting feeling, and will be soothing for students reading the book. The curved lines offer a relaxing feel to the characters and make them seem life-like. Little Big offers an important message to readers about appreciating and accepting oneself. (SH) 

Bentley, Tadgh. 2015. Little penguin gets the hiccups. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 36pp. $17.99. ISBN 9780062335364. Illustrated by Tadgh Bentley. 

Little Penguin has the hiccups, and they will not go away. His friend Franklin told Little Penguin every way to stop the hiccups, but they still will not go away. In one last attempt to stop them, Little Penguin asks the reader to scare him because that is supposedly one way to stop hiccups. After two tries of scaring Little Penguin however, he still has the hiccups. Little Penguin is about to give up hope, when all of the sudden Franklin jumps out of the water and scares him right into the water. Little Penguin is upset with Franklin at first, until he finds out his hiccups are gone.

This book is a picture storybook for ages 4-8. It has an interactive and humorous plot. Most students could relate to trying to stop hiccups with similar techniques to Little Penguin and they would have stories to share. Students’ interaction with Little Penguin by scaring him, makes the book and characters come alive. Students will likely remember this story because of the interaction. The humor students may find in this story also makes it a memorable one. One example is, when Little Penguin falls in the water after Franklin scares him. Students tend to find humor in such events. The illustrations are fairly simple, but they support the story line by showing Little Penguin’s emotions and important scenes, such as when Franklin scares Little Penguin. Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups is a memorable book because it has an interactive and humorous plot, and a relatable conflict. (COD) 

Bildner, Phil. 2014. The soccer fence: A story of friendship, hope, and apartheid in South Africa. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24790-3. Illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson.

Growing up in South Africa in the late 1900s introduced great struggle for young Hector. He loved playing soccer; however, apartheid, the division throughout his country, prevented him from playing with other children his age. Many children, Hector included, suffered from the separation caused by apartheid. The soccer fence examines South Africa’s transition from the apartheid to Nelson Mandela’s influence on the country. Readers learn about the country’s divide and unification through Hector and his love for soccer. This historical and relatable look into the apartheid is a great read for any mid-level reader. (MEH) 

Black, Michael Ian. 2015. Cock-a-doodle-doo-bop!. Simon & Schuster ( Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-4424-9510-4. Illustrated by Matt Myers. 

Readers will enjoy this journey across the barnyard. Mel, the rooster, decided he does not wish to “cock-a-doodle-do” again. He wants to jazz things up a bit by scatting and playing instruments to summon the sun. In spite of his attempts, the sun will not rise in the sky. In the end, the animals work together to find a solution. They discover the cow has the ability to solve their problem! He bellows, “cow-ca-doodle-moo,” and daylight finally arrives. The illustrations in this tale are creative and vibrant. The cool colors of blue and purple paint the night sky, giving the pages a jazzy feel. The over-exaggerated depictions of the rooster are laughable. The pages with the scatting would be fun to read aloud in a classroom setting. The plot, on the other hand, is not easy to follow and not logical. The book suggests the sun will only rise if the rooster exclaims, “cock-a-doodle-doo.” At the end the cow is able to summon the sun with a variation of the phrase rooster cries throughout the entire story. If the cow could beckon the sun with a different tune, it is logical the rooster should have been able to do the same with his scatting. The random dialog creates an interesting style, but it may confuse readers and make the plot more difficult to follow. (ELW)

Blecha, Aaron. 2015. Goodnight, Grizzle Grump. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229746-4. 

Goodnight, Grizzle Grump is a silly picture storybook filled with funny characters. The book illustrates a bear named Grizzle Grump searching for a peaceful place to hibernate. The story allows children to become interactive with the alliteration used throughout the book. The task of finding a quiet place has become difficult for Grizzle Grump because the other animals in the woods are irritating. The noises illustrated throughout the book allow children to become familiar with animals and their sounds. Each page is filled with vivid illustrations and text, which depict the emotions of Grizzle Grump. The textures and bright colors are engaging for children and contribute to a realistic story. Children will use their imagination throughout the book to decide the ideal setting for Grizzle Grump’s hibernation. (KB) 

Bleiman, Andrew,& Eastland, Chris. 2015. 1-2-3 Zoo Borns!. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 16pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3103-3.

1-2-3 Zoo Borns is a book with opportunities for pre-school aged students to learn how to count by using baby animals that are born in the zoo. Also, this book allows students to observe and learn more about animals, specifically how to protect them. As the students are learning how to count, each number is associated with a verb that is a characteristic of the animal. This book allows for Students reading the book to classify animals according to specific habitats, such as a jungle, mountain, or ocean. (WNW) 

Boiger, Alexandra. 2015. Max and Marla. Penguin Random House LLC. 32pp. $17.99 ISBN 978-0-399-17504-6. 

Aspiring Olympians Max and Marla sled to victory in Boiger’s charming new picture storybook. The unlikely friendship between a young boy and an owl draws early childhood readers into an imaginative tale of preparation, practice, and perseverance. When rusty blades, blustery winds, and steep slopes cross their path, Max and Marla learn that true joy becomes most apparent in the presence of obstacles. Accompanied by sparse text in the midst of these snow-white scenes, early childhood readers will be comforted by the calming illustrations. The peaceful blues, whites and grays of Boiger’s snowy depictions contrast with the burnt orange of Max and Marla’s snow gear to draw readers’ attention to the source of action in the story. Preschool through first grade children will be excited to take part in this winter Olympic adventure. (SDP) 

Bond, Michael. 1960. Paddington helps out. HarperCollins Publishers. 160pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231230-3. Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. 

Paddington is an adventurous bear who tries to help the people around him, but ends up creating more problems than solving them. In the end, however, all is well for Paddington and his friends. Each chapter in the book is about different adventures in Paddington’s life, such as a picnic on a river, attending an auction, making a bookshelf, watching movies, going to the laundromat, and eating dinner at a fancy restaurant. Michael Bond intentionally and effectively uses literary elements in an artful way. Each character has a distinct personality and act like real people. Children will relate to Paddington because he has many child-like qualities. He is extremely curious about trying new things, but at the same time he has trouble with some of the tasks because of physical or intellectual limits. He also grows, solves problems, and learns new things in each chapter of the book. Children can relate to the plot because the daily adventures of Paddington are similar or common to the activities of young readers. The similarities and commonalities will help children reflect on their daily experiences. The setting is realistic because it takes place in England, home to the author, Michael Bond. Overall this book is recommended because it appeals to children’s interests and encourages them to relate to Paddington’s day-to-day activities. (DJ) 

Bond, Rebecca. 2015. Escape from Baxter’s barn. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54433217-2. 

A young cat named Burdock and his fellow barn animals are trying to escape their home, Baxter’s barn. After overhearing that the owner of the barn is planning on burning it to the ground, Burdock informs his animal friends of this impending tragic event. The animals decide they need to break free and leave the barn, but how can this happen when the barn is locked? As the animals experience this scary time, they learn the value of friendship and teamwork, which help to save their lives. Even though the talking animals are unrealistic, the theme and style of this book deal with realistic elements and reflect contemporary ideas. Readers familiar with farm animals may imagine this tale to be true and will appreciate the underlying messages of friendship and teamwork. It is an adventurous tale and will keep the attention of young readers until they find out the result of the great animal escape. (SH) 

Boyce, Frank Cottrell. 2015. The astounding broccoli boy. HarperCollins Publishers (Walden Pond Press). 370pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-240017-8. 

Rory Rooney goes to school every day with the fear Tommy Lee Kimossky will attack him. He has a book named Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared to help him and he reads all of the superhero comics in hopes of learning their abilities, but Tommy Lee still throws him in the dumpsters, uses him as his kickboxing bag, and steals his lunch daily. One day, in the last attempts of saving himself, Rory sits with Tommy Lee at lunch with extra sandwiches for Tommy. Everything goes smoothly until Tommy Lee decides he wants the rest of Rory’s lunch, especially his Wagon Wheel for desert. However, this ends terribly because Tommy Lee is extremely allergic to the nuts found in the Wagon Wheel. Needless to say, Tommy Lee was rushed to the hospital. From then on, Rory was accused of trying to kill Tommy Lee.

Though Tommy Lee is out of the picture, his sidekicks continue to attack Rory. One day, on the class field trip at “The Great Outdoors Center”, Tommy Lee’s sidekicks corner Rory, and lead him toward the river where they push him in. Though the cold water was shocking to Rory, what is more shocking is he changes to a green color. He is immediately flown to a hospital where he is placed in isolation because no one knows the cause of changing from a normal flesh color to green. He is not alone in this isolated room, however. His nemesis, Tommy Lee, is also in the room and as green as Rory. They are stuck together for weeks. They clash during the day, but every night Tommy Lee and Rory obtain special powers, sneak out of the hospital, and go on adventures together. One night they find a girl who is also green and they bring her back to the hospital, where their doctor is thrilled to have yet another green mysterious subject. These adventures go on for a while, until one night things become out of hand and Tommy Lee is separated from the other two and in trouble. Rory saves Tommy Lee. All these adventures and time spent together, bring the two boys together. They slowly lose their greenness, finding out it is an immunity to an illness going around the town, and they are forever be remembered as the astounding broccoli boys.

This book is a combination of realism and science fiction. There are multiple impossible situations which are a part of the plot, such as turning green and teleporting, but theme of uniqueness among individuals is realistic, everyone is astounding. The main conflict of bullying is also realistic as are the emotions of fear and dread Rory experiences when he is the victim. The three children have strong, distinct personalities which make them seem realistic, but their greenness and powers they obtain are fantastical. The Astounding Broccoli Boy is an exciting and heartwarming book. (COD) 

Bradbury, Jennifer. 2015. River runs deep. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 322pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-6824-5. 

Set in the 1820s, River Runs Deep tells the story of Elias, a twelve-year-old boy who has fallen ill to tuberculosis. He has been sent to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky in order to receive the treatment of one Dr. John Croghan. As he is undergoing the experimental treatment, involving eating only eggs and tea and living in the cave, Elias begins to forge relationships with the other patients, as well as with a group of slaves. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the cave is not only being used to heal patients; it is also a part of the Underground Railroad. Elias must work with the slaves in order to protect their Haven from the malicious and conniving patient Pennyrile, who hopes to capture the runaway slaves. While the historically based story is engaging, fast-paced, and action packed, it reads as more of a historical fantasy. Elias’ feelings toward the slaves seem to be based upon modern views of slavery. Bradbury does a wonderful job keeping the reader guessing how Elias will overcome the sickness and the trials before him, but it is clear that this narrative is not historically accurate. The story reads as an almost dystopian novel, creating an unbelievable account of the lives of Croghan and his patients. Although River Runs Deep can hardly be considered historical fiction, it is a great historical fantasy read for junior high and early high school students. (AB) 

Bragg, Georgia. 2014. How they choked: Failures, flops, and flaws of the awfully famous. Bloomsbury Publishing (Walker Books for Young Readers). 208pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8027-3488-4. Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley.

Everyone makes mistakes, even famous people from history. This book outlines 14 prominent historical individuals and reveals their accomplishments, as well as their mistakes. Sketches throughout this text add to the humorous aspects of each story: they provide readers with detailed maps outlining where each story took place, as well as helpful images of the individuals found throughout the stories. How they choked is a comical, witty, and intriguing read for middle level readers interested in historical figures. (MEH) 

Brett, Jan. 2015. The turnip. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17070-6. Illustrated by Jan Brett. 

When Badger Girl finds a giant turnip in her vegetable garden, different animals stop by and try their hand at pulling up the oversized vegetable. A family of bears and others foreshadow what is to come in the story in the borders on each page. The setting takes place on a rural farm in Russia and the animal characters, dressed in bright colored traditional Russian clothes, will have children ages 3 to 5 eagerly turning pages to find out what will happen next. Brett’s unique illustrations incorporate straight and curved lines added to rounded shapes to create an inviting environment and show expressions and movement of characters. There is an emphasis on the detailed textures of the illustrations in the animal characters’ fur, the plants around them, and in their clothes. The use of warm colors produces a calm mood. Readers will learn about animal hibernation when the family of bears goes to sleep in their underground home as the snow begins to fall. (EKF) 

Brown, Daniel. 2013. The boys in the boat. Penguin House. 221pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-45147592-3. 

This suspenseful story about nine young men and their quest for gold will engage readers in grades six and up. As students follow a graphic story of hope and determination, they will be inspired. The Boys in the Boat is an accurate story of the American rowing team and their victory at the 1936 Olympics. The accuracy and the ability to relate to these young men are strengthened by the pictures. Photographs complement the narrative and draw readers into the events. The chronological organization supported by several photographs makes this story easy to follow and builds suspense as readers participate in this incredible journey. (KAH) 

Brown, Don. 2015. Drowned city: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 91pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0544157774 

Drowned city revisits the tragic saga of Hurricane Katrina for middle and high school aged readers. More gripping than other non-fiction accounts of the disaster, Don Brown’s somber watercolor illustrations encompass the history in an appropriately depressed atmosphere, using greyed blues, purples, and browns (among other tired colors). The harshly sketched out lines of urban art places the world on the pages in a fearsome perception that well accompanies the disheartened environment New Orleans knew for so long during and after Katrina. Though Brown’s illustrations alone could tell a passionate and emotional tale about the 2005 disaster, paired with his direct statements of fact that are well-woven with dynamic vocabulary and a present tense tone, Drowned city most powerfully recounts one of the most frightening disasters in recent American history with mastery. Accurate, without bias, and suspenseful in experience, I have yet to read a more uniquely succinct informational account of this history. (KSR) 

Brown, Jeffery. 2014. Goodnight Darth Vader. Chronicle Books LLC. 64pp. $14.95 ISBN 978-1-4521-2830-6. 

This easy-to-read bedtime story is great for putting those star wars loving kids to sleep. This book outlines every influential character in the Star Wars movies and tells the reader what each character does before he or she falls asleep. With the illustration’s calming colors and the easy vocabulary, this book not only allows kids the chance to connect with their favorite Star Wars character, but also helps them calm down after a long day. (ZJH) 

Bruchac, Joseph. 2015. Trail of the dead (killer of enemies book two). Lee & Low Books (Tu Books). 279pp. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-261-5. 

Trail of the dead is appropriate for upper middle school through high school readers. Lozen, the main character of the story, and her family are trying to find refuge from the despotic Ones. The enemy once forced Lozen to fight monsters, who continue to take over the world after it crashed from the overuse of electronics. Due to the governmental corruption, Lozen and her family are looking for a safe place to live. Lozen is battling with herself and well as trying to decipher who she can and cannot trust in this unique post-apocalyptic setting. There is an immense amount of pressure on Lozen to protect her friends and family, creating the theme of overcoming fear, conflict and attaining self-belief. The author uses a unique blend of Native American mythology to create a futuristic world for the reader to enjoy and believe. Suspension of disbelief is also developed by establishing a unique character list, including inner demons, monsters, and an enigmatic big-foot friend. The unique setting and characters contribute to adventure and suspenseful episodes throughout the post-apocalyptic story. (KI) 

Bryant, Howard. 2015. Legend’s: The best players, games, and teams in football. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16904-5. 

Legend’s is appropriate for early to middle elementary readers. This non-fiction story takes the reader through a timeline of historical moments in one of America’s most popular sports. Bryant shares a Top-40 list of best Super Bowl’s of all time, ultimately providing the reader with important moments in sport’s history. The organized style helps share the accurate information with the reader. Providing his own personal experiences, Bryant reminds the audience football is more than just a game. Football helps to build unforgettable friendships, memories, and life lessons. Legend’s is ideal for any sports-lover. (KMI) 

Bryant, Howard. 2015. Legends: The best players, games, and teams in baseball. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16903-8. 

This book is interesting in the way that each chapter stands alone, telling the story of a player or a team. The first chapter, “Spring,” details individual players and gives the reader insight into not only the players’ baseball lives but their personal lives as well. The next chapter “Summer” focuses on teams, rather than individuals, detailing the hardships and challenges these teams go through on a season to season basis. Finally they move to “Fall.” This is the chapter is where the author details some of the greatest World Series Stories, including the 2004 and 1975 Red Sox and their magical runs. This book would be great for teachers and care givers to give to a student who is struggling to find a research topic. This book engages the reader in the game of baseball and is perfect for any student, whether they are a fan of baseball or not. (ZH) 

Buckley, James Jr. 2015. Who was Blackbeard?. Penguin Young Readers Group (Grosset & Dunlap). 105pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-44848308-5. Illustrated by Joseph J. M. Qiu. 

Blackbeard was a fierce pirate who ruled the Atlantic Ocean and the United States’ Atlantic coast in the 1700s. He started his career working for the British government as a privateer fighting against France and Spain. When the war ended, he did not quit privateering however, and became an independent pirate. He built his fierce reputation in the Atlantic attacking cargo ships and stealing goods such as sugar, indigo, and rice to make a profit for his crew. He and his crew would seize the ships, abandon the sailors, and add the ships to Blackbeard’s fleet of pirate ships. He not only attacked ships at sea, but also attacked ships along the United States’ Atlantic coast. This led to Blackbeard’s demise however, because he upset the colonists directly connected to Britain. The British sent its Navy to find Blackbeard and put an end to his pirate career.

James Buckley tells an accurate account of Blackbeard’s life and points out myths about Blackbeard or pirates, in general, and corrects the information with facts. A pirate’s life was exciting, so the style of the writing easily captivates readers. The text is appropriate for the intended audience, especially since terms are defined throughout the book. The book also has sections where a term or an important event are explained in detail. The illustrations throughout the book help explain what is happening in the story. The pirates are sketched as the typical looking pirate with big hats, eye patches, earrings, etc. While the illustrations are stereotypical, they enhance the information about Blackbeard and immerse readers into a different world. (COD) 

Buckley, James. 2015. Who was Seabiscuit?. Penguin Random House (Grosset & Dunlap). 105pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-448-48309-2. Illustrated by Gregory Copeland. 

A historical look at the 1938 record-breaking racehorse, Seabiscuit captures the attention of young mid-level readers. A bibliography to supports the accuracy of the information, as does a timeline of events. The historical text is laid out in a “story book” form of a timeline to hold the attention and interest of the readers while describing the life and historical contribution of the race horse Seabiscuit. Another important aspect of the book are the inserts of quick biographies of the other important figures in the life of Seabiscuit to help give young readers a little more information. (RKC) 

Bunting, Eve. 2015. Whose shoe?. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-30210-5. Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier.

Whose Shoe is a book about a mouse that is determined to find the owner of a lost shoe. It is appropriate for preschool- early elementary aged students. By using rhythms, rhymes, and vivid illustrations the book encourages students to stay involved in the text. This book takes the readers on an adventure. The mouse asks everyone from a spider to a hippo if the show belongs to that particular animal. The major theme of this book is about manners. It provides readers with an example of a very kind and honest mouse who at the end of the book is rewarded for his kindness. (WNW) 

Burt, Marissa. 2015. A sliver of stardust. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 384pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06229155-4. 

A sliver of stardust, follows the story of Wren Matthews, a homeschooled girl who prefers to be invisible to most, until magic enters her life unexpectedly. After competing and tying with competitor Simon, she finds herself befriending him when they are invited to join The Fiddlers. They two are catapulted into a world of magic, shimmering dust, and a new look on original nursery rhymes. The two young kids are made into apprentices in the Crooked House and quickly discover their love for adventure and start to notice how similar they are, and begin to form a strong friendship. Fantasies set in strange and unique worlds are thrilling to read and shy students may relate to Wren. Marissa Burt suspends disbelief in many ways throughout the story. The book does not include a futuristic plot, but it takes the two young adults into a new world filled with magic, invisible birds, shimmering dust and includes recognizable motives in nursery rhymes . The author takes the reader into a world filled with creativity and includes interesting, vital, characters. The author also suspends disbelief by putting magical powers in the hands on an eleven year girl. This can be thrilling and a suitable prompt for a class discussion about magic, supernatural powers, and individual potential. The plot is filled with fantasy, but the main character is credible because she is the same age as many readers and the setting creates the image of a stable home life. A sliver of stardust, can take the reader into a new world filled with friendship, magic and adventure. The book is an example of quality fantasy with a cliffhanger that leaves the reader wanting a sequel. (SH) 

Caldecott, Randolph, Kate Greenaway, Edward Lear, and Beatrix Potter. 2015. Classic children’s tales: 150 years of Frederick Warne. Penguin Random House LLC (Frederick Warne & Co.). 111pp. $25.00. ISBN 978-0-2411-9871-1. 

Children have been a primary audience for tales of animals, rhyme, folly, and other engaging nonsense prose for centuries. Publisher Frederick Warne & Co.’s sesquicentennial collection of classic stories for children embodies four of the most influential children’s authors of the last century and a half. Housed in a beautifully gilded, traditional style binding, this most recent collection of some of history’s most clever, poetic, and engaging children’s literature presents works in a fashion respecting the original publications of Caldecott, Greenaway, Potter, and Lear. By remaining true to the first edition illustrations, Warne & Co. promotes the comforting soft colorings and rounded lines consistent with the first illustrated versions in children’s literature. The illustrations are not nostalgic because they remind adult readers of their childhoods, but because they are the illustrations of their childhoods. The reproduction of stories like Potter’s The Sly Old Cat, Caldecott’s Sing a Song for Sixpence, Kate Greenaway’s Mother Goose rhymes, and Edward Lear’s Nonsense Songs & Stories, remind all readers of the value of classics in contemporary lives and libraries. (KSR) 

Cameron, Anne and Victoria Jameson. 2015. The lightning catcher: The secrets of the storm vortex. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 464pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-211283-5.

As the third book in a series, The lightning catcher: The secrets of the storm vortex is an adventurous yet scary story. Angus McFangus and his two friends, Indigo Midnight and Dougal Dewsnap, are starting their sophomore year at the Perilous Exploratorium studying to become lightning catchers; people who chase powerful storms and weather. The boys must put their knowledge to the test when Scabious Dankhart kidnaps Angus’s parents. No one can see what is happening inside the storm vortex because it is vicious and powerful. Angus starts training with a lightning catcher and prepares to rescue his parents. Everything from the characters (Delphinia Dark-Angel or Azolla Plymstock), the different landscapes (Castle Dankhart or Mount Maccrindell) are absurd names. These ridiculous names add to the humor of the adventure. Also, the plot is exaggerated. The plot is based on extreme weather conditions such as rancid rain, storm vortex, and scarlet sleeping snow. The author suspends disbelief by creating a world where unusual circumstances are believable. For example, “The cloud began to spin in a treacherous whirlpool of lightning bolts, unstable blizzards, and what looked like violet rain”. These are vivid description allowing children to become transfixed into the book to the extent they can see and hear what is happening; as if they were experiencing it themselves. (WNW) 

Capucilli, Alyssa S. 2015. Biscuit goes camping. HarperCollins Publishers. 24pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-223694-4. Illustrated by Pat Schories. 

Biscuit Goes Camping is a simple easy- to -read book for young readers who are just beginning to explore chapter books. Biscuit Goes Camping has short simple sentences with exciting, vibrant illustrations clearly depicting the concepts in the storyline. The story focuses on a young girl and her puppy, which will spark interest in young readers and develop confidence and reading skills among students. (RKC) 

Capucilli, Alyssa. 2015. Tulip and Rex write a story. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 29pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-0620-9416-2. Illustrations by Sarah Massini. 

Tulip and her sidekick Rex are inspired by the journal Tulip’s grandma sent in the mail. They are so inspired they bring their journal along for a word walk; introducing new vocabulary to the reader as they do different activities in the breathtaking city. The vocabulary words are illustrated in rustic but warm colors that welcome the reader into the story Tulip and Rex artistically create. By the end of the story the reader’s imagination will jump off the page and into the world of Tulip and Rex. With descriptive vocabulary and detailed paintings, the book will introduce new concepts to children through art. (EH) 

Carle, Eric. 1972. Walter the baker. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0918-6. 

The story of Walter and his baking skills will enchant all beginner readers, from late first grade through early third grade, with its easy-to-read format. Walter’s struggle to please the Duke and Duchess with a tasty treat leaves him desperate to find a solution. The theme of personal development will leave readers wishing for Walter’s ultimate success in pleasing the royal family. In addition, the beautiful textured collages will intrigue readers and give them clues to Walter’s happy ending, such as the recurring motif of light which gives young readers comfort or the prevalent use of organic shapes to ensure safety. The plot will captivate readers and keep them turning pages, all while reassuring them that Walter will eventually succeed. In the end, readers will cheer with Walter, the Duke, Duchess, and all the people of Duchy as they much on Walter’s newest creation: the pretzel. (LW) 

Carle, Eric. 2015. Friends. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 24pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17206-9. 

The picture book Friends is a sweet book written for early readers. The illustrations also done by the author, Eric Carle, give readers beautiful imagery to go along with this story of true friendship. The illustrations accompany the text beautifully, utilizing color as the primary story-telling agent. Young readers will be drawn into the story Eric Carle has created and will learn what it means to be a true friend. (MH, AMB) 

Carle, Eric. 2015. The nonsense show. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 40pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17687-6. Illustrated by Eric Carle. 

Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has created a picture book challenging readers’ imaginations. Children ages 3 to 7 will find Carle’s style humorous as they flip through pages full of nonsense and rhyme. The simple illustrations produce a friendly mood with bright colors and geometric shapes. The various detailed textures used throughout The nonsense show add complexity to the simple shapes. Bold, curved, and straight lines demonstrate expression and motion on the page. Carle’s word choice and silly characters will widen children’s vocabularies and imaginations as they question what is real and what is nonsense. (EKF) 

Carson, Mary Kay. 2014. Park scientists: Gila monsters, geysers, and grizzly bears in America’s own backyard. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80pp. $18.99. ISBN 9778-0-547-79268-2. Photographs by Tom Uhlman.

Park scientists explores the brilliant characteristics of America’s many national parks. Readers travel from park to park, exploring the unique wonders each site has to offer. This informational piece introduces readers to new animals, insects, land features, and equipment found at each different location. The photography displayed throughout each chapter—wildlife, science exploration, and diagrams—sparks students’ interest and inspires them to continue learning and hoping that maybe one day he or she will visit the parks. (MEH) 

Chapman, Lara. 2014. The xyzs of being wicked. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 244pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0108-1. 

Eleven-year old Hallie has had trouble fitting in among her “normal” friends. She is more than ecstatic to be going to boarding school, a magical boarding school that is. Hallie possesses magical powers, and The Dowling Academy School of Witchcraft is her ticket to understanding herself and have a fresh start. That new beginning starts with a blast from the past, when her old friend Kendall is Hallie’s roommate. During the rest of the novel, Hallie must determine the right choice to make with her powerful witchcraft, and choose the positive route. (MM) 

Cleary, Brian P. 2016. Poetry adventures: Bow-tie pasta: Acrostic poems. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-1-4677-2046-5. Illustrated by Andy Rowland. 

Brian P. Cleary crafts many acrostic poems with a wide variety of silly characters and themes in Bow-Tie Pasta. This humorous book presents acrostic poems written vertically down each page revealing hints to the poem’s topic. Readers, ages 7 to 11, can predict what each poem is about and they will feel compelled to create a poem of their own. Along with the acrostic poems, visuals with bright colors, light, and curvy lines shows the expression of characters and their movement. Andy Rowland’s use of soft, curved lines to border the geometric shapes found in the illustrations creates a friendly and humorous mood. Teachers and parents can use Bow-Tie Pasta to inspire children to use their imaginations and use descriptive language to write their own acrostic poems. (EKF) 

Cleary, Brian P. 2013.. Pre- and re-, mis- and dis-: What is a prefix?. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-8-7613-9031-2. Illustrated by Martin Goneau.

Prefixes help readers understand the meaning of a word; and Pre- and re-, mis- and dis- creatively answers questions about prefixes in a fun and informative way. This impressive book is a great resource tool to help students become more comfortable with prefixes. Each page contains a word with a prefix, and the prefix appears in a different color from the rest of the word. This form of highlighting helps students identify and remember prefixes. This book defines prefixes for readers, as well as uses illustrations to reinforce the concepts. The diverse examples of prefixes and the creative illustrations of this book make learning new words fun and easy. (MEH) 

Cleary, Brian P. 2015. Something sure smells around here. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $6.95 (paper). ISBN 978-1-4677-2044-1. Illustrated by Andy Rowland. 

Something Sure Smells Around Here is a delightful collection of fun and silly limericks for children. Always funny, clever, or with a quick wit, author Brian P. Cleary writes limericks that are relevant to young readers, spark their interest, and make them laugh. This book also does an excellent job of taking the first few pages to explain the nature of a limerick and how to write one. This collection makes poetry fun for the reader, while maintaining the dignity of the limerick style. Illustrator Andy Rowland contributes throughout with brightly colored, silly drawings, varying in size all they way up to full-page illustrations, that really bring the poems to life. Teachers and caregivers can implement this book as a great introduction to the writing of limericks and poetry in general. This book is a great testament to the fun that can be had and the creativity that can be fostered while still writing poetry. (AW)

Colfer, Eoin. 2015. Imaginary Fred. HarperCollins Publishers. 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-0623-7955-9. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers 

Imaginary Fred is appropriate for early to middle elementary readers. The theme of the story encompasses true friendship and loyalty. Fred, the main character, is an imaginary friend to those who need him. After they find real friends, Fred fades away. This fading element is prominent in the illustrations as Fred is made up of colorful blue dots, making him the emphasis on all of the delicately sketched monochromatic pages. As the plot continues, Fred and a boy named Sam create an undivided bond. Their friendship is threatened as Sam discovers a real friend, Sammi. However, as the adventure continues, they all discover what it means to build a group of best friends, imaginary and real. Witty and imaginative, this story stimulates cognitive development about relationships among young readers. (KI) 

Cornell, Kari. 2015. The nitty-gritty gardening book: Fun projects for all seasons. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 48pp. $26.65. ISBN 978-1-4677-2647-4. Photographs by Jennifer S. Larson. 

This book is filled with fun projects for young kids to do throughout the changing seasons. Within the book children are able to learn why gardening is great for conservation, as well as what plants are native to particular areas, and how to properly plant for photosynthesis. Along with the drawn and real life picture containing examples, the book includes step-by-step instructions on how to build specific projects. Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book incorporates learning and fun/simple activities for children to become independent. (MM) 

Crossan, Sarah. 2014. Apple and rain. Bloomsbury Publishing. 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-690-3. 

This realistic fiction book stunningly captures the reality of the ups and downs in the life of a 13-year-old girl through the desperate cries of her broken heart. The engaging story is told from the perspective of Apple, a 13-year-old girl abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandmother, who is desperately searching for fulfillment and acceptance. She convinces herself she will only be happy when her mother returns to her one day, but when her mother finally comes back 11 years later, it is not the homecoming Apple pined for. Her mother is an irresponsible, immature woman who drinks heavily and has another daughter named Rain. Her mother has no intention of being a true mother figure in Apple’s life but Apple desperately tries to hold onto the ideal image she has of her mother and is blinded to the incredibly negative influence her mother has on her. Through a spiraling series of events, Apple begins to realize the bridges she has burned and severe disappointment and regret sink in, as she tries to make sense of her lost world. Sarah Crossan depicts Apple’s journey of self-discovery in a somewhat predictable, but heartbreakingly real way, as she does not sugarcoat Apple’s hardships, but instead reveals her real emotions thoughts and emotions. Set in England, Crossan creates Apple’s credible world and authentically develops the characters through purposeful, believable dialogue, and vivid descriptions of memories and experiences. Told from the first person point of view from Apple’s perspective, the reader is engrossed in Apple’s honest, clever, and sometimes sarcastic remarks, which provide entertaining, honest commentary on the unfolding events. Through this, Crossan reveals Apple’s common intimate thoughts and feelings to which many adolescents can relate. Through this, the plot focuses around person-against-self conflict through the portrayal of Apple’s internal struggle dealing with her broken family life. Through themes of solitude, growing up, friendships, vulnerability, and second chances, this story realistically reveals the many true struggles adolescent children face and how one girl overcomes these challenging heartbreaks. (CEC) 

Chainani, Soman. 2015. The school for good and evil: The last ever after. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 655pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06021049-5. 

The third book in a thrilling trilogy, The school for good and evil: The last ever after is a fast-paced, driving novel following the remaining story of Sophie and Agatha, two teenage girls who find themselves confronting challenges many young readers face: what is right and wrong and where is the line between friends and enemies. This novel, aimed toward pre-teen readers, suspends disbelief through the use of familiar fairy tales spun in new ways. As Sophie and Agatha settle into their Ever Afters, the infamous villains, readers for centuries love to hate, return to alter their own endings through grotesque means, rendering beloved heroes tossed from their towers, stabbed, and beheaded. Sophie and Agatha struggle to mend their broken friendship while trying to muddle through the confusions of true love. Chainani brings in struggles many pre-teens face in their relationships, including the complexity of friendship, and expands upon them through the use of magic and the age-old battle between good and evil. His writing offers a person-versus-person and person-versus-self conflict-driven narrative causing readers to become lost in the story as they try to discover how the heroes (and villains) will overcome their trials. Although this novel takes a fairy tale-based plotline and attempts to make it seem fresh and new for a new generation of readers, the characters fall into the tropes found in older tales, making the characterization seem thrown-together and forced. The constant struggle between love and friendship becomes forced and exhausting, falling privy to common themes and reinforcing the ideals of an older generation. The female characters are dependent on their male counterparts throughout the novel, and while there are instances of a newer point of view with these characters, overall Sophie and Agatha become indecisive and complaintive, like the princesses they do not want to imitate. The conclusion to the tale does rectify this, showing Sophie accepting herself and Agatha learning to overcome her own self-doubts. Overall, this novel will speak to younger readers and will give them the will to address their own friendships and relationships through the use of common fairytale motifs reimagined for today’s readers. (AB) 

Comstock, Eric and Sadler, Marylin. 2015. Charlie Piechart and the case of the missing pizza slice. HarperCollins Publishers. 36pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237054-9. Illustrated by Eric Comstock. 

This math concept book is about a pizza night with Charlie, his mom and dad, two sisters, and his best friend Lewis. They decide to order a large pepperoni pizza with twelve slices so they can they can all have two slices each. When Charlie opens the pizza after it’s delivered he discovers that one piece is missing, so he investigates the cause of the missing slice. He asks all of the people in his family, but no one took the slice of pizza. His mom and dad decide that they will each have one and a half slices of pizza instead so all the children can still have two slices. Suddenly, Watson their dog happily and calmly wanders over to the group, and when Watson burps they know who stole the slice of pizza. This book has an engaging story line capturing the attention of elementary school children. At the same time, this story teaches a math lesson about fractions. The book teaches children about fractions through its’ illustrations of pizza as a pie chart, and how to solve and understand fractions through the text of the story. There is also a “fun with fractions” page at the end of the story encouraging readers to continue their discussion about fractions. The illustrations clearly and concisely present fractions, and show how fractions can apply to real-life situations. They are essential visual aids when learning and grasping mathematical concepts. (DJ) 

Czekaj, Jef. 2015. Austin, lost in America. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 34pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-0622-8017-6. Illustrated by Dana Fritts.

Take a journey with Austin as he travels from the Mountains of Montana to the swamplands of Florida. Austin, Lost in America is a concept book following Austin, the delightful dog, around the United States. Austin has escaped ‘Sketchy’s,’ an adoption center, and is hunting for a new home. As Austin stops at each state, the reader is introduced to intriguing facts. The energetic colors in the illustrations and the joy portrayed visually through Austin face show the reader how exciting it can be to learn about geography. There is never a dull moment with Austin, and every page has an array of pictures, enhancing the unique nature of each state. (EH) 

Danticat, Edwidge. 2015. Mama’s nightingale: A story of immigration and separation. Penguin Random House (Putnam Group). 28pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42809-1. Illustrated by Leslie Staub. 

Mama’s nightingale is a credible story of immigration and the struggles families may encounter through the transition from one country to another. The colorful pictures complement the text and the pictures in the story. Readers also are able to learn some Haitian Creole phrases. This book would be great appropriate for elementary students because Saya is a positive example of a student using skills, like her writing, to do something helpful. (KAH) 

Davis, Marc. 2014. Walt Disney’s Renaissance man. Disney Book Group (Disney Editions). 208pp. $40. ISBN 978-1423184188-8. 

This book is suitable for any age. It is perfect for any Disney lover at any reading level. If it is a younger student they can look at the amazing pictures and as they develop read bits until they are able to read the whole book. As a college student I thought this book was amazing and made me want to draw my own pictures, which I feel students would want to do as well. This book would work well in an art classroom. (JO) 

Day, Nancy Raines. 2015. What in the world: Numbers in nature. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0060-2. Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus. 

What in the world: Numbers in nature is an information book about a boy exploring the outdoors, following a theme of numerical sets in nature. Day’s style uses illustrations and the text to help foreshadow the natural numerical set on the next pages. Cyrus captures the elements of nature in his beautiful illustrations. Warm color hues create a warm and comfortable mood. The bold and thick horizontal lines paired with simple and familiar shapes in nature produce a stable atmosphere. Natural light streaks through tree branches and reflects off water to highlight the focal points on each page. This information book will teach children ages 4 to 8 about numerical sets in the world and encourage them to explore the nature around them and to use their imaginations. (EKF) 

Dean, James. 2015. Pete the cat: Five little pumpkins. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Publishers). 27pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-230418-6. Illustrated by Jeanne L. Hogle. 

Pete and his pumpkin pals are going on an adventurous journey the night of Halloween. The mischievous night consists of friends rhyming and counting their way through town. The illustrations are bold and the five pumpkins light-hearted faces and bright orange bodies can be spotted from page to page. The Halloween story prompts children to think about numbers and rhymes while reinforcing the many symbolic Halloween creatures and events. (EH) 

Dean, James. 2015. Pete the cat’s train trip. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06230386-8. 

Guided by simple and repetitive sentence structure, James Dean [the artist’s] “I Can Read!” story book takes students on a train ride to grandma’ house with Pete the Cat. Following a plot line focused on Pete’s train exploration and discovery, young readers are introduced to the different parts of a passenger train with the help of a friendly duck conductor. While charming in childlike illustration, Pete the Cat’s Train Trip reads patronizingly easy. Slow and with minimal descriptive vocabulary to share with young readers, this book seems incorrectly labeled as both a Shared Reading book and one for children ages 4-8; a better setting is perhaps as an introductory individual reading book (specifically for struggling readers), or for those ages 3-5. Nevertheless, Dean’s classic character remains curious and jolly, comforting and endearing qualities among young readers. (KSR) 

Dean, Kimberly & James. Pete the cat and the bedtime blues. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-230430-8. 

Pete the Cat had a delightful day at the beach with his friends, but he didn’t want the fun to end there! He invites the gang to his house for a sleepover only to discover falling asleep is much harder with his noisy friends in the room. Pete must come up with a solution in order to catch some winks before another exciting day. This picture storybook is witty and thoughtfully illustrated encouraging students to use the images as guides. Readers will not be able to tell the story by looking at the pictures which ensure a productive reading and learning experience. One must actually read the story to understand the plot. The animal characters are simple, memorable and not too complex. The plot is well developed and easy to follow with the repetition of exclamations Pete makes. The illustrations are colorful and children will relate to the “hand-drawn” style of the drawings. All of the lines are curved depicting a safe and relaxed setting for the story. Any beginning reader will enjoy following the series of Pete the Cat books. This particular story teaches the importance of friendship and problem solving in group situations. Will Pete the Cat ever catch some ZZZZZ’s and actually fall asleep? (ELW) 

DePola, Tomie. 1973. Andy. Simon & Schuster. 30pp. $16.99. ISBN 9781481442336 

Andy is a strong choice for preschool and kindergarten classes. As a little boy struggles with the relatable issue of wanting to hang out with the ‘big kids,’ students’ vocabulary will be expanded as letters are explained. Students will view the image of the wagon as a strong and steady base for their letters. Each letter stands out in black against lighters earth tones and the white pages. The illustrations on each page will help students to associate each word with its action as it is spelled. This book may act as an informal assessment on the alphabet. (KAH) 

DePaola, Tomie. 2014. Jack. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 078-0-399-16154-4. 

Jack depicts a boy who lives in a small village, but wants to move into the city. Eventually he decides to travel to the city, and on his way he comes across many animals who ask if they can join him and live with him. Each time he says: “please do”. In the end their wish is granted and they are given a lovely house by the king. This would be a great story for young elementary students when they need a little help with sharing and knowing how to treat others. This would also be a good tool to show other cultures and ways of living. (JO) 

Derby, Sally. 2015. Sunday shopping. Lee and Low Books. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-60060438-6. Illustrated by Shadra Strickland.

Evie and her grandmother go on imaginary shopping adventures before bed every Sunday night. They look through the newspaper and find bargains at the grocery store, jewelry store, furniture store, and many other stores, until their money runs out or until they are too tired to shop anymore. When they find something they want, Evie “buys it”, cuts it out of the newspaper, and tapes it to the wall. The more they buy, the more the pages fill with their discoveries. Each page is a collage-like scene of the items in each store. In these scenes, color, texture, and lines are the main visual elements of the illustrations.

The primary colors of the book are bright inviting colors, with a pastel yellow being a main background color. The collages of their items are bright and inviting. The scenes of Evie and her grandmother on their bed however, are a calming, cream background and they are wearing blue and purple nightgowns. This creates a sense of coziness. Texture is also shown through the brush strokes of the illustrator and from the overlapping of the collages. The brush strokes in pictures such as a cat and a rug, make them look realistic and soft. The illustrations look like pictures cut out and glued onto the page, like in a collage, creating a textured image. The lines from the overlapping pictures in the collage and paint brush also enhance the illustrations. The lines, produced from a paint brush, are soft, making the pictures more inviting. After reading this story, students could enjoy doing this with their grandma or family member and making their own collage. (COD)

Dewdney, Anna. 2015. Llama llama sand and sun. Penguin Random House Group (Grosset & Dunlap). 10pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0448496399. 

As a board book, Llama llama Sand and Sun allows children to feel the different aspects of Llama Llama’s trip to the beach. Children are able to touch and feel sand, fish scales, and a beach ball, as well as look into Llama Llama’s sunglasses. Young children ages 3 and under will be able to develop through language and movement along with the rhyme and rhythm of the text. The illustrations radiate bright, inviting colors, making the book aesthetically pleasing to children. Through descriptions of Llama Llama’s activities at the beach, children will begin to conceptualize the events of the day and will easily relate to the story. (AB) 

Dewdney, Anna. 2014. Nelly Gnu and daddy too. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 987-0-01227-5. 

This picture storybook is perfect to read aloud with dad. It is full of rhyme and the illustrations help to really tell the story for young readers. The use of bright colors help to show the inviting and safe feelings that Nelly and her dad have for one another. The theme of family is then demonstrated by the smallest details. Even Daddy Gnu’s shirt is blue and green plaid, which shows him as a friendly character for children. (MH) 

Disney Storybook Team. 2015. Baby animals. Disney Book Group. 12pp. $7.99. ISBN 9781484718025. Disney Storybook Art Team. 

Infants through second grade students will find this concept book appealing. Baby Animals is also appropriate for kinesthetic learners. Children can interact with this book because of the varying textures of the baby animals present in the illustrations. Throughout the book, animals are linked with identifying traits, for example, a baby bird tweets. Youngsters will find this book engaging and exciting because animals are associated with textures and common, recognizable characteristics. (KH) 

Donaldson, Julia. 2014. The scarecrows’ wedding. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books) 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-72606-1. Illustrated by Axel Schaffer. 

Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay are both scarecrows, and they are very much in love. One day Harry asks Betty to marry him and she says yes so they immediately go out in search of all the items they need for the festivities. Harry goes out to find pink flowers for the wedding and his search takes him very far from home. In his absence, Harry’s scarecrow rival, Reginald Rakes, takes the opportunity to ruin the wedding. Will the scarecrows get everything they need for the wedding? Can Harry make it back before Reginald ruins their special day?

The scarecrow’s wedding is written entirely in rhyming couplets that make the story engaging for the intended audience of early elementary school students. The couplets paired with bright red, blue, yellow, and green illustrations make it an upbeat and fast paced story which complements the theme of good over evil. It would be an appropriate tool for the moral development of children as it depicts the dangers of smoking, but also can aid in their emotional development with the theme of love overcoming all obstacles. (HJM) 

Doodler, Todd H.. 2013. One potato, two potato. Simon & Schuster. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8517-4. 

One potato, two potato is filled with colorful graphics, creating an interactive story where readers can count along to the book. Learning through short rhymed sentences, early readers through 2nd grade could easily comprehend and follow the repetition to sound out words. Readers will learn how one can still be unique by presenting individual characteristics among almost identical potatoes. (MM) 

Doyle, Elizabeth. 2015. A B see. Simon & Schuster. 20pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1481436991. Illustrated by Elizabeth Doyle. 

The A B see is an alphabet book for young children who are beginning to learn the letters, A-Z. This book is different from other alphabet books because it uses pictures within each letter starting with the specific letter introduced on the page. For example, there are pictures of an alligator, apple, and anchor inside of the letter A. The pictures also rise off of the page so that children are able to trace each letter with their fingers in order feel what it is like to draw each letter. Allowing children to use their sense of touch is extremely helpful in developing muscle memory for learning and writing the alphabet. Below each letter is a sentence using many words beginning with the specific letter on the page, such as, “Alligator admires an apple” for the letter A. In the back of the book, the author lists of all the objects within each letter so children can check if they found everything. There is also a letter within each letter for children to find. For example, within the big letter B there is also a smaller letter B. Since the realistic illustrations complement the text with organic shapes, children are able to apply the pictures and letters to real life animals and objects. (DJ) 

Ehlert, Lois. 2015. Holey Moley. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 30p. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-44249301-8 

Holey Moley is a captivating book for pre-k through first grade students. Every page contains a collage of different materials, creating a unique texture. Similar shades of paper or materials are joined to create an object. Although the book does not use real photographs, the plants and animals still look realistic. The art will motivate students to complete their journey with Mole. This book is destined be a class favorite. (KAH) 

Emanuel, Gabrielle. 2014. The everlasting embrace. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-78474-5. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

The Everlasting Embrace is appropriate for early to middle elementary students. The mother and child bond is the predominant theme of the story. Throughout the story, the child is bound to the mother’s back while they experience the day together. The two travel around the village and interact with many others, while still being connected. The overall themes of love and compassion the mother is teaching her child are valuable lessons for all readers. Delicate and descriptive watercolors share the unconditional affection between mother and child. The illustrations also provide a very descriptive visual for setting the mood and place of the story. (KI) 

Engle, Margarita. 2015. Enchanted air: Two cultures, two wings: A memoir. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 208pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3522-2. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. 

Enchanted air: Two cultures, two wings: A memoir is narrative poetry appropriate for children 12 and older. The poems describe the life of a young Cuban girl, Margarita, and how she grows up in two completely different worlds. Margarita and her family live in Los Angeles but enjoy traveling to visit their family in Cuba. In Los Angeles, Margarita struggles to fit in and longs to live in Cuba where her mother’s family lives. She describes Cuba as a “love at first sight” island with the lush beauty of the land. Margarita and her family overcome many obstacles in their life such as a love for two countries that have so much hatred toward one another, two families, and two languages. Each poem is descriptive and readers can see, hear, and feel the experiences of Margarita and her family. Metaphors make the pages come to life for the reader. The author includes words in their native tongue, Spanish, which provides children the opportunity to explore a new language. Children who move from their homeland and struggle with the differences can relate to Margarita’s life and may find comfort knowing there are other children who experience the same process and emotions. The author describes her life in the way she sees it but also includes factual information regarding the Cold War, including a timeline at the end of the book. (KMB) 

Erskine, Kathryn. 2014. The badger knight. Scholastic, Inc. (Scholastic Press). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-46442-0.

Adrian is almost 13 years old, but very small for his age. His father is a bowyer, and all Adrian wants is to become an archer and fight for England, but his father wants him to become a scribe. When Scotland invades England, Adrian’s best friend Hugh leaves to join the army. Adrian follows him, hoping to soon also take part in the battles against Scotland. But when Adrian finds Hugh giving medical aid to a wounded Scotsman, Donald, he wonders how his best friend could ever help the enemy. But when Adrian gets to know Donald, he learns everything he was taught about the enemy was wrong. The badger knight is an excellent young adult novel with complex and layered characters engaging readers in the story. The historical era is well-researched and provides an accurate depiction of life during that time. Themes of independence, friendship, and following one’s dreams make this a great read for middle school students. (HJM) 

Esbaum, Jill. 2014. I am cow, hear me moo!. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-80373524-8. Illustrated by Gus Gordon.

I am cow, hear me moo! examines bravery and honesty, important concepts for any young reader. Many young readers relate to the realities that Nadine the cow faces as she confronts her fears and learns important life lessons. The diverse illustrations throughout this captivating book incorporate watercolors, colored pencils, and scrapbook pieces; together, these illustrations bring the story alive. The bravery and self-esteem depicted throughout this story are excellent characteristics to reinforce in young readers. (MEH) 

Everest, D.D.. 2015. Archie greene and the magician’s secret. HarperCollins Publishers. 302pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231211-2. 

Children, ages eight to twelve, will be on the edge of their seats as they follow the main character, Archie Greene, on a crazy quest in this modern day Harry Potter fantasy book. Archie receives an obscure package on his twelfth birthday containing a prehistoric book written in an unrecognized language. Archie becomes an apprentice and must protect the magical book, which is a family tradition. He meets his long-lost relatives and learns about his family in an unusual setting in a hidden, magical, believable world with strange happenings such as spells and magical libraries with supernatural characters with human traits. The powerful book Archie is trained to protect is pursued by evil powers with a goal to keep dark magic for their own use. Everest’s style sets a mystical mood throughout the novel and brings the characters to life through his use of descriptive detail. Everest suspends disbelief through the universalizing themes including a continuous battle between good and evil, and faith and perseverance when facing obstacles. Archie uses his magical abilities to overcome obstacles and fight evil in this conflict-driven plot to save the world from dark magic. (EKF) 

Frank, John. 2014. Lend a hand. Lee & Low Books. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-60060-970-1. Illustrated by London Ladd. 

As a collection of poems this book will “lend a hand” to classroom discussions about helping others. Through the use of beautiful full page pictures and creative poetry John Frank and London Ladd will spark a strong desire in students to help others they see in their community. All of the poems found in this collection show different forms of service, from sharing lunch with someone who doesn’t have anything to eat, to teaching a friend to play baseball, to giving a seat up for the elderly on the bus. This collection is an excellent classroom edition for any teacher who has a strong desire to spark service learning in their students. (LW) 

Federle, Tim. 2015. Tommy can’t stop!. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-6917-8. Illustrated by Mark Fearing. 

Tommy can’t stop is a humorous picture storybook for preschool through second grade. Tommy is an energetic boy who is constantly on the go and never gets tired. Tommy enjoys running around doing the actions to different animals or everyday things. When his sister suggests he try tap dancing as a last resort to tire him out, he discovered he is likes it. The detailed illustrations complement the storyline by portraying Tommy’s life. The dotted lines throughout the illustrations show Tommy’s high level of energy. Children can read Tommy can’t stop on their own as a beginning reader to develop confidence in their reading ability. (KB) 

Felix, Rebecca. 2016. What’s great about Wyoming?. Lerner Publishing Group. 32pp. $26.65. ISBN 978-1-4677-3882-8. 

Ten of the most famous landmarks, including parks, geysers, museums, and the history of Wyoming are included in this informative book. The purpose of this book is to explain and illustrate the fascinating landmarks in Wyoming. It is written in a clear and direct manner without bias, strictly stating facts. The book includes a glossary to help readers with potentially unfamiliar words and endnotes with additional information about the source of the facts including websites, videos, and photographs. Also, the book includes detailed, vivid, and expressive photographs helping readers visualize each landmark. (WNW) 

Ferrier, Florian and Katherine Ferrier. 2015. Hotel strange #1: Wake up, spring. Lerner Publishing Group (Graphic Universe). 40pp. $9.50. ISBN 978-1-4677-8584-6. Illustrated by Katherine Ferrier. 

Wake up, spring is part of the Hotel strange series involving an interesting bunch of creatures embarking on a journey to find Mr. Spring. In the story, winter moves on to spring and many monsters ready to stay at Hotel Strange wake the creatures in charge of the hotel from their hibernation. Chaos develops when Mr. Spring, who controls the spring weather, disappears. The unique group of creatures head out on a crazy journey to find Mr. Spring so he can set things back to normal. This humorous graphic storybook is composed of comic frames for middle to upper elementary school students. The intricate illustrations include bright, warm colors and rounded geometric shapes to represent a friendly mood and dark, cool colors and sharp, pointy shapes with shadows set a scary and dangerous mood. Katherine and Florian Ferrier incorporate advanced vocabulary such as barometer, catastrophe, and intolerable, to reach a wide variety of readers. The theme of safety is reflected in the environment as the seasons change and we see characters venture through dangerous terrain in search of Mr. Spring. (EKF) 

Ferrell, Sean. 2015. I don’t like Koala. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0068-8. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 

I don’t like Koala is a book for children ages 4-8 about a little boy named Adam who despises his stuffed animal, Koala. Koala follows him everywhere. Adam thinks Koala is terrible and he tries repeatedly to get rid of him. No matter what Adam does, he cannot seem to make his Koala go away. Finally, one night when he is scared, Adam realizes that he loves Koala and feels safe when he is with him. This book is perfect for young children who have a favorite stuffed animal. The expressive characters add humor to the book and the illustrations reiterate the feelings Adam has towards Koala. (MSH, AB) 

Folca, Brian. 1999. Five trucks. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0593-5. 

This is book for Preschool and early Elementary students. It helps students count and read little segments at a time. It also shows students what it takes to make a plane fly. This would be a good story for students who are interested in trucks and are just starting to read. The pictures also do a wonderful job of crafting the story, allowing a struggling reader to infer the plot through the illustrations. (JO) 

Forman, Sam A.. 2015. Twenty-one heroes. Penguin Random House LLC (Pelican). 224pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1455620876. 

Sam Forman’s novel Twenty-One Heroes gives insight into the how early Americans lived during the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Forman pays attention to historical accuracy by following the lives Katharine, a strong-willed young woman who is outspoken for the Patriot cause; and Ezra, a Harvard student and Minuteman battling British soldiers on the frontline. Forman introduces historical figures in a realistic light and shows them in credible contexts of the Revolutionary War era. However, with attention to historical accuracy, there are scenes in which characters discuss inappropriate behavior or attitudes towards others of different races. Forman certainly doesn’t sacrifice the accuracy of his tale for modern sensibilities, so readers should be able to handle the uncomfortable subjects and actions which occur in this novel. Twenty-One Heroes takes an in-depth look into pre-revolution America through societal conflict, inner struggles, and romance which will engulf high school readers in the founding of our nation. (AB) 

Freedman, Russell. 2013. Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 81pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-90378-1.

As a port off the coast of California, Angel Island stood as the gateway to freedom for numerous Asian immigrants in the beginning of the 20th century. This story takes readers back in time to examine the lives of immigrants who passed through Angel Island and describe their harsh voyages across the Pacific Ocean. Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain is a great selection for middle level readers; the black and white images throughout this book provide readers with a unique insight into immigrants’ realities and the procedures on Angel Island. (MEH)

Fry, Sonali. 2015. Where are you Blue?. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 32pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3589-5. Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown. 

Where are you Blue is a board concept book with vibrant, colorful illustrations. Blue Dot is five minutes late for dinner with his Dot friends. The Dots create a rhyming sequence of where he could be and why Blue Dot would be late for dinner. The rhyming rhythm contributes to language development among readers and also helps hold their attention. Children can relate to all of the real life events the Dots suggest about Blue Dot’s whereabouts. The different colorful Dot characters are designed to help young readers, ages one to four, to learn about different colors. (KB) 

Gaiman, Neil. 2013. The sleeper and the spindle. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 68pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239824-6. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. 

The Sleeper and the Spindle is a brilliantly crafted reimagined folk tale from the United Kingdom which pulls the readers into enchanted lands and introduces them to supernatural beings common to European tales. It plays on two well-known stories teachers and students will discover as they delve into the text. The storyline plays on aspects and elements of Snow White as well as Sleeping Beauty. Three dwarfs encounter a plague overtaking the land. All of the citizens are falling into a deep sleep and cannot wake up. They travel to their friend, the queen, with the hopes she will know what to do. They decide to travel through the mountain pass to the kingdom under a spell for years on end. If the princess in the tower is blessed with a kiss, the curse will supposedly be lifted. Readers will find black magic at hand and they will discover the sleeping princess is not who they expect her to be. Full of multiple surprises and mysterious characters, this story will captivate students. The content is substantive and adult-themed at times, making this book appropriate for older readers, ages 10 and up. The illustrations are black and white with gold accents. The “sketched” images display great detail and textures giving this tale an incredibly intricate, eerie quality. Will the spell be broken? Will the queen and the dwarfs return home safely? The reader will discover things may not always be what they seem. Life within the pages of The Sleeper and the Spindle is woven as a tapestry, revealing the powers of good and evil. The reader is responsible for untangling the strands of this carefully constructed “web” of misfortune. (ELW) 

Gaiman, Neil. 2015. Chu’s day at the beach. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-222399-9. Illustrated by Adam Rex.

Chu’s Day at the Beach is a book about a merpanda named Chu. When Chu sneezes, it affects everything around him. Chu and his family go to the beach on a hot day and after Chu sneezes, the sea breaks. Chu broke the sea! None of the sea animals can go back home until Chu sneezes again, to sending all of the animals back to their proper homes in the sea. This colorful book allows children to observe and describe sea animals and encourages students to hypothesize what will happen to the sea animal’s if/when Chu’s sneezes again. (WNW) 

Garcia-Williams, Rita. 2015. Gone crazy in Alabama. HarperCollins Publishers (Amistad). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-221587-1. 

Based in the summer of 1969, the book focus on family relationships, including sisters, and family feud. When the Gaither sisters travel south to spend the summer with their grandmother they uncover some family history shedding light on a seemingly endless family feud. As the sisters continue their journey, they quickly learn the difference between their home in Brooklyn and Rural Alabama. They soon realize how close family members can be when tragedy strikes. The characters develop as they learn about themselves, their role in the family, and how much their family really means to them. Gone Crazy in Alabama is a fictional tale based in a historical time, but portrays realistic characteristics. This book uses the family feud to show the reader that love for one another can truly conquer all. (RKC) 

Garton, Sam. 2015. Otter in space. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06224776-6. 

Otter goes to the museum one day with Otter Keeper and is fascinated with all of the exhibits. His favorite exhibit however, is the outer space room. The outer space room has all sorts of exciting things about the moon, but the most exciting item is the real moon rock from the moon. Once Otter and Otter Keeper make it through the museum, they stop at the gift shop where Otter wants to buy everything related to space. Otter Keeper does not let him however, and he only buys a toy spaceship. Otter goes home disappointed because he did not get a real moon rock, but he makes it his mission to go to the moon and find one. So he makes a space suit, trains all of his friends, and blasts off to the moon where they find the biggest moon rock to bring back home.

This book is an easy-to-read, picture book for children, ages 4-8 years old. There are only two or three sentences on each page and the illustrations enhance the story. This set up makes it a valuable book for younger students, who are just developing their reading skills, because they can read it on their own. They can reference the pictures if they are unsure of what they read and there is not too much on each page which could distract the student. This story line of the emotions and experiences of Otter’s is one which students can relate to. Otter is a very life-like character who has problems with his Keeper’s directions, similar to a child with disagreements with their caregivers. Otter in space is a valuable book which students can read on their own, relating to the main character thus making the book even more captivating. (COD) 

Garton, Sam. 2015. Otter loves Halloween!. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-006236665. Illustrated by Sam Garton. 

Otter and his friends are preparing for the upcoming holiday, Halloween. The plot is sequential and linear as the friends pick out a pumpkin, make their costumes, and, finally, distribute candy. Readers can practice their observation and prediction skills as they follow the plot, identifying the pumpkin, colors and styles of the costumes, and, finally, giving trick-or-treaters candy. (SJH) 

Gemeinhart, Dan. 2015. The honest truth. Scholastic Inc.. 229pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-66573-5. 

Mark is a normal twelve-year-old boy except, he is sick, really sick. His cancer is back again. After the last phone call from the doctor and learning he must go through more treatments, Mark decides he has had enough, and he is done making everyone else suffer too. Mark decides it is time for the adventure of a lifetime. Along with his dog Beau, Mark sets off on an adventure from which he may not return.

This book could be used in upper middle school or early high school. Even though the protagonist is younger with the complex ideas presented in this book, younger students may not understand the ideas, or handle them very well. Some parts of this book even left myself in tears. The book is also written in two different parts so the reader can experience what Mark is going though, but also his family and friends. The Honest Truth can help students learn that may face storms in their life, but with help anything is possible. (AS) 

Gonsalves, Rob. 2015. Imagine a world. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 34pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481449731. 

A breathtaking introduction to the art of magical realism, Imagine a World uses eighteen of artist Rob Gonsalves’ surreal paintings to encourage the imaginations of readers ages four to one hundred and four. Every page uses the repetitive phrase, “imagine a world…” to lyrically guide readers’ observations of each painting’s unique optical illusion. A practical yet altogether mystical series, Gonsalves invites readers to constantly alter their perceptions of the world, especially in regards to their own personal experiences. His poetic text complements the magnificent visual art in a seamless and simple fashion, allowing readers of any age or background to experience exhilarating thought and reflection about the endless possibilities surrounding them. (KSR) 

Goodrich, Carter. 2015. We forgot Brock!. Simon & Schuster ( Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8091-9. Illustrated by Carter Goodrich. 

Phillip and his “imaginary” friend Brock are best friends. When they go to the fair, Brock gets lost and Phillip does not realize he is gone until he wakes up in the car when Philip and his family are almost home. When Brock realizes he is lost, he makes two new friends, Anne and Anne’s “imaginary” best friend, Princess Sparkle Dust. The next day, Phillip posted pictures of Brock all over town. As Brock plays with Anne and Princess Sparkle Dust, he realizes how much he misses Phillip. Finally, Brock and Phillip are reunited and Brock introduces Phillip to his new friends and the four become the best of friends. This story will help children with social and personal development because the main focus of the story is healthy friendships. Children can relate to one of the themes because having an imaginary friend is common amongst young children. Another outstanding aspect of the story is the illustrations. The warm colors give a sense of familiarity and security while the faded lines and watercolor-like images give a mystical quality throughout the story. In contrast to the faded images, Brock, Phillip’s imaginary friend, is drawn with a very distinct shape in crayon just as if a child drew it. This shows just how vivid and real an imaginary friend can be to a child. (DJ) 

Gordon, Domenica More. 2013. Archie’s vacation. Bloomsbury Publishing. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-190-8. Illustrated by Domenica More Gordon.

In Archie’s vacation, readers join Archie in his vacation packing process. Readers gain insight into Archie’s decision-making process while he considers what to bring and how to fit all his belongings into his suitcase. Children who are going on vacation or moving may relate well to Archie’s difficulties. This nearly wordless picture book is great for young readers; the water-colored pictures on each page portray Archie’s chaotic packing process and allow children to develop their own storyline. (MEH) 

Graff, Lisa. 2014. Absolutely almost. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16405-7. 

Albie has never been the smartest kid in class, or the tallest, the best athlete, the most creative, or even musically inclined. He believes he holds a long list of things he is no good at. One day, Albie gets a new babysitter named Calista. She opens his eyes to discover he is talented, and encourages him to take pride in who he is. (MM)

Gravett, Emily. 2014. Bear and Hare go fishing. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 26pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-2289-5. 

Bear and Hare go fishing by Emily Gravett is a thoughtfully written and illustrated children’s book about two friends, a bear and a hare, who go fishing. Bear tries to fish while Hare puts together a picnic, but Bear manages to catch a hat, a frog, and a roller skate, before he can catch a fish. In the end, however, he finally catches a huge fish. The illustrations advance the plot and help children understand the mood and emotions on every page. The emotions in the story will help children with social development because it allows them to identify emotions and gives them an idea of the kind of expressions to look for in other people with similar emotions. Children, with or without the knowledge or experience of fishing, will enjoy this inviting story. (DJ) 

Gray, Rita, 2014. Have you heard the nesting bird?. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-10580-5. Illustrated by Kenard Pak. 

This book shows students what sound birds make and why nesting birds don’t sing. This would be a great tool to help students understand birds. It would also be great for students who are passionate about animals. It is set to poetry which gives it a nice flow and helps students identify rhyming words. (JO) 

Green, Tim. 2015. Kid owner. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229379-4. 

Ryan Zinna dreams comes true when he discovers the father he never knew dies and leaves the Dallas Cowboys to him in his will. Ryan truly believes this news will change his social status at school and his position as a benchwarmer on the school’s football team. Ryan’s friends Izzy and Jackson help him convince the coach to use plays showing Ryan’s strengths. However Ryan’s half brother is a great football player at his school’s rival. Ryan’s stepmother attempts to make her own son the Dallas Cowboys new owner instead of Ryan. In the end Ryan becomes the quarterback of his team lead his team to victory and what represents a winner. Kid owner deals with the theme of growing up, single-parent families, and peer relationships. In the book, Ryan must battle with balancing friendships, dealing with his feelings toward himself, and his newfound fame. Young adults like Ryan need the challenge, understanding, and the sense of equality required of peer relationships. Ryan grows up only with his mom and lacks any support from his father, emotionally or financially reflecting realistic situations of a family struggling to survive with one parent. Ryan struggles are relatable as he deals with self-esteem and trying to find his place in society. (WNW) 

Grimes, Nikki. 2015. Chasing freedom: the life journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony inspired by historical facts. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 53pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-439-79338-4. Illustrated by Michele Wood. 

This short children’s story is a sweet, informed tale of Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman sitting down to tea to discuss their lives. The conversational style of this book will draw readers in and give them an idea of the true history of these women, despite this book being a fictional meeting between the two. The organization of the story allows both women to share their important historical victories such as freeing slaves and working to secure the right to vote for women. The historical accuracy of this children’s story is lacking, as lot of additional dialogue has been supplemented by the author but it would be a great book to use as an introduction to important women in American history. The beautiful illustrations in this children’s book show Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony fighting for their causes. (LW) 

Gruenbaum, Michael. 2015. Somewhere there is still a sun: A memoir of the Holocaust. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 384pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8486-3. Todd Hasak-Lowly, contributor. 

Somewhere there is still a sun is a memoir set during WWII; the story begins in Prague and then moves to Terezin, a concentration camp. The story is based on the true-life events of the writer Michael Gruenbaum, but with some added characters and fictitious dialogue. The development of the story seems to be very realistic the world during WWII. Michael, the main character, reacts to the changing world and rules surrounding him. The style of the book invites readers to step into the mind of Michael, and experience the life of a Jewish boy. This book would be very educational for younger students trying to understand the reality of the Holocaust. The characterization of Michael and the other boys he comes to know are realistic for how people in an unimaginable situation would bond and grow as people. With the help of Hasak-Lowly, Gruenbaum’s story truly captures the struggles experienced by victims and survivors of the Holocaust. (BB) 

Hale, Shannon. 2015. Princess academy: The forgotten sisters. Bloomsbury USA Childrens. 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-161-963-4855. 

In the 3rd book of the series Princess Academy, Miri is about to travel home after being at the castle for five years. However, Miri is once again faced with a mystery as she is faced with the challenge of tutoring three girls to become princesses and save the castle from war through a royal marriage. Miri must gather all her strength to solve the mystery and finally return home. Each chapter is introduced with a little short stanza of poetry that are almost like songs. Miri is from a place called Mount Eskel where they use quarry speech, which is a form of unspoken language used only in the quarry. The poems that begin each chapter are like Miri’s quarry speech. Each stanza is an insight into what is maybe going to come in each chapter. Hale’s writing is engaging and interesting as she tells the end of Miri’s many journeys. Hale interweaves subtle feminist ideas throughout the story through women fighting, politicizing, and working towards their goals. Young readers will surely find themselves transported into the fantasy and magical world of the Princess Academy. (MK) 

Hamilton, Kersten. 2015. The ire of Iron Claw: Gadgets and gears. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 165pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-22502-2. Illustrated by James Hamilton. 

To say that the sequel, The Ire of Iron Claw: Gadgets and Gears, is the classic good versus evil novel would be an understatement. This complex children’s chapter book is told primarily in the Automated Inn through the perspective of Wally’s best friend, Noodles, the faithful family dog. Readers are invited into a futuristic world through flying dogs, helpful robots, airships, and the Kennewickett family. Once the Kennewickett family is aware that the Mesmers, evil villains, are hacking into their top-secret laboratory, readers are challenged to think of a world with mad pirates, ginormous spiders, and the mischievous Mesmers. When the Mesmers endanger the world, the heroes, Wally and his team of geniuses, take time away from their laboratory to fly to Europe on the Daedalus, an airship. As the family and friend embark on this journey, readers are introduced to new vocabulary, contributing to additional knowledge of the futuristic world. A question persists: Will Wally and his trusty sidekick, Noodles, defeat the mischievous Mesmers once and for all? (EH) 

Hamilton, Margaret. 2015. B is for bedtime. EDC Publishing (Kane Miller). 32pp. $11.99. ISBN 978-1-61067368-6. Illustrated by Anna Pignataro. 

This soothing alphabet book lulls the reader to sleep as it sweetly depicts one girl’s bedtime routine and journey to sleep from A to Z. The author’s clever rhymes, soothing rhythm and patterns create a calming sensation as the words flow smoothly together. The relationship between the illustrations and the rhythmic nature of the text enhance the tranquilizing mood of the story. Small changes in the details on each page add variety and keep the reader engaged. The prominent illustrations of each of the letters in upper- and lowercase form are cut out from decorated paper and are always the same size and font, but are illustrated in different patterns and colors. This illustrative consistency with meaningful details perfectly blends with the consistent patterns and sounds of the text to create a meaningful, soothing, and educational bedtime story, one to which children will connect. (CEC) 

Hand, Cynthia. 2015. The last time we say goodbye. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 400pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231647-3. 

The last time we say goodbye is a book that tackles the topic of suicide. In the book, the main character, Lex, loses her brother to suicide. She has a difficult time going to school knowing that everyone is going to pity her and treat her differently because of her brother. However, Lex has a secret: her brother sent a text that could have meant the difference between life and death. Despite the heavy topic, this book handles the topic with grace and considers reader’s emotions. This novel depicts the frailty of life and emotion very strongly. (MSH, AB) 

Harold, A.F.. 2014. The imaginary. Bloomsbury Publishing. 221pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8927-3811-0. 

Amanda and her imaginary friend Rudger spend their summer going on many make-believe adventures together. But that changes when Mr. Bunting shows up. Bunting is an adult who can see imaginaries, and hunts them down and eats them in order to prolong his life. Rudger has to go on the run to keep out of Mr. Bunting’s clutches. Soon he discovers a whole world of imaginaries he never knew existed, but he has to get back to Amanda before Mr. Bunting catches him and she forgets he existed as he fades away. An exciting adventure bridging the gap between real and imaginary, The imaginary, is a tale of friendship and imagination. Soft black and white illustrations help to highlight the imaginary world and engage readers. With some dark and eerie plot points, this is not a good read for students who are easily frightened, but can help to show students the value of never letting to of your imagination. A good read for middle school aged students. (HJM)

Harrell, Rob. 2014. Life of Zarf: the trouble of weasels. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books). 281pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4103-4. 

This is a fun novel about a troll named Zarf who is trying to make it through middle school. This would be a great option for students who are have experienced bullying. It would be a beacon of hope for students who are being bullied, as the story tells them it is most important for them to be happy with themselves and not worry about what others think. This would also be a great story for students who are not big fans of reading because it is in big print, and it has many allusions to pop culture which is appealing to students. The pictures throughout the story also serve to make it a fun and engaging read. (JO) 

Harris, Robie. 2013. When lions roar. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-11283-3. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. 

A young boy is scared of the sounds he hears all around him; like the sounds of his parents being angry, thunder, sirens, etc. When he is afraid he controls his emotions by sitting down, closing his eyes, and exclaiming “Scary! Go away.” This book is aimed at early elementary aged students who can relate to being scared and how they can address those fears. This picture book uses bright water colors and crayons to bring the story to life. The bright colors emphasize the loudness of the sounds the boy is hearing. This book also uses organic free form shapes to allow readers to use their imaginations and transport themselves into the story. (WNW)

Hegarty, Shane. 2015. Darkmouth #1: The legends begin. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 416pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06231125-2. Illustrated by James de la Rue. 

The first book of this action-packed fantasy series uniquely depicts the town of Darkmouth, the last of many towns, which are frequently inhabited by mystical creatures known as Legends. It is one boy’s role to hunt these monsters to protect the people of Darkmouth. The story follows a characteristic pattern of an ordinary boy in an extraordinary situation. At the beginning, the main character, Finn, is not a successful Legend Hunter by any means and does not want anything to do with this job, which has been passed down in his family for generations. Instead, Finn would give anything to be normal. However, as the story and plot rapidly unfold, Finn is forced to venture out of his comfort zone to overcome multiple scary challenges in an effort to protect the people he loves. Through this, Finn enters a journey of self-discovery as he finally embraces his true calling to be a Legend Hunter through acts of true bravery, loyalty, and honor. The author, Hegarty, primarily suspends disbelief through his characterization of Finn, as he writes the story from Finn’s perspective through a limited omniscient point of view. As the narrator reveals Finn’s authentic thoughts and circumstances, the reader is able to identify with the ordinariness of his common emotions and struggles. Stemming from this strong establishment of Finn’s character, Hegarty continues to effectively suspend disbelief through the logical framework of the fast-paced plot as Finn faces and overcomes various challenges with the support of his father. This endearing father-son relationship also plays a key role in Finn’s quest of self-discovery. Additionally, this is a type of fantasy that is based on the convincing establishment of a strange and curious world. Hegarty creates this believable world as he launches the story in a small town secluded by an eerie forest and announced by a wall on which the word monsters is largely written with a drawing of a serpent eating a human. This sets the tone for the looming danger and excitement , which distinguishes this town from the rest of the world. In this imaginative world, the author’s creative depictions of Finn’s adventures excitingly highlight the characteristic and universal themes of the constant battle of good versus evil, self-discovery, courage, and family. Hegarty cleverly weaves these themes and elements together to create an original, believable, and thrilling fantasy tale, which many adolescent readers won’t be able to put down. (CEC) 

Haydu, Corey Ann. 2015. Rules for stealing stars. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235271-2. 

Silly, the youngest of four sisters, is tired of being left out. Because of her mother’s drinking problem, her home life is difficult, and recently strange things are happening in her family’s summer house. What are her sisters giggling about? How did they become sunburnt without ever going outside? Silly wiggles herself into their business and discovers their house contains a certain unpredictable magic. All of the closets contain worlds helping each sister escape from the complications at home. Why does their drunken mother keep telling them her sister, whom they’ve never heard of, is stuck? Is she stuck in a closet? Why is their father fascinated with fairy tales? Why does the closet door occasionally stick shut? Who is Laurel? The closets are knowledgeable. They create dangerous and adventurous encounters for the four sisters as they begin to realize what is truly important in their world. This fantasy books catapults the sisters into strange and curious worlds. The time warp elements present in this tale give it a unique spin when the girls discover the “memory closet.” Throughout the story, the author suspends disbelief by creating credible characters. The sisters emote and argue like other siblings in today’s world and the themes depict struggles common to some children. The girls struggle with their difficult home life, young love, and problems with loved ones abusing alcohol. Students will enjoy reading this book and traveling to unimaginable lands with Silly and her crew. The sisters will begin to understand family is important and readers will also start to see the world differently. They will find it has beauty and magic if they just take the time to look closely at the world around them. Will the girls eventually find answers to their questions? Will the closets fix their family troubles or make things worse? In the end, they may just find comfort in “a tiny bit of magic, right here in the real world.” (ELW)

Henkes, Kevin. 2015. Waiting. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236843-0. Illustrated by K. Henkes. 

Gentle, wise, and simplistic, Henkes’ Waiting invites readers on an imaginative journey alongside five friends sitting on a windowsill. An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig wait for extraordinary things to happen in the world beyond the glass as a child sets the stage and determines the animals’ fate. With delicate colored pencil illustrations set against a soft, white backdrop, Henkes has early childhood readers reflecting on the power of patience in their own lives. Readers spend time examining their own emotions as they observe grief, anxiety, wonder, happiness, and friendship splayed across the expressive toys’ faces. This is well suited as a bedtime story or a book to share during quiet time. (SDP) 

Henry, Marguerite. 1951. Album of horses. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 208pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4258-9. Illustrated by Wesley Dennis. 

Vivid descriptions and illustrations of different breeds of horses dominate this classic informational book. The style is light and informative and is discusses the different breeds of horses such as Arabian, Shire, Belgian, Mustang.Album of horses includes a table of contents directing readers to the various breeds of horses. The illustrations use bold yet natural colors to give readers different perspectives of the horses. Known for her animal stories, this is one of the fifty-eight books about animals, specifically horses by Marguerite Henry. (WNW) 

Heos, Bridget. 2015. Mustache baby meets his match. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-36375-5. Illustrated by Joy Ang.

Baby Javier comes over for a playdate with Mustache Baby. Each of them show off their skills to one another, which leads to a competition of superiority between the two. After a series of increasingly more amusing and grandiose displays of dominance, Baby Javier and Mustache Baby fight. Can they make up and be friends, or are they doomed to be enemies? Mustache baby meets his match is a sweet story about how competition between friends can turn ugly, butgood friends can always reconcile their differences. Engaging illustrations by Joy Ang serve to enhance the story and further develop the plot. Readers observe two children using their imaginations to create wild scenarios in which they are cowboys, artists, or wrestlers. This book can aid in the emotional development of children as they learn how to apologize and work with each other. A good book for early elementary aged students. (HJM) 

Hidalgo, Pablo. 2014. Star wars rebels: a new hero. Disney Book Group (Lucasfilm Press). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-148470669-5. 

For upper elementary students who find interest in the world of Star Wars, this picture storybook will help them to dive into brand new characters. The use of color in these CGI influenced illustrations give readers a better understanding to the characterization in the book. When the book introduces The Inquisitor, the colors of red and black are used to show the evil nature behind this villain. On the other hand one of the characters has green skin, which besides showing her alien nature, gives her a kind color that isn’t intimidating, showing that she’s fighting for the right side. (MH) 

Higgins, Ryan T. 2015. Mother Bruce. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-3088-1. 

Mother Bruce is an endearing picture book that follows the misadventures of Bruce, a very grumpy black bear. Bruce loves to cook, and he gathers his ingredients from his neighbors. When he tries to cook hard-boiled goose eggs, he is forced to take care of the hatched goslings. Despite his grumpy attitude throughout the book, he cares for the goslings as though he were their mother. Preschoolers will enjoy the hilarious illustrations paired with witty text. The short sentences and apparent grumpiness of Bruce will make reading this picture book a memorable family event, especially if read with expression. This book will certainly become a bedtime favorite. (AMB)

Holeti, Christa. 2015. In the new world: A family in two centuries. Charlesbridge. 40pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-630-6. Illustrated by Gerda Raidt. 

The journey begins with historical basis of the 1850s, and how America became the melting pot it is today. Families from across the world traveled to the U.S. in search of the American Dream and hopes of providing a better life for their children. As the book continues it follows a family’s voyage through each step of their travels. The book incorporates not only their fictional story, but also what true factual information we have acquired over time. It even takes a close look at how the ship was built, and the shocking transition into the new world. Overall, the pictures throughout the book were beyond beautiful, and help portray the information presented in the text. Young adults would be a great age to uncover these historical pastimes, as well as read it on their own. (MM) 

Holub, Joan. 2015. Itty bitty kitty. Harper Collins (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0062322197. Illustrated by James Burks. 

Itty Bitty Kitty follows a young girl named Ava as she attempts to convince her parents to let her have a pet kitten. After they say no, she decides to hide a kitten she finds until another, more favorable time arises to ask again. Things go amuck when her kitty, Itty Bitty, turns out to be anything but small. This concept book shows how a little lie can quickly turn into a big problem. The text has slight rhyming patterns to bring children into the story and moves them towards the next page. The illustrations are soft with bold colors to match the mood of the interactions among the characters. Young children will easily follow the plot and the recognizable conflict among Ava and her parents. While this story may not provide the best example of problem solving, it adequately shares the themes of forgiveness and acceptance. (AB)

Hopkins, L.B.. 2015. Amazing places. Lee & Low Books Inc.. 40pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-60060-653-3. Illustrated by C. Soentpiet & C. Hale. 

Hopkins’ Amazing places takes young elementary readers on a road trip throughout the United States, exposing them to the country’s diverse environments through poetry. Readers have the chance to experience the “red-purple ridges” of the Grand Canyon, the “clanging of coasters” at the Texas State Fair, and “ancestral voices [crying]” at Niagara Falls. The poet’s’ use of shape, repetition, and alliteration breathes life into historical places and helps children form an emotional connection to each place. Soentpiet and Hale use highlights and contrasting colors to draw attention to the most notable elements of their illustrations. The rich text of the poems, when combined with these intricate illustrations, gives early elementary children the opportunity to learn about breathtaking features of the United States. (SDP) 

Hosford, Kate. 2015. Feeding the Flying Fanellis: And other Poems from a circus chef. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 38pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-3905-4. Illustrated by Cosei Kawa. 

In this narrative story of poems, readers are introduced to the unique performers of the circus, along with the fantastical foods they eat. The circus chef goes in detail to describe how each meal plays a key role in how each performer performs. The poems have humorous rhyme and rhythm, abstract art, and one skilled chef. The chaotic and abstract art go right along with the overall feel of the circus. The last poem in the narrative brings all the circus performers together for one eventful meal. (EH) 

Hubbard, Kirsten. 2015. Watch the sky. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 262pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-48470833-0. 

More epic than believable, Watch the sky is the story of Jory and his isolated family. Hubbard’s novel reads with apocalyptic themes told in a grandeur way; well written and exciting to read. Watch The Sky is rife with complex characters and relationships, introducing sensitive topics as Jory’s aggressively skeptical stepfather creates a terrifying world for his family, one full of fear and constant questioning. Bursting with suspenseful and creative twists, this novel may be better for older readers who can approach the twisted tale in a more abstract manner (ages 12-14). Despite the slightly unrealistic splendor, this interesting perspective reminds readers people see and experience the world differently, some perhaps more cinematically than others. (KSR) 

Hudson, Katy. 2015. Bear and Duck. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 29pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0062320513. Illustrated by Katy Hudson. 

A charming and timeless tale of finding one’s true identity, Bear and Duck displays true friendship through a captivating story of a bear who is fed up with being a bear. After discovering the entrancing lifestyle of a duck, Bear decides the aquatic and feathered bird life is the new one he would like to live. This charming picture book, perfect for children preschool aged-3rd grade, follows Bear as he stumbles through life trying to be a new creature, taught and guided by his close friend Duck. Hudson eloquently addresses personality development and self-acceptance in an appropriate and enjoyable fashion through the use of captivating wordplay, story design, and soft illustrations reminiscent of many a classic children’s story. (KSR) 

Huey, Lois Miner. 2015. Forgotten bones: Uncovering a slave cemetery. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 56pp. $30.65. ISBN 978-1-4677-3393-9. 

This book engagingly depicts the story of a slave cemetery accidentally discovered, then purposely recovered by archaeologists in Albany, New York in 2005. The book begins with a Table of Contents, listing the titles and locations of the five short chapters of the book, as well as the informative tools located at the end, such as the author’s note, glossary, source notes, selected bibliography, further resources, and the index. These elements are evidence of the authenticity and accuracy of the information in the book. The author provides a comprehensive introduction to the description and purpose of bioarchaeology—the study of human remains—as this concept provides the foundation for the plot and conflicts. The text tells the story of the remains the archaeologists found, how they discovered them, then how they studied and analyzed them to make meaning. The author highlights the extensive conclusions bioarchaeologists were able to reach from the scientists’ and historiographers’ study of the people’s remains, such as their age, diet, place of origin, and their likely appearance. Through the story of this major excavation, as well as 2 other excavations of slave cemeteries in New York, this book forms a biography about slave life in the northern U.S. during colonial times. Through this, the author engages the reader in exploring the meaningful relationships between science and history, and the important connections one can make in an effort to better understand both subjects. The book contains various authentic photographs from the dig, most of which are clearly labeled and explained in detail. In addition to these photos, there are detailed diagrams, maps, and images of historical documents included on each page within the text, which support the reader’s’ understanding of complex archaeological and historical concepts. The book is also organized in an effective manner through the incorporation of text boxes, which provide necessary additional details and highlight important concepts related to the archaeological dig. In these ways, the author thoroughly and engagingly tells the story and reveals the significance of this incredible excavation. (CEC) 

Hughes, Langston. 2015. Sail away. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48143085-2. Illustrated by Ashley Bryan. 

Sail away written by Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) and illustrated by Ashley Bryan is a book of children’s poems dedicated to the sea. Each poem has a different and distinct perspective about the sea, and the collage illustrations perfectly reflect the story and mood behind each poem. For example, there is a poem dedicated to the calmness of the sea called Sea calm and in contrast there is a poem about the unruliness of the sea called Long trip. Other pleasant aspects of the poems are the thoughtful use of elements such as rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and imagery. One example of when rhythm and rhyme are used effectively is in the poem F “There was a fish/With a greedy eye/Who darted toward/A big green fly/ Alas! That fly/ Was bait on a hook!/So the fisherman took/ The fish home to cook.” An example where repetition and imagery is used effectively is in Moonlight night: Carmel “Tonight the waves march/ In long ranks/Cutting the darkness/With their silver shanks,/Cutting the darkness…” These poems will be enjoyable for children because they are uncomplicated, they tell a story, have rhythm and rhyme, and have elements of humor. Moreover, the illustrations perfectly correspond to the theme of each poem through the use of colors and movement. In the poem Calm Sea Bryan uses many cool and calming colors like deep blues and greens and in The Long Trip, he uses vibrant colors in contrast with one another. Bryan also creates movement and contrast in the way the water flows and runs through the lines she creates with the construction paper. This movement also creates texture in the illustrations and brings the scenes to life. Sail away is an enjoyable children’s book of poems because of the excellent use of poetic and visual elements connecting with children’s emotions, thus allowing them to think about literature creatively and imaginatively. (DJ) 

Hunter, Erin. 2015. Survivors: Storm of dogs. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 271pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210276-8. 

Lucky and his friends among the wolf pack are challenged by the biggest battle they have faced yet in the sixth novel of Survivors by Erin Hunter. Though they have finally achieved a community living in peace, Lucky is haunted by dreams suggesting danger lies ahead for the pack. Survivors: Storm of Dogs is a great series for young readers to begin following a story across several novels. The novel touches on the strength of friendship and community, and how good will always persevere in the end. (MM)

Hurley, Jorey. 2015. Fetch. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8969-1. 

Fetch effectively uses pictures to display the actions and words on the page. Readers are able to connect the depiction with its correlating word, such as, dive and the dog diving towards the bottom of the water. We follow a dog that is trying to retrieve his red ball. This is an interactive way for children to examine the pages not only for the new animals, but also the dog’s ball. The colors portrayed are calming, and the objects among the pages are large and have a playful intention. (MM)

Isadora, Rachel. 2015. Bea in the nutcracker. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25231-0. 

In her latest easy-to-read children’s book, Isadora has Bea and her adorable toddler companions dancing onstage in The Nutcracker ballet. This charming story gives preschoolers an introduction to all the captivating elements of The Nutcracker, but in a much simpler format. Isadora accompanies her text with basic pencil sketches of the children. Her collage-style costumes are in stark contrast with the pure white pages of the background, and readily draw the reader’s eye to the elaborate outfits of the children. Just as Bea and her fellow dancers are most excited about their costumes, Isadora helps readers focus on these above all else, as they provide the majority of color on the pages. This story is perfect to prepare children ages 4-8 for their first viewing of the infamous holiday ballet. (SDP) 

Jarman, Julia. 2015. Lovely old lion. Lerner Publishing Group (Andersen Press). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-9310-0. Illustrated by Susan Varley. 

Lovely Old Lion is a heart-warming story about the relationship between a lion cub, Lenny, and his grandpa, King Lion. Julia Jarman takes young readers, ages 3 – 8, on an emotional journey as King Lion begins to lose his memory. From misplacing his crown to forgetting his own grandson’s name, readers will be sympathetic of Lenny as King Lion’s memory continues to fade. However, there is hope when Lenny and King Lion’s old friends share stories to help Lenny’s grandpa remember events from the past. The illustration’s soft colors and curved, geometric shapes create a friendly mood for readers as they follow King Lion’s memory loss. The animals look friendly and approachable by the soft, wispy outlining of their fur. This concept book stimulates children’s cognitive and social development as they learn about dementia and the emotions accompanying memory loss in beloved relatives. Children discover it can be difficult to help someone with dementia remember people and events, but it is possible to help them remember the past by being patient and kind. (EKF) 

Jarvis. 2015. Lazy Dave. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235598-0. 

Lazy Dave is a picture storybook intended for children ages four to eight. Lilly assumes Dave is a lazy dog who never does anything. Lilly leaves for school, and Dave ventures out all day because he has a problem with sleepwalking. Dave is easily remembered as the main character of the book because he has two sides to him. Lilly knows Dave as a lazy dog, but during the day he is very busy while sleepwalking through the town. The illustrations are very detailed, showing every activity Dave does while sleepwalking. Children can flip through the book and make their own story using the vivid pictures. Dave is out sleepwalking when a burglar of a jewelry store is about to escape, but the burglar trips over Dave and the bag of diamonds fly through the air. Dave saves the day and wanders back home. After saving the jewels, will Lilly still think Dave is a lazy dog? (KB) 

Javaherbin, Mina. 2015. Elephant in the dark. Scholastic Inc.. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-63670-4. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 

Based on a poem by Rumi, the verses of Elephant in the dark mirror the characteristics of a narrative poem, telling the tale about village people so enthralled with being right they miss seeing the true identity of the creature hiding in the dark. This story represents multiple perspectives from each villager climbing into the dark barn to try and discover the hidden creature. The increasing tension as the villagers argue amongst themselves will intrigue students instantly as this mystery unfolds along with the rapidly developing plot. With a nonsensical idea, this retelling of the poem also provides a moral lesson about listening to each other and respecting differences. (RKC) 

Jensen, Marion. 2015. Searching for super. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 256pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-06-220958-0. 

A book of rich language, suspense, and self-worth, this fantasy is recommended for a middle elementary to adolescent (8-14 years old) aged audience. Two families of superheroes fight each other with their own technology and superpowers until almost everyone’s superpowers have been taken away by the villains. The family members lose their sense of self-worth and begin to feel as though they can no longer do anything, and instead hide from the villains. However, with the help of three children, the families learn to work together, regain their sense of self-value, and defeat the villains together. This science fiction story is about the value of family and friendship, as well as good triumphing over evil. (MS) 

Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page. 2014. Creature Features: 25 animals explain why they look the way they do. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-23351-5. 

This informational picture book is a great way to have elementary students explore different features of animals. Each illustration helps to show an odd characteristic of an animal and the information presented explains the animal. The text is both informational and written in a way which students will be able to easily relate and stay interested. (MH) 

Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page. 2015. Egg: Nature’s perfect package. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-95909-2. 

Egg is an informational book about egg-laying animals in nature. The book details different animals and the way they lay, carry, and hatch their eggs. It gives brief paragraphs about different animals such as the royal albatross, the spider wasp, and the five-lined skink. Bright and colorful illustrations of each animal and their eggs draw the reader in and give greater understanding to the text. There is an index in the back of the book providing additional information about each animal listed throughout the text. Furthermore, the authors provide a list of resources of additional reading. This is good read for middle to upper elementary school students. (HJM) 

Jennewein, Lenore. 2013. Chick-o-saurus rex. Simon & Schuster ( Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5186-5. Illustrated by Daniel Jennewein. 

An early elementary level book, this is a story about a young chicken which helps young children learn how they can stick up for themselves. The illustrations as well as the text make this book suitable for young readers. The characterization on Little Chick is important throughout the story. As he learns more about his ancestors, he becomes proud and able to become a leader himself. (MH) 

Jeter, Derek. 2014. The Contract. Simon Schuster ( Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 151pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-2312-0. 

The story of Derek Jeter would be a great one to share with middle school or late elementary students, especially if they are struggling with self image, or want to be in a sport but do not think they are good enough. It is a powerful book, teaching students to never give up and always continue to work toward their dreams. (JO) 

Jinks, Catherine. 2015. A plague of bogles. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 339pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-08747-7. Illustrated by Sarah Watts. 

Jem Barbary used to work as a pickpocket for Sarah Pickles, until one day she betrayed him and sold him off to be bait for bogles, the child-eating creatures lurking in the shadows of London, and he wants revenge. Alfred Bunce is a retired monster hunter, but when children start disappearing, he and Jem work together to go hunt the bogles. As children continue to mysteriously disappear, Jem and Alfred must work together with fellow monster hunters Birdie McAdam, Alfred’s former apprentice, and her teacher Miss Eames, in order to uncover the mysteries lying beneath the streets of London. The second book in the Bogles trilogy, A plague of bogles is an exciting book for upper elementary school students. With many monsters lurking in the dark shadows, this is not a book for children who scare easily. It may, however, aid in the social development of students as they see self-reliant Jem learn to rely on others and cope with his troubled past. While this book could be read alone, it may be worthwhile to first read book one of the trilogy, How to catch a bogle. (HJM) 

Johnson, E.K. 2014. The story of Owen: Dragon slayer of Trondheim. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Lab). 305pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-1066-4. 

This intriguing novel for middle and high school students takes place in our modern world with one small twist: dragons. Owen is a high school student that is called to be the dragon slayer for his small town of Trondheim. He befriends Siobhan, a girl with musical talents, who decides to become Owen’s bard. As Siobhan tells the story of Owen, it is apparent that battling dragons and the typical problems of the average high schooler will be difficult. With well developed characters and a whimsical world, Johnson’s The story of Owen: Dragon slayer of Trondheim will appeal to music, adventure, and history lovers alike. (MH, AMB) 

Jones, Charisse. 2015. Unlocking the truth. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17453-7. 

Unlocking the Truth is a biographical novel written by Charisse Jones along with the help of Malcolm Brickhouse, Alec Atkins, and Jarad Dawkins. These three teens make up the band “Unlocking the Truth,” which has been wildly successful all over the nation. This story tells of the journey, from the perspectives of the boys, of going from normal teens to young stars and what it takes to have had this success. Driven by friendship and hard work, these fun-loving, light-hearted musicians tell a humorous and inspired tale of just what it means to “rock.” As the subtitle suggests, this paints an apt and truthful picture of the three teens’ life and journey. Teachers and caregivers can use this book in a number of effective ways. It provides a strong example of journalism and biographical writing, and could also be used to reiterate the importance of hard work, determination, and pursuing things students are passionate about. Upper elementary students will love the “real” language, authentic photographs, edgy illustration, and honest writing style. This book “rocks!” (AW) 

Judge, Lita. 2015. Good morning to me!. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481403696. 

Good morning to me! introduces readers to one loud bird who is on a morning journey around her home. She wishes to greet all of her friends while adventuring from room to room. She learns, along the way, her voice is not at an appropriate volume. After getting into mischief with some of her other housemates, the little birdie learns the importance of using her inside voice. She also realizes how helpful faithful friends are. The artistic elements in this story are strategically painted. The pastel colors give a sense of calm and “playtime feel.” The bird’s bright colors indicate she is loud and bold. There are soft lines in the backdrop illustrations showing the reader these animals live in a safe and welcoming household. The illustrator’s use of lines to show movement in select scenes gives life to the pages. The shapes are not rigid or sharp in any way. They give certain softness to the tale urging the reader to become friends with the creatures. The animals themselves are texturized with a paintbrush and accented with tuffs of fur making them look cuddly and cozy. Teachers and teaching associates will enjoy using this beautifully and effectively illustrated book to teach students the importance of using inside voices. Beatrix, Mouse, Kitty, Goldfish, and Gracie will steal any reader’s heart with their curious adventures. (ELW) 

Kadohata, Cynthia. 2014. Half a world away. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 231pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-4424-1275-0. Jacket illustration by Lee White. 

Half a world away is a book for a preteen audience ages 10-14. A twelve-year-old boy named Jaden is adopted from Romania and has a difficult time adjusting to his new home. He feels he is a failure. When his parents decide to fly to Kazakhstan and adopt a second child, he feels even worse. At the adoption center in Kazakhstan, a child with special needs softens Jaden’s tough exterior. However, his parents are unsure of adopting a child with special needs until they see how much Jaden cares for the boy. This book is optimal for the social and personal development of preteens because this is an age where children start to feel angry with their parents and is a crucial time for their social development. This book shows that there is always a silver lining no matter how bad things seem. (MSH) 

Kamkwamba, William and Bryan Mealer. 2015. The boy who harnessed the wind. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4080-8. 

An upper elementary (10-12) or older aged audience will be able to read this biographical book and understand the hardships endured by William Kamkwamba and his family living in Malawi, Africa. The small village in which this ordinary teenage boy lives is a farming village that requires many hands to fulfill the necessary hard work. As a drought ceases the growth of their crops, the family is faced with financial problems and cannot afford for William to go to school. A strong-willed boy, William finds a library and teaches himself about science. Overcoming the hardships, William proves to those who made fun of him that he can successfully build a windmill which generates power for his family’s house. Readers can enjoy viewing actual photographs of William, his family, his windmills, and the parts he used to make the windmills. Through his evolving interests and the questions and answers that led to his invention, William will inspire children his age to experiment with interests of their own. (MS) 

Kann, Victoria. 2015. Pinkalicious and the pink parakeet. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-224596-0. 

When Pinkalicious goes on a class field trip to the zoo, she anxiously waits to see her favorite animals: birds. More specifically, the rare pink parakeet. At the zoo, Pinkalicious does not see the Pink Parakeet because it escaped from its cage and the zoo. When Pinkalicious does not see her parakeet, she reads her bird fact book. Following the information in the fact book stating the Pink Parakeet eats fruit and likes taking baths, the entire class put these two things together and the Pink Parakeet reappeared. Everyone is ecstatic and Ms. Penny, the teacher, returned the Pink Parakeet to the zoo and Pinkalicious saved the day. As a Beginning Readers’ books, the plot is straightforward, the sentences are short with a high frequency of sight words such as it, the, of. The colors of the illustrations are bold and vibrant, primarily blues and greens associated with plant life. (WNW) 

Keller, Elinora, and Naama Peleg Segal. 2015. Just like I wanted. WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 26pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-0828-5453-7. Illustrated by Ava Gordon-Noy. 

Appropriate for any elementary aged child, this story takes the reader on an adventure with the main character as she discovers the perfect picture to share with her class. Collage illustrations bring the storyline and main character’s imagination to life. Delicate cut outs and figures of the story help reveal the main character’s thoughts and sense of adventure while she’s challenging herself to create the best picture. The texture of the background is created with overlapping shapes and colors, creating an ideal workspace for the main character. Just like I wanted is ideal for artistic readers who sometimes struggle with creativity and self-acceptance in their artwork. (KI) 

Kirby, Matthew. 2015. The arctic code. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer and Bray). 324pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06222487-3. 

Imagine, sitting in history class, learning about the beginning of the 21st century, a time with sweltering summers and mild winters, with the median temperature staying above zero. These are the historical scenarios that the characters in The arctic code, by Matthew Kirby, dream about as they involuntarily move into a new ice age. The beginning of the novel starts in Phoenix, Arizona, one of the focal cities in the process of harboring refugees from the numbed north. Eleanor, the active and adventurous twelve-year-old, keeps readers engaged in the novel as she ventures into the wild west of the north, to find her mother, a geologist. The geologist disappeared when in Alaska trying to find bodies of energy under the earth’s surface.. The young traveler, Eleanor, unimaginably avoids all obstacles and makes it to the bitterly cold artic north. The author suspends disbelief by familiarizing readers with a relatable main character. Kirby also convinces readers of a futuristic world by incorporating an unforeseeable element into the plot, climate. When Eleanor ventures out into the winter wonderland, she finds her mother with a village of people from the Stone Age. Along with their woolly mammoths, they have been unfrozen due to the new ice age. The villagers, in collaboration with Eleanor’s mother, bring hope to the storyline by discovering a way to produce energy, for the world. The Stone Age characters, along with the new resources, will take the reader to a futuristic world. Will these adventures bring hope to the future of the world or will their newly discovered world be a glimpse of disappointment, in the beginning of a horrifying freeze? (EH) 

Klise, Kate. 2015. 43 Old Cemetery Road: Book seven: The Loch Ness punster. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-544-31337-8. Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise.

This book is a great story for upper elementary and middle school students to read a story from a unique style. The story is told through the use of letters, emails, and news clippings. The reader gets to see many different perspectives throughout the book as each character writes in their voice. They will follow the story of Ignatius B. Grumply, an author, Olive C. Spence, a ghost, and Seymour, an abandoned preteen. Olive and Seymour decide to visit the Spence Mansion, which once belonged to Uncle Ian, as Iggy remains home to write. As the story goes on, it becomes clear that everyone has a secret. (MH, AMB) 

Kloepfer, John. 2014. Galaxy’s most wanted. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 224pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-223101-7. Illustrated by Nick Edwards.

Science camp is never dull for Kevin, Warner, Tara, and TJ. As the Invention Convention quickly approaches, the team must work together to stop the alien invasion they accidently began. Will they make it? The suspenseful, action-packed storyline in Galaxy’s most wanted keeps readers wondering, and the sketched illustrations provide readers helpful clues about the text. An exciting read, Galaxy’s most wanted is sure to please readers grades 4-7 who love adventure. (MEH) 

Koontz, Robin. 2016. Learning about Africa. Lerner Publishing Group (Searchlight Books). 40pp. $29.32. ISBN 978-1-4677-8013-1. 

Readers learn about the different animals living in various parts of Africa; countries and cities in Africa, different kinds of climates (plains, deserts, forests, mountains, and highlands), endangered animals that live in Africa, and the diverse variety of people and cultures. The style of the book is direct and straight to the point. The organization of this book is highly structured with each subject divided into different headings. Also, a table of contents directs readers into the different subjects examined in the book. The illustrations are vibrant, clear, and grab the reader’s attention. (WNW) 

Kootstra, Kara. 2014. The boy in number four. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4167-6. Illustrated by Regan Thompson. 

This book shows Bobby Orr, a professional hockey player, and how he got there. This book has a rhyming pattern, which gives it a nice poetic rhythm. This would be a great book for young elementary students who are interested in participating in sports because Bobby has a great work ethic and says that hockey has taught him respect and that young people should get out and do something. This would be a great story to motivate students to start a sport. (JO) 

Kreller, Susan and Gaffney, Elizabeth. 2015. You can’t see the elephants. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17209-0. 

Mascha, Julia, and Max are the main characters in You can’t see the elephants, a realistic fiction book for children ages 10 and above. The story takes place in a quiet neighborhood in Clinton where everyone is oblivious to negative situations. Mascha, a 13 year old girl, suspects and discovers that Julia and Max are being abused by their father, but no one will listen to her, not even her grandparents or neighbors. Since everyone ignores the situation out of fear, Mascha decides to rescue Julia and Max on her own. At this suspenseful twist in the story, readers may question their own convictions. Children reading this book will develop an understanding of the emotions a child endures if abused and may help someone confront similar situations. Abused children may realize they are not alone and there is hope others will help them. Mascha believes there is hope for Julia and Max, while all they know is fear. Survival, family conflict, and the culture of the neighborhood contribute to this realistic story. The vivid descriptions of the abuse, emotions, and behaviors of the community enhance the understanding of the context. The story is powerful and indicates abuse can happen in any type of family, regardless of social status. This book challenges the readers to decide if they would choose to see “the elephant in the room”. (KB) 

Kricher, John, and Gordon Morrison. 1988. Eastern forests: A field guide to birds, mammals, trees, flowers and more. Houghton Mifflin Company. 512pp. $20.00. ISBN 978-0-395-92895-0. 

Eastern Forests is a substantive and comprehensive field guide of plants and wildlife readers are likely to encounter in Eastern North America. Diagrams and pictures allow readers to easily identify each entry. The plants and wildlife are listed in bold letters, followed by an explanation and a matching picture. The information is organized into sections based on location and what would be found in each place. The table of contents is extremely helpful and precise, and the information about the Eastern forests is accurate. This will be a useful guide in the classroom when discussing the different plants and wildlife in the Eastern forests. (SJH) 

Krosoczka, Jarret J. 2014. Platypus police squad: The ostrich conspiracy. HarperCollins Publishers (Walden Pond Press). 228pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207166-8.

As two platypus detectives investigate a crime at a new amusement park, readers find themselves engulfed in an action-packed mystery. Car chases, fireworks, a power outage, boomerang weapons, and detective work combine to develop an effective storyline, one which entices middle level readers. The sketched illustrations throughout this book also add humor to the action-packed story. The action sequences that appear in this book, combined with the illustrations, make this an appealing read for a variety of readers. (MEH) 

Krull, Kathleen. 2015. A kids’ guide to America’s Bill of Rights. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 230pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235321-6. Anna Divito. 

A Kids’ Guide To America’s Bill of Rights is exactly what the titles states. Targeting the abilities and the education needs of students from the ages 8-12, this is informational source on the Bill of Rights and how they came to be. The information in the book allows students to learn and understand the importance and effects of the Bill of Rights. The information’s accuracy is shown by the bibliography and the index in the back of the book. The style represents a history book students can easily understand while providing basic illustrations that will intrigue all readers. (RKC)

Krull, Kathleen. 2015. Women who broke the rules: Sacajawea. Bloomsbury Children’s Books. 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-80273799-1. Illustrated by Matt Collins. 

Sacajawea was a Shoshone woman who helped Lewis and Clark cross Northern parts of the United States to the Pacific Ocean in the 1800s. She was sixteen, married and pregnant, living with her French Canadian trader husband in North Dakota when Lewis and Clark sought help. She and her husband were hired by Lewis and Clark to help with translation and navigation. Sacajawea, a new mother, was a navigator, translator, and peace maker, saving the group many times from starvation, hostile tribes, and losing their way. Lewis and Clark would not have made it across the northwestern United States without Sacajawea, and yet, except for Lewis and Clark’s journal entries about her, she is not credited for her help.

This book tells the story of Sacajawea’s journey with accurate details, but the style of writing is inconsistent, sometimes it is informal and other times, formal , with quotes from Lewis or Clark. This may make it more appropriate for the intended audience, but the informal language seems out of place. For example, since Sacajawea was such an important person on the trip, she was treated well. In the story the wording is, “treated like a VIP.” These informal phrases mixed with the formal language creates a choppy feeling when reading it. The author also inserts some sarcasm. One example of this is at the end the journey when everyone receives their awards. Accomplices are awarded money and/or a plot of land, except Sacajawea. The author states, “But it never occurred to anyone to pay her. A woman earning her own money? Unheard of!” This example, along with a few other instances of sarcasm, also may throw off the reader and it inserts a form of bias. The illustrations complement the sequence of events with typical, picturesque images of Native Americans and the explorers. (COD) 

Kudlinski, Kathleen V. 2015. Boy, were we wrong about the human body!. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3792-1. Illustrated by Debbie Tilley. 

The secrets and myths of the human body are clearly stated in this child-friendly book about the human body. The book discusses the nature of science and covers some historical facts, including scientific progress over the past hundreds of years. This book can provide a helpful way to incorporate science and history into the classroom and may be used for a basic introduction on the topic of the human body, and may help to generate conversations in the classroom about this topic. (SJH). 

Kuefler, Joseph. 2015. Beyond the pond. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236427-2. 

Earnest D. takes a risk and dives into his pond for an adventure, exploring the unknown world hiding just beneath the surface of the water. This story helps show children how to see the exceptional among the ordinary. Where ever he looks there is adventure to experience. The illustrations are simple and complement the story. At the beginning of the story, the soft colors of Earnest’s backyard establish a quiet, soft, and uncomplicated mood. When he returns from his adventure, his backyard is bright and exciting. However, the illustrations will not scare children: even when Earnest comes across the ghastly and dark creatures beyond his pond, the curved lines help the reader not to be afraid of what is lurking in the shadows. Overall, this story is a great to help kids open their minds as the dive into unknown water and enjoy an adventure with Earnest D. (RKC) 

Landmann, Bimba. 2014. In search of the Little Prince: The story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (Eerdmans Book for Young Readers). 34pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5435-3. 

In search of the Little Prince: The story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is inspired by the works of Antoine de Saint Exupéry for ages 6-10. This story follows the exciting life of Saint Exupéry as he travels the world and meets new friends. Saint Exupéry had an interesting life, which he beautifully wrote about in short stories and poems. This story encourages readers to be curious and explore the world. The book has a great message and shows the full life of a man who followed his heart and stayed curious his entire life. (MSH) 

Larsen, Jen. 2015. Future perfect. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperTeen). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232123-7. 

Future Perfect is appropriate for young adult readers, grades 9 and above. Self-acceptance and discovery are the overall themes of this realistic story, forming an emotionally probable bond with the reader. Ashley Perkins is a self-motivated, intelligent girl hoping to attend Harvard University with the goal of becoming a surgeon. Her grandmother offers to make her dream a reality by paying for her education, with one exception; she must have a weight-loss surgery. As the plot continues, the protagonist must decide between free tuition to Harvard or self-worth and respect. This emotional tale will resonate with readers in a personal and captivating way. Future Perfect is a book any young adult should read because everyone has a relationship and sometimes a conflict with self-esteem. (KI) 

Lawson, Jessica. 2014. The actual & truthful adventures of Becky Thatcher. Simon & Schuster (Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers). 215pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-481-401500. 

This novel is about adventure and would be great for any student who likes adventure as well. This book takes the well known story of Tom Sawyer and gives it a new perspective. This would be a good book for students who like mystery and adventure and like reading longer books or want a bit of a challenge. (JO) 

Lean, Sarah. 2014. Hero. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 198pp. ISBN 978-0-06-212238-4 

Leo struggles to turn his imagination into the real world. He may be a gladiator within his mind, but struggles to build friendships within the real world. His one friend is his neighbor’s dog, Jack Pepper, but the friendship soon becomes strained when Leo is invited to hang out other kids and pressured into doing mean things. He gains confidence from his new friends and the community, who all believe Leo to be a hero, but is only falsely accused. He admires the attention, but when Jack Pepper is calling for help, Leo doesn’t believe he can be a true hero. (MM) 

Lehrhaupt, Adam. 2015. Please, open this book!. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Paula Wiseman). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5071-4. Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. 

This engaging picture book will draw young readers ages 4-8 into a humorous interaction with illustrated animals who ask for readers’ help. Please, Open This Book! informs readers about animals who are left trapped in the book after a previous reader has closed it. As the story continues, animals panic and plead with children to stop reading because they fear readers will close the book at the end of the story and the animals will be trapped, again. This gripping narrative will give young readers a sense of being a part of the conflict. By directly speaking to the child, Please, Open This Book! creates a space where readers will feel that they are crucial characters. Through large text and basic vocabulary, Please, Open This Book! will make children feel confident in their reading abilities while developing their cognitive skills and imagination. (AB) 

Leib, Josh. 2015. Ratscalibur. Penguin Random House LLC. 170pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59514-242-9. Illustrated by Tom Lintern. 

Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb is a dazzling tale of an adventure combining elements from popular mythologies and will spark the imagination of readers choosing to dive into the story of Joey, a young boy, and his exciting encounter with the Rat Kingdom. This clever tale portrays elements which connects with students by discussing external conflicts of the self versus others and self versus society. There is also a level of an internal conflict as Joey struggles with his inner self. This story allows readers to look at Joey and his life. They may find a mirror of themselves, connecting to the real world with a magical twist. This book has lessons and themes about overcoming fear, love, life, family, acceptance, and most importantly believing in and trusting self. With a strong plot and deep character development, Ratscalibur is a story any elementary or middle school student enjoy because it is entertaining with relevant themes. (RKC) 

Lester, Helen. 2015. Tacky and the haunted igloo (Tacky the penguin). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-33994-1. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 

Tacky and the Haunted Igloo, is a picture storybook for children from kindergarten to third grade with a focus on Halloween. Since the focus is on Halloween, teachers could read the book in October to prepare students for this popular holiday. There are few words on each page, and the pictures complement the story, helping readers to fill in any gaps from unknown words. The costumes of the penguins are haunting, and reflect the fears of each penguin. At the end of the book, the penguins realize their fears are less frightful than they originally imagined. This is a good lesson for children to learn. (BB) 

Levin, Jack E. 2015. Proverbs for young people. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 58pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48145945-7. 

This delightful collection of well-known childhood truisms spanning over sixty-five years shares with readers almost thirty proverbs to ponder in daily life. Finished only recently, author Jack Levin’s decade long work truly evokes the memory of mid-twentieth century/Baby Boomer era classics. A delightful conversation starter among parents and their four to eight year olds, Levin’s compilation not only provides brief explanations of each proverb at the end of the book, but recognizably old-fashioned drawings on each page to accompany and give a visual complement to each saying. Though some may read as outdated or excessively clichéd, Levin takes full advantage of the historical significance proverbs play in a culture in an age appropriate and aesthetically pleasing way. (KSR)

Livingston, A. A. 2015. B. Bear and Lolly catch that cookie!. HarperCollins Publisher. 32pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0062197917. Illustrated by Joey Chou. 

Best friends B. Bear and Lolly are working on their new invention, a Porridge Perfecter, when the Gingerbread Man comes and wrecks the machine without apologizing or offering to help clean up the mess. The book follows the adventure of catching the gingerbread man. The two best friends catch the Gingerbread, and tell him about the invention. All become friends and work on the invention together. The story reveals the importance of two critical social attributes, friendship and working together towards a common goal. Another important theme is the value of creativity. (SJH) 

Long, Loren. 2015. Little tree. Penguin Random House (Philomel Books). $17.99. 40pp. ISBN 978-0-39916397-5. 

Little Tree follows the life of a small tree who is afraid to let go of its leaves, causing it to never grow like the other trees in the forest. The color and depth present in the illustrations give life to the story; as the seasons change, the colors are muted to match the cold winter. The illustrations only take up a small space on the page until the end, when the little tree has finally dropped its leaves and grows to be as tall as the other trees in the forest, and its illustration takes up the whole page, revealing a large world outside of the little tree. The narration is simple, making this picture storybook ideal for young elementary children. Little Tree teaches about nature while emphasizing the importance of letting go in order to grow. (AB) 

Lowery, Lynda Blackmon, et al.. 2015. Turning 15 on the road to freedom. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books). 128pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4123-2. Illustrated by PJ Loughran. 

In this memoir, Lynda Blackmon Lowery recounts her experiences in the Civil Rights Movement as a young adult. Young adult readers, ages 10-13, will be captivated as they read about a girl their own age participating in children’s marches for equal rights, being injured during Bloody Sunday, and finally marching to Montgomery, Alabama with Martin Luther King Jr. This memoir is filled with actual images from the Civil Rights Movement, only adding to the factual accuracy of this story. Lowery’s story will be an interesting read for all students and provide them with an alternative, and often missed, view of the Civil Rights Movement. (LW) 

Lupica, M.. 2015. Fast break. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 272pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25606-6. 

Bestselling author Mike Lupica brings the heat again in his latest sports-based realistic fiction novel for young adults, Fast Break. 12-year-old basketball star Jayson struggles to remain grounded as the world changes rapidly around him. When his mother dies and her boyfriend abandons him, Jayson does whatever it takes to avoid the foster care system. Though difficult, his independent lifestyle proves successful until desperate measures call for Jayson to steal some new basketball sneakers. When he gets caught, however, his life drastically changes and a social worker places him in the care of the Lawtons, a wealthy family on the other side of town. Jayson faces a person-against-society conflict as he adapts to a new home, new school, and new teammates. With its realistic dialogue, and Jayson’s common fear of the unknown, Lupica’s novel fits right in with others of its league. Adolescent readers will connect to and empathize with Jayson’s fight to believe he deserves a better life. (SDP) 

Mack, Jeff. 2015. Who needs a bath?. HarperCollins Publishers. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 970-0-0622-2028-8. 

This easy-to-read picture storybook helps motivate and excite young children, ages 3 – 7, about bath time. The pattern in the narrative encourages new readers to recognize repetitive phrases and eventually read the book independently. The illustrations cover each page with bright inviting colors. The book helps to teach young readers that bath time can be fun, which would be beneficial for parents with children who dislike and resist baths. (BB)

Macy, Sue. 2014. Sally Ride: Life on a mission. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 160pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8854-0.

The extraordinary woman, Sally Ride—the first women in space—acquired many roles in her life. Not only was she an astronaut, she was also a physicist, a professor, and a national tennis player. Sally Ride: Life on a mission examines Sally’s decision to become a scientist and an astronaut, as well as her contributions to the NASA program. The photos in the center of the book accurately offer readers a visual representation of what Sally experienced in space, the people she befriended and worked with, and the badges she earned for her missions. This true story about Sally Ride is a great read for middle level readers and provides a detailed history behind Sally’s journey toward becoming the first female in space. (MEH) 

Magnat, Julien and Bruneau, Clotilde. 2015. The little prince: The planet of the snake. Lerner Publishing Group (Graphic Universe). 48pp. $26.60. ISBN 978-0761387756. Nautilus Studio. 

Adapted from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s dazzling original, this book is based on the French animated television series following Little Prince’s adventures through space. A brilliantly computer illustrated 24th addition to the children’s graphic series, Magnat’s work follows the dark and fantastical journey of the Little Prince and his fox friend amongst the planets in a desperate search for the Prince’s Rose (who has been stolen by the Snake). Through clever plot devices and intricate color and visual detail, this book truly reads like a television episode. As in the original, the Little Prince is characterized as eloquent and astute throughout his often emotional expedition. While by and large a sweet story, it cannot help but be noted that Rose’s illustration is perhaps a bit overly mature and seductive in both appearance and mannerism, at least when viewed in her relationship with a young boy; despite this, the classic tale of courage and sacrifice for love and friendship is captivating for an audience craving adventure. While not a chapter book, The Planet of the Snake is certainly targeted towards readers anywhere between the ages of 8 and 12, or upper elementary aged readers ready for more mature themes. Diverse in both beauty and suspense, this telling of the Little Prince is worth any reader’s time and energy. (KSR) 

Magoon, Kekla. 2015. Shadow’s of Sherwood: a Robyn Hoodlum adventure. Bloomsbury Children’s Books (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc). 368pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-634-7. Book design by Amanda Bartlett. 

Robyn Hoodlum: Number #1 is on the most wanted list. How does a young girl attain such a big title? It all began during the “Night of Shadows.” Robyn’s late night adventure to sneak out of the house would turn into one of the most terrifying evenings of her life. Upon her return, she finds her house turned upside down, her parents missing, and lake of blood in the kitchen. Her father works for the government, and she asks herself if this could have anything to do with the strange disappearances that were occurring all over her town. Growing up, her parents taught her drills and instructions to follow in case something like this were to happen. She must launch into action. NOW…before the intruders find her. She begins her quest to decipher the moon and sun lore with the hope she can find her parents…dead or alive. As the story unfolds, Robyn finds clues her father, as well as the universe, have left for her. Unexpected friendships develop teaching Robyn to trust, but unusual circumstances make this a continual challenge. Is the moon shrine an actual place? Will the sheriff catch Robyn? Will she ever find her parents? Are they even still alive? Shadow’s of Sherwood: a Robyn Hoodlum adventure is a brilliant mix of fantastical elements woven together to create an action packed and mysterious “reboot of the Robin Hood myth.” The reader is catapulted into a strange and curious futuristic world creating an enticing setting unlike the world they inhabit now. Science fiction elements are present as readers discover the technology Robyn relies on is extraordinarily different than what they experience in their own lives. In Robyn’s world, no access to technology means a struggle to survive. The characterization in this tale is the key element to suspending disbelief in the reader. Robyn and her friends are relatable and humanistic, and they display characteristics and hardships many children will be able to understand. The theme also creates an even more believable tale as readers discover having loyal friends is an important aspect of life. They will begin to understand a parallel between their world and Robyn’s where law and justice do not always mean the same thing. Robyn and her rebel gang face constant conflicts, and the plot quickly unfolds, contributing to a compelling story. Readers should be middle school aged students because of the dramatic elements of blood, murder, and harmful government control. Readers will feel adventurous and daring as they race through the streets and forests with Robyn and her gang. The final chapters leave issues slightly unresolved but this contributes to a desire among readers to want the story to continue. Delve into this mystery to help Robyn put together life- saving clues for her and those she loves. Loyalty questions remain and readers may need to choose sides. Breath. Blood. Bone. The rebellion lives on. (ELW) 

Mantchev, Lisa. 2015. Strictly no elephants. Simon & Schuster. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-1647-4. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. 

Strictly No Elephants is appropriate for early to middle elementary readers. Friendship and inclusion create the overall theme of this picture storybook as a boy and his pet elephant are trying to fit in. As the pair encounters other unique partnerships, their friendship circle grows. The illustrations highlight the bond between the boy and his elephant through their matching red scarves. Illustrations also help to emphasize certain aspects of happiness, through orange and yellow tones, and sadness, with blue and green tones, throughout the story. Delicate and soft lines help to provide a comfortable setting for the reader. The reader’s imagination is sparked through the unrealistic storyline of having wild animals as pets. However, this conveys the importance of not discriminating against others. At the conclusion of the story, all of the friends and their pets create a club where all are welcome. (KI) 

Manzano, Sonia. 2015. Becoming Maria. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 262pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-62184-7. 

The memoir of Sonia Manzano begins with her story as a child living in the Bronx in the 1970’s with her loud family, alcoholic father, and overly curious neighbors. This memoir is very enjoyable and eye opening about the life a woman who later gets cast in the children’s show Sesame Street. Discerning readers and teachers should be prepared for the harsh imagery and violence throughout the memoir. For example, the very first sentence of the book, it describes a horrifying scene involving Maria’s mother “cooking her drunken father” to the blind eye of a police officer. This is graphic and honest, but not all readers may appreciate the language. Vocabulary and sentence structure are more complex and may be confusing to some young readers. Students can either relate to the book if they have a difficult home life, or give them the opportunity to learn about challenges some people face. (DJ) 

Markle, Sandra. 2016. The great monkey rescue: Saving the golden lion tamrins. Millbrook Press, a division of Learning Publishing. 40pp. $22.99. ISBN 978-1-46778030-8 

The Great Monkey Rescue will entertain and engage students as they travel through the jungle with a golden lion tamarin. As the story progresses, readers will learn about habitat, rehabilitation, endangerment, and several other facts about the monkeys. (KAH) 

Marino, Gianna. 2015. Night animals. Penguin Random House (Viking). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-451-46954-0. 

Possum and his friends meet other animals on a night-time adventure. The possum is scared and hides until an owl tells him he is actually a night animal himself and his new friends are just like him. The illustrations of this book make the story come to life. The story takes place at night, so the black backdrop is effective. The color of the animals are elaborate and realistic, contributing the primary focus of the book. The mix of the dark sky with the texture of warm animal fur is inviting and makes the story less scary. Each page has texture and the branches, moon and animals appear lifelike and match their actual colors. Overall, the book and the illustrations create an interesting night-time adventure for readers. (SH) 

Maxwell, Cassandre. 2015. Fur, fins, and feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the invention of the modern zoo. WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 34pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0802854322. 

A uniquely vibrant picture biography, Fur, fins, and feathers chronicles the life of a man virtually unknown to the everyday reader, zookeeper and zoologist Abraham Dee Bartlett. Credited with the invention of the modern zoo, Bartlett’s story will appeal to readers aged five to nine. While the information of Bartlett’s life is well organized, age appropriate, and clearly cited, the illustrations truly deserve a gold star. Not only does Maxwell maintain era-appropriate attire and surroundings throughout the book, but she utilizes an exciting style of brightly and diversely colored three-dimensional mixed media collages that bring Bartlett’s journey to life. A well written biography which encourages the compassion for animals Bartlett innovatively brought to zoos in a time and place perhaps still unknown to many young readers, Fur, fins, and feathers does an exceptional job of presenting non-fiction information to a young audience. (KSR) 

Mayer, Mercer. 2015. Just a teacher’s pet. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207199-6. 

Just a Teacher’s Pet is appropriate for early developing readers, ages 4 – 6. It takes the reader through a series of events when the new student in the classroom becomes the teacher’s pet. As the other students become frustrated with her, she soon proves she is being a team player. Kindness and giving second chances are the overall theme of the story. The simplistic font makes the text easy to recognize for an early reader. Simple vocabulary is used to highlight the importance of the illustrations. While stimulating cognitive development, the extremely detailed illustrations help convey the emotions of the characters, helping children grasp the concepts of the story. (KI) 

McClure, Wendy. 2015. Wanderville: Escape to the world’s fair. Penguin Random House LLC (Razorbill). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59514-820-9. Interior design by Eric Ford. 

The orphans of Wanderville have had it with moving around, working on farms, and riding the orphan trains. They wish to be on their own to create Wanderville wherever they wish. In this town, they can be whomever they wish to be, they can work where they want, eat what they want, and welcome any child in search of freedom. Wanderville, their imaginary town, can be anywhere and multiple places at once. This story, the third in its series, picks up when the gang decides they wish to travel to California to establish a Wanderville away from all of their troubles. They come upon a weary traveler who proposes a proposition with reward large enough for them to finance their trip to California. They must travel to the World’s Fair in St. Louis to deliver a mysterious item to an even more mysterious recipient. With little information, they take off to St. Louis on an adventure of a lifetime. Making friends along the way, they must avoid enemies who are in hot pursuit. If the children are caught, they will be forced to go back to their lives of difficult hard labor. This tale is rooted in historical fiction with its reference of orphan trains and the stories of children who have escaped and gone their own ways. The characters are realistically portrayed when they deal with family controversies as well as problems in society. Readers will relate to the theme of helping others. They will agree when children in this tale discover the need to be part of community to function in the fast paced and cruel world. The Wanderville orphans will venture into dangerous territory to discover the most satisfying rewards come from helping others. Readers will delight in finding they too can be citizens of Wanderville and take part in all of the adventures . (ELW) 

McGowan, Jennifer. 2015. Maid of wonder. Simon & Schuster. 326pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48141826-3. 

Sophia Dee, a psychic and one of Queen Elizabeth’s spies and maids of honor, is ordered find out answers about the deadly prophecy of Windsor Castle even though her powers are not fully developed. The plot is captivating, but the characterization of Sophia Dee is too fantastical for historical fiction. Even though this novel is set in a specific place and time, Windsor, England in the Elizabethan era of the 15 hundreds, Sophia Dee’s physic abilities are too incredible to be realistic. For example, Sophia sees a dark angel who gives her hints and riddles about how the queen will die such as “Death plays your Queen in a game without end. It circles, then crosses, then strikes once again.” Later, in one of the last chapters, time stops right as the Queen is about to be poisoned, and the dark angel who was once unfamiliar turns into the face of Marcus, the man Sophia loves. Sophia’s psychic powers and ability to see a dark angel are only some examples of how the novel is exaggerated and dramatized. It makes for an interesting plot and cast of characters, but they are not representative of the time period. Regardless, this is a very compelling and exciting story. (DJ) 

McKay, Laurie. 2015. The last dragon charmer: Villain keeper. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-230843-6. 

Prince Caden’s lone goal in life is to slay a dragon, but when he finds himself transported to North Carolina, a strange world without magic, he wonders if his quest will ever be realized. He soon learns that there may be some magic in this strange land and just maybe some dragons in disguise after all! The first book of The Last Dragon Keeper series, Villain Keeper captures the reader from the very first page. With an interesting juxtaposition of a magical world and our own, author Laurie McKay weaves a tale of friendship, adventure, and what it means to be a hero in this fantastic fantasy novel. Teachers and caregivers can utilize this book as a read aloud or in a study of fantasy writing at the middle school level to reinforce the importance of friendship and the nature and values of heroism. This story is an excellent resource for discourse on responsibility, selflessness, and loyalty to right and wrong, in addition to its exemplary fantasy writing style. (AW) 

McMann, Lisa. 2015. The unwanteds: Island of Graves. Simon & Schuster. 514pp. $17.99. ISBN 9781442493346. 

The Unwanteds Island of Graves is the sixth book in a series of children’s novels written by Lisa McMann. This fantasy brings readers on a journey through the lives of the protagonists, Aaron and Alex. Aaron and Alex are twins, but Aaron is a Wanted and Alex is an Unwanted. The Wanteds, like Aaron, are sent to Quill University to study the sciences, math, and economics because they are considered to be an important asset to society. The Unwanteds, like Alex, are artistic, and because of this they are sent to a lake of boiling oil to die so they won’t ruin the “perfect” society of Wanteds. However, Alex finds himself in a land called Airtime where he can grow in his artistic abilities. In the last book, Alex, the hero, sets out to find and save his “evil” twin brother and bring him to Airtime, but if he doesn’t comply, Airtime and Quill will undoubtedly start a war against each other. The author Lisa McMann does an impressive job of suspending disbelief throughout the novel in her characterization, magic, articulate animals, and alternate worlds. She suspends disbelief through the characters in the story, especially the main character Alex. Even though he is part of an alternate universe, and takes on a nearly impossible task to save his brother, readers will relate to this realistic character. Along the journey, Alex makes countless mistakes for which he ultimately pays consequences. This allows the reader to believe the impossible and imagine they too, could encounter a life of adventure as extravagant as Alex’s. McMann’s use of alternate worlds also suspends disbelief because even though Quill and Airtime aren’t real places, they still have realistic qualities such as universities and a society functioning like a dictatorship, one deciding who will live and who will die. Additionally, animals and magic are also a large part of suspending disbelief throughout the novel. For example, Simber, the cheetah, is able to talk and takes on other human qualities. In the end, when Simber dies, Aaron is able to bring him back to life through the use of magic sand. McMann uses a mixture of both realism and fantasy to effectively suspend disbelief by creating realistic characters performing the impossible, blurring the lines between pure good and pure evil, and worlds with both realistic and fanciful qualities. (DJ) 

McMann, Lisa. 2015. The unwanteds: Island of shipwrecks. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 452pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-9331-5. 

A middle elementary to adolescent aged audience (8-14 years old) will enjoy this fantasy book that tells the story from multiple points of view and allows their imagination to take over. Aaron and Alex’s points of view tell the story of the adventures in Artimé and Quill. However, the characters with them are what makes this an imaginative fantasy. This articulate animal fantasy includes a porcelain kitten, a cat named Fox, a stone cheetah, and a preposterous character named Ms. Octavia who has tentacles and an alligator head. These animals can talk like humans although they retain some animal-like characteristics. They can also do extraordinary things such as fly, float, translate languages, and cast spells such as the glass spell that plugs the hole in the ship and keeps it from sinking. They also show loyalty to each other as they take care of one another after the horrifying adventure down the waterfall. This fantasy keeps readers entertained with the articulate animals and the spells they cast. (MS) 

Mitchell, Saundra. 2013. The elementals. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Harcourt). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-85314-7.

Upper elementary to adolescent-aged children will enjoy following the chronological events of the early 20th century in this historical fiction and fantastical novel. The story begins in 1906 with Julian living in Indiana on a farm with his parents and brothers, who eventually prepare to go to war. Julian passes away at a young age from polio, but he has a supernatural power which brings people and animals back to life, including himself. In 1906, Kate is also living with her artistic parents in Egypt where they ride camels around to different stone statues and pyramids. As teenagers, the two of them are dissatisfied with their lives and they both travel to Los Angeles. Kate has a dream to become a movie director as the industry begins to boom in the West. Kate and Julian cross paths in Los Angeles and discover both have supernatural powers; Kate’s power is able to stop time. They realize their supernatural abilities are more powerful when used together and they build a friendship around this shared power. The events and lifestyles of the characters portray the time period they are living in but with an extra twist: supernatural powers. (MS)

Miyares, Daniel. 2014. Pardon me!. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8997-4. 

Pardon me is mostly a picture book, with a few words here and there. It follows a little bird who does not want to share his perch. One of the animals tries warn him that it is an alligator and will eat him if he doesn’t move. But the bird is too stubborn and gets eaten in the end. This would be a good story for younger students with its bright pictures. Also with its few words students can really analyze what is happening and describe what is happening rather than just reading it. (JO) 

Montague, Brad & Robby Novak. 2015. Kid President’s guide to being awesome. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 240pp. $21.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235868-4. 

Kid President’s guide to being awesome is a nonfiction book for children ages 8-16. This book is full of interviews, quotes, pep talks, and stories that encourage people to change the world. The book inspires readers to be nice to one another and do whatever is possible to make a difference in the world. Kid President is an inspiring young man whose message is important and universal. The book is an adaptation of Kid President’s successful interviews and videos on YouTube. Readers of all ages will enjoy this whimsical, colorful, and inspirational book. (MSH) 

Montgomery, Sy. 2014. Chasing cheetahs: the race to save Africa’s fastest cats. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-81549-7. Photographs by Nic Bishop. 

This book would be great in an elementary or even middle school classroom. The pictures would be great for younger students, but older students would be able to delve deeper into the story and uncover the author’s message. This would also be a great tool for students to use in a research project. If student really have a passion for animals, this book would be perfect for them. (JO) 

Moses, Will. 2015. Fairy tales for little folks. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-451-47283-0. 

Fairy Tales for Little Folks includes “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Snow White,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The five classic stories, intended for young readers ages 3 to 7, share the message that good character is rewarded while evil character is punished. Each story includes mystical characters from a time long ago in a far away land. Themes of heroism, love, deceit, or magic are found across the five fairy tales. Will Moses’ use of rhyming phrases and repetitive actions will contribute to the development of young readers’ cognitive and language development. At the end of each story, there is a full-page illustration sequencing the entire tale. Because of the soft, curved, geometric shapes and the texture of delicate brush strokes create a mystical mood, readers know these stories are fictional fairy tales. Dark shading presents a gloomy mood and a sense of danger or trouble. Bright, luminescent light represents magic, a sense of hope, and a happy ending. The characters’ various styles of clothing demonstrate the strict hierarchal structure of French and German society. (EKF) 

Mowry, Tia and Tamera. 2015. Twintuition. HarperCollins Publisher. 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237286-4. 

Twintuition is about Cassie and Caitlyn Waters who are identical twins, but are entirely different in every other way. Their mom takes a job with the police department, forcing them to move to Aura, Texas, where they both start experiencing visions which become true. Cassie and Caitlyn must work together in order to change the future before it occurs. In Twintuition, the most important literary element is personal development. Cassie and Caitlyn face many challenges: they are forced to make new friends in a new city and school, while discovering the meanings of their visions. Students reading this book can identify with the experiences of others and therefore understand their own. For example, moving from one city to another. This book is appropriate for students ages 8 to 12. (WNW) 

Murphy, J.. 2015. Breakthrough!: How three people save “blue babies” and changed medicine forever. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 144pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-82183-2. 

Murphy’s Breakthrough! tells the story of a landmark 1944 surgical procedure repairing the heart of a child with blue baby syndrome. The team developing the procedure included a cardiologist and a surgeon, but most of the actual work was done by Vivien Thomas, an African American lab assistant who was frequently mistaken as a janitor. Murphy has written numerous nonfiction books for young readers, including a Newbery Honor and the Sibert Medal. He also was a National Book Award finalist. The information he presents in this book is supported by nearly 20 pages of source notes and an extensive bibliography. The text is further organized with a table of contents, preface, chapter names and headings, picture captions and credits, and an index. Even though the medical procedure itself is complex, the language Murphy uses to describe it is easily understandable. Advanced late elementary or early middle school readers will be cheering for Thomas, the underdog who finally gets recognition for his skill and intelligence. (SDP) 

Muth, Jon. 2015. Zen socks. Scholastic Press. 34pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54516669-0

Zen Socks is a story of two children and their friendly neighbor, Stillwater. This storybook is filled with beautiful water color paintings. The water color provides soft lines in each picture, showing the safety and calmness of the settings. The colors are often warm, leading the readers to believe that each scene is happy. Although cooler colors are used on some pages, their tones are deep and rich and blended beautifully, displaying happiness as well. When Stillwater tells a story to Molly, however, the pictures are painted in black and white. The lines are soft in these pictures, except for the lines making up the sword, which is made of sharp precise lines to reveal that it is a dangerous weapon. Zen Socks’ colorful paintings will keep readers interested in the plot and conflicts throughout the story. (KAH)

Myers, Walter Dean. 2015. Juba. HarperCollins Publishers. 201pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-211271-2. Typography by Erin Fitzsimmons. 

Walter Dean Myers, uses his research about William Henry Lane, and his creativity, to come up with the historical fictional tale of Juba. Juba is a story about William Henry Lane, a teenage African American male also known as Juba, when he is doing the one thing he is passionate about, dancing. Within the first 50 pages the reader is acclimated to Five Points, an area in lower Manhattan. Readers are not only introduced to the Irish immigrant filled streets of lower Manhattan, they are also introduced to the advocates and antagonists, both playing parts in the struggles and successes that Juba went through to become a professional dancer. Juba is persistent in becoming a professional dancer, with his drive and talent serving as forceful influences in his goal. However, growing up as a black male in New York City was a handicap in the mid 1800’s. One person viewing the situation differently was Charles Dickens, who wrote favorably about one of Juba’s shows in his novel, American Notes. This was a turning point in the novel and in young William Henry Lane’s life. With Charles Dickens as an enthusiast, Juba was acclaimed in England as an extraordinary dancer. The people in England did not see slavery first hand and saw Juba only as a man with a talent for dancing. Race was not an issue. William moved to England in his 20’s, leaving behind a few genuine supporters in New York. His stubborn persistence gets him through the ups and downs of being an artist. As time passes, and the reader is left with fewer and fewer pages to read, Juba transforms from the African American young adolescent with a dream, to the dedicated dancer bringing joy and hope into the lives of his audience. (EH)

Myers, Walter Dean and Sims, Guy A. 2015. Monster. HarperCollins Publishers (Amistad). 160pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227500-4. Illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile. 

Monster is a realistic fiction novel portraying the frightening things occurring in a court ruling, a crime, and jail. This graphic novel is appropriate for high school aged students and may capture their attention because of the suspenseful content within the drawings. The illustrations are vivid, realistic, and emotional. When teenager, Steven Harmon, is placed on trial for robbery and murder, he chooses to imagine the grueling situation as a film to overcome his fear of being sentenced 25 years to life. The book depicts racial problems relevant today. Others accuse Steven of guilt because of his skin color and his poor choices for friends. Harmon’s parents’ emotions are illustrated throughout the book and are expressive showing how scared and disappointed they are with their son’s behavior. The question remains, “Is Harmon a monster or is he being accused of something he did not do”? (KB) 

Newquist, HP. 2015. The human body: The story of how we protect, repair, and make ourselves stronger. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 112pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-451-47643-2. 

Did you know the first electric hearing aids were too large to carry around? Or in the early days, dentures were made from teeth of the dead? Did you also know smallpox was used, early on, as a weapon of destruction? Or anesthesia has not always been around? The human body the story of how we protect, repair, and make ourselves stronger, a Smithsonian series book, takes the reader on the informational adventure of a lifetime. The book is divided into sections containing: body parts, medicine, tools, and treatments. It describes how inventions and practices have been used over time and experimented with in an effort to learn and improve how we protect, repair, and make our bodies stronger. Readers will enjoy looking at pictures from long ago as they discover advances in technology and practices. This informational book presents the facts in a clear and creative way. Award winning author, HP Newquist, has created a beautiful book which will answer unimaginable questions for young inquisitive minds. This text would be a perfect resource for students to use for a science report about the human body. The sections are full of easy to understand facts, and the pictures are a valuable reinforcement for remembering the information. (ELW) 

O’Connor, Jane. 2015. Fancy Nancy: Super secret surprise party. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-226979-9. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. 

Fancy Nancy is a brilliantly written book for young readers. It is a “Beginner Reading” book designed with “short sentences, familiar words, and simple concepts for children eager to read on their own.” Nancy explains to the reader the tasks her class completes to prepare a surprise party for their teacher at school. More challenging vocabulary is used throughout the text followed immediately by a definition in Nancy’s own words. This aspect of the book makes it a unique reading experience for students as they discover and learn new words. At the end of the story, glossary with all of the new vocabulary and definitions to reinforce the words learned in the story. The illustrations are bold but pastel in color representing a childlike, playful atmosphere. The texture of the students’ hair and clothes are aesthetically pleasing and make the pictures pop off the page. Teachers and teaching associates will enjoy using this clever and amusing book to encourage students to try reading on their own by entering the world of Fancy Nancy. (ELW)

O’Connor, Jane. 2015. Nancy Clancy: Star of stage and screen. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 128pp. $9.99. ISBN 987-0-06-226964-5. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. 

Nancy Clancy is a fun character for young children to enjoy as the grasp the beginning stages of reading chapter books. The text offers readers excellent vocabulary, as Nancy loves her fancy words. The story follows Nancy as she participates in her school variety show all about the 50 states. She learns lessons about family and friendship along the way. (MH) 

Ohi, Debbie Ridpath. 2015. Where are my books?. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-6741-5. 

Ohi’s Where Are My Books? takes 4-8-year-old readers on a squirrelly adventure in search of young Spencer’s most prized possessions. Spencer awakens in utter confusion and dismay each morning as books go missing from his bedside collection, only to find nuts and flower petals in their place. Ohi’s bold illustrations and varying text size broaden readers’ emotional intelligence by exposing them to the boy’s reactive personality. Spencer’s shock and horror when his books disappear helps children value literature and reading. (SDP) 

O’Hora, Zachariah. 2015. My cousin Momo. Penguin Random House LLC. 30pp. $16.99. ISBN 9780803740112. 

Youngsters will learn the importance of trying new things and respecting differences among peers as they read this book. The illustrator uses earthy colors such as yellows, reds, blues, and greens to go along with the natural atmosphere of the woods. However, these colors come to life when saturated and tinted against the white convoys, to emphasize the important objects throughout the book. Along with the vibrant colors readers will see a number of organic objects, such as the squirrels, trees, and grass. All of these objects have thick, bold, and short lines which immediately get readers thinking about how the objects feel. The illustrator intrigues the audience immediately with Momo’s vibrant red shirt and his fascinating fur. Between the meaningful storyline and the unique, compelling illustrations, My cousin Momo, becomes an easy-to-read picture book for children. (EH) 

Olien, Jessica. 2015. Shark detective!. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235714-4. 

Shark has always wanted to be a detective, and he finally has the opportunity to be a sleuth and happily resolve a case. Shark notices a poster hanging of a missing kitty named Watson, and he decides to go on a mission to return Watson home safely. The bright, vibrant colors keep the reader’s interest. Shark’s teeth are pointed and large, which may frighten children. Many visual elements are used throughout the book, and it is appropriate for ages 4-8. (KB)

Oliver, Lauren, and Chester, H.C.. 2015. Curiosity house: The shrunken head. HarperCollins Publishers. 368pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227081-8. Illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe. 

Curiosity house: The shrunken head is a chapter book appropriate for children ages eight to twelve. The introduction captivates the audience and stimulates the mind of a child by embracing the concept of magic. Four orphans, Philippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max, are the main characters. The orphans possess bizarre abilities, and people refer to them as freaks. When the main attraction, a shrunken head, is stolen from the museum the determined orphans venture out to find the thief. Many suspenseful occurrences, including mystery and murder, throughout their adventure keep the reader’s attention. The plot of the story is detailed and the reader can imagine it vividly and effortlessly. Children will be drawn into the magical setting of the story making the unbelievable, believable. The orphans face many obstacles but continue to be responsible and show their love for their home, the museum, and Mr. Dumfrey, the man who took them in at a young age. The pages are filled with preposterous characters and silly situations. Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders are the primary settings. If the reader does not believe how the orphans can possess their bizarre qualities by the end of the book, the author provides a believable explanation. (KB) 

Osborne-McKnight, Juilene. 2015. The story we carry in our bones: Irish history for Americans. Penguin Random House LLC (Pelican). 272pp. $28.95. ISBN 978-1-45562071-5. Illustrated by Mara Kate McKnight. 

The story we carry in our bones is a nonfiction book of the history of Ireland and Irish people. The topics covered by this book are extremely diverse, including ancient Celtic legends, Gaelic wars, the cycles of Irish storytelling, the true story of St. Patrick, and the Great Famine. The book also discusses the transition of Irish immigrants into the United States and how they made new homes in a hostile environment. People with a desire to learn about Irish culture and history, including Irish-Americans trying to find out more about their ancestors will appreciate this text. The information is accessible because it is organized into four parts. The author is a storyteller in the ancient Irish tradition, and is a member of the Historical Novel Society. Other informational works are referenced, giving credibility to the material. (BJB)

Parish, Herman. 2015. Amelia Bedelia is for the birds. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06233425-1. Illustrated by Lynne Avril. 

Amelia Bedelia loves her swing set and slide. Every day after school she swings fifty times and goes down her slide five times, then she goes inside to do her homework. One day a pair of robins started building a nest on Amelia’s slide so she could no longer slide down it. She was upset at first, but then she gave the robins supplies to help them build their nest for their family. Amelia watched the robins every day after school and finally, one day the baby robins hatched. She watched the babies until they grew out of the nest. Amelia was happy she could give the robin family a place to live.

This book is an easy-to-read book for ages 4-8. It is a level one beginner’s book in the I Can Read series. It is a book for students who are learning to read independently. Two important aspects which make it an easy-to-read book are the sentence structures and illustrations. The sentences are short with simple vocabulary and there are about two to three sentences on each page. The illustrations depict the action in the story so that students can refer to the pictures if they cannot figure out a word or do not understand the sentence. The author keeps the reader interested throughout the book because of the recognizable conflicts and characterization of Amelia Bedelia. (COD) 

Parish, Herman. 2015. Amelia Bedelia sets sail. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 160pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233405-3. Illustrated by Lynne Avril. 

Amelia Bedelia sets sail is an adventurous book full of humor and sarcasm. The setting of the book takes place at Amelia’s Aunt Mary’s beach home, where Amelia and her parents spend their summer vacation. Her cousin, Jason, keeps her busy with the daytime adventures he likes, such as surfing, sailing, and berry picking. At night, he plays the role of Captain Jason of his ship. Amelia and Jason plan to ruin the town parade by bombarding beach balls full of water at the float. Instead of spoiling the parade, they ended up saving the day by throwing the water filled beach balls and extinguishing a fire on the float. Illustrations complement the text and help readers, ages 6 – 10 recognize the plot, conflicts, characterizations, settings, and themes. (KB) 

Paulsen, Gary. 2015. This side of wild: Mutts, mares, and laughing dinosaurs. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 144pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5150-5. 

Gary Paulson retells accurate accounts of his experiences with various furry creatures. These humorous anecdotes place the reader into Paulson’s shoes through the realistic and sometimes surprising tales. Many of the stories may seem unrealistic, but they are based on true events from Paulson’s life. Although many things change in each story, such as the four-legged characters and the setting, the theme of love between animals and their owners is always there. (BB) 

Pett, Mark. 2015. Lizard from the park. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8321-7. Illustrated by Mark Pett. 

Leonard takes a shortcut through the park on his walk home. While walking, he finds an egg and takes it home, where it soon hatches into a lizard. Leonard names the lizard Buster and they do everything together — they go to a baseball game, to the library, and even travel together on the subway. However, Buster continues to grow and eventually he cannot fit in Leonard’s room. Leonard concludes he must let Buster go free and makes a plan involving tons of balloons. He attaches himself and Buster to the balloons and they fly into the deepest, darkest side of the park, the place Buster calls home. This book uses the characteristics of originality and imagination to allow children to envision a world both real and believable, a world where dinosaurs still exist. It also uses setting to create a mood and establish the location in time and place. Leonard found Buster in the park and it’s also where Buster must return when he no longer fits into Leonard’s world. Lizard from the park uses watercolors and pastels to evoke mood and give the story a timeless feel. The use of the pastel colors in this storybook creates a dullness, highlighting the various lines used in the illustrations. The timelessness is exemplified by the storyline where dinosaurs can still exist today, even when readers know dinosaurs are extinct. (WNW) 

Polacco, Patricia. 2015. An A from Miss Keller. Penguin Young Readers Groups (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 36pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0399166914. 

Nostalgic for every strict, yet compassionate teacher, An A from Miss Keller sweetly tells the fictionalized autobiographical story of a young Patricia Barber, her grandfatherly next door neighbor “Pop”, and Miss Keller, the harshest grader in Trisha’s school. Told from a convincingly youthful first person perspective, Polacco’s self-based protagonist works harder than ever before in desperate attempts to impress her new writing teacher, an infamously frightening woman nicknamed “Killer Keller”. Throughout the book, Trisha experiences a variety of emotions, but struggles to compose these feelings into an essay for Miss Keller. Partnered with classic and engaging pencil and marker illustrations, Polacco’s most recent teacher tale not only humanizes the archetypally daunting “bird of prey perched on a dead limb”, who carefully dissects each student’s work, but celebrates the rewards of persistence and perseverance.. (KSR) 

Polacco, Patricia. 2015. Tucky Jo and Little Heart. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-1584-2. 

Based on historical events, Tucky Jo and Little Heart is a touching story of a veteran’s relationship with a young girl living in Japan during World War II. Although parts of this tale may seem unrealistic, they are the true events Johnnie experienced while on active duty. The use of slang and first person point-of-view contributes to the realism of the story. This book doesn’t emphasize the events of the war or the battles, but it sheds light the emotional battles a veteran overcomes, best shown when Johnnie talks about how “there ain’t no glory in war”. The extreme detail of the illustrations complements the story, making it an excellent book for young readers because it conveys the positive effect a person can have on another’s life. (BB) 

Prelutsky, Jack. 2013. The silver moon: Lullabies and cradle songs. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-201467-2. Illustrated by Jui Ishida.

Bedtime can be difficult for many young children. The silver moon: Lullabies and cradle songs uses the images of nature and stories of sleep and dreams to create a peaceful nighttime atmosphere, as well as some quality reading time with parent and child. The poems and songs, along with the illustrations, are perfect for comforting children and preparing them for bedtime. (MEH)

Primavera, Elise. 2015. Libby of high hopes, Project blue ribbon. Simon & Schuster. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-5543-6 

Libby is comfortable in riding her longtime friend, Princess. When the owner of Princess decides the horse is too old to ride, Libby is devastated. She is faced with the challenge of having to ride the most difficult pony at the stable. The themes of perseverance and overcoming challenges are appropriate for readers, 8 – 10. Libby has a goal of being a blue ribbon winner, possibly an unreachable goal unless she conquers her personal fears. Readers will enjoy the connection they can make to themselves as Libby is forced out of her comfort zone. Witty and adventurous, Libby of High Hopes will captivate any horse lover. (KI) 

Prins, Marcel and Peter Henk Steenhuis (translated by Laura Watkinson). 2014. Hidden like Anne Frank: 14 true stories of survival. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine). 211pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-54362-0. 

This novel would be perfect for a middle school English or history class. This book shows real life examples of people who had to hide in order to survive, such as Anne Frank. One great aspect about this book is that it highlights vocab words and defines them in the glossary. The book includes real pictures to makes the stories real for the students, and demonstrate the severity of the situations. This book is a great way to approach a difficult topic. (JO) 

Promios, James. 2004. The complete adventures of Johnny Mutton. Houghton Milton Harcourt. 153pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-544-32404-6. 

This graphic novel details the life of a young sheep that was raised by humans. Living in the human world as a sheep, Johnny Mutton was always thought to be just a little different than everyone else, but those thoughts never got the best of Johnny. Throughout this graphic novel the reader is exposed to some of Johnny’s odd behavior; however the reader won’t find themselves feeling bad for Johnny. With Johnny Mutton, there is never a sad moment, all throughout his life he makes the best of any situation that arises. This graphic novel is a great demonstration of how we all need to approach and treat life. (ZJH) 

Provensen, Alice. 2015. Murphy in the city. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-1971-1. Illustrated by Alice Provensen.

Murphy in the City is a charming story about a dog, Murphy-Stop-That, and his family’s daytrip from the farm to the city. This picture book is told through a curious and excited dog’s perspective. Children will follow Murphy-Stop-That as he learns about all the places his people can take him in the city. Provensen’s style highlights figurative language like onomatopoeias when dogs bark. Provensen also plays with word structure as the text follows the illustrations on the page trailing the car to get from the farm to the city. Straight lines in the illustrations outline city buildings, show movement, and expressions, while capturing the business of the city life. Dark cool colors create a feeling of relief as Murphy-Stop-That and his family return home at the end of the day to their farm away from the busy city. The detailed illustrations will have children reading this story again and again paying close attention each page. Murphy in the City will have children ages 4 to 8 contrasting rural and urban lifestyles for dogs and may inspire children to explore places they can bring or visit animals. (EKF) 

Pyron, Bobbie. 2015. Lucky strike. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine). 263pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-59217-8. 

An upper elementary to adolescent audience will enjoy the thrill of this modern realistic fiction book. A boy named Nate lives in Florida with his grandfather. The boy believes he is very unlucky, but on his 11th birthday, which falls on the 11th day of the month, he feels a sense of hope that just maybe he will have one lucky day. This story is full of hopes that all children share: the hope of fitting in and being lucky. It is also about loyalty and friendship as the boy and his best friend are considered weirdos and losers but stick up for each other as best friends do. However, when the boy is struck by lightning, he is instantaneously lucky and popular. Nate is faced with the person-against-self conflict as he must decide whether popularity is more important than his friendship with his one and only best friend. (MS) 

Quattlebaum, Mary. 2015. Mighty mole and super soil. Dawn Publications. 32pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-58469539-4. Illustrated by Chad Wallace. 

This book creatively and factually engages readers in learning about moles. On the left side of each page spread, the author poetically tells a story about a mole’s journey. On the bottom right, the author provides an informative paragraph, which includes facts about a mole’s life and behavior, pertaining to each illustration. There is a clear distinction between these two formats included in one book, which emphasizes these two parts as separate entities to be read apart from each other. The story portion of the book is creatively displayed in larger, bolder font, which contrasts the factual paragraph in a smaller, more standard font. This combination of story and fact actively engages readers while also informing them with accurate, detailed knowledge of moles and how they behave. The story not only captures the engaging details about the lives of moles, it also effortlessly weaves in interesting facts about the other animals the mole encounters. The story ends when the mole gives birth to babies who then are going to become “mighty moles” similar to their mother, the star of the story. The illustrations depicting the story and information about moles are vividly painted and clearly reveal important details about moles. The book also includes pages at the very end of the book, which contain in-depth factual information about moles. These pages also provide references supporting the information presented in this book, and inspire further exploration of and learning about moles. (CEC) 

Quinton, Sasha. 2015. Florabelle. HarperCollins Publishers. 40pp. $15.99. ISBN: 978-0-06229182-0. Illustrated by Barrager, Brigette and Tchereckōff, Michel. 

Florabelle is a bright and colorful children’s storybook. Children preschool through grade 3 will connect with this energetic little girl. Readers will be drawn to colorful illustrations and photographs of fascinating textures. Students will relate to Florabelle because of her energy and imagination which cause her to get in trouble with her mom and dad. However, after a day at the beach when she can imagine anything she wants, Florabelle is reminded how much she is loved. (KH) 

Rinehart, J.D. 2015. Crown of three. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 407pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-148142443-1. 

The first in a trilogy, the eponymous novel by a pseudonymous J.D. Rinehart reads clearly like a young Game of thrones. Set in the fictional kingdom of Toronia, Crown of three revolves around the familiar fantasy element of a prophesy; a constellation of three stars appear in the sky the same night illegitimate triplets are born to the brutal King Brutan and a red-headed and kindly young witch named Kalia. For fear of their murder by the king, the wizard Melchior takes the newborns and sends them to three vastly different corners of the kingdom to be raised. Rife with raw language and violence, the book at times reads in muddled confusion as the storylines overlap. Additionally, the story seems over-recycle language and elements reminiscent of fantasy books like Eragon or A game of thrones, and lacks some originality in the description of a large and deathly serpent called the “bakaliss” (basalisk, perhaps?). The simple yet almost desperate attempts to distinguish itself from every other fantasy novel for young readers only seem to detract from the author’s ability to suspend disbelief; despite this, the magical introduction to a world both unknown to readers and relatable in human characterization does pair well with Crown of three’s colorful vocabulary and cliffhanger storyline, creating a potentially gratifying read for those in the upper middle grades (ages 11-14). (KSR) 

Riordan, Rick. 2015. Percy Jackson’s Greek heroes. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 416pp. $24.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-8365-5. Illustrated by John Rucco. 

This is a unique collection of mythical stories featuring a variety of Greek gods and goddesses—the adventures they experienced, the lessons they learned, and the feats they accomplished. The narrator tells these stories and describes the personalities of twelve incredible Greek heroes in entertaining ways, immediately capturing the attention of adolescent readers. Readers will relate to the main character and narrator, Percy Jackson, because he is funny, honest, as he has a conversation with the reader and transmits each of the stories to the reader’s and his own experiences. He adds frequent witty commentaries, which engage and entertain the reader. This narrator sets the tone for the book with a witty, sarcastic introduction and continues this light, enjoyable mood throughout each of the stories. His clever, sarcastic statements bring to life ironic, funny ideas and add depth to the stories, as they allow the reader to connect with how Jackson responds to the strange story events. Smaller illustrations, every approximately every ten pages, provide incredibly vivid depictions of the scenes and events in the stories, which add depth and meaning as they help the reader visualize the strange creatures and amazing events. Each story touches on, and brings to life various aspects of ancient Grecian culture as the narrator amusingly comments on the absurdities and differences of this culture. This teaches children about the beliefs and lifestyles of the Greeks. The cultural values and beliefs about how the world was created and the role the Greek gods and goddesses have over natural phenomena are highlighted within each of the elements of mythical stories. Consistent with these elements, the author entertainingly portrays the awe and mystery of the universe by teaching the reader about the unique and sometimes very strange aspects of the Greek mythological world. The narrator also importantly comes alongside the reader through this teaching as he authentically relates the content, causing young adolescents to consider different perspectives. The author’s informal commentary and witty “off-the-cuff” voice balances the complexity of the ideas in the stories as he explains important details in meaningful, informative ways. (CEC) 

Rockliff, Mara. 2015. Gingerbread for liberty!. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-13001-2. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. 

Gingerbread for Liberty! is a charming and delightful story of an old fat baker who comes to America to open a gingerbread shop. When the revolution breaks out, he wants to find a way to help, so he goes and bakes for the soldiers. His bread is so good he persuades entire armies to leave their alliances and join the American cause just to eat his bread! In the end, as the British surrender, General Washington even has the baker make some gingerbread for the losing army’s dessert. Full-color pages make the white-outlined illustrations really pop off the page as Mara Rockliff weaves this tale of how gingerbread and an old baker helped win the American Revolution! Teachers and caregivers can utilize this story with any age students during cross-curricular units on the Revolution in America. With some accurate historical pieces and details, great connections can be drawn to social studies curriculum. This story can also help reiterate that anyone can lend a helping hand by doing what they do best no matter what, just like the baker did! This is truly a wonderful story for any classroom. (AW) 

Rose, Caroline Starr. 2015. Blue birds. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 393pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16810-9. 

In the historical fiction novel, Blue birds by Caroline Starr Rose, a complex topic is discussed: the ownership of land when England first invaded the new world in the late 1500’s. Alis, a young girl from London, and Kimi, a Roanoke girl, bring life to the story with alternating letters in first person. Caroline Starr Rose, with the collaboration of many colleagues, brings to life the viewpoints and experiences Alis and Kimi might have had during this time period. Both girls tell about their unique adventures as they are introduced to a new community of people. Through this time of uncertainty, they form a bond, in the midst of their loneliness. Throughout the novel, we learn about the precarious relationship among Native Americans and the English settlers. As months pass, the relationship between the two groups of people becomes unstable, both populations losing men and disrupting the peace, but Alis and Kimi’s friendship strengthens through the turmoil. The girls fear each respective community, but individually find faith in one another. Will their fragile friendship be destroyed by the hatred around them, or will their friendship be strong enough to overcome the ghastly events of the time period? The story of Kimi and Alis will capture the hearts and minds of readers through alternating viewpoints and allowing a glimpse the tragic events of colonization. (EH) 

Rosen, Michael. 1989. We’re going on a bear hunt. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 36pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-1924-6. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 

This classic story of a father and his rambunctious youngsters setting out to locate a bear is full of delightful comedy, high drama, and rhyming text. Rosen captures the enjoyable sounds of the story very well, and the high tension towards the end is just delightfully scary enough for young readers. Oxenbury’s illustrations are inviting as they help tell the story and bring the characters to life. Each page flips from being black and white to being in color. The beautiful and friendly covers make each page inviting for young readers to read and transport themselves into the family’s journey. (MK) 

Rosenberg, Madelyn. 2015. How to behave at a dog show. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227927-9. Illustrated by Heather Ross. 

Brother and sister, Julia and Charles, are impatiently anticipating the Happy Tails Best of Breed Dog Show because they are entering their dog Rexie. Julia takes readers on an adventure by showing how to go through the application and preparation process of entering a pet to a dog show. Rexie, however, is a challenge to work with. He disobeys during the process and gets skunked and dyed. In the end, Julia and Charles decide to create their own dog show, The Best of the Best Pet Extravaganza, and demonstrate how everyone is accomplished at something. For example Rexie is a superb digger, readily makes new friends, and fetches broken sticks with ease. bright colors (neon yellow, sky blues, neon green) are illustrated by watercolors and crayons and create humor in the story. The humor is exemplified by the fine details of the illustrations by emphasis on different types of line, mostly curved, suggesting energy and an entertaining mood. Readers will be entertained and captivated by the style of rhyme and rhythm catching the students’ attention and getting the students actively involved in the book. (WNW) 

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. 2014. Duck! Rabbit!. Chronicle Books LLC. 40pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-3733-9. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. 

The book Duck! Rabbit! is a book for young children that plays with the idea of optical illusions and perspective. Where one person may see a duck, another may see a rabbit. This book is optimal for promoting cognitive development in early elementary students. Duck! Rabbit! provides children with opportunities to develop their observational skills by having them describe what they see and search for specific details that help them explain what they see. It also helps children develop comparative skills that help them find the similarities in the two animals in the book. (MSH) 

Ross, Joel. 2015. The fog diver. HarperCollins Publishers. 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235293-4. 

Ross takes 8-12-year-old readers on a post-apocalyptic adventure in his latest science fiction novel, The fog diver. Four orphans live in a world where fog has taken over the earth and what is left of humanity is fragile. Readers experience a person-against-nature conflict, as thirteen-year-old Chess and his accomplices Hazel, Bea, and Swedish sail above the toxic fog in their ramshackle air-raft, trying to survive on anything of value they might encounter. They must also flee Lord Kodoc who is chasing Chess and his precious secret – one that makes him particularly skilled in tackling the danger of the fog. Reminiscent of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, readers will connect with Ross’s dynamic characters for their admirable imperfections and enduring friendships. The author’s dangerously foggy setting plays the role of antagonist; as Chess and his clan learn how to navigate the unknown, readers see them mature and learn from their mistakes. The fog diver encourages children to use their imaginations and open their minds to adventure in an ever-changing world. (SDP) 

Rau, Dana. 2015. Who was Marie Antoinette?. Penguin Random House LLC (Grosset & Dunlap). 106pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-448-48310. Illustration by John O’Brien. 

Who was Marie Antoinette is an informational book targeting mid-level readers with a brief history of Marie Antoinette. Based on the bibliography at the end, the facts and concepts are accurate. The events in Marie Antoinette’s life are presented in chronological order. Other helpful tools are the inserts of clarifications defining various terms unfamiliar to readers. The style is similar to a history text for younger readers, ages 8 – 11. (RKC) 

Rickerty, Simon. 2013. The peanut: a nutty tale about sharing. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 40pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8364-4. 

The peanut follows the relationship of friends finding a peanut, and how the absence of sharing can be problematic. Largely told through illustrations instead of words, this story heavily encourages imagination to see the different possibilities. In responding to why sharing matters, this book is a great way to show how good things come from allowing everyone a chance to participate. (MM) 

Rosenthal, Amy. 2015. Little Miss, Big Sis. HarperCollins Publishers. 35pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-230203-8. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 

Short, rhyming phrases introduce young children to the multiple tasks of becoming a big brother or sister. Little Miss, Big Sis accepts the challenge of being the best helper possible as her family adjusts to a newborn. Though the tasks of being a big sister can be tiresome, the youngster realizes the rewards associated with her responsibilities. The calming colors in the illustrations complement and reinforce the theme of accepting responsibilities, an important attribute of personal and social development. (EH) 

Rundell, Katherine. 2015. The wolf wilder. Simon & Schuster. 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-1942-0. 

The Wolf Wilder is set in the 20th century, a historical fiction story of girl and her beloved wolf pack based in the snowy wilderness of Russia. The main character Feo is following in the footsteps of her mother, who takes domesticated wolves and returns them to their natural wild habitats. Feo is becoming an expert wilder herself, and has established a connection with three wolves. They stay close to her even though they have returned to the wild. Conflict begins when the Tsar’s army threatens to shoot the wolves, leading to the capture of Feo’s mother because she will not comply with their demands. Along with her wolf pack, Feo sets off on a journey to go save her mother. Along the way Feo learns from her “wolf family” how to survive. Her character also develops as she meets another girl realizes she is not alone in this fight and not alone in the world. This fictional historical tale combines the elements of human and nature connecting, and makes the reader question the difference between human and wolf. The Wolf wilder gives the reader a look into what it means to go against the odds and fight for what is right by showing “the little wolf girl” is capable of more than what may appear. (RKC) 

Rusch, Elizabeth. 2014. The next wave. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80pp. $18.99. ISBN 987-0-544-09999-9. 

The next wave is an informational book for upper elementary students that explains the use of wave power. The photos in the text help to explain different processes by which the waves can be used to create power. This text covers technology that is being used in the world around us, so students will be able to relate to it as well as find examples in their own lives. (MH) 

Salas, Laura Purdie. 2015. A rock can be…. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-2110-3. Illustrated by Violeta Dabija. 

This catchy book contains rhyming which can enthuse anyone. It demonstrates several things a rock can be, such as a dinosaur bone or a fire starter. A rock is much more than just a rock. It can spark the imagination of any reader, allowing them to come up with their own uses for rocks. This book would be encouraging for young readers, because there are few words and beautiful pictures, allowing them to read on their own. (MM) 

Saltzberg, Barney. 2014. Chengdu could not, would not fall asleep. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142316721-1. 

In Chengdu could not, would not fall asleep readers follow Chengdu, a young panda who is desperately trying to fall asleep. The contrasting colors of black and white in the stark black night against the white fur on Chengdu emphasizes the setting and mood as a very late, sleepless night. Chengdu tries a variety of sleeping positions, but because the organic and geometric shapes of the branches illustrate discomfort, readers four to seven, know he will not fall asleep. Yet, after trying many different branches, Chengdu finds the perfect spot for his bed and falls asleep. (LW) 

Savage, J. Scott. 2015. Case file 13 #4: Curse of the mummy’s uncle. HarperCollins Publishers. 272pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232406-1. Illustrated by Doug Holgate. 

Curse of the mummy’s uncle is a thrilling story about three friends traveling to Mexico to explore archaeological sites. Nick, Carter, and Angelo learn about the sites and discover a previous expedition disappeared into the same pyramids they are exploring 50 years ago. The story follows the three friends as they dig into the ancient Mayan curse, trying to determine if the curse is real. With a blend of humor and horror, this plot will have young readers hooked on the adventure. The storyline has a good mix of thrills and chills to spark imagination in readers. The plot is interesting and also educational because the story line and conflict incorporate facts about the Mayan ruins. The setting of this book will have young readers, ages 8 – 12, wondering about Mexico and the Mayan ruins and encouraging them to dig deeper into Mayan history. Combining eerie chills and humor, the story will appeal to readers interested in history and mystery. (SH)

Say, Allen. 2015. The inker’s shadow. Scholastic Press. 80pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-545-43776-9. 

Appropriate for young readers, The inker’s shadow is Allen Say’s companion to Drawing from memory (2011) . The author shares a coming of age story about how his father forced him to attend a Military Academy in America. His father wanted his son to become successful, despite the oppression Allen is experiencing in his new life. Allen struggles to find himself and stay positive while trying to please his family back in Japan. In order to rise above and reinvent himself, Allen finds peace in art and writing, which becomes his future career path. His passion is thoroughly demonstrated throughout the illustrations and text of the story. The delicately drawn lines and watercolor images help to convey realistic emotions. The author shares his personal experiences with the reader, creating a theme of hope and following one’s dreams. (KMI) 

Scanlon, Liz. 2015. The good great summer. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 218pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-48141147-9. 

Ivy Green is a twelve year old girl from Loomer, Texas, experiencing a horrible summer. Her mother ran away to find answers from God about the reasons a fire swept through town and destroyed nearly everything. She left Ivy and her father on their own without a clue about her destination, except she went to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida to follow the preacher, Hallelujah Dave. While her father seems to keep his faith in God, knowing his wife will eventually come home, Ivy is worried about her mother and wants her father to bring her home. This causes tensions between the two which leads to an adventure for Ivy. However, Ivy is not the only twelve year old in Loomer, Texas who is having a horrible summer. Paul Dobbs, the ultimate science nerd of the school, finds out the Space Shuttle is being retired and put in a museum in Los Angeles. All of his dreams of becoming an astronaut and going to space when he grows up are crushed. Ivy and Paul are not friends, but their horrible summers bring them together. They end up taking the Greyhound Bus to Florida by themselves to find Ivy’s mother and to see the Space Shuttle. For twelve year olds who had never been out of small town Loomer, this becomes quite the adventure. They end up finding Hallelujah Dave, who is a scam, and Ivy’s mother, who is in dire need of her family. Paul says his goodbyes to the Space Shuttle, but does not give up completely on his dream of becoming an astronaut. Then they head home, happy every one if together, but dreading the consequences to come for going to Florida on their own without telling anyone.

As contemporary realistic fiction, the author establishes the ambiance of the story through the setting, a small Baptist town in Texas. The struggle between religion and science is prevalent in the story which exemplifies a relevant and realistic controversial issue of the South. This generates an exciting but heartwarming plot. The emotions of the characters are also realistic of any twelve year old girl or boy. The emotions of anger and confusion Ivy experiences from her mother’s disappearance, make her real. The disappointment Paul feels when he hears his dreams are not possible; make him a relatable, realistic character as well. The emotions of Ivy’s father are also realistic. The reader may have comparable feelings and frustrations to Ivy’s about adult emotions and reactions to situations. Ivy and Paul’s emotions and struggles construct the common themes of, friendships, fears, and important choices, twelve year olds experience daily. The Great Good Summer tells a story, with relevant, realistic emotions readers can believe. (COD) 

Schaapman, Karina. 2014. The Mouse Mansion. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 64pp. $18.99. ISBN 987-0-8037-4049-5. Photographs by Ton Bouwer. 

This book would be suitable for elementary school readers. The book is comprised of short stories which take place in the mouse mansion. The characters are brought to life through the photos. The texture of the mice and their home help to develop characterization. The fur on the mice gives the reader a soft feeling that makes the mice more likeable and never harsh. Even the clothing on the mice is made of soft looking fabric. The mice seem inviting and can bring children to feel closer to the individual characters of each story. (MH) 

Schofield-Morrison, Connie. 2014. I got the rhythm. Bloomsbury Publishing (Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-178-6. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. 

I got the rhythm, for young children ages 5-7, depicts a young girl who feels rhythm with all of her senses. This book encourages social and personal development through encouraging children to absorb all of their environment. This also provides teachers with the opportunity to teach about all of the different senses that can be used for rhythm, which can easily translate into other aspects of everyday life. Interesting, lively verbs and onomatopoeia implement the theme of diversity as an vital part of everyday life. (MSH) 

Schutten, Jan Paul. 2015. The mystery of life: How nothing became everything. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 229pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-58270-525-5. Illustrated by Floor Rieder. 

The Mystery of Life: How Nothing Became Everything is an informative book which will put science textbooks to shame. As the title suggests, this book explains everything a young reader would want to know about evolution, the beginning of life, families, and many more topics. Setting the information in the form of a chapter book, Schutten makes science more accessible through humor, casual voice, and hand-drawn illustrations. As readers move through the book, they will come across reference numbers, leading them to numerous resources and ideas for learning more about the subject. With a casual tone and easy-to-understand explanations, The Mystery of Life is a much-needed addition to any science textbook for late elementary to early high school students. (AB) 

Schwartz, Amy. 2015. I can’t wait. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 30pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-4424-8231-9. 

Kindergarteners will relate to this collections of four poems, in part because three are about patience. In the fourth poem, the three poems are brought together to show how exciting things can be if one perseveres. Repetition emphasizes the main idea of patience, and the specific rhythm and shape of each poem will encourage students to stay engaged and draw connections between each story. This happy and silly book about patience will have students laughing and telling stories about all the things they can’t wait for! (KH) 

Schwartz, Simon. 2015. First man: Reimagining Matthew Henson. Lerner Publishing Group (Graphic Universe). 160pp. $31.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-5842-0. Illustrated by Simon Schwartz. 

Simon Schwartz creates an engaging biography about Matthew Henson’s achievements as an arctic adventurer discovering the North Pole while confronting prejudice as an African American in the graphic novel First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson. Schwartz switches back and forth between Henson’s life in 1945 and the events leading to that point in his life. At the end of the novel, there is a chronology of Matthew Henson’s life with real photographs, a map of Henson and Peary’s journey to the North Pole, and a selected bibliography. Schwartz’s illustrations use cool colors of blue, black, and white to enhance the mystical mood. The rounded shapes outlined by bold thick lines produce the simple characters. Thin gray or blue lines captured a sense of mystery during the Inuit mythology throughout the novel. Smaller lines in the illustrations emphasize movement, expression, emotion, and danger. Schwartz’s biography will prompt questions and discussions about Matthew Henson’s real life and society during the late 1800s and early 1900s for teens ages 13 to 18. (EKF) 

Scotton, Rob. 2015. Splat the Cat and the hotshot. HarperCollins Publisher. 34pp. $11.97. ISBN 978-0-06-229416-6. 

The story of Splat the Cat is a great piece of traditional literature. Throughout the story the reader learns the story of Splat and how he interacts with the new cat, Scott. Scott is considered a “hotshot” and all of the other cat scouts look up to him. However, towards the middle of the story, Splat realizes that, even though Scott is a hotshot, he still needs help. Splat is the first one to step up and help him. This is a great story for teachers and caregivers to show the importance of teamwork. Through Splat helping Scott in multiple instances, the theme of teamwork is recurrent throughout the entirety of the story. (ZJH) 

Scotton, Rob. 2015. Splat the cat: I scream for ice cream. HarperCollins Publishers. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229419-7. 

Splat the Cat and his class are going on a field trip to the ice cream factory. Splat and his fellow classmates are extremely excited about the thought of ice cream, and they dream of the buckets of ice cream they will eat. When things turn bad at the factory, the cats panic, and it will be up to Splat to save the day for his classmates and the ice cream. Youngster will relate to going on field trips and eating ice cream. The text is easy to read, and the plot is easy to follow. The textures used in the illustrations are inviting and appear soft, so readers can relate to their own pets, offering a level of comfort. Readers can use their imaginations as they follow Splat and his friends on their field trip to an ice cream shop. (SH) 

Shaw, Nancy. 2015. Sheep go to sleep. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 28pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-30989-0. Illustrated by Margot Apple. 

Five sheep are trying to fall asleep on a noisy, restless night. The rhyming and repetition in the book contribute to the language development among youngsters ages 3 – 5. Children who have a difficult time falling asleep will relate to the sheep as they try to go to sleep. As new rhymes and numbers appear on each page, the sheep fall asleep, one by one. The rustic, warm drawings correlate delightfully with the setting of the story, a country shed. (EH) 

Schulz, Heidi. 2014. Hook’s revenge. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 290pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142319867-3. Illustrations by John Hendrix. 

This is a great story for middle school students, especially girls. It puts a new spin on the classic hook story, exploring the life of his daughter. It would be a great way to empower girls who feel they can’t do things like be a pirate. This is a long book, and would be appropriate for advanced readers or readers who want a challenge. (JO) 

Silverstein, Shel. 2015. Falling up. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 187pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232133-6 (1996). 

An early elementary aged audience (ages 6-8) will enjoy reading these poems about animals, food, colors, and nonsensical characters and situations. Children will also learn to play with sounds because many of these poems use rhyming and alliteration, such as Long-Leg Lou and Short-Leg Sue. Humor is often times involved such as when a cow is a waitress, a chicken is a busboy, the cook is a fish, and the owner is a cabbage head. The rhyming, alliteration, repetition, and humor make poems entertaining for children while they learn about the world and themselves and expand their vocabularies. (MS) 

Simon, Seymour. 2015. Frogs. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-062281912-4. 

This book depicts the nature and lives of frogs in detailed and engaging ways. It begins with an author’s note, establishing rapport with the reader as well as the authority of the author. The text is informative, including accurate, interesting facts building off of each other throughout the book. It is evident the author is well informed and passionate about frogs as he reveals the information and expresses ideas about frogs in interesting ways — easily understood by a wide range of audiences. Key vocabulary words are presented in bold text. This feature highlights the words’ importance and draws special attention to their meanings. A glossary of definitions and an index are included at the end of the book. The book is well structured with an effective balance between medium-sized text and amazingly detailed and vibrant photographs. These photographs capture a variety of different types of frogs in a variety of different habitats. Especially fascinating pictures include frogs in action, and frogs interacting with other species, such as flies. The realistic photos make it seem like one could reach out and touch the frogs as they reveal exceptional aspects of the shapes and textures of their bodies, scales, eyes, and feet. (CEC) 

Sitomer, Alan Lawrence. 2014. Caged warrior. Disney Book Group (Disney-Hyperion Books). 216pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-142317124-9. Illustrated by No New Art Needed.

McCutcheon Daniels, or M.D., a 16-year-old underground mixed martial arts fighter, faces numerous life-changing situations throughout this gripping novel. With practicing mixed martial arts, overcoming a rough home life, taking care of his little sister, keeping his grades up, and surviving cage fights every Saturday, M.D. has a lot on his plate. This great read peaks the interest of middle level readers, those who have faced difficult family situations, and anyone interested in a unique, action-packed storyline. The intense adventures M.D. experiences throughout this book will capture readers’ attention and keep them wanting to know more. (MEH) 

Sloan, Holly. 2015. Appleblossom the possum. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 275pp. $16.99. ISBN 9780803741331. Illustrated by Gary A. Rosen. 

Appleblossom is an adventurous little possum, and from birth Appleblossom is different from her siblings. She is not a natural actor and she does not consider herself a solitary animal. After Mama Possum teaches her babies the main rules of being a possum, which are; to go to bed promptly when the sun comes up, stay away from monsters, also known as cars, people, and dogs, and play dead when in trouble, she sends them out into the world on their own. Appleblossom and two of her brothers, Amlet and Antonio, stick together. Appleblossom breaks the rules however, and befriends a little girl. She lives in the human’s house for a while, which causes chaos with the parents and dog, but she has fun with her new friend. After a while, Appleblossom starts to miss her freedom and her family. Not too long after those feelings form, her family comes to help her escape and she returns to the possum world.

Plot is the main literary element in this book. It has a developed order of events which makes it a page turner. There are two kinds of conflict, person against nature and person against society, in which Appleblossom is involved. Appleblossom is not a normal possum who gets her into trouble. She is in conflict with nature since she isn’t a solitary animal and befriends a human. The person against society is the conflict arises with the adults when Appleblossom is in the house. The conflict she is experiencing is the human’s hatred toward rodents. The sketched illustrations scattered throughout the book add to the plot by showing a snapshot of a character’s emotions or actions. Theme is the other main literary element in this book. There are two main outstanding themes: family helping a family member is in need, and importance of individuality. Appleblossom stretched beyond the normal behaviors of a possum and followed her heart which lead her on an adventure. The plot, conflicts and themes of this book make it a heartwarming book for children to read. (COD) 

Smith, Maggie. 2014. My blue bunny Bubbit. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-55861-5. 

This is a great book for lower elementary aged students. It is a great tool for students who are expecting a baby brother or sister. It is also a good book for students who are like making crafts and like being creative. Also in the back of the book the author says she has a pattern on her website for these animals, so this could be a great interactive activity for students and parents to make their own animals. (JO) 

Smith, Sherri L. 2015. The toymaker’s apprentice. Penguin Random House LLC. 400pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25295-2. 

In Smith’s latest modern fantasy novel The toymaker’s apprentice, Stefan Drosselmeyer sets out on a quest across Germany to find the mythical nut expected to save a cursed princess. He must rescue Boldavia’s princess and his toymaker father from the crazy Mouse Queen and her eccentric Mouse Prince. Readers feel a connection to Stefen’s believable character as he copes with the recent death of his mother and fights for his father’s approval of his decision to pave a path of his own in the world. Disbelief of this fantastical world is further suspended with the intricate setting. The cobblestone streets of Nuremberg combined with the dark alleyways of the mice’s kingdom make the setting as mood real for readers to see, hear, and feel. The story altlernates between Stefan’s and the mice’s point of view to create a unique, modern day spin on the infamous Nutcracker ballet. (SDP) 

Smucker, Anna Egan. 2015. Brother Giovanni’s little reward: How the pretzel was born. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 34pp. $17.00 ISBN 978-0-8028-5420-9. Illustrated by Amanda Hall. 

This book depicts the commonly believed story of the invention of the pretzel by a monk in northern Italy or southern France. It traces the story of a monk in either northern Italy or southern France who shaped leftover bread dough into the shapes of pretzels to represent arms traditionally folded in prayer and three holes to represent the Trinity. He created this bread symbol in an effort to motivate children to learn their prayers as these pretzels were given to children as rewards. The text and illustrations in this book depict this charming story in more of a fantastical way rather than a strictly historically accurate manner. For example, the delightful character of Brother Giovanni is portrayed as an exceedingly happy man who is unable to frown who enjoys nothing more than praying and baking. This simplistic, happy-go-lucky mindset highlights the appealing nature of the story, however it conveys an unrealistically blissful outlook on life. The detailed illustrations aid in the telling of the story and further this wondrous perspective and message in appealing ways. The illustrations are brought to life through vibrant colors and crisp, smoothly painted shapes that add attractive detail and contrast. The ways in which the facial features of the characters are accentuated as well as the characters’ clothing reflects the European style from long ago. Additionally, there are unique, intricate borders in many of the illustrations that also fabulously highlight the setting of the story. The universal themes of religion, food, and kindness are conveyed in culturally distinct ways that bring out the believed motivation for the invention of the pretzel. Brother Giovanni’s little reward: How the pretzel was born wonderfully interprets the legend of this cultural tradition in a charming, engaging way. (CEC) 

Solheim, James. 2014. The only Alex Addleson in all these mountains. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-0346-8. Illustrated by Jeffery Ebbeler. 

This story would be appropriate for elementary students, especially if one of their closest friends moves away. This story shows the importance of friendship and how true friends never really leave you. Also, the picture are vibrant and will keep students engaged until the very end. (JO) 

Spinelli, Eileen. 1982. Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’. HarperCollins Children’s Books (HarperCollins Publishers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236397-8. Illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler 

An adventure of a family during Thanksgiving is shared in the picture book Thanksgiving At The Tappletons’. Realistic and enthusiastic illustrations complement a theme of the meaning of thankfulness. Thanksgiving At The Tappletons’ introduces students to the literary element of onomatopoeia. It is an appropriate choice to read aloud or for elementary students and their parents. (RKC) 

Stainton, Sue. 2014. I love dogs!. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 32pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-06-117057-7. Illustrated by Bob Staake. 

From fluffy dogs to trendy dogs, to dogs that are famous, this concept picture book will bring children to appreciate the diversity among dogs. While the text involves a young boy narrating his love for all types of dogs, Bob Staake’s illustrations also show another story of the boy traveling through the park to get to the pet store and adopt his very own dog. Staake provides a colorful, cartoon look, and each image will engage readers in conversation about the various details and scenes. Children will also enjoy the author’s rhyming style, and her creativity in the development of each dog’s unique characteristics. (AT) 

Stewart, M.. 2015. Hurricane watch. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232776-5. Illustrated by T. Morley. 

Stewart’s latest Hurricane watch presents aspiring meteorologists with the inside scoop on a powerful natural disaster. Early elementary children can read to find out how hurricanes form, how scientists track storms, and what one can do to keep safe if a storm strikes. Award-winning author of more than 150 science books for young readers, Stewart has hiked in tropical rainforests, experienced a safari in Africa, and swam with sea lions in the Galápagos Islands. Stewart fosters a spirit of inquiry in readers by providing a Find Out More section and a list of additional websites to visit. The text is presented clearly and directly, without bias, and the language is precise and descriptive, even down to the exact mile per hour that classifies a tropical storm. The curved lines and bright colors in Morley’s illustrations imitate the chaotic feeling of the powerful storm and serve as reinforcement of size relationships between a hurricane and the land or water it travels over. (SDP) 

Stout, Shawn K. 2014. Penelope Crumb is mad at the moon. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 208pp. $14.99 ISBN 978-0-399-16255-8. 

Penelope Crumb is unsure where she fits in with her fourth grade class. Her problems never seem to end. She dresses up for animal day on the wrong day, her teacher keeps encouraging her to learn, and now they are learning to square dance in gym class with fifth graders! After learning that the moon has two sides, and people only see one, Penelope starts to think about others and all the sides they may have. She discovers everyone has more than one side, and it is acceptable to show all of one’s sides.

This book would be ideal to use with students who are in fourth to fifth grade. The sentences are easy to read and the few illustrations are put into the book in just the right place to encourage the reader to keep going but also help them picture what the words are saying. This book can help children see that everyone is different and that there is more to an individual than the side visible to the world. It is also ideal for this age group because of all the changes they will be going through. (AS) 

Stubbs, Lisa. 2015. Lily and Bear. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4416-3. 

Lily loves to draw. The story follows Lily’s journey as she creates a crayon sketch of a bear who comes to life and becomes her friend. Lily and her new friend do many of things that Lily enjoys, and then the bear introduces her to outdoor activities. This book is charming and the style of Lily’s crayon art gives the book a playfulness young readers will recognize. After reading the book, children may be inspired create a similar drawing. Lily and Bear promotes indoor and outdoor activities, and also shows an endearing friendship between the two unlikely friends. (SH). 

Sullivan, Martha. 2015. If you love honey: Nature’s connections. Dawn Publications. 32pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-58469-534-9. Illustrated by Cathy Morrison. 

If you love honey: Nature’s connections is an informational picture storybook appropriate for ages 4 to 9. The illustrations are meticulous with warm and vibrant colors. The animals, insects, and plants are life-like and each picture is precisely illustrated. Children will gain an understanding of the importance of all plants, animals, and insects to one another. The roles of each creature are described in great detail. Useful facts throughout the book assist children to develop an understanding of the connections in nature, allowing them to make further investigations on their own. The repetition throughout the book encourages children to become interactive with each turn of the page. Each page intertwines with the next luring children into continuing to read. There are informational resources located at the end of the book encouraging children to review the facts throughout the book, recognize the different creatures in nature, and learn new vocabulary. An interactive “search and find” page inspires children to discover all of the connections in nature. (KMB) 

Sutton, Jane. 2015. What’s up with this chicken?. Penguin Random House LLC (Pelican). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-45562085-2. Illustrated by Peter J. Welling. 

This unique picture storybook teaches children about chickens and animal instincts. The story centers around a young girl, Sylvia, who lives on a farm with her grandma and discovers one of their chickens will not let them touch her eggs because she wants her eggs to hatch so she can become a mother hen. The simple, quirky illustrations fill each page spread and provide meaningful details to the action of the storyline, helping readers make sense of the events. The drawings add to the humor in the story through the details in the chicken’s and characters’ expressions and reactions to comical events in the plot. In this way, both the author and illustrator bring to life the main chicken character named Trudy, as the human characters expect her to understand their speech. Her emotions, feelings, and instincts are exaggerated and highlighted as a focal point of the story. Sutton and Welling have cleverly created a unique story focused on chickens and life on a farm in a manner capturing the attention of readers to solve the problem of collecting eggs from a stubborn hen who wants to be a mother of chicks. The story continues to engages readers in pursuing the resolution of the story for both Sylvia, the girl, and Trudy, the chicken. (CEC) 

Sutton, Lynn Parrish. 2015. Animally. Kane Miller Book Publishers. 30pp. $11.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-345-7. Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell. 

Animally is an easy to read picture book, ideal for new readers aged kindergarten to second grade. It has short sentences with rhyming words and very thick, durable pages, allowing young children the development of their fine motor skills. This book introduces adjectives and animals to children, and the pictures include descriptions of animals. This book would be beneficial for new readers because of the repeating sentence structure and the rhyming words. The pictures, with the descriptions of animals, may help students figure out the words they don’t know. Additionally, in the end of the book there is a picture of a family, which has members of different ages, and races, supporting the concept of different family structures. (BB) 

Sylvester, Kevin. 2015. MINRS. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 330pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4039-4. 

MiNRS, written for young adults ages nine and up, is a science fiction fantasy book set in the future. Earth has run out of resources, so humans are sent to live on the planetoid “Perses” to mine to find resources people can use on earth. Perses is inhabited by a group of families working and mining the planet. The first families were sent over as a test group, and they work for “Melming Mining.” The author suspends disbelief in this book by setting it in the future, which makes it easy for the reader to imagine the setting, themes, plots, conflicts, and characters are real. Additionally, it is credible because the reason for the mining on Perses is due to a lack of resources on Earth, which is a contemporary, realistic, problem . The development of characters is not in depth, and the majority of the characters are static. Conflict drives this story forward. All is going well on Perses, until the planetoid is attacked during a planned two-month blackout from earth, and the only survivors are some of the kids from the planet. The kids must then retreat to the tunnels of the planet to attempt to contact Earth to alert the inhabitants to the invasion. The story is driven onward because of near death experiences, and conflicts between characters as the children try to escape from their attackers. (BB) 

Taft, Jean. 2015. Worm weather. Penguin Random House LLC (Grosset & Dunlap). 30pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-44848740-3. Illustrated by Matt Hunt. 

Rainy weather is worm weather. Puddles, mud, thunder, and lightning, indicate worm weather. This book explains and illustrates what weather worms enjoy the most. It is a book for children ages 3 through 5, so the pictures dominate the story with only a few words per page to help tell the story about worm weather. The information is presented in an age appropriate manner. The illustrator emphasizes the worms in the ground by making them a contrasting color to the ground. In spite of the rain, the mood of the book is a happy one, conveyed by yellow and turquoise rain coats. Students could easily relate to the children in the book with their own experiences of wearing bright rain coats, jumping in puddles, playing in mud and finding worms. (COD) 

Thong, Roseanne Greenfield. 2014. Noodle magic. Scholastic inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-52167-3. Illustrated by Meilo So. 

This book draws on the imagination of the reader, and how one can make almost anything from noodles. It is a great way of beginning to have trust in oneself, and understand what important skills and values you have. The pages are always busy with pictures filling every inch of the paper, and incorporating the Asian culture with distinctions of attire and town markets. Overall, this book can pertain to any talent a child may have, and how they can achieve their dreams if they just believe in themselves. (MM) 

Turnage, Sheila. 2015. The odds of getting even. Penguin Random House LLC. 342pp. $16.99 ISBN 987-0-80373961-1. 

Mo and Dale are two detectives trying to convict Dale’s dad, Macon Johnson for kidnapping the colonel and Mrs. Lana. However, nothing seems to go their way as the two detectives try to convict Macon. Although most children will not go to court to testify against their father who allegedly takes part in a kidnapping the plot and conflicts are still relevant to many children because it is a story about overcoming a family related problem. This story is also heavily focused on friend and peer relationships, which is a vital part of the lives of most sixth graders. Another wonderful aspect of this novel is the characters and their reliability and growth throughout the story. One example showing the plotline, complex characterization, and growth of the characters is when Dale realizes although it can be hard to find at times, one can always find the good in people. Even though his father was convicted for a felony, Dale finds the good parts of his father and expresses his appreciation when his father risks extra jail time to watch over Lavender and save him from the fire. Overall, The odds of getting even is appropriate for elementary and early middle schools students because they can learn from Mo and Dale about to overcome struggles and experience immense growth. The story is also perfect for this age group because of the focus on family conflict, which common among children. (DJ) 

Tyre, Lisa Lewis. 2015. Last in a long line of rebels. Penguin Random House LLC. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16838-3. 

Last in a Long Line of Rebels is a realistic fiction story with focal elements of historical “fantasy,” as it centers on the lessons a 12-year-old girl, Louise, learns when she finds an old family journal from the Civil War era. In an effort to save her family house by making it a National Historic Landmark, Louise and her friends embark on a mission to solve an old family mystery related to missing gold, and on this journey, Louise finds a journal written by one of her great aunts who was a strong abolitionist during the time of the Civil War. As Louise becomes engrossed in reading this journal, she begins to make connections between the social issues her family faced in history and how they are related to social issues in present day society. By learning about her family history in this way and relating it to herself, Louise experiences a journey of self-discovery as she reflects on the impact of these issues on her daily life. Through this, relevant themes of racism, family redemption, and family heritage are revealed. The depictions of the Civil War era in her aunt’s diary are based on truth and portray the hardships and probable reality of everyday life during the time, but are also glamorized in exciting ways to pique Louise’s enthusiasm. For this reason, these aspects of historical fiction are more similar to historical “fantasy” as they are not completely accurate reflections of the Civil War time period. The main character Louise is cleverly and engagingly developed through her excitement and intense emotions on her journey of self-discovery, however the plot can be predictable and some of the mystery clues can be painfully obvious. Last in a Line of Rebels is an empowering coming-of-age story which reflects the universal values of standing up for one’s beliefs and fighting against injustice. (CEC) 

Van Allsburg, Chris. 2014. The misadventures of Sweetie Pie. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-31582-9. 

The story of Sweetie Pie the hamster is a thematic piece of traditional literature. In this short story the reader follows the journey of Sweetie Pie from the animal shelter to his various owners. In the beginning, Sweetie Pie is loving life; but then his owners start to forget about him and he is traded from hand to hand until he arrives at his final destination, a school classroom. It is here that Sweetie Pie faces the final straw of being left outside in a snowstorm. Sweetie Pie escapes his cage and continues life living with squirrels in the trees happier than ever. This is a great story for teachers to show students that even though there will be tough times in life, if you make the best of your opportunities, you will live a happy life in the end. Sweetie Pie is a great example of when bad times become good. (ZJH) 

Vernick, Audrey. 2014. Screaming at the ump. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 250pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-25208-0. 

Characterization plays a crucial role in the development of any story. As the readers follow this story, they observe the growth and maturation of the main character, Casey Snowden. A young boy who lives at an umpiring school with his father, Casey doesn’t live a normal life. With the stress of entering the 6th grade and his mother now wanting to see him more often, Casey is forced to make decisions he doesn’t want to make. This story is an excellent representation of characterization and how it helps with the development of a good story. (ZJH) 

Vernon, Ursula. 2015. Dragonbreath: Knight-napped!. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books). 208pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3849-2. 

Danny Dragonbreath is a dragon who gets into many adventures throughout this series of books. In this tale, Danny ends up trying to save his cousin who gets kidnapped by knights. Late elementary students can engage in this adventure packed story as they delve into a world of dragons, knights, and humor. The story is written into this fantasy world where the medieval life meets modern day. (MH) 

Ward, D. J.. 2015. Simple machines. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232148-0. Illustrated by M. Lowery. 

With its bright illustrations and engaging text, young elementary readers will delight in learning about six simple machines they encounter daily. High school science teacher and author of many science-based children’s books, Ward highlights important concepts with bold vocabulary. Simple machines also includes a glossary and a Find Out More section at the book’s conclusion to foster a spirit of inquiry among students. Ward’s style creates a feeling of reader involvement with the rhetorical questions scattered throughout the text. Lowery uses simple, yet colorful illustrations of seesaws, Egyptian pyramids and birthday cake to enhance young elementary children’s understanding of scientific concepts. This Level 2 Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science title aligns with the Common Core Learning Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) standards. (SDP) 

Warga, Jasmine. 2015. My heart and other black Holes. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232467. 

My heart and other black holes is a book for young adults ages 14 and up which depicts a young girl of 16 who wants to end her life. Aysel has a mother who cannot stand her, a father who committed crimes that shook her town, and no friends at school. While Aysel is planning her own death, she realizes she is afraid of dying alone. She finds Roman, another teen who is also planning his suicide online. AS they connect, Aysel begins to like Roman; he makes her happy, which makes her begin to doubt that she wants to die. Since she wants to be with Roman, she has to try to convince him to stay alive so they can help each other through the hardships in life. (MSH) 

Well, Ann. 1983. History’s all-stars: Betsy Ross. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 198pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-0707-6 (1954). Illustrated by Al Fiorentino.

Betsy Ross is typically known as the creator of the American Flag; however, this biography examines her life, not only as a flag maker, but also as a child, a sister, a sewer, and an upholsterer. Through Betsy’s childhood stories and exciting journeys, middle level readers explore life in a different time period. Thus, they can better comprehend the significance of Betsy’s creation and better develop national pride. This detailed narrative is a great insight into Betsy Ross’ upbringing and why she is an American All-Star. (MEH) 

West, Tracey. 2015. No way…way!: Are you my dinner?. Penguin Random House LLC (Grosset & Dunlap). 208pp. $9.99. ISBN: 978-0-448-48689-5. Illustrated by Luke Flowers. 

No way….way!: Are you my dinner? is a book for children ages 8-12, although adults may also enjoy it because it contains 300 interesting facts about food. The illustrations are accurate and add clarity to the text on each page. Each fact has its own illustration, enhancing the reader’s imagination. The colors of the photographs, including black and white pictures, define the time frame of each fact. Diversity throughout the book encourages children to explore other cultures. Myths regarding foods are included, and the actual fact is clearly stated. (KMB) 

Weston, Robert Paul. 2014. Gobbled by Ghorks. Penguin Random House LLC. 228pp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-59514750-9. 

Similar to the prequel, The creature factory, Gobbled by Ghorks is a suspenseful, comical fantasy filled with creatures, ghorks, and children. Students in second through fifth grade will be captivated by the relatable young characters. The magical setting takes place behind the scenes of DENKi-3000 as students start rushing past a green Egyptian pyramid, a green rocket ship, and a green rhino with the two main characters of the series, Elliot and Leslie. Readers are encouraged to imagine and visualize the colorful, furry, fanged, wacky creatures in this secret world. Robert Paul Weston suspends disbelief through humor, as the children and their intriguing friends try to amuse a ghork lacking any type wit, and if they fail, the ghorks will eat them. Subtle hints and foreshadowed events will keep readers interested in the story, wondering what Elliot and Leslie will do next. (KH) 

Wick, Walter. 2015. Hey, Seymour! A search & find fold-out adventure. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-50216-0. 

Hey, Seymour! is a search and find book with ten different search and finds. A little toy named Seymour and his dog, Buttons, lead readers through all the pages with fold out parts starting with “Hey, Seymour! I see…” followed by a list of things to search for on each page. Young children, ages 3 -9, will enjoy reading Hey, Seymour for multiple reasons. Searching for the objects on each page will force readers to pay attention to detail and concentrate, because it is difficult to find some of the items listed on the pages. Young children can easily handle the book and turn the pages, because the paper is thick. At the end, the author includes a description of each page, and gives an explanation of the design of the pages. (BJB) 

Wiles, Deborah. 2014. Freedom summer. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 32p. $17.99 ISBN 978-1-4814-2298-7 (2001). Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue.

The year is 1964, and while the civil rights act is in full swing, social norms are slow to change. During the summer, two best friends, Joe and John, work, swim, and eat ice cream together every day. However, they encounter a harsh set back: their adventures are limited because Joe is Caucasian and John is African American. This inspiring story examines the boys’ deep friendship, despite society’s racial tensions. The colorful and textured illustrations throughout this fun and inviting book make Joe and John’s adventures spring to life for many young readers. (MEH) 

Wilson, Karma. 2015. Duddle Puck the puddle duck. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry). 30pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-4927-5. Illustrated by Marcellus Hall 

Alliteration, rhythm, and rhyme are used to tell the story of Duddle, the distinct duck. The author plays with language throughout the story, making the storyline exciting and intriguing. Duddle will cluck, honk, oink, neigh, and say hip-hip hooray, but he will not quack, making Duddle a one- of- a- kind duck. The reader will quickly see the importance of animal sounds in the book because they are represented by big, bright, and bold fonts. The warm pastel paintings set the mood and depict a country setting. Will Duddle let out a loud “quack” in the end, or will he always be the goofy and rare duck readers have grown fond of?(EH)

Willems, Mo. 2014. Waiting is not easy!. Disney Book Group (Hyperion Books). 64pp. $8.99 ISBN 978-142319957-1. 

Waiting is not easy has a plot which flows effortlessly through the use of lines and color in the illustrations. Large block letters invite readers experience the excitement of waiting for a surprise. As the anticipation grows, so do the speech bubbles; first covering half of the page, then three quarters, before finally consuming almost an entire page. At the same time, the pages of the book get darker and mysteriously symbolizes the coming of the event. Finally, a beautiful view of the night sky appears conveying a comforting and safe mood with the bright warm whites of the stars against the purple cloudy background of the sky. The story finishes on a note of friendship and admiration for the dazzling display of night. (LW) 

Willis, Jeanne. 2015. Slug needs a hug!. Lerner Publishing Group (Anderson Press). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-9309-4. Illustrated by T. Ross. 

Early childhood readers will connect with the insecurities of the poor, vulnerable slug who thinks his mommy won’t hug him because he is too ugly. Slug encounters various animals along his journey who work to make him more huggable in the eyes of his mother. He clothes himself in a fur jacket like a kitten, some feathers and the beak of a bird, the horns of a goat and more, until he is completely unrecognizable. Only when he comes face-to-face with his mother does he understand he is loved exactly as he is. This imaginative picture book draws young readers in with the pastel pinks, greens, blues, and purple in the illustrations. Slug’s curious eyes peering out of his disguises help children connect to the familiar need for security they find in a parent’s embrace. With their poetic rhyme of the text and inviting illustrations, Willis and Ross team up to make this slimy creature huggable in his sequential quest toward acceptance and love. (SDP)

Wilson, Karma. 2015. Bear counts. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-8092-6. Illustrated by J. Chapman. 

Wilson invites early childhood readers into a lively forest where animals classify their natural surroundings in Bear Counts. With its steady rhythm and ear-pleasing rhyme, children ages 3-7 are encouraged to fine-tune their cognitive skills as they count up to 5 alongside Bear. From one page to the next, illustrator Chapman masterfully presents different perspectives of the whole forest scene by zooming in to reveal each small grouping of forests critters. This helps young minds focus on the specific number of specimens to be counted. The gentle brushstrokes of Chapman’s painted illustrations provide a comfortable, vibrant environment in which children feel welcome and safe to practice their mathematical skills. (SDP) 

Won, Brian. 2014. Hooray for hat!. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-15903-7.

Everyone experiences a few bad days; however, a positive attitude and the help of others can change bad to good. Hooray for hat shows just how friendship and sharing can lead to happiness. The colorful illustrations throughout this story create a fun and safe environment for children as they read. Friendship is an extremely important quality to instill in children: an important characteristic in all aspects of life. As Elephant shares his hats with his friends, young readers see the impact of even the smallest of friendly deeds. (MEH) 

Wu, Mike. 2015. Ellie. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 40pp. 16.99. ISBN 978-1484712399. Illustrated by Mike Wu. 

When zookeeper Walt tells the animals that the zoo will close, the animals brainstorm and put their talents into saving their home. as the other animals start the find ways to help out, Ellie the elephant is suddenly discouraged because she believes she is not talented… until she picks up a paintbrush. Ellie the Elephant becomes a sensation for the zoo with her painting skills and she saves the zoo for everyone. The vibrant colors complement the story and help convey the important message to students about how individuals have their own talents and it is okay if traits are different from each other. (SJH) 

Yoon, Salina. 2014. Found. Bloomsbury Publishing (Walker Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-8027-3559-1. 

The book Found by Salina Yoon depicts a young bear who finds a stuffed animal which does not belong to him. The bear posts “LOST” signs all over to try to find the owner of the toy because he knows it is special and someone probably misses it. This book encourages social and personal development for early elementary students through showing the importance of not taking something if it does not belong to you. This book also teaches about sharing things with people and caring about others. (MSH) 

Zoboli, Giovanna. 2007. Animal supermarket. Eerdmans Books. 22pp. $12.45. ISBN 978-0-8028-5448-3. Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. 

Animal supermarket is an exciting and entertaining story for kindergarten through second graders. Readers learn what animals would buy at a supermarket, learning about the eating habits of various creatures. The large, colorful pictures and word choices such as “produce”, “bargain”, and “mackerel” help maintain readers’ attention to the story. (KAH)