Adler, David. 2016. Circles. Holiday House. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 9780823436422. Illustrated by Edward Miller.
Circles is continuation of David Adler’s work of bringing mathematical concepts to life through children’s literature. Adler writes an informative text guiding children through what circles are and how they are used in everyday life. This colorful book serves as an invitation to inquiry, where children may find themselves viewing circles with deeper analyses. Illustrations use key visual elements, helping children to follow along and stay engaged with the reading. Most of the line is curved to show circles, but gives readers a sturdy feeling rather than fluidity throughout the text. In addition, the line guides children through metalinguistic processes, like reading right to left and up to down. A specific color is used when exemplifying one property of a circle, and changes to explain the concept. For example, when discussing diameter, the color of the circle is yellow, and when discussing radius, the color is pink. Though changes in color may seem minor, some children will process this mathematical information better by cognitively assigning colors to concepts. Geometric shapes give readers the sense of lucidity. The geometric shapes ensures clarity when addressing shapes and concepts. Texture is flat throughout the book, but one key shading element gives the illustration a 3D pop. Adler’s text is an effective resource to use when working with the geometry domain in grades kindergarten through 5th grade. Circles are found in all kinds of daily items, and after reading Circles, children will enhance their mathematical understanding and reasoning. (JMS)
Alexander, Jessica and Diane Shore. 2016. This is the earth. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-055526-9. Illustrated by Wendell Minor.
This picture storybook is appropriate for readers between the ages of 4 and 8, taking readers on an adventure through earth. The rhymed prose speaks of the beauty of the earth, problems of pollution, and why people need to protect the earth. The story begins in the pristine wild areas of earth. The colors used are vivid blues and greens. The animals in the pictures look content and peaceful in their habitat. The story continues to demonstrate the Industrial Revolution and the harm it has caused the earth in terms of pollution. After this point, the pictures lose the natural beauty and begin to show the effects of factories, logging, and pollution in general. The pictures begin to depict a dirty look, as burnt orange and brown become the most common colors used throughout the illustrations. The faces of the animals in this portion of the book turn to a distressed look, as their lives are in the hands of humans who are polluting their habitats. The book ends with ways readers can protect the earth. This book will inspire young readers to care for the earth people and other animals call home. (APB)
Angus, Laurie Ellen. 2016. Octopus escapes again. Dawns Publication. 32pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1584695776.
Readers are introduced to a clever, orange, and resourceful octopus who simply just wants to eat! She sets off on an adventure to find food because she is very hungry. However on her adventure, she almost is eaten many times by other hungry predators. Octopus is clever, and she escapes every single time. This book allows for readers to explore the defense mechanisms an octopus has in order to survive. The author shows how the octopus in the story uses her mechanisms in order to escape and states the specific fact about this mechanism. Readers will learn about how octopi are flexible, can hide easily, camouflage themselves, spray ink, blast off, and even lose a leg, but still survive. Readers will realize how extraordinary octopi are in this book because of how they survive. Another great aspect about this book is at the end, the author explains specific parts of the octopus even more. Readers will learn more in depth in this section about all the sea creatures mentioned in the book. Moreover, the author even gives activities for readers to do while or after reading this book to reinforce what they learned in this book. The reader will receive the full learning experience with this book. Lastly, the illustrations really emphasize the story even more for readers. Most of the predators trying to eat octopus are orange or red indicating danger and reinforcing the point they are dangerous, but octopus is also interesting indicating she is an enemy to other smaller sea creatures. The author also utilizes texture in her illustrations which help readers get a better picture on what they sea creatures actually look like. Overall, students will learn a great deal from this book whether that be from the adventures octopus goes on, the activities in the back of the book, or the illustrations. (MJO)
Ashburn, Boni. 2016. The class. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN. 978-1-4424-4677-9. Illustrations by Kimberly Gee.
Rhyme and rhythm depicts twenty youngsters getting ready for their first day of kindergarten. The illustrations are vibrant, realistic, and capture diversity in ethnicity, personality, and physical attributes. When reinforced by the text the author and illustrator do a satisfactory job of including a diverse group of students for young readers to understand and connect with. This book can be used as encouragement for young readers, PreK-1, especially students apprehensive about their first day of school. (KJN)
Ashman, Linda. 2016. All we know. HarperCollins (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-168958-1. Illustrated by Jane Dyer.
In All We Know, a young girl is shown different things and what they know how to do. The things she is shown are all through nature and how they already know what their job is supposed to be. The book ends on a happy note, showing readers they do not need to learn how to love someone since they already know how. The illustrations in this book show the sentiment well. The soft colors and brush strokes make the feel of the book more meaningful in the sense of sentiment and old fashioned style of illustration. (HRC)
Asim, Jabari. 2016. Preaching to the chickens: The story of young John Lewis. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp.$17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16856-7. Illustrations by E.B. Lewis.
By growing up preaching to chickens, a young boy named John Lewis discovers his passion for ministry and living creatures, and eventually becomes an integral part of the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s. The story of this part of his childhood is told in this book, using descriptive language and a soulful African American voice to accentuate Lewis’ strong faith and love for not only humanity, but for all of God’s creatures. As mentioned in the author’s note succeeding the story, this book sets the stage for Lewis’ life long calling to defend human rights and participate in the Civil Rights Movement. The book tells stories of Lewis’ faithfulness to God, his faithfulness to the chickens he watched over, and his faithfulness to the work of equality, such as how he rescued a hen from the well, and baptized his chickens. The illustrations are textured using watercolor, adding a certain element of softness to the story and creating a blend of themes, from his love of chickens, to his love of human beings. This book teaches the reader, ages 5-8 years old, about one man’s will to bring justice in the world, beginning with something as small as caring for chickens. (EJM)
Bader, Bonnie. 2016. Ham-Ham-Hamsters. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-399-54165-0.
In this easy non-fiction reader, young students, grades 1 – 2, learn all about hamsters. This book explains that hamsters are both tame and wild, that they are a part of the rodent family, and how to care for them as a pet owner. Actual pictures of these hamsters make the material more engaging and relative to the reader, and allow for the reader to appreciate the atheistic values of hamsters that the book addresses. (KJN)
Bader, Bonnie. 2016. Slow, slow sloths. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-399-54116-2.
Many children find animals fascinating, and this informational book about sloths is a great way to peak children’s interest in sloths as well as provide accurate information about their lifestyle and characteristics. For example, the reader learns about the animal family the sloth belongs to, the different eating and sleeping habits they have, and details about their claws, ears, and eyes. Readers, ages 6-7 years old, can rely on this book to learn accurate information about sloths as well as develop important reading skills. By categorizing the book as a level two book in the series and providing objectives for the reader, such as the ability to figure out unknown words by using pictures and make inferences in the text, the reader is equipped with knowledge on the subject as well as applicable reading skills for the future. There are a variety of photographs in the book, which gives the reader the opportunity to see differences in species of sloths and their characteristics. Overall, this book is a great resource for children to gain information about a specific animal as well as develop foundational reading skills appropriate for their developmental level. (EJM)
Bajaj, Varsha. 2016. This is our baby, born today. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0399166846. Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.
Preschool through kindergarten children will hear the inspiring story of a young elephant through the use of lyrical verse. When the young elephant is born, he is immediately showered in love from the mama, herd, other animals, and earth. The baby elephant in return warms the hearts of all who surround him. The text promotes a message of love and acceptance. The beautiful illustrations use bright colors throughout the daytime setting. The use of yellow and orange represent new life and friendship. Thee dark blues and greens in the nighttime setting represent the calmness felt by the elephants. The elephants are illustrated to look realistic and their expressions change depending on their mood. When the little elephant is exploring Earth for the first time, his face is overjoyed, however, when he is about to sleep, his face looks peaceful and content. The book includes typical features found in an elephant's habitat such as Banyan trees to create a realistic image in the young readers minds’. The story gives children perspective on elephants and their habitat and also encourages the importance of family and community. (APB)
Baker, Keith. 2016. Hap-pea all year. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5854-2.
Even children who despise peas will be intrigued by the catchy rhythm and bright colors of Hap-pea all year. Baker tells of the months in the year, emphasizing the season and holidays in each new month. The rhyming text is almost lyrical, and each line begins with an activity that fits the month. He provides a positive perspective for each month, even those in the dead of winter or muddiness of early spring. Children can learn the order of the months by making connections with the familiar aspects and activities described. Every illustration incorporates the letters of each month, with many pea characters playing and having fun. There is always something new to find with each page turn as Baker uses a variety of textures and mediums in his illustrations, along with the humorous peas. The book ends by connecting all of the months with the simple message that readers will have a hap-pea year. (JJB)
Bascomb, Neal. 2016. Sabotage: The mission to destroy Hitler’s atomic bomb. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc.). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-73243-7.
Reliving the history of World War II as Nazi Germany invades Norway, readers are invited on a valiant yet dangerous journey with the Norwegian men who discovered and prevented Hitler’s attempt at creating an atomic bomb. Including photographs and detailed accounts of the mission of four Norwegian men; Jens-Anton Poulsson, Arne Kjelstrup, Knut Haugland, and Claus Helberg, this informational novel is accurately written as well as compelling, and provides a factual story for young adults (ages 12 and up) to learn more about the tragic, yet heroic, events of Operation Grouse and Gunnerside. Sources are listed at the end of the book, along with a glossary and notes on each chapter. The story is told chronologically and equips the reader with definitions of words as well as an organized list of important people, including their home country and a description of their role in the mission. An important event in the history of World War II, this book gives young readers a historical account and insight into the sacrifice, science, and bravery of Norway’s involvement in World War II. (EJM)
Bather, Zoe and Joe Sharpe. 2016. Around the world with the Ingreedies: A taste adventure. Laurence King Publishing. 64pp. $18.95. 978-1780678306. Illustrated by Chris Dickason.
Around the world with the Ingreedies is an informational picture book that aims to give readers a taste of many different countries around the globe. Although this book is full of useful information such as maps, fun facts, and recipes, it is difficult to find the source of the information. The book itself includes information on the various editors and “taste testers” who contributed to the book, but neither the publishing page nor an internet search yields much information pertaining to the research involved in the book’s compilation.
Nevertheless, this book is an interesting and appropriate addition to a children’s library. It is geared towards young children, although it could be useful to older children and adults as well. The illustrations and characters are mainly what young children would find appealing because they are animated representations of different types of food, such as herbs, fruit, and seafood. These characters have amusing and clever names such as Larry, the meat dude, and Bentley, the pantry connoisseur. Following characters such as these on an adventure around the world is more engaging for young children than reading a conventional informational text about food from different cultures.
The illustrations are interesting and overstimulating. Although it is geared towards young children, this book takes quite a while to read, and is not meant to be read in one sitting. For each country represented in the book, there is a map of the country illustrated along with a set of thought-provoking facts pertaining to the food of that country. There is also a creatively illustrated list of the foods typical of that country, and a recipe for a “sample taste” from each country. One question this poses is the validity of each recipe given.
While skimming the book, it is hard not to ask whether or not the particular food is a true staple or representation of the country, and how the authors know this information. For example, the recipe given in the section about the United States is “Haddock Chowder”. As a Midwestern American, haddock chowder is a completely foreign concept, and not at all an “American staple”. This raises the question as to how accurately the recipes depict food from other countries. (CJS)
Bauer Dane, Marion. 2016. Rainbow. Simon & Schuster (Simon Spotlight). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-6337-9. Illustrated by John Wallace.
In Rainbow, the young readers are taken through the process in which a rainbow in formed. This is an informational book written at a level so younger students will be able to understand the material. While this is an informational book, the imagery is key to the comprehension of what the book is discussing. I would describe the images in this book as childlike. The texture and medium in which they were created gives a youthful feeling and would be more relatable to the younger students. Without these images then the information would not be as easily understood. The images in this book act as a guide for the stages of a rainbow. With the combination of the illustrations and the language, this informational book would be an excellent resource for early elementary age students. (HRC)
Bauer Dane, Marion. 2016. Sun. Simon & Schuste (Simon Spotlightr). 32pp. $15.97. ISBN 978-1-4814-6340-9. Illustrations by John Wallace.
The Sun is an important part of the way our world works, including the seasons, the time of day, and the outdoor temperature. This book aims to teach children about the science of the sun, and how it affects the daily lives of people living on planet Earth. Examples are given that young children can relate to, such as the Sun providing the light that allows them to play outside during the day. The concepts of the Sun being a star and the Sun’s rotation around the earth are all mentioned in the book using language that this age of readers, ages 4-6, can comprehend. The book explores what might happen if the Sun was too close or too far away, and how the distance between the Sun and the earth allows us to have the essential life resource of water. The illustrations enhance the text by giving the reader an opportunity to visualize the somewhat abstract concepts of space and the Sun. There is a list of fun facts about the Sun at the end of the book, which allows the reader to go even further in their learning, beyond the text of the book, into some scientific facts about the Sun. This book gives children the opportunity to learn something about a star that greatly affects everything on the planet, while presenting the information in language that young children can comprehend. (EJM)
Bird, Michael. 2016. Vincent’s starry night and other stories: A children’s history of art. Laurence King. 336pp. $29.95. ISBN 978-1-78067-615-9. Illustrations by Kate Evans.
Michael Bird creates an art history book that both young and old will enjoy. Each chapter highlights a new artist with focus on one piece of artwork and its story. A simple layout along with moving storylines provides an introduction to art history that is neither overwhelming nor dull. The book is organized by date, with overarching themes for each time period, including “Sacred Places” and “Revolution!” drawing connections between works and allowing for deeper thinking about the meaning of each piece and its historical context. Although there is new artwork introduced in every chapter, the book is also tied together visually through watercolor illustrations depicting the artist’s life. The perspective of each story varies, sometimes being told from a friend of the artist, which contributes to the story style and avoids turning into a dull textbook. The world map near the end of the book allows readers to place each artist physically while the timeline allows readers to place each artist in time. With artists from around the world, readers gain diversity in their knowledge of an often European-focused art history. Eye-catching and informative, Vincent’s Starry Night and other stories is the perfect companion for anyone interested in art or history. (JJB)
Bolden, Tonya. 2016. How to build a museum: smithsonian's national museum of african american history and culture. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 64pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-451-47637-1.
In this informational text, young historians experience the story of the groundbreaking National Museum of African American and Culture, following its dream, design, and physical creation. The story progresses through the entire life of the museum and is written as if the readers are a part of the building process, beginning with its original idea and concluding with the grand opening occurring this year. As told by the book, the dream began as early as 1915 by members of the Grand Army of the Republic’s Forty-Ninth National Encampment (GAR). However, between two world wars, the Civil Rights movement, and many other obstacles, the authorization of the bill for the building was not signed until 2003. Highlighting this long-awaited victory, the story parallels the struggles of the museum dream with the struggles of the very people it is intended to represent and preserve. Along with the history of the museum idea, the book also focuses on the actual location of the building and its construction. When designing the structure, intentional care was taken to show the pain and sorrow of African American history, yet also the joy of the community. From there, readers treasure hunt alongside the anthropologists who collected the artifacts for the building. Detailing the many categories and objects present, as well design features such as the brown exterior to pay homage to black ironworkers, readers are able to understand what the museum consists of and why each element is important. The final section of the book offers brief synopses of the different exhibits present in the museum, including “Slavery and Freedom” and “Changing America: 1968 and Beyond”. In addition to the detailed descriptions and personal accounts compiling the story of the museum, the book is also saturated with a variety of images. Using a mixture of many historical photographs and visuals of the artifacts, readers get a sense of what it would be like to experience the actual museum. This characteristic is important because many people will not be able to visit the museum in the near future or ever, and because the age of the intended audience will greatly benefit from being able to visualize concretely what is being referenced in the text. In this way, all aspects of the museum come to life and readers walk through history as the pages turn. Also, a story relating to creation will excite many young people and direct their attention to a very important cause and accomplishment. As mentioned previously, the greatest strength of this book is the parallel between the museum experience and the experience of actual African-Americans in this country, exposing readers to the reality of their struggles and the elation of their successes. (DB)
Boldt, Mike. 2016. A tiger tail (or what happened to Anya on her first day of school). Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 9781481448857.
Kindergarten-age girl, Anya, tries to get through her nervousness on the first day of school. Her nervousness stems from growing a tiger’s tail overnight, and is worried about what the other students at school will think. She tries her best to stay home from school by feigning illness and avoiding the bus, but she is carted to school anyway. Upon arriving at school, Anya realizes that she is not the only one with animalistic features. She fits in with the rest of her class.
This book is suited for children of preschool and kindergarten age because it relates to the personal development of that age group. The story is narrated by a young girl young readers can identify with. During this age, children may be afraid of strangers and change in the routine. Many children are nervous about going to school on the first day for a variety of reasons. Additionally, children between the ages of 3 and 6 are beginning to learn how to influence their parents and caregivers, just as Anya tries her best to avoid school at all costs.
The illustrations in the book are aesthetically riveting, and appropriate in relationship to the text. Many of the illustrations feature bright, energetic colors and characters with wide eyed expressions to match. The curliness of Anya’s hair adds to this sense of chaos. Most of the pictures are at an angle or are somehow distorted to further this sense of chaos, confusion, and nervousness. The illustrations, theme, and characterization in this book allows it to be a good choice to read to young students, especially at the beginning of the year. (CJS)
Bonnice, Lindsey. 2016. Libby and Pearl: The best of friends. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-06-245927-5. Photographed by Lindsey Bonnice.
A little girl’s friendship with a baby pig is explored through colorful pictures and captions that describing the duo’s adventures. The book uses a common color scheme of pink and blue pastels to create the mood of the text, which is simply a playful, light hearted friendship. Shapes are also used in the backgrounds of the pages to add contrast to the picture, as well as exemplify certain themes the text might have, such as polka dots to show a little bit of good-natured fun and mismatched shapes to show spontaneity. This book relies on the artistry to create the storyline, and although the words in the book are used to explain the pictures, the photographs are the focal point of the book. The elements of the background graphics, the text, and the photographs come together to create a playful book about the girl’s adventures with her pig friend. (EJM)
Boynton, Sandra. 2016. Dinosaurs dance. Simon & Schuster. 16pp. $3.97. ISBN 978-1481480994.
Children are introduced to humorous, dancing, and friendly dinosaurs. All these dinosaurs have their own special dance moves. In this short children’s book, there are many benefits and ways a child could be involved with the story. For instance, this book promotes language development due to the use of many rhymes. Children will enjoy how the words flow easily and will want to follow along! It would be beneficial to have the students repeat the rhymed phrases in order to comprehend the material. Additionally, this story promotes cognitive development because children will observe what the dinosaurs are doing in the pictures, and then, they could create a similar dance move. (MJO)
Braswell, Liz. 2016. Once upon a Dream: A twisted tale. Disney Book Group (Disney Press). 448pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-148470725-8.
The twisted tale of the classic Sleeping Beauty throws in a new plot twist: everyone in the kingdom is captive in Aurora Rose’s dream world that Maleficent rules. Braswell entices readers, grades 7-12, into this fantasy world by using magic, quests, and spirits. After slaying the dragon and kissing the princess, the prince is pulled into an alternate reality within Aurora Rose’s dream. Maleficent had been destroyed in the real world but when she had originally cursed Aurora as an infant, a part of Maleficent’s soul was bound to Aurora’s. In order to regain life and power, she only needs to keep Aurora unaware of the situation until midnight in the real world. The alternate reality had its own unique time line, though, and months are minutes compared to the real world. By the time that Aurora is able to realize she is in a dream, she is nineteen and has been living under Queen Maleficent for years. This time warp only becomes more confusing when Aurora flees the thorn-covered dream castle and sees the outside world for the first time. It was there she sees the prince for the first time in her memory. From that point on, the reader follows Aurora Rose and Prince Phillip as she fights to remember what is real and what is a memory within the dream. Maleficent has her own evil plan, though, and sends demons and other dark forces after Aurora in an attempt to bring her back to the castle. Once Aurora Rose realizes what is going on, she finally slays Maleficent in her dragon form and wakes up from her deep dream. This, of course, wakes everyone else who was under the spell as well. The people who were in the dream world that died at the hand of Maleficent sadly had the same grim fate in the real world. Aurora’s parents, the king and queen, were both dead. Aurora takes leadership and sends every able-bodied man to go looking and destroying any servants or signs of Maleficent. In the place where Prince Phillip had originally slayed the dragon Maleficent, there was a younger version of Maleficent that had befriended Aurora in the dream world. Being compassionate, Aurora made her final moments peaceful as Maleficent left the world. Readers are left with the epilogue in which Aurora Rose is being officially named queen. Prince Phillip will return to his own country and take the title of king as his father’s mental health withers and fails. There is a remaining hope that they will get married, after all, the two of them are in love, and that they will live happily ever after. As Aurora Rose says, though, she is making her own happy ever after. (CAF)
Bryan, Ashley 2016. Freedom over me: Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 56pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481456906. Illustrated by Ashley Bryan.
Ashley Bryan takes the stories of 11 slaves sold at the Fairchild’s appraisement on July 5th, 1828 and gives each slave a story. The author did extensive research on the slave trade between 1820 and 1860, however, no amount of research could find out the actual stories of these people, as these slaves were never given a chance to share. The document shows that 11 people were sold, however, Bryan attached the ages to these slaves which may be misleading to students if not explained. Each slave has a story told in the form of lyric poetry. The poems are told from each person’s perspective and tell about their feelings and their dreams. Each of the illustrations looks three dimensional throughout the book. The faces appear to pop out from the background, illustrating the importance of each and every face in the book. The chain on the cover of the book actually is three dimensional and pops out on the cover, with faces of slaves put behind the chain. This illustrates that the chain of slavery took over all of these people’s lives. This book will help students in upper elementary grades understand what happened during the slave trade and learn from the past. (APB)
Burk, James. 2015. Bird and squirrel: On the edge. Scholastic Inc (Graphix). 141pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-545-80426-4.
In Bird and Squirrel: One the Edge, children are invited into a world where two unlikely heroes work together to return a lost baby bear back to its mother, amidst a sequence of unfortunate events. Bird and Squirrel are traveling back to their home and the only thing standing between them are the mountains, but before they can fly over them, a helpless cry has the pair questioning what to do next. Bird is brave and wants to immediately turn back, but Squirrel is more hesitant and cautious. The characterization of both Bird and Squirrel help readers understand with that there is more than one way to handle situations and each person will respond based on their own values and beliefs. Squirrel was not exactly open to the idea of turning around for the cry because he was nervous and scared, however his attitudes change when brave Bird gets a concussion. While he was once scared, Squirrel had to step up and accept the responsibility of finding lost bears mom and figuring out a way to bring his friend back. Squirrel becomes an extraordinary animal, capable of defeating a pack of angry wolves and returning a lost bear. Squirrel emerges victoriously in this graphic novel because he sticks it out and directly confronts the situation he finds himself in. The key concepts are present when the villains, in this case the wolves, do not succeed in capturing baby bear and are thrown off a cliff; conveying the message that crime and poor behavior does not win. The enticing illustrations convey the same message as colorful tones become darker and include more shadows. The senses are become increasingly more and more unsafe with the inclusion of sharper, jagged lines whenever the wolves are around. All around, the illustrations add to and tie together the themes and text of this graphic novel in the most creative and thought out way. In a tale of unexpected heroism, adventure, and the hidden values of traditional literature, children will find themselves drawn to captivating images of Squirrel in an attempt to return all back to normal. (SSL)
Burks, James. 2016. Pigs in a blanket. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-148472523-8.
Pigs in a Blanket is a picture storybook aimed for preschool aged students who are dealing with the concept of sharing with others. Henry and Henrietta both share the same soft, fuzzy, and green blanket. They do everything with their blanket, such as, when Henrietta says, “I love reading with my blanket”, Henry repeats the emotion but changes his action, “ I love coloring with my blanket.” The change in the action is important as neither sibling is mimicking the other in a harmful way, which makes the emotion much stronger when they eventually fight over and rip their precious blanket. This characterization of Henrietta and Henry and their relationship make it easy for children to relate to the feelings of the siblings. The siblings get angry and upset with one another about ripping the blanket, but soon realize they don’t like being on their own while doing activities they love. The plot is easy to follow along and relate to. Children can follow the lead of Henrietta and Henry when learning to share, as sharing is much better when everyone is happy. (SSL)
Burleigh, Robert. 2016. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-1600-9. Illustrated by Raúl Colón.
Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Maria Tharp Maps the Ocean, is a historical fiction book that explores the life of Marie Tharp. This historical fiction book meets the majority of the criteria to pass as a successful telling of its story. All of the facts that are presented in the book are true and valid, and the words that are not easy to understand for a young child are put together in a list in the back of the book as a reference. Marie is at odds with all the people who do not believe she can be a female scientist. This conflict stems from the time in which the story occurred, when women were not as accepted in male professions. The theme of this book is closely related to freedom, in the sense that Marie wanted the freedom to do what she loved and to be treated as an equal in her profession. Lastly the point-of-view is in 1st person, where her personal beliefs and feelings are discussed. The imagery in this book is very unique in the sense that the images look as though they have been sketched onto an old map. The color palette that Colón utilizes demonstrates the under the sea theme, with all of the greens and blues. Overall this book is a successful historical fiction book. (HRC)
Burton, Jeffrey. 2016. Food trucks: A lift-the-flap meal on wheels. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 12pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-6521-2. Illustrated by Jay Cooper.
Take children on a culinary escapade with food trucks from around the United States in Jeffrey Burton’s Food Trucks. Picky eaters may want to turn back now, because readers will peel back all sorts of food. A pack of personified food trucks are full of edibles one would regularly find on a street corner. Color used throughout the book correlates with the country’s flag the food truck represents. The theme throughout is celebrating the varied foods one can find in many different food trucks. Jay Cooper uses thick lines to define objects in a clear cut manner. Although all the pages are flat, certain uses of coloring give the trucks a textured look. Shapes, though somewhat living, are geometrical to show the reader clear cut information. The food in each of the trucks is Americanized and reinforces the idea of an ethnocentric society. The sentiment is kind; getting children introduced to other foods they may not have on a regular basis, but does so in a somewhat disrespectful way. The Chinese truck has relevant design elements relating to architecture in China, but the personification of the truck could go without the squinty eyes. If reading this book to a child, it would be extremely important to clarify that food found in food trucks are not an accurate representation of the food consumed in that country. For example, fortune cookies are an American dessert served with ‘Chinese food’. While in China, desserts may be a simple serving of orange slices. Using few words, Food trucks is a text for children age’s two to four. Jeffery Burton has some great ideas in Food trucks, but may want to consider some changes for his next book on Americanized food. (JMS)
Byrd, Robert. 2016. Jason and the Argonauts. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4118-8.
Both informative and exciting, Jason and the Argonauts tells one of the oldest recorded tales in Greek mythology. Jason is known as one of the mightiest heroes in the ancient world, and his search for the Golden Fleece also brings encounters with monsters, sorceresses, and Greek gods.
Organized in smaller tales from his epic journey, each page includes important characters of Greek mythology and informational notes of each myth, creating a storybook with a wealth of research and history. The detailed illustrations provide insight into creatures difficult to imagine and the bright colors will attract readers of all ages. Used as an introduction to Greek Mythology or as a companion for those already interested, Byrd’s work brings these ancient and popular myths to a new generation. Large pages full of story text, informational notes, and meticulous illustrations give readers a comprehensive and intriguing retelling of a classic Greek tale. (JJB)
Callery, Sean & Smith, Miranda. 2016. Rocks, minerals & gems. Scholastic Inc. 224pp. $12.99. ISBN 9789-0-545-94719-0. Photos by Gary Ombler.
Rocks, Mineral & Gems, is a visual guide to all of the rocks, minerals and gems on earth. This informational book meets all of the criteria to be considered accurate and appealing for young students. The content within t is all valid information and information that is up to date. Because this is visual book, the images are carefully placed around the surplus of facts. The layout of the book is not cluttered, but instead has an equal balance between the information about each rock, gem and mineral and visual aids to help the readers connect each fact to the rock, mineral, or gem. Overall, this book is fitting for young readers to use as a source of information and fuel curiosity. (HRC)
Campoy, Isabel, and Theresa Howell. 2016. Maybe something beautiful: How art transformed a neighborhood. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544357693. Illustrated by Rafail Lopezl.
Maybe something beautiful is a picture storybook based on a true story in an urban San Diego neighborhood. The story is about how an artistic young girl and a muralist brought a neighborhood together through painting murals on the gray, drab buildings and benches. Young readers will relate to the inspiring young girl. The message in this book, that one child can make a big difference, is valuable, especially in schools.
The illustrations make the book memorable, and appropriate for the theme of art throughout the story. The majority of the illustrations in the beginning of the book are gray, black, and white. The exception is that the young girl and the artist are portrayed with vibrant colors. As the story goes on, the pages become more colorful, with bright shades of orange, pink, and purple. The growing energy and color in the illustrations as the story progresses symbolizes the growing energy in the neighborhood as the people spread their artwork. The illustrator uses both vertical and horizontal page spreads, which provides a creative perspective. Overall, the shape, colors, and tone of this book are very engaging for young children.
This book is a true piece of literature. It contains a plot told through simple text and intricate illustrations. It is relevant to a place in history because it is based on a true story. In fact, many other cities outside of San Diego have adopted the “Urban Art Trail” depicted in this story. This story should be recommended because it provides information on a real world phenomenon, while maintaining a clear message that anyone can change the world. (CJS)
Carmen, Patrick. 2016. Fizzopolis: Floozombies!. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 178pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239392-0. Illustrations by Brian Sheesly.
Harold Fuzwonker, his buddies Floyd and Sammy, and professor Fuzzwonker are in a pickle when their Fuzzwonker Fizzomatic (soda) machine is on the fritz. A piece of the less than desirable Flooze candy enters the fizzomatic machine by accident, which triggers the creation of green fizzy zombies that have wandered throughout town. It is up to Harold and the gang to save the town! The book uses two fictional settings within the text, Pflugerville and the massive laboratory underneath the Fuzzwonker residence. These setting become quite relatable for readers due to the colorful writing of Gill and the interesting black coal illustrations by Numberman. Recommended for grades 2-3. (KJN)
Carter, Aimee. 2016. Simon Thorn and the wolf’s den. Bloomsbury. 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-704-7.
Simon Thorn is an average adolescent boy. He is starting his first day of 7th grade with the hopes of a better school year where his friend wouldn’t act too cool for him while he fades into the background to avoid bullies. To add to his stress, Simon has been living with his uncle in crowded and bustling Manhattan after his mom left to travel the world as a zoologist. In the first few pages, readers quickly discover that Simon can also talk with animals. When Simon learns his mother has been kidnapped by a bunch of rats, he is brought into the world of Animalgam Academy. Located in Central Park, just across the street from his apartment, is an entire world of five war-torn animal kingdoms – Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Insects, and Underwater. As Simon learns about his family’s secrets and his shapeshifting capabilities, he realizes he may be the only one who can reunite the kingdom. But first, he must save his mother’s life as well as his own. Carter successfully suspends reader’s disbelief though inserting magic into the ordinary. New moments of suspense come with every page turn as details unravel about Simon’s newly discovered world and his family’s involvement with it. As many children dream of talking to animals, young readers will become invested in Simon’s abilities, his hero character, and the classic plot of good versus evil. The quick-paced, easy-to-read writing style, plus the exciting plot twist will leave readers, ages 8 – 12, wanting a sequel. (JJB)
Celenza, Anna. 2016. Haydn’s farewell symphony. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1580895279. Illustrated by JoAnn Kitchel
This children’s book for grades 1 – 4, is based on a true story. Prince Nicolas has hired an orchestra to entertain his guests at his summer home at Esterhaza. The orchestra is forced to leave their families for a summer in order to play for Prince Nicolas. He demands the orchestra to play music for every occasion. Joseph Haydn, the conductor and composer, is kept very busy writing pieces for each of those occasions. After months have passed, the orchestra members begin to truly miss their families. They request to have their families brought to Esterhaza to see them. The Prince denies this request, saying that there would not be room for the guests, if the families came. The end of summer comes and goes and the musicians are still at Esterhaza; growing more and more impatient. Haydn devises a fantastic plan to get the musicians back to their families through the performance of a piece. He composes a piece in F# minor, which is a very dreary key. The night this piece is premiered the musicians show their emotions through the music. The first movement begins explosively and intense. Prince Nicolas is enraged. The second movement demonstrates the sadness the musicians feel. The Prince begins to feel the sadness of the musicians. The third movement mocks the Prince’s dancing through “blaaps” in the horn and cello parts. The last movement begins slowly and the members of the orchestra leave the stage slowly one at a time. The Prince finally understands and gives the orchestra members permission to return home. The illustrations, throughout the book, capture the emotions felt. Each of the four movements of the symphony has a personal page of illustrations. Each page has the color of the emotion that one might feel while hearing that movement. During the opening movement, the music is angry and the color used in the illustration is red, conveying anger. The second movement is sad and the colors are blue. The third movement is scherzo and the colors are yellow. The final movement is slow and melancholy. The corresponding color is purple. The illustrations add to the pathos of the book. (APB)
Celenza, Anna. 2016. Mussorgsky’s pictures at an exhibition. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1580895286. Illustrated by JoAnn Kitchel.
The story, meant for readers between the ages 6-9, begins by describing three friends: Modest, Vladimir, and Victor from St. Petersburg, Russia. These friends met most days to work on projects related to art hoping to make a mark in the world. There was an architect, an artist, and a composer. Unexpectedly, one of the three friends, Victor, dies. Modest takes this death to heart and cannot show his face to the world for the first few weeks following the death. Vladimir spends the time creating an exhibition of all of Victor’s great works. Vladimir has to work hard to convince Modest to come to the opening of the exhibition. After seeing the works of Victor, Modest finds inspiration to compose again. Modest bases his composition off of Victor’s paintings and the end result is the piece “Pictures at an Exhibition.” The illustrations in this book add to the setting of the piece by describing the emotions on each page. The pictures are three dimensional at times, which makes the reader feel as if they are actually in the book. In the latter half of the book, the paintings are vital in describing the artwork Modest was composing based off of. The borders on each picture are a glimpse of Russian folk art. (APB)
Charara, Hayan. 2016. The three Lucys. Lee and Low Books Inc. 40pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-600-60998-5. Illustrated by Sara Kahn.
In this tragic picture storybook, young readers experience the harsh reality of a young life forever changed by war and violence. The three Lucys tells the story of Luli, a Lebanese boy who lives with his parents and his three cats: Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny, and Lucy Lucy. From the very beginning, it is apparent how important the cats are to Luli, and he to them. One day, as they do every summer, Luli and his parents travel to the city of Beirut, in order to visit his aunt and uncle. He always looks forward to these visits with great anticipation, but Luli also finds it difficult to leave the three Lucys behind. The family spends an enjoyable vacation in Beirut, but trouble arises on their return journey home. The night of their return, Luli’s hometown is attacked by Israeli missiles and bombs, due to a conflict Luli has a difficult time understanding. The family has no choice but to return to the safety of the aunt and uncle’s home in Beirut, and Luli becomes extremely worried for the three Lucys. The whole family is greatly troubled by the danger and trauma of the events taking place, which the reader experiences directly as well. The seriousness of the war and violence in Luli’s life is not lost because his story is told as a children’s book. Eventually, after over a month of waiting, a ceasefire is declared and Luli is able go home with his parents. Although their house remains relatively intact, most of the town is an unrecognizable mess of rubble and pain. Luli is overjoyed when he is finally reunited with Lucy the Fat and Lucy the Skinny, but he never stops waiting for Lucy Lucy to arrive as well. Through all of the sadness of losing his home and one of his best friends, Luli reflects fondly of his time with Lucy Lucy, as these memories mean she is living in a place of safety and peace. From roughly age eight to twelve, readers of this book are forcefully uprooted from the comfort of their own lives and forced into a life that no one should ever have to experience. Although themes of war, violence, and loss are all difficult to stomach for anyone, let alone children, The Three Lucys tells of a reality that young readers need to know about. Also, the information gained for this book is so effective because it is given within the context of relatable events. Many children will understand Luli’s relationship with his cats, the value of family, or even the feeling of loss. Although readers growing up in the United States will never be able to understand a life like Luli’s, this story forces children to be empathetic leading them on the path to becoming a caring global citizen. Another aspect of the picture storybook that makes the situation so realistic is the illustrations. For example, readers who observe the facial expressions of the characters are given incredible context into the emotions being felt. Also, the color scheme and setting create contrasting moods, alternating from warm colors to dark colors and back again depending on whether or not violence is occurring. Because of these components, young readers develop socially and cognitively. Most importantly, Luli’s story evokes empathy, which any young child needs to understand as they live in a world where tragedies like war, violence and loss are real. (DB)
Cheney, Lynne. 2002. America: A patriotic primer. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 40pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-7961-5. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.
This primer for ages 4-8 would most likely be accepted in schools, but that does not mean that it should be. This alphabetical explanation of why it is “very good” to live in the United States of America has a few too many stereotypes. The “N is for Native Americans” page at least references the people who were here before colonists, but the information provided about them is only their recent successful individual stories. However, they do have an image of Pocahontas and Sacajawea both looking exactly like the white people next to them. The Pocahontas scene looks as if it were taken from the Disney movie, however, in this picture, they have John Smith’s age much more historically accurate. Another disappointing feature is the excess inclusion of God. This religious spewing of Christianity is something educators should consider before bringing this text to a classroom. Not every student will have a Christian belief and educators should not make them feel excluded or different by including texts that have a lot of mention of religion. Almost half of the letters of the alphabet are correlated with names, such as “L for Lincoln,” or “K is for King” (referencing Martin Luther King, Jr., not King George III). The text is filled with very small print and very detailed lines in the pictures. Because ages 4-8 are approximately in kindergarten through third grade, I am not sure the small interjections of text are appropriate for the reading level. There is a lot going on in this book. Visually, there are more than five different picture scenes on every individual page. There is also a border of text that runs the entire length of all four sides of each page. There is a lot, and perhaps too much, happening for first graders to read this book. On some pages, I myself struggled to even find the main portion of text because the page is so busy. Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney obviously loves this country, and this book shows how much she knows about its history, however, the age level suggested would not comprehend this book, and would most likely struggle reading through it. (CAF)
Cheney, Lynne. 2006. Our 50 states: A family adventure across America. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 74pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-7960-8. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.
Lynne Cheney, wife of former vice president of the United States of America, has written a number of books about the United States and its history. Our 50 states in particular has fun historical facts for young readers. This nonfiction informational text has one or two pages dedicated to each state. Although there is no coherent order of how the states were placed in the book, there is a map included in the first pages to give you a “roadtrip” through the country. However, this map still has no connection to how the states were chosen. The recommended age for readers is 4 to 8 years old. I believe that is an inappropriate age for the text, because as an adult I could not manage to read more than a handful of pages of this very dense, overfilled book. The illustrations within the text are lovely, but there are over a dozen images on every single page with blurbs of text that are very small font, have grammar that most 8-year-olds would just be learning, and no fluidity to the book at all. Unfortunately, the words on the page would not interest someone of the recommended age group as they are clustered, hard to read, and lack any story line. The pages are horrendously overfilled. Fortunately, the illustrations are very well executed. Almost every fact is supported with an image, there is an outline of the individual state on the page, and the colors used are soft to the eyes while still catching the attention of readers. All in all, the text would be better suited for older students and should be mostly used as a reference, not a free read. (CAF)
Cheney, Lynne. 2016. A is for Abigail: An almanac of amazing American women. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-7959-2. Illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser.
Women hold an important place in society, and are oftentimes under recognized for their incredible achievements not only in today’s world, but throughout history. It is important that all children are given appropriate role models, including girls from diverse backgrounds, and this book does that by providing successful American women to look up to. By talking about women such as author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, developer of African American hair products, Madame C.J. Walker, and first woman member of congress, Jeannette Rankin, the book gives girls of all ages and experiences women to look up to. Although the reader, ages 6-12, more than likely knows the letters of the alphabet, this book gives the reader an opportunity to see the success of women who immigrated to America from many countries and were successful in many things, such as acting and medicine. The book is rich with text, as there are many women included on each page, and includes a variety of vocabulary for children to learn. The book contains notes in the index about all of the women, and includes detailed illustrations that complement the text to show the reader the extraordinary things these women have done. Overall, this book allows readers, both boys and girls alike, to celebrate in the accomplishments that women have made throughout the years. (EJM)
Clanton, Ben. 2016. It came in the mail. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481403603. Illustrated by Ben Clanton.
In It Came in the Mail, a young boy named Liam is introduced as a child who loves to get mail. Liam decides he is going to write a letter to his mailbox because maybe if he writes mail, then he will receive some back. Throughout the book Liam’s mailbox turns out to be magical and sends him anything he asks for such as a fire breathing dragon. This picture book shows a sense of fantasy through all the magical and obscure objects that come from the mysterious mailbox, but it also has a good moral to the story. Liam realizes that getting mail makes him happy, and he decides that he is going to give away his mail to make others happy. This book shows how giving away things to others can make them and you happy. This moral is excellent for a child’s book because it teaches them at a young age that sharing is a great thing. The images in this book are perfect for the story, due to the texture and colors. The illustrator portrayed the book as though it was children’s doodles and drawn with a medium that is similar to a crayon. These little details make the book more relatable and imaginative to the reader. (HRC)
Clarkson, Kelly. 2016. River Rose and the magical lullaby. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-242756-4 Illustrations by Laura Hughes.
River Rose loves to sing, skip, and hop! She patiently waits for the day to pass so she can go to the zoo. As her mother prepares to tuck her in at bedtime, she sings River a magical lullaby. As soon as River is alone in her room, a bundle of balloons appears in her window and whisk her away to the zoo for a late night adventure!
This book harnesses the poetic aspects of rhythm and rhyme, an enjoyable literary device for young readers. On two occasions, the book uses the classic lullaby structure that is both catchy and sincere. Many readers may want their parents to sing them this lullaby when getting tucked in after reading this book. This book is recommended for grades PreK-1. (KJN)
Claybourne, Anna. 2016. The amazing animal adventure. Laurence King Publishing Ltd. 64pp. $19.95. ISBN 978-1780678450. Illustrated by Brendan Kearney.
This book, intended for readers between the ages of 6 and 10, takes students on an adventure to many places and habitats. Each picture is set in a different location ranging from the Namib Desert to the Greenland Tundra. The text on the page explains what animals are found in each location and presents other pertinent facts. Readers are given a certain number of each kind of animal to find in the illustration. Part of the book also involves teaching different habitats to readers. Each habitat is assigned to a dot color and each illustration has blank dots on each animal for readers to fill in the correct biome. The colors used in the illustrations match the location. For instance, the High Himalayas illustration uses gray, black, and brown to demonstrate the mountain landform whereas the Great Barrier Reef uses vibrant yellow, orange, pink, purple, red, and blue to depict the tropical climate. This book is incredibly engaging and could be used more than once in a classroom. Readers will be excited to explore diverse places and learn about unique animals. (APB)
Cleary P. Brian. 2014. A bat cannot bat, a stair cannot stare: more about homonyms and homophones. Millbrook Press. 32pp. $6.95. ISBN 978-1-5124-1799-9. Illustrated by Martin Goneau.
A Bat Cannot Bat, a Stair Cannot Stare: More about Homonyms and Homophones utilizes many literary aspects of a successful poetry book. This book has an obvious rhythm and wordplay to it. Immediately, this book has a creative sense to it. The word play throughout the book evokes a childlike joy with the readers. With all of the funny homonyms and homophones this book’s humor gives the young reader something compelling to pay attention to. The images and the humorous text help the young readers differentiate the different forms of the words and see the words in possible new ways. (HRC)
Cleary, Brian. 2017. Underneath my bed: List poems. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $6.95. ISBN 978-1512412109. Illustrated by Richard Watson.
Consisting of a variety of list poems, this book is intended for students between the ages of 7 and 11. The book clearly expresses the idea that lists can be turned into poetry. Prior to reading the poems, students are introduced to what exactly a list poem can be and they are encouraged to work on writing their own list poems. Brian Clearly introduces students to many differing models of list poems to give them examples as they begin to create their own. The poems in the book are written about everything from what happens at the bus, to what you might find in a glove compartment. Some of the lists are rhythmic, some contain rhyme, and some have neither. The illustrations are crucial to the success of this book. The faces of the children in each illustration represent the emotions in each poem. Each illustration gives imagery to each poem as vivid colors are used to match the bold descriptions in each poem. In “Great Grandmother’s Pet Store,” many animals cover the page and each animal has a different color. This represents the chaotic feeling of a pet store. Underneath my Bed:List Poems will inspire students to use their imagination as they create and read poetry. (APB)
Codell, Raji. 2016. Maybe mother goose. Simon & Schuster. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4036-3. Illustrated by Elisa Chavarri.
Perfect for kindergartners, Maybe Mother Goose provides a concept approach to classic nursery rhymes such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, and numerous other classics. Each of the rhymes is associated with elaborate and vibrant illustrations that provides enough texture to make it seem as though the page is coming alive. A whimsical twist is used within each nursery rhyme with the addition of a new object, character, or animal that the reader must identify as having no relationship to the nursery rhyme. After this new element is solidified, the illustrator creates new and exciting versions of the nursery rhyme including the object, character, or animal without correlation with the original version. (KJN)
Colfer, Eoin. 2016. Iron Man: The gauntlet. Disney Book Group (Marvel). 288pp. $16.99. 978-1405285414
Iron Man: The gauntlet is a futuristic science fiction novel. Unlike fantasy novels, the main character, Tony Stark, lives in a world that is very much like the present United States, but exceptionally technologically advanced. Many of the trends and technology used in this story are elaborate extensions of modern day technology. The idea of science advancing to the setting of this story is part of what makes it an exhilarating read. Without his wealth and gadgets, Tony Stark is an ordinary man. The characterization of Tony Stark is realistic in that he is not the perfect protagonist. He is ornery and arrogant. He is also plagued by his childhood of being ignored by his successful father, and later the death of both of his parents in an automobile accident. These characteristics make Stark intriguing yet relatable to readers.
Similarly, the author is able to suspend disbelief through the setting. The story takes place on Earth, in countries such as the United States and Ireland. The author is descriptive of Tony Stark’s surroundings. He describes places like Stark’s father’s office and his yacht in great detail. He is also able to describe the technology (though non-existent presently) in great detail. Many other factors contribute to a realistic setting. For instance, modern police and military forces are very much active in the story. Tony Stark’s recreational lifestyle is also believable and interesting. This, along with the characterization of Tony Stark, creates an engaging story.
Upper elementary students who have an interest in science fiction would likely delve into this story easily. The sarcastic tone of the narration and dialogue is funny and attractive to this age group. Additionally, the realistic yet flamboyant attributes of Tony Stark’s world lend to the story as one students would want to get lost in. (CJS)
Connor, Leslie. 2016. All rise for the honorable Perry T. Cook. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 400pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233346-9.
This book follows 11 year old Perry T. Cook as he navigates life. Elementary kids ages 8-12 can journey with Perry through his unusual circumstances. Perry has lived at Blue River Correctional Facility since birth. His mother Jessica had been a resident for the past twelve years. Special arrangements were made so that Perry could stay there with her and be raised by her. Conflict arises when the district attorney, VanLeer, discovers that this young boy has grown up in a correctional facility. VanLeer takes the matter into his own hands as he brings the boy into his own home as a foster child, taking Perry away from the home he has always known. He discovers that his own daughter is Perry’s good friend from school. Perry wants more than anything to be back with his mother and tries to fight to go back to Blue River. VanLeer believes that Perry should not be living at the facility. He also believes that Jessica did not serve her sentence fully because her child was allowed to stay with her. Perry knows that his mother is eligible for parole soon but realizes that VanLeer is the one person that will make the situation difficult. As Perry waits for the day he can be reunited with his mother, he researches why his mother was in the facility in the first place. Eventually, Perry convinces his mother to tell him the whole truth. She was sent to the correctional facility because she was in an accident that caused a death and she took the blame for it. Perry was relieved to finally know the truth and figure out the missing pieces in his life. Eventually, the day arrives where Jessica’s case is reviewed. VanLeer argues his case, but the board disagrees with him unanimously and Jessica is allowed to leave Blue River. Finally, Jessica and Perry have a place to call their own and can live there together. In All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, readers have to decide throughout the book who they agree with. Do they agree with VanLeer, who believes life would be better for Perry outside of Blue River, or do they agree with Perry who is happy with the life he has already? (APB)
Cornell, Kevin. 2016. Go to sleep, monster!. HarperCollins Publishers (Blazer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234915-6.
Cornell, author and illustrator, shows his attention to detail in color and shape. A young girl goes into her brother’s room and tells him to turn off the light and go to sleep. The young boy is trying to fall asleep, but cannot because of the monster under his bed. The monster under the bed cannot go to sleep because he is scared of the monster under his bed. The cycle continues with many more monsters until the very last monster is being told to go to bed. The shape and coloring of each monster and the location they are hiding is unique from the others. The final monster is scared to go to sleep because he does not wish to be alone. The characters all come back to the boy’s bedroom and they all fall asleep together with the light on. The color detail of each character is vivid and the shading creates almost three-dimensional images, but Cornell pays particular attention to the lines of the light and the shadows casted. Overall, a quick read for ages 4-8 with detailed pictures and a resolved plot. (CAF)
Craft, Mahlon F. 2016. Beauty and the Beast. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-053919-1. Illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft.
A folktale retold by Mahlon F. Craft, Beauty and the Beast is a classic fairy-tale that captivates young readers with its story of enchantment and love. The colors in the illustrations are faded and represent the colors and themes of a time in the distant past. Each picture of Belle has an element of whimsy and magic as the story progresses. Readers, ages four to eight, will be able to comprehend the emotion of jealousy the two eldest sisters hold for Belle, the youngest. The family was wealthy and prosperous until a day came when their fortune was lost. The only possessions the family had were in a cottage in the woods. Belle worked tirelessly to maintain the household for her aging father with no help from her sisters. The day they heard their fortune, thought to be lost at sea, had made it to port was the day which set the course for more misfortune upon the family. While the state was keeping the fortune to pay the debts the family owed, Belle’s father found himself lost while returning. He found himself at a fine castle and when it came time for him to leave, he recalled Belle desired a single rose from his travels. He picked a rose from the beast’s bushes and the beast was enraged. Vowing to return within three weeks or send a daughter to replace him, the beast allowed the old man to return home. Belle took her father’s place because she believed the entire ordeal was due to her request. As time continued, Belle stopped fearing the beast and began to admire his gentleness and compassion. Every evening he would ask for her hand in marriage and every evening she would refuse. One day she saw her father very ill in his bed through the enchanted mirror located in her room. She asked the beast if she could return to him. Allowing her one week to return, she awoke in her father’s cottage. Belle’s ever jealous sisters could not wait to try to destroy her life and begged and pleaded for Belle to stay longer than the week she had promised. It was only when she awoke from a nightmare of the beast’s death when she realized her admiration of the beast was true love. She returned to him only to find the beast contented to die after seeing her face one last time. She asked if he would accept her hand in marriage and at once, the beast was transformed into a handsome prince. Belle and the prince were soon married with father and sisters present. The faerie who had cursed the prince into a beast had watched the selfish deeds the sisters had done. The faerie then cursed the sisters to remain as stone statues until they could repent their selfishness. Belle, still kind of heart, moved her sister statues to overlook the garden after months had passed without their change. The theme in this fairy-tale is very apparent as the changes in characters lead to personal growth and development within Belle and the beast. This story is a classic which has lasted through generations and will continue to inspire and captivate readers for many more generations to come. (CAF)
Creech, Sharon. 2016. Moo: A novel. HarperCollins Publishers (Joanna Cotler Books). 288pp. $16.77. ISBN 978-0-06-241524-0. Jacket art by Vincent Moustache.
Young protagonist, Reena, and her family have lived in New York City for her entire twelve years of life. All of that changes when her parents move the entire family to Maine. The change of environment creates a realistic plot for readers ages 8-12. Just as Reena and her younger brother, Luke, begin to explore the town, their parents volunteer the two children to aid a seemingly normal old lady, Mrs. Falala. Reena and Luke dread going to Mrs. Falala’s house until they meet Zora, the cow. Once Mrs. Falala becomes intrigued by Luke’s drawing abilities, Reena is left alone to bond with and care for Zora. Reena and Zora’s relationship grows as Reena begins to appreciate the hard work she does to care for all the animals. As Luke and Mrs. Falala improve her drawing skills, Luke learns more about her life and begins to form a friendship with her. Zep, a lanky farm boy from outside of town, and Reena begin to train stubborn Zora together. When Mrs. Falala sees this, she tells Reena that she will show Zora at the fair later that summer. Reena spends countless hours trying to train Zora which creates an even stronger bond and relationship between the girl and cow. The day of the fair arrives, and although everything seems to be going perfectly, as soon as Zora walks up to the ring to enter the judging she bolts out of Reena’s grip and starts running about the pins of animals. Reena, ever determined, chases Zora and finally calms her down. Reena decides that she and Zora will try one last time to show the judges how well Zora can perform. This time was successful and the judges compliment Reena on how well she handled Zora earlier. From city girl to country cow girl, Reena reflects on the changes she has made since her time in Maine. The next morning a phone call wakes the family early in the morning. Mrs. Falala is missing. Reena and Luke are brought to Mrs. Falala’s to care for the animals while the adults search the house and field for her. Luke, from creating a connection with Mrs. Falala, notes how she would always play flute in the attic. Reena and Luke race inside and find Mrs. Falala’s body in her attic still holding her silver flute. As tragedy can hit with just a moment’s notice, Reena feels completely lost and fears what is to come of the animals. Mrs. Falala’s attorney brings news that all of the animals have been left to Reena’s family to care for. Almost a perfect ending, but Reena’s family face realistic financial issues and cannot afford the house or the land. The attorney, also Mrs. Falala’s neighbor, offers to purchase the land as an investment and allow the family to rent the property and care for the animals. Reena’s self-discovery throughout her journey moving to Maine shows her new growth, understanding, and appreciation of the world. (CAF)
Cronin, B.B. 2016. The lost house. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-101-99921-9.
The lost house is an elaborative seek-and-find book following two children wanting to go to the park with their grandfather. However, they first must help Grandad find his things. Readers travel through his massive house in search of Grandad’s socks, pocket watch, teeth, and much more in the storyline containing lists of objects to find. Each room has new opportunities to find items, using alliterations and objects that start with the same letter or phoneme. Children are challenged with new vocabulary and items embedded in the story rather than a simple list of objects with exact pictures of each item. The illustrations are complex, with eye-catching colors that define each room of Grandad’s house. Using a timeless style and classically bright colors, Cronin’s artwork is appealing for all audiences, young and old. Grandad’s busy, old-fashioned house will bring nostalgia to adults reminiscent of days spent in their parents’ or grandparents’ cluttered house; one can almost smell the classic mustiness of the rooms on each page. Subtly humorous and visually and cognitively engaging, The lost house will encourage wonder with every page turn. (JJB)
Crowl, M. Tara. 2016. Eden’s escape. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1484711866.
InEden’s Escape, the fantasy world is explored through a young girl named Eden’s adventures. Eden is a young genie that has been confined to her lamp for many years until she is finally set free and living in Manhattan. Eden goes through many difficult tasks, such as trying to escape from David Brightly, an owner of the world’s leading tech company. These tasks culminate in Eden trying to save the century-old genie lamp and the genie legacy. While Eden is a genie and has magical powers to grant wishes, the book is set in modern day and real world cities such as Manhattan and Paris. The story line is could be believable with the help of the reader’s imagination. Though suspended disbelief is evident through Eden’s magical powers, this fantasy book has many realistic characteristics as well. (HRC)
Cuevas, Michelle. 2016. The unucorker of ocean bottles. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 9480803738683. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead.
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, Michelle Cuevas shares a story of lonely man finding belonging within his community. The tale begins with a lonely man, living in a lonely house, along a lonely shore. However lonely he is, his job is of the utmost importance. It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and deliver them to their rightful owner. Whether it is sunny, rainy, brisk, or cold, it is his duty to deliver the bottled messages. There are times where the uncorker finds himself delivering messages of sadness or happiness. Regardless of nature of the message, he always knows the letter will make people quite happy. As the story continues, the reader finds the uncorker to be quite sad; this is because no letter is addressed to him. Finally, one day he finds a bottle floating just offshore with no address. The uncorker makes it his duty to find the owner of the letter, but has no luck. Eventually he finds the letter was meant for him, and the community he serves wants to throw a party in celebration of him. Through his despair of searching for belonging, the uncorker finally realizes the people he cares for most are the people who care for him. There are times where people may feel like they are alone, but in reality they must come to embrace challenges and be thankful for the people in their lives. The illustrations use cool pastel colors to show the dire loneliness of the uncorker, but then become much warmer when the uncorker finds happiness and inner peace. Cuevas shows children a life lesson in how to be empathetic with others, as well as themselves. All people will be receptive to the message of this story, but children ages four to eight may find more interest in the storyline. If looking to work on interpersonal communication skills with children, Cuevas’s book The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles is a great selection for discussing emotions. (JMS)
Cummings, Phil. 2016. Newspaper Hats. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1580897839. Illustrated by Owen Swan.
Newspaper Hats is a picture storybook that is incredibly informative about elderly memory loss, an issue that affects a multitude of individuals and families today. This book features a young girl named Georgie, who is visiting her grandpa in the nursing home with her dad. In the beginning of the story, Georgie is anxious about whether or not her grandpa will remember her. As a matter of fact, it is not completely relayed whether or not the grandpa does remember her, although it is likely that he does not. With each prompt from Georgie to her grandfather (“but Grandpa...do you remember me?) the grandfather looks at a picture from his younger years and reminisces about that time. He never acknowledges that he remembers Georgie. Despite this obstacle, Georgie and Grandpa find that they both like to and remember how to make newspaper hats. They make newspaper hats for all of Grandpa’s friends.
The purpose of this story is to shed awareness on the common issue of memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer's. It is also meant to relay to children that even if their elderly friend or grandparent does not remember them, it does not mean that they are unloved. The illustrations by Owen Swan make this book special. Swan uses pastels and sketching that is both simple and detailed at the same time. The pencil strokes are delicate and soft on the page, and geometric shapes are used for the most part. The artistic elements used for the illustrations relay safety and serenity. This is meant to send a message, as safety and serenity are not likely how children feel when they are not remembered, nor how grandparents feel when they cannot remember. On the page that Georgie and Grandpa are making the hats, Swan illustrates how to do so for the reader. The front and back pages of the books are illustrated with newspaper headings that date back to the 1950’s and on; newspapers that may be in the possession of elderly folk. Newspaper Hats is written and illustrated phenomenally, and belongs in any classroom or home. (CJS)
Cusick, Dawn. 2014. Animals That Make Me Say Look Out!. Charlesbridge (Imagine). 80pp. $14.95 ISBN 978-1-62354-080-7.
Animals That Make Me Say Look Out!, is an informational book about animals that life in the wildlife. As far as an informational book goes this one is very age appropriate for middle aged elementary, such as 2-4th graders. The success of this book is not only in the well backed up facts, but also how the books is laid out. There is not an access of words on each page so that balances out the fair share of pictures. This book flows well through each chapter and gives enough detail so that the information is understandable, but is not too wordy so that the students do not want to read the entire book. (HRC)
Davies, Stephen. 2016. All aboard for the Bobo road. Lerner Publishing Group (Anderson Press). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5124-1598-8. Illustrator Christopher Corr.
Using counting and color, Davies and Corr combine their skills to create a picture storybook for children, ages four-seven. Told in third person, the reader follows two young African children and their father as he drives a minibus picking up people while driving on the Bobo road. One by one we add more luggage to the bus as we count to ten different items. The colors are vibrant as the bus passes lounging hippos, pink and magenta flamingos, clean blue waterfalls, lush green forests, and ancient red and brown rock domes. Each page is filled with painted pictures of people in Africa. The line on the page provides readers with a sense of how the bus is moving throughout the story. As all the riders reach their destination in the big city, the two children assist in unloading all the luggage. Ten chickens, nine goats, eight ducks, seven watermelons, and so on. When everyone has their luggage there is still one package left. The package is for the hungry children from their father, the minibus driver. They open the package just as the sun begins to set, casting a red and orange glow to everything around them. As the father admires how beautiful the land and people around them are, the children are admiring how yummy their dinner looks. (CAF)
All aboard for the Bobo Road, a picture storybook from the life experiences of author Stephen Davies. The Banfora bus station is a hustle and bustle of people trading and selling goods from around the local area just southwest of Burkina Faso. Davies is a missionary that lives with the Fulani herders in West Africa. He is fluent in the Fulfulde language and is an integral part of the community where he broadcast news and other information across radio. The tour guide in the story is Big Ali who owns and operates a minibus that carries passengers, goods, and everything in-between along the Bobo Road. On this particular day his children, Fatima and Galo, join him to view the sights along the Bobo Road. The places visited by Big Ali’s minibus are all places that exist in real life; this includes Lake Tengrela, Karfiguela Falls, and the Domes of Fabedougou. At the end of the story Big Ali treats his children to a huge pot of rice, beans, and fried fish. Although the story lacks any form of conflict, the reader learns about geographical locations in Western Africa and how they are valued. The illustrations are colorful throughout the book and rely heavily on the different use of color since the shaping is geometrical. The use of base lines takes the reader from left to right across Readers ages four to eight will have the most success when following Big Ali along the Bobo Road. Stephen Davies is a missionary who writes a story about the everyday life of the peers he lives among in All aboard for the Bobo Road. (JMS)
Dean, Kimberly & James Dean. 2016. Pete the cat and the missing cupcakes. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-230434-6.
Pete the Cat and his friend Gus are baking cupcakes to prepare for their cupcake party later in the day. While they work, they notice some of the cupcakes have disappeared, so they act as detectives in search of the cupcake thief. Each clue introduces readers to a new character, who denies stealing the treats, until they discover the culprit – Grumpy Toad. While the rest of the friends agree that Grumpy Toad should not be able to attend their party tonight, Pete chimes in with the idea of giving Grumpy Toad a second chance. He joins the fun that evening, bringing enough cupcakes for everyone. Pete the cat and the missing cupcakes teaches the importance of second chances, because everyone makes mistakes. Although this theme is quite obvious, the emotions of the characters allow children to feel empathy. The rhyming pattern of the story creates a pleasant flow, perfect for reading aloud. While many of the rhymes were basic and repetitive, the simplicity will promote children’s language development as they begin to associate sounds with letters. James Dean’s creative illustrations will intrigue and humor readers with their bright colors and caricature style. Readers ages 3-8 can continue their enjoyment by reading the other books that depict the adventures of Pete the Cat and his friends. (JJB)
Dean, James. 2016. Pete the cat’s got class. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 24pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-230410-0.
In Pete the Cat’s Got Class, young children are invited to follow along and join Pete as he expresses his love of mathematics and how he spreads the same love to Tom. Tom publicly exclaims his disinterest and struggle with mathematics which prompts Pete to help his friend. While this story is not modern fantasy it does portray one characteristic of the genre to convey how this story is not realistic. Pete the Cat’s got class uses the characteristic of articulate animals to tell and create a story to its audience. Most common in modern fantasy are animals who talk like people but retain the qualities of the animal to create relatable characters. Pete the cat is a loyal and helpful friend. He goes home with Tom to help Tom find at least some of the same enjoyment he feels when doing math. Tom dismisses and tries to redirect the situation by asking if they could play with his brand new racecars instead. This gives Pete his lightbulb moment, where he knows how he could help his friend. Pete was able to observe what interested Tom and was able to apply and incorporate those new facts to the issue at hand, supporting Tom with understanding math. In those two short pages Dean incorporated skills associated with cognitive development in children, into a practical and real life example or situation. Just like any other picture storybook those two pages would not have been useful in helping children deduce the whole story without both the illustrations and the text. The illustrations and text in this book complement each other very well. While the text describes what is happening in the plot, the illustration acts out the plot with the addition of emotions and direction. When Pete is working with Tom to explain how his race cars will help him, essentially as manipulatives, the drawings visually show the math problem as Pete would have shown Tom. Pete the cat shows students it is okay to struggle with both a subject but it is also okay to find a different way from what most other people use to achieve the same success, a valuable lesson for a student of any age to understand. (SSL)
Demuth, Patricia. 2016. The sun: Our amazing star. Penguin Random House LLC (Grosset & Dunlap). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-448-48828-8.
Young students often times confuse the sun as a planet rather than identifying the sun as a star. With Demuth’s book, this confusion can easily be resolved. Demuth provides vivid images of the sun and everything that the sun impacts. Referring to the sun as, “our most important star” Demuth reminds readers that we need the sun to grow plants and food, for a renewable energy source, and the need for vitamin D provided from sunlight. Using vivid description and images captured from satellites in space, students can understand its gaseous composition by viewing the fire like surface and unpredictable solar flares that erupt from the sun. Recommended for grades 2-3. (KJN)
Denos, Julia. 2016. Swatch: The girl who loved color. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $13.79. ISBN 978-0-06-236638-2.
Children are immersed into a colorful and exciting world where they meet a vibrant, bright, and confident young lady named Swatch. She has a special power where she can command the colors to dance, do magic, or anything else she desires. Eventually, she realizes she can collect these magnificent colors in jars. Throughout the whole story, children will be engrossed with the illustrations as they turn each page. Denos used watercolor to create her illustrations. This type of art evokes mood and will leave children feeling joyful, imaginative, and enthusiastic. As children study each illustration more, they will notice how there are no definite lines and how everything seems to flow together. There are many organic shapes and curvy lines suggesting movement and imagination. Additionally, there are vertical and horizontal lines all over Swatch’s clothes. These lines suggests she is strong and comforting character. Swatch embodies confidence and imagination, and she contributes to children’s personality development because she shows the importance of expressing oneself. Children will be inspired by Swatch to follow their dreams and be creative! Lastly, the colors play an important role in the story because they are so vibrant on each page. The colors each display their own meaning such as blue conveying calmness and curiosity. Overall, readers can feel emotionally connected to the story through the colors. (MJO)
Dhariwal, Radhika. 2014. The tale of a no-name squirrel. Simon and Schuster. 370pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4475-0. Illustrations by Audrey Benjaminsen.
In The Tale of a No-Named Squirrel, readers are invited to join and participate in a riddle solving quest Squirrel is sent on after drinking a sacred ceremonial wedding wine. The riddle has Squirrel and his newly acquainted friends traveling from a walled city of bees to a treacherous desert full of deceitful characters, all while attempting to outsmart the Colonel who wishes to capture Squirrel and the key. Overall, the plot of The Tale of a No-Named Squirrel has a decent plan of action. Squirrel is battling a person against person conflict with the Colonel throughout the book, even though he does not know who he is fighting against right from the beginning. Squirrel recognizes someone, somewhere has it out for him the moment the wedding he was attending is crashed by kowas, crows who have the same job description as bounty hunter. As for characterization, Squirrel develops in the most mature way possible though his quest, seeing as he is only thirteen years old when he stumbles upon this hidden riddle meant to be exposed at a later age when he married. He is faced with challenge after challenge and he confronts them all and using wit and knowledge overcomes them all. Readers might have trouble finding or understanding the themes of this story, as they are masked under the few very vivid and descriptive violence scenes. But underlying messages are of friendships and learning to trust in yourself and your abilities, never settling for anything less than you are. Squirrel had a hard time figuring these out, it fits pretty well with the overarching theme of personal development. Readers will enjoy and be entertained joining the quest to find Brittle key before the Colonel, helping Squirrel decode the map with an interactive puzzle, and finally learning about who Squirrel really is. (SSL)
Diaz, Alexandra. 2016. The only road. Simon & Schuster. 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5750-7
In The Only Road, young adult readers travel with Jamie and Ángela across treacherous terrain from their home in Guatemala to America, hoping it will lead them to safety. The cousins are forced to leave their home, their immediate family, and everything they have ever known after Miguel, a cousin to Jaime and a brother to Ángela, falls prey to the violent gang, the Alphas. The Alphas control the community the cousins grew up in and have a strong influence on political decisions, which is why Miguel’s murder passed of as an unfortunate event. Their family protects them by sending them to Estados Unidos, the United States. During the trying and difficult journey, the cousins face challenges that test the cousins mentally. Hopes, fears, and morals are all subjects in the book. Jaime and Ángela must make important choices about their lives. Every decision they make must be carefully thought out and executed as the actions could potentially land them in a much more dangerous situation. At one point Ángela breaks down mentally and begins to wonder if the journey is worth the trouble. Jaime reminds her of the fate awaiting her at home. The situations Jaime and Ángela find themselves in after this pivotal point in their trip are enhanced by vivid descriptions and believable dialogue readers can use to understand a situation real for many persons currently pursuing safety and freedom by traveling to America. Diaz explores many very complex and controversial subjects within the pages of her novel. The biggest controversial topic is the subject of illegal immigrants coming to the United States, which is relevant with current events. While this is a touchy subject for many, Diaz navigates it expertly and doesn’t leave readers or instructors on their own. Diaz provides extra materials at the end of the book to further educate others on the topic, which turns this book into classroom discussion material on a very real situation told as a fictitious story. (SSL)
Dilloway, Margaret. 2016. Momotaro: Xander and the lost island of monsters. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 309pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-148472487-3. Illustrated by Choong Yoon.
In Momotaro, adolescents are invited to join Xander on his dangerous pilgrimage to a lost island full of action packed fighting scenes, family drama, and self discovery. Xander is, as far as he knows, a normal kid. However, the mindset Xander finds himself in, changes in the blink of an eye as he watches his father engulfed in a tsunami which appears in the middle of the forest near his home. With the guidance and help of his grandmother, Xander travels via the pop-up ocean to sail into his new reality, the lost island. The lost island holds untold dangers for Xander, his best friend, Peyton, and his loyal pet, Inu. With the addition of Jinx, a spunky girl the trio rescues, they trek across the island in hopes Xander will be able to defeat the Oni. Dilloway does an exceptional job at creating a high fantasy story allowing readers to suspend disbelief and accept the lost island and its events as a reality. Momotaro has a very logical framework, important when creating a place where characters will have time to develop over time. Xander shows a considerable deal of personal development over the course of the novel. He transforms from a weak, absent minded boy into a strong, wise, creative hero in both worlds. The introduction to and the description while in the lost island make it easy for a reader to imagine the setting intended by the author. While reading one can picture standing in a tropical forest, densely populated by trees and multiple layers of foliage, fearing something lurking in the shadows. Readers can also relate to the emotions Xander has while in the new environment. Xander has many moments of learned helplessness, where he is overwhelmed, confused, and worn out which all lead to thoughts of giving up and thinking he cannot achieve to the potential he is expected to perform at. Students can relate to some aspect of those moments, whether related to academics, sports, or presumed expectations from others. But students can also learn from these moments, as it is a universal theme of finding or having faith and perseverance in the face of obstacles. Xander faces the loss of his father in addition to the quickly forced concept of being a hero which are hard enough on their own without the pressure to fight or out wit new creatures and monsters around each and every turn. However, every time Xander wants to give up, a reason to keep going presents itself. A creative retelling of a traditional Japanese myth, Momotaro: Xander and the lost Island of monsters is a tale of adventure and self-discovery. Young adults will find themselves battling monsters and daunting situations as read about the attempts to save Xander’s dad from danger. (SSL)
Dinerstein, Eric. 2016. What elephants know. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1484728543
This book, written for students between the ages of 8 and 12, follows the adventure of Nunda who is a young boy growing up in the Nepalese jungle. He was abandoned at the age of two in the Nepalese borderlands, and once found was brought to the king elephant’s stable. Subba-Sali, the stable head, and Devi Kali, a dominant elephant, became his non-traditional parents. Even at his young age, Nunda is able to become a Mahout, which is an entry level elephant driver. After an unsuccessful hunt, the wildlife committee threatens to close the stable. With major concern for the future, Subba-Sali makes the call to enroll Nunda in school. While at school, Nunda befriends Father Autry and grows a new appreciation towards the jungle. Nunda has a great deal of self-discovery and realizes what it important to him. He decides to one day become a naturalist. Back in the jungle, the stable is threatened by government officials, Maroons, and elephant traders who are all opposed to the rights of the elephants. In the end, the stable is allowed to remain open and a first of its kind breeding center is added. Young readers will see Nandu is a determined young boy with a mission and beliefs he fervently pursues. This is a contemporary story with a rural jungle setting with multiple accurate references to Nepalese culture, traditions, and religion.. Intertwined with the storyline is the underlying message of wildlife conservation and the power humans have to dictate what happens to endangered animals. Nandu is a twelve year old boy who was able to help the animals, and he can inspire young readers to do the same. (APB)
Dias Lorenzi, Natalie. 2016. A long pitch home. Charlesbridge. 256pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1580897136.
A Long Pitch Home is a contemporary realistic fiction novel that meets all the criteria for a successful historical novel. This book is written in 1st person and is set in modern day. This book’s theme is centered around how the main character Balil is struggling to fit in in America and with his new friends. Balil is a young boy whose family has been moved to a new country after his father mysteriously disappeared. The characterization of Balil accurately fits the contemporary aspect because Balil is portrayed as a boy who is scared of his new environment and conflicted with the situation at hand. The conflict in this book is person, Balil, against the men that took his father and against himself, when having to decide whether or not to throw the baseball game. While all of the categories in this book are exemplary in meeting the contemporary realistic fiction criteria, the storyline is a bit far fetched. Without making any cultural assumptions, the plot of a young boy being blackmailed to protect his father seems unlikely to happen. (HRC)
Downes, Patrick. 2016. Come home, Angus. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-59768-5. Illustrations by Boris Kulikov.
Angus wakes up feeling angry one morning and makes the decision to run away from home. His mother first tries to discipline him, but eventually “lets” him run away. The illustrations greatly enhance the storyline and Angus’s emotions by adding facial expressions and great detail, as well as exaggerating Angus’s feelings through color blending and accentuated lines given to him in certain pictures. Although the illustrations help the reader visualize the text, the storyline is not exciting but stagnant.. Young children can relate to the characterization of Angus since the feeling of being angry and alone is something many children feel occasionally, and this book validates those feelings. What the book doesn’t do is teach children how to cope with those feelings in a more effective way than running away from home. Although the book justifies certain feelings children might have, and in that way is relatable to the reader, it doesn’t provide an opportunity for children to learn how to better manage their feelings or interact socially. (EJM)
Dussling, Jennifer. 2016. Giraffes. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 48pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-448-48969-8.
This young readers’ book about giraffes is not your average animal information book. Despite its simplified language, it would be intriguing to both a child and their parent. Interesting and unique facts, for example, giraffes and humans both only have seven bones in their neck, go past the basic content that children find in most easy readers. Details ranging from giraffes in the ancient world to how giraffes have been recently affected by human development allow readers to learn deeper subject material while also learning how to read. Meant for level three readers, the text contains compound words and introduces new vocabulary, with written pronunciations for scientific terms. High-quality, colorful photos on every page will draw in readers of all interests and activity suggestions provide opportunities for even more learning. (JJB)
Ehlert, Lois. 2016. Rain fish. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-481-46152-8.
In this young reader picture book, the story of the Rain Fish comes to life through unique and exciting collage illustrations. The text alone is fairly brief, yet it interacts with the reader while implementing rhyme as well. However, the written aspect of the book relies heavily on the accompanying illustrations. Each page has a different Rain Fish, which is cleverly created by varying assortments of discards and debris. Essentially, Ehlert utilizes both common objects and garbage in order to bring Rain Fish to life. The most striking characteristics of each fish are their colors. Although the collages are made up of seemingly useless objects, every fish pops off of the page with a bright toy, leaf, or piece of trash. In this way, the presence of joyful colors creates a lighthearted and cheerful mood of the story. Along with bright colors, each fish has a unique shape and texture. Even though some of the objects are synthetic, every element is assorted in an organic manner contributing to the creativity and freedom of how the fish have been created. Also, there are clear differences in texture ranging from crumpled paper to the surface of an orange peel to a smooth shell or feather. Even though the varying textures do not necessarily contribute to the mood or setting of the book, they do make the idea of Rain Fish come to life. Because of original and intriguing use of color, shape, and texture in the collages, the book strongly promotes K-3 cognitive development. First, readers are challenged to notice the fish. Some fish are more obvious than others, but each one triggers the imagination. In addition, the illustrations provide ample opportunity for readers to compare and contrast. Not only can readers compare each fish, they can also compare how an object is used differently from fish to fish. These elements of the illustrations have direct application to cognitive development as readers of this age group rely heavily on their concrete and visual thinking. Most importantly, the creativity of the story fosters creativity for the readers, who can now make their own rain fish. In this way, a piece of literature is brought to life through illustrations and the entertaining idea of Rain Fish is extended beyond the boundaries of the story. (DB)
Ehrlich, Amy. 2016. Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer. Simon & Schuster. 72pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-689-86573-2. Illustrated by Wendell Minor.
In Willa: The Story of Willa Cather an American Writer, the life of Willa Cather and her journey of being an american author is explored. The main theme of this book is how Willa got to be writer she came to be. This book is written in third person and chalk full of information. One aspect of this book that makes the historical and informational parts flow together is the timeline a short bio’s of other writers in the back of the book. The imagery in this book is detailed yet does not distract from the historical aspect of the book. (HRC)
Engle, Margarita. 2016. Lion Island: Cuba’s warrior of words. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 176pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1481461122.
Students are introduced to a historical world that is omitted in most US American textbooks. This historical fiction novel reveals a unique conflict between Asia, Africa, and Europe. Many Chinese men were sent to Cuba to work because of a treaty between China and Spain. These men worked with African American slaves. Eventually, these slaves freed themselves and riots began in Cuba. Also, Chinese Americans were fleeing to Cuba due to the violence occurring in California. This is where the story begins, and the reader is introduced to three unique characters. Antonio is a messenger, and he meets two friends Wing, who is originally from California, and his sister Fan, a singer. They decide they are tired of the injustices they are facing and want to join the fight. However, they do not believe in the use of guns. This compelling story is told through poems, a unique style compared to other novels students may read. Students will be able to easily read this book because of the short sections they are split into. (MJO)
Feuti, Norm. 2016. The king of Kazoo. Scholastic Inc. (Graphix). 320pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-545-77089-7.
The King of Kazoo is a graphic novel featuring a king in search of a noteworthy legacy to leave just as his forefathers have before him. While pondering this legacy, his daughter and her familiar magical animal companion burst through the doors warning the king of a peculiar tunnel in the volcano near the kingdom. After a magnificent quake upsets the townspeople, the king, his daughter, and Torq, the king’s right hand man and scientist, embark on a wild adventure that first leads them through Kroaker Forest before arriving to Mount Kazoo, an active volcano. This story also involves conflict between a greedy alchemist creating the disruptions for his own benefit to create “smart metal” within Mount Kazoo. The small group of heroes attempt to stop the alchemist of his destructive behavior before the town is destroyed. Recommended for grades 3-6, the book provides qualities similar to the ideals of a fairy tale with the characterization of animals, magical objects and sorcery manipulated by individuals. (KJN)
Fisher, Annabelle. 2016. The secret destiny of Pixie Piper. HarperCollins Publishers. 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239377-7. Illustrations by Natalie Andrewson.
The book is set in an ordinary town full of extraordinary places such as the toilet museum right next to Pixie’s house. Instead of living in an acorn house with strange parents, Pixie Piper, a poetry genius, longs to have a normal life. However, she soon learns that she is anything but normal; she is a descendent of Mother Goose with magical abilities in her rhyming. The plot thickens as Pixie learns to accept who she is and her place in the world. The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper reveals person against person conflict as Pixie struggles to accept herself and her ancestry. Through these struggles, Fisher characterizes Pixie as a person with both strengths and flaws. The author’s themes of bravery and true friendship are revealed through the changes and growth of Pixie. Pixie’s friendship with her neighbor, Gray, is put to the test as she longs to fit in with the popular girls at school. Person against society conflict is also evident in the text through these pressures of social conformity and her need to climb the social hierarchy of school, which can promote socialization and personality development for the reader. While the author’s style is straightforward, the exposition leading to the climax is a large section of the book, which may bore younger readers. The novel eventually reaches its climax with the ultimate showdown between Pixie and the evil Raveneece when Pixie fights to get back her pet goose, Destiny, illustrating person against person conflict. Through this fight, Pixie discovers the relationships that truly matter in her life and she comes to accept her own destiny. The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper is a coming of age story that is sure to captivate a wide variety of audiences as they journey on the magical plot of events with Pixie. (EMG)
Ford, Gilbert. 2016. The marvelous thing that came from a spring: The accidental invention of a toy that swept the nation. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5065-2.
Written for children, ages 4-8, Ford’s nonfiction historical book is about the invention of the toy Slinky. Age appropriate grammar and language is used throughout the book. The chronology of events is very entertaining for readers with its incorporation of the detailed background images. Ford used mixed media for his book. He utilized detailed paper cut-outs of the characters and furniture then intermixed real springs into the scene. The images on each page are the resulting combination of metal springs, paper cutouts, working lightbulbs, and other assorted mediums. Each picture adds to and clarifies the story in very fine detail. Ford’s book is appropriate for ages above the recommended 4-8, as well. Early readers of all ages can find something to like about this nonfiction book. The marvelous thing that came from a spring reads as if it were a storybook. Highly engaging, and visually mind-boggling are two phrases that could adequately describe this non fiction masterpiece. (CAF)
Freedman, Deborah. 2016. Shy. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 40pp. $12.30. ISBN 978-0-451-47496-4.
There is an instant sense of mystery as the reader ventures through Shy. The main character hides in the crack of the book too shy to experience the “real world” as he buries himself into his favorite book depicting a bird soaring through the sky and singing a beautiful song. One day he decides to put his inhibitions aside to experience real life and hear a songbird for the first time. On his journey Shy is introduced to new and exciting environments including a winding walk through jagged mountains leaving the reader in suspense as to where his journey will end. Shy is able to finally find the bright and vibrant songbird he so patiently waited for, and the illustrations portray the beauty and likeness of the songbird in an almost photographic manner. This book encourages readers, PK – grade 1, to reflect on their personal or social development as they learn to set aside their apprehensions, and approach people who may become friends. (KJN)
Freedman, Russell 2016. We will not be silent: The White Rose student resistance movement that defied Adolf Hitler. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 112pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-22379-0.
Although not a new story, readers experience the famed White Rose Student Resistance Movement against Hitler and the Nazi party with a unique and intentional focus on the young people involved. The text follows the lives of Hans and Sophie Scholl leading up to their involvement in the White Rose movement while attending Munich University. As youth, they were initially engulfed by the excitement and potency of the Hitler Youth movement, both becoming leaders in their respective groups. However, because of their father’s negative feelings towards the National Socialist party along with their own personal discomforts with the levels conformity and exclusion present, the two siblings eventually begin to doubt the regime. By the time both are able to attend the university, their misgivings about Hitler and their outrage with the way Jews were being treated had grown so palpable they felt the need to take action. Starting extremely small and very carefully, Hans, Sophie, and a few close friends began to produce leaflets renouncing Hitler and his government. Knowing full well the terrible consequences they would face if caught, the group’s size as well as their influence grew slowly. These leaflets were given the White Rose title and eventually could be found in almost all parts of Germany. However, as their resistance and influence grew, so did their level of risk, until one day Hans and Sophie were caught and sent to prison. They, along with a close friend Christoph Probst, were given unfair trials and sentenced to death by beheading. Shortly after, other members of the White Rose were also caught and killed, including the university professor Kurt Huber. Although they suffered a terrible fate, they became martyrs for their movement which only continued to grow until the long awaited end to the war and the end to Hitler’s reign. Because of their bravery and defiance in the face of injustice and evil, the Scholl siblings as well as others within the group have been immortalized in many places around the university’s campus, in the White Rose Museum and in history itself. Because of the way the story is told, the full effect and profound nature of the White Rose Movement is encapsulated within the pages. The Scholls’ history is interwoven with the overall history of WWII, which gives their story the proper background information and reference points. The visuals create the same level of balance as well, alternating between general photographs of the time period and those of Hans and Sophie themselves. In terms of the information present, the story relies heavily on primary sources including multiple letters and journal entries. Although some dialogue is created for the sake of the intimacy of the characters and of the story, all other components are supported by researched and credible information. Also, the text does not shy away from the realities of what occurred, evidenced by the account of Hans’ and Sophie’s deaths. Each of these strengths of the book allow for the genuine gravity of the story to be fully present and tangible for readers. Because of their unparalleled bravery and ingenuity, as well as their emphasis on non-violent protest, the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl is breathed into the lives of readers who also face a world in dire need of social justice. (DB)
Funk, Josh. 2016. Dear Dragon. Penguin Random House (Viking). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0451472304. Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo.
This modern fantasy follows the relationship between two pen pals who have never met. One is a young boy, and the other is a young dragon, but they do not quite realize what the other is until they meet at the end of the story. One theme imminent in this story is expectation versus reality, and the idea that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’. The illustrations draw upon this theme. Throughout the book, the illustrations show either the boy or the dragon reading a letter from his pen pal, and imagining what is happening in the letter through his own perspective. That is, the boy imagines the dragon as a human, and vice versa.
The author is able to suspend disbelief through realistic plot, setting, and characterization. He establishes the story through low fantasy. Although some of the characters are talking and poetry writing dragons, the setting and characterization of the dragons are earthly. The story takes place in a town setting, with a school, houses, and a park. The dragons act very human. Like the little boy, the dragon has parents who work, childish fears, and so on. The plot itself is also very realistic and relatable. The story centers around school pen pals, writing to one another as strangers. These characteristics are what make this story fun and engaging for young readers. (CJS)
Gaiman, Neil. 2016. The graveyard book. HarperCollins Publishers. 368pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0062421883. Illustrated by P. Craig Russell, Stephen B. Scott, Kevin Nowlan, Galen Showman, Tony Harris, Jill Thompson, David LaFuente, Scott Hampton. Colored by Lovern Kindzierski. Lettered by Rick Parker.
This graphic novel, written for students between 8 and 12 years of age, follows the adventures of Nobody Owens, a boy who was raised in a graveyard. Nobody Owens finds himself at the entrance to a graveyard, after he flees his house following the murder of his family members by a man named Jack. He is met at the gate by ghosts. These ghosts are told by the spirit of his mother to protect the young child. Nobody grows up in the graveyard and is protected by the members of the graveyard throughout his entire childhood. Nobody even befriends a young girl named Scarlett in the graveyard. Nobody is protected at the graveyard, but he is curious about his life before. He and Scarlett, venture off to find the house he used to live at, and are greeted by Mr. Frost, the new owner of the house. Mr. Frost begins by giving a tour of the house, but eventually asks for Nobody to leave Scarlett and come upstairs alone. Once upstairs, “Mr. Frost,” reveals his true identity. He is Jack and is still seeking to kill Nobody. Nobody eventually escapes with Scarlett and they go back to the graveyard, which Nobody feels is his true home. Once in the graveyard, the sleer kills Jack Frost, but the memories haunt Scarlett and she is told to leave. At the end of the graphic novel, Nobody is growing older and he is no longer able to see the ghosts. This is the time for Nobody to move on. He is given a passport and sets off to venture in the real world. The Graveyard Book brings to the surface the strange and curious world of a graveyard. The universal theme between good and evil is also explored in this graphic novel. The ghosts are kind and protective and Jack Frost is the evil antagonist. The two forces meet in the end of the novel and good wins out. (APB)
Galdone, Paul. 1984. The teeny-tiny woman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 30pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-522-64105-1.
In this retelling of a classic folktale, a woman goes on a walk and stumbles upon a bone in a church graveyard. She takes the bone home with her, only to find that the bone haunts her during the night time. After finding a rather simple solution to the problem, the woman is finally able to sleep at night again. This book retells an old English story that reflects English culture through its setting and moral lesson. The theme of the story is respecting property, and this is done in a way that reflects English culture by using the church graveyard and an a woman who is just trying to gather something to make soup with. The illustrations further the cultural value of this folktale by accentuating certain English features, such as the woman’s clothing and the architecture of the houses. This tale is an effective way to share English culture while providing an entertaining children’s story. (EJM)
Gandhi, Arun. & Hegedus, Bethany. 2016. Be the change: A grandfather Gandhi story. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4265-7.
Be the change is both a biography of the legendary peace icon, Mahatma Gandhi, and a universal story of a child trying to understand the world and gain approval from an elder. The story is told from the perspective of Mahatma’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, thus providing intimate details into their relationship and life at the ashram. Arun is struggling to understand the connection between his grandfather’s vows and his philosophy of nonviolence. Through hard-learned lessons and his grandfather’s guidance, Arun discovers the connection and vows, himself, to be the change he wishes to see in the world. Through gracefully poetic language, the authors mirror the peacefulness of Gandhi and create a storyline that will draw in all readers. The warm tone of the illustrations only enhance this sentiment, but they also have a dynamic movement to them that could almost outshine the text. Using mixed-media in a collage style, readers will spend equal time studying the illustrations as reading the text. This story of self-growth asks the hard questions about passive violence and encourages readers to be the change. (JJB).
García McCall, Guadalupe. 2016. Shame the stars. Lee & Low (Tu Publishing). 228pp. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-278-3.
Joaquín del Toro and Dulceña Villa have fallen in love, but they must overcome more than just their forbidden relationship. Set in Texas during the Mexican Revolution of 1915, the two teenagers grapple with the violence of war. They both find solace in writing – Joaquín through his journal entries and Dulceña through her father’s newspaper. When Dulceña reports of the horrific acts of violence towards Mexicans at the hands of the Rangers, her father’s print shop becomes a target, as well as Joaquín’s family ranch. Because each family is split between different sides of the Revolution, the teenagers must keep their love a secret. Throughout the novel, details unfold about their involvement in the Revolution, creating suspense that will keep readers captivated until the end. García McCall’s thorough research for the novel provides insight into a little discussed time period and a different perspective of American history than presented in history textbooks. Adding both visual and historic interest, García McCall includes Joaquín’s journal entries and actual newspaper clippings from the time period. Through the classic and popular romance storyline, readers are also exposed to the social controversy and racial injustice plaguing the fictional towns. (JJB)
Gerber, C. 2016. Elena and the secret of Avalor. Disney Book Group (Disney Press). 48pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-148471554-3. Illustrated by Grace Lee.
Gerber and Lee create a magical fantasy as imagery and text come together in this tale of Princess Sophia’s adventures. Princess Sophia is given a mythical quest to get Princess Elena of Avalor out of her purple amulet. Princess Elena was placed in the amulet by an evil sorceress who now rules the kingdom of Avalor. When Princess Sophia and her family arrive in Avalor, Sophia is met by magical flying and talking jaquins, a combination of jaguar and some colorful bird breed. The mythical jaquins assist Princess Sophia in freeing Princess Elena. With the help of a magical apprentice, they are able to release Princess Sophia from the amulet. The swirls and twinkling stars on the pages give the illusion that the characters are performing all sorts of magic. Bright pinks and baby blues mix with purples and reds to show the good magic at work, unlike the evil sorceress whose magic is green and dark purple. Together, the three stop the evil sorceress and Princess Elena takes back her kingdom. As the story of Princess Sophia’s adventures ends, readers turn the page to be further introduced to Princess Elena and her kingdom. This book is for ages 6-8 and is a visually entertaining read. (CAF)
Gerstein, Mordicai. 2016. The sleeping gypsy. Holiday House. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0823421428.
Children are invited to observe and predict how Henri Rousseau imagined the painting, The sleeping gypsy. The author premises the story around Rousseau having a dream, and children are taken on a journey with this young woman where originality and imagination flourish. Talking animals visit the gypsy girl as she is sleeping. They hypothesize and wonder why she is there, even the moon smiles and wonders what she is doing. Eventually, Rousseau appears and starts to paint the scene. However, many of the animals are upset with how he is painting them, so they start complaining. Rousseau simply scrapes them out of the painting. The setting is also a strong aspect of this story because they are in a warm and calming desert. It portrays a peaceful mood with the cool tones, even though the animals are being a little chaotic. The jagged lines on the lion’s teeth indicate he is dangerous and scary while Rousseau's straight vertical and horizontal lines emphasize stability and safety. Additionally, children will enjoy exploring this book and will improve their cognitive skills through observing and hypothesizing. They can come up with their own predictions of why the girl is there or expand on the stories the animals came up with. Children will be just as curious, like the author and the animals, in why the girl is there. This book promotes self – discovery and how one can imagine and dream just as Rousseau did when he created the painting. (MJO)
Gerstein, Sherry. 2015. Sharks. Egmont Publishing (SmartInk Books LLC). 28pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-60684-588-2. Illustrated by Christopher Corr.
Explore the monsters in the depths and shallows of our oceans in Sharks by Sherry Gerstein. Children know sharks to be dangerous and fierce predators that roam the oceans looking for prey. In this informational text, children are invited to learn about how sharks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sherry Gerstein emphasizes how years of natural selection have led to diversity within the shark family. The subject matter presented to the reader is accurate and gives comparisons that children will be able to relate with. For example, there is a child on page four standing inside the jaw of the biggest shark that ever lived, the megalodon. These comparisons can help readers understand just how big these prehistoric creatures really are. There is a unique blend between pictures and illustrations that allows the text to inform with a consistent flow. The color scheme of the book consists of whites, greys, and blues to give the reader a feel for treading in unfamiliar water. Sharks, is a great informational text for a reader within the ages of a seven and nine reading level. Sherry Gerstein brings readers to the deep blue with Sharks, an engaging text about one of the world’s most diverse and fiercest predators. (JMS)
Giff, Patricia. 2016. Writing with Rosie: You can write a story too. Holiday House. 80pp. $15.95. ISBN 978-0823436569.
Patricia Giff explains the process of writing fiction while being constantly distracted by her golden retriever. This step by step guide breaks down the complex process of writing into many simpler pieces. She has many tips as well as examples from her own experiences throughout the book. The inclusion of the dog distracting the author will keep young readers interested. This book is full of encouragement to young students that they are fully capable of writing. At the end of each chapter, she turns the job over to the readers asking them to try what she has just explained. Writing with Rosie: You Can Write a Story Too, written for upper elementary students, is interactive and could be worked with over a long period of time while teaching students how to write fiction. (APB)
Gigliotti, Jim. 2016. Who is Stevie Wonder? Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 112pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-0448488585.
Readers will be learn about the life of Stevie Wonder from how he became a famous musician to how he advocated against racism. This biography is mostly told in chronological order which is suiting since Stevie became a musician at such a young age. What is unique about this biography about Stevie is that it focuses on his talent as a musician and not solely on his disability. His blindness is mentioned and discussed, but the author focuses how his blindness has made him a great musician. Stevie can hear really well which really helped him in his musical career. Students especially with disabilities will be inspired after reading this because Stevie never let his blindness stop him from becoming successful. Instead, he viewed it as a blessing and way for him to connect with others. This will help student’s personal development grow because Stevie teaches children that it is okay to be different, but be positive about it and use that difference to grow. Furthermore, it is important to point out that the author has wrote many other biographies about famous people from Bruce Lee to Queen Victoria. He has wrote all of these biographies for children, so it is safe to say, this author understands how to write a proper biography about a famous person that is easy for children to understand. This biography is a part of the Who is/Who was series that many other authors contribute too. If educators want more information to back up the validity of these novels, they can look at the whowasbookseries.com. Teachers and parents can use this book about Stevie Wonder to not only talk about how people with disabilities can be very successful, but also social justices issues occurring today. (MJO)
Gill, Timothy. 2016. Flip & fin: Super sharks to the rescue!. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $13.10. ISBN 978-0-06-224301-0. Illustrations by Neil Numberman.
Flip and Fin are fictitious twin sand sharks. After watching their favorite cartoon, in which Sammy Saw Shark and Harry Hammerhead catch bad guys and save the day, Flip and Fin decide to become superheroes and find someone to help. As they zip and flip through the waters with their friends, an octopus and an anglerfish, they suddenly discover a beach ball that belongs to humans. Cartoon-style watercolor illustrations and fantasy-like articulate animal characters will both excite and interest the reader. The author even provides a brief informational page about sand sharks. Recommended for grades K-2. (KJN)
Gormley, Beatrice. 2016. Nelson Mandela: South African revolutionary (A real-life story). Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 256pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1481420600.
Students are given a glimpse into the life of Nelson Mandela in a compelling biography about how he is such an important revolutionary and how he greatly impacted not only South Africa but the world too. The author takes the reader through a sequential journey of his life events starting with his childhood in the village of Mvezo, to attending universities, then to moving to Johannesburg and becoming involved in politics, his arrest and time in jail, and to his life after prison. Throughout the whole biography, the author’s main point is to show how and why Mandela became an important politician in South Africa. Specifically, the main reason was to unite white and black people. The author highlights crucial events that lead to Mandela’s arrest but also, how he persevered through it. This biography is recommended for students in upper elementary, but it could be beneficial for students in middle school to read it too. In this book, Mandela’s life appears to be very fast paced because of the many changes he goes through in his childhood and adult life. When reading this book, students should refer to the timeline in the back of the book, or create their own timeline because it could be easy for the students to become lost. There are many people and changes occurring throughout Mandela’s life, so it would be beneficial to take note of these people and events in order to better understand the biography. It also has a decent balance between fact and storyline while at some points it appears as if the author is trying to fit all of his life events in a section: thus, making it confusing at times. However, it all flows very well, and it feels as if Mandela is a close friend, and the reader is hearing the story from him because the author explains situations in an early reader friendly way. Overall, this is an excellent biography for students to learn more about Mandela who they might not learn about in their history courses. This biography sheds light on racism issues occurring throughout the world, and how students have the power to voice their opinion and greatly impact those around them, similar to how Nelson Mandela did the same. (MJO)
Grady, Cynthia. 2016. Like a bird: The art of the American slave song. Lerner (Millbrook Press). 40pp. $19.99. ISBN 9781467785501. Concept and art by Michelle Wood.
Like a Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song is an informational picture book that includes thirteen songs sung by slaves in America with accompanying explanations about life as a slave and the purpose of songs in their everyday lives as a way to express their longing for freedom. Cynthia Grady is an author and librarian who performed extensive research while writing this book. The book includes a glossary of terms, a selected bibliography, and opportunities for further readings in books and websites. The style exemplifies precise and succinct language in the explanations that are appropriate for the intended audience of ages eight to twelve. The accompanying illustrations by Coretta Scott King and Illustrator Award winner Michelle Wood clarify and extend the text by giving readers a picture of life as a slave while illustrating the themes and moods of the songs. Michelle Wood also came up with the concept of this book. The illustrations are prominently blue and green to signify nature and calmness. A few black and white photographs that are included also add validity to the illustrations and text to exemplify the historical truth to this book. (EMG)
Gravett, Emily. 2016. Bear & Hare: Where’s Bear?. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5615-9.
Young readers are counting to ten in Emily Gravett’s children’s book Bear and Hare:Where’s Bear? Bear and Hare are a couple of friends playing a sneaky game of hide and seek. It’s obvious to readers that Bear has a difficult time being able to hide from Hare. His large body just simply cannot hide behind a lamp shade. Each time one of them tries to hide from the other, readers must count one, two, three, and so on until they reach ten. Children age’s four to eight can benefit from reading Bear and Hare to work on counting and cardinality skills. The illustrations are a combination of pencil sketching with a light paint or colored pencil over top. The use of line guides readers horizontally across the page building metalinguistic skills. All the illustrations use organic shaping, giving each character its own quirky personality. The texture has a stark contrast between the background and characters. The background is a flat white, while Bear and Hare both have fuzzy fur. If looking to work on counting skills with children, then Bear & Hare by Emily Gravett is an excellent choice. (JMS)
Gravett, Emily. 2016. Little Mouse’s big book of beasts. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481439299.
Little Mouse’s big book of beasts features an incredibly creative and stimulating array of lyric poetry. Every aspect of this book is intriguing, and every page is different and new, while fitting under the category of animals. An important aspect about this book to consider is the poetry lends a wide array of information about animals, making it highly informative. The short, rhyming, and rhythmic lines, along with the intricate illustrations, allow this book to be educational and highly appropriate for young readers.
The story is narrated by Little Mouse, a poet and spunky artist. On each page of the book, Little Mouse is describing a predatory animal through short, lyric poems. Each of these poems are simple and succinct, with a rhythm that is easy to feel, even without reading the poem aloud. Along with the poem are a variety of comments said by little mouse, such as “I prefer jelly dishes to jelly fishes”. It is admirable that the author is able to add such obvious and effective characterization to a book of poetry.
The illustrations are what make this book worthwhile and unique. They are appealing because they appear as if they were drawn by the main character, little mouse. Many of the pages are made to appear tattered and torn, as if a mouse has chewed through them. The artwork is similar to that of which a child could produce, which makes little mouse fun and relatable. The pages have many intricate folds that add to the story. For example, the page about wasps is accompanied by a “pop up” portion of the page that makes it appear as though little mouse is swatting a wasp with a newspaper. The depth of the illustrations, as well as the poetry are compelling and enjoyable. (CJS)
Gray, Karlin. 2016. Nadia: The girl who couldn’t sit still. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-31960-8. Illustrated by Christine Davenier.
In this brief biography, readers fall in love with the unlikely yet inspiring story of Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian gymnast who made history at the 1976 Olympic Games. Relating directly the age of those intended to read the story, the biography begins by describing Nadia’s childhood in the small village of Onesti. Like many other children her age, Nadia was characterized by her constant movement and inability to remain stationary. However, her story quickly becomes unique when readers learn of her natural gymnast talent, even at such a young age. Although she struggled greatly in her first appearance at the National Junior Championships at age nine, she returned the next year to achieve first place and found herself on the Olympics four years later. The stage was set through the comparison to the reigning Russian championship team, but it is clear young Nadia was unfazed. After scoring strongly in her initial events, Nadia stunned the world by receiving a score of ten on the uneven bars. Not only was she the first Olympian in history to attain this perfect score, she also went on to become the youngest ever to win an Olympic gold medal. The story ends with her triumphant return home to Romania and the foreshadowing of her continued work ethic and persistence towards perfection. Told quickly and pleasantly, it does not take long for readers to become fans of Nadia and her unparalleled gymnastic skills. The theme is consistently positive, readers want her to succeed, and there is an ever-present undertone of the importance of hard work and determination when striving for a goal. In addition, the joyful mood is also set through the colorful and playful illustrations. Through the bright shades of water colors, each page tells Nadia’s story visually, offering proof she truly cannot sit still. The images allow Nadia to jump, twist, and cartwheel from page to page, recreating her flawless gymnastic skills which led to her fame in the first place. As inspirational as Nadia’s biography can be for many readers, the story itself is actually very simple and short-lived. It mentions her early career struggles, but it never actually seems like Nadia will do anything but succeed. Although this success mirrors what actually occurred in her life, it seems like many other obstacles or setbacks are simply left out of the narrative. In addition, the story seems to end abruptly as well, concluding shortly after her victory at the Olympics. In this way, it seems the most accurate version of her life story suffers in order to create a heartwarming tale centered around determination and hard work. Other aspects of her life are briefly noted including when she decided to defect from her country and eventually ended up in the Unites States, yet not until the afterward section which is entirely separate from the actual picture storybook. Although Nadia’s story is uplifting, saturated with positive themes for young readers, and mostly accurate, the book as a whole is too simplistic, too brief, and lacking the depth and detail of her full life story. (DB)
Gray, Rita. 2016. When the world is dreaming. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-58262-0. Illustrated by Kenard Pak.
When the world is dreaming by Rita Gray is a heartwarming story of a little dreamer seeking out animals in a friendly forest. Intrigued by nature, a little girl finds herself wandering through the forest running into all sorts of animals. Whether it be a snake, deer, newt, rabbit, mouse, or turtle, Rita Gray finds writes clever rhyming verses to accompany each of the animal characters. The girl dreams of each animal and asks herself, “What does little snake dream?” After a long day of searching and predicting what animals dream, the little dreamer finds herself back at home with heavy eyes. A she sleeps, the animals of the forest wander into the room and dream alongside of her while asking, “What does the little dreamer dream?” The illustrations by Kenard Pak use a mix of cool pastels, giving the coloration a natural and calming feel. The texture draws from an earthy source showing the vast interconnectedness of the girl and nature. Shaping is organic and allows characters to interact in a human way. A repetition of rhyming verse is used throughout to give students a sense of rhythm while reading through. Children age four to seven will especially appreciate the use of rhyme and may find themselves speaking along. When the world is dreaming by Rita Gray is a story of longing to understand the dreams of others. (JMS)
Green, Tim. 2016. Home run. HarperCollins (Harper). 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-231711-7.
A young baseball player named Josh has his entire world flipped upside down in a single moment. Josh’s world is based around baseball, his friends and his family. However, one day his father gets a new job, his mother loses the house, and his family is torn apart. With the help of his friends, Josh finds a baseball contest. The contest rules state any participant must hit twenty home runs during fall ball to qualify and in one final game he must hit a home run ball and have it land in a bathtub. If the ball makes it in the bathtub, then the contestant automatically wins a house. This appeals to Josh because of his family trouble, so he decides to enter the contest. Throughout the book, Josh faces many conflicts between his parents and his own expectations; Josh may be young but he knows he has a job to do to save his family. He puts a lot of pressure on himself as he travels through the Home Run Derby. In the end, the pressure Josh puts on himself and the pressure he feels by others wears on his heart when he does not win the derby, but, after strong support from his friends, Josh ends up getting the house and finally having his happy ending. (HRC)
Green, Tim. 2016. Left out. HarperCollins. 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229382-4.
Landon Dorch is a deaf student needing cochlear implants which may help him speak more fluently. Like everyone else, Landon just wants to fit in. Since he is much taller and more sizeable than the average seventh grader, he decides to join the football team. Green uses his past football career to make this read for any middle school student feel as though they can understand football and relate to the social aspect provided in this book between Landon and his peers. With a Rudy-like feel, Landon fights his way from sitting on the bench to becoming a player of impact and gains newfound respect from his classmates. (KJN)
Grimm, Jacob, Wilhelm Grimm, and Margaret Hunt. 2016. Gris Grimly's tales from the Brothers Grimm. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-062-35233-0. Illustrated by Gris Grimly.
In this modern retelling of the enduring nineteenth century fairy tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the original unedited stories are told alongside the gothic-style artwork of Gris Grimly. This combination brings the timeless fantasies to life, while also reincorporating some of the original darkness lost over centuries of translation. On one hand, young readers ranging from 8-14 experience the same tales that have been passed down for generations. Many of them are widely known today due to modern recreations, including the stories of Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Little Red Cap, also known as Little Red Riding Hood. However, the original versions of the tales found in this collection contain far more violence and terror than many of the modern stories, such as those of Disney. For example, Rapunzel ends up banished in the desert, Cinderella’s stepsisters have their eyes gouged out for their evil behavior, and the wolf from Little Red Cap is violently cut open with scissors. Similar elements of viciousness and horror are present in many of the other stories as well, which are extremely dissimilar to many modern views of fairytales. However, this book fully embraces the original forms and themes of the stories, and are also greatly enhanced by the uniquely dark artwork of Grimly. The images generally depict shadowy scenes, and there is no shortage of blood, gore, and violence throughout. In this way, these accompanying visuals greatly contribute to the often dark mood or setting of the stories. The simple fact that the artwork is displayed in black and white highlights the elements of horror as well. For example, only the gloomiest, scariest, and most violent scenes of the story are displayed, matching closely with the monochromatic theme. While the genre of the collection itself is not strictly horror, it contains many of the same elements. More present, however, are the traditional European, specifically German, values reflective of the time period in which the stories originate from. While social mobility, honesty, wit, and family values are all promoted in the tales, greed, deceit, disobedience, and foolishness are all presented negatively. When compiled in this manner, the themes paint a picture of values, traditions, and social norms of the given time period. Readers are able to explore the differences between these original tales with their widely-known modern counterparts, all the while captivated by the intense darkness and emotion of Grimly’s artwork. (DB)
Gross, Benedikt, and Joey Lee. 2016. The alphabet from the sky. Penguin Random House LLC. 64pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-101-99581-5.
In this high-flying alphabet book, text is secondary to the vibrant photographs dominating each page. However, not just any image is used to demonstrate the letters of the alphabet. Rather, the book contains beautiful satellite photographs taken from all over the United States. Each new page offers a different aerial view of a unique landscape, and the letters are created from roads, buildings, bodies of water, and more. It is up to the reader to locate the letter within each image, and the book quickly becomes an enticing alphabet scavenger hunt. Each page notes the desired letter, as well as the geographical location of the image. Like most alphabet books, the reader progresses systematically from A to Z. For the youngsters enjoying this book, presumably Pre K - Kindergarten, the letters are introduced in an original way, as well as within a game-like setting. Not only does this allow for the review of letters, but the format also excites readers to continue on. This incentive is especially important for young readers as a positive attitude about the alphabet, and therefore reading in general, affects their outlook on reading for the rest of their life. Along with such an enjoyable format, the use of real world images extends the information beyond the pages of the book. Young readers soon realize that familiar shapes and letters are all around them, which provides an organic and pleasurable method of alphabet practice. In terms of cognitive development, this book is extremely appropriate for the developing reader. At this point in their lives, young students are extremely visual learners and the seek-and-find format relates to this stage. By searching for and discovering the letters, readers improve their observational skills, as well their comparing skills when noticing the differences in letters. In addition, readers naturally apply what they see in the book to what they see in real life. The harmony of valuable alphabet practice, the need for engaging cognitive skills, and the unique theme of aerial images creates a stimulating picture book that will only help and encourage young readers on their path to literacy. (DB)
Grunberg, Greg. 2016. Dream Jumper: Trapped in a never ending nightmare. Scholastic Inc. (Graphix). 208pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0545826044. Illustrated by Lucas TurnBloom.
Dream Jumper is a thrilling graphic novel following a middle school student, Jake, on a quest to save his friends from the monsters in their nightmares. This graphic novel contains many elements of folklore. The action within the plot is made known almost immediately, as well as the major conflicts. The conflicts include Jake’s life within the dreams of his peers, battling monsters, as well as his home life. Jake is raised by his single mother, who is unwilling to divulge any information about his father. Jake’s relationship with his mother is often reluctant and hostile. In fact, the contrast between Jake’s experiences in and out of sleep oppose each other. In the land of dreams, Jake is heroic. He has special powers, is courageous and brave, and is known as the most powerful and talented “dream jumper”. In the realistic world, where Jake is awake, he is not as courageous or gallant. He has a quick temper at home, he does not do well in school, and he feels as though he is an outcast, partially due to his ability to travel into other people’s dreams. The juxtaposition of these two realms shows the setting as symbolism. The presence of dreams as an alternate land is symbolic of escaping the real world. The alternations of mood throughout the novel, shown through the dialogue and nature of the illustrations, make the main character, Jake, more reliable and realistic. This graphic novel is appropriate for students between 4th and 7th grade. The vocabulary and context is appropriate for this age group, as well as the aspect of personal development presented throughout the entire story. (CJS)
Gutman, Dan. 2016. Flashback four: The Lincoln Project. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237441-7.
When four children from extremely different backgrounds, Julia, Luke, David, and Isabel, are chosen to go on an adventure back to the 1800s by a woman named Miss Z, they learn to work together to travel through time and capture a picture of Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address for Miss Z too keep with her photo collection. With some current political commentary and reference to other historical events, this book gives children a glimpse into current world affairs as well as certain events in America’s history. The information about living in the 1800s is accurate, with pictures embedded in the text. It teaches children authentic material about life during the time of Lincoln’s presidency. The four main characters are easy to relate to since they are from the modern age and come from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of personalities, but this book could fall into the trap of imposing current world values onto the past because of the aspect of time travel imbedded in the text. Regardless, the book was informational in terms of the history surrounding the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s presidency, as well as informing young adults, ages 8 – 14, on today’s political commentary. (EJM)
Hagar, E. 2016. Doing her bit: A story about the woman’s land army of America. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58089-646-7. Illustrated by Jen Hill.
When readers open this book, they are immediately immersed in historical advertisements recruiting women for the Woman’s Land Army of America. Written for 1-4 grade, Doing her bit is a fictional story set in 1917, during World War I. A college educated woman, Helen, and her two friends decide to spend the summer taking part in the Woman’s Land Army. The three women and Ida, the woman who trained all the recruits, went to a nearby farm and asked if the farmer would hire the women. Ida convinced the women to spend one day working for free so the farmer would be able to see what the women were capable of achieving on the farm. After a hard day in the fields, the farmer said that they would have to come back the next day for free in order for him to see how they worked with animals. The women, understanding the circumstances, but stubborn and wanting what they worked for, demanded that he pay them wages of two dollars a day. The end of the summer arrives and the women return home knowing they would do it all again. The author, Erin Hagar, does not farm, but has studied the time period and various news articles and agriculture texts from the time period. Her goal in writing this fictional story is to encourage young readers to learn more about the time period. The story was based on real events and real people, but the dialogue is manufactured. Hagar produced a well researched and realistic story for young readers. (CAF)
Hall, Michael. 2016. Frankencrayon. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-225511-1.
Readers, age four to eight, will enjoy the comical picture book, Frankencrayon. The story begins on the front flap with markings stating the picture book has been canceled. Readers will be able to interpret the setting and mood though the colors portrayed in the story and will be able to follow the developing order of events as the story unfolds telling the events causing the picture book to be canceled. Readers will be engaged throughout the story as it “breaks the fourth wall” and addresses the readers directly while the crayon characters proceed with their stories of what happened, all while expanding the areas of cognitive development. Frankencrayon was to be a play put on by the colored characters and directed by pencil. All of the sudden, there appears a red scribble covering the pages. The crayons, ever so ready to break character, acknowledge how a scribble can ruin any picture book and they must clean the scribble before the story can continue. The two cleaning crayons scrub and scrub but the scribble only continues to worsen. At this time, pencil recruits all of the casted townspeople to scrub to help clean the scribble. At this time the scribble now has reds, greens, blues, yellows, and black all included in the massive scribble. The pencil decides it is time for all the casted crayons to flee. The reader now has a page of dialog between pencil and three official notices. The notices state that the story has been canceled because of the scribble, the now missing characters, and the lack of the mad scientist. It is then realized that no one has told Frankencrayon the picture book was canceled. Frankencrayon stumbles upon the scribble and realizes it can’t speak or walk. The three crayons constructing Frankencrayon decide to add a mouth, eyes, and legs to assist the scribble. The ending pages are the Frankencrayons telling the reader the three lessons that they have learned. As the reader turns the final page, they see the red crayon, the mad scientist, giving the fourth and final lesson, as well as an evil laugh written as a final notice. (CAF)
Hall, Michael. 2016. Wonderfall. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238298-6.
Author and illustrator, Michael Hall, creates an inviting world full of colors and activities, ready to explore what fall has to offer. He uses lots of vibrant colors against a white background to make the fall colors pop on the page. He also uses a technique causing the illustrations look as though they have been cut out, adding texture to all of the elements; the tree trunk looks like wood, the leaves have texture and all of the figures have very clean lines. As the book goes on and fall comes to an end, the illustrations move to nighttime, and the background goes from white to deep blue. The next page leads readers to the beginning of a snowy winter, adding back the contrast and light of a completely white page. These illustrations help create the feeling of crisp fall weather and encourage children to find these colors in the real world. (EJM)
Hapka, Catherine. 2016. Snowman: The true story of a champion. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 160pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-7812-0.
In this revised version of a beautiful and true story about a man and his horse, readers are transported back in time to the Dutch-American farm which served as the home for the famous jumping horse called Snowman. The narrative commences before Snowman was thought to be of any value. At the time, Harry de Leyer was a landowner and horse trainer living in Long Island, NY and he happened to stumble upon a certain gray gelding at a horse auction. However, de Leyer actually arrived late and only looked at the horses intended for the slaughterhouse. Even though the gelding was poorly taken care of, clumsy, and weak, something caught de Leyer’s eye and he took a chance on the horse for $80.00. It was not long before de Leyer and his family fell in love with horse, restored him back to proper health, and named him Snowman due to his unique color. As special as the horse was to the family, de Leyer felt the need to sell him to a neighbor once he was in better condition. To nearly everyone’s surprise, this arrangement did not last long due to one unique trait about Snowman: he was a jumper. Not only was jumping natural for Snowman, but he also seemed to enjoy it and do it for personal sport. After discovering the horse’s talent as well as the destruction of potato fields it caused, de Leyer was overjoyed to buy Snowman back from his neighbor. From there, the story developed strongly into the relationship between the man and his horse. Not only did de Leyer need to teach Snowman how to jump properly, he was also required to un-teach him some of the bad habits he had been developed on their own. All the while, de Leyer maintained his philosophy of balancing love and firmness, which Snowman responded well too. Not to mention, Snowman had unparalleled natural talent and spirit which lead to his greatest successes. Through trials and tribulations and setbacks, Snowman, with de Leyer there every step of the way, weathered all of the adversity and ended up winning the Triple Crown of show jumping. As it is written, the story not only recounts the statistical history of Snowman such as dates and awards, but it also opens a window into the actual relationship between the de Leyer family and Snowman. It for this reason the story as a whole is beautiful and historically accurate. This depth can be most greatly attributed to the characterization of the story. Present throughout are the characteristics of Harry de Leyer which make him both a loving and strong father as well as a loving and strong horse trainer. However, even more present is the character traits of Snowman. His humorous, lively, and loveable personality is constantly noted in the book which is arguably one of its strongest elements. Even though Snowman is a horse and de Leyer is a human, they are placed on the same level which makes their relationship so much more meaningful and the story so much more remarkable. Also, the themes of family, companionship, and love are further emphasized because of it. The tale of Snowman the jumping horse contains many elements of inspiration, uniqueness, and astonishing truth, all of which are encapsulated by the bounds of this heartwarming book. (DB)
Hashimi, Nadia. 2016. One half from the east. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0062421906
One half from the east is narrated by a young girl, Obaya, living in Afghanistan with her family. The story opens with Obayda’s father losing his leg in a car bombing, and the family consequently moving from the city of Kabul to a small village that is closer to her extended family. After moving to the village, Obayda’s mother and aunt decide to make her a bacha posh, meaning a girl disguised as a boy. Obayda becomes Obayd, and must learn how to assimilate with the Kabulan male culture, which she finds to be extremely difficult from female culture in Afghanistan.
The setting and conflicts in this book are mainly person versus self, and person versus society. With the help of Obayda’s friend Rahim (Rahima), who is also a bacha posh, she must navigate the world of boys, and struggle with her true identity. One issue mentioned in the book is that once a bacha posh experiences life as a boy, she does not want to go back to being a girl. On an individual scale, Obayda and her family struggle in a society that is more advantageous for men than women. (CJS)
Hatkoff, Craig & Julia & Isabella. 2016. Cecil’s pride. Scholastic Inc. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-03445-5. Photos by Brent Stapelkamp.
Cecil’s Pride, is about the story of Cecil the lion, before he was tragically killed. The author tracked Cecil’s life and documenting how he lived. This book tells the story of Cecil’s life before he passed away. The cross between information and visuals aid is not only equal but very powerful with the images that were chosen. this informational book is great for students at a higher level of elementary school because it not only gives information about one specific lion but also helps the students understand how other lions may live. (HRC)
Heppermann, Christine. 2016. Backyard witch: Jess’s story. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233841-9
Jess’s Story, the second book of the Backyard Witch series throws readers back into a world of magical mischief, where cauldrons do boil and bubble. Jess Blair is an average kid with average taste buds. Unfortunately for Jess, her mother sees her as a test subject for her chef inspired culinary creations. In an attempt to please her mother, Jess and some friends make lasagna from scratch. The friend group decides lasagna should be covered while in the oven, so they end up making the fatal mistake of putting a plastic lid on the dish. Needless to say, the kitchen becomes a smoky mess and Jess’s mom has a babysitter scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Little does Jess know that this babysitter is actual a witch called Ms. E. Throughout the book, Ms. E. brings Jess to light by showing her magic and how she can affect the world around her. Jess goes through internal struggles that make her question her own judgement. Ms. E. shows her that magic is present in her daily life whether she notices it or not. In Chapter 11, The Sorcery of Secrets, Ms. E. shows Jess that by simply using the magic word “please,” people will think of her requests more pleasantly. Although teaching children to use proper manners is important, the reader will see many more basic lessons like this throughout the book. Setting descriptions are minimal, so they leave a lot of interpretation for the reader. Although children in second grade through fourth grade may find themselves reading this text, it is important they have the necessary skills to look up words in the dictionary; Heppermann includes difficult words for this purpose. The backyard witch is a series of magical mysteries where Ms. E helps Jess make ethical decisions. (JMS)
Hoefler, Kate. 2016. Real cowboys. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544148925. Illustrated by Jonathan Bean.
When students read the title Real Cowboys, they will quickly assume white men riding horses, shooting guns, and herding cattle in the Old West. Students will enter the book with this preconceived image based on movies and other books, but the author quickly breaks down this assumption. Instead, she paints a vastly different picture than what the reader might expect. Students are shown the side of cowboys who work very hard, but who are also gentle people. They care deeply about the animals they watch over and do not cause them harm. Real cowboys are very patient, willing to ask for help, peaceful, good stewards of the earth, strong, tough, yet still cry and feel a variety of emotions. Readers also discover cowboys are not just men, but females too and are of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The author instills this idea that all cowboys are similar through their innate humanness and sense of wonder about the world. However, students will also realize how cowboys are not a specific gender, color, or have certain traits, but instead, the text conveys how there is a diverse group of people who find their home on the open range. The story breaks down stereotypes and promotes conservations about what it means to be a real cowboy. It also promotes personal development because conversations can really form. Teachers can discuss with students how it is okay to cry and feel other emotions, especially in a society that says boys should not openly show emotions. Teachers can also show girls are capable of doing cowboy- like tasks, and finally, how anyone can be a cowboy. Overall, this story encompasses many lessons that are often not talked about within schools. It allows for teachers to have conversations that are sometimes tricky in a light-hearted way. Students will learn and grow from simply reading and discussing this book. (MJO)
Hoffman, Eric. 2016. A dark, dark cave. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0670-01636-5. Illustrated by Corey R. Tabor.
Children’s imaginations are ignited by the thoughtful creations of playing make-believe. A pair of siblings takes readers through an imaginative world of creepy crawlers, giant paws, and wild howls. The adventurous duo climb, crawl, and cut through what seems to be a dark cave, but turns out to be something much different. As the siblings reach a brightly lit exit, the reader soon realizes they were never in a cave, but rather a blanket fort! The illustrations are a mixture of dark colored lines and color painted backgrounds giving the book a multidimensional feel. Even while the siblings are in the dark, the readers see rich color, whether it is bright cat eyes or a light rainbow projected through a crystal. Throughout the text the duo moves from left to right across the page as indicated by the line. The line is curved indicating their path is not exactly direct, but rather imaginative and fluid. Tabor used an organic shaped design for the characters and setting, showing a more humanistic approach. The shape gives readers a sense the siblings are experiencing identical emotions and thoughts.. Along with organic shapes, Tabor uses a diverse amount of texture. While in the dark cave, the duo encounter lizards with unique texture conveyed with lines, making them look like they are glowing. Later when the dad opens up the cave, Tabor plays into the idea of the children playing in a blanket fort by showing light seeping through the quilted overpass. In terms of an organic atmosphere, Tabor uses texture as his main visual element. Hoffman’s text appropriate for children ages four to six, but it can also serve as a reminder to use one’s imagination. (JMS)
Hook, Gwendolyn. 2016. Tiny stitches: The life of medical pioneer vivien thomas. Lee & Low Books. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-156-4. Illustrated by Colin Bootman.
Tiny stitches is a picture book biography aimed to introduce grades 2-5 to the life of researcher and inventor Vivien Thomas. Readers are encouraged to follow Vivien’s path as he grows up in a time of discrimination and racial challenges. Hook takes readers back to Thomas’ childhood, when he was simply learning and mastering skills while working in his father’s carpentry shop dreaming of one day attending medical school. Working hard and saving his money, Vivien carries on through the struggles of the Great Depression and his early experiences at Vanderbilt University. From working with Dr. Alfred Blalock to learning he was not earning the same wages as his white coworkers because of his race Vivien overcame many difficult setbacks and challenges aimed his way. However, Vivien has a bigger problem, he has researched, designed, and tested a life-saving surgical procedure capable of helping many babies born with heart defects but he is not allowed to perform or get any credit for the work he did. Hook has crafted an engaging story of scientific discovery and perseverance based on actions Vivien could presumable took. However the factual accuracy of the story is a little off. The author describes cyanosis in babies with heart defects as blue blood, due to the lack of oxygen in the blood, which is not far from the truth. However, when Hook states “Healthy heart pumps blue blood to the lungs to get oxygen. Once the blood is full of oxygen, it turns red” she gives incomplete, unclear, and misleading statements caused by an attempt to simplify. Understanding the concepts of the circulatory system are rather complex, Hook misleads readers into thinking blue blood is at some point the blood flowing through their bodies. Other than this, most everything in the biography is correct and has references included in the bibliography for curious students to use to learn more and expand their knowledge if interest is sparked. Interest in the topics mentioned in the book could be drawn from the rising tension, scientific discovery process, and from the vividly crafted illustrations. Bootman’s illustrations depict Thomas’s dedication to his work from the beginning, when placing Vivien in a large operating room inspecting the needles he designed before the operation begins. Tiny Stitches can create in children the need to learn more or the excitement of performing their own experiments like Vivien, all the while teaching to never give up when a challenge presents itself. (SSL)
Hoobler, Dorothy & Thomas. 2016. What was the San Francisco earthquake?. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 108pp. $13.91. ISBN 978-0-399-54212-1. Illustrations by Ted Hammond.
Natural disasters are a major part of nearly all locations, and earthquakes such as the San Francisco Earthquake changed the lives and geography of the surrounding area drastically. Readers are given an opportunity to learn more about this catastrophic event through the detailed descriptions, photographs, and history of this book. Providing a timeline as well as a bibliography, this book can be relied on for accurate information and sources, and supplies readers with tools to fully comprehend the text and event described. There is a table of contents, allowing the reader to easily navigate the contents of the book, and the language used to describe the history is age appropriate for the targeted reader, ages 8-12. Specific detail is provided about the stories of individual people such as newspaper editor John Barrett, singer Enrico Caruso, and Civil War veteran, E.A. Dakin. Their accounts of what happened and their whereabouts are mentioned, as well as how they felt and the experience they had during the earthquake. There are pages dispersed throughout the book that give background information on the people presented as well as fun facts about natural disasters, such as how animals react to earthquakes. This book gives children accurate information about the earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906 while at the same time allowing children to learn beyond just the history of the event into people’s lives during the disaster. (EJM)
Jackson, Ellen. 2016. Octopuses one to ten. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3182-8. Illustrated by Robin Page.
In the informational picture book categorized under books about animals, Octopuses One to Ten, Ellen Jackson takes the readers through ten lesser-known facts about octopuses that are appropriate for early elementary students. She counts from one to ten and tells facts in simple language correlating to the different numbers while still adequately covering the overall topic of octopuses. Then, she includes a more detailed explanation of the facts that correlate with the numbers. This is one of many books that Jackson has written about animals in which she explains factual information through a style that creates the feeling of reader involvement in her text. At the end, she explains ten different kinds of octopuses, where they may be found, and a few interesting facts about them. The accompanying illustrations by Robin Page are vital to the book in order for readers to be able to visualize the different octopuses. The illustrator makes size relations clear by comparing the octopuses to the size of a human being. The texture in Page’s illustrations draws in the readers by making them seem more realistic and adding to the overall attractiveness of the book. (EMG)
Jin-Ho, Jung. 2016. Look up!. Holiday House. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-3652-1. Illustrations by Jung Jin-Ho.
Originally published in Korea, Look up! tells the story of a girl in a wheelchair who sits up in her balcony, watching the people pass by on the street below. From her perspective, she can only see the tops of people’s heads. She likes to yell “Look up!” in the hopes that she will be able to see someone’s face and they, hers. The girl is usually unsuccessful, as many commuters are too busy with their own lives to notice her, until one boy does look up. The boy decides to lay on the ground so she can see more than just his head, and eventually a dozen curious people are lying next to him, all looking up. Using minimal text and a creative angle for his illustrations, Jin-Ho offers insight and a new perspective of one girl’s life. A story about meeting people where they are at, readers will be inspired by the friendliness and compassion of simply “looking up.”(JJB)
John, Jory. 2016. I love you already!. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN. 978-0-06-237095-2. Illustrations by Benji Davis.
Duck, one of the two characters in the picture book, reads “101 Walks To Take With Bears,” with his “I love Bear” mug on his bedside table. The opposite page is Bear, the second character, is giving the readers a hint of the setting and mood of the story. Bear is ready to relax on his weekend morning. The color in the story portrays the moods of both Duck and Bear. Duck is mostly shown with high energy colors, such as reds and yellows, in his background. In contrast, Bear is always placed against blues and greens which convey the mood of tranquility and melancholy. I love you already! is for readers ages four through eight because they are able to relate to Duck and his energetic tendencies as he continuously attempts to have Bear participate in all the fun. Bear continues to stay melancholy until Duck is injured, then showing just how much Bear cares for Duck. Readers will identify with the theme of friendship and love during the few short pages before Duck continues on as his energetic happy-go-lucky self. (CAF)
Johnston, E.K. 2016. Star Wars: Ahsoka. Disney Book Group (Lucasfilm Press). 400pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-148470566-7.
In a continuation of the Star Wars Universe, E.K. Johnston invites readers to an adventure alongside Anakin Skywalker’s padawan learner, Ahsoka. After the Clone Wars, the hero reappears as a wanderer living in the outer rim of the first galactic empire. Ahsoka, a nonhumanoid gifted with the force, is living a life of secrecy in the fear of being found by the empire. The Ahsoka found in the beginning of this text is very different from the character children may see in the television show The Clone Wars. After some time off, Ahsoka’s resilience gets the best of her and once again takes her on a journey across the galaxy to defeat the empire and save what remains of the Jedi Order. Johnston writes this story of adventure with vivid characterization and descriptive settings. Readers are invited to take part in imagining a completely different universe from their own. Properties of this world are similar in some ways, but undefinable in others. The setting is a combination between fantasy and reality, where Johnston makes the reader see, hear, and feel everything around them. Although the idea of a magical force that gives people the power to bend space is a little far out there, most of the technology in this universe is futuristic and yet possible. The idea of a hyperspace drive fits within the realm of science fiction because it’s an obtainable goal based on science. Lexical complexity, average sentence length, and overall length of this young reader's book is for anyone in 7th grade or higher. Children will enjoy a continuation of the Star Wars universe in E.K. Johnston’s book Ahsoka. (JMS)
Jolley, Dan. 2016. Five elements: The emerald tablet. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0062411655.
Five Elements: The Emerald Tablet, by Dan Jolley, is an action-packed and suspenseful fantasy chapter book that is best suited for children in upper elementary and junior high school. The book follows four children, Gabe Conway and his friends Lily, Brett, and Kaz, on an adventure to destroy an evil cult and their dark, magical realm. The adventure begins in the sewers of San Francisco, where the four friends follow a map stolen from Gabe’s Uncle Steve’s office. The map leads them to an abandoned, underground chamber in which they perform a ritual to bond their friendship forever. Without even knowing it, the children gave each of themselves control over one of the four worldly elements; fire, air, water, and earth. This ‘accidental’ result of the ritual leads the protagonists on a wild journey in which they learn that magic exists, and that there is a cult that plans to use it to destroy San Francisco, and essentially, the world. The friends must seek the advice of Dr. Conway (Uncle Steve) and a woman named Greta in order to learn to work together and use the elements to their advantage.
Jolley uses point of view along with characterization to make the story as realistic as possible. The story is told from multiple points of view, using the characters of Gabe, Lily, Brett, Kaz, and Jackson (a character from Arcadia) to relay the narrative. Jolley chooses which perspective to use based on how it suits and develops the story. For instance, Kaz, one of Gabe’s friends, is the rationalist of the group. Whenever the friends are on a new adventure, Kaz is inserting snarky remarks, and bringing the group down to “reality”. This gives the story an element of realism that suspends disbelief. Brett, a jollier and bumbling character, is another whose point of view is often used. He is a protagonist and an antagonist. Having witnessed the death of his brother, Charlie, to drowning, Brett adopts the element of water, and puts his friends in danger in order to allow himself to go to Arcadia in search of him. Once Brett realizes that Charlie is not in Arcadia, and that dead is really gone forever, he works with his friends to destroy the shadow realm. Dr. Conway and Greta are two characters whose point of view is not used to narrate the story. However, they are integral characters. They provide the “facts” behind how the magic works, giving the reader more connection to reality.
Five Elements shares many characteristics with other successful modern fantasy novels. The preposterous situations, such as meeting a boy from another dimension or controlling the elements, is attractive to young readers. The time warp between the “real” San Francisco and Arcadia also adds an interesting dimension to the story. Lastly, the universal theme of good versus evil and the constant juxtaposition of mysticism and rationalism make the story easy to immerse oneself in. (CJS)
Kallen, Stuart A. 2017. North American Indian Nations: Native Peoples of the Arctic. Lerner Books. 48pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1512412437.
Readers will be learn a great deal about Native Peoples of the Arctic, a group of people that are often forgotten and not taught. This informational book gives a history of the specific groups who live in the Arctic and where they live. It also discusses how they survived living in such a harsh climate from the clothes they wear, to hunting, and their shelters. Readers will also learn how spiritual these people, and the importance of keeping hunting a sacred act and respecting the animal. Eventually, the author explains how these Natives were disrupted by settlers who came in and destroyed their food source, land, and culture. It discusses the injustices that occurred to these Natives that are similar to what happened to the Native Americans in America. The last chapter focuses on how currently these people are trying to take back their land after being treaties being disrespected for the last century. The problem of climate change is also discussed because these Natives are being affected because their land is disappearing and their hunting seasons are not as long. This is an excellent non-fiction book about Native people living in the Arctic because the author has done extensive research on Native Americans and other indigenous people. He also has written over 250 children nonfiction books. Lastly, one of the most useful aspects about this book is how readers will learn about another culture, and with the use of this book, stereotypes can be broken down. Students may view these Natives just as eskimos, but the author paints this picture of many different aspects about their culture. It also emphasizes how they are not too different from people today because they do not all still live in homemade shelters, but they still have rich and unique aspects about their culture. (MJO)
Kelly, Mij. 2015. Lion’s lullaby. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-14847-2526-9. Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown.
Lion’s Lullaby, asks the question: who puts the animals to sleep? This book focuses on the rhythm and rhyme of poetry. Each animal has a rhyming phrase to show why they should be put to bed or who is going to help them to bed. The story of putting your stuffed animals to bed is relevant to any young child, because children have wild imaginations and tend to believe that their stuffed animals are alive. This book perfectly captures a theme that is relatable to any child that reads this book. Humor is also prevalent in the book, in the creative ways that the animals need to be helped to bed. This book has all the necessary elements for a young students to be interested in the poetry. (HRC)
Kelman, Marcy. 2016. Peek-a-boo Winnie the Pooh. Disney Book Group (Disney Enterprises). 10pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-7824-1. Illustrated by Jerrod Maruyama.
Peek-a-boo Winnie the Pooh takes young children into the famous world of Winnie the Pooh as they can play with the toy book and relate to the character. Language development and cognitive development are developed through the questions in the text such as “Where could Piglet be?” (Kelman, 1 Unnumbered). In the plot, the characters seem to be missing and it is up to the reader to pull open the flap and find Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Rabbit, and Pooh. The illustrations include many green and blue colors, promoting the concept of nature and a calm feeling while reading the text. Although this book provides a simple story, it also introduces children to these beloved storybook characters who are very much a part of American society today. (EMG)
Kenah, Katharine. 2016. Flood warning. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238662-5. Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford.
Water is an essential component to the existence and functionality of humans, but can also lead to disparity. Katharine Kenah writes an informational text on flooding and the affects it can have on humans in Flood warning. Readers learn about the scientific study of rainfall and how it can affect the bodies of water that surround us. Katherine Kenah has verified all the information and illustrations within the text for accuracy with Dr. Christopher Kenah, a Geologist who studies the division of drinking and ground water. The information is reliable and is leveled to children ages four to eight. Discussing the importance of ground water is essential, but using the correct vocabulary when doing so is even more important. Kenah has identified key vocabulary terms throughout the text and printed them in bold lettering. By doing this, readers can identify the important words and pay close attention to what they mean and how they are used in a sentence. After reading about flooding, readers can partake in a scientific experiment using sponges to represent the ground and how much water it can hold. Demonstrating and participating in the scientific method can introduce readers to methodological naturalism and how important it is to look at scientific study through the observed universe. The illustrations used throughout the text are organic with a very unique texture to give it an earthy feel. Katharine Kenah uses the scientific method to teach readers about groundwater and its effects on human activity in Flood warning. (JMS)
Khan, Joshua. 2016. Shadow magic. Disney Book Group (Disney). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-3272-4. Illustrations by Ben Hibon.
In Shadow magic by Joshua Khan, the reader is transported to a strange and curious world where magical creatures, such as giant bats, ghosts, and zombies, live through the genre of fantasy. There are two main characters in the novel, and the characterization choice by Khan to have them be realistic human characters helps suspend the reader’s belief of the magical world they live in. Thor is the son of an outlaw, and the plot begins with him being sold into slavery. Lily Shadow is a noblewoman who became the last surviving member of House Shadow in the magical land of Gehenna. The two main characters’ plots intertwine and they soon become fast friends and work together to defeat the evil enemies who threaten Lily’s very life and get out of her arranged marriage to the purely awful Gabriel Solar. Khan suspends the reader’s disbelief through the logical framework and therefore internal consistency of the plot of Shadow magic. Khan also suspends the reader’s disbelief by writing his novel from the point of view of these two different characters because he is able to show that even though they live in a fantastical world, they are just two normal kids. Just like all modern fantasy, the themes of this novel are universal in nature. The battle between good and evil, the value of friendship, and coming-of-age are all important themes in Shadow Magic that any reader can relate to. (EMG)
Kim, Aram. 2016. Cat on the bus. Holiday House. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0823436477. Illustrated by Aram Kim.
Written for pre-K and Kindergarten readers, this book follows the story of a cat as it explores the city. The book demonstrates the sights and sounds the cat hears as it wanders through the city. The cat is shooed away at many places it goes. Finally, the cat finds its way onto the bus and meets a whole new world. The cat finds an elderly man who is affectionate toward the cat who just wants to be loved. The man brings the cat home and everything is finally resolved. This story is perfect for young readers who are in a stage where they are very attached to their family and pets. The pictures are vital in the story, as there are only 14 words throughout the entire book. In the first half of the book, the color gray dominates the pictures as the cat struggles with a lack of acceptance and the feeling of being lost. Once the cat finds its way onto the bus, the colors become more vibrant. The seat on the bus where the elderly man and cat sit is red, demonstrating the love the cat finally receives. The expressions of the cat also change throughout the story. At first the cat has a look of longing and fright. After the cat finds an owner and someone who will love him, his expression changes to a look of content and even excitement. Cat on the Bus relays how important love and acceptance is to everyone. (APB)
Korman, Gordon. 2016. Masterminds: Criminal destiny. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-062-30002-7.
In this series’ second installment, readers accompany Eli, Tori, Amber, and Malik, as they race across the country searching for both freedom and justice. The story picks up right after the teenagers have escaped from their former home of Serenity, NM, which they now know to be a pseudo-city serving as the experimentation location of Project Osiris. In a nutshell, the four teenagers, as well as seven others, were illegally cloned from the world’s worst criminal masterminds, given happy and peaceful lives, and observed by their scientist “parents” for their entire lives in order to study whether or not humans can be born inherently evil. Having realized this secret and escaped in the previous book, Eli, Tori, Amber, and Malik now face the challenges of life outside of their former home as wanted fugitives. Throughout the story, the four bounce around from places such as Denver, CO, Jackson Hole, WY, and Haddonfield, TX, as they flee the dreaded Purple People Eaters while seeking proof of the crimes committed towards them. In this way, the plot develops clearly as the events increase in intensity and the mystery broadens. In this person v. society conflict, there is never a dull moment as the four characters are constantly in fear of being caught by their former “families”. Not only do they run from their pursuers, but the four also face a society brand new to them with completely different rules and information. It is in this way the setting serves as the mood of the story. Even though Eli, Tori, Amber, and Malik are always changing locations, there is always a sense of tension, especially in the larger cities such as Denver. Along with the setting being used in this way, the characters develop as the story develops. Each chapter is told by one of the four teenagers, demonstrating differing points of view while also slowly offering the readers insight as to how each character thinks and functions. Although they are all different, Eli, Tori, Amber, and Malik share a common theme of dealing with the transition to their new life. This characterization is extremely relevant in the lives of readers, as adolescents of this age are engaging in their own internal battles such as wanting to be cared for while simultaneously seeking independence. Other relatable elements of the story are the themes of friendship and of finding oneself. In terms of social development of an adolescent, these ideas are spot on and will resonate strongly with readers. Although these ideas are emphasized throughout the book, each element is woven into the story organically and nothing is forced. Instilling captivation from beginning to end, Eli, Tori, Amber, and Malik tell an unbelievable story and undergo many of the same struggles those reading about them may have as well. (DB)
Kugler, Tina. 2016. Snail and Worm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544494121.
Students are introduced to a snail and a worm. They are best friends and often spend time together. They are very humorous, curious, and loyal to one another. This children’s book is split up into three chapters, thus preparing students for longer chapter books. Teachers can spend time discussing how longer books have chapters and are similar to how this particular children’s book is set up. Furthermore, this story can be a beneficial resource for language development because repetition is used. Snail and worm ask each other the same questions, so students will be able to pick up the pattern very quickly. The teacher then can have students predict and say aloud the lines as they move through the story. Lastly, this story can promote social development, particularly friendship. Snail does not always understand concepts or sometimes does not know what to say, but worm always encourages and help him through it. For instance, snail was scared to climb a flower because he did not think he could do it, but worm encourages his friend to climb the flower and is excited when snail completes the task. This book shows children should be encouraging to one another and the importance of being there for a friend. (MJO)
La Marche, Jim. 2016. Pond. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4735-5.
A connection with friends and nature is evident in the stunningly illustrated book Pond by Jim La Marche. Matt, Katie, and Pablo are three neighborhood friends who find themselves wandering the forest looking for adventure. After a day of searching, the three of them found a stream bubbling up from the earth. The group decides to put their brains together in order to make a dam and build the pond. Using teamwork, the group creates the pond and shares many memories there throughout the length of a year. The storyline has little conflict and the only antagonist is the children’s will to succeed. Illustrations are enchanting and give the reader a sense of serenity. The coloration consists of mostly warm pastels, enhancing the interconnectedness of the children and nature. Shape is used in an organic manner throughout, showing the reader how captivating nature can be in its vast organized chaos. Children ages four to eight will find these adventures meaningful and inspiring. Pond is a story of friendship and intention, where children manipulate the world around them. La Marche reminds us that our connection with nature is an important one to cherish and share with others. (JMS)
Lampert, Diane C. 2016. Suite for human nature. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-5373-9. Illustrations by Eric Puybaret.
Mother Nature begins her conception of humans, and in the processes she creates Fear, Envy, Greed, and Hate. These brothers are out of control and because of the chaos, Mother Nature creates two sisters named Fickle and Love. Once the brothers and sisters learned to get along all is peaceful for human nature. The illustrations portray the mood and meaning of this story excellently. The shapes throughout the book are organic shapes, which connects well to how Mother Nature makes all of the humans, brothers and sisters. The lines throughout the pages show how the specific brothers are portrayed and what their meaning truly feels like. This book has a deep meaning and would be age appropriate for young students, in order to show them how emotions work together in nature. (HRC)
Lefkon, Wendy Editor. 2016. The art of Minnie Mouse. Disney Book Group (Disney Editions). 160pp. $40.00. ISBN 978-148476773-3.
In The Art of Minnie Mouse, a vast group of Disney personnel worked together to bring out and re-imagine the styles of Minnie and portray them in new mediums. From the early classic red polka dots to modern wear, Minnie appears in brand new ways. The book is informative and composed of three sections. The first being the all encompassing animated filmography. It’s a complete list of every Minnie appearance on screen ever, from Steamboat Willie to Get Horse! The filmography not only lists all her appearances but informs readers on the type of film and the year of release. The second section is dedicated to Minnie’s Milestones. It covers everything from her first book appearance, to animated shorts, to theme parks, and TV specials of the 1980’s. These first two sections of the book are the only places with any real reading material to learn from. The style of the writing is very factual and to the point. The book almost presents itself as a biography of Minnie Mouse, in the way that it follows major events centered around her creation and ‘life.’ The third section and final section is the largest. The third section is the compilation of artwork created and collected by the large networking group of Disney artists, most of whom are associated with the Disney company. The images range from very vivid and bright portrayals of Minnie (and or Mickey) doing fun activities to more moody and dull colored depictions of Minnie. The creators have broken up the plethora of images with titles such as “her independence’ and “Her name” the images do not necessarily relate back to the titles. This might have been done to give a bit more reading material and to simply just bring back the attention of the reader, as so they do not just start flipping through pages mindlessly not paying attention. Young readers will enjoy the numerous drawings of Minnie in new and exciting ways and older readers with an invested interest in Disney will enjoy learning some history details of a very important mouse. (SSL)
Lehrhaupt, Adam. 2016. Chicken in space. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236412-8. Illustrations by Shahar Kober.
An adventurous chicken is planning a trip to outer space. Zoey, the chicken, enlists the help of her friend Sam, the pig, to help her get to outer space. Zoey ends up taking a basket with balloons tied to the handle and flying into the sky with Sam. They encounter many objects Zoey pretends are asteroids or aliens, but they eventually end up back on earth. Zoey is a creative chicken and the shapes of everything in this book represent her creativity very well. On the pages where Zoey and Sam are in “outer space” the shapes are distinctly organic and reflect Zoey’s imagination. Lines are also key in this book, specifically on the page where the two animals are preparing to crash back to earth. The strings on the balloon are not straight but jagged which signifies danger. (HRC)
Liu, Sylvia. 2016. A morning with grandpa. Lee and Low. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-192-2. Illustrations by Christina Forshay.
A morning with Grandpa tells of the playful relationship between a grandfather (Gong Gong) and granddaughter (Mei Mei). Mei Mei finds her grandfather doing tai chi outside in their backyard one morning and is curious about his slow, graceful moves. She tries to master these moves with her own flair, and then teaches Gong Gong the yoga she learned in school. Gong Gong attempts to copy her moves, with a little less flexibility than his youthful granddaughter. Through the author’s creative use of metaphors, readers can learn tai chi and yoga while they enjoy the light-hearted storyline. The contrasting personalities of Mei Mei and Gong Gong, emphasized through Forshay’s illustrations, will leave readers content with the classic duo of a rambunctious child and a peaceful grandparent. (JJB)
Long, Loren. 2016. Otis and the kittens. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Publishing). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16398-2.
In the valley on a warm summer day, a tractor named Otis and his personified barnyard friends play together after a long day of work on the farm, until Otis notices something unusual. Off in the distance, an orange cat is acting in a historical manner near the barn. That is when Otis notices that smoke is beginning to rise from the barn. So, with a clever alliteration, “ putt puff puttedy chuff,” the tractor heads to the barn to check out the commotion. Otis battles inner conflict as he conquers his fears, rushes into the burning barn, and rescues all of the kittens. The illustrations do an exemplary job of supporting the text, providing unique details and texture to each of the characters and the barn, and the within the bar looks authentic enough that the reader can feel as though they are inside the barn alongside Otis. Recommended for grades K-2. (KJN)
Lowell, Barbara. 2016. Daring Amelia. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). $3.99. 48pp. ISBN 978-0-448-48760-1. Illustrated by Jez Tuya.
Lowell’s biography of Amelia Earhart is recommended younger readers. The book is 48 pages long, but covers Amelia’s life from start to end with vivid colored pages and interesting facts about her childhood. The author does a fantastic job explaining Earhart’s very creative childhood and her rise in the world of aviation. While many readers might already know who Amelia is and why she is so important to our history many might not know about how she grew up or why she became so attached to flying in the first place. This informational biography does keep factual accuracy when teaching students about the many adventures and active pursuits Amelia had as a child, for instance Amelia did build her very own roller coaster in her backyard. The facts as real as they were did not overwhelm the plot of the story Lowell was trying to tell. Kids can really relate to the Amelia from the story, as she is written about as a child for a portion of the book. Kids can relate very well to other kids, so it should not be hard for students to find themselves relating in one way or another with this book. The facts mentioned in the book are not often mentioned today, and it would be informative to the young reader to get an overview of her life. Lowell did a more than adequate job in researching those smaller details and applying them to the plot. The writing style would be engaging for young readers who are just a curious about Amelia as the rest of the world is. (SSL)
Lowery, David and Toby Halbrooks. 2016. Elliot gets lost. Disney Book Group (Disney Press). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-5029-2. Illustrated by Benjamin Lowery.
In Elliot gets lost, readers enter an eventful day in the woods as Elliot works to navigate his way back to his campsite, back to his family. While the camping trip begins on a positive note things quickly turn sour for Elliot. The young pup soon finds he has wandered to far into the woods and no longer remembers the way back to camp. Elliot starts looking to common forest animals as a way to find a new home, since he can’t find a way back to his. The woodland animals have a multitude of reasons or excuses as to why Elliot can’t live with them and all eventually turn him back into the woods saying he needs to find his own family. The pages of Elliot gets lost are full of magnificently illustrated images. Elliot travels on straight land in one direction for the majority of his journey until he eventually reverses his direction to head home. To add mood to the illustrations the illustrator skillfully adds an array of color to bring the story to life. Splendid shades of blues and greens in the depictions of nature suggesting it is a place of coolness and calm. However, as evening approaches, the use of shadows and light change the mood of the story to match Elliots emotions. Elliot mentions being scared of the dark as the light sky blues change into a dark violet and black background, adding to the overall environment of being scared and alone in a new place. Stars and the moon in the illustrations become more prominent as Elliot’s woodland friends help him navigate home, lighting the way back to something familiar, back to family, safety and security. (SSL)
Lowery, David, and Tom Bancroft. 2016. The art of Disney’s dragons. Disney Editions. 128pp. $29.99. ISBN 978-1-484-74716-2.
In this nontraditional picture book, readers are invited into the complex world of Disney’s dragons. Although no specific story is told, the book records the history of these creatures as they have been used in Disney stories and movies. Spanning decades of imaginative work, the book contains both original sketches and final images of the dragons. The book is nontraditional in the sense that no formal plot exists, but the assemblage of illustrations and media gives glimpses into how each dragon was portrayed in its individual story. For example, the colors used in the images reveal the mood or characterization of each dragon. While some are portrayed with darkness or colors of fire, other dragons are given lighter backgrounds or calming colors such as green, blue, or purple. By identifying these differences, readers can correlate the darker colors to evil dragons versus the calmer and lighter colors to friendly dragons. Other elements such as line and shape reveal information about the dragons as well. Because there are so many different examples, readers can infer as to why some are given round, soft lines while others have sharp, jagged lines. Also, size can also play a pivotal role in the characterization process. For instance, readers can quickly distinguish the enormous form of Maleficent from the scrawniness of Mushu. Just as with colors, certain types of lines and shapes match certain types of dragons. Differences in texture also reveal characterization, as well as the time period of the dragon’s origination. Each one of these elements and more can be used to enhance cognitive development and visual literacy skills simply because there are so many opportunities for comparison. Also, using the illustrative elements in relation to characterization promotes inference and prediction abilities among readers. In this way, the book is effective and appropriate because such critical thinking skills are cultivated naturally in the context of Disney’s dragons. (DB)
Lowery, Linda. 2017. North American Indian Nations: Native Peoples of the Plains. Lerner Publishing Group (Lerner Publications Company). 48pp. ISBN 978-1-4677-7934-0.
North American Indian Nations: Native Peoples of the Plains is an informational book by award-winning author Linda Lowery that the twenty-eight Native American nations on the North American Plains. Being such a broad topic, this text focuses on the ways in which the Indian nations used the plains in their lives through society, spirituality, the arts, and what happened to these nations once the Europeans arrived. The editors of this book made as special note that they made every effort to fact check with experts in the field and consultants from various nations. A selected bibliography and opportunities for further information are presented in the back of the book because this short text only begins to scratch the surface of a much larger topic. This being said, through the author’s straightforward and unbiased presentation of the information, most significant facts are included. The book is well-organized with a format that includes a table of contents and various subheadings in the different chapters. The pictures that accompany the text have detailed captions to add to the clarity and attractiveness of the book. (EMG)
Lowery, Linda. 2017. North American Indian Nations: Native Peoples of the Southwest. Lerner Books (Lerner Publications Company). 48pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1467783293.
Teach readers about marginalized populations within the United States through literature in Linda Lowery’s North American Indian Nations: Native Peoples of the Southwest. Stories of European settlement are often told to children in schools, but Lowery writes an informational text that can be used to help educate students about the original peoples of the America’s. Linda Lowery is a children’s literature author who has over 60 award winning books. The text begins with backstory of the Native Americans who live in the Southwest and introduces readers to their community and spirituality through art and music. Maps are used as visual aids when explaining settlements and movements of the native peoples. Something worthy of noting is that Lowery highlights how men and women are given equal respect in Southwest Cultures. Clan membership was passed down through women, so when a man and a woman married they would become a part of the wife’s clan. Important lessons of equality and cultures that may differ from the U.S. norm are found in Southwest Native American Culture. North American Indian Nations: Native People of the Southwest is leveled for readers ages eight to twelve. Linda Lowery writes an informational text to help readers understand the origins and story of a marginalized people. (JMS)
Lucipa, Mike. 2016. Last man out. Penguin Random House LLC. 245pp. $17.99. ISBN 970-0-399-17279-3.
Twelve year old Tommy Gallagher from Boston Massachusetts and his sister Em share a strong bond with their father Patrick, a member of the local fire squadron referred to as “Boston’s Bravest.” Tommy, a sensational athlete on the football field and Em, his younger sister, a soccer star, have both crafted mastery within their respective sports thanks to their supportive and committed father. What seems like another routine football game early in the book, becomes an important event that would change the lives of the two siblings and provide a true test as to how much perseverance each possesses.
A call had been made that required the assistance of the fire department, but this time was different than most: Tommy’s father left in an ambulance. It was not after this tragic occurrence that Patrick Gallagher was pronounced dead. His wife tries her best to keep things working in a routine manner, but to no avail she falls short of her goal. Tommy tries to find other outlets to excite him though it did not always lead to the best decision. His younger sister Em decides to walk away from a potential championship winning soccer team and season, while struggling to find herself once again. An interesting mix of overcoming societal influences, as well as internal struggles make this an interesting read as the reader follows Tommy on his road to intellectual and emotional growth and recovery. With the support of friends and family both Em and Tommy make unique strides in progress. This book is recommended for both young men and women, but especially for those who enjoy football. Recommended for grades 4-6. (KJN)
Lusted, Marcia. 2016. The Jamestown colony disaster. Lerner Publishing Group. 40pp. $29.99. ISBN 978-1512411164.
This historical text does a cause and effect investigation on the disaster that occurred at Jamestown Colony. In 1607, settlers from England established Jamestown Colony on a swampy inlet 60 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The Powhatan already lived in the area the settlers inhabited which led to a rocky road for both parties. Problems arose as thirty five of the original settlers were considered gentlemen. The gentlemen were rich men who thought they didn’t have to work. They refused to spend time planting crops or storing food, which led to more problems for the settlers. Many settlers died from starvation in the winter of 1609-1610. After that winter, 150 settlers arrived from England which changed the direction for Jamestown. These 150 brought weapons and waged a war on the Powhatan that lasted 5 years. The English had aggressive behavior and treated the Powhatan in the worst way they could. This book, for upper elementary students, describes the true relationship between the natives and the first settlers. There is a glossary of terms, selected biography, and further information to prove that this book was researched extensively. (APB)
MacLachlan, Patricia. 2016. The Poet’s dog. HarperCollins Publishers (Katherine Tegen Books). 96pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229262-9.
Caught in the forest in the midst of a fierce winter storm, readers join the narrator, Teddy, as he saves two young children by bringing them to his cabin. Even though he is an untraditional hero in this sense and is actually a dog, he has been taught language by his previous owner and therefore speaks to the children. As he explains to the brother and sister, Nickel and Flora, Teddy used to live in the cabin with Sylvan, a poet and friend who took care of him. Sylvan taught Teddy words and the ability to speak, but also claimed only poets and children can hear them. Nickel and Flora also explain their own scenario, telling how their mother went to get help after their car accident, yet did not come back for them. After the initial trading of stories, the narrative progresses as the three characters grow fonder of each other while they wait out the storm together. Even though they are only children, Nickel and Flora are able to keep the fire going and cook for five days until the storm passes. While this part of the story is happening, Teddy also recalls his time with Sylvan leading up to his recent departure. Teddy tells of Sylvan’s dedication to his own poetry, as well as the poetry class he taught in the cabin. One of the students, Ellie, quickly becomes both Sylvan and Teddy’s favorite. Eventually, she is able to hear Teddy speak because she too becomes a true poet. However, on the last day of the storm, Teddy reveals the reason Sylvan left. Not out of choice like it may have seemed, Sylvan had actually became sick and passed away, leaving Ellie to look after Teddy. Once the storm finally passed, she was the first one to show up and contacted Nickel and Flora’s parents. In the end, Teddy actually becomes part of their family and feels as if his relationship with Sylvan lives on through Nickel and Flora. Although not written as poetry, the story emulates many aspects of poetic style and contains many similar elements. For example, Teddy, the dog, is personified as the protagonist and has many human-like qualities. Because of his ability to talk and his relationships with people, Teddy even claims he sometimes forgets he is not human. Also, just like poetry, there are multiple motifs. Elements such as the cabin, Sylvan’s laptop, and writing in general are consistently repeated in both the main story and Teddy’s flashbacks, creating a strong parallel between Sylvan and the two children. Of greater significance is the symbolism of the word “jewel” throughout the story. Before Sylvan leaves, he tells Teddy to find a jewel or two, which he does not understand at the time. However, Teddy comes to learn Flora’s middle name is Jewel and their mother’s childhood dog was also named Jewel. This poetic coincidence characterizes the entire story, highlighting the importance of relationships as well as the theme of being lost versus being found. This story is told in the form of a book, yet these elements give it the style, emotion, and depth of poetry, and make Teddy the character he is. (DB)
Maihack, Mike. 2016. Secret of the time tablets: Cleopatra in Space #3. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic). 192pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-545-83867-2.
Cleopatra and her friends are in search of the stolen time tablets. These time tablets could end up determining Cleopatra’s fate, so she and her friends are searching urgently. This graphic novel is a historical tale, incorporating Egyptian culture into a space-centered world. The connection to the Egyptian culture is prevalent throughout the entire novel. The illustrations in this folktale are impeccable. The color scheme perfectly sets the mood for a space theme. The shapes of the images are organic making the space setting come to life. This novel puts a futuristic twist on a historical character with its excellent illustrations. (HRC)
Marino, Gianna. 2016. I am the mountain mouse. Penguin Random House (Viking Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-451-46955
I am the mountain mouse is a captivating four-story long book, combining picture book and graphic novel, aimed at a target age group of 3 to 5 year olds. The book presents the always adventurous and consistently oblivious nameless mouse in a variety of different environments. Either in the woods or in a house, little mouse falls back on his oversized ego to prove he is doing everything right. Mountain mouse has a remarkable talent of relating everything back to him or his wild ideas; to little mouse it is quite frankly all about “me, me, me.” The notion of “me, me, me” may click with younger children who, in their own stage of personality development, might be transfixed with an egocentric ideology. While the little mouse goes on his excursions, the author skillfully mixes illustration with a rather limited use of dialogue. The characterization of the little mouse and sense of humor Marino brings are what makes this picture book enjoyable. The mountain mouse and his ego are not so widely accepted by his friends, who try to talk him down. The talking does not faze the mountain mouse who, because he thinks he is bigger or better than his friends, shows a sense of superiority. This superiority comes with an underlying tone of humor. The mountain mouse’s friends, who always know how the outcome will play out, never really brag about being correct; rather, it is the mountain mouse who slyly twists the situation around so he looks and acts as though he knew how it was going to end. Full of this sense of humor, with touches of silliness thrown in, I am the mountain mouse focuses on friends and the effects of a big ego. (SSL)
Marks, Alan. 2016. The People of the town: Nursery-Rhyme friends for you and me.Charlesbridge. 40pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-729-0
In this colorful compilation of nursery-rhyme stories both old and new, the wide array of characters take readers by the hand and parade with them through the pages. Although each turn of the page brings a new adventure, there is a consistent melody throughout, as the rhymes and rhythms of each poem begin where the other left off. Many of the stories are classic and iconic nursery-rhymes, including Peter Piper, Mary and her lamb, the Grand Old Duke of York, and Georgie Porgie. In the Grand Old Duke of York, the rhythm is most characterized by the repetition of the actions of his ten thousand men. As would an actual group of soldiers, the lines progress in a very calculated and organized way. Because of this style and the repetition of the soldiers going up, down, and around, the poem moves in the same way as the soldiers marching about the hill. Along with the age-old tales such as this one, new stories are interwoven into the collage of nursery-rhymes as well. For example, it is not long until Gregory Griggs makes his appearance. In this poem, the alliteration of the character’s name and rhyme scheme of aabbcc are most significant. Just as in the Grand Old Duke of York, there is also a presence of repetition, as the phrase “he wore them (his wigs)” is used four times. In a poem of only six lines, this image receives much of the attention. However, because Gregory Griggs is said to have twenty-seven total wigs, this reiteration demonstrates the action of him wearing so many of them. In both of these poems, as well as many others within the collection, the intentional style always relates to the characters and their stories, bringing them to life for the readers. Also, working cohesively with the artistry of the poems are the vivid and colorful images of each story. Mirroring the song-like style of the nursery-rhymes, the illustrations are light and whimsical. The watercolors are bright and appealing to the eye, yet also effectively capture the most important part of each story. For example, for the illustration of Old Women in the Shoe embodies the chaos and playfulness of the story with many of the children scattered around the page. All of these characteristics create a book as dreamlike and fantastical as the characters of the nursery-rhymes it contains. (DB)
Martin Jr., Bill and Sampson, Michael. 2016. Listen to our world. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5473-6. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
Listen to Our World takes the reader around the earth as they discover where all kinds of animals live. The story begins with a mother and child, and the rest of the book centers around different animals such as parrots, eagles, and penguins and describes where they live. This book may be used to promote cognitive development through observing, comparing, and classifying the animals. Caldecott honor artist, Melissa Sweet, pairs the words with strikingly purposeful illustrations. As the mothers wake up their children in the beginning of the story, the page is yellow, which indicates the time of day. The geometric shapes of the buildings made with vertical and horizontal lines promote the idea of stability and security. The color of each page changes dramatically as the setting shifts to different places around the world. Vertical and horizontal lines are present throughout the pages showing the strength and safety of the animals, while curved lines indicate the movement in nature. Texture and organic shapes are also used in the illustrations to emphasize the natural world. This contrasts the end of the book where the stability of the geometric buildings, enveloped in the calmness of blue, is brought back as a mother says goodnight to her child. (EMG)
Mazzeo, Tilar J. 2016. Irena’s children: Young readers edition. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 272pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4991-5. Adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell.
A retelling of Tilar J. Mazzeo’s Irena’s children, Mary Cronk Farrell gives younger readers a chance to read about Irena Sendler, the woman who courageously saved 2,500 children from Nazi concentration camps during WWII. The plot is developed with person-against-society conflict through description of the values and beliefs at the time regarding anti-semitism. Because of the lack of evidence about the details of Irena’s life, this novel is within the genre of historical fiction. Her characterization seems to be incomplete at times (even though it is written in third person point of view) because relatively little is actually known about the real Irena. It is important that readers understand that this text is not biography and that many details have been added as a way to fill in the gaps of her life and create an entertaining story. That being said, the plot emerges from an authentically developed time period with an integral setting that correctly portrays this time period to young readers. The themes of courage, love, and finding the way to freedom are themes that are worthwhile and relevant throughout history, which are easy for today’s children to relate to. The setting of the story during the time of the holocaust creates an emotional impact on the reader, and Farrell’s style influences the somber mood of the time period. (EMG)
McCormick, Patricia. 2016. The plot to kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, spy, unlikely hero. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 192pp. $17.42. ISBN 978-0- 06-241108- 2.
The plot to kill Hitler is a nonfiction book that follows the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and spy who brought evidence to the Allies that Jews were being deported to death camps during World War II. He fought diligently against Hitler in Germany and there is evidence that he was involved in a plan to kill the Führer. Former journalist and two-time National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick did extensive research about Bonhoeffer’s life in order to write this book. At the end of the text, she includes a timeline of historical events, endnotes, a bibliography citing her sources, and an index. Throughout the book she also includes informational sidebars to explain the historical background knowledge relating to a time in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life in a manner that is concise and interesting to read. Black and white photographs are incorporated throughout the pages with appropriate captions to further visualize and make clear the historical accuracy of the text. The author clearly and directly presents the information of the book without bias through precise, vivid, interesting, and descriptive word choices, but the text is still engaging and appropriate for young readers. McCormick tells the story of a war hero who is often forgotten about in history textbooks but who communicates important lessons about standing up for the good even in the midst of controlling evil. (EMG)
McQuinn, Anna. 2010. Lola loves stories. Charlesbridge (Alanna Books). 28pp. $15.95. ISBN 978-1-580890258-2. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw.
In Lola Loves Stories, a young girl named Lola and her daddy go to the library. When they go to the library Lola picks out all sorts of story books to read, and has her daddy start to read her some. After Lola’s daddy reads her a story, she imagines that she is living that story and the book has come to life. As the book continues, more and more people read Lola stories and as these stories are read to her she continues to imagine that she is in the stories and pretends to be a part of each tale. This book shows young students that imagination and reading go hand in hand. Lola does not just like the stories because she enjoys listening to them, she enjoys them because they inspire her to go out and try new things. This book is age appropriate for younger elementary students because it shows how pretending and using your imagination with stories is good in developing a creative mind. This is also age appropriate because the illustrations are simple, colorful but draw the attention to each different story that Lola reads. (HRC)
McQuinn, Anna. 2014. Lola plants a garden. Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. 28pp. $15.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-694-8. Illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw
Children grades K-2 will love Lola, a young African American girl is obsessed with the idea of planting her own garden after reading her favorite, “Mary Mary” poem. She decides to bring the poem to life with the help of her mother. After purchasing the necessary materials they plant and patiently wait for the seeds to start growing. Lola brings her vision to life using crafts, and before long, the garden has grown! As her and her parents place the finishing touches, Lola once again brings her favorite poem to life with a garden that even Mary would be impressed by! (K-2)
Meltzer, Brad. 2010. Heroes for my son. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 128pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-243931-4
This text provides readers grades K-3 with information about ordinary people who went to do extraordinary things. The author provides a brief autobiography about each figure in the book as well as a picture and quote spoken by each person. Although the text does not dedicate enough substance to know a lot about each important figure, students can begin to understand the basic components found when reading an autobiographical text. Appropriate for both young girls and boys, this book will give readers an insight into important individuals of the past and who they were as people. (KJN)
Meltzer, Brad. 2016. Heroes for my daughter. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 144pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0061905261.
Heroes for my Daughter is an informational and inspirational book written by Brad Meltzer, an author of political fiction among other things. Meltzer is a credible author who has done much of his research through interviewing and visiting places such as the White House. He is on the bestseller list for nonfiction, advice, children’s books, and comic books. The book is comprised of both straight facts and his own narrative with facts woven throughout.
The tone of the book, told in the third person, is primarily informative, with an emotional spin. The book, dedicated to Meltzer’s daughter, is intentionally filled with short biographies of people who have overcome adversity and achieved great things. Meltzer is aiming to inspire young readers to be resilient and convince them that they can accomplish great things with the examples of various “great” people. One exceptional aspect pertaining to the content of this book is that it includes a wide array of people. From Benjamin Franklin, to Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace (two American college softball players), Meltzer includes people from many different eras, backgrounds, and popularity in the book. Meltzer includes his own mother and wife in the book, which gives it an element of authenticity.
A slight issue with the tone and style of this book is that Meltzer intentionally includes only the facts that make each person heroic. There is no mention of any negative attributes to these people, although they are existent. For example, on the page about the Dalai Lama, Meltzer writes of how he won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his unwavering commitment to nonviolence”. There are other facts about the Dalai Lama, such as the fact that he refused to share a prison cell with a black man because he saw Indian men as superior, that Meltzer did not include. In this case, Meltzer’s choice to put a positive spin on every biography is probably appropriate, although it is a bit one sided. (CJS)
Miller, Pat. 2016. The hole story of the doughnut. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-31961-5. Illustrations by Vincent X. Kirsch.
Pat Miller’s nonfiction story of Hanson Gregory, the man credited with the invention of the doughnut, is an engaging tale that reads like a fictional story. Every set of pages has one side with a white circle filled with text with a background to match the plot of the story and the opposite side is a white background with a circle filled with the image. The white space with the pictured background and the filled space with the white background are coordinated and looks as though the circle with the image had been cut from the background on the adjacent page. This is a creative element similar to what Hanson Gregory would have done when making the hole in the center of the doughnut. This story is filled with enjoyable-to-read historical knowledge and even tells two of the legends that were made up by sailors of the doughnut’s origin. This historical book has made reading history enjoyable for the audience. The images have sharp lines and is beautifully rendered to make the story all the more thrilling to read. The end of the book includes a photo that was taken of Hanson Gregory, an author’s note, timeline, and more. The author’s note and timeline are very interesting and goes into Hanson Gregory’s life after his death. His tombstone was destroyed, and his grave unmarked for twenty years until Dunkin’ Doughnuts declared they would pay for a new one. Very interesting, the history of the doughnut. (CAF)
Moberg, Julia. 2016. Presidential pets: The weird, wacky, little, big, scary, strange animals that have lived in the white house. Charlesbridge. 95pp. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-62354-086-9. Illustrated by Jeff Albrecht.
In Presidential Pets, readers are introduced to a variety of topics right of the bat, topics revolving around the White House. Presidents, history, animals, poems, and images appear on each and every page. There really is a lot going on in this busy book, or house some might say. The main passage of each page is written in a rhyming poem which catches readers attention with the humor incorporated by Moberg. The poem's main job is to introduce the president and the pet or pets those presidents had in the White House during their term(s). Each poem is in the same shape and rhyming patterns, but deliver the message well enough to teach readers. In addition, each page contains a section on the following: Presidential status, a “tell me more” section, and a list of accomplishments and events. The amount of knowledge is very overwhelming at first. Each part is competing for the attention of the readers eyes. The information makes the book a valuable piece of literature when learning about presidents, but the organization could have been presented better. The history content is very factual and complements the overall purpose of the book. Younger readers might just have a harder time trying to find ways to connect to the piece, however the images do help with this. The images are very cartoon like and show very vivid and colorful scenes. The scenes also hold some tone of childlike humor, which compliments the funny undertone of the poems on the complementary page. Overall, readers will have a great time with this humorous history lesson. (SSL)
Montgomery, Sy. 2016. The great white shark scientist. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0544352988. Photographed by Keith Ellenbogen.
Readers are encouraged to be open minded as they step in the world of a scientist, Dr. Greg. Skomal, who is trying to debunk myths about the Great White Shark. Often, children (and adults) are scared of these animals, but this book shows how these animals are not as scary as one might think, and how they are going distinct at an alarming rate. Dr. Skomal describes these sharks as calm and beautiful which is different than how most people might describe them. Readers are taken on a journey where Dr. Skomal and his team research sharks in New England and Mexico. One of the best parts about this informational texts are the photographs associated with it. These photographs were taken during Dr. Skomal’s research which make the words stand out even more. This photographer very well known and highly skilled because he is known for his underwater photos, and he focuses on environmental conservation. He also has had his photos published across the world. The photographs truly enhance the story with the vivid blue colors. It is also important to note that Sy Montgomery, the author of this book, is very qualified. She has been across the world, studying many kinds of animals. Sy is known for getting up close and personal with animals in their natural habitat. She is also the author of many books. Overall, this is a perfect book for students who might be afraid of the Great White Shark. It sheds this animals in a positive light and emphasizes there is no need to be afraid of them. (MJO)
Murray, Laura. 2016. The gingerbread man: Loose at the zoo. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16867-3.
Loose at the Zoo is a picture story book based on the traditional accounts of the Gingerbread Man. While this differs from the classic tale, it still holds some of the same concepts of traditional literature. Children are invited to follow the journey of a very adventurous and clever Gingerbread Man. Gingerbread Man gets to go on a field trip to the zoo with the other members of his class, however things quickly take a turn once he meets a very hungry giraffe. The giraffe swoops Gingerbread Man into his mouth and begins to chew, but the quick witted Gingerbread Man is able to get out of his difficult situation. He quickly finds himself in trouble again, but this time with a monkey. Loose at the zoo, still incorporates the sequential and repetitive actions similar to the original story until the climax is reached. The main character, the Gingerbread Man, has incredible intelligence and reasoning abilities. In Loose at the Zoo Gingerbread man shows his intelligent by decoding riddles to catch up with the rest of his class after being separated at the beginning of their trip and by his ability to work his way out of difficult situations like evading another hungry zoo animal who thought he might be a delightful snack. The writing style includes the element of interaction between readers and listeners during the reading. Laura manages to create this by using rhymes or by separating riddles from answers allowing for a break where the reader can ask children to hypothesis what animal or event might show up next and applying knowledge about their predictions to offer a potential outcome about Gingerbread Man and his quest to find his class. Eventually Gingerbread man reunites with his class in the most heartwarming of ways, a rhyme of appreciation and acknowledgement from both his teacher and his peers. (SSL)
Nelson, Vaunda. 2016. Don’t call me Grandma. Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Books). 32pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-4208-5. Illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon.
In the picture storybook Don’t call me Grandma, readers are introduced to a new look at how relationships with grandparents work, which might be all too familiar for a few. This story is not a lovey dovey relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent; rather, it focus on great grandmother Nell who, as defined by her granddaughter, is scary and prickly. In the beginning, the way grandmother Nell acts and how she is perceived by the granddaughter make it hard for the young girl get to know and understand grandmother Nell. However, as grandmother Nell slowly starts inviting her granddaughter to get to know her, a whole new side of Nell is shown. The characterization and illustration of grandmother Nell is phenomenal. The interesting details and memories slowly emerge about grandmother Nell and make her come to life for readers as they are introduced to a wide array of topics. As the two grow closer throughout the pages, the young girl hears about growing up in a period where friends could no longer be friends because of skin color and how it caused grandmother Nell’s first broken heart. Even as grandmother Nell is described as being scary and prickly by her granddaughter, the illustrations depict a whole different narrative. Outwardly, grandmother Nell shows these traits, but internally she still loves her granddaughter. While there are never large outward actions of affection, they do convey a soft side to grandmother Nell. Whether the young girl is aware of these actions or not, she mentions quite a few times, no matter what, she still loves her grandmother, which is a lesson most important to anyone and a big message for such a little book. (SSL)
Nix, Garth. 2016. Goldenhand (Old Kingdom). HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 368pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0061561580.
Goldenhand is a novel that is entirely set in a fantasy world. The main character is Lirael, who yields a special power to interpret magical texts and holds crystals that allow her to fight “the Dead”. This fantasy world is split between the world of the living and the world of the dead, where only a few brave hunters such as Lirael wander. After Lirael saves the character, Nicholas Sayre, from a “Free magic” creature. Free magic translates to dark magic, so Lirael’s mission becomes to stop the dark magic from escaping the confines of Nicholas’ body.
This story has a few elements that are attractive to young readers of fantasy. For one, the entire story takes place in a strange and mystical world. This book is appropriate for students who enjoy “escaping” into another world through literature. The characterization of Lirael is also suited to the fantasy genre. Lirael, like many other protagonists in fantasies, is an orphan who has a natural gift for mysticism. She trains with Sabriel to fight the force of evil, and is easy to root for. The stark contrast of good versus evil and the living versus the dead resonates throughout the story. However, this book is the fifth installment of a series, and could be difficult to comprehend for those who haven’t read the previous four books. (CJS)
Nobleman, Marc Tyler. 2016. Brave like my brother. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 112pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-545-88035-0.
In this cleverly scripted historical-fiction novel about WWII, young readers are teleported back in time to the story of two brothers. However, instead of following their actions through a traditional first or third person narrator, their history is recounted by the letters written between them. Charlie, the ten year old boy from Cleveland, serves primarily as his older brother Joe’s audience, who is Charlie’s role model as well a young American soldier sent off to fight alongside the Allied Army in Europe. Because the book is written as a compilation of letters, readers are exposed to a primary-source-like text as well as an interesting point of view. Not only are they reading from the perspective of a person who lived decades ago, they are also experiencing Charlie and Joe’s sibling relationship who many may relate to their own lives. As he leaves and throughout the story, this relationship and familial theme is consistently present as Joe recounts his journey. Joe writes letters over a span of two years, the average length of time an American soldier spent overseas. After describing the progress of his training and the hardships he must face, Joe tells of the mission he and another soldier Matt are assigned to. As if the mission of transporting a secret item was not difficult enough, Joe frequently complains to Charlie about how poorly he and Matt get along. Nevertheless, after surviving an encounter with a spy, a terrible storm, a car crash, and Matt’s broken wrist, the two soldiers are able to complete their mission. As Charlie later finds out, his brother Joe was hauling an inflatable tank which eventually became part of a ghost army meant to fool Hitler and the Nazis. Joe’s last letter is written the day before the infamous Allied Invasion of Normandy, France, but the book itself ends with a final letter written by Charlie. In the end, Charlie discusses his own personal growth in the face of hardships at home, as well as his excitement about his brother getting to return from the recently ended war. For the most part, Charlie and Joe’s letters portray an accurate depiction of the experiences of such individuals during WWII. The book does not stray from difficult topics such as the pain between separated family members, the terrible physical and psychological effects of war, and the reality how many soldiers came home injured or not at all. Although Joe returns injury-ridden but alive, Charlie comments on the terrible loss suffered by Matt’s family. As accurate as the story can be, Nobleman does take a few liberties which he acknowledges in his author’s note. For example, he understands a soldier would not have been able to disclose information about the inflatable tank due to censorship, but decided it was necessary for the story. Also, the characterization of the two brothers is very evident, even though the reader hardly ever sees Charlie’s letters. However, through Joe’s letters and his responses to what Charlie would have written, both characters grow and change greatly over the span of two years. At the same time, Joe retains his humility and Charlie his admiration for the heroism of his older brother. In this way, readers are able to learn and relate to situations in their own lives while simultaneously learning about an important era in history. (DB)
Mortensen, L. 2016. Mousequerade ball: A counting tale. Bloomsbury Publishing. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-422-0. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin.
Mousequerade ball is a counting and rhyming picture storybook for ages 3-6. The rhythm is appropriate for this age group because it makes the story more enjoyable and pleasant to listen to. The rhythm also is an indication of the excitement that is occurring for all the mice in preparation for the ball. The onomatopoeias in the story are enjoyable to listen to, for example the swishing of the brooms, the puffing of one’s breath, thumb-strum lutes, and more. The oral reading of this story is a must. The characters in this story add up from one lowly dust maid to ten fancy ladies, until a cat suddenly appears and we immediately count back down to one mouse. Mice are afraid of cats, but one mouse steps up and says the cat is just there to dance at the Mousequerade Ball! The story concludes with a pleasant ending as all the mice and the cat dance the night away. (CAF)
Neff, Henry H. 2016. Impyrium. HarperCollins Publishers. 592pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0062392053.
Students are introduced to a fantastical world where all sorts of creatures interact with one another. There are demonic horses, flying people, and technology is limited. Neff creates a world familiar to readers but also includes fantasy. The two main characters, Hazel Faereigne and Hobson Smythe, are the characters readers follow through this world. These two are considered outcasts because Hazel is the youngest of the triplets and does not agree with what her family is doing and how they are controlling everythings. Hob was born out of wedlock which is considered taboo in this world. Hazel has magical powers whereas Hob does not. Those with magical powers in this time are considered better than other people. Hob is a part of a group that is trying to give equal rights to those without magical powers, and he set on a mission to spy on Hazel in the capital, Impyrium. As Hob is spying on her, Hazel finds out who he is and these two become unlikely friends. They claim they met by chance, but in reality, they are to go on a great adventure together that will change their world. This book is fantastic for those who are very interested in fantasy because it is a considered high fantasy. There are many creatures who casually introduced throughout the novel. This creative novel will make students think about their own society. Teachers could have students compare and contrast the society in this book to theirs and analyze it even further. (MJO)
Nesbit, E. 2016. Shakespeare retold. HarperCollins Publishers. 128pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0062404534. Illustrated by Antonio Javier Caparo.
This collection of plays is unique, understandable, and could be useful for all ages. The author acknowledges how most people experience Shakespeare in a very negative light because it is difficult to understand his writing. This author combats this stigma by writing Shakespeare plays into easy stories, similar to fairy tales. The author understands how enjoyable and important Shakespeare’s writings are: hence, why the has the book set up in a simple format. It is still written in English readers are not used to, but without words like “thou,” which often trick and frustrate readers. This is an excellent book for children to be introduced to Shakespeare's writing. It can be a daunting task to read one of his plays, but this book sets it up in a familiar format that will make most students comfortable to read it. This book is not only great for upper elementary and middle schoolers to be introduced to Shakespeare’s plays, but also for students in high school who have learning difficulties. These students will be able to understand and read this authors writing better than Shakespeare, but they will still be receiving the same content as other classmates. Overall, students’ language development will be enriched with this collection of plays because of how easy it flows despite the rich vocabulary. Students of all levels will learn to appreciate Shakespeare through this book and, hopefully, go on to read the original Shakespeare plays. (MJO)
Norwoth, Jack. 2016. Take me out to the ball game. Charlesbrige Publishing, Inc. 24pp. $7.95 ISBN 978-1-623-54071-5. Illustrated by Amiko Hirao.
In this delightful board book version of American baseball’s most famous tune, baseball fanatic Katie Casey joins characters in the story and readers of the book in the singing of the iconic song. Although not a traditional folktale, Take me out to the ball game represents the sport of baseball, which happens to be the pastime of this country and an integral part of American culture. Katie is introduced as the baseball loving cat who wants nothing more than to go and watch the big game. She makes it to Sluggers Stadium, singing of Cracker Jacks and the home team, and the reader cannot help but join in on the tune. From there, the intense details of the game are told by the colorful collage-like illustrations. The two teams battle back and forth, delete accompanied by Katie’s song. The epic competition concludes with Elephant sliding into home plate, securing the victory for the beloved home team. In the midst of the final celebration is Katie, who is as successful at inspiring the reader to sing her song aloud as is her victorious baseball club. Because the illustrations are so vibrant, the enjoyable environment of the game and the song seem to pop off the page. Also, the text of the story emulates the rhythm and style of the song itself, so every page can be sung in the same way as the well-known lyrics. The story offers a clear image of American culture because baseball alone is so important, as well as the values that are an integral part of the game. Although told through the exciting and novel story of Katie Casey and her beloved home-team Sluggers, the history and tradition of baseball and its song Take me out to the ball game are not lost, nor are the American values that they embody and represent. (DB)
Oachs, Emily Rose. 2016. Death in the donner party: a cause-and-effect investigation (cause-and-effect disasters). Lerner Publications. 40pp. $30.65. ISBN 978-1-5124-1115-7.
In this investigative informational text, readers learn about cause and effect relationship through the infamous story of the Donner Party and their tragic journey westward in the middle of the 19th century. For most of the book, the history of the Donner Party is recounted in a story-like format including the necessary background information, dates, and names. This provides an intriguing vessel for the information and historical facts as readers become curious of what will happen next. For the most part, the account seems to be historically accurate and encompassing of the entire story as many primary sources are referenced. Also, the story does not euphemize any areas of the tale for the sake of the younger audience. It is certainly not referred to in depth, as it does not need to be, but even the reality of the stranded party’s cannibalism is noted. In addition, readers are exposed to the common expository text style of cause and effect through a graphic at the end of the book. Using six major plot points from the story, cause and effect is exhibited in a simple and direct manner. Because readers may be unfamiliar with or still learning about this type of relationship, the explicit graphic and basic nature of the cause and effect elements provide an effective modeling tool. The list of six is not all-encompassing either, so readers would also be able to practice their cause and effect skills by adding to the graphic. Equally as important is the array of visuals used throughout the book. At times displayed similarly to images within a textbook, the visuals are blocked and assembled alongside the text in order to enhance the story. The pages alternate between various types of images, including photographs, paintings, maps, and informational graphics. Each page displays a new appealing color scheme and each type of visual adds to the story in a different way. For example, the photographs and paintings bring the experiences and locations to life, while the graphics display important factual information. The informational graphics are especially useful for visual learners in this way and also give readers the opportunity to practice this type of literacy. Young readers are able to practice the invaluable skill of inferring data and information from visuals through the graphics in this text, as they are organized, simple, and descriptive. As is characteristic of the most effective informational texts, readers of this book can gain useful literacy skills such as cause and effect knowledge and the interpretation of visual information, while also reading about a fascinating subject they may not normally be given the opportunity to learn about. (DB)
O’Connor, Jane. 2016. Fancy Nancy: Saturday night sleepover. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0062269850. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.
Fancy Nancy: Saturday Night Sleepover follows Nancy and her baby sister, JoJo, on a night spent at a neighbor’s house while their parents are on vacation. This book, with a theme of personal development, focuses on a topic that many preschool and kindergarten students can relate to: going a night without their parents. This book is valuable because the message can be comforting for children staying away from home for the night (or longer). O’Connor also includes a relatable tendency of Nancy “helping” her younger sister, when it is her who needs comforting the most. This story aids in the personal development of children between the ages of 4 and 8 because children of this age are most likely to seek solace and comfort in their parents and other adults.
The illustrations in this book are engaging. The sensory cover of the book itself is extremely attractive to young children. On every page, multiple textures and patterns are illustrated, from the flowered upholstery on a chair to the fuzzy slippers and poufy dresses.. The colors are vibrant and realistic. And the shapes are eccentric, imaginative, and eye catching. Each page is busy and detailed, with a wide variety of visual information to take in.
The story is narrated by Nancy, a young girl with a one-track-mind. She is also a bossy older sister. While the vocabulary in the book is exceptional, the characters are somewhat superficial and reflect only one dimension of U. S. society, specifically, White young frilly girls living in the present without concern for the future or a world beyond their neighborhoods. (CJS)
O’Hearn, Kate. 2016. Valkyrie. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481447379.
This book, based off of Norse mythology, follows the life of a young girl named Freya as she goes through her first day ceremony and onto the battlefield. Freya is an eternally beautiful winged woman, who has always lived in the shadows of her older sister Maya. Freya has four sisters, however, Maya is the most exceptional sister and everything a Valkyrie should be. Freya, on the other hand, is not even sure if she wants to become a Valkyrie. She does not like humans or the wars they fight. She believes that humans are cruel and hate filled and she does not want to encounter them. Reluctantly, Freya goes through the ritual of becoming a Valkyrie. On Freya’s very first reaping, she encounters a young man from the United States. This man had a family to attend to and unfinished business on the earth. Freya adventures to the mortal world to check on Tyrone’s family. There she is surrounded by humans. She sees the truths of the human world and realizes that not all humans are bad. She finds that she has a special heart for teens and young adults. In the end, Freya must choose between her new found human friends and the world of Odin, Thor, and Loki. One of her dearest human friends ends up dying in the end, and gets the opportunity to accompany Freya back to Asgard. Valkyrie puts a modern twist on Norse mythology. In Norse Mythology, Freya is a goddess associated with love, beauty, war and death. Readers between the ages of 9 and 13 will read this heartwarming book and learn from the bravery and selflessness of Freya. (APB)
Ohora, Zachariah. 2016. The not so quiet library. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 9780803741409. Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora.
The Not So Quiet Library is a picture storybook in which Ohora’s text and pictures come together to create an entertaining story for children. The plot centers around Oskar and Theodore during their favorite time of the week: Saturday morning at the library. This picture book includes humorous and invented fantasy where a monster roams the library, looking for something to eat. The conflict resolves when Oskar and Theodore distract the monster by showing him how much fun reading can be. Themes in this book revolve around friendship and the value of literature for children (and monsters). This book stimulates cognitive development through the opportunity to use prediction and observation skills. The horizontal and vertical lines as well as the geometric shapes in his illustrations of the library give the reader a sense of safety and security. These geometric shapes contrast the imagination shown through the organic shape of the monster. The various arrays of colors on the bookshelves: blue, pink, orange, green and red, add to the setting of the library and the upbeat mood of the story. (EMG)
Page, Robin. 2016. Flying frogs and walking fish. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54463-090-1. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins.
This book is a great interactive read aloud filled with entertaining cut-paper style illustrations. Page uses vocabulary that could then be implemented in the reader’s life such as tiptoe, waddle, and pounce. Readers also have a more unique understanding of how animals move. For example, Page poses the question: have you ever seen a walking octopus? He then has a two page series of illustrations displaying other animals that walk in different and unique ways. This book opens the door to have young readers learn about cross-curricular concepts and vocabulary, while also providing entertaining and interesting illustrations. Recommended for grades K-3. (KJN)
Parish, Herman. 2016. Amelia Bedelia by the yard. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-233428-2. Illustrations by Lynne Avril.
Amelia Bedelia invites children to join along in the pleasurable experience of a yard sale, as well as learning the meaning of several new words. Amelia Bedelia books are classically known as books exploring the double meanings of words, expressions, and other language children are sometimes confused by, and this book does just that by showing Amelia’s misconceptions and allowing readers to learn for themselves what the words actually mean. Children can see their own concerns, behaviors, and confusions in Amelia Bedelia, creating a story that is both entertaining and applicable to real life. The illustrations in the book enhance the story line by alternating the text and illustrations throughout the page; they work together visually to create a plot. Overall, this book provides a great learning opportunity for children to learn more about common language while enjoying a story many children can relate too. (EJM)
Pascal, Janet B. 2016. What was the Great Chicago Fire?. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 112pp. ISBN 9780399542381. Illustrated by Tim Foley.
What was the Great Chicago Fire? is a part of a New York Times best-selling series of informational nonfiction books for young readers that talk about significant events or people in history. This book promotes reader interest and involvement through the vivid and descriptive style where readers become part of the historical action. At times, however, it is easy to get lost in the story and forget that this is a nonfiction and informational piece of literature because fictionalized quotes are included and are not clearly distinct from the facts that the books presents. The information throughout the book is clearly structured with the help of different chapters that are laid out in the contents page in the first few pages. The book also includes timelines in the back, and one of the timelines is titled “Timeline of the World,” and it gives readers an idea of when this event occurred in relation to other events around the world, synthesizing and giving context to history. A bibliography is also included in the back of the book. The black-and-white illustrations on the pages are often unnecessary, but at times they help give readers a visual of the setting in Chicago. In the middle of the book, a variety of historical photographs about the fire are included with appropriate captions, which effectively clarifies and extends the text. (EMG)
Peck, Richard. 2016. The best man. Penguin Random House (Dial). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3839-3.
The best man tells the story of a young boy, Archer Magill, and his coming-of-age moments as he grows into adolescence. The story opens with a humorous tale of embarrassing moment as a ring bearer in 1st grade and continues with anecdotes about his experience in elementary school readers will find both humorous and endearing. Peck emphasizes the role models Archer looks up to: his grandpa, his dad, his uncle Paul, and the 5th grade class student teacher (and National Guard member) Mr. McLeod. The story shadows the current world, with allusions to current events, its use of current vocabulary, and its focus on current topics like LGBTQ rights (in a not-too-political way). The clear writing style and quick pace will keep readers intrigued. The best man is ideal for upper-elementary students and middle schoolers who are likely going through the same experiences as Archer. While the story is lighthearted and humorous, some of the references and jokes may not be understood by younger readers, but this also makes for a book adults will enjoy, as well. The lack of three-dimensional female characters is disappointing and their roles and personalities often feed into stereotypes about women and girls, as they are mostly portrayed as flat, incompetent, annoying, or boy-crazy. Further, there are a few passages reflecting current American life but are inappropriate for adolescent readers, including jokes about school lockdowns and gay stereotypes. Overall, this book is insightful and sincere, but readers must be aware there are possible ideas, expectations, and stereotypes subtly implied through the novel. (JJB)
Penney, Mary. 2016. Eleven and holding. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 248pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-240547-0.
Narrated in the first person, Macy Hollinquest, is struggling with a series of changes happening in her life. These changes include the recent death of her nana, the loss of the family business, going into junior high without her best friend, tension with her mother, and the absence of her father. This is a coming of age novel, as “eleven and holding” refers to Macy refusing to turn twelve until she has tracked down her father and brought him home. Macy is an unreliable narrator with a one track mind, and the plot follows her coming to terms with the recent losses and changes in her life. There is also the element of being in a military family, and some associated issues that children of military parents face.
Eleven and holding is a quality piece of literature. The plot is exhilarating, and follows Macy on an adventure to find the truth about her father, including unique and interesting characters on the way. There is a “person against self’ conflict throughout the story with Macy struggling to find the ones she loves, and ignoring those who are around and love her . The setting as mood, in Constant Colorado, where nothing seems to be constant, aids in the story’s progression as well.
This novel is recommended for an age group ranging from 8 to 12 despite some mature themes. (CJS)
Perkins, Chloe. 2016. Cinderella (Once upon a world). Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 24pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1481479158. Illustrated by Sandra Equihua.
This story is a twist on the classic tale of Cinderella. The plot is almost identical to that of the Disney version, familiar to many American children.. However, it is told with a multicultural spin apparent through the illustrations. One can observe this is a Hispanic version of the tale. The illustrations include characters wearing sombreros, a sign with the word “fiesta” on it, and other generalizable feature, such as the physical appearance of the characters. This story is appropriate for young, prek learners, due to the simplicity of the plot and illustrations. The tale of Cinderella is told succinctly, and the climax of the plot is quickly reached and dismissed.. The illustrator makes use of straight lines and geometric shapes to give clues to young readers . For instance, the facial expressions of the characters are obvious on each page. When the stepmother is yelling at Cinderella, her brows make an exact V shape. When Cinderella is surprised, her mouth makes a perfect, geometric, O shape. Along with the plot and illustrations, the theme of the story is easy to grasp. In this particular book, the goal is for children to learn that those with a pure heart will do great things, and those who have wicked hearts will have consequences. (CJS)
Perkins, Chloe. 2016. Snow White: Once upon a world. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 24pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4818-7185-5. Illustrated by Misa Saburi.
Snow White: Once upon a world, is the classic tale of Snow White and the seven dwarfs, but set in Asia. The illustrations are key to the cultural aspect of this folktale. Saubri’s attention to detail in the texture, color, and shaping of the illustrations help portray the Asia culture without having to actually read about the culture. Even though the story in the same as the original Snow White, the gentle colors and detail are what represent the Asian culture. (HRC)
Perkins, Lynne Rae. 2016. Frank and Lucky get schooled. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237345-8.
A book for inquisitive minds, Frank and Lucky get schooled introduces children to a vast array of topics through the relationship of a boy and his dog. Frank and Lucky find each other on their worst of days and instantly bond. Although Frank has to go to school and leave Lucky at home, he learns valuable lessons from exploring and playing with his dog. Perkins uses new academic vocabulary to teach readers about science, math, history, art, language, and geography, and how these subjects can be seen in everyday life. The storyline is minimal, with the book focusing mostly on the educational components. Although each page is visually stimulating, the amount and variety of text can be overwhelming for beginning readers. Perkins style of writing is very factual but disconnected, requiring readers to infer connections throughout the storyline. Sarcasm and humor were embedded into the story, making it enjoyable for adults but possibly confusing for younger readers. Despite difficult aspects of the text, Perkin’s illustrations will intrigue readers through her use of rich colors and fusion of oil pastel and watercolors. (JJB)
Pfeffer, Wendy. 2016. Sounds all around. HarperCollins Publishers. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0062386700. Illustrated by Anna Chernyshova.
Students are able to interact with and learn about sounds in this exciting book. In the beginning, the author introduces specific types of sounds like clapping, shaking a bag of cheesy puffs, and singing. The author also explains how sounds are produced too. Diagrams in the book will help students understand sound even better. For instance, there is a visual of vocal cords and how the sound starts and carries out in order to produce one’s voice. The book also explains how one hears sounds with a visual of inside the ear and an explanation on sound waves. It then goes on to explain how people used to use sounds such as drums to communicate with one another. This part transitions in how to animals mainly communicate through sounds and how each sound can mean something else. Finally, the book explains decibels and gives examples on how many decibels are specific sounds. One of the most beneficial parts about this book is how it encourages the readers to be interactive. It has the reader make sounds in their throat and makes them notice the vibrations occurring. This allows for the readers to better understand sounds because they are actually imitating them. Another great aspect about this book are the illustrations which have a watercolor looking effect. This book can be very useful in the classroom and has a variety of accurate information. In fact, in the book, it says this is based on the Common Core State Standards for science. There is a glossary and various activities for readers to do in order to explore sound even more. This is a great informational book because it is easy to read, there are representative visuals, and readers will learn new facts about sounds. (MJO)
Pilkey, Dav. 2016. Captain Underpants and the sensational saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot. Scholastic Inc. 205pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-545-50492-8.
This graphic novel is an easy read about the adventures of two boys, George and Harold, who decide to have a little fun with their look-a-likes. They skip school to have an adventure, and tell some crazy stories along the way. This novel allows children to enter the world of chapter books while still enjoying pictures that enhance the meaning and comprehension of the text, as well as teach them to enjoy reading through such a funny story. The illustrations are goofy and drawn in a cartoon manner, allowing the expressions of the people in the pictures to be shown clearly, complementing the descriptions given in the text. This method deepens readers’ understanding, and allows them to enjoy the depth of the plot while enhancing their comprehension of the plot, conflicts, setting, and themes.. Overall, this graphic novel is a fun and silly, yet educational way to get children to enjoy reading while being able to fully comprehend it. (EJM)
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. 2016. A poem for Peter. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 60pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-425-28768-2. Illustrations by Fancher, L. & Johnson, S.
Both a moving story and an informative biography, A poem for Peter uses poetry and collage to tell the history behind Ezra Jack Keats’ classic The snowy day. Young and old will recognize the illustrations reminiscent of Keats’ work and will be pulled into Pinkney’s poetry. With Peter (the little boy from A snowy day) weaving his way throughout the narrative, readers are consistently reminded of the purpose of Keats’ life and will see how events in his life led to the creating of his famous book. The poetry tells of 20th century realities, including the themes of discrimination, poverty, war, race, and prejudice. The intricate poetry contains insight that maybe only adults will understand and appreciate, but also flows like a story to capture younger readers. Echoing Keats’ artwork, the motif of collage exists in all aspects of the book. Pinkney’s poetry is in the style of verse narrative as her verses come together in a collage of phrasing and rhythm. The historical narrative allows readers to piece together the various influences of Keats’ life. The illustrations reflect Keats’ artwork by incorporating various media in each piece, including watercolor, fabric, stamp work, and photos. This creates diverse texture that will intrigue and engage readers of all ages. The book ends with a non-poetic biography of Keats, providing even more details of his life and inspiration. (JJB)
Plourde, Lynn. 2016. Bella’s fall coat. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4847-2697-6. Illustrated by Susan Gal.
Lynn Plourde’s words come together with Susan Gal’s illustrations to create the picture storybook entitled Bella’s Fall Coat. The plot revolves around Bella, who loves everything about fall, especially her fall coat. However, Bella is not so little anymore, and her grandmother is determined to get her a new coat that fits. The red, orange, yellow, and brown in the background of the illustrations reflect the fall setting. The colors change to white part way through the book, showing the change in season to winter. Bella’s bright blue and pink coat then stands out on the page, demonstrating the importance to the plot. The many organic shapes also reinforce the natural world, and the more geometric vertical and horizontal lines of the windows demonstrate safety and security in the plot. Cognitive development may be stimulated in children through observational skills while reading this book. The theme of family care and love makes this a feel-good book for readers. (EMG)
Polacco, Patricia. 2016. Mermaid’s purse. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16692-1.
Polacco’s grandmother, Stella, was born in a lightning storm and seemed to have an intuition for telling when the weather was about to change for the worse. She was born in a birth membrane, also known as a “mermaid’s purse.” This was said to be very blessed. From her early childhood, Estella loved literature. She started to collect books from people at the markets and soon had an extensive collection. Her father decided to build her a library. With the help of the neighbors, mostly close farmers, her father constructed a library just for Stella. The library, a rich red with white trim, would be called the Mermaid’s Purse; she had been born in one which blessed her life, just as the books blessed her life. The community did not understand Stella’s passion for literature. It is not until she saves a flock of sick sheep with her books and teaches an old farmer to read that the community sparked an enthusiasm for reading. However, Stella senses a storm brewing. The dark grays and stormy blues come together too soon after the community falls in love with reading as a twister destroys Stella’s home and library. The physical expressions Polacco illustrates conveys the desperation and heart-brokenness as Stella finds her book collection lost forever. Not one book remained. As the community rebuilds Stella’s family home, readers are able to see Stella’s look of perpetual melancholy. The mood shifts as the readers see the old farmer come up the road with his cart. The entire community had scoured the countryside and had found the books which were lost from the Mermaid’s Purse. The pictures in Polacco’s storybook are quality any reader, ages five to eight, would appreciate and enjoy. Readers can see the realistic situations the character are placed in create changes in the community as well as in Stella. All in all, another well-written storybook by Patricia Polacco. (CAF)
Rappaport, Doreen. 2010. Jack’s path of courage. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 48pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-148474961-6. Illustrated by Matt Tavares.
This autobiographical style book informs young readers about the life of the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Colorful and accurate illustrations depict Kennedy throughout his life and provide the reader with a powerful visual representation of the information. From Joe’s struggle to compete with his brother, to his time spent in war, as a senator, and eventually the president of the United States of America. Quotes spoken and written by Kennedy can be seen throughout the book, and there is even a page dedicated to his accolades and life achievements. This is a very informative and engaging book for both young male and female readers. Recommended for grades 2-5. (KJN)
Rey, H. A. 2016. Keep curious and carry a banana. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Books for Young Readers). 80pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-544-65648-2.
Accompanied by the original illustrations of the Curious George stories, this book is saturated with inspirational and humorous words of wisdom meant to guide the curious reader through all aspects of life. Each page is formatted similarly, with a short phrase accompanied by a playful depiction of Curious George and his adventures. For readers familiar with Curious George, the images evoke memories of mischief and spirit in the same way as the original stories. For those unfamiliar with the originals, the images still recreate the same whimsical mood which characterizes the life of this unique monkey. Each of the images are carefully chosen and accurately match the intended message of each page. For example, the unforgettable image of George releasing a pen full of pigs is coupled with the phrase “Unlock the potential in others.” This illustration clearly relates to the humor of Curious George and his adventures, making the phrase far more memorable to the reader. In addition, the book contains inspiration words for a variety of audiences and situations. Ranging from multitasking to saying yes more frequently, the phrases are diverse enough to speak to everybody. Also, intermixed with the serious themes are certain phrases which are amusing and enjoyable for all, including “Life is a bowl of pasta- make sure to noodle around.” As useful and pleasant as the material of this book can be, it also has shortcomings in terms of its audience. Reviving Curious George for this book plays directly to the nostalgia of the individuals who are already familiar with his character and stories. Although the themes and messages are relatable to anybody, readers unfamiliar with Curious George will lack the same interest and openness to the book. In addition, books with a variety of inspirational phrases or words of wisdom are generally meant for older audiences. Again, young readers would be able to understand the phrases and enjoy the images, but many of the themes relate best to those who already have extensive life experience as means for comparison. These same young readers are also more likely to encounter the first problem of lacking the nostalgic background simply due to their age. Furthermore, young readers also respond best to stories with clear structures regarding plot and character development, which this book lacks considering it is not story driven. Although it utilizes a simplistic theme and a children’s book character, these inspirations from Curious George are most meaningful for the older reader, who has extensive experiences in life and with the inquisitive monkey as well. (DB)
Reynolds, Luke. 2016. Surviving middle school. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division). 192pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-58270-555-2.
Luke Reynolds writes an empowering and comical story drawn from real-life experiences in Surviving Middle School. An informational text with a guiding principle to give the best advice to any middle school student that may be reading. Reynolds answers the hardest questions about middle school like how to make friends, talking to a crush, dealing with bullies, and even getting along with teachers. Students in middle school go through an identity crisis where psychologist Erik Erikson would say their struggle is between identity and role confusion. Reynolds scratches the idea of middle schooler’s having to take on different roles just to fit into society. Instead he helps talk readers through the endless barrage of judgement and confusion of middle school. Surviving Middle School gives an authentic voice to a problematic time that is too often brushed aside. There is an overarching conflict which develops showing that the main character’s actions, desires, and values seem to differ from society. In chapter 3, Luke is questioned as to why he wears recycled clothing. As the story continues it is clear that this clothing is seen to be dirty and poor by society. Luke pushes against this societal view and urges readers to see recycled clothing as a sustainable cost effective method of buying clothing. Readers ages 10 to 14 will find this book the most appealing. However, the text can be dense at times and does not always appeal to the intended audience. Luke Reynolds writes a book with the real-life struggles of many middle school students to help readers find their own voice in a never ending society of pressures. (JMS)
Richards, Dan. 2016. Can one balloon make an elephant fly?. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1442452152. Illustrated by Jeff Newman.
This story, geared towards readers between the ages 4-8, begins with a mother preoccupied on her cell phone. Her son is attempting to get the mother to pay attention and listen to him. The son asks “is one balloon enough to make an elephant fly?” At first she is too busy to answer him, but after realizing her fault, their imaginations soar. Throughout the story, the mother teaches her son a lesson about the power of one’s imagination. Together, they were able to share the magic. The illustrator uses only primary colors, white and black. This symbolizes paying attention to the small things in life and letting one’s imagination fly. The shapes are unpredictable and imaginative. The illustrator makes great use of space in his illustrations. The people and animals are bright and pop out. This story conveys a message true to all ages. People should use technology wisely and allow themselves to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. (APB)
Riordan, Rick. 2015. The throne of fire. Disney Book Group (Hyperion). 83pp. $21.99. ISBN 978148471490-4. Illustrated by Cam Floyd.
A sibling duo takes readers on an adventure through the action packed graphic novel The throne of fire, by Rick Riordan. As the second book in its series, readers are following two familiar characters on their journey to find The Book of Ra. Carter and Sadie are direct descendants of the house of life, and have an insatiable desire to find this book. However, their journey does not come without challenges. The two must fight alongside other friends to defeat relentless waves of gods. With the use of helpful powers, Sadie and Carter are able to repel all who come at them. Readers will recognize an interesting conflict, as the foe is literally not from this world. Rick Riordan uses creative illustrations by Cam Floyd to bring the characters to life. Most of the illustrations have a common color used throughout one scene. Once a scene is finished the common color changes, and the reader can identify a new setting. Important objects Sadie and Carter find are composed of gold and are illustrated to show their lustrousness. Illustrations are clearly separated with white spaces to help readers follow the plot and conflicts in the novel. As for the print, some children may find themselves squinting since the text is a small font. Although the text may be for people ages 10 and up, the content is advanced for any reader without a background in mythology. Riordan does an excellent job at giving examples for what an interesting vocabulary word may be. For example, Riordan explains that a Griffin is a mythical creature that would pull Horus’s chariot in battle. The duo then uses this knowledge to have a Griffin pull them away from a battle into safety. If readers are looking for a graphic novel filled with nonstop action, then Rick Riordan’s The throne of fire is the book for them! (JMS)
Riordan, Rick. 2016. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2: The hammer of Thor. Disney Book Group. 480pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-423-16092-2.
Coming off the heels of an epic adventure and victory over Fenris Wold and the fire giants, readers rejoin Magnus Chase, the son of the Norse god Frey, as he attempts to settle back into his “normal life”. However, it is not long until new conflict arises and he is off again on an important mission. With his friends Sam, Hearthstone, Blitzen, and Alex at his side, Magnus sets out in an attempt to retrieve Thor’s missing hammer. This journey leads them to the giant Thrym, who vows only to give up the stolen hammer if traded for the infamous Skofnung sword. In a plot devised to receive both the hammer and sword as wedding gifts, a marriage is set up between Sam and the giant. All is going according to plan until Magnus’ Uncle Randolph arrives in the attempt to free Loki. Up until this point, the group has been balancing their task of obtaining the hammer and ensuring Loki remains imprisoned. The story reaches its climax when Alex takes Sam’s place in the wedding in the attempt to deter Randolph. Amidst all the chaos, the group manages to steal back Thor’s hammer, but Loki is freed from his bonds. Although Magnus and his friends are rewarded for returning Thor’s all-powerful weapon, the book concludes with even more excitement and suspense, as the need for the next mission of recapturing the devious god Loki is glaringly obvious. Part of the reason this story is such a page turner is due to its genre, as its mythical-quest style yields an engaging conflict and thrilling action throughout the whole book. However, battles and fighting are not enough to make a story truly exceptional. By suspending disbelief through plot, point of view, and characterization, Magnus’ clearly fictional tale actually becomes real in the eyes of the reader. In terms of plot, the book follows a very traditional storyline centered on a certain hero and their mission. Magnus is an entirely unique protagonist, but his familiar narrative allows for greater levels of relatability and believability. As for point of view, a sixteen-year old tells the story which makes the commentary extremely accessible to similarly-aged teenage readers. The dialogue is saturated with age appropriate sarcasm, jokes, and teenager frustrations, yet also touches on deeper issues such as troubled relationships with parents. However, above all else, the characterization makes the story realistic the most. For example, members of the group have to deal with very real issues and problems based off of who they are or what their background is. Sam is a practicing Muslim, Alex is transgender, and Hearthstone is a deaf-mute due to being abused as a child. Readers find themselves and their own struggles within the diversity of the characters’ experiences, which is one of the strongest elements of this story. In addition, universally agreeable themes such as bravery, friendship, and perseverance are highlighted as being valued and important. Although Riordan bases his tale off of stories and myths older than most, the relatability and reality of his exhilarating and progressive version causes the unbelievable to become believable in the eyes of the reader. (DB)
Robinson, Michelle. 2016. Odd socks. Holiday House. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0823436590. Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown.
The plot begin with the introduction of Suki and Sosh, a happy sock couple. They live a perfect life in their sock drawer and on their pair of feet. However, conflict arises when Suki gets a hole in her toe and then disappears from the drawer. Robinson uses the setting of the story to indicate mood as the location changes from the safe place of the sock drawer to the scary and overwhelming rest of the house and yard. It is up to Sosh to find his other half, and on his quest to find Suki, the climax of the plot is reached when a dog rips him up, a person against nature conflict. The conflict is resolved when Suki and Sosh end up as the perfect pair of sock puppets at home in their toy box. Odd socks is written in rhyme, which helps children in their language development. Ashdown’s use of color in the illustrations complements the plot by indicating conflict with dark colors, like dark blue and black, and resolution is shown through bright colors. The use of green makes it obvious conflict has moved outside. Line is used in terms of the horizontal and vertical lines of the sock drawer and toy box, which indicate safety and security. On the other hand, when Suki’s hole becomes bigger, Ashdown includes a long diagonal line across the page to reinforce the idea of instability in the plot. The socks are very organic shapes, which illustrates the imagination of the characters. Texture is also used with the socks in order to draw in the reader. This is juxtaposed against the geometric dresser and box, which bring stability into the story. Through the pairing of Michelle Robinson’s story and Rebecca Ashdown’s illustrations, the reader is whisked away on an adventure with two very odd socks. (EMG)
Robinson, Michelle. 2016. The forgetful knight. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-4067-9. Illustrations by Fred Blunt.
This book is not only an enjoyable read, but it provides many opportunities for children to learn language through rhyme, and context. The plot of the story is exciting and a little silly which encourages children to keep reading as as well as refer back to previous parts of the text in order to comprehend the story. In addition to teaching reading comprehension, this book provides extremely animated illustrations that make readers laugh as well as provide readers with a tool to help them understand the text including the emotions of the characters and the storyline. The colors are bright and the illustrations are extremely detailed, giving readers the ability to read into another level of the story. Overall, this story encourages children to have fun while reading while helping them with comprehension in terms of the language used and the storyline. (EJM)
Rockwell, Anne. 2016. A spy called James: The true story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War double agent. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1467749336. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
A spy called James is a United States biography and history picture storybook that follows the story of James Lafayette, a slave during the Revolutionary War who worked as a spy in order to gain freedom. The subject of this book is a person who is not widely known or talked about in history textbooks or in a history classroom, but this does not take away the worthiness of the character as his story communicates important lessons and themes about the fight for freedom. This text is historically accurate yet the characterization of James in this story goes beyond just the facts as readers are given an insight into the real person. Rockwall finds a great balance between fact and storyline as she is able to make the historical story interesting and engaging for children. The illustrations of the text add to the setting and provide detail about the historical era by giving readers a closer look at the United States during the Revolutionary War. An author’s note and further reading at the end of the book clarifies much of what is historically known about James Lafayette and his part in the war. (EMG)
Romano Young, Karen. 2016. No bones!. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 48pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-399-54131-5.
With the trademark Smithsonian icon, this book for young readers is full of intriguing information about invertebrates in the ocean. The book opens to an explanation of its reading level, along with suggestions for activities to deepen learning. No bones! teaches print concepts through its table of contents, section headings, and glossary. Bolded vocabulary words allow readers to anticipate new words and then find their definition in the glossary. Pronunciations for scientific terms were provided, although a few terms seemed to be missing a helpful pronunciation. Brightly colored photographs of unique creatures are accompanied by labels relating to the vocabulary words. This book introduces many animals, which may be overwhelming to some, but perfect for any animal-loving child. (JJB)
Ross, Joel. 2016. The lost compass. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235297-2.
The crew from the slums, Chess, Hazel, Bea, Swedish, and Loretta, go on a search for the compass that will save their new home from the villain, Kodoc. The challenge becomes defeating the mysterious fog that has taken over the land as well as other creatures that live in the depths of the fog. The group of friends were orphaned from a young age and become each other’s family, learning how to truly be friends with one another. They go on a thrilling adventures and learn many lessons about the way this new, postapocolyptic world works, as well as about their own gifts. This book provides children with a great storyline that builds alongside the character development to create a riveting plot that pulls readers into the adventure. The story is captivating and encourages readers ages 8-12 to search for their own gifts and individuality in order to make a difference in the world. (EJM)
Ross, Tony. 2016. I want a bedtime story! (A little princess story). Lerner Publishing Group. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1512416299. Illustrated by Tony Ross.
In, I Want a Bedtime Story, the princess wants a bedtime story but she wants her father to tell the story. The princess’ father is not in the castle at the time so several different people tell her a bedtime story, but none of the stories were as good as her father’s. Finally the princess is introduced to the library where she is allowed to read any story she likes. Through finding the library and the stories in the books the princess is able to resolve the person against person conflict of trying to find her father’s perfect bedtime story. The images within this picture book are perfect examples of how this story portrays imagination in the princess’ life. This book is excellent for young ages to read because while it shows youthfulness it also has a life lesson that reading books is where a child can find more stories. (HRC)
Rotner, Shelley. 2016. Grow! Raise! Catch! How we get our food. Holiday House. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-3643-9.
Healthy food and knowing what is in our food is a major social issue in the United States today and is frequently spoken about in regards to GMOs and farming. Many people and families in America bear the burden of trying to provide healthy meal options to their families daily, and Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food sheds light on the complex issue in a simplistic style by using only short sentences or very small paragraphs per page. The book teaches about how people used to and still made and grow their own foods and how healthy it can be. The book helps readers appreciate farmers and how that the work they do benefits their everyday life. The book accomplishes this by showing and describing the many different ways food is grown, harvested, or caught and how it might show up on their dinner plate. Additionally, the photographs show the many different types of fruits and animals who eventually turn into our food. The images are vivid and real, so it is easy for a reader to look at an image and say they know what the image is or maybe relate to an experience in nature they have had. The book is simply written and the photographs compliment the topic very well. Young readers will enjoy this book as an introduction to farming, food, and culture. (SSL)
Rustgi, Jennifer. 2016. A moon of my own. Dawn Publications (Regent Publishing Services). 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-158469572. Illustrated by Ashley White.
Readers ages 4-8, can follow the imagination of a young girl as she journeys around the world. She visits the Eiffel Tower, Trans-Siberian railway, Serengeti, Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Sequoia National Park, Great Barrier Reef, Amazon, and both the Arctic and Antarctic. At each location, the young girl stares at her friend, the moon, and wonders how it always finds her. Throughout the story, the moon plays a role as both a companion and as a mysterious wonder of nature. Each time she looks at the moon it is a bit different in her eyes. The book follows the stages of the moon at each location around the world. The illustrations in this book are colored with black, blue, and purple to represent the calm of night and the imagination of the young girl. The undulating texture of the sky illustrates the true beauty of our night sky. The young girl and each place she visits are pictured in a silhouette. Readers are encouraged to imagine what they believe the scene looked like in reality. She is always pictured on a horizontal line, representing that while her dreams take her far, she remains safe and protected. (APB)
Schrefer, Eliot. 2016. Rescued. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 272pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-65503-3.
Eliot Schrefer brings an exotic animal to an unethical suburban setting of triumph and loss in Rescued. John is an average young man who finds unusual companionship from an orangutan. After stolen from a zoo, Raja the orangutan is raised in an American home to be someone’s pet. John and Raja have an irreplaceable relationship binding them together like siblings. They are always looking out for each other and communicating on a deeper level than just human to pet. Unfortunately, John’s parents have a falling out and decide it is best for them to separate. With this new family dynamic, John’s father decides it would be best for the family to surrender Raja to the zoo. John is absolutely heart broken and sets a goal to return his friend back to the wild in Indonesia. In this realistic fiction, characters are relatable on certain levels, but have unique characteristics separating them from any normal person. As students, ages 10 and up, read this book, they are constantly barraged by the question of exotic animal ethics. Is John doing the right thing for Raja? Readers must decide for themselves if John is truly doing well, or if he is only hurting others. With higher leveled lexical complexity, it is recommended this text be given to readers at a seventh grade reading level or higher. Eliot Schrefer challenges children to question the ethics of exotic animal captivity in Rescued. (JMS)
Sewell, Anna. 2016. Black Beauty. Andersen Press (Andersen Press USA). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5124-1619-0. Retold and Illustrated by Ruth Brown.
Anna Sewell’s classic story Black Beauty comes to life on the pages of this picture storybook retold and illustrated by Ruth Brown. Brown chooses the main plot points and develops the conflict of the main character versus society from the full version of Black Beauty and writes it in the first person from the point of view of the horse in a style appropriate for young children. The themes of kindness and sympathy toward animals influenced the treatment of horses throughout the world in Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. Although these themes are translated into Ruth Brown’s retelling, they could be made more obvious in the text of the book through a style that better reflects the mood of the work. This picture storybook is within the genre of historical fiction because the plot emerges from an authentically developed time period. Setting is also indicated through the illustrations. As Black Beauty moves from home to home, the dark colors represent his times of harsh treatment and the lighter colors on the page indicate when Black Beauty is in a safe and loving home. The illustrations bring this timeless story to life for young readers. (EMG)
Sher, Eden. 2016. The emotionary. Penguin Random House LLC. 208pp. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-59514-838-4. Illustrated by Julia Wertz.
Has there ever been a time where you experienced an emotion that you had no accurate word or descriptive phrase to help others understand what you were going through? With the assistance of The Emotionary you may prevent this from happening again. Sher offers fictional hybrid words that create new terms to describe many feelings that young adult have as they progress through life. When paired with Wert’z comic book like illustrations, the text becomes a new and exciting exploration of the power of linguistics focusing on the essence of combining powerful prefixes and suffixes. Recommended for grades 4-6. (KJN)
Slade, Suzanne. 2016. Friends for freedom: The story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass. Charlesbridge. 40pp. $7.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-569-9. Illustrations by Tadgell, N.
Friends for freedom tells the story of the little known friendship between abolitionist Frederick Douglass and suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Based on extensive research, this book provides a historically accurate and honest telling of the struggle for human rights. Neither the text nor the illustrations attempt to soften the issues they were fighting or the opposition they faced, creating an impactful story of friendship and justice. While very factual, the storyline has movement that will maintain readers’ attention. Every illustration tells its own story and is an integral part to understanding the emotions felt during the time period. The gentleness of the watercolors provides balance to the seriousness of the characters’ expressions and their cause. The book ends with the author and illustrator’s research notes along with a bibliography and timeline that provide credibility and expand learning. This is a powerful story teaching the importance of dialogue and teamwork, especially when it comes to standing up for what is right. (JJB)
Sidman, Joyce. 2016. Before morning. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-97917-5. Illustrated by Beth Krommes.
Newbery Honor winning author Joyce Sidman and Caldecott-winning artist Beth Krommes collaborate in this picture storybook depicting the experience of the first snowfall of the winter. This story is written with end rhyme, using figurative language, especially the inclusion of metaphors, to make the text more impactful. The poem of the story is written in the form of an invocation, which is a poem inviting something to happen, in this case, the first snowfall. Children can relate to the excitement in the poem as they themselves often feel that way about the first snowfall of the winter. The illustrations of this book, rendered in scratchboard and watercolor, play a crucial role in its understanding. Also, the organic shapes of nature and the snowfall contrast the geometric shapes of the people and places that the snowfall affects. Overall, the simplicity of the poem in this book paired with the powerful illustrations makes it a meaningful piece of literature for young readers. (EMG)
Children are able to explore a small and quaint town as they turn the pages in Before Morning. There are many different activities occurring in this town as winter is approaching. Krommes displays this change with the use of different colors. She blends warm colors such as red, orange, and yellow with tones of blue to indicate the change of the seasons. The colors also convey mood because in somber times the tones are blue. Then, when it is becoming warmer outside and people are cheering up, there are warmer red tones. Furthermore, the book is written as an invocation where the author is inviting the character’s wishes and dreams to come true. On each page, children can further their cognitive development through hypothesizing and observation. They can observe what is happening on each page and then hypothesize what the text is trying to tell the reader about the desires of the characters. Lastly, the use of lines and geometric shapes are an important aspect of the illustrations. They indicate stability and safety, particularly with the homes. The lines are more diagonal when they are away from their home indicating it is unsafe, but when the characters return home, the reader is welcomed with the strong and safe lines again. (MJO)
Silvey, Anita. 2016. Let your voice be heard: The life and times of Pete Seeger. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (Clarion). 112pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-33012-9.
Pete Seeger was a singer who helped revitalize American folk music and was known later on as a political activist. Anita Silvey recreates the life story of this American folk musician with Let your voice be heard: The life and times of Peter Seeger. As a bibliography, the text is centered on the life of Pete Seeger, but Silvey does an excellent job with background knowledge. She sets the scene by depicting the world Seeger lived in at the time he was born, and then all the way into his adult years when he became a political activist. The text is an in-depth analysis of Pete Seeger’s life, and offers accurate information without bias. A reader ages 10 to 12 may find this book useful if asked to do a research project about an influential person. Otherwise, there are times where the content can be dull. Although the author expresses interest in the subject, I’m not sure how many readers would actually be intrigued by the text. For the right reader, Anita Silvey writes a bibliography to depict the life story of Pete Seeger in Let your voice be heard: The life and times of Peter Seeger. (JMS)
Simon, Seymour. 2016. Destination: Mars. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234497-7
Recommended for grades 1-3, Destination Mars is an outstanding example of an informational text for young readers. The author uses vivid descriptions of the planet reinforced with pictures and interesting facts that engage readers. Everything from the false canals to NASA missions such as the Viking mission to mars is discussed in detail. Photos of all of the concepts and missions can be found within the text to reinforce the understanding and increase the engagement of the young reader. (KJN)
Singer, Marilyn. 2016. Miss Muffet, or what came after. Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0547905662. Illustrated by David Litchfield.
The poetry in this picture storybook uses the well-known nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet” as the basis of its story. The main characters in this humorous story: Patience Muffet, the friendly spider Webster, and Little Bo-Peep ambitiously overcome the person against society conflict as they prove they are more than just what the nursery rhymes characterize them to be. The poetry in this book is a form of narrative poetry. The poetry throughout the story is includes elements such as rhyme, a steady rhythm, simile, repetition of words, and shape through the placement of different poems on each page. The illustrations add to the story, often including text bubbles to emphasize which character is supposed to be saying a certain poem. Color is used as an indicator of the mood and setting of the plot. Children will enjoy reading about a different side to their beloved nursery rhyme characters through the form of poetry in this book. (EMG)
Smith, Danna. 2016. Swallow the leader. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-10518-8. Illustrated by Kevin Sherry.
Children learn about counting and cardinality through bright illustrations and rhyming verses in Swallow the Leader by Danna Smith. A group of fish swim through the vast deep blue and follow each other with a hidden desire. Every time the reader flips the page, a new fish is added to the line. Once the reader finds ten fish in line, fish start disappearing until only one fish is left. All of a sudden the last fish burps up the rest of the gang to uncover the mystery. Illustrations used throughout the text have geometric shaping to help readers engage themselves with mathematical learning. Sherry uses a strategic base line to show the reader how to go from left to right across the page when reading in English. The main fish characters have a flat texture helping the color on their body’s pop, while their surroundings have a bit more of a paper mache feeling. Swallow the Leader can be used as a guide to help children learn how to count up to ten, and then back down from ten. This text is a valuable resource for younger children, ages four to seven years of age. Along with mathematical concepts, Smith uses easy to follow rhyming verses to make the story more enjoyable. Rhythmic patterns in language increases enjoyment while reading and a deeper appreciation for a language. Teaching children about counting and cardinality is made simple and rhythmic in Swallow the Leader by Danna Smith. (JMS)
Smith, Dave. 2016. Disney a to z: The official encyclopedia, 5th edition. Disney Book Group. 864pp. $35.99. ISBN 978-148473783-5. Jacket design by Glendon Lee.
Dave Smith is the chief archivist emeritus of the Walt Disney Archives and the ultimate authority on Disney history. The fifth edition added more than two-hundred entries from over the past ten years and enhanced existing listings in the encyclopedia. The encyclopedia includes actors that have voiced in Disney affiliated productions, directors and composers for animations, television shows (with the included titles of every episode), locations of any Disney affiliated restaurant, hotel, resort, and park. There is at least one picture every two pages that are associated with the definitions on the page. The encyclopedia even includes non-Disney related entries (Such as my favorite television series, Criminal Minds). Overall, the encyclopedia is a well constructed, factual, and enjoyable read for those who desire to learn more about the world of Disney. (CAF)
Smith, Matt. 2014. Barbarian Lord. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (Clarion Books). 176pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0547859064. Illustrated by Matt Smith.
Barbarian Lord is a graphic novel that takes readers on an adventure as the Barbarian Lord embarks on a quest for justice to gain back his lands. The pairing of text and pictures in this book will engage readers of a variety of ages. Black and white illustrations of cartoon characters fill the pages and add clarity and understanding to the text bubbles. According to Matt Smith in his Author’s Note, the book is “a mix of favorite books, films, and movies.” Smith includes many influences from Norse mythology in the plot. The influences from this traditional literature are evident through the conflicts between man and fantastical creatures such as ghouls, trolls, and monsters. The themes of physical strength, sharp humor, cunning wit, and overcoming adversity are prevalent in this text, showing their cultural importance to Norwegian heritage. The magical aspect and the beasts in the plot make this a modern-day folktale, according to Norton (2011). This text is an example of how one can take the elements of traditional tales from one culture and use those influences to write another version, prompting readers to do the same. (EMG)
Sperring, Mark. 2015, 2016. I’ll catch you if you fall. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division). 22pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5206-9. Illustrated by Layn Marlow.
I’ll catch you if you fall by Mark Sperring provides an interesting story about a young boy who learns the wonderful news that he is always going to have someone there to support him no matter the circumstance. Layn Marlow provides a unique sense of conflict and resolution the text does not explicitly mention. Marlow applies line and color to convey emotions. As the story progresses the sky becomes darker, and the water begins to form menacing waves leaving the reader to wonder who will look after the passengers in the boat. Suddenly, a light breaks through the dark clouds and a star appears to safely guide the boat to shore. The illustration reinforces the idea that no matter how bleak things may seem, or if you feel alone there will always be someone there to care for and watch over you. Such a beautiful sentiment is definitely necessary to share with kids. Recommended for kindergarteners. (KJN)
Springstubb, Tricia. 2016. Every single second. HarperCollins Publishers (Balzer + Bray). 368pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236628-3. Illustration by Diana Sudyka.
Although written for ages eight through twelve, any reader will enjoy the narrative of growing Penelope (Nella) Sabatini as she faces the difficulties of maturing in an Italian community which is developing a diverse population of college students and African-American families. Traditions and views are questioned in Every single second as Nella faces issues of social class, religion, stubborn great-grandmothers, crushes, and the difficulty of keeping secrets which may hurt others. The story follows omniscient narrative turns between the past, present, and the statues. When Nella’s childhood friend, Angela, is introduced, the narrator also introduces Angela’s brother, Anthony. As the story flashes between past and present, readers observe the past is filled with memories of Angela and the present is completely void of all mention of her. While readers hypothesize to discover the conflicts in their friendship, Nella is faced with secrets threatening to turn her family upside down. When word leaks to Nella about her father being in jail for accidental manslaughter, she realizes the child’s death may connect her and Angela in more ways than they originally believed. The plot thickens as readers are given more information about Angela’s family. Her father struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, her mother left the family after Angela’s father returned from his second enlistment, and Anthony has secretly been taking care of Angela and sacrificing all his dreams to see hers come true. As readers learn more about Nella and Angela’s families, they are brought to various events which are devastating for the main characters. The Catholic school the girls attend has been given orders to shut down after the school year, the girls together steal their first items and one is apprehended, relationships that cross races and social classes are brought to the surface, Nella’s great-grandmother suffers a stroke, and one of Angela’s family members is arrested for the murder of an African-American father of two. Every Single Second is an enthralling tale of the craziness of life and the life-altering effects of the choices people make in every single second. (CAF)
Stanley, Diane. 2016. Ada Lovelace: Poet of science. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481452496. Illustrated by Jessie Hartland
This informational text would be a useful text for a 3rd through 5th grade classroom. The book tells the story of Ada Lovelace, a young imaginative girl with a knack for science, math, and machines. Ada was born to a poet and a mathematician. Her mother was worried that her daughter was too imaginative, as she would come up with outrageous ideas as a child; however, it was her imagination that led her to write codes for the very first computer. The illustrations use pastels and simple lines, which is indicative of the 19th century time period. There are several resources included in this book such as a glossary of terms, important dates, and an author added a note about the controversy behind the question of whether Ada actually wrote the notes or if Babbage, a man working on the first analytical machine, did it for her. Inside this story, is a message to readers to use their imaginations often, because it may lead them to do great things. This book also is a great encouragement to girls in particular to become involved in math and science--if Ada can do it, so can they! (APB)
Stelson, Caren. 2016. Sachiko: A Nagasaki bomb survivor’s story. Lerner Books (Carolrhoda Books). 144pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-8903-5.
Sachiko is the story of a brave World War II survivor who somehow finds the best in life during hardship. The events of the war pushed and pulled humanity through a series of unethical decisions. It is common that children in America hear the story of World War II from the perspective of the United States. Stelson defies this ethnocentric perspective by bringing the reader into the rea-life story of a Japanese World War II survivor. Sachiko is a young six year-old girl who finds herself at the heart of the war in the city of Nagasaki, Japan. Through picture documentation, Stelson shows the reader a glimpse of what it was like to live in Japan during the war. Sachiko’s family struggled to find simple basic human necessities like food, and often went to bed hungry and woke up hungry. Stelson uses descriptive text to describe the destruction and chaos that ensued after the dropping of the bomb. It is clear that an event like this will make readers question whether dropping the atomic bomb was at all necessary or ethical. Though this text is recommended for grades 5th through 8th, it may take extra guidance in order for students to understand the war and the effects of the bombing of Nagasaki. (JMS)
Steveson, Nancy Turner. 2016. Swing sideways. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 288pp. $16.33. ISBN 978-0062374547.
Readers are introduced to an anxious, intelligent, and sheltered city girl named Annabel who is dealing with an eating disorder and panic attacks due to a very controlling mother and a dad who never wants to start a fight. It is written in first person from the Annabel’s point of view, which allows readers to know all of her actions, thoughts, feelings, and how they influence the story. Her mother schedules out every little detail of Annabel’s day and never allows for any free time. The author utilizes person against self conflict as Annabel tries to heal and become her own person. She wants to escape from her mentally ill and controlling mother. Additionally, Annabel’s doctor suggest to spend her summer in the country with her family and where she can make her own decisions and do any activity she desires. Fortunately, her days will be void of her mother’s imposing schedules. As they are driving to their summer home, Annabel catches glimpse of a tan, blonde, and wild young girl who is living at Mr. McMurty's home her parents claim to be a crazy old man. Instantly, Annabel is drawn to this adventurous girl and knows she must become friends with her. As soon as Annabel moves in, she runs over to the farm to meet this girl named California. The author uses the farm as symbol of freedom, adventure, and fun because whenever she goes back home she is forced to be prim and proper. At the farm, California and Annabel quickly become friends, and Annabel realizes California is just the kind of friend she needs to let loose. California teaches Annabel how to climb trees, pick berries off a vine, and to enjoy life. They quickly become engrossed in a mystery and adventure to find two ponies who used to live on the farm. These ponies belonged to California’s mom, Piper. She believes if she finds the ponies she could mend the tension between her grandfather, Mr. McMurty and Piper. California longs for the farm to be a magical place again with both Piper and Mr. McMurty. California and Annabel spend most of their days roaming the 600 acres of the farm looking for any clues of the ponies and learning more about Piper’s past in the process. As the summer continues, Annabel begins to heal, yet still struggles with her overprotective mother; she notices California is hiding a secret. The author uses a technique where the theme of friendship, adventure, freedom, and self-care starts to be revealed through the growth and change of Annabel and California. Stevenson consistently uses foreshadowing to prepare the reader for a heart wrenching secret which changes Annabel forever. (MJO)
Stokes, Jonathan W. 2016. Addison Cooke and the treasure of the Incas. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17377-6.
Addison Cooke is a typical twelve-year-old who daydreams of adventure rather than being stuck in school. His aunt and uncle are world-famous researchers who travel the world in search of lost treasures and Addison loves to use his vast knowledge of archaeology and history to dream of following in their footsteps. Luckily for Addison, adventure finds him when his uncle is kidnapped by bandits after discovering the first clue to ancient Incan treasure. He and his friends head for South America in an effort to outsmart the kidnappers, save his uncle, and unlock the clues themselves before others have the chance. Fast-paced and easy to read, young and old alike will be thrilled with the nonstop action and excitement of the story. Through humor and suspense, Stokes creates a story that will have readers turning pages in excitement. Many adolescents can relate to feelings of longing for adventure, and the characters of this book will draw readers in through their optimism, wit, and confidence, providing readers the sense of adventure they are craving. The eye-catching cover art is reminiscent of Indiana Jones, and fans of the series will not be disappointed by this new adventure-driven series, and will find themselves longing for more. (JJB)
Teague, Mark. 2016. The pirate jamboree. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-63221-8.
This picture storybook, written and illustrated by Mark Teague, depicts the vivid imagination of a young group of friends who invite the reader into their pirate fantasy world. The jamboree is in full swing as the pirates began to dismantle the bedroom (Peg Leg Jones’ ship), until another ship appears beyond the horizon; it was Mrs. Jones aboard the S.S. Clean Your Room! The pirates disbanded and went their separate ways, eager to travel the seas once again on another day. A clever use of rhythm and rhyme is used to not only develop young readers language skills, but to provoke interest in the text and illustrations. The pastel illustrations provide vibrant colors, texture in the outfits of the pirates, the waves of the water, and unique detail of each individual ship, while also creating a clear representation of the action being addressed in the text. This story provides a relatable form of conflict to young readers: person versus person, or child versus parent. Readers may relate to a time when they have had to clean their room, having friends over, which provides the reader with a sense of authenticity and truth. Recommended for grades K-1. (KJN)
Thompson, C.J. 2016. Rhymes with Doug. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1481470957.
Rhymes with Doug is a children’s storybook about a talking bird that knows how to rhyme. It is not a poetry book, but it does use rhyming words throughout the story, which could be useful in teaching children about rhyme. This book is especially entertaining for children due to its element of humor. The main character in the story, Doug, realizes soon after hearing the “amazing rhyming bird” speak that he turns into whatever the bird says. Throughout the story, Doug is a bug and a slug. The illustrations aid in this element of humor, largely through the irritated look on Doug’s face throughout the story. (CJS)
Thomson, L. Sarah. 2016. The Eureka Key: Secrets of the seven. Bloomsbury Children’s Books. 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-731-3.
This book harnesses children’s imaginations and takes them on a journey throughout America looking for Benjamin Franklin’s lost key. It allows children to suspend their disbelief about the concept of finding the lost key while at the same time taking readers across America while learning a little about American history and famous historical figures. The story is somewhat realistic in terms of setting and characterization by taking place within a very believable context. The children are US American, but then they take off on a journey that requires readers to use their imagination. The thrill and excitement in the book is a feeling that readers resonate with, and hooks them into reading further. This book is great for subtle educational purposes but also as a way for readers to imagine what extraordinary events could happen within the context of the world they live in. (EJM)
Trius, Angie & Doran, Mark. 2016. Animal doctors: Incredible ways animals heal themselves. Laurence King Publishing. 32pp. $15.95. ISBN 978-1-78067-832-0. Illustrations by Julio Antonio Blasco.
Many children find animals fascinating and enjoy learning about the different characteristics allowing them to thrive. This informational text includes facts about different animals such as elephants, blue jays, and even dogs while including unique ways these animals have adapted to their environment. Readers, ages 7-12, can rely on this text to provide accurate, interesting information about animals and their habits. The format of the book is well organized into sections by animal, and uses a consistent layout of information, making it easy for the reader to locate specific information about each animal. The illustrations further the reader’s understanding of the text by depicting the details of the animal’s habits and accentuating important information from the text. This book allows readers to discover a deeper appreciation for nature by encouraging the reader to explore these animals and their unique mannerisms. (EJM)
Turk, Evan. 2016. The storyteller. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum). 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-3518-5.
A story within a story within a story within a story within a story, The storyteller weaves Moroccan history and culture with vibrant artwork and a magical plot. Storytellers were an important part of Moroccan society until more recently, when their entertainment has been replaced by television and the internet. Turk writes of a young boy living in a Moroccan city experiencing a drought. The fountains have dried up and everyone is in scrounging for water, when the boy comes across one of the last storytellers. He says his fountain still has water, although the boy does not believe him at first. The storyteller begins telling of a past drought, leaving the boy at a cliffhanger and telling him, “that is a story for another day.” This continues for multiple days, each day leading to another story within the previous story, and every day, the boy leaves with his brass cup magically full of cool water. The boy eventually uses his own newfound storytelling skills to save his city from the djinn and the drought. The text flows seamlessly as though talented storyteller were telling it, with new vocabulary opportunities for children. Through the interwoven stories, there is a sense of abstractness to the text but different text colors will help readers keep track of every detail. The book introduces a new culture while allowing cross-cultural connections to be made through the theme of hope and humanity’s enjoyment of sharing stories. Each page is its own piece of artwork, with a unified style but enough differences and hidden images to be examined for hours. Turk harmoniously weaves together complex Moroccan patterns with simple depictions of humans and objects for truly unique artwork engaging young and old alike. (JJB)
Turner, Pamela S. 2016. Crow smarts: Inside the brain of the world’s brightest bird. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (HMH Books for Young Readers). 80pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0544416192.
Readers will have the opportunity to learn extensively about how intelligent crows are in this book. It is told as a story of scientist who are researching the grows on the New Caledonian island. One of the main aspects it emphasizes about crows in the book is how he the use tools to eat their food. These crows are innovative and know the right techniques in order to eat their food. There are also brain diagrams, and other visual aids to show what a crow’s brain looks like compared to humans. The author is very competent in this topic because she has written many nonfiction books before. Also, every year, she helps raise orphaned baby crows that will be released, so she has first hand experience on the intelligence of these birds. Another interesting point to note is how the author and the photographer followed a researcher, Gavin, so they experienced first hand on what crows were like. They saw how they cleverly use tools in their day to day life. In order to expand on the story even more, the photographer was there taking photos in real-life time to show the events happening in the research. Overall, it would be beneficial for children to read this book about crows because their intelligence is often overlooked. People often deem birds has “not smart” so it would be useful for students to learn about these fascinating birds. (MJO)
Valentino, Serena. 2016. Poor unfortunate souls: a tale of the sea witch. Disney Book Group (Disney Press). 208pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-148472405-7. Jacket illustration by Jeffrey Thomas.
Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Valentino throws a twist on the story of the sea witch, Ursula. Poor unfortunate souls is the third fairy-tale book in Valentino’s villain trilogy. This tale is told from an omniscient third-person as the background of Ursula, the sea witch, unfolds. Although the book can stand alone, readers may benefit from reading the first two books in the trilogy which have plots continuously mentioned in Poor Unfortunate Souls. The fable begins with a background as to how Ursula became so filled with hate for Triton, her biological brother who left her for dead in their youth, and the humans who destroyed the only person she ever loved. Triton, Ariel’s father in the Little Mermaid, was tasked to find his sister or prove her dead before he could claim the throne. Triton then brought Ursula to the kingdom and forced her to hide her true form and take the image he deemed appropriate. He then convinced the kingdom Ursula was a crazed creature and unfit to rule and share the throne. He stole the source of her magic, a shell necklace from their parents, and forced her out of the kingdom. Ursula, scorned by her brother and the society of merfolk he ruled, was determined to regain her magic and place on the throne. At this time, the story turns to three sister witches who practice in dark magic. These three sisters are the continuous story line in the trilogy of villain books by Valentino. Known as the odd sisters, they come to Ursula to ask her help to find their youngest sister in exchange for their help in Ursula’s plan to undo Triton. With pure hate, their magic was unstoppable. The tale of the little mermaid and sea witch are entwined with the story of the odd sisters and characters with backgrounds in the trilogy as Ursula gives Ariel legs and three days to get true love’s kiss. The fate of Ursula is sealed when the odd sisters discover what truly occurred to their youngest sister. Ursula had taken the youngest sister and turned her into one of her soulless creatures at the bottom of the ocean. The hatred the odd sisters had conjured for Triton was redirected toward Ursula which led to her downfall and death. The poor unfortunate souls were freed from Ursula’s power when she was destroyed by those she sought to use against Triton. However, perhaps Ursula was the poor, unfortunate soul which needed to be saved. The trilogy concludes with the final character development of the three odd sisters as they are reunited with the youngest sister. The three eldest odd sisters and are determined to “behave” in order to keep their youngest sister happy and safe. (CAF)
Verde, Susan. 2016. The Water Princess. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17258-8. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.
Stories based on true events can often lead to the best lessons for students. This is the case with Susan Verde’s picture storybook, The Water Princess. Peter H. Reynolds ensures from the front cover there are no bright or primary colors, only browns, greens, and blues which are all muted and faded. The young protagonist, Gie Gie, is a child living where she and her mother must collect the water. Readers, ages five to eight, may need help to identify the setting of the story as a place in Africa. Gie Gie tells the story from her first-person point-of-view as she and her mother walk to collect the water from the well. The earth tones portray how dirty, dusty, and dry their walk to the water is. The added reds appear hazy as they give the reader an interpretation of how hot it is as the two walk, only to stop for shade under one lonely tree. When they finally arrive at the well, they must wait in line with other women as the children play. The water is the color of the earth; a dirty and gloomy brown. Once the two return home, they boil the water before it is drinkable as they wash their clothes and bodies. At last, Gie Gie is able to take a drink of water. She goes to bed with the last cup of water from their long walk. The water is gone and tomorrow Gie Gie and her mother must make the long journey once again. The story of Gie Gie, based on the childhood experience of Georgie Badiel, is concluded with a fact page giving the reader more information about her experience. Badiel paired with the Ryan’s Well foundation to place wells close to African villages and in schools for children. The lesson is clear as this story ends on a note compelling readers to act in order to bring clean water to those in need. This is an astute message and a challenge for all to remember. (CAF)
Virján, Emma J. 2016. What this story needs is a munch and a crunch. HarperCollins Publishers. 40pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-0062415295.
Readers are introduced to a spunky and adventurous pig wearing a wig; and she just wants to spend time with her friends. She prepares a bunch of food for a picnic for her friends, but unfortunately, it starts to rain. Pig does not let anything ruin her fun, and they end up having their picnic inside. Children will quickly enjoy this short story because it is easy to read, and there is a large amount of rhyming. Young readers are often very attracted to rhyming stories because of how easy it flows and the light-hearted humor, so this is perfect for readers who enjoy these kind of stories! This story promotes language development because readers will be able to pronounce the words due to the rhyming aspect. The words are fairly simple, so this book is recommended for lower elementary. It emphasizes that sometimes in life, plans change because of unforeseeable circumstances that can not be controlled. (MJO)
Vischer, Frans. 2016. Fuddles and puddles. Simon and Schuster (Aladdin). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1481438391. Illustrated by Frans Vischer.
Written for ages 4-8, Fuddles and Puddles is a heartwarming story of a dog and a cat who find themselves living in the same house. Fuddles is an old cat who has lived in the house for quite some time. One day, Fuddles goes into the kitchen and finds that he is not alone; the family has a new puppy. The puppy immediately attaches onto Fuddles and follows him everywhere. Fuddles, however, does not like the company of the cat. One day, Fuddles has enough and tells Puddles to get out of his house. After that, Puddles keeps his distance. A few days later, Fuddles found himself falling out of a tree and into the neighbor's yard. Puddles forgave Fuddles and came to his rescue. From that moment on, Puddles and Fuddles were great friends. This picture storybook, uses the idea of articulate animals. The dog and the cat in the book tell a story of friendship. The thoughts of the animals often are portrayed throughout the book. The illustrations capture the emotions the animals are feeling at different times. The illustrations also change with the setting. For instance, during Fuddles dream, the illustration is gray and black demonstrating the dreamy cloud like state, however, when Fuddles and Puddles are outside playing, vivid colors such as red, green, and blue are used. The illustrations have a certain simplicity to them, that will keep the young readers engaged on each page. (APB)
Wadsworth, Ginger. 2016. Poop detectives: Working dogs in the field. Charlesbridge. 80pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-650-4.
A light-hearted approach to teaching about environmental concerns, Poop detectives explains the important role dogs play in tracking animals all over the world. Opening with the story of a rescue dog, the book describes different dogs on the job who help conservationists and environmental scientists research and count endangered species or catch invasive ones by sniffing out animal scat. Each section is written in a story-style that will maintain readers’ interest and every page is full of fun facts. The eye-catching photographs and detailed text make for something that could almost be considered a “coffee table book.” New vocabulary is bolded and definitions can be found in the book’s glossary, along with an index and extra resources to further learning. Dog-lovers, outdoor fanatics, adults and children can all find something that sparks their interest and catches their attention in this unique book. (JJB)
Wall, Laura. 2013. Goose on the farm. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 48pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232439-9 .
Readers have the opportunity to tag along on Sophie and Goose’s class field trip to a farm. However, things quickly turn sour for Goose as he starts to feel left out. Not quite enjoying the sensation of being left out, Goose sets out on his own to explore to see what he can find. He crosses paths with many ordinary farm animals but hanging out with them does not seem to fill his heart or mind like when he is hanging out with Sophie. Readers travel with the story as Sophie and Goose continue to explore the animals of the farm, accompanied by simple but intricate illustrations. Wall uses a heavy, bolded line to create outlines of the objects, making defined and cartoonistic images children can relate to. Children can keep guessing and hypothesizing what is going to happen next in this story, “Why is Goose eating on the bus?”, “Will Goose find someone to hang out with?”, “What will happen to his new friend?”. The opportunities to hypothesize events in this story are endless and up to the imagination of the children. Readers will enjoy joining Sophia and Goose on a field trip leading to new friendships and a memorable day. (SSL)
Warne, Frederick. 2016. A celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and letters by more than 30 of today’s favorite children’s book illustrators. Penguin Random House LLC. 112pp. $25.00. ISBN 978-0241249437. Design and art directed by Giuseppe Castellano.
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, 32 of today’s favorite children’s illustrators reimagine characters from nine of Potter’s tales. They tell of their own childhood experiences with the tales and how certain characters in Potter’s work were able to influence their lives. This book pays tribute to the idea that Potter was able to create a fantastical world that has continued to engage children years later. The book goes through the nine tales in chronological order, with a section devoted to each tale. Each section begins with an introduction and an excerpt from the tale. Following excerpts are a series of character illustrations accompanied by an interpretation from one of the famous children’s book illustrators. The illustrations throughout the book are vital, as Potter was known both as an author and an artist. This book will continue to inspire students to be creative and use their imaginations. (APB)
Waters, Alice. 2016. Fanny in France: Travel adventures of a chef’s daughter, with recipes. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 184pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01666-2. Illustrated by Ann Arnold.
Fanny, the main character of the story, is the daughter of author and cook, Alice Waters. The nonfiction book is a collection of Fanny’s favorite memories in France with her mother as well as some of her favorite recipes that she learned. Some of the many stories include eating part of a sea urchin straight from the sea, watching shepherds make cheese from sheep’s milk, burning lavender in a house to remove the swarms of wasps, and eating with friends in the Luxembourg Gardens. Every set of pages has at least one water-colored still painting of a scene spoken of in the story line. The stories themselves may not be in chronological order, but they are put together in a way that makes the audience interested in continuing the storyline by reading more. Majority of the memories are only a page or so long and are not marked by a title. The reader continues throughout the memories without breaks that interrupt the story line. The colors within Ann Arnold’s paintings are vibrant and defined. The lines are sharp and the colors bold. The last section of the book is dedicated to the instruction on how to make some of the foods that Fanny made with her mother. The recipes are written for readers to be able to make with some assistance from their guardians. Many of the recipes require very few items and minimal work. To help the readers there is a glossary of words and phrases at the very end of the book. These words are used within the story as well as within a few of the recipes. Although this book is intended for readers ages 10 and up, many late elementary students to early middle school students would not be interested in the story line that makes up the majority of the book. The recipes in the back may be what is interesting to students who pick up this nonfiction. (CAF)
Waters, Kate. 2016. Curious about the White House. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 32pp. $3.99. ISBN 9780399541452.
The informational book Curious about the White House gives historical background and current facts about the United States White House for students who are interested. The author, Kate Waters, is known for her historical and informational titles. She writes with a clear and descriptive style that is presented without bias. The book is also a part of a Smithsonian series, bringing validity to the information it presents. The text answers questions such as, Who built the White House? How many rooms are there? What are the rooms used for? and What events are held in the White House? The information presented is current and adequately covered, and the chronological and informational organization makes it easier for children to read. The book pages are filled with current and historical pictures that include captions and labels to help clarify their significance to the White House. A glossary is included at the end, helping to make it within the comprehension range of young children. (EMG)
Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2016. You can fly: The Tuskegee Airmen. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 96pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-4938-0. Illustrated by Jeffrey Boston Weatherford.
In this unique and inspirational blend of informational text and poetry, readers fly alongside the remarkable group of African-American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Before the establishment of this program in WWII, African-Americans were not allowed to fly in the U.S. military because they were deemed unfit and unintelligent. The Tuskegee Airmen were historically significant because they overcame prejudices in their own country as well as the intensity and violence of the war. In this book, the story is told chronologically and in second-person as if the reader is one of the pioneering pilots. The narrative begins by describing the obstacles barring the establishment of an African-American flight school, as well as the individual obstacles of the pilots. Present throughout the story is the contrast between the ground and the air, as well as between racism and freedom. This dynamic was highlighted most noticeably before the soldiers were even given a chance to fly, specifically in the poem titled “The Odds”. In this poem, Jim Crow laws are related to the challenge of flying and how it would be easier to defy gravity through flight than overcome racism. This relationship emphasized the importance of the Tuskegee Airmen serving as an example for discriminated individuals all over the country. Much of the book is dedicated to the war accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen, including the “The Fight Song” with a rhythm and meter to match the intensity and success they experienced in battle. Just as parallels are drawn between Jim Crow and the task of learning to fly, the book also highlights the multiple wars the Tuskegee Airmen had to wage. Known as the Double V campaign, standing for two victories, it became widely understood the African-Americans wanted to win their own freedom just as much as they wanted to win the war. The Tuskegee Airmen became the face for this effort because of their groundbreaking accomplishments. However, even though the pilots became highly successful and essential to the victory effort, they still returned home without a hero’s welcome. Nevertheless, the story concludes by evoking their eternal place in history in a long line of freedom fighters against racism, as well as a reference to how the foundation they built led to a future where an African-American could be president. Because the entire story is told in second person and through poetry, the magnitude of the events becomes exponentially more personal and realistic. The style, form, and depth of each poem express the emotions of the experiences and trials the Tuskegee Airmen faced, as well as their successes. The story of this pioneering group and their accomplishments is unparalleled, and through this book, readers are able to live their experiences and fly with them on their inspirational path to equality and freedom. (DB)
Wells, Rosemary. 2016. Max & Ruby’s preschool pranks. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-784462-2. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells.
Max & Ruby’s preschool pranks is a picture storybook in the Max & Ruby series. The simple plot of the story is clearly developed as the main characters goof off during preschool and try to make a volcano, demonstrating the theme of friendship and fun. Even though the main characters, setting in a preschool, and overall plotline are presented as being realistic, the book is still a work of fantasy because the main characters are actually talking animals (rabbits, in this case) with human emotions. The illustrations of this picture storybook go hand and hand with the literary elements to create a meaningful story for the reader. The bright colors mirror the upbeat tone of the story. The stability of the preschool setting is shown through geometric shape, while the organic shapes of the characters promote the imaginative nature of the story. (EMG)
Westaway, Kylie. 2014. A whale in the bathtub. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-53535-0. Illustrations by Tom Jellett.
Bruno, a young boy, discovers there is a whale in his bathtub. After seeing this shocking sight for the first time Bruno tries to tell his family about his discovery, but they do not believe him. As the story progresses Bruno and the whale argue about when Bruno can finally take a bath, until the whale uses his blowhole and Bruno is all clean. Bruno then goes to bed and his sister finds the whale, realizing Bruno was imagining a whale in his bathtub. This book shows emotion through color. Whenever Bruno is trying to tell his family about the whale in his bathtub the pages of the book are all different shades of blue. These color choices give off a sense of sadness and help us as a reader understand how Bruno feels when his family does not believe him. However, once Bruno goes to bed, the page is full of shades of red and orange. This gives a warm feeling as Bruno and his sister know the whale is real and he can sleep comfortably. Color is a key factor in the emotion aspect of this book. (HRC)
Weyerhaeuser, Catherine. 2016. Where do rivers go, momma?. Mountain Press Publishing Company. 32pp. $12.00. ISBN 978-0-87842-656-0.
In this uniquely formatted yet highly informational text, readers learn about the Earth’s water cycle from a knowledgeable mother answering her daughter’s questions and satisfying her innate curiosity about the things she sees around her. Beginning with a question such as “Where do rivers go, momma?”, each section contains an extensive answer from the mother accurately describing the processes and facts pertaining to the water-related subject. Through questions about the travel and age of the water, as well as about the sediments it carries while moving, all elements of the water cycle are presented. The language is technical in some areas but the format of the story is a familiar situation. Just like in their own lives, readers learn from this book through the questions of the daughter and the insight of the parent. Most readers will be as naturally curious as this young girl, so the scenario makes the content accessible even if some of the vocabulary is challenging. In addition to a relatable premise, the information about the water cycle is significantly enhanced by the bright and intriguing illustrations. Each full-page image contains the information of a textbook graphic, yet the creativity to match the curiosity of the daughter. Full of colors, patterns, animals, and lots of water, the illustrations accurately depict the content in a visual way which is both pleasurable and useful for the reader. Not only do children learn about the water cycle through the information and accompanying images, the story also models questioning and inquiry skills. By emulating the young girl in the story, readers can begin to ask their own intelligent questions. Also, the subject of the water cycle correlates strongly with the cognitive development of the young readers interacting with the book. Because young children cannot think abstractly, it makes sense the young girl is asking questions about a tangible subject such as water. While the text is informative and engaging in these ways, it may also prove disorganized to a young reader and difficult to piece together. Although each section is characterized by the daughter’s specific question, much of the information seems as if it should be placed in a different grouping. For example, although closely related, the mother tells of water existing in the air in one section, yet explains how evaporation and condensation work while answering a different question. Aside from the information being occasionally scattered in this manner, readers travel the water cycle guided by the same questions they may be contemplating in their own lives. (DB)
Williams, Mo. 2016. Nanette’s baguette. Disney Book Group (Hyperion Books for Children). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1484722862.
Children are introduced to a charming, adorable, and humorous little frog named Nanette. Her mom gives her an important task to go buy a baguette. She meets many friends along the way to the bakery. When she arrives at the bakery, she is reminded how much she adores baguettes and ends up eating it all! She realizes the mistake she has made and becomes very scared about what her mother might say. She eventually confessed to eating the baguette, and her mom embraces her, and they go back to the bakery to buy another baguette. This story is an excellent book for rhyming. On every single page, the words rhyme, usually with the word baguette. Children can easily follow the sequence of the plot and can eventually predict what will be said next! The theme of this book emphasizes how it is acceptable to make mistakes because Nanette’s mother forgave her for eating the baguette. This could be an important lesson for personal and social development because it shows a character who bravely admitted to her mistakes and the importance of owning up to them! Also, it shows the importance of forgiveness in relationships meaningful to a child. (MJO)
Williams, Sam. 2016. Art barn (Noah’s park). Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 14pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1481442596. Illustrated by Sam Williams.
Preschool age students will be able to relate their life experiences to the experiences the animals have at Noah’s Park in the art barn. This book is based off a group of critters who meet each day for a new adventure. On this particular day, the animals are going to Noah’s Park. The book follows the steps the animals must take to get ready to paint. First, the animals put on their painting smocks. Secondly, they choose their brushes, paint, and paper. After preparing to paint, the animals work together in order to paint a train. It takes each of the animals hard work in order to complete the whole train painting. This is a story of playing and working together. The illustrations play a major role in this book, especially for the preschoolers, who may follow the storyline based on the pictures they see. The illustrations have a warm and exciting feel to them. The illustrator uses bright vivid colors throughout the entire book. (APB)
Williams, Vera B. 2016. Home at last. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-134973-7. Illustrations by Chris Raschka.
Lester, a young boy, is adopted by a gay couple, Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert. The book begins with his adoption, and continues to express the struggles of being an adopted child, as well as how his parents learn to support him. Not only does this book expose children with heterosexual parents to the experiences of a child with same-sex parents, it normalizes life with homosexual parents, and shares a positive experience with adopted children and children with homosexual parents. This kind of relatability can be extremely important for children as they grow up. This book allows youngsters to see someone who might be struggling with the similar concepts, as well as expose others to a new life experience. The illustrations in the book are colorful and soft, and there are no harsh lines, which makes the images blend nicely together, creating a vibrant yet smooth appearance. The illustrations complement the theme of the book by reinforcing that Lester is able to find a happy, comfortable home after some time and love from his new daddies. (EJM)
Won, Brian. 2016. Hooray for today. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544074803-3.
Hooray for Today is a picture story book for preschool and kindergarten aged children who might be having a hard time laying down for bed, like Owl. Owl puts on a party hat and pulls out a bright red wagon filled with exciting things to play with, however there seems to be a problem. Owl wants to play but none of his friends want to play with him. Traveling from friend to friend Owl repeats “Hooray for Today!” followed by a question about playing with a particular item from the wagon. However, Owl time and time again hears, “Not now I’m sleepy!.” The repetitive language makes it easy for children to catch on and predict what an animal friend will say to Owl upon his arrival. Repetitive language is not the only thing that the author chooses to use in this book. The author also incorporates the usage of rhyme. Words like play and day are grouped together on pages as well as the obvious title words of hooray and today. Soon Owl realizes as the sun comes up that “today is a bad, bad day. No one wants to play.” Much to his surprise his friends are at his house and want to play but Owl has other plans. He asks that maybe after he sleeps they can all play. The author does an incredible job illustrating this storybook. The pages are filled with dark hue backgrounds that emphasize the bright and vivid activities that Owl wishes to do while all his friends are sleeping. Children who do not always want to settle down and go to sleep will relate to Owl and can learn that there will always be time to play, but first some sleep would be good. (SSL)
Wood, Susan. 2016. Esquivel! Space-aged sound artist. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-673-3. Illustrations by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Susan Wood brings the music of a past generation to a younger age group through her biography of musician and composer, Juan García Esquivel. Both informational and entertaining, Esquivel! gives children insight into the life of a composer who is likely unfamiliar to them. Further, readers learn about different musical instruments and how they are recorded. The descriptions of Esquivel’s music will make readers want to hear his creative tunes, encouraging further inquiry and musical interest. Using phonetic spellings to describe the musical sounds gives younger children the opportunity to practice sounding out words they do not recognize, making it an ideal book for an adult and beginning reader to share. Esquivel’s music brings a creative new twist to older songs, and the illustrations also reflect this idea. Based on century-old Mexican art, Tonatiuh reworks the traditional art to produce an intriguingly different style of illustrations. The use of multiple mediums, word art, and photographic elements creates a new textured collage in each illustration. Readers are able to satisfy additional curiosity by learning more about Esquivel’s life through the author’s note and the additional resources provided at the end of the book. (JJB)
Yaccarino, Dan. 2016. I am a story. HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. 978-0062411068.
The theme of I am A Story, by Dan Yaccarino, is centered around the longevity of a story. The plot is not climactic, but instead follows an obvious chronological order, as a story travels throughout history. The story begins with a group of prehistoric people, listening to one man tell a story around a fire. The story travels through the time of cavemen, Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, and other antiquated civilizations to modern libraries and current means of book distribution. The story is personified in this book, which is told in the first person. “I was told”, “I was written” “I was drawn” and similar phrases are used rhythmically to describe how storytelling has evolved over time, yet has remained the same. The last two pages of the book are illustrated to be the same picture as the first two pages, with a modern twist, demonstrating the similarity of storytelling throughout time.
The illustrations in this book are equally important as the text, if not more so. The book contains vibrant shades of orange, purple, and blue. The text is placed in a single, white line that spans across the page like a timeline. A red bird, found on nearly every page in various forms, can be interpreted as the personification of the ‘story’. The facial expressions on the people in the story are pleasant, and draw the reader in. Overall, the shape, colors, and tone of this book are very engaging for young children. The plot of this story is also relatable for children ages 4-8, the recommended ages for this book. Children may already have some prior knowledge of the ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt, or prehistoric civilizations. The book also features many illustrations in which a child or children are participating in a story told by an adult (presumably a parent). The strong relationships between parents and children displayed in this book are attractive to young readers.
This book is of high quality with a plot conveyed using simple text and intricate illustrations. Characterization of the ‘story’ is displayed through personification. It also has significance pertaining to the past, present, and future. Many aspects of the book, such as the portrayal of Shakespearian plays and book burnings, are academically stimulating, and prompt a variety of classroom discussions. (CJS)
Ying, Jonathan. 2016. Not quite black and white. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $14.99. 978-0062380661. Illustrated by Victoria Ying.
Not quite black and white features a simple plot with simple illustrations to match. Although the age recommendation is the 4-8 range, students on the younger side may enjoy it more. This book could be used to help young students with vocabulary and comparison skills. Animals wear different colors, helping children differentiate between the colors. They are in contrast with the simple illustrations made of black and white with simple lines. This book should be used for younger students, particularly preschoolers. (AMB, CJS)
Yolen, Jane, and Stemple Adam. 2016. Stone cold: The Stone Man mysteries, book one. Lerner Books (Graphic Universe). 80pp. $5.95. ISBN 978-1-512-41155-3. Illustrated by Orion Zangara.
In this dark and gothic-styled graphic novel, the young runaway Craig becomes enlisted by a talking gargoyle named Silex and a stubborn priest named Father Harris as they work to uncover the mystery behind a series of murders in the city of Edinburgh. Craig initially encounters Silex on the rooftop of a cathedral while in a suicidal state of mind. However, Silex reveals his lifelike state to Craig, convinces him of his importance, and essentially offers him a job as a detective. From this point on, Craig begins to live with Father Harris in the cathedral and the two of them roam the streets desperate for information about the killings. No matter what they encounter throughout the day, Silex has them report everything and he carefully ponders over each new piece of evidence. The story builds once Craig and Father Harris begin to connect the murders, which they also find to be connected to Silex himself. The massive gargoyle discloses he used to be a ruthless demon terrorizing the world until a priest trapped him in his current stone-structured state. The climax occurs when the two confront the murderer -- another priest attempting to release Silex from his gargoyle state and, in turn, try to destroy him. Craig is able to foil the plan, but only after his new mentor, Father Harris, is slain. The devious other priest ends up falling from the heights of the cathedral and the story ends with Silex and Craig wondering what greater evil plot was uncovered by these events. Due to the style of the story, the illustrations do most of the story telling. Although each page only contains small speech bubbles, the story is described in detail by the intense monochromatic illustrations. The lack of color contributes to the mystery of the plot, as the whole situation is very dark and ominous. Most of the graphics are relatively crowded, which makes the story difficult to follow at times. However, the chaos and muddle of the page parallels the chaotic and muddled story. One of the most powerful visual elements is the use of perspective, as the story is often told from a bird’s eye view. This point of view emphasizes Silex’s role as the watchful guardian from the top of the cathedral, which creates an extremely unique effect. In addition, the city of Edinburgh holds significance to the events of the story. References are made to the conflict between Scotland and the United Kingdom, and the priests and their magic embody the religious history of the region and the many myths surrounding the church. The symbol of the gargoyle also adds to this perceived darker underside of the cathedral-based religion. The cohesiveness between the many realistic elements and the fantastical components such as a talking statue suspend the disbelief just enough to create an engaging storyline. Although the graphic novel is scattered and jumpy at times, this haunting mystery would prove very intriguing for many middle school-aged readers. (DB)
Yolen, Jane. 2016. The alligator’s smile and other poems. Lerner Publishing Group (Millbrook Press). 32pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4677-5575-7. Photographer Jason Stemple.
Alligator’s have very unique characteristics, which separate them from their close relative, the crocodile, as is seen here through a series of poems. Teeth, skin, endangerment, modes of transportation, and maternal instincts are all characteristics mentioned in this book of poems. The poetry in this book is enjoyable to read. No poem seems out of place or is hard to understand, however the vocabulary could still be challenging to some readers who are still expanding their language skills. Each individual poem is crafted differently but all contain their own individuality when it comes to rhythm, rhyme, repetition, imagery and shape. For example, the poem entitled Mother alligator on the Path, every line has a rhymed partner and the lines flow nicely when spoken aloud to describe how alligators move about in both water and on land. Each poem also has a paired information box on the page that fact checks the information in the poem. The facts are not long and are surprising enough to grasp the attention of the readers. Stunningly vivid photographs are used to illustrate the messages of the different poems within the pages of this book. The use of poetry, calm and engaging pictures, and additional factual information make this book inviting for children grades 3-5, and ages 8-11 to explore animal science. Additional facts, terms, and extensions about topics relating to the lives of alligators can be found in the glossary and a list of books is located in the last section of the book. (SSL)
Yomtov, Nel. 2017. The Children's Blizzard of 1888. Lerner Books. $30.65. 40pp. ISBN 978-1-5124-1118-8.
The children’s blizzard of 1888 is an informational book about the famous blizzard and bizarre weather patterns faced by farmers living in the Midwest region in 1888. After several months of intense winter patterns, the temperature rose 40 degrees overnight, causing settlers to believe the worst of winter was behind them and life could resume as normal, this however was not the case. This book contains unique elements, including its layout and organization. Some pages contain background images of newspaper clippings to help place the event in history. Also included are real pictures relating to the newspaper articles which contain small captions to explain the picture and the stories of different people. For example, on page 26 and 27 there are pictures from the Nebraska State Historical Society. The perspective does not shift in this book between survivors and their stories but it is briefly mentioned where people can hear and get first hand accounts of the fatal day. To prove accuracy, there are source notes at the end of the book along with bibliographies, and author’s notes, showing where to find the information in the book. Yomtov shares the story of this momentous situation 100 years ago in a unique and accessible way. (SSL)
Young, Rebecca. 2015. Teacup. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 9780735227774. Illustrated by Matt Ottley.
Teacup is an enchanting story of hope for anyone feeling lost or doubtful. A young boy is forced to leave his home due to unforeseen circumstances, and can only take enough belongings to fill his backpack. Stranded at sea, the boy has time so observe his surroundings. He asks questions such as, ‘how did I get here and where am I going’? There are days when the journey seems peaceful and the sea rocks him to sleep. Somedays the sea is fierce and tries to capsize the boy’s boat, and then he would hang on for dear life. After a long journey, the boy reaches an island where he can start building. His perfect paradise is missing one thing; he wants a friend. After waiting for a whisper, this wish is answered and a girl coming from a very similar journey meets him. The shape, color, line, and texture of the illustrations have an organic look, for organic feelings the reader is engaged in. The internal struggles of the main character have profound meaning and can connect with children going through dark times in their own lives. Young writes a text of originality and imagination, which can give children the stimulation they need for creative play. Teacup can be shared with children of all ages, and can push them to think critically about the struggles in life. Although the setting of the book is vast in concept, the reader is contained to follow a boy and his boat across a body of water. The boat gives the reader a sense of security while traveling through the ocean of uncharted waters. The plot may be short, but can affect students to unknown parallels and depths. Even with current events, Teacup can be a great resource for beginning discussions about the Syrian refugee crisis. If looking to bring critical thinking to real life problems, share Young’s Teacup with students. (JMS)
Zagarenski, Pamela. 2016. Henry and Leo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-64811-1.
In Henry and Leo, children are invited to hang onto the belief that stuffed animals are more than just toys. Leo is Henry’s most prized possession and has been since receiving it on his second birthday. Henry believes with all his being Leo is as real as himself, his parents, his sister. However, no one else seems to think the same as Henry. When Henry loses his precious Leo on a family outing, he is worried about his friend. Will Leo find his way home or will Henry have to move on and let Leo go? The story is seen through both the eye of Henry and by Leo. While the story has more context while Henry is the subject of attention, the book quickly switches to a wordless picture book. The mixed illustrations are stunning, with vast amounts of detail put into the setting to create a world where Leo comes to life. The setting and mood are reflected in Zagarenski’s usage of blues, purples and blacks to imitate a night illuminated by moonlight. Shadows play a role in telling time of day or night with color slowly reemerging just as they do with every sunrise. The illustrations never suggest Henry or Leo are in any form of danger, but rather focus on the help that each receives in order to get back to one another. Readers can relate to the friendship and bond Leo and Henry share in this tale. As many young readers still cling to their imagination and the fantasy of favorite toys being able to reciprocate the feelings felt by the child. Lost toys can be a fear for many children. Friendship and fear are two very important themes for this story book and play a large role in the plot. While the conflict of interest divides Henry from his family, they still stay up all night to help search for Leo. When Leo appears on the front lawn the next morning, everyone is surprised. The family is sure they had checked the very spot at least a few times before, allowing readers to share in the journey, imagination, and secret of Leo’s path back home. (SSL)