Literacy Daily

Latest Posts
    • Literacy Coach
    • Librarian
    • Book Reviews
    • Job Functions
    • Reading Specialist
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Student Level
    • Teacher Educator
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Children's & YA Literature

    The Magic of Words and Books

    By Laura Cutler and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 22, 2018

    This week’s column includes some recently published books that explore the magic of words and inspire creative wordplay. Other books celebrate the joy that comes from listening to and reading books as well as the importance of libraries and bookshops in our lives.

    Ages 4–8

    A Busy Creature's Day Eating!: An Alphabetical Smorgasbord. 
    Mo Willems. 2018. Hyperion.

    A Busy Creature's Day Eating!In Mo Willems’ outrageously funny picture book, a purple creature eats various edible (apples, berries, cereal) and nonedible (jacket, kilt, lunch box) items in alphabetical order. By the letter P, the creature feels ill and turns green from all the eating. The rest of the letters of the alphabet are depicted as remedies to soothe the creature’s tummy troubles. This clever spin on the traditional alphabet book, with Willems’ colorful cartoon illustrations and iconic frame-by-frame format, takes young readers on a humorous eating escapade—and comes with a warning: “Do not try this at home!” 
    —LC  

    The Great Dictionary Caper. Judy Sierra. Ill. Eric Comstock. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    The Great Dictionary CaperThis playful story introduces readers to Noah Webster, writer of the first dictionary of American English. A linguistic adventure unfolds when Webster’s words decide to take a break and escape across the story pages. The anthropomorphized letters and words are grouped together to teach various language concepts—from the onomatopoeia marching band to mirrored anagrams and hide-and-seek antonyms. The digitally rendered cartoon illustrations make the words in this book come alive. Leap is shown leaping across the page, little is drawn as a tiny insect, and big fills the whole page. An appended glossary provides definitions for language-related terms used in the book.
    —LC

    An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution. Beth Anderson. Ill. Elizbeth Baddeley. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    An Inconvenient AlphabetBen Franklin thought people should spell words by writing the sounds they hear. He created a new alphabet, eliminating letters that didn’t match sounds and adding some new ones so that each letter had its own. Noah Webster thought people should say the sounds that were written and wrote Blue-Backed Speller to teach American English focusing on pronunciation. Franklin and Webster’s meeting in 1786 launched a spelling revolution that eventually led to Webster’s 1806 publication of his American Dictionary of the English Language, which included many of his spelling changes and thousands of new words. Readers will enjoy spotting the cat and dog that join Franklin and Webster in promoting the usage of a standardized American English in the humorous illustrations.
    —CA

    Sylvia’s Bookshop: The Story of Paris’s Beloved Bookstore and Its Founder (As Told by the Bookstore Itself!). Robert Burleigh. Ill. Katy Wu. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Sylvia's BookshopA bookshop narrates the history of Shakespeare and Company and the passionate book lover who made it into a "magical" gathering place for writers and thinkers. Katy Wu’s colorful, digitally rendered illustrations complement Robert Burleigh’s rhyming text to celebrate this special bookshop. Back matter includes a “Hurrah for Books and Bookstores!” note, information on Sylvia Beach (1897–1962) and Shakespeare and Company, and brief biographical sketches on writers and artists (mentioned only by their first names in the story)—Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Janet Flanner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Simone de Beauvoir, and Man Ray—who gathered at Shakespeare and Company.
    —CA

    The Wall in the Middle of the Book. Jon Agee. 2018. Dial/Penguin.

    The Wall in the Middle of the BookJon Agee erects a brick wall in this book’s gutter as a clever way to separate one side of the book from the other. A small knight is happy to be safe on his side of the wall, away from the wild animals and the ogre who live on the other side. When the knight’s side begins to fill with water, he begins to realize his side might not be so terrific. Luckily, the ogre reaches over the wall and plucks the knight to his side, which turns out to be a good thing for him (as readers will know from seeing the fish in the water on the side that he’s just been rescued from being devoured by larger and larger fish with each turn of a page). Agee’s playful use of the gutter takes a functional aspect of a book’s structure and turns it into a focal point for the story being told. 
    —LC

    Ages 9–11

    Bookjoy, Wordjoy. Pat Mora. Ill. Raul Colón. 2018. Lee & Low.

    Bookjoy WordjoyPat Mora’s introduction to Bookjoy, Wordjoy ends with an enthusiastic invitation: “Let’s read, let’s write, let’s explore galore!” Her collection of 14 poems, paired with Raul Colón’s expressive illustrations, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, explore the fun of collecting words and using them in our speaking and writing and the pleasure of listening to, reading, and sharing books. An appended “Note to Educators and Families” includes a reminder that learning should be a mix of work and play, and that too often the reading and writing experiences of children involve “the work and not the play, the wordjoy”
    —CA

    The Bookshop Girl. Sylvia Bishop. Ill. Poly Bernatene. 2018. Peachtree.

    The Bookshop GirlEleven-year-old Property Jones, whose unique name comes from being left in the lost property cupboard at the bookstore when she was a young child, loves living in the White Hart bookshop. Netty Jones and her son Michael, the shop owners who adopted Property, remain unaware of her secret. Property doesn’t know how to read. When the Jones’ win a contest to become the new owners of the Great Montgomery Book Emporium, they close their used bookstore and arrive at the Emporium. They are delighted by the expansive bookshop and its rotating rooms, each dedicated to a different genre, but are quickly left to their own devices when the previous owner, Albert H. Montgomery, hastily departs. The Jones family soon discovers the reason for Montgomery’s swift disappearance and with the help of Property’s keen observational skills, solve the mystery that threatens to destroy their fantastic British bookshop.
    —LC

    Eat Your Words: A Fascinating Look at the Language of Food. Charlotte Foltz Jones. Ill. John O’Brien. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    Eat Your WordsCharlotte Foltz Jones serves ups a tasty treat of a book on the language of foods, “a shopping list of curious food etymology, and a menu of the origins of funny-sounding food.” Each of the eight chapters includes examples, John O’Brien’s clever black-and-white cartoons, fun facts, and a “Food for Thought” section. There are entries on foods named for people (such as Beef Stroganoff and Eggs Benedict), foods with place-related names (such as Baked Alaska and Buffalo Wings), a “Talking Turkey” chapter of common food-related sayings (such as “eat humble pie,” “spill the beans,” and “sell like hotcakes”), and more. Readers will find themselves savoring the entire book.
    —CA

    Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word. Sarah Jane Marsh. Ill. Edwin Fotheringham. 2018. Hyperion.

    Thomas Paine and the Dangerous WordsThis engaging picture book biography of Thomas Paine (1737–1809) includes an abundance of words, phrases, and sentences from British-born wordsmith Paine’s writings that are hand-lettered and incorporated into Edwin Fotheringham’s digital artwork. After immigrating to the American colonies in 1774, Paine, a persuasive debater and writer, became a powerful voice for independence with his pamphlet Common Sense. Back matter includes author Sarah Marsh’s notes on Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, the first of 13 essays urging support of the war; publication of Paine’s political views throughout his life; and the legacy of his continued influence and inspiration of America’s leaders, as well as a timeline, bibliography, and source notes for quotations.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings. Sarah Prineas. 2018. HarperCollins.

    The Lost BooksEscaping the military aspirations set forth for him by his father, 15-year-old Alex becomes an apprentice librarian. When the master librarian he is serving mysteriously dies, Alex assumes his role and becomes royal librarian at the castle of Queen Kenneret. Alex soon learns of the deaths of several other librarians in neighboring kingdoms, and his suspicions surrounding his own master’s death are confirmed. Someone, or something, is killing royal librarians. When he discovers that certain books are alive and may be responsible for the librarians’ deaths, Alex sets outs to solve the mystery of the Lost Books that are hidden deep within the royal libraries. This fast-paced fantasy novel leaves readers wondering where Alex’s adventures might take him next.
    —LC

    What a Wonderful Word: A Collection of Untranslatable Words from Around the World. Nicola Edwards. Ill. Luisa Uribe. 2018. Kane/Miller.

    What a Wonderful WordDiving into this collection of 30 words from around the world that have no one-word translations is the perfect way for word lovers to expand their collections of words. Each entry in this beautifully formatted book includes a block of text, including a word, its language of origin, a “translation” into English, it usage, and some facts about the culture, paired with a colorful painting. For example, koyaanisqatsi (Hopi) is translated as “Nature that is out of balance or a way of life that is so crazy it cannot continue long-term,” and on a humorous note, pålegg (Norwegian) is translated as “Anything and everything you can put on a slice of bread.” A pronunciation guide is appended.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings. Jez Burrows. 2018. HarperCollins.

    Dictionary StoriesJez Burrow’s has created an intriguing way of playing with words while exploring a dictionary. Dictionary Stories includes 150 short “stories” composed entirely of example sentences from 12 dictionaries, including the New Oxford American Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and Collins Primary Learner’s Dictionary. Burrow’s introduction includes “The Rules” for making small edits to the example sentences in the dictionary stories that are written in a variety of forms (fantasies, eulogies, lists, math problems, and more) and arranged alphabetically by topic. For example, under Education, “Sample Problems: Intermediate Mathematics for Poets” includes mind-boggling word problems such as, “What do you get if you multiply 6 by 9 with gay abandon?” 
    —CA

    Laura Cutler is a PhD student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

    Read More
    • ILA News
    • Policy & Advocacy
    • Topics
    • Literacy Advocacy
    • Education Legislation
    • Teacher Preparation
    • Professional Development
    • News & Events

    ILA Presents Updated Literacy Professional Preparation Standards to State ELA Consultants

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Oct 19, 2018
    SCASS Presentation

    Representatives of ILA addressed education agency consultants Wednesday at the State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) Fall Meeting in Boston about improving and increasing the effectiveness of state literacy programs.

    Rita M. Bean, University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and Diane E. Kern, University of Rhode Island, were invited by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to brief Collaborative members from across the country about ILA’s Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017). Their message? The standards, although written for educator preparation programs, can—and should—be used to navigate decisions about curriculum and instruction.

    Kern, who along with Bean served as co-chair of the committee charged with updating ILA’s standards, says the presentation offered a platform for this broader application. They also shared how ILA can support states in the ongoing development and assessment of existing literacy programs.

    As Kern and Bean shared with attendees, Standards 2017 provides “a framework for thinking about their own initiatives and challenges, including the development of their state comprehensive literacy plans.”

    The presentation included an activity during which attendees divided into seven groups to analyze the content of and research behind a standard. The groups then shared their findings across the English Language Arts collaborative, a subgroup of the SCASS.

    Participants demonstrated interest in how ILA’s standards could inform schools’ disciplinary literacy and digital literacy practices and their professional learning initiatives.

    “We asked them to think about how [the standards] could offer solutions to their challenges,” says Bean. “[Attendees] were saying the standards would be a powerful and valuable tool for evaluating where they are and where they’re going.”

    Learn more about ILA’s Standards 2017 here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

    Read More
    • Literacy Advocacy
    • Topics
    • Literacy Leadership
    • Policy & Advocacy
    • News & Events

    How Our Teaching Can, and Must, Honor Our Students' Rights to Read

    By Jennifer Serravallo
     | Oct 17, 2018
    Honoring Students' Rights to Read

    Upon reading ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read, I got teacher goosebumps. And this is why.

    Children walk into our classrooms with all of themselves. They are the sum total of their experiences and their expectations. We cannot ask them to leave any part of themselves at the door when the bell rings, rather, we must embrace their entirety.

    So, how can we do this as reading teachers?

    We can carve out time every day for them to read (Right no. 1). And not just time, but a high volume of uninterrupted time (Right no. 7). We can curate a classroom library from which they are free to browse and select titles (Right no. 2).

    We can reveal to them what to watch for in the books they choose so they can deepen their comprehension, better understand the content, and have their own thoughts and interpretations about what they read. Comprehension helps make the reading experience enjoyable and fully realized (Right no. 5).

    As reading teachers, we know how important it is to do more than focus on the book; we have to focus on our readers. We talk to our students, we seek to understand them and their interests, passions, and reading histories. We make sure our classroom and school libraries are not only a mirror of their lives and identities, but also a window into parts of the world they have not yet ventured (Rights no. 3 and no. 4).

    Reading is social and thus we must give students the chance to recommend titles, react to their reading by talking with friends, and talk about how they’re living differently because of the things they have read (Right no. 8).

    And when students talk to us, they should know that we are helping them read any book better, not just the one book they have in their hands in the moment we confer with them (Right no. 6). Speaking of conferring, we must give students our individual time and attention as we guide them toward stronger reading habits and skills.

    And what is the point of reading anyway, unless it’s enjoyable? Reading helps us learn about our world so we can cultivate new thinking and share our ideas and opinions with others (Right no. 9). When we invest in developing our own knowledge around texts and engage as regular readers of children’s literature, we are better able to teach in a way that is generalizable book to book (Right no. 10).

    When our teaching is specific, clear, and transferrable, we can ensure that we are supporting our students’ reading lives well beyond the precious days we work with them in our classrooms. When we honor our students’ reading lives and tailor our instruction to meet them where they are, we are preserving not only their rights to read but also their right to lay claim to the world around them.

    Jennifer Serravallo is a literacy consultant, speaker, and the author of several popular titles including The New York Times bestselling The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers (Heinemann) and The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers (Heinemann). Her latest publication, Understanding Texts & Readers: Responsive Comprehension Instruction with Leveled Texts (Heinemann), connects comprehension goals to text levels and readers responses. Upcoming publications include A Teacher's Guide to Reading Conferences(early 2019) and Complete Comprehension, which is a revised and reimagined whole book assessment and teaching resource based on the award-winning Independent Reading Assessment (due in spring 2019). She was a senior staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and taught in Title I schools in New York City. Tweet her @jserravallo.

    Read More
    • News & Events
    • Assessment
    • Topics
    • Literacy Leadership

    ILA Advocates for Student-Centered Model of Data Collection and Interpretation

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Oct 16, 2018
    Beyond the Numbers

    Rather than being shaped by accountability policies and requirements, student learning goals and needs should be the driving force behind what data are collected and how they are used.

    When centered on students’ unique needs, data can serve as a portrait, a highlighter, and a springboard to enhance student learning and inform instructional decision making, according to ILA’s latest brief, Beyond the Numbers: Using Data for Instructional Decision Making.

    Educators should view students as key sources of their own learning data, asserts ILA.

    “We’re moving away from the idea that data equal obligatory test scores and percentages,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “The most powerful sources of data are the unique experiences students have in the classroom.”

    Snapshot data, such as test scores, are often used incorrectly to categorize or label students by their abilities, according to ILA. Data should include a wide range of information, such as formative assessments, student engagement observations, student oral responses, and knowledge of students’ backgrounds, to provide a fuller portrait of students’ strengths and needed areas of support.

    Examining discrepancies and patterns across multiple forms of data can illuminate equity concerns and allow for a more truthful picture of student learning. When analysis leads to uncertainty about next steps or solutions, data act as a springboard, prompting further inquiry and investigation.

    The brief concludes with five actionable steps for using data to support instructional improvements.

    Access the full brief here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

    Read More
    • Literacy Coach
    • Children's & YA Literature
    • Book Reviews
    • Librarian
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Topics
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Student Level
    • Teacher Educator
    • Reading Specialist
    • Other/Literacy Champion
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Job Functions

    Boo! Spooky Stories

    By Carrie Thomas and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 15, 2018

    As Halloween nears, readers of all ages enjoy listening to and reading stories about witches, ghosts, monsters, and other creepy creatures. This week’s column includes slightly spooky stories for younger readers and terrifying tales for older readers. Give students a special treat by sharing these recently published books alongside classic Halloween tales.

    Ages 4–8

    Bone Soup: A Spooky Tasty Tale. Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Ill. Tom Knight. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Bone SoupIn this retelling of the folktale “Stone Soup,” Knight uses lush colors to illustrate the friendly monster, ghost, vampire, mummy, skeleton, and other creatures who fill the cauldron of three little witches with spooky ingredients to make a tasty soup. Capucilli fills the book with humorous descriptive language like “wrinkliest of prunes” and “slimy sludge” that make  reading this book a treat. The repeated words and phrases will appeal to beginning readers. A recipe for bone soup is included so children and their caregivers can make their own tasty Halloween treat.
    —CT

    Ghoulia (Ghoulia #1). Barbara Cantini. Trans. Anna Golding. 2018. Amulet/Abrams.

    GhouliaThis first book in a series imported from Italy, with ghoulishly detailed Tim Burton-style illustrations, introduces Ghoulia, “a perfectly normal zombie girl,” and the other residents of Crumbling Manor, including Tragedy (her albino greyhound), Auntie Departed, Shadow (Auntie’s cat), Uncle Misfortune (actually, just his head), and Grandad Coffin (a ghost). When Ghoulia overhears some children talking about dressing up in scary costumes and going trick-or-treating on Halloween night, she has the brilliant idea to disguise herself “as a normal, living child.” All is going well until Ghoulia forgets and demonstrates her special scary move, which reveals her true identity. All ends well, as the children (after three pages of staring) realize how incredible it is to have a friend who is “a REAL ZOMBIE!!!”
    —CA

    A Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween. Rubin Pingk. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    Samurai ScarecrowAfter telling his little sister Kashi about the Samurai Scarecrow, who wakes when the moon is full and vows to teach “the feathered fools who won’t flee” to be scared of him, Yukio, who considers himself to be a brave ninja, decides to dress up as a bird. When Kashi, who has been copying all his Halloween preparations, appears in a matching Ninja Bird costume, Yukio has had enough. His cruel words—“You’re not a real Ninja!”—make Kashi decide not to go trick-or-treating with him. Instead, she plays a clever ninjalike trick on Yukio at the end of the evening. The action-filled digital illustrations, done in black and white with orange accents against a mauve background, add to the fun of this “very ninja Halloween” tale.
    —CA
     
    Skelly’s Halloween. David Martin. Ill. Lori Richmond. 2018. Henry Holt.

    Skelly's Halloween“Head and shoulders, knees and toes. / Trick-or-treating, here we goes!” Skelly Bones Skeleton’s Halloween plans go awry when a gust of wind catches his “BOOOO-tiful” ghost costume and tosses him up into the air, and he lands with his bones scattered. The silly appearances of Skelly, the result of asking a snake and then a colony of ants for help in reassembling his bones, is a highlight in the colorful artwork (created with pen and ink, foam stamps, and Adobe Photoshop). Finally, a trio of children put Skelly together again by following the pattern of bones on a girl’s skeleton costume and invite him to join their night of trick-or-treating fun.
    —CA

    Stumpkin. Lucy Ruth Cummins. 2018. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    StumpkinStumpkin is nearly the perfect pumpkin. He is as orange as a traffic cone and as big as a basketball. But Stumpkin has no stem. Halloween is coming, and all of Stumpkin’s friends are picked to be carved into be jack-o-lanterns—even the gourd! Will he ever get chosen to be a jack-o-lantern? Lucy Ruth Cummins uses a minimal color scheme to keep the focus on the bright orange pumpkins. The striking inclusion of two completely black pages toward the end of the book helps to build suspense as the reader awaits the fate of Stumpkin. Young readers will enjoy the happy ending and the carved faces of the pumpkins in the windows.
    —CT

    Ages 9–11

    The Ghostly Carousel: Delightfully Frightful Poems. Calef Brown. 2018. Carolrhoda/Lerner.

    The Ghostly Carousel Brown’s anthology of 17 humorous poems and seasonally colored illustrations are more likely to induce groans and giggles than fright, making them a delightful choice for those who like their Halloween reading to be scary, but not too scary. The verses, filled with puns, alliteration, and clever wordplay, introduce a motley crew of characters, including Joel, a zombie eager to escape the hugs of his zombified aunts at a family reunion; the Gambling Ghost, an expert at rolling haunted dice; a telekinetic warlock, who “can easily open door locks” with his magical mind; and Hank, who says that “grubs and larvae make marvelous food.” (Hank’s recipe for insect pie is included in another poem.)
    —CA

    Nightbooks. J. A. White. 2018. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    NightbooksAlex loves writing scary stories in his “nightbooks.” On his way to destroy all his nightbooks, in an effort to be “less weird” and more like everyone else, Alex is drawn into an apartment by the sounds of his favorite horror movie. Alex quickly realizes that this is no ordinary apartment and that he has been lured to the apartment to tell scary stories to a witch. In the giant magical library, he learns about the Unicorn Girl, the only person to ever escape the apartment. Alex enlists the help of the hesitant Yasmin (another prisoner) and Lenore (a grumpy cat who is keeping an eye on the two children) to form an escape plan. The novel includes Alex’s stories, which are genuinely creepy without gore. Elements of spookiness and magic in this horror story will appeal to a wide range of middle-grade readers.
    —CT

    Scream and Scream Again!: Spooky Stories from Mystery Writers of America. R. L. Stine (Ed.) 2018. HarperCollins.

    Scream and Scream Again!R. L. Stine and 20 other members of the Mystery Writers of America contribute to this anthology of spooky short stories, each of which begins or ends with a scream, or better yet, begins and ends with a scream. For example, Bruce Hale begins “Raw Head and Bloody Bones” with “Screams ripped the suburban October afternoon in two like a construction paper pumpkin. ‘AAAHH!’” and ends the story with “And once more, screams pierced the suburban night.” The stories are suspenseful and feature surprising twists that add to the fun of reading them aloud.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Pitch Dark. Courtney Alameda. 2018. Feiwel and Friends.

    Pitch DarkLaura Cruz wants to rid herself of an implanted subjugator, and Tuck Morgan just woke up from being in stasis for a few hundred years. A crash between their two ships brings their worlds together. The crew on the Conquistador, Laura’s ship, is searching for the last bits of human history and the John Muir, Tuck’s ship, has one of the last pieces of history that could be the key to saving humanity. Laura and Tuck must work together while escaping griefers, mourners, and even other humans. There is plenty of action and scientific language in this action-packed book. An unexpected twist will keep readers interested until the very end of this science fiction thriller.
    —CT

    Small Spaces. Katherine Arden. 2018. Putnam/Penguin.

    Small SpacesOllie is on her way home from school when she sees a strange woman throwing a book called Small Spaces into the water. Ollie rescues the book and quickly becomes engrossed in the story. When Ollie’s class goes on a field trip to a farm, the bus driver gives Ollie strange advice: “Avoid large spaces at night. Keep to small.” On the way home, the bus breaks down. It’s nearly dark when Ollie escapes into the woods joined by Coco, a city girl who gets upset at the drop of a hat, and Brian, a hockey player who quotes Alice in Wonderland. They aren’t alone in the woods, as they encounter creepy scarecrows that seem to follow them. An unexpected source helps the three work together to solve a mystery that comes straight from the book Ollie has been reading. This fast-paced book will be enjoyed by middle-grade readers, particularly those who like spooky, but not too scary, stories.
    —CT

    Ages 15+

    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Kiersten White. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth FrankensteinKiersten White’s imaginative retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Elizabeth Lavenza, who, at the age of 5, was rescued from an abusive caregiver and taken in by the Frankensteins to be a companion for Victor in the hope that she might help socialize their brilliant eldest son. Over the years, Elizabeth becomes not just his companion but also his friend and protector; she becomes Victor’s Elizabeth. When he leaves home to pursue his studies in science, Elizabeth fears dismissal from the family. After almost two years without letters from Victor, she sets out with her friend Justine (the governess of the two young Frankenstein boys) to find him. When Elizabeth discovers the horrors of the scientific experiments he is undertaking in his lab in Germany, she realizes that she must save him from the monster he has created—and from himself. White effectively uses inserts in italics to provide details of the backstory of their relationship throughout her suspenseful, psychological horror story as she builds toward a dark Gothic conclusion.
    —CA

    The Price Guide to the Occult. Leslye Walton. 2018. Candlewick.

    The Price Guide to the OccultAll Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. That all changes when an obscure book, The Price Guide to the Occult, starts to mysteriously grow in popularity. The price for the spells isn’t just money, however; something bad happens to another person whenever a spell is cast. Nor knows that she comes from the powerful Blackburn family line of witches, but she doesn’t know how powerful she is until she is forced to come face to face with the witch performing the black magic behind the book’s spells.  Walton keeps the reader’s interest through to the action-packed showdown. The end is graphic and disturbing, so this dark, horrific fantasy is definitely for more mature readers.
    —CT

    Carrie Thomas is a reading specialist at First Philadelphia Charter School. Previously, she was a public school music teacher and worked with nonprofit administration and outreach. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

    Read More
Back to Top

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives