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    Stories in Rhyme & Novels in Verse

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Jun 26, 2017

    From picture books filled with eye-catching illustrations to murder mysteries, these authors experiment with various poetic forms or a combination of poetry and prose to tell stories. The lyrical books featured this week will engage and delight readers of all ages.

    Ages 4–8

    Anywhere Farm. Phyllis Root. Ill. G. Brian Karas. 2017. Candlewick.

    Anywhere Farm“For an anywhere farm, here’s all that you need: / soil, / and sunshine, / some water, / a seed.” Rhyming text and warmly colored, detailed mixed-media illustrations tell the story of how an ethnically diverse group of inner-city children turn a vacant lot into a neighborhood garden. Questions and rhyming responses such as,“Where can you plant your anywhere farm?” (“An old empty lot / makes a good growing plot. / But a pan or a bucket, / a pot or a shoe, / a bin or a tin / or a window will do.”) and “What do you need?” (“Just one farmer—you—and one little seed.”), may inspire young readers to start their own anywhere farm.

    —CA

    Double Take!: A New Look at Opposites. Susan Hood. Ill. Jay Fleck. 2017. Candlewick Studio/Candlewick.

    Double Take!Double Take! invites young children to join a boy, his black cat, and a blue elephant in taking a new look at opposites. Readers are prompted to carefully consider the details in the colorful, digitally-created, retro illustrations that accompany the rhyming text. What’s high and what’s low? What’s fast and what’s slow? Who’s near and who’s far? It is all a matter of perspective, as readers will learn from this playful and engaging concept book.

    —CA

    Race! Sue Fliess. Ill. Edwardian Taylor. 2017. Little Bee.

    Race!As the race cars line up for a try at the coveted Winner’s Cup, a tiny red car squeezes in at the last minute. “Cars start, / lights glow... / “Rev your engines... / GO GO GO!” On a course filled with obstacles galore, the cars “SKID! SCREECH! SLIP! SQUEAL! SOAR!” After a fender bender temporarily brings the action to a stop, the red car takes a shortcut through the grass to jump into the lead, and the story makes an unexpected turn, prompting readers to reexamine the illustrations for clues. Whether young children are listening to this action-filled book or reading it on their own, they are bound to enjoy the ride.

    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse. Tamera Will Wissinger. Ill. Matthew Cordell. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Gone CampingLucy and Sam’s excitement over a long-awaited family camping trip changes when Dad’s bad cold means their parents must stay home. They are disappointed and worried when Grandpa (who is definitely not outdoorsy, in their opinion) becomes their camping companion. Much to their surprise, Lucy and Sam have a great time, and they request a camping trip for all five of them next weekend. Cordell’s sketch-like, pen-and-ink illustrations with watercolor wash, add to this adventure story, which is told through poems from different family members’ points of view. Wissinger includes a section on the 44 poetic forms and stanza patterns she uses and writing tips about rhyme, rhythm, and poetry techniques.

    —CA

    The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry. Danna Smith. Ill. Bagram Ibatoulline. 2017. Candlewick.

    The Hawk of the CastleExquisite acrylic and gouache paintings set the scene as a young girl spends the day with her father (the falconer of the castle) grouse hunting. The story is told from the girl’s point of view in rhythmic four-line stanzas, each beginning with “This is” or “These are” and ending with “the castle.” For example, the bird is introduced with “This is our hawk: a sight to behold, / a master of flight, graceful and bold. / My father trains this bird of prey / who lives with us at the castle.” Each double-page spread includes a boxed inset with additional information on raptors and falconry. Back matter includes an author’s note on the history of falconry, a reading list, and an index.

    —CA

    Izzy Kline Has Butterflies: A Novel in Small Moments. Beth Ain. 2017. Random House.

    Izzy Kline Has ButterfliesImpetuous fourth grader Izzy Kline lives bite-sized and larger moments in this poignant story about family issues, first-day-of-school jitters, mysterious illnesses, annoying boys, and a school play. Over the year, Izzy learns not to be so quick to judge others and that relationships develop in complicated and unexpected ways. This middle-grade verse novel is written in vignettes that bring Izzy’s world to life and leave readers thinking about their own.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Forget Me Not. Ellie Terry. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

    Forget Me NotWith each move she and her mother make, Calliope Snow hopes that she can hide her Tourette syndrome long enough to make friends. When their tenth move brings them to St. George, Utah, Calli meets Jinsong, an Asian-American boy who lives in the same apartment building. Calli hopes that her friendship with Jinsong, the popular student body president at Black Ridge Intermediate School, will help her fit in as she becomes the new girl at school. The dual narrative—Calli in free verse and Jinsong in prose—is a moving and realistic story about a search for friendship and acceptance. In an author’s note, Terry, who has Tourette syndrome, provides a context for the novel and shares her hope that the book will help readers understand the neurological disorder.

    —CA

    Who Killed Christopher Goodman? Allan Wolf. 2017. Candlewick.

    Who Killed Christopher Goodman?Inspired by a true story, Who Killed Christopher Goodman? follows the murder of an odd, but friendly, teenager in Goldsburg, Virginia, in the summer of 1979. Doc Chestnut and Squib Kaplan (who discover Christopher’s body on a morning run), and other classmates who interacted with Christopher during the last night of the festival, are plagued with thoughts that they may have played a role in his murder. Six narrators tell the story, which unfolds in poetry, prose, and a few play script entries. An author’s note clarifies what is fact and what is fiction in this beautifully crafted novel.

    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Sky Between You and Me. Catherine Alene. 2017. Sourcebooks Fire/Sourcebook.

    The Sky Between You and MeRae, a competitive barrel racer, dreams of winning the Rodeo Nationals. When she realizes that she has almost outgrown her deceased mother’s beloved saddle, her obsession with losing five pounds turns into an eating disorder that spins out of control. Not even her devoted boyfriend Cody (who is being pursued by another girl) or Asia (her best friend from childhood) can help. Rae must face her dangerous disease head-on and welcome an uncertain future that promises a better way of life. The book concludes with a page of statistics about eating disorders and an author’s note about her personal connections to the topic.

    —NB

    We Come Apart. Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    We Come ApartJess is a rebel with a painful family secret. Nicu, a recent Romanian immigrant, is forced to work with his father to earn money to pay for his own arranged marriage. Trapped in their bleak lives, Jess and Nicu tell stories of abuse, discrimination, racism, and bullying in this verse novel. After the teens break the law (Jess for shoplifting with friends and Nicu for stealing a chocolate bar), they are placed in a Reparation Program, where they build a friendship that blossoms into romance.

    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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    Fantasy and Imagination

    By Lesley Colabucci and Mary Napoli
     | Jun 19, 2017

    In this week’s column on the theme of fantasy and imagination, we review some creative and engaging books about mythical creatures, eccentric characters, and unusual friendships. Included are stories in which readers are introduced to characters who dwell in fantasy worlds and to others whose real-world lives include imaginative elements.

    Ages 48

    Everywhere, Wonder. Matthew Swanson. Ill. Robbi Behr. 2017. Imprint/Macmillan. 

    Everywhere, WonderIn this creative picture book, a young boy takes a journey inspired by his imagination and the worlds he discovers in books. He invites readers to observe their surroundings, advising, "You never know what you might see or where your mind might take you. So keep your eyes wide open as you go.” As he soars across faraway lands, sails vast oceans, and climbs trees, he muses about the world while reminding readers that everyone has a story to tell. Descriptive language and vibrant digital collage on watercolor-washed paper will inspire readers to wonder, to dream and perhaps to write stories of their own.

     —MN

    Boat of Dreams. Rogério Coelho. 2017. Tilbury House.

    Boat of DreamsOriginally published in Brazil, this book introduces U.S. readers to the magnificent artwork of Rogério Coelho. An old man who lives alone at the seaside wakes up one morning to find a bottle containing a blank piece of paper. His response is to draw a boat on the paper and set the bottle afloat again. This wordless book then shifts to a city scene where a young boy receives the picture of the boat in an envelope. How are these two connected? How did the drawing get from the bottle in the ocean to the boy’s door front? Using a limited palette of sepia tones and soft blues, and a mix of double-page spreads and panel art, Coelho gives the story a surreal feel and leaves readers wondering in the best way.

    —LC

    Pandora. Victoria Turnbull. 2017. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    PandoraPandora is a lonely fox who makes a home out of broken and forgotten things. It is clear that Pandora knows how to show love and care for things, but when she finds an injured bluebird, she is not as confident she will be able to save him. Pandora makes a beautiful nest for the bird in a cardboard box with feathers and flowers, but can something so fragile survive among her junkyard surroundings? With brief text and soft pencil and watercolor illustrations, Pandora tells a heartfelt story of friendship and renewal.

    —LC

    Ages 9–11

    Coyote Tales. Thomas King. Ill. Byron Eggenschwiler. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Coyote TalesMaster storyteller Thomas King shares two tales set in a time “when animals and human beings still talked to each other.” In Coyote Sings to the Moon, an old woman and a group of forest animals sing to the moon at night. When Coyotewhose singing voice is unbearablejoins the others in singing to the moon, everyone implores him to stop. In his disappointment, Coyote shouts, “Who needs the moon anyway?” Upon hearing Coyote’s declaration, the Moon disappears into the dark abyss of the pond. Will anyone find the Moon to light the night sky? In Coyote’s New Suit, a sly raven instigates a mischievous plan at Coyote’s expense. Coyote’s sudden insecurity about his appearance sends him on a path of admiring, and then stealing, the suits of other animals. The Raven causes further mischief by suggesting to the other animals that they steal clothing from the humans, and encourages Coyote to hold a yard sale. Poor Coyote is blamed for the mess. King’s witty and inventive story lines coupled with Eggenschwiler’s funny pen-and-ink illustrations will spark readers’ imaginations.

    —MN

    Yours Sincerely, Giraffe.  Megumi Iwasa. Trans. Cathy Hirano. Ill. Jun Takabatake. 2017. Gecko.

    Yours Sincerely, GiraffeGiraffe is bored and wants someone to join him on adventures. Upon reading a flyer from an equally bored pelican promising to “deliver anything anywhere,” Giraffe writes him a letter, hoping to find a new friend. Pelican takes Giraffe’s letter on a long journey to Whale Sea where he finds Penguin, who agrees to correspond with Giraffe. As the two pen pals exchange pleasantries and pose questions, they provide clues and tidbits about what life is like for them on their side of the world while also trying to solve the mystery of the other animal’s appearance. Translated from Japanese, this playful and imaginative early chapter book will charm readers, and maybe even spark an interest in letter writing.

    —MN

    The Goat. Anne Fleming. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    The GoatWhen a very shy young girl named Kid discovers that there may be a goat living on the roof of her apartment building in New York City, she sets off with her friend Will to find out if the rumor is true. They decide to survey the residents of the apartment building to get to the bottom of the mystery. Along the way, they meet Joff, a blind skateboarder and a best-selling teen author; Jonathan, who is recovering from a stroke but won’t show his wife his progress; and Kenneth P. Gill, who seems confused about whether he has hamsters or guinea pigs as pets. Mysteries unfold as these unique characters discover how they are connected by their community.

    —LC 

    Ages 12–14

    The Matchstick Castle. Keir Graff. 2017. Putnam/Penguin.

    Matchstick CastleBrian would rather spend his summer anywhere but in Boring, Illinois, with his Uncle Gary, Aunt Jenny, and his standoffish cousin Nora. When Brian takes Nora’s journal, her ensuing chase to recover it leads them into the forbidden woods where they discover the towering "Matchstick Castle" and meet Cosmo van Dash and his eccentric family. Together, the three new friends outwit giant wasps and wild boars, and navigate intricate passageways to find Cosmo’s missing uncle and defend the Matchstick Castle from demolition. With a quirky cast of characters, vivid descriptions, and an adventurous plot, this engrossing page-turner is anything but boring. 

    MN

    In Darkling Wood. Emma Carroll. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    In Darkling WoodAlice is staying at her grandmother’s home while her brother is in the hospital. When she arrives, she learns of her grandmother plans to cut down the beautiful Darkling Wood, despite the objections of the community. Alice finds comfort in the woods, where she meets a friend named Flo, whom no one else can see. Alice confronts questions like, Are fairies real? Could they work magic to save their forest home? Could she save their home just by believing in them?


    Ages 15+

    Strange the Dreamer. Laini Taylor. 2017. Little, Brown.

    Strange the DreamerOrphaned as a baby and raised by monks, Lazlo Strange grows up to become a librarian devoted to stories and fascinated by the lost city of Weep. Sarai, the daughter of a human and a god, is either cursed or gifted with the ability to enter people’s dreams. She and Lazlo meet in his dreams while he is on a journey to reclaim Weep and she is preparing to defend the citadel that has kept her safe. Broken hearts, rivalries, and vengeance drive the plot as Lazlo and Sarai are caught in the middle of an epic battle. Readers will be sympathetic to these convincing characters, charmed by the mythical setting, and absorbed by the stunning poetic language of Taylor’s fantasy.

    —LC

    Lesley Colabucci is an associate professor of early, middle, and exceptional education at Millersville University. She teaches classes in children’s literature at the graduate and undergraduate level. Her research interests include multicultural children’s literature and response to literature. Mary Napoli is an associate professor of Reading and Children’s Literature at Penn State Harrisburg, where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate literacy courses. 

    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.

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    Animals, Animals, Animals

    Jennifer W. Shettel and Carolyn Angus
     | Jun 12, 2017

    From the tiniest insect to the largest dinosaur, animals never fail to fascinate readers of all ages. This week’s column includes recently published books that invite readers to explore the characteristics and behaviors of a variety of animals and to consider the role of humans in protecting the world’s biodiversity.

    Ages 4–8

    Little Wolf’s First Howling. Laura McGee Kvasnosky. Ill. Laura McGee Kvasnosky & Kate Harvey McGee. 2017. Candlewick.

    Little Wolf's First Howling LessonWhat happens when Little Wolf insists on adding his own special twist to the typical wolf howl? Little Wolf and his father, Big Wolf, set off into the forest for Little Wolf’s first howling lesson. Despite Big Wolf’s strong examples of a proper howl, Little Wolf can’t help but include some jazzy, scat-style additions to create his signature wolf howl. “Aaaaaooooooo dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-woooooo!” Young children will delight in joining in the howling fun of this read-aloud story. Gouache illustrations with digital coloring evoke a washed-in-moonlight look to this story of an eventful evening in Little Wolf’s life.

    —JS

    Penguin Day: A Family Story. Nic Bishop. 2017. Scholastic.

    Penguin StoryAward-winning nature photographer Nic Bishop took his camera to Antarctica to capture the images of rockhopper penguins featured in Penguin Day. With stunning close-up color photographs and a simple narrative, Bishop presents a day in the life of a family of penguins. Baby penguin waits for mama penguin to return from a day of hunting at sea to bring home food.  Papa penguin stays nearby and helps make sure that baby penguin stays safe. Upon mama penguin’s return, baby penguin gets a meal of regurgitated food, and it’s time to sleep. There is a brief note on Bishop’s experiences photographing a colony of penguins for this story in Antarctica. An author’s note includes more information about southern rockhopper penguins.

    —JS

    Robins!: How They Grow Up. Eileen Christelow. 2017. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Robins!Robins rule the roost in this carefully researched picture book narrated by two “teenage” robins. Details in Christelow’s sequential art panels and digital sketch-like illustrations add both humor and information to the text. Christelow doesn’t shy away from gory details as one of the eggs is taken by a squirrel and one of the babies is snatched up by a hawk, leaving only two survivors to tell the story of their first year of life. Back matter includes a glossary, a question and answer section, and a short reference list. This is a great book for young birdwatchers, especially those with robins in their yard.

    —JS

    The Secret Life of the Red Fox. Laurence Pringle. Ill. Kate Garchinsky. 2017. Boyds Mills/Highlights.

    The Secret Life of the Red FoxThis informational picture book follows a year in the life of an elusive red fox named Vixen as she survives a cold winter, finds a mate, gives birth to four pups, and raises them until they are are ready to go off on their own. Beautiful illustrations, created with pastels and aqua crayons on sanded paper, give the story a soft, muted feel. Back matter includes an author’s note with more information on the red fox, a glossary, and a short list of books about foxes for interested readers.

    —JS

    Ages 9–11

    Dino Records: The Most Amazing Prehistoric Creatures Ever to Have Lived on Earth! Jen Agresta & Avery Elizabeth Hurt. 2017. National Geographic Kids.

    Dino RecordsThis fascinating book about “the most amazing prehistoric creatures ever to have lived on Earth” is perfect for readers who think they know all there is to know about dinosaurs. Following a brief introduction and a double-spread timeline of the Mesozoic Era, the book is organized in seven chapters: “Biggest,” “Smallest,” “Deadliest,” “Weirdest,” “Most Intriguing,” “First,” and “Prehistoric Animals.” Each chapter introduces a winner and several runner-ups. For example, the winner for biggest dinosaur is the Titanosaur and for smallest, the Microraptor. Other sections include a “Creature Feature,” a “Flashforward” on a modern living relative, and a “Fun and Games” quiz.

    —CA

    Insects (Ultimate Explorer Field Guide). Libby Romero. 2017. National Geographic Kids.

    InsectsFollowing a brief introduction about insects, where to find them, insect protection, and how to use the book, this field guide is organized into two sections based on the type of metamorphosis insects go through. Each entry includes a color photograph of the insect with key features labeled; a listing of its common and scientific names, size, habitat, and range; and a paragraph about its characteristics and behaviors. Boxed, color-coded inserts offer tips for quick identification of the species, activities, insect facts, and jokes and riddles. “Information Reports” feature topics such as bugs vs. insects, invasive species, and the conservation of beneficial insects. Back matter includes a “Quick ID Guide,” resources, a glossary, and an index.

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest (Scientists in the Field). Sy Montgomery. Ill. Keith Ellenbogen. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Amazon AdventureIn their latest collaboration in the Scientists in the Field series, author Sy Montgomery and nature photographer Keith Ellengoben travel up the Río Negro and through Amazonian rainforests. They have joined Scott Dowd, senior aquarist at Boston’s New England Aquarium and the Project Piaba team, in studying piabas (tiny ornamental fish sold to aquarists around the world). The region’s small towns depend on income from the global exportation of piabas—which also help sustain the Amazon’s biodiversity. Amazon Adventure focuses on both the biology of the tiny fish and on the work of scientists and local fisherman to improve the fishery industry. Each chapter concludes with a catchy insert such as “Amazon by the Numbers” and “Meeting the Seven Deadly Plagues of the Amazon—in the Dark!” Back matter includes a bibliography, web resources, and an index.

    —CA

    American Pharoah: Triple Crown Champion. Shelley Fraser Mickle. 2017. Aladdin/Simon & Shuster.

    American PharoahEveryone loves an underdog—or in this case—an underhorse! This nonfiction chapter book details the life of American Pharoah, a thoroughbred who won the rare title of Triple Crown Champion in 2015, despite having a misspelled name, a chewed-off tail, and an aversion to loud noises.  Mickle weaves in additional narratives of the people who played important roles in American Pharoah’s life, including jockey Victor Espinoza, owner Amahd Zayat, and trainer Bob Baffert. Extensive back matter includes an epilogue, an author’s note, a glossary of equestrian terms, and even some of the messages that people wrote to American Pharoah, congratulating the horse for his inspirational victory.

    —JS

    Wicked Bugs: The Meanest, Deadliest, Grossest Bugs on Earth. Amy Stewart. Ill. Briony Morrow-Gribbs. 2017. Algonquin.

    Wicked BugsThis young readers’ edition of Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects (2011) includes introductory notes on the widespread use of the word “bugs” to refer to insects, spiders, and other creatures in the book and scientific classification. Stewart presents more than 100 “wicked bugs” (including assassin bugs, mountain pine beetles, giant centipedes, and black widows) and their roles in human history. The entries are organized into five sections: "Deadly Creatures," "Everyday Dangers," "Unwelcome Invaders," "Serious Pains," and "Terrible Threats." Each of the four to six examples in a section features the bug’s common and scientific names; an illustration; and an inset listing size, family, habitat, distribution, and relatives. Dropped quotes draw the reader into the text. Back matter includes a list of bug-related phobias, a glossary, resources, a bibliography, and an index. This book is informative, fascinating and—as promised by the title—often creepy, terrifying, and disgusting.

    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals. Joel Sartore. 2017. National Geographic.

    The Photo ArkThe Photo Ark is an amazing pictorial encyclopedia showcasing the diversity of animals on our planet. The book features portraits of more than 400 animals by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, who thinks of himself as “an animal ambassador, a voice for the voiceless.” Working with captive animals, Sartore photographed each species against a black or white background under controlled lighting to bring out details. Each photo is captioned with the common and the scientific name of the animal and the species conservation status. Sartore includes thought-provoking pairings of portraits that focus on particular features, for example, side-by-side photographs of an African leopard and a bobtail squid show a shared camouflaging pattern. The book also includes inserts about eight conservationists working to protect the Earth’s biodiversity. Back matter includes notes on the production of the photographs, National Geographic’s Photo Ark Project, information about Joel Sartore and contributors, acknowledgements, and an index of animals (in order of appearance by common name).

    —CA

    All Ages

    Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium. Maja Säfström. 2017. Ten Speed/Crown.

    Animals of a Bygone EraIn an introductory letter to the reader, Swedish artist Maja Säfström states she will be presenting “a few of the countless amazing creatures that once roamed the Earth.” What follows are double-page spreads that introduce readers of all ages to 54 extinct animals, some that lived long ago and others that died off recently. Whimsical, detailed black-and-white portraits with handwritten notes point out characteristics and additional facts. In some cases, the animal adds a comment (often a humorous one) in a speech balloon. For example, the Coryphodon, a hippo-like animal that had the smallest brain-to-body ratio of any mammal that has ever lived, says, “I am not intelligent but I’m not that smart either.” Readers will also enjoy Säfström’s The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts (2016).

    —CA

    Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where she teaches undergraduate and graduate course in literacy for preservice and practicing teachers.  Prior to joining the faculty at Millersville, she spent 16 years as an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools. 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.

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    Stories of Young Immigrants and Refugees

    Sandip Wilson
     | Jun 05, 2017

    These refugee and immigrant narratives teach readers about language, culture, history, geography, and politics while providing insight into the human experience. The books reviewed in this column follow the journeys of young people and their families as they leave different parts of the world in pursuit of happiness and security.

    Ages 4–8

    Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey. Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes. Ill. Sue Cornelison. 2017. Crown/Random House.

    Lost and Found CatWhen their lives are endangered by war, Sura and her family are smuggled out of their home in Mosul, Iraq, taking only what they can carry and their white cat, Kunkush. Their escape takes them across mountains to a Kurdish village, and then to Istanbul, where they eventually board a small open boat to a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Once on shore, Kunkush, wet and frightened by the crossing, escapes from his carrier. Near death from starvation, he is rescued by a volunteer who begins a search to reunite the cat with its family. Illustrated in rich, warm hues, the book includes photographs of Kunkush, his family, and people who cared for him.

    My Beautiful Birds. Suzanne Del Rizzo. 2017. Pajama Press.

    My Beautiful BirdsSet against the backdrop of the Syrian civil war, Sami finds solace in his connection with birds. When he and his family flee their hometown and find shelter in a refugee camp, Sami is devastated to leave his pet pigeons behind. His father tries to console him by reminding him that the birds likely escaped too, but Sami still can’t stop thinking about them. When pigeons appear in the camp, he feeds them seeds and spilled lentils, beginning his long healing process. Illustrations in polymer clay and acrylic paint show Sami’s slow transition into in his new life. The author’s note provides context about the Syrian war and information about the refugee camps.

    The Treasure Box. Margaret Wild. Ill. Freya Blackwood. 2017. Candlewick.

    The Treasure BoxWhen the enemy bombs the village’s library, only one book survives. In this parable of war, Peter and his father are forced to flee their home. Peter’s father insists on taking the book, which he says is “about our people.”  They wrap the book in cloth and keep it in a metal box in their suitcase. When his father dies of illness, Peter buries the metal box under a linden tree. The expressive illustrations, rendered in pencil, watercolor, and collage, depict Peter’s return to his native land to place the hidden book on the shelves of the rebuilt library “where, once again, it could be found, and read . . . and loved.”  

    Ages 9–11

    Greetings, Leroy. Itah Sadu. Ill. Alix Delinois. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Greetings LeroyRoy misses his home in Jamaica. He’s nervous to start his first day of school in a new country and nothing—not even Bob Marley songs—can calm him down. When he sees a photo of Bob Marley playing soccer in the principal’s office, Roy begins to relax. The rich acrylic and mixed media illustrations depict Roy’s journey to feel accepted and valued in his new home.


    One Good Thing About America.
    Ruth Freeman. Ill. Katherin Honesta. 2017. Holiday House.

    One Good Thing About AmericaAnaïs, her mother, and her little brother Jean-Claude have arrived in America after fleeing the Congo. In a series of letters to her grandmother, Anaïs recounts her life in school and in the shelter. American language and habits confuse and discourage Anaïs, but she finds solace in having the best handwriting in class and in her knowledge of mathematics—since numbers are always the same.  Her mother seeks asylum so that Anaïs’s father (an activist in their homeland) and older brother can come to America. Throughout the year, Anaïs reports good things she discovers about America to her grandmother, and she learns that her father and brother are safe in a refugee camp in Africa.  In an author’s note, Freeman explains what inspired her to become an ELL teacher, and says that she wanted this novel to offer a glimpse into the life of a student new to America.

    Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees. Mary Beth Leatherdale. Ill. Eleanor Shakespeare. 2017. Annick.

    Stormy SeasStormy Seas follows the journeys of five teenage refugees escaping war, persecution, and possible murder in search of asylum. Ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape nazism; Phu departs from war-torn Vietnam; José ventures to the U.S. from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan; and Mohamed, an orphan, runs from his village on the Ivory Coast. After traveling thousands of miles to reach safety, however, they find they are treated as outsiders and sometimes prisoners. Their stories recount experiences of loss, risk, betrayal, fortitude, and patience. The book includes a timeline and further information about refugee movements in the 20th-century

    Ages 12–14

    A Crack in the Sea. H. M. Bouwman. 2017. Putnam/Penguin.

    A Crack in the SeaIn a visit to the islands of Putnam, the Raft King of the Second World kidnaps Pip, who has the power to talk to fish. Putnam wants Pip to use his power to get the fish to lead them to the portal to the First World so that he can find his mother, who abandoned him. Woven into the fantasy are flashbacks from the history of the First World, including the forced migration of slaves from Africa to Jamaica, and refugees escaping post-war Vietnam by sea. When a storm rises, the portal opens and figures from the First World are swept into the Second World where they meet Kinchen, Pip, and Putnam. In an afterword Bouwman explains the inspiration for the fantasy and his writing process.

    Hidden. Miriam Halahmy. 2016. Holiday House.

    HiddenFourteen-year-old Alix lives on an island off the coast in England with her mother. When Samir (a new student at school) is ruthlessly bullied, Alix decides to befriend him. She learns that Samir, his brother, and his aunt are all refugees from Iraq, seeking asylum. During a stormy afternoon, she and Samir save a badly beaten young man, Mohammed, from drowning in the surf.  They hide him in an abandoned hut in a wooded area and nurse him back to health. They learn that Mohammed is also an Iraqi refugee. Desperate not to be deported, Alix must keep Mohammed's secret.

    Ages 15+

    The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir. Thi Bui. 2017. Abrams.

    The Best We Could DoThis graphic novel is both a memoir and a history of 20th-century Vietnam. Bui chronicles generations of her family’s history, alternating between her father’s and her mother’s perspective. Her father grew up in northern Vietnam and lost his mother at the end of World War II. Bui’s mother was educated, French-speaking and lived in southern Vietnam.Through their stories, Bui illustrates her family’s resourcefulness as they flee Vietnam to start a new life in America.


    The Lines We Cross.
    Randa Abdel-Fattah. 2017. Scholastic.

    The Lines We CrossMina has lived with her mother in Sydney for 10 years since fleeing Afghanistan after the death of her father and aunt. Now her mother and stepfather have moved the family to a different part of the city where they open an Afghani restaurant. She finds herself on one side of a rising anti-refugee, anti-immigrant movement organized by the father of Michael, a fellow student at her prestigious high school. The story of school, family, politics, and their relationship unfolds, told from Mina’s and Michael’s points of view. Michael finds himself questioning his parents’ views towards refugees and immigrants finding them less and less reasonable and credible, and Mina shares the reality of her life while she works to contribute to her family and her adopted country.

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the English department and School of Education at Husson University, Bangor, Maine.

    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.
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    Then Comes Summer Reading

    Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 29, 2017

    As the school year ends, it is time to encourage students to include regular visits to their local libraries (and perhaps sign up for a summer reading program) over summer vacation. In this week’s column, we review recently published books, as well as some old favorites, for lazy days of summer reading.

    Ages 4–8

    And Then Comes Summer. Tom Brenner. Ill. Jaime Kim. 2017. Candlewick.

    and-then-comes-summerIn a series of reflections, a young boy considers the endless joys of summer. The smells, sounds, sights, and activities of summer are presented in lyrical text and cheery acrylic illustrations featuring the boy, his dog, and his friends. The activities the boy enjoys, including selling lemonade, marching in the fourth of July parade, and camping at the lake, will have young children thinking about their own anticipated summer pastimes.

    —CA

    The Jolley-Rogers and the Monster’s Gold (The Jolley Rogers #3). Jonny Duddle. 2017. Templar/Candlewick.

    Jolley RogersMatilda rejoins the Jolley-Rogers on another buccaneer adventure after finding a bottle with a treasure map inside. They set sail for the mysterious island, singing foreboding treasure hunting shanties. Mayhem erupts when Grandpa’s peg leg is stolen by a menacing sea monster, and their ship soon ends up at the not-so-deserted Banana Island with monkeys, a grizzly old pirate, and Banana Bill (a baker extraordinaire). When the Jolley-Rogers leave Matilda safely behind on the island and set out to find the sea monster, they find themselves in great peril. It’s up to Matilda to save the day with a plan—which may or may not include 99 retired old pirates and a boatload of bananas and gold pieces! Clever, black-and-white digital illustrations contribute to this great read-aloud for young swashbucklers.

    —NB 

    Little Pig Saves the Ship. David Hyde Costello. 2017. Charlesbridge.

    Little PigLittle Pig is too young to join his older siblings for a week at sailing camp, and must stay behind with Grandpa and Poppy. A book of sailors’ knots and a piece of rope from his oldest brother hold his interest until, one night, Poppy shows Little Pig a toy sailboat he’s building. The next day, Little Pig sews the sails and Poppy carves small figures to “man” the ship. They sail the ship every day until disaster strikes and Little Pig must put his rope-knotting skills to work. Ink-and-watercolor cartoon illustrations with speech balloons add to the fun of this charming adventure.

    —CA

    That’s What Friends Are For. Suzanne Chiew. Ill. Caroline Pedler. 2017. Tiger Tales.

    That's What Friends are forBadger and his friends enjoy splashing in a stream under the summer sun. When Mouse reports that the stream has slowed to a trickle, they all worrywill they have enough water to drink, swim, do laundry, and keep the flowers alive? Trekking upstream, they discover boulders blocking the stream and work together to move them. Colorful, detailed illustrations bring the community of clever critters to life in this gentle lesson on problem-solving and teamwork. 

    —NB

    There Might Be Lobsters. Carolyn Crimi. Ill. Laurel Molk. 2017. Candlewick.

    There Might be LobstersEleanor can’t coax her small dog, Sukie, from the stairs leading to the beach. Sukie has a list of reasons to avoid the beach, ending with “and, besides, there might be lobsters.” Eleanor carries Sukie and her stuffed toy monkey, Chunka Munka, down to the sand, and Sukie’s list of fears grows as she gets closer to the water. When Chunka Munka is washed out by the tide, however, Sukie puts aside her fears—including the possibility of encountering lobsters in the ocean—to rescue him.

    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Blueberry Pancakes Forever (Finding Serendipity #3). Angelica Banks. 2017. Henry Holt.

    Blueberry Pancakes ForeverIn the final book of the trilogy, Serendipity Smith (the author of the popular Vivienne Small series) is stuck in a period of year-long grief (and writer’s block) after the death of her husband. Serendipity arranges for her friend Colette to watch over her daughter, young Tuesday McGillycuddy, so she can return to the Land of Story to heal and begin writing again. When a villain from her mother’s book kidnaps her friend Vivienne, Tuesday is swept into the Land of Story. She must dig deep inside herself to write her way out of this dangerous plot and back into a life filled with love, good memories of her father’s blueberry pancakes, and new stories.

    —NB

    Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question. Martha Freeman. 2017. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Effie Starr ZookEffie Starr Zook, an 11-year-old girl from a “well fixed” New York City family (thanks to Effie’s great grandfather, the inventor of the barf bag) is spending the summer with her aunt and uncle at Zook Farm in Pennsylvania while her parents tour the world on a test flight of a solar airplane. Expecting to be bored, she’s pleased to meet Moriah Yoder, whose family lives on the edge of the property. She quickly learns there’s “bad blood” between the Zooks and the Yoders. Effie, a pro at asking questions, wants answers but gets none from her evasive relatives. The more she learns about her famous great grandfather, Mr. Yoder (the founder of the Beards of America movement), and Mr. Odbody (a bookstore owner and the only African American in town), the more questions she has. Uncovering family secrets will keep Effie busy for the summer.

    —CA

    Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3). Jen Calonita. 2017. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks.

    TrickedGilly Cobbler, former Fairy Tale Reform School (FTRS) student, worries that her younger sister, Anna—who was sent to FTRS for blowing up Red’s shop with her friends Hansel and Gretel— is in danger. The evil Rumpelstiltskin (Mr. Stilts), now in charge of FTRS, has a new school motto: If you can’t become a better person, become a better villain. Before Gilly can get Anna out of the school, she’ll have to get herself thrown back in. In this magical mashup of mermaids, fairies, pirates, and princesses, as Gilly and her crew work to banish Mr. Stilts, they learn that it’s not just important to be good, but to discover what they are good at.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    The Harlem Charade. Natasha Tarpley. 2017. Scholastic.

    Harlem CharadeSeventh graders Jin, Elvin, and Alex are researching class project ideas about their Harlem neighborhood when Elvin’s grandfather is mysteriously attacked. Elvin, locked out of the apartment, ends up living on the streets. The three friends work together to learn what happened to Elvin’s grandfather, who is in a coma. When their sleuthing uncovers a politician’s plan to build “Harlem World,” a nefarious money-making scheme that will cause some residents to lose their homes and businesses, they know they must follow the clues, even as they lead them into danger. Notes about the historical context, events, and locations in the book provide a background for this historical mystery.

    —NB

    When My Sister Started Kissing. Helen Frost. 2017. Margaret Ferguson/Farrar Straus Giroux. 

    When My Sister Started KissingClaire and Abigail had always loved spending a month each summer with their father at his cabin at Heartstone Lake. This year everything is different. Their father has remarried, and expecting a baby. And something between Claire and Abigail has changed. Claire is confused over the changes that are playing out this summer. In an endnote for this beautifully crafted novel in verse, Frost explains her use of different poetic forms to give voice to key characters: quatrains for Claire, free verse for Abigail, and acrostics for the Lake.

    —CA  

    Ages 15+

    Camp So-And-So. Mary McCoy. 2017. Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner.

    Camp So-and-SoLured by a glossy brochure, 25 girls find themselves at remote Appalachian Camp So-And-So. Once their parents leave, the girls realize that something’s not right; facilities and activities are not what the brochure promised, and there is a complete lack of adult supervision. The occupants of the cabins will need to ban together to survive challenges specially chosen for each cabin. McCoy weaves the story from cabin to cabin, across five separate plots, with comments from an omniscient narrator and a counselor-in-training. Readers won’t be able to put down this weird and totally absorbing horror story about a very dangerous summer at camp.

    —CA

    Zenn DiagramZenn Diagram. Wendy Brant. 2017. Loft/Kids Can.

    Reclusive 17-year-old math genius Eva has a special gift. When she touches another person, or anything that belongs to that person, she can instantly read them. This makes her a great math tutor; coaches know that she can be counted on to raise the GPAs of athletes sidelined by poor grades. Because she picks up pain through touch, Eva avoids direct contact with others. She senses an intense emotional “fractal” when she accidentally touches Zenn—a tutee—but as romance blossoms and they embrace, there is no physical agony. Just as Eva decides that it is time to break loose from her self-imposed prison and learn more about life, something happens that cracks her world apart.

    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. 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.

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