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    Learning About People and Their Dreams

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 14, 2016

    At any given time in history there are thousands, maybe millions of ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Books about those people in depth can inspire and inform readers with historical context and how it is possible to overcome barriers and still achieve a dream, even if it must be altered in the process. As we enjoy reading the life stories of people, we also learn how individuals shaped and were shaped by their times.

    Ages 4–8

    Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler (Step Into Reading). Kate Klimo. Ill. Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher. 2016. Random House.

    drseussYoung children who listen to adults read Dr. Seuss’s many picture books such as Horton Hears a Who! and If I Ran the Circus and are beginning to learn to read books such as Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat now have a biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904­–1991) that they can read on their own. The book shows how Geisel, a lifelong doodler, went from making imaginative drawings of animals in a zoo near his childhood home in Springfield, MA, to being the author–illustrator of more than 40 books that continue to be loved by children today. The incorporation of drawings by Geisel in Johnson and Fancher’s paintings add interest. Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler will also be a good addition to read-aloud sessions when sharing one or more of the books mentioned in the biography.

    —CA

    The Kid From Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton. Audrey Vernick. Ill. Steven Salerno. 2016. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    diamond_streetEdith Houghton (1912–2013), the youngest of 10 children, grew up playing baseball with her brothers and neighbors on Diamond Street in Philadelphia.  When she was not playing, she was watching games being played on a baseball field across the street at night from her parents’ bedroom window.  When she was 10 years old, Edith heard that an all-female baseball team, the Philadelphia Bobbies, was looking for players.  She auditioned and became the youngest member of the team, a team that won against all-male teams and built such popularity that the team was invited to play in Japan in 1925.  Rendered in charcoal, ink, and gouache with additional color added digitally, the double-page illustrations show the thrill of the games and events of the team’s travels.  An author’s note includes archival photographs and additional details on Edith’s life such as her serving as a WAVE during World War II and being hired as a major league scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. In The Kid from Diamond Street,young readers exploring the world of biography have a book that combines sports history and the lives of girls who follow their dreams. 

    —SW

    You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?! Jonah Winter. Ill. Barry Blitt. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    casey_stengelFollowing the format of his earlier You Never Heard Of picture book biographies of Sandy Koufax and Willy Mays, Jonah Winter pays tribute to Casey Stengel (Charles Dillon Stengel [1890–1975]). The witty, conversational narration introduces young readers to this sports hero, focusing on Stengel’s 12 years as manager of the New York Yankees 1949–1960, during which the Yankees won 10 American League pennants and seven World Series. Britt’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, featuring caricatures of Casey, and the inclusion of Stengelese quips such as “The teams has come along slow but fast” and insets of stats and trivia make this an engaging addition to books for young people about baseball history. Back matter includes a glossary of baseball terms, a note on sources of the statistics used in the book, and an author’s note.

    —CA

    Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Dean Robbins. Ill. Sean Qualls & Selina Alko. 2016. Orchard/Scholastic.

    two_friendsQualls and Alko’s beautifully-composed mixed media illustrations and Robbins’ lyrical text tell the story of the friendship of two famous American civil rights activists, Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) and Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), who came together to share cups of tea and ideas in Rochester, New York, in the mid-1800s. Robbins uses parallel phrasing to express how both individuals recognized that some people had rights that others did not have. Anthony wanted rights for women. “The right to live free. The right to vote.”Douglass wanted rights for African Americans. “The right to live free. The right to vote.” Cutout collage waves of handwritten words that move across some of the double spreads emphasize Anthony’s and Douglass’s tireless efforts in speaking out for a shared goal, that one day all people would have the same rights.  The book ends with an author’s note, bibliography, and portraits of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals. Nancy Furstinger. Ill. Vincent Desjardins. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    mercyHenry Bergh was born into privilege and wealth as one of three children of a ship builder in New York City in 1813.  Uninterested in going into the family business, Bergh displayed similar disinterest as a law student at Columbia College. His growing passion against cruelty to animals emerged in a trip to Europe and later as an emissary to the Russian Court.  Bergh was aware of the founding of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the 1830s in England. Appalled at the treatment of horses and the cruelty of cock and dog fights in New York City, Bergh lobbied for the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1866. As its president, he worked to protect animals such as working dogs, dairy cows, and draft horses for the rest of his life, often facing the ridicule of adversaries and the press. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Furstinger’s use of primary sources provides Bergh’s perspective as he exposed cruelty in sports hunting and horrific treatment of animals in slaughter houses. The digitally-created illustrations and archival photographs complement the text. Back matter includes an author’s note, a timeline, quote sources, a bibliography, and an index.

    —SW

    Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor. Robert Burleigh. Ill. Raúl Colón. 2016. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    solving_the_puzzleBurleigh has Mary Tharp (1920–2006) tell her own life story of an early love of maps nurtured by traveling around the U.S. with her father, a surveyor and mapmaker, and her determination to overcome the barriers to working in a field of science not accepting of women in the 1940s. As an assistant in the ocean-studies lab at Columbia University, Mary, who could not go out on the research ships (having a woman on board was considered bad luck), took the data of soundings made at sea and began the important project of mapping the Atlantic seafloor. Her meticulous cartography revealed the deep mid-Atlantic rift that confirmed the theory of continental drift. Colón’s stunning pencil and watercolor illustrations for this picture book biography include some dramatic ocean scenes. Back matter includes additional information on Mary Tharp and her scientific contributions, a glossary of terms, a bibliography, Internet resources, and a “Things to Wonder About and Do” section. 

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World. Winifred Conkling. 2016. Algonquin.

    radioactiveIrène Curie and Lise Meitner lived different lives although their work in physics and chemistry intersected.  Irène, the first-born child of two Nobel Prize-winning physicists, earned her doctorate at the Sorbonne and became a collaborator with her mother, Marie Curie. Lise was the third of eight children, struggled to earn admission to university, and then applied to work in Max Planck’s laboratory in Berlin, the center of science at the time.  Irène married Frédéric Joliot, and the Joliot-Curies won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of artificial radioactivity. Never married, Lise worked with Otto Hahn for more than 30 years and, continuing the work of the Joliot-Curies, discovered fission, an accomplishment for which Hahn took the credit. During the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Lise’s life became increasingly imperiled since her grandmother was Jewish and, after Hitler’s forces invaded Austria, her passport provided no protection.  Secreted out of Germany by colleagues, she continued work in Sweden, collaborating with Hahn. This biography of the two scientists is also the story of the evolution of nuclear physics and the study of radioactivity in the 20th century. Captioned photographs and back matter, including a time line of the lives of the two women, an extensive glossary, a “Who’s Who” section, and source notes, provide additional information.

    —SW

    Ten Days a Mad Woman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly. Deborah Noyes. 2016. Viking/Penguin.

    ten_days_a_madwomanLeaving her family home and her work as a writer for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, Elizabeth Jane Cochran, who became known to newspaper readers as Nellie Bly, set out for New York City to find a position as a reporter in 1887.  The first part of the book chronicles her investigation of the practices of an insane asylum for women in which she convinced doctors and nurses that she was insane and lived in the asylum on Blackwell’s Island as an inmate for 10 days without any assurance of how she would be able to leave. The book also details her investigations of big business and government for which she had her own byline, unheard of at the time, before The World’s publisher, Joseph Pulitzer sponsored her round-the-world trip to learn whether Jules Verne’s 80 days could be beaten. Integrated into this biography that spans Nellie Bly’s life time are archival photographs and inserts that detail particular moments in her life, including her family and married life, and of the newspaper world. The author’s note provides more information and the source notes document the primary sources used in the book.

    —SW

    Ages 15+

    Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History. Karen Blumenthal. 2016. Feiwel and Friends.

    hillary_clintonReading this biography gives teens an engaging and accessible portrait of Hillary Rodham Clinton, from her birth in 1947 and childhood years in Park Ridge, IL, to her April 2015 announcement that she would run for the Democratic nomination for President. Throughout the book, Blumenthal offers a clear picture of the people and experiences that have guided Clinton in the life choices she has made and the challenges she has faced as a woman in her professional and political life while wanting to keep her private life separate from her public life. The inclusion of an abundance of captioned photographs and “Drawn and Quartered” sidebars of editorial cartoons add interest. Back matter includes a time line; a bibliography with a note from Blumenthal on the shortage of “reliable, accurate, or complete information” about Hillary Rodham Clinton, which was a challenge in writing Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History; source notes; and an extensive index.

    —CA

    Sandip Wilson serves as associate professor in the College of Health and Education of Husson University in Bangor, ME. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, CA.

    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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    To Be Continued... Series and Sequels

    By Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 07, 2016

    Series are popular with readers, and readers have so many from which to choose. There are episodic series with interesting main characters that can be read in any order (although most readers insist on reading them in order). And there are lengthy, complex series. In some cases, the most recent book in a series can be a stand-alone read that leads readers to earlier books in the series. In other cases, reading the books in a series in order is best. Readers will find some favorite series coming to an end in 2016, but take heart: Other series in the same genres are just beginning.
     
    Ages 4–8

    Mouse Scouts Make a Difference (Mouse Scouts #2). Sarah Dillard. 2016. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    mouse_scoutsSix mouse friends, Violet, Tigerlily, Junebug, Cricket, Hyacinth, and Petunia, who earned their first badge as Acorn Scouts in Mouse Scouts (2015), are now eager to earn their Make a Difference badge. They must decide on a project that will make a difference in their community to work on together. Coming to an agreement is difficult, but they decide on cleaning up the park. Picking up trash leads to a daring and dangerous rescue mission that has the scouts using all the special skills learned from following the Mouse Scout Handbook—and the gathered trash. Inserts with scout rules and step-by-step directions for projects from the handbook and pencil drawings of the cute mouse scouts in action add humor, making this an appealing early chapter book.

    Pugs of the Frozen North (Not-So-Impossible Tales #3). Philip Reeve. Ill. Sarah McIntyre. 2016. Random House.

    pugs_frozen_northA funny, imaginative text and cartoonlike illustrations featuring 66 adorable, bug-eyed pug puppies tell the story of the incredible adventure of Shen and Sika as they enter a once-in-a-lifetime dog sled race to the North Pole on Sika’s grandfather’s old sled pulled by the pug pups. The coveted first prize for the Great Northern Race is the granting of a wish by the Snowfather. Competing with sleds powered by robot dogs and polar bears and a cheating contestant, Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling, Shen and Sika face not only the dangers of a weeklong race over the perilous course through the 50 types of snow of True Winter but also encounters with a multitentacled monster of the Kraken Deep, were-snowmen, and yetis serving addictive noodles. Children will find it impossible not to laugh out loud as they read this third stand-alone adventure in Reeve and McIntyre’s Not-So-Impossible Tale series.

    Virgil & Owen Stick Together. Paulette Bogan. 2016. Bloomsbury.

    virgil_owenThe friendship between polar opposites, Virgil, a penguin, and Owen, a polar bear, who became best friends in Virgil & Owen (2015), is tested as lively Virgil keeps interrupting slower paced Owen in school activities. For example, as Owen slowly counts snowballs “One…two…three,” Virgil jumps in with “Four, five, SIX. Easy peasy, my friend.” Finally, Owen has had enough of Virgil’s rushing him, and with a “RROOAARRR,” he sends Virgil rolling through the snow and in need of help to get unburied. Virgil apologizes for being pushy, Owen says he’s sorry for roaring at Virgil, and the two walk home with their friendship intact. Bogan’s simple text and expressive mixed-media illustrations offer a gentle lesson on the importance of patience and the understanding of differences if friends are going to stick together.

    Ages 9–11

    The Last Bogler (How to Catch a Bogle #3). Catherine Jinks. Ill. Sarah Watts. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    last_boglerAlfred Bunce, the bogler extraordinaire who tracks down and kills bogles, and Ned Roach, his assistant who is clever but not keen on serving as bogle bait, continue the hunt for the child-eating monsters. Ned and Alfred, along with Alfred’s previous bogler assistants, Birdie McAdam and Jem Barbary, become members of the newly created government Committee for the Regulation of Subterranean Anomalies. The mass production of magical bogle-killing spears like Alfred’s and the engineering of a plan for the mass slaughter of bogles in the system of sewers beneath the city hold the promise of the end to the plague of bogles responsible for the disappearance of young children in Victorian London. The epilogue of this final book in the trilogy, which includes How to Catch a Bogle (2013) and A Plague of Bogles (2015), reveals the promising life-after-bogling prospects of the series’ main characters.

    Mission Panda Rescue: All About Pandas and How to Save Them. (Mission Animal Rescue). Kitson Jazynka (with Daniel Raven-Ellison). 2016. National Geographic Kids.

    panda_rescueOf all the endangered animals in the world, the giant panda may the most irresistible. Children will initially be drawn to this book by the abundance of photographs of pandas. Reading on, they will learn about the characteristics, life cycle, and behavior of the giant panda. The book includes up-close-and-personal “Meet a Panda” stories about individuals such as Bao Bao, who celebrated his first birthday at Washington, DC’s National Zoo on August 23, 2014, and Meng Meng, Shuai Shuai, and Kuku, the only set of surviving triplets on record, who were born at the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangshou, China, in July 2014. The efforts of scientists and conservationists to learn about the endangered species and its disappearing natural habitat are highlighted in “Explorer Interview” features. Particular attention is given to the “rewilding” training of pandas raised in captivity for reintroduction to their natural habitat. Each chapter ends with an “Rescue Activities” section with hands-on activities and challenges for kids who want to help save pandas. Back matter includes a wealth of resources and an index.

    The Terrible Two Get Worse (The Terrible Two #2). Jory John & Mac Barnett. Ill. Kevin Cornell. 2016. Amulet/Abrams.

    terrible_twoMiles Murphy and Niles Sparks, pranksters who became friends and sole members of the secret pranking club, The Terrible Two, in The Terrible Two (2015), continue their mischief at Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy as another school year begins. They are so successful at pranking that the school board puts Principal Barkin on an involuntary, indefinite leave of absence for lacking the “principal power” to control the epidemic of practical jokes on campus and appoints Former Principal Barkin (Principal Barkin’s father) to replace him. Former Principal Barkin’s plan for a prank-free school year seems to be working as prank after prank fizzles until the Terrible Two’s plot to get their old principal reinstated succeeds on the last day of school. Cornell’s black-and-white white cartoon artwork adds to the fun of this oh-so-silly school story that will leave readers hoping for the return of Miles and Niles for another year of pranking in a third book in the Terrible Two series.

    Ages 12–14

    Every Second Counts. Sophie McKenzie. 2016. Simon & Schuster.

    every-second-countsIn the first book, In a Split Second (2015), teens Nat and Charlie trained with the English Freedom Army, believing it was an antiterrorist organization, and unwittingly were involved in a bombing and a kidnapping. Framed for these acts of terrorism, the pair are now on the run and working with a handful of members of a poorly organized resistance movement. Nat and Charlie are intent on clearing their names and saving England from takeover by the EFA leader, diabolical politician Roman Riley. This sequel, with short chapters told from the alternating perspectives of Nat and Charlie, concludes McKenzie’s fast-paced thriller set in London in the near future. Every Second Counts, whether read alone or as a follow-up to the first book, is a good choice for readers looking for an action-packed story with political intrigue and a bit of romance.

    Starborn(Dragonborn #4). Toby Forward. 2016. Bloomsbury.

    starbornIn this final book of the Dragonborn Quartet, Tadpole, a curious roffle eager to see stars for the first time and to encounter one of the mysterious Kravvins that have made it unsafe for roffles to leave their underground Deep World home, disobeys his elders and uses a roffle door to go Up Top. Once above ground, the naïve young roffle finds himself joining with wizard apprentices Sam and Tamarin, their dragon Starback, and the small group of remaining wizards with old magic to do battle with the imprisoned evil wizard Ash. If Ash makes a successful escape, she will use her wild magic to eliminate all real magic and cause chaos in the world. Courageous and heroic Tadpole is a fitting addition to the cast of interesting magical characters from earlier books as this well-crafted fantasy series comes to an exciting conclusion.

    Ages 15+

    Passenger (Passenger #1). Alexandra Bracken. 2016. Hyperion.

    passengerSeventeen-year-old Etta, a gifted violinist poised to make her concert soloist debut in present-day New York City abruptly finds herself a prisoner aboard a ship on the Atlantic in 1776. Etta soon learns that she has inherited the ability to time travel from her mother. Nicholas Carter, the captain of the ship, was hired by the power-hungry head of the Ironwood family to deliver Etta to him. Ironwood wants to use Etta to find a valuable astrolabe, an instrument that could be used to alter time, that Etta’s mother has hidden. Clues to its location are in a letter that only Etta can decipher. Once she learns that Ironwood is holding her mother prisoner, Etta is determined to find the astrolabe and use it herself to return to her own time and rescue her mother. With Nicholas, who also has an old connection to the time-traveling Ironwood family, Etta sets out on a quest that has them moving through time-travel passages around the world in different centuries that takes them from New York City in 1776, to London in 1940, to Angkor in 1685, to Paris in 1880, and to Damascus in 1590, where this lengthy (486 pages) first book in the series ends with a startling cliffhanger.

    Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University.

    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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    Read-Alouds for All Ages

    By Barbara Ward
     | Feb 29, 2016

    As most teachers and parents know, reading aloud to children and even adolescents is one way to help them learn to appreciate language and associate reading with pleasurable activities such as spending time with loved ones. There is abundant research from experts and testimony from avid readers that being read to at any age reaps benefits in the long run. Listeners have the chance to savor words or phrases while sharing laughter or tender moments with the readers. Sometimes books being read aloud can even offer places to begin difficult conversations. Perhaps now more than ever the human connection provided through sharing favorite stories is essential to ensuring that our society remains literate. This week’s column includes recently selected read-aloud titles ripe for audiences in classrooms, libraries, and homes.

    Ages 4–8

    The Quickest Kid in Clarksville. Pat Zietlow Miller. Ill. Frank Morrison. 2016. Chronicle.

    quickest_kidAlta might not have the best of everything, including fancy track shoes, but one thing she knows for sure is that she is fast. In fact, she considers herself the quickest kid in her hometown of Clarksville, TN. But when Charmaine struts down the street in her fancy, brand-new shoes, Alta has a moment of doubt. Still, Alta beats her rival several times until her shoes let her down. As it turns out, the youngsters share the same idol, Wilma Rudolph, whose name Alta repeats for inspiration as she runs. The girls leave their differences behind when they bring a banner to a parade in honor of the Olympic gold medalist, also known for facing down adversity. The discussion of segregation in the back matter adds poignancy to the story and might provide an opening for conversations about racism and social change. Lively illustrations capture the swiftness and determination of the protagonist and the graciousness of Wilma Rudolph as she rides through the city’s streets to acclaim.

    Tell Me a Tattoo Story. Alison McGhee. Ill. Eliza Wheeler. 2016. Chronicle.

    tattoo_storyPhotographs and illustrations often tell fascinating stories, but in this picture book a father’s tattoos are doing the talking. His son knows there is a well-loved tale behind every tattoo, and he clamors to hear each story again. The father patiently obliges his son’s request and, as it turns out, the first tattoo is from a beloved childhood book read to his father repeatedly by his mother. Others tattoos remind the father of advice from his own father or commemorate milestone moments, including the son’s birth. Readers will appreciate that the father is doing the dishes and hanging out with his son when the story begins as well as the glimpses into his life the tattoos provide. The beautiful illustrations, created with India ink using dip pens and watercolors, provide a road map of one man’s life journey thus far. Perfect for sharing with others because its pages are filled with warm sentiments, the book may prompt readers to wonder what body art the man might add next.

    Ages 9–11

    Cleo Edison Oliver, Playground Millionaire. Sundee T. Frazier. 2016. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

    playground_millionaireFifth grader Cleo Edison Oliver, a budding entrepreneur, is smart and determined. If she has her way, it won’t be long until she’s made her first million dollars. After all, she’s carefully following the advice of her idol, television personality Fortune A. Davies, a successful businesswoman. Thus, Cleo sells avocadoes from the family's trees and even invents a nearly painless tooth removal system relying on her little brother's Nerf gun. Often though, despite her best intentions, things go awry. Although she loves her adoptive parents and knows that they love her, she still wonders why her birth mother gave her up, something that comes to mind during the cruel taunts of a classmate. Awash in the drama in her complicated personal life and juggling all her money-making efforts, Cleo disregards the feelings of Caylee, her best friend, who is dealing with unwelcome changes in her own life. The characters here are well drawn, and readers will feel as though they know Cleo and her classmates quite well by the time the book concludes. Despite her character flaws, this up-and-coming CEO is simply irresistible.

    Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics. Chris Grabenstein. 2016. Random House.

    library_olympicsWhenever Luigi Lemoncello is on the scene, fun and games can’t be far behind. This sequel to the popular Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library (2013) features most of the team that won the first competition. As Kyle Keeley and his friends bask in the limelight following their victory, Mr. Lemoncello designs a library-skills Olympics. Readers will relate to Kyle's anxiety about losing and wince at some of the gamesmanship that occurs as teams from regions across the nation compete for medals and college scholarships. Sure to be a librarian favorite for sharing because of the high regard with which librarians and their research skills are held in its pages, the book’s puzzles and riddles are fun to solve. The inclusion of a reading list with all the books mentioned in the story solves the problem of what to read next. Clearly, the author and Mr. Lemoncello adore books for the knowledge, entertainment, and pure pleasure they can bring readers. Savvy librarians and teachers will find plenty of inspiration for their own local library Olympics, which might make library skills and book knowledge just as cool as an event in the Summer Olympics. But those games will have to wait while readers—or listeners—get rid of the tears they've shed from laughing and recover from the suspense and surprises in this book.

    Ages 12–14

    Booked. Kwame Alexander. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    bookedBuilding on his previous success at engaging readers with a likeable protagonist, the author of The Crossover (2014) places family and soccer front and center in this easily relatable account. Twelve-year-old Nick Hall spends his free time playing soccer with his best friend, Coby Lee, and nursing a crush on April Farrow. But troubles come to the forefront when his parents separate and when he and Coby face harassment and racist comments from two bullies who make the school halls unsafe. Plus, he connects more with his mother, formerly a race horse trainer, than his father, an academic who has written a dictionary filled with strange words. Although Nick is bored by his father’s insistence that he make his way through that dictionary, those weird words find their way into his vocabulary in surprising ways. As it turns out, Nick has a gift for malaprops. As his world spirals off its axis because of an injury, he is supported by word-loving mentors, including his teacher, Ms. Hardwick, and his librarian, Mr. Mac, and discovers that books actually have something to say to him. This novel in verse is filled with rollicking rhymes that make it fun to read. Many listeners may find themselves using some of the odd words such as “sweven” and “yobbery” found on its pages. Although Nick doubts that books and vocabulary might have any charm for him, ultimately he changes his mind. With its double meaning, Booked is an apt title for this novel, which is filled with surprises and is surely a word-lover’s treasure chest.

    Ripple Effect. Sylvia Taekema. 2015. Orca.

    ripple_effectThis book from Canada explores a situation with which many students will be familiar. Dana and Janelle are eagerly anticipating sixth grade, but Dana’s nervousness about hospitals prevents her from visiting Janelle while she is hospitalized after an accident. Even after Janelle returns home, Dana can’t find the time to visit her, and their relationship fractures. By the time school starts, Dana seems to have been replaced by the fast-talking and always-there Julia. Dana simply can’t get Janelle alone to apologize and offer an explanation for her behavior. Part of her feels embarrassed that she never visited her friend when she should have while another part of her is resentful that Janelle isn’t there to follow through on their plans. Suddenly, Dana finds herself all alone, without her best friend, doing things by herself that they had planned to do together, and trying to figure out who she is without her best friend. As Dana presses on, she realizes that actions can have ripple effects for good or for bad. Things finally come to a head after the students try out for parts in their class's production of The Wizard of Oz. The story has a solid message with many issues other than friendship being handled carefully.

    Ages 15+

    Peas and Carrots. Tanita S. Davis. 2016. Arthur A. Knopf/Random House.

    peas_carrotsFifteen-year-olds Dess Matthews and Hope Carter are as different as peas and carrots. After all, Dess (short for Odessa), who has been bounced from one foster placement to another, trusts no one and expects little to go her way. It’s safe to say she has a huge chip on her shoulder. Hope, on the other hand, has been blessed with supportive parents who have enough love in their hearts to take in foster children. Because her young sibling, Austin, lives with the Carters, Dess is placed there while her mother's life is sorted out. Despite her tough veneer and defensiveness, all Dess really wants is a place to call home and a family. Even while Dess and Hope engage in various skirmishes, it's clear that the Carters might have enough room in their hearts for Dess. Because the story is told from alternating points of view, it could be read aloud by two readers, making it easy to sort through all the high school drama to realize that, despite their differences and character flaws, the girls actually have more in common than they thought. This is a refreshingly warm and honest look at what it means to find your way back home, wherever that might be. For those who love strong opening chapters, this book has a humdinger of one that is guaranteed to reel in listeners who will clamor to know what happens next.

    A Small Madness. Diane Touchell. 2016. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    small_madnessRose and Michael fall in love and have unprotected sex, and then Rose becomes pregnant. After Michael reacts badly to the news, she tells only one other person, her best friend, Liv. Unsure about what to do, Rose protects herself in the only way she knows how: She pretends the pregnancy isn’t happening. Heavily in denial, she avoids Liv, and treats the pregnancy as though it is a virus she must get rid of, even denying herself food in order to starve her unborn child. Although both Rose and Michael have bright futures, they seem unable to act, and they choose to do nothing as time moves on. While Rose isolates herself from others and continues her delusion, Michael, uncertain about what to do, falls apart, ditches school, and argues with his father. When Rose finally gives birth, they bury the baby nearby. Not surprisingly, the body is discovered by dogs, and the two are hauled in for questioning by the police. The author thrusts readers into the lives of two teens who had resources but failed to use them for various reasons. Clearly, they convinced themselves that if they pretended that everything was OK, it would turn out that way. Inspired by actual events, the book is ideal for sharing aloud because many listeners may see parts of themselves in the main characters, who are unable or unwilling to face the consequences of their actions.

    Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor's in Communications, a master's in English Education from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

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

     
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    Intrigued at First Glance

    By Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 22, 2016

    Many books make their way into my hands, and I have a shelf on a bookcase in my bedroom where I put the books I am especially eager to read. Some of these books go on the shelf because they are by a favorite author or illustrator, others because I am interested the topic. The books selected for this column are ones from that special shelf. I’ll also admit this:I do sometimes judge a book by its cover, but I never read the jacket blurb.

    Ages 4–8

    Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig.
    Deborah Hopkinson. Ill. Charlotte Voake. 2016. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    beatrix potter guinea pigThe “unfortunate tale” Hopkinson relates occurs when Beatrix, who loves to draw pictures of animals, borrows a neighbor’s guinea pig, Queen Elizabeth, to serve as a model. All is going well with the portrait until Beatrix is called to dinner and leaves the guinea pig uncaged. Unfortunately, Queen Elizabeth dines on Beatrix’s art supplies and dies during the night. Hopkinson writes this fictionalized biography of Beatrix Potter (1866–1943) in the form of a picture letter to the reader in the fashion of Beatrix Potter’s writing of her early stories. Voake’s softly colored ink and watercolor paintings complement the text. Hopkinson adds a P.S. (Author’s Note) with information on Beatrix Potter’s life and writing and photographs.

    The Bear and the Piano. David Litchfield. 2016. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    the bear and the pianoAfter years of practicing on an upright piano he found in a forest clearing as a cub, a bear has become a musician. Other bears gather each evening to hear him play, and when the talented bear is discovered by a father and daughter, they take him to the city where he is soon playing grand pianos at sold-out concerts.  In spite of the pleasure the bear has in performing and receiving standing ovations from audiences, he misses the forest. Returning home, he finds his friends have saved the piano and have been following his success. The bear sits down to play once more “for the most important audience of all.” Litchfield’s stunning mixed-media illustrations convey all the emotions of the bear as he follows his dream of making beautiful music while never forgetting his friends and forest home.

    Bloom. Doreen Cronin. Ill. David Small. 2016. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    bloomUnappreciated in a glass kingdom, Bloom, a helpful but messy fairy, leaves to live in the forest. Years later the glass kingdom is badly in need of Bloom’s magic to repair it to its former glory. The King and Queen seek out Bloom, and both royals are appalled when she suggests that a bucket of mud is the answer to the glass kingdom’s problems. It takes Genevieve, a small, quiet servant, to accept the possibility of a bucket of mud being the magical ingredient to save the kingdom. And so, starting with a bucket of mud, Bloom provides Genevieve, who thinks she is just ordinary, the means for doing something extraordinary—rebuilding the kingdom with bricks. Small’s expressive ink-and-watercolor illustrations add a magical touch to this modern fairy tale that offers a gentle lesson on girl-power: “There is no such thing as an ordinary girl.”

    Whoops! Suzi Moore. Ill. Russell Ayto. 2016.Templar/Candlewick.

    whoopsA cat, a dog, and a mouse—none of whom can make the sounds appropriate to their species—seek out the “old lady in the tumbledown house,” who can cast a spell to make them well.  Consulting her big spell book she casts a spell. The cat says, “CLUCK!”; the dog says, “QUACK!”; and the mouse says, “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!” The little old lady says, “WHOOPS!” It takes three more tries before she gets it right. The cat, dog, and mouse finally have proper voices, but what happens to the old lady is a giggle-inducing surprise. A rhythmic, repetitive text peppered with animals sounds and onomatopoeic flashes and crashes and rumblings as the magic spells are cast and stylized mixed-media illustrations set against brightly colored backgrounds make Whoops! a great read aloud.

    Ages 9–11

    The Door by the Staircase. Katherine Marsh. Ill. Kelly Murphy. 2016. Disney-Hyperion.

    the door by the staircaseWhen 12-year-old orphaned Mary Hayes is adopted by a mysterious elderly woman, Madame Zolotaya, and taken to the small town of Iris, she is delighted to be free of the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever. In her new home, she has her own bedroom, is given new clothes, and is fed luscious, all-she-can-eat meals. Exploring Iris, Mary is intrigued by the curious shops of fortune tellers, spiritualists, a fire-eater, a tea-leaf reader, and magicians, and makes friends with Jacob, the son of an illusionist. When Mary learns that Madam Z is actually Baba Yaga, the powerful witch who eats children, she begins to plan her escape with the help of Jacob. Marsh’s well-crafted fantasy blends high adventure with magic, humor, and folklore coming to a suspenseful and surprising conclusion.

    Tru & Nelle. G. Neri. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    tru and nelleOne summer in the 1930s, Nelle, the local tomboy of Monroeville, AL, makes friends with Tru, a fancy-dressing 7-year-old boy from the big city of New Orleans who comes to live with his cousins in a house next door to Nelle. Their shared love of books, especially detective stories, fuels their adventurous play and lands them in danger as they set out to solve a real mystery that involves them in a scary close encounter with the Ku Klux Klan. As a tie-in to Tru and Nelle’s writing of stories in the novel, Neri adds six short stories about their adventures, written as he imagines the young children would have written them. The author’s note provides a context for his novel about the childhood friendship of the two famous authors, Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

    Ages 12–14

    Going Where It’s Dark. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. 2016. Delacorte/Random House.

    going where it's darkThirteen-year-old Buck Anderson has a lot of challenges in his young life. He is bullied by classmates because he stutters; his only friend, David, has moved away; and his uncle has made arrangement for him to do chores for a grumpy, reclusive neighbor. The one joy in Buck’s life is exploring underground caves around his Virginia hometown, something he and David had done together and he now does on his own in secret, knowing that he is breaking the cardinal rule of never exploring a cave alone. He is also keeping another secret: The neighbor, who is a retired Army speech therapist, is helping him learn to control his stuttering. As Buck acts on his plan to explore the possibility that a hole he has discovered might be the entrance to an unknown cave, his tormentors drop him into the off-limits “Pit” near town and his spelunking skills and courage are put to the ultimate test.

    Ages 15+

    We Are the Ants. Shaun David Hutchinson. 2016. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    we are the antsIf the title of this book doesn’t grab your attention, the first sentence, “Life is bullshit,” will. By the end of the first chapter, the narrator has declared with assurance that you are mistaken if you believe that you matter in the universe. “But you don’t.  Because we are the ants.” If you still aren’t hooked, you will be when you read that aliens have been abducting the narrator, Henry Denton, periodically since he was 13. Each time aboard their spaceship the aliens reveal a different way in which the world might end to Henry and show him a red button which will permit him to save the world if he pushes it. Back home Henry is dealing with a troubled life, including trying to understand why his boyfriend, Jesse, committed suicide and surviving the physical and mental abuse of classmates who call him Space Boy. Seemingly searching for a reason why the world deserves a future—why he should push the red button—he repeatedly asks individuals, “If you knew the world was going to end but you could prevent it, would you?”  But does the answer even matter, if Henry can’t find a way of first saving himself?  

    Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University.

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

     
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    Books to Change Your Perspective

    By Barbara Ward
     | Feb 15, 2016

    When most of us begin to read, we are often drawn to books featuring familiar characters, settings, and experiences. Being able to see those experiences mirrored in our reading material can be validating and can keep readers returning to shelves in search of similar books. But as we grow older and more experienced as readers, we look for books that help us see the world differently. This week’s featured books highlight titles that help readers look at life through different lenses. Some of these just might change our lives and—at the very least—they may alter our worldviews.

    Ages 4–8

    Green Lizards vs. Red Rectangles. Steve Antony. 2015. Scholastic.

    Green lizards v red rectanglesSorting out what is at the root of most conflicts can be hard. Often, it’s something quite small such as being a different size, color, or shape. In this picture book, the only thing that’s clear from the start is the green lizards and the red rectangles are at war. As the conflict escalates, only one lizard even questions why they are fighting, and he ends up being beaten down for it. After exhausting all their resources, the two sides broker a peaceful coexistence in a creative way. Seems those lizards and rectangles had more in common than they originally thought. Originally published in the United Kingdom, the book makes excellent use of contrasting colors, shapes, and sizes to deliver its message.

    Lenny & Lucy. Philip C. Stead. Ill. Erin E. Stead. 2015. Roaring Brook/Macmillan.

    lenny and lucyTo his dismay and palpable unhappiness, Peter and his father move to a new place in the country. Nothing is as it was back home, and Peter draws comfort from his dog, Harold. But the house’s proximity to a bridge leading to some woods makes Peter anxious, and he fashions a Guardian of the Bridge with blankets and pillows. When he considers that this guardian, Lenny, might be lonely too, he creates a companion for him, Lucy. Then Millie, the girl next door, joins the group for play. The book’s cover is almost irresistible in its pathos as Peter watches all that is familiar being left behind. Created with carbon transfer printing, egg tempera, and charcoal, the illustrations are memorable, with a quietly meditative quality that prompts reflection. The story itself provides quiet reassurance that even in an unfamiliar place, there are new friends and routines to be found. Young readers may enjoy looking for the owl that appears on various pages and being reminded that having company helps dissipate most fears of the darkness and the unknown.

    Ages 9–11

    Claude in the Country. Alex T. Smith. 2016. Peachtree.

    claude in the countryClaude, an adorable black-and-white dog who has more adventures than most humans, heads off for a trip to the country in this, his sixth outing. Along with his more reticent friend, Sir Bobblysock, the pair look for a day of relaxation and a change of scenery and find more than their share of trouble, as usual. After helping Mrs. Cowpat, a friendly farmer, by herding the sheep, gathering eggs, and cleaning the pigs, they head to the fair. The unflappable Claude even rescues a snooty judge from a raging bull. The story line and digital artwork are appealing to young readers for many reasons: the droll humor, the reference to cow patties, and curiosity as to what animals actually do while their humans are at work.

    Happy Birthday, Alice Babette. Monica Kulling. Ill. Qin Leng. 2016. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    happy birthday alice babetteBirthdays are usually cause for celebration but, as this picture book shows, it is possible to enjoy the important day even when others seem to have forgotten it. In fact, celebrations can be fashioned from life’s most mundane moments or a walk through town. Based on the lives of writer Gertrude Stein and her companion, Alice B. Toklas, this picture book describes how Gertrude pretends not to have remembered Alice’s birthday while planning to surprise her with a feast complete with a cake. However, nothing goes as she plans. Although Gertrude gathers all the ingredients together with no problem, once she begins cooking and baking, she becomes distracted and forgets to keep an eye on the food. It is debatable whether getting down a certain thought or finishing a painting is more important than preparing a meal. Even though Gertrude’s plans to provide a splendid surprise for Alice don’t work out, Alice ends up having plenty of adventures—or, as she describes it, “a day of marvels”—as she meanders through the city. The illustrations, created with ink and then colored digitally, pay tribute to the delights of Paris where the story is set as well as a good friend’s best intentions, which surely should count for something.

    Ages 12–14

    Anna and the Swallow Man. Gavriel Savit. 2016. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    anna and the swallow manHolocaust stories abound, but this one offers something different. Set in Kraków, Poland, in 1939, the story follows young Anna Lania after she takes up with a man who has an affinity for birds. After her college professor father disappears during a purge of the city’s intellectuals, Anna has nowhere to go and she follows the mysterious man she knows only as the Swallow Man through the city streets and the woods. He teaches her survival skills and tells her stories. A master of disguises, he is clearly a brilliant man with some sort of tragedy in his past, but he never offers any explanations. When Anna befriends a Jewish man, the Swallow Man reluctantly allows him to join them. As they wander back and forth through various parts of the countryside, the Swallow Man keeps his own demons at bay until running out of medicine. Anna must figure out a way to save him for himself. Through it all, Anna learns important lessons about trust, difficult decisions, and the beauty that sometimes nestles within the harshest of moments. Readers will come to care for this young girl and hope with every fiber in their being that she finds something wonderful waiting for her at the end of her journey.

    Claudia and Mean Janine (The Baby-Sitters Club #4). Raina Telgemeier. 2016. Graphix/Scholastic.

    claudia and mean janineBased on the popular The Baby-Sitters Club series written by Ann M. Martin, this graphic novel version remains faithful to the original series’ intent and flavor, and readers will quickly relate to the characters as Claudia struggles with her feelings of inferiority because her parents seem to favor her older sister Janine who makes excellent grades while Claudia is lucky if she brings home Cs. The girls’ feuding continues even after their grandmother is hospitalized with a stroke. There is just enough focus on each of the members of the club and Claudia’s family and neighborhood to keep readers engaged, especially because there are shifting dynamics within the group as they head into their eighth grade year. Refreshingly, the book features self-empowered girls who aren’t caught up in the search for the right makeup or boyfriend. Readers will chortle at the depiction of many funny scenes concerning babysitting, including persuading a child that getting a little soiled is OK and the perils of washing a dog without a leash. Readers will never look at babysitting or family dynamics in quite the same way.

    Up From the Sea. Leza Lowitz. 2016. Crown.

    up from the seaWhen a powerful earthquake and tsunami turn Kai’s life upside down on March 11, 2011, he must deal with the loss of his family and several classmates. The book’s opening pages describe the speed with which the sea rushes to shore, decimating the Tohoku region of Japan with almost 16,000 lives lost, as its force destroys almost all of the homes and trees in its path. The author relates Kai’s journey of recovery through a novel in verse, describing in vivid, heart-pounding language his desperate attempts to escape the water. Afterward, of course, there is almost nothing left, and Kai becomes depressed, embittered, angry, and unwilling to respond to the helping hands of others. When he has the chance to meet with disaster survivors from the Twin Towers terrorist attack in New York and hear their stories, however, Kai summons the strength and will to go on. Upon his return to Japan, he is beginning to heal, and finds a renewed purpose as he reaches out to others through his passion for soccer.

    Ages 15+

    Arrows. Melissa Gorzelanczyk. 2016. Delacorte/Random House.

    arrowsMost readers can relate to the plight of Karma Clark, caught up in a relationship with a guy who everyone knows is wrong for her. No matter how bad things get—and they get very bad—she just can’t fight her feelings for Danny. As it turns out, her unreasonable passion for this cad can be blamed on an arrow which started that crazy thing called love from Aaryn (Cupid’s son). Another of Aaryn’s arrows, the one intended for Danny, was a dud, and Danny is unable to reciprocate Karma’s boundless passion. Karma, a talented ballerina, becomes pregnant, has a daughter named Nell, and postpones her college plans while Danny messes around in every sense of the phrase. The remorseful Aaryn tries to straighten out the mess he left behind in Wisconsin, but he falls for Karma while seeing how Danny mistreats her. This book is the perfect antidote for those contemplating changing themselves for someone else or those tempted to wrap up all their emotions, dreams, and plans for the future in another. Although the book offers several humorous moments, it also firmly reminds readers to avoid anyone who refuses to support them or tries to hold them back. Sure to prompt conversations about relationships and choices, this book offers a unique perspective on how much say we actually have when it comes to falling in—and out of—love.

    Up to This Pointe. Jennifer Longo. 2016. Random House.

    up to this pointeFor most of her 17 years, Harper Scott has dreamed of a career in a ballet company. She has given up a great deal, including food, free time, and relationships, but is certain her sacrifices will be worth it. However, when the plans that she and her best friend, Kate, have don’t pan out, she impulsively heads as far away from her San Francisco home as she possibly can. Finagling her way onto a six-month-long research expedition in the Antarctic and trading on her ancestor’s name—yes, she’s related to the Robert Falcon Scott who explored the region a century ago—Harper has plenty of time to contemplate her choices and figure out a future that might still have room for dance. As an assistant to Charlotte, who is studying the effects of humans on the Adelie penguins, Harper realizes that running away from her problems hasn’t really made them go away. Eventually she must return to face the music and find a way to keep doing the thing she loves but on different terms than she originally planned.

    Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor's in Communications, a master's in English Education from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

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

     
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