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    Adventure and Survival Stories

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Nov 07, 2016

    Whether fiction or nonfiction, adventure and survival stories are welcome additions to classroom and library collections. This collection of reviews includes humans, other animals, and even a few fantasy creatures in adventures—large and small—and incredible stories of survival that are good choices for either reading aloud or reading independently.

    Ages 4–8

    Lucy & Company. Marianne Dubuc. 2016. Kids Can.

    Lucy and CompanyIn three episodic stories, Lucy and Company share mini-adventures. In “The Snack,” Lucy makes four new friends—Marcel, a mouse; Henry, a rabbit; Dot, a tortoise; and Adrian, a snail—when they share snack time on a tree branch. In “The Treasure Hunt,” Lucy finds a treasure map, and after mistaking sleeping Anton, a bear, for the rock by the red X on the map, they dig up a surprise, a birthday treasure for Henry. In “The Hatchlings,” when chicks hatch from three eggs Adrian has discovered, the friends need to find a cozy spot to keep them warm, and this time the surprise is on Anton. Sunny pencil-and-watercolor illustrations show Lucy and her animal friends, with rosy cheeks and smiles, enjoying their time together in the woods.
    —CA

    Poles Apart. Jeanne Willis. Ill. Jarvis. 2016. Nosy Crow/Candlewick.

    Poles ApartOn an outing, the Pilchard-Browns, a penguin family, become lost and end up at the North Pole (a 12,430-mile wrong turn), where they meet Mr. White, a polar bear wearing a tiny, red bowler. When Mr. Pilchard-Brown admits to his map-reading mistake, Mr. White says, “Don’t think of it as a mistake. Think of it as the start of a big adventure.” When he offers to help them get back home, the penguins follow Mr. White over land and sea, visiting the United States, England, Italy, India, and Australia, before reaching the South Pole. Once he’s back, Mr. White is happy to have fulfilled his dream of being the first polar bear to reach the South Pole, but sad that he’ll never see another penguin. What follows will be a surprise except for those who have been paying close attention to the details of the clever illustrations (Hint: Keep an eye on Mr. White’s hat.).
    —CA

    Return (Journey #3). Aaron Becker. 2016. Candlewick.

    ReturnIn this conclusion to his wordless trilogy, Becker’s spectacular watercolor-and-ink artwork invites readers to join the lonely girl who fails to get the attention of her preoccupied artist father as she uses a red crayon to draw a door through which she returns to a fantastical kingdom. This time, however, her father follows, and they share adventures in which he becomes a hero by thwarting a villain who is wielding a contraption that destroys crayon magic. With crayon magic restored in the kingdom, father and daughter return to their home. The final page suggests that their time together in this fantasy world has resulted in a bonding that will have them spending more time together.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    I Survived: The Hindenburg Disaster, 1937 (I Survived #13). Lauren Tarshis. Ill. Scott Dawson. 2016. Scholastic.

    I Survived HindenburgIt is 7:25 p.m. on May 6, 1937. Tarshis begins this I Survived book with a dramatic statement: “In seconds, the Hindenburg would explode.” The story of the three-day journey of the Hindenburg, a German zeppelin, across the Atlantic Ocean that ended in disaster in New Jersey is narrated by 11-year-old Hugo Ballard. Hugo’s family is traveling to America, seeking a cure for his 4-year-old sister, Gertie, who contracted malaria in Kenya. Also aboard is Nazi Colonel Kohl, who is searching for a spy. When Gertie takes a turn for the worse and asks him to bring their dog, Panya, to her, Hugo, who has had a tour of the airship, sneaks into the cargo area. There he encounters and befriends the spy whom Kohl is trying to capture. Hugo’s story is fictional, but it is based upon historical facts related to the Hindenburg disaster in which some passengers and crew members did survive. Back matter includes an author’s note, a timeline of events leading up to the Hindenburg’s explosion, a Q & A section with the author, a bibliography, and a list of resources.
    —NB

    The Kidnap Plot (The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie #1). Dave Butler. 2016. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    The Kidnap PlotTen-year-old Charlie Pondicherry is living a sequestered life in Victorian England when his father, an inventor and clockmaker, is kidnapped by the underground Anti-Human League. On a quest to find his father, Charlie bravely enlists the aid of two aeronauts (customers of his father), a gigantic troll, and a pixie. Thrown headfirst into a steampunk adventure, Charlie and his motley crew unexpectedly uncover an even more nefarious scheme against Queen Victoria that they must stop. In this fast-paced adventure, Charlie finds that courage, family, and friendship are necessary for overcoming evil and also discovers something unbelievable about his own identity.
    —NB

    Survivors: Swamp: Louisiana, 1851. Kathleen Duey & Karen A. Bale. 2016. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    Survivors SwampIt’s 1851 in the Bayou Teche in Louisiana, and life isn’t fair for 12-year-old Lily LeGrand or her Cajun community. Lily, born with a lame foot, has been cruelly bullied by the twin sons, William and Mark, of the Courville plantation, who follow in their father’s prejudiced footsteps. After Paul Courville, the youngest son, befriends Lily against the twins’ latest painful prank, they haul him to the swamp where they abandon him, only to find themselves lost, too. When Lily hears that Paul has gone missing, she knows she can use her knowledge of the swamp to save him. Against her father’s orders, Lily sneaks out into the treacherous terrain filled with danger at every turn to rescue Paul—and finds even more than she expected. Young readers will be drawn into this thrilling story about a young heroine who selflessly fights to save her friend’s life.
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Girl on a Plane. Miriam Moss. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    girl on a planeIn September 1970, 15-year-old Anna boards a British Overseas Airways plane in Bahrain to fly back to boarding school in England. The plane is hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the pilot is forced to land on an isolated airstrip in the Jordanian desert. The guerillas threaten to blow up the plane and kill all the passengers in three days if their demand for the release of a PFLP member imprisoned in England is not met. In addition, with the plane’s power cut off, passengers suffer from extreme daytime heat and nighttime cold, and as food and water supplies are exhausted, Anna faces the possibility that she may not live to see her family again. This novel is based on Moss’s personal story of surviving the hijacking of a plane by Palestinian terrorists in 1970.
    —CA

    A Storm Too Soon: A Remarkable True Survival Story in 80-Foot Seas (True Storm Rescues). Michael J. Tougias. 2016. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt.

    a storm too soonThis adaptation for young readers of A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival, and an Incredible Rescue (2013) is the story of three sailors who set out from Florida on May 2, 2007, to cross the Atlantic Ocean to France on a 44-foot sailboat named Sean Seamour II. Three weeks before the official start of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, they encounter the fury of the unpredicted extratropical cyclone that evolved into subtropical storm Andrea. When the Sean Seamour II sinks, the three are set adrift on a life boat in 80-foot waves. The story of their life-threatening ordeal and the heroism of their rescuers, the four members of a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter crew, takes readers on an unforgettable adventure at sea.
    —CA

    To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party. Skila Brown. 2016. Candlewick.

    to stay aliveNineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves, an actual survivor of the ill-fated crossing of the Sierra Nevada range by members of the Donner Party, is the narrator of this novel in verse. In the spring of 1846, Mary Ann is excited to set out with her family as they leave their home in Illinois to travel west to California. The lyrical language of Brown’s poetry conveys the hardships the wagon train encounters as it moves across the vast wilderness and then the unexpected harshness of an early winter, which brings a shift from enthusiasm for a trailblazing adventure to despair among the starving and freezing pioneers. Back matter includes an author’s note on historical context and a list of the families in the Donner Party.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Invisible Fault Lines. Kristen-Paige Madonia. 2016. Simon & Schuster.

    invisible fault linesCallie’s father inexplicably disappears one day. No one knows where he is, and she is in mourning for him. Her mind runs over possibilities: Did he have an accident at the construction site where he worked? Is he wandering somewhere with amnesia? Because authorities can’t locate him, Callie decides to investigate on her own. She stumbles across an exhibit on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake with what appears to be a photograph of her father in it. Is this a coincidence? Did he have an ancestor living during that time? Told from both Callie’s point of view and that of the man in the photo, this novel blends historical fiction with the reality of bereaved Callie, a 16-year-old girl living in present-day San Francisco and searching desperately for her father.
    —NB

    Learning to Swear in America. Katie Kennedy. 2016. Bloomsbury.

    learning to swear in americaDisaster is imminent. The stakes are life or death for 17-year-old Dr. Yuri Strelnikov, a Russian physics prodigy in the running for the Nobel Prize, whose work on antimatter could save Southern California from being destroyed by an asteroid. Yuri is assigned to a team of middle-aged NASA scientists in Pasadena, California, who refuse to listen to him or consider his solution. Dismayed to discover that a colleague in Russia has absconded with his work, Yuri is anxious to return home to defend his research but discovers that the United States, which is practically treating him like a prisoner, does not plan to release him to Russia after D-Day (if they don’t all perish in the collision). When he meets Dovie and her brother, lonely Yuri learns there is more to life than math and science. He finally has a personal reason to survive, but will he be able to circumvent NASA’s ill-conceived plans in time—and is he right?
    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, CA. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, 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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    War and Its Aftermath

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Oct 31, 2016

    War and its aftermath can be hard to tackle in the classroom. Rather than glorifying military might, many recently published books for young people highlight the enormous costs of conflicts, whether they occur in a small region or globally. And sometimes, courage and heroism can come in small packages—and even on four feet.

    Ages 4–8

    Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (with Tuan Ho). Ill. Brian Deines. 2016. Pajama Press.

    adrift at seaAfter the U.S. military left South Vietnam, many Vietnamese who had befriended Americans were worried about their fate. They were so desperate for safety that some took huge risks to leave the region. In this visually stunning picture book—the first to explore this troubling time—readers learn of the dangerous journey taken by 6-year-old Tuan Ho and his family in 1981. Slipping away under cover of darkness, the family ends up on an overcrowded fishing boat that breaks down, leaving them stranded and suffering from thirst and punishing heat for four days before being rescued by an American aircraft carrier. The evocative text and powerful illustrations, painted with oils, enable readers to feel as though they, too, are refugees adrift at sea during this risky journey to freedom. Back matter includes family photographs, showing Tuan Ho’s family then and now, as well as a brief discussion of the events that led to the family's flight from Vietnam to Canada.

    The Three Lucys. Hayan Charara. Ill. Sara Kahn. 2016. Lee & Low.

    the three lucysLuli, a young Lebanese boy, worries about his three cats, Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny, and Lucy Lucy. He and his family are unable to return to their home on the border between Lebanon and Israel during bombing raids between the Israelis and Hezbollah, so they seek refuge with Uncle Adel and Aunt Layla in Beirut. When the family returns home after a month, Luli is heartbroken by the loss of one beloved feline. As he watches his town being rebuilt and mourns his lost cat, Luli finds joy in remembering her and imagining a world in which there are no wars and no wartime casualties. The text and watercolor illustrations of this story, based on the experiences of the author’s family in Lebanon during the July War of 2006, perfectly depict this confusing time and Luli’s feelings about what he has lost.

    Tuesday Takes Me There: The Healing Journey of a Veteran and His Service Dog. Luis Carlos Montalván (with Bret Witter). 2016. Post Hill.

    tuesday takes me thereThis stunning photo essay follows veteran Luis Montalván and his service dog, Tuesday, on a typical day. Using various forms of transportation, the two travel from Staten Island to Manhattan and across New York City, on to Washington, DC, and finally to Maryland for a visit to a library. Because the story is told from Tuesday’s point of view, it is easy to see the trust and affection between the golden retriever and Luis as they embrace new experiences and navigate busy streets. In a vivid reminder that, for many, war doesn’t end when the battles are over, readers observe how Tuesday helps Luis cope with PTSD from his time in Iraq. The book, which features colorful photographs throughout, casts their journey as a mission. The book ends with the two companions sharing their story to an enraptured storytime audience. Pair this book with Montalván’s Tuesday Tucks Me In (2014).

    Ages 9–11

    Paws of Courage: True Tales of Heroic Dogs That Protect and Serve. Nancy Furstinger. 2016. National Geographic.

    paw of courageHeroes come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes those heroes have fur coats and four paws. In this photo-filled volume, readers meet 22 dogs that have served their country during wartime or during peacetime, sniffing out drugs, locating bombs, and finding lost individuals. Describing how dogs suited to this particular type of work are identified and trained, the book also makes note of the strong bond that often exists between war and service dogs and their human companions. Readers will be touched by the stories featuring Bretagne, one of the canines that searched for survivors at the World Trade Towers in 2001; Layka, a Belgian Malinois that saved the lives of soldiers in Afghanistan; and Mas, a Newfoundland that leaps from helicopters to rescue drowning swimmers. Providing a different perspective on our furry friends, the book also includes historical notes about other dogs that have been celebrated for their feats of courage.

    Ages 12–14

    The Boy at the Top of the Mountain. John Boyne. 2016. Henry Holt.

    the boy at the top of the mountainAfter the deaths of his parents, 7-year-old Pierrot Fischer moves from Paris to an orphanage and then to the Austrian retreat of Adolf Hitler, where his paternal Aunt Beatrix is the housekeeper, in 1936. Because of his desire to please, Pieter becomes the Führer’s special pet, and he learns about power, arrogance, prejudice, and betrayal from Hitler’s example. Readers will watch in horror as Pieter transforms from a naïve, innocent child, grateful for the smallest attentions, into an adolescent who betrays those who have had only the best intentions for him and provided love and kindness during his time with the power-mad Hitler. Although the book's ending shows that Pieter has learned some important lessons, those lessons come far too late to atone for his actions.

    The Enemy Above: A Novel of World War II. Michael P. Spradlin. 2016. Scholastic.

    the enemy aboveAs the Germans move irrevocably closer, 12-year-old Anton Bielski and the remaining members of his family seek refuge in a cave near their small Ukrainian village, but their safety does not last. Major Karl Von Duesen, who has made his career on the basis of rounding up Jews, captures Anton's beloved grandmother, the fierce and outspoken Bubbe, and two others hiding in the cave. Anton concocts a risky plan to rescue them. Told from the alternating perspectives of Anton and the Major, the book offers insight into the characters’ thought processes. There are few books for middle graders about the war being fought on the Russian front during World War II, and this one effectively prompts readers to wonder about their own actions had they been faced with the might of the German army.

    Vietnam: A History of the War. Russell Freedman. 2016. Holiday House.

    vietnam a history of the warToday’s history textbooks spend little time on the divisive war that took place in the small country of Vietnam. This balanced account introduces readers to several important figures in Vietnam's complex history and chronicles the increasing involvement of United States. Drawing from newspaper and first-hand accounts of the war from the front lines and comments from insiders, Freedman covers the involvement of the United States, whose own soldiers weren’t sure why they were in Vietnam. Illustrated with archival photographs, the book contains many important stories and perspectives, including reflections on the U.S. military's last days in Vietnam, that offer a lens through which to consider some of this country’s more recent military action overseas.

    Ages 15+

    The Darkest Hour. Caroline Tung Richmond. 2016. Scholastic.

    the darkest hourSixteen-year-old Lucie Blaise volunteers for the Office of Strategic Services during WWII after her brother Theo’s death. She joins a group of female spies in France who learn about a secret weapon being developed by the Nazis. The fast-paced novel is filled with action and suspense that will have readers feeling as though they are right alongside those young spies, racing through the fields, hiding in farmhouses, and crossing the mountains—and possibly leaving them speculating about a very different outcome of the war had the Nazis' secret plans succeeded. Theo's treasured letters to his sister offer a personal glimpse into the war and prompt readers to redefine the term heroism. As Lucie’s story concludes, she is a very different girl from the one readers meet at the start of the book, reminding them that war affects civilians as well as those on the front lines.

    The Last Full Measure (Divided We Fall #3). Trent Reedy. 2016. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

    the last full measureDanny Wright, who accidentally started the Second American War in Boise, ID, is sick of fighting and tired of various sides trying to make him part of their propaganda machine. When he and his fiancée, JoBell Linder, go back home to Freedom Lake, they quickly realize that the leaders of the Brotherhood of the White Eagle, a group of vigilantes who opposed the federal government’s attempts at controlling the states, are racist and intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their values. Alongside his steadfast friends, Danny and more than 100 others flee to the Alice Marshall School, buried deep in the Idaho mountains. Their subsequent decision to liberate a nearby Brotherhood slave farm leads to unexpected consequences. Danny’s friends are the lucky ones, however. As the infrastructure of the country fractures, U.S. citizens begin starving to death, and priorities about what matters shift. Ultimately, Danny realizes that what matters most is loyalty to family and friends, being true to himself, and doing the right thing.

    Poppy. Mary Hooper. 2016. Bloomsbury.

    poppyFifteen-year-old Poppy Pearson leaves her life as a servant to a wealthy British family and joins the Voluntary Aid Detachment in 1914 as England plunges deeper into World War I. She is motivated to escape the feelings she has for Freddie, the younger son in the family, and to make her own contribution during the war while her brother Billy volunteers for military service. Although Poppy’s journey of self-discovery is intriguing in its own right, the story has added appeal because of its focus on the effects of war on both its combatants and those back home. As the body count mounts and the conflict rages on, wounded veterans fill the hospital beds where Poppy works, bringing with them terrible memories and extremely painful physical damages. Billy returns home but under suspicion for the actions that brought him there. The author’s thorough research is evident in every line, and readers can sense the social changes that are coming on the heels of this war. This is no celebration of the acts of courage or fighting the good fight or having a stiff upper lip; instead, readers are treated to the unsavory reality of war and how no one was left unscathed by this fierce global conflict. 

    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 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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    'Tis the Season for Spooky Stories

    By Jennifer W. Shettel
     | Oct 24, 2016

    For a lot of the world monsters, ghosts, witches, and other creepy creatures get their time in the spotlight—or should we say moonlight?—every October. It’s time to break out the spooky (and not-too-spooky) stories for readers of all ages. Happy hauntings!

    Ages 4–8

    Bad Kitty: Scaredy-Cat. Nick Bruel. 2016. Neal Porter/Roaring Book.

    scaredy-catNick Bruel brings his graphic-novel star Bad Kitty into a picture book in this Halloween-themed ABC book. Bruel weaves in four runs through the alphabet: Kitty’s characteristics before “one dark and foggy night;” her encounters with a variety of costumed trick-or-treaters, which turn her into Scaredy-Cat; the tasty treats she discovers the children have; and recovery of her “true self” when badBad Kitty takes on each of the trick-or-treaters. Bruel’s full-color cartoon-style illustrations evoke all of Bad Kitty’s personality traits and add to the comic element of the story.

    The Big Monster Snorey Book. Leigh Hodgkinson. 2016. Nosy Crow/Candlewick.

    the big monster snorey bookMonsters make a lot of noise when they sleep! The snoring, grunting, toe-tapping, sleep-talking creatures soundly snooze through this book. Waking up all at once and realizing they are very, very hungry, they go on the search for a little monster to eat. Luckily, Little Monster has been recording all of their sleeping noises. By replaying them at high volume, he scares the big monsters away and gets some sleep of his own. Young readers will enjoy following Little Monster’s plan of action throughout the colorful digitally-designed illustrations in this quirky monster tale.

    Boo! Haiku. Deanna Caswell. Ill. Bob Shea. 2016. Abrams Appleseed/Abrams.

    boo haikuWith 10 Halloween-themed haikus, Caswell introduces young readers to this poetic form, creating riddle verses that give clues to the identity of various Halloween characters. Readers are encouraged to guess which character is described in each poem before it is revealed with a turn of the page. For example, “an orange porch pal / scooped for pie and roasted seeds / a candlelit grin.” Back matter provides an explanation of the haiku form, including the meaning of haikus, the traditional syllable structure, and a description of how to count syllables in a word. Boo Haiku is a great springboard to creating haiku holiday verses.

    Hey, That’s My Monster! Amanda Noll. Ill. Howard McWilliam. 2016. Flashlight.

    hey that's my monsterIt turns out that monsters really do live under beds, and they are there for a reason: to make sure kids go to sleep and stay in their beds at night. In this story, big brother Ethan thinks that his little sister, Emma, could use a monster of her own to help her stay in her new toddler bed. But when his monster, Gabe, winds up in her room, Ethan must devise a plan to get Gabe back. After several tries, Ethan finds the perfect under-the-bed monster for Emma. Pencil-drawn, digitally-colored illustrations brighten the pages of this not-too-scary monster story.

    Ages 9–11

    Fright-lopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy, and Spine-Chilling, From Arachnids to Zombies. Julie Winterbottom. Ill. Stefano Tambellini. 2016. Workman.

    frightlopediaThis A-to-Z collection of all things scary includes fictional favorites like werewolves and Sasquatch as well as real-life terrors such as killer bees, sharks, and jellyfish! Each two- to six-page encyclopedia-style entry includes factual details and stories along with photographs and drawings and a Fright-Meter, which classifies the entry on a 1–3 scary scale. A “Horrifying How-To” section offers hands-on activities for terrifying friends and family. Other features include a table of contents, call-out boxes, infographics, and even a zombie quiz.

    The Mystery of the Haunted Farm. Elys Dolan. 2016. Nosy Crow/Candlewick.

    the mystery of the haunted farmThis detailed picture book uses a comic-book format to tell the story of paranormal activity on Farmer Greg’s farm. When Farmer Greg senses something is not quite right, he calls in The Three Pigs Ghost-Hunters, who quickly arrive in their Ghostbuster-style van filled with the latest equipment, including the Scare-o-Meter and the Phantom Finder 5000. But be forewarned: What the Ghost-Hunters find will surprise you! With colorful double-page and panel-style illustrations filled with speech bubbles, this picture book is a good introduction to the graphic novel format as well as a silly, not-too-scary, story for young readers.

    Ages 12–14

    Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Part One and Part Two. J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorpe. 2016. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

    harry potter and the cursed childFans of Rowling’s Harry Potter series will enjoy reading this story of what happened after Harry, Ron, and Hermione grew up, which begins where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows left off. This script book takes readers back to the world of Hogwarts Academy, where the children of the beloved characters are now enrolled in the famous school for wizards. As Harry’s son Albus and his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy, try to undo parts of Harry’s legacy by travelling back in time, readers will be reminded of what they loved about the Harry Potter fantasy and are likely to find themselves wanting to reread all seven of the books in the series. The huge cast of witches, wizards, Dark Lords, and other magical and supernatural characters and the stage directions, many of which help the reader imagine frightening events, make this good reading (or, better yet, Readers Theatre) fare for the Halloween season.

    The Inn Between. Marina Cohen. 2016. Roaring Brook.

    the inn betweenWhen 11-year-old Quinn Martin goes on a road trip with her friend Kara’s family, they stay at a charming little hotel called The Inn Between in the Nevada desert. However, it quickly becomes evident that this is no ordinary hotel, and when Kara’s parents and brother suddenly disappear, Quinn and Kara find themselves caught up in a strange and mysterious adventure. This ghostly story with a setting reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining is a scary first foray into the horror genre.

    Ages 15+

    How to Hang a Witch. Adriana Mather. 2016. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    how to hang a witchWhat better setting for a story about modern-day witches than Salem, MA? Sixteen-year-old Samantha Mather has recently moved to Salem to be closer to the hospital where her comatose father is being cared for. However, her arrival has thrown a group of teenage girls known as “The Descendants” into a frenzy of bullying and intimidation. In addition, Samantha is dealing with the presence of the ghost of a teenage boy who lived in her house during the Salem Witch trials, and as if things couldn’t get worse, she may be cursed as well. As late October days tick steadily by, the tension in this YA novel increases to its frightening resolution. (Fun fact: The author, Adriana Mather, is a 12th generation descendent of Cotton Mather, who played a large role in the real-life Salem Witch Trials of the late 1690s.)

    Macbeth #killingit. William Shakespeare & Courtney Carbone. 2016. Random House.

    macbeth killing itEven readers who haven’t read the complete Shakespeare play know the famous chant of the three witches from Macbeth: “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” This modern-day adaptation of Macbeth utilizes a texting and screen-capture format to reimagine the classic through a lens familiar to today’s tech-savvy readers. Those familiar with the Bard’s play will smile as Macbeth pins favorites to his “Kinterest” board and utilizes the Notes feature of his iPhone, all the while staying true to the heart of the original plot.

    Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of PA where she teaches undergraduate and graduate course in literacy for pre-service 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.

    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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    Multicultural Literature: Reflecting Diversity in Literature for Youth

    By Stan F. Steiner
     | Oct 17, 2016

    Diversity in literature goes beyond ethnicity. Diversity may include the various facets of sexuality and gender, cultural, and societal groups. Whether characters in the books we read reflect others or ourselves, what is most important is connecting with them in ways that help us understand who we are today. Sometimes learning about our history through the eyes of diverse characters can be unsettling or even painful, but it also can be an awakening to the unknown. In this collection, I focus on books that reflect multiple cultures in the text or illustrations, sometimes subtle, other times more direct. I believe these books reflect the mosaic beauty of our world.

    Ages 4–8

    Ada Twist, Scientist. Andrea Beaty. Ill. David Roberts. 2016. Abrams.

    ada twistAda has been an inquisitive child from the time she could crawl. At first, her insatiable curiosity, constant questions, and taking things apart to see how they work frustrate her parents, but soon they nurture Ada’s quest for answers instead. As her search for knowledge flourishes, Ada also realizes she might encourage other kindred budding scientists by taking her latest experiment to her classroom. Features reflecting diversity in the rhyming text and expressive mixed-media illustrations include the race of this young girl scientist and the racial makeup of her classroom.

    The Airport Book. Lisa Brown. 2016. Neal Porter/Roaring Book.

    the airport bookIf you need a book to explain airports to children (or adults) who are new to flying this book is perfect because of the range of perspectives Lisa Brown captures through her detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations, narrative text, and cartoon bubble conversations. Clearly Brown has spent some time coming from, going to, and being in airports. Her depiction of the variety of people (including the featured biracial family going on a trip), movement, sounds, conversations, vendors, crying babies, limited seat space, and more at the airport are impeccable. Her sense of humor comes through in some unexpected details. Look closely!

    Emma and Julia Love Ballet. Barbara McClintock. 2016. Scholastic.

    emma and juliaThis delightful picture book describes the life of two people who love ballet: Emma, a beginner, and Julia, a professional. Similarities between these two characters’ daily routines and lessons, presented in both the text and softly colored illustrations, provide the perfect staging for the relationship that unfolds at the end of the story. Emma gets to meet Julia backstage, and their encounter is heartwarming. This book is a nice reflection of how two different, yet similar, people come together naturally. A good companion book is Allegra Kent’s Ballerina Gets Ready (2016), which also features an African American dancer.

    A Piece of Home. Jeri Watts. Ill. Hyewon Yum. 2016. Candlewick.

    a piece of homeThis insightful and realistic story is told through the eyes of Hee Jun, a recent arrival in America from South Korea. Hee Jun, his family, and his grandmother left behind their home and friends. Everything looks, sounds, and feels different in their new surroundings, and everyone is having a difficult time adjusting to living in West Virginia. Things begin to look up when his grandmother visits his sister’s kindergarten class to help her transition and he meets a friend. In his new friend’s yard, Hee Jun is surprised to find mugunghwa (the Korean national flower that is called Rose of Sharon in the United States). For Hee Jun and his grandmother, the flower is “a piece of home,” a remembrance of Korea.

    Who We Are!: All About Being the Same and Being Different (Let’s Talk About You and Me series). Robie H. Harris. Ill. Nadine Bernard Westcott. 2016. Candlewick.

    who we areSimilarities and differences are real among the people in our world. This fifth book in the Let’s Talk About You and Me series captures the beauty of diversity within a family and in the broader world. Everything from physical appearance to likes and dislikes, with an emphasis on the importance of accepting—and celebrating—who you are, is clearly presented in the narrative text and cartoon illustrations. A charming companion book is Mixed Me! (2015)by Taye Diggs, a story about a young boy in a biracial family.

    Ages 9–11

    Children Just Like Me: A New Celebration of Children Around the World. DK. 2016. DK/Penguin Random House.

    children just like me a new celebrationFollowing the same engaging format as the original Children Just Like Me, which was published in 1995, this new edition is an engaging visual celebration of children around the world. Each of the six sections (North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Southeast Asia, and Australia) features an abundance of captioned photographs, carefully selected images of children, diverse families, world religions, homes, food, hobbies, and interesting facts, which will hold readers’ attention for hours. A cool activity would be to compare the original version with this new book. How have things changed?

    Elizabeth Started All the Trouble. Doreen Rappaport. Ill. Matt Faulkner. 2016. Disney/Hyperion.

    elizabeth started all the troubleSpunk and determination abound in this delightful picture book about the women’s suffrage movement. Although Abigail Adams pressed her husband, John Adams, to make sure the Founding Fathers included women in the Declaration of Independence, women were not mentioned. However, the fight for women’s rights did not end. Years later, in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton took up the cause for women’s right to vote. Her movement gained a large following of women across the United States. Wyoming became the first state to give women the right to vote in 1869, but it was not until 1920 that women across the nation were allowed to vote. Readers will meet many of the key players throughout history that helped the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. This is a timely book, with the Democratic Party being the first major political party to nominate a woman for president.

    Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber. Sue Macy. Ill. C.F. Payne. 2016. Simon & Schuster.

    miss mary reportingDetermination, patience, and diligence paid off for Mary Garber, who crossed the gender barrier to become the first and longest working female sports writer in U.S. history. She gained her reputation from writing truthfully about the exceptional ability of Jackie Robinson, the first African American major league baseball player. Her sports writing career spanned more than 50 years. Mary Garber was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the National Sportscaster and Sportswriters Association in 2008, just months before she died at age 92.

    What Is a Veteran, Anyway? Robert C. Snyder. Ill. Ron Himler. 2016. Blue Marlin.

    what is a veteran anywayGiven the ongoing occurrence of veteran-related news, the timing of this book is perfect. Robert C. Snyder, a veteran, does a good job of capturing the crux of what it meant to be a veteran in the past and what it means today in a factual, yet gentle, tone. Through expressive watercolor illustrations and accessible text, this book provides a good overview of veterans in the United States, those who served in the military and have returned to civilian life, as well as mentioning those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

    Ages 12–14

    I, Humanity. Jeffrey Bennett. 2016. Big Kid Science.

    i humanityImagine traveling to or even living in space someday. Already, more than 200 astronauts from more than a dozen nations, cultures, and religions have visited the International Space Station. With a narrator who represents humanity throughout history, this intriguing nonfiction book presents a chronological survey of what humans have believed and learned about the universe. Reading this book will likely leave readers with an increased curiosity about the future of space exploration. With recent emphasis on science and math in schools, this book has many applications, including aviation, space exploration, astronomy, astrophysics, women in science, and more. This book is also available in a Spanish edition, Yo Soy la Humanidad (2016).

    The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Adam Gidwitz. Ill. Hatem Aly. 2016. Dutton/Penguin.

    the inquisitors taleIn this page-turning mystery and humorous tale, Gidwitz remarkably threads medieval history through stories within a story. Unfortunate circumstances and perceived unnatural powers bring an unlikely group of children and a dog together. King Louis IX issues a death warrant, as it is rumored these children may possess supernatural powers considered blasphemous by the church and state. Jeanne, whose life was saved by Gwenforte, the dog, has seizures and sees into the future. William, a well-read, dark-skinned oblate, has Hulk-like strength. Jacob was forced to leave his Jewish community when a group of anti-Semitic teens sets fire to homes. Gidwitz gives readers much to think about in the parallels implied through the racial bigotry and persecution of the past compared with the present.

    Women Who Changed the World: 50 Amazing Americans. Laurie Calkhoven. Ill. Patricia Castelao. 2016. Scholastic.

    women who changed the worldOur world has been changed for the better by women. However, most of the time their accomplishments and contributions have been slighted in the history books. This carefully selected and diverse collection of women who paved the way, including such figures as Pocahontas, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Beyoncé, and Hillary Clinton, would be a good addition to libraries and classrooms. Fifty one-page biographies of American women, arranged chronologically, include facts, family status, and major accomplishments that have made an impact on the world. A portrait and an illustration highlight the entry for each woman. An additional sixteen women are listed along with a glossary at the end of the book.

    Ages 15+

    Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community. Robin Stevenson. 2016. Orca.

    pride celebrating diveresity and communityWith recent Supreme Court decisions on gay and lesbian rights, this book is a fitting addition to libraries. Historical background and global perspective serve as an awakening to the growing number of voices that were silenced in the past but are now a unified call for equality. Photographs of smiling participants and bystanders flourish in this perceptive nonfiction book, reflecting Pride activism around the world. The book is organized in four sections: The History of Pride, Pride and Identity, Celebrating Pride Today, and Activism Around the World. Back matter includes a glossary, references, resources, and an index.

    Stan Steiner teaches Children’s/Young Adult Literature at Boise State University. He has had a long relationship with bringing awareness to multicultural literature through his teaching and publications.

    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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    What a Character!

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 10, 2016

    As avid readers we are drawn to books with memorable characters. Here we have stories about animals (we are partial to penguins and frogs) in picture book format for younger readers and stories about young people with whom older readers can vicariously share experiences in both realistic and historical fiction. All of the characters we met in these books are ones we will remember and are eager to introduce to others. 

    Ages 4–8.

    The Infamous Ratsos (Ratso Brothers #1). Kara LeReau. Ill. Matt Myers. 2016. Candlewick.

    the infamous ratsosAccording to Louie and Ralphie Ratso’s dad, Big Lou, there are two kinds of people: those who are tough and those who are softies. As Louie and Ralphie strive to be tough by playing pranks, their antics backfire and turn into acts of kindness. For example, when they steal big and brawny Chad Badgerton’s hat, it turns out they’ve rescued little mouse Tiny Crawley’s hat from the classroom bully. After their father receives a letter from the school extolling Louie and Ralphie’s good deeds, he realizes he should try to be more like them. This results in father and sons doing good deeds together that make life a little easier for those around them. Clever cartoonlike drawings add an extra layer of humor to this chapter book for emerging readers.
    NB

    Nanette’s Baguette. Mo Willems. 2016. Hyperion/Disney.

    nanette's baguetteMom sends Nanette to purchase a baguette all on her own for the first time. Along her way to the bakery, Nanette is distracted by seeing friends Georgette, Suzette, and Bret (with his clarinet) and spotting Mr. Barnett walking his pet, Antoinette, whom Nanette stops to pet. Upon remembering her task, Nanette says to the quartet, “Gotta jet! I’ve got a baguette to get.” Arriving at the bakery, Nanette buys “the best baguette yet” from baker Juliette. Of course, Nanette can’t resist the warmth and aroma of the big freshly baked baguette, and one bite leads to another until there is no more baguette. Beset with regret, she confesses to her mother, “I ATE THE BAGUETTE!” Nanette and understanding Mom return to the bakery for another baguette. Willem’s nonstop clever wordplay and creative multimedia illustrations with bright green, pop-eyed cartoon frogs set against detailed backgrounds and judicious use of oversize type make this picture book a surefire read-aloud hit.  
    —CA 

    Penguin Problems. Jory John. Ill. Lane Smith. 2016. Random House.

    penguin problemsA young penguin wakes up grumpy (“It’s way too early. My beak is cold.”) and goes through the day whining about his penguin problems, including perceived personal shortcomings: He has a silly waddle, he can’t fly, and he looks like everyone else. It’s too much to bear, and he screams, “I have so many problems! And nobody even cares.” Enter a walrus who waxes eloquently on all the good things in the discontented bird’s life. Penguin seems to take the walrus’s words to heart. “Maybe things will work out, after all.” The last page, with Penguin contemplating a heavy nighttime snowfall (“My beak is cold. It gets dark way too early.”) suggests, however, that he will wake up with the same problems and attitude. The book design is fabulous; Smith’s digitally created artwork perfectly matches the humor of John’s brief (except for the walrus’s lengthy unsolicited advice) text.
    CA

    Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan. Frances O’Roark Dowell. Ill. Amy June Bates. 2016. Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.  

    sam the man and the chicken planSam is a 7-year-old boy in want of a job. After Mrs. Kerner hires him to take care of her chickens for a few days, Sam decides to go into the chicken business. He borrows money from his father to buy Helga, a chicken that lays blue eggs, and arranges to keep it in Mrs. Kerner’s coop. To repay his father, Sam agrees to walk a grumpy elderly neighbor, Mr. Stockfish, at two dollars a walk. After Sam invites him to watch Helga lay a blue egg, Mr. Stockfish can’t wait to walk to the coop every day. When Sam takes Helga’s first egg to show-and-tell, Mr. Pell, his teacher, demonstrates how to get the egg out without breaking the shell. Between selling blue eggshells to classmates for fifty cents each and walking Mr. Stockfish, it won’t be long before the young entrepreneur can buy another chicken! Pencil sketches add interest to this first book in a new chapter book series for beginning readers.
    —NB  

    Ages 9–11

    Beautiful Blue World. Suzanne LaFleur. 2016. Wendy Lamb/Random House.  

    beautiful blue worldTwelve-year-old Mathilde’s country of Sofarende is at war. With mixed feelings, Mathilde takes the aptitude test for recruitment into a secret government program. She’s reluctant to be separated from her family but knows that the stipend they will receive will help them survive. Once at Faetre, a facility housing a talented group of children aiding military strategists, Mathilde is convinced a mistake was made. She believes that it is because she isn’t clever enough to do anything useful that she is assigned to spend each day just talking with a young prisoner of war. As days go by, she realizes that they share similar feelings toward the war. When the war reaches Faetre, the children are evacuated. Mathilde fears that the prisoner will die—either when his country bombs Faetre or if Sofarende burns down the facility to keep it out of the hands of the enemy without releasing him. The ending leaves readers eager for the next book in the series.
    —CA

    Framed! (T.O.A.S.T.* Mystery #1).James Ponti. 2016. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.  

    framed toastTwelve-year-old Florian Bates is the inventor of T.O.A.S.T. (Theory of All Small Things), a technique of making close observations. When he meets Margaret, his new neighbor, he introduces her to T.O.A.S.T., and they open a detective agency. Their first job is to find Margaret’s birth parents. Their attention, however, is quickly diverted to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where his parents work. Florian and Margaret practice T.O.A.S.T. on an artist who is painting a replica of a Monet masterpiece. After several paintings are stolen, including the Monet, and Florian solves the case with his Sherlock Holmes–like observation skills, he is hired as a “covert asset” by the FBI. But the case isn’t over yet, and Florian is kidnapped by Romanian Mafia mob boss Nic the Knife. Refocusing on observation of small things, Florian realizes that his conclusions, based on misdirection, have thrust him into dangers, setting readers up for the next book. 
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Perfect Liars. Kimberly Reid. 2016. Tu/Lee & Low. 

    perfect liarsAndrea (“Drea”) Faraday is considered smart, rich, and privileged, but she is also the child of grifters posing as legitimate antique collectors. During the exclusive Woodruff School’s Welcome Back Gala, a heist extraordinaire occurs. Drea and her brother, Damon, a rookie patrol officer, suspect their parents, who take off to Europe. Drea’s perfect behavior crumbles with shoplifting and a grade that eliminates her chance of becoming valedictorian. Attempting to break into Woodruff to change that grade, she runs into Xavier and Jason in a breaking and entering of their own. Only the boys are caught and detained. Drea is rescued by her brother, who signs her up to tutor at Justice Academy, where she once again runs into juvies Xavier and Jason—and a former acquaintance, Gigi. Drea soon realizes that there isn’t much difference between herself and them. When these teens band together to fight a common enemy, everything changes. Readers will enjoy the rich diversity of the main characters in this mystery.
    —NB

    A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls. Jessica Spotswood (Ed.). 2016. Candlewick.

    a tyranny of petticoatsFor this anthology, 15 YA authors contributed well-crafted historical fiction and historical fantasy stories about a diverse group of clever, adventurous American girls with strong voices. Reading the stories, organized chronologically (1710–1968) and set in various locales, takes teens on an historical journey across America. A note at the end of each story provides information on its background and the author’s inspiration. Picking a favorite story is difficult; mine is Saundra Mitchell’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” set in Swan’s Holler, IN, in 1934. Keeping her identity secret by exchanging petticoats for pants, Baby Boy Wabash, who robs banks, tells of getting her first gunshot wound as she eludes the law once again on the day she hears that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow have been killed.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Tell Me Something Real. Calla Devlin. 2016. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.  

    tell me something realNarrator Vanessa Babcock is the responsible middle child in a family living in San Diego in 1976. While their father slaves away under a boss who won’t give him time off to attend to family medical needs, the sisters accompany their terminally ill mother to experimental Laetrile treatment sessions at a clinic across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. There they meet 16-year-old Caleb, also in treatment, and his mother, Barb, who are from Seattle. When Caleb and Barb come to live with them to be closer to the clinic, Barb brings a much-needed sense of normalcy to Vanessa’s family until something inexplicable happens, and she and her son leave in a hurry. In this beautifully written book about issues relating to death and loss, the unique bonds of siblings, and the stirrings of first love, Vanessa must face secrets and, ultimately, a family betrayal beyond imagination if she is to figure out how to move forward with her life.
    —NB

    Whisper to Me. Nick Lake. 2016. Bloomsbury.

    whisper to meIn a long e-mail to the boy whose heart she broke, Cassie begs forgiveness and urges him to meet her at the pier at 5 p.m., Friday. The summer had begun with a jolt when she found a girl’s foot on the beach, possible evidence of a murder by the Houdini Killer, who is targeting sex workers. This discovery triggered within Cassie the “voice” of an angry woman who began directing Cassie’s actions (…slap yourself, twice, hard!). Surprisingly, the voice was silent when she was with the boy, but she can’t tell him about the voice—or the tragedy seven years ago, when her mother died in her arms. However, when Cassie’s father, an ex-Navy SEAL with PTSD, forbids her to spend time with the boy, life spirals out of control. Through therapy, Cassie confronts the voice and comes to grips with loss and relationships. This book sheds light on how an individual’s mental illness, with its symptoms and treatments, affects family and friends.
    —NB

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