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    Back to School

    Jennifer W. Shettel
     | Aug 21, 2017

    Shorter days and longer nights, school supplies on store shelves, fall sports practices, and shopping for new fall outfits all signal back to school time for students and teachers across the country. To usher in the start of a new school year, check out these school-themed books.

    Ages 4–8

    Goodnight Lab: A Scientific Parody. Chris Ferrie. 2017. Sourcebooks.

    Goodnight LabKick off the start of the school year’s STEM activities with this picture book that highlights scientific vocabulary in a fun and whimsical manner. In the latest parody of Margaret Wise Brown’s bedtime classic Goodnight Moon, young children will delight in chiming in to say goodnight to all the features of the “great green lab,” while adults who read the book aloud will be chuckling over lines such as “And a pen and coffee / And some rubbish / And a grumpy old professor shouting ‘publish.’” The dominant red, green, yellow, and blue of the digitally-created illustrations mirror the color palette of the original story but feature a young girl’s laboratory instead of a baby bunny’s bedroom.

    How to Get Your Teacher Ready. Jean Reagan. Ill. Lee Wildish. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    How to Get Your Teacher ReadyRegan and Wildish return with another book in their how-to series just in time for the start of the school year. This story takes a humorous approach to preparing for the first day of school by inviting kids to think about what they can do to make sure their teacher is ready, like showing her where to find the bathroom and explaining how the lunch line works! From there, the advice branches out to other important days throughout the year such as picture day, field trip day, and the last day of school. Brightly colored cartoon-like illustrations add to the light-hearted nature of this back-to-school story.

    A Letter to My Teacher. Deborah Hopkinson. Ill. Nancy Carpenter. 2017. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    A Letter to My TeacherIn a letter, an unnamed narrator thanks her second-grade teacher for the wisdom, patience, and kindness that she demonstrated. The narrative and pen-and-ink, digitally colored line drawings beautifully capture the relationship of the spunky, troublesome girl and her wise and caring teacher. At the end of the story, readers learn that the letter is from a new teacher. Reading A Letter to My Teacher will evoke memories of favorite teachers and may help students start the year with grateful hearts in appreciation for those who guide their learning.

    A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices. Sally Derby. Ill. Mika Song. 2017. Charlesbridge.

    A New School YearIn this verse-style picture book, six students—ranging from kindergarten through fifth-grade—share their perspectives on a new school year. The four sections of the book (The Night Before, In the Morning, At School, and After School) students express what they’re thinking, feeling, and doing on the first day of school in free verse poems. Expressive, soft, ink-and-watercolor illustrations accompany the 24 poetic narratives.

    Ages 9–11

     All’s Faire in Middle School. Victoria Jamieson. 2017. Dial/Penguin.

    All's Faire in Middle SchoolAfter being homeschooled through elementary school by her parents who work at a local renaissance faire, 11-year-old Imogene (Impy) has decided to try out public school. It isn’t long before Impy realizes that middle school may be more than she can handle and that her new friends might not be very nice people. This colorful graphic novel is rich with themes of belonging, friendship, family, making tough choices, and finding your own way.

    Lights, Camera, Middle School! (Babymouse: Tales from the Locker #1). Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm. 2017. Random House.

    Babymouse2Why blend in when you were born to stand out? Babymouse is bound and determined to embrace this mindset as she heads off to middle school, which to her seems more like a movie than anything else. “It was a monster movie.” Determined to find her place in her school’s social structure, Babymouse joins the film club, and hilarity ensues as the club is charged with writing, casting, and producing a movie to show to the entire school. Fans of Babymouse will enjoy her latest adventure in this continuation of the beloved series in a new format that combines the traditional graphic novel structure with prose text.

    The Loser’s Club. Andrew Clements. 2017. Random House.

    The Losers ClubSixth grader Alec is a voracious reader. His tendency to read during his classes has landed him in hot water, and he has to make a promise to pay more attention. To fulfill his need to read, he comes up with a plan to start a reading club at his after-school care program. Alec names it “The Loser’s Club” in hopes that it will deter additional members. He doesn’t really want to talk to people; he just wants to read! As it turns out, there are other kids who also want to read, and Alec finds himself figuring out how to make time for friends and books. Readers will be interested in pursuing the lengthy appended list of books read by Alec and his friends.

    Ages 12–14

    Braced. Alyson Gerber. 2017. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

    BracedSeventh-grade is really looking up for Rachel. She’s earned a starting place on the girls’ soccer team, she loves hanging out with her two best friends, and there’s even the possibility that a boy likes her. But then a diagnosis of scoliosis rocks Rachel’s world. The doctor tells her that she must wear a back brace 23 hours a day, and she can’t imagine how she is ever going to learn to live in this brace and still do the things she loves to do. And to make matters worse, her mom (who also had to wear a brace as a child) doesn’t seem to care how Rachel feels. This thought-provoking book will remind readers what matters.

    Ages 15+

    Backfield Boys: A Football Mystery in Black and White. John Feinstein. 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux.

    Backfield BoysNinth graders and lifelong friends Jason Roddin and Tom Jefferson are excited about playing football at an elite private school, where they were both lucky enough to earn scholarships after attending the school’s summer football camp. Tom, who is black, has always played quarterback, while Jason, who is white, is a wide receiver. However, the coaches at their new school ask them to switch positions—Jason is made quarterback and Tom a receiver—and when they try to find out why, they are told not to question the coaches’ decisions. It isn’t long before the boys begin to suspect that the reason has more to do with racial discrimination than talent, and they embark on a top-secret mission, along with two other friends and two intrepid newspaper reporters, to figure out if their suspicions are true.

    Get It Together, Delilah! Erin Gough. 2017. Chronicle.

    Get It TogetherDelilah Green’s last year of high school is not off to a great start. Her mom has left home for a new man and her dad, who is experiencing a personal crisis over the situation, has embarked on a trip to have some alone time. This leaves Delilah at home to manage Flywheel, the family-owned coffee shop, while dealing with school work, helping her friend Charlie through a crisis of his own, avoiding the gaggle of mean girls who seem determined to torment her, and figuring out how to show her latest crush Rosa how she feels about her. Delilah is trying to get it—and keep it—together, but juggling all those balls is harder than Delilah thought it would be. Set in Sydney, Australia, this is a story about family, friendship, identity, and growing up.

    Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, 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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    More Series and Sequels

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Aug 14, 2017

    Once readers have been introduced to characters in a picture book or novel, they can enjoy following them to new adventures in the series. This week we review recently published, greatly anticipated sequels, first books in new series in a variety of genres, and the latest books in episodic series. There are also several final books in series, which may lead readers to seek out the earlier books for rereading.

    Ages 4–8

    Barkus. (Barkus #1). Patricia MacLachlan. Ill. Marc Boutavant. 2017. Chronicle.

    BarkusIn five short episodic chapters, a big brown dog named Barkus (a gift from Uncle Everton, who claims Barkus is “the smartest dog in the world”) proves that he is the perfect companion for Nicky. Barkus sneaks out of the house and follows her to school and becomes the class dog, celebrates a noisy birthday party with three dog friends, adopts a stray kitten, and enjoys listening to Nicky tell a bedtime story as he snuggles up with the kitten, Baby, during a backyard campout. Young readers will eagerly await the next book in this colorful, warmly humorous early chapter book series featuring this canine charmer.

    —CA

    Be Quiet! Ryan T. Higgins (Mother Bruce). 2017. Disney Hyperion.

    Be Quiet!Rupert the mouse gets to create and star in a “visually stimulating” wordless book, but his disruptive mouse friends, Nibbs and Thistle, with their imaginative antics and constant chatter (which appears in speech bubbles) are driving him crazy. “I said BE QUIET. This book is wordless!” This not-so-wordless picture book with cartoon-like illustrations—created with textured clayboard, graphite, ink, and Photoshop—includes a wealth of wordplay, jokes, and clever usage of literary elements such as onomatopoeia. Young children will also enjoy Mother Bruce (2015) and Hotel Bruce (2016) while waiting for the fourth book in the series, Bruce’s Big Move (expected to release on September 26, 2017).

    —NB

    Ellie in Concert. Mike Wu. 2017. Disney Hyperion.

    Ellie in ConcertIn this sequel to Ellie (2015), Ellie the elephant lulls Lucy the giraffe to sleep amidst the sounds of the zoo at night, including the hippo’s SNORTs, the monkey’s OOOHs, and the rhino’s GRUMPs, by organizing an orchestra of all the noisy animals, who perform Betty Bluebird’s lullaby. Soft illustrations, created with watercolor, gouache, pencil, and digital media, complement the gentle story of friends working together to solve a problem. Check out the author's website (theartofmikewu.com) to listen to “Betty’s Theme” and “Ellie in Concert Suite,” composed by Andrew Jimenez.

    —NB

    The Good for Nothing Button (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!). Charise Mericle Harper. 2017. Hyperion/Disney.

    The Good for Nothing ButtonWhen Blue Bird and Red Bird press the red button that Yellow Bird insists is “a good for nothing button,” they report their reactions. For example, Blue Bird says, “The button is SO easy to press. It surprised me!” and Red Bird points out, “A surprise is NOT nothing.” When Yellow Bird repeatedly presses the button to show that it cannot make him calm, mad, happy, surprised, scared, icky, or anything else, Red Bird and Blue Bird announce that they know what the button does. “The button makes you funny!” And so begins a button-pressing game in which they all are funny together. Reading this cartoon-style story, which is introduced by Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie, will be loads of fun for beginning readers.

    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1). Adrienne Kress. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    The ExplorersFollowing the intriguing introductory statement “This story begins . . . with a pig wearing a teeny hat,” 12-year-old Sebastian, a methodical genius with a photographic memory, and 11-year-old Evie, a lonely orphan, converge on the members-only Explorers Society for different reasons, but soon combine resources to search for Evie’s missing grandfather, who is a member of the mysterious Fillipendulous Society. Unfolding from the viewpoints of both children, this comedic adventure is filled with non-stop twists and turns. The clever mystery, with its detailed black-and-white penned illustrations, occasional footnotes, and humorous asides from the author, leaves entertained readers ready for the sequel.

    —NB

    Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls (Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls #1). Beth McMullen. 2017. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    Mrs. Smith's Spy SchoolTwelve-year-old Abigail Hunter’s amateur sleuthing leads to the discovery that the boarding school her mother has enrolled her in is also a recruiting ground for the Center, a hush-hush spy organization. She is astounded to learn that her mother is one of its top agents and has disappeared while in pursuit of a dangerous criminal, the Ghost, “who is wanted all over the world by everybody.” After a crash course in Spy Training 101, Abigail becomes “bait” in the Center’s plan to locate her mother. When the plan goes awry, Abigail remains determined to find her mother. Nonstop action, accompanied by lots of humor, makes this book a page-turner. Fans of spy stories will be looking forward to Abigail’s next mission.

    —CA

    The Sands of Shark Island (School Ship Tobermory #2). Alexander McCall Smith. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    The Sands of Shark IslandThe 12-year-old McTavish twins, Fee and Ben, return to the Scotland-based boarding school/schooner Tobermory excited for the new term, where they will learn not only seafaring basics such as knot-tying, nautical chart reading, and navigation skills but also “land subjects,” including math, science, and history. This term the Tobermory’s destination is the Caribbean Sea so there will also be opportunities for other activities such as scuba diving and kitesurfing. When they dock at Green Bay Island, the Tobermory takes on a new student, Mike, an islander who has had to interrupt his education to support his family. Following clues from a chart in an old sea chest leads to high adventure and a dangerous encounter with a present-day pirate on Shark Island and the solution of the mystery of the disappearance of Mike’s father and other islanders.

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    The Great Wave of Tamarind (The Book of Tamarind #3). Nadia Aguiar. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

    The Great Wave of TamarindIt has been seven years since Penny Nelson visited Tamarind with her older siblings, Simon and Maya. Now at the age of 12, she must return to the magical island on her own. Beloved Granny Pearl has identified signs of a potentially devastating event that will occur in Tamarind in the immediate future that only Penny can prevent. Penny bravely journeys out into the ocean and mysteriously crosses the Blue Line that will allow her to reach Tamarind. With the help of two young islanders, she competes in three dangerous challenges to select the next Bloom Catcher, who is to retrieve the magical Bloom from a coming Great Wave that will save Tamarind from destruction by a devilish mandrill. Aguiar’s spectacular world-building in this beautifully crafted quest/survival story set on the lost island of Tamarind brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.

    —CA

    Life, Loss, and Lemonade (Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair #8). Laurie Friedman. 2017. Darby Creek/Lerner.

    Life, Loss, and LemonadeSometimes life is unfair. The pottery store in which Alice planned to celebrate her 15th birthday burns down, her grandmother is readmitted to the hospital for a collapsed lung following her cancer treatment, and her best friend, Sophie, is moving. In addition, Alice’s almost-boyfriend, Leo, announces he is leaving for Costa Rica and won’t be around this summer. She also carries the burden of secrets—why Brynn dropped her as a friend; that Sophie invited her boyfriend, Billy, to visit her in New York but didn’t mention it to Alice; and that Billy isn’t sure about going to visit Sophie—all while dealing with the impending loss of her grandmother. April must dig deep to find strength and solutions in this final installment of the series. Life, Loss, and Lemonade is a satisfying stand-alone novel, which may lead readers to earlier books in the series.

    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Blacksouls (Blackhearts #2). Nicole Castroman. 2017. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    BlacksoulsAs this reimagined historical sequel to Blackhearts (2016) opens, after biracial Anne sails across the Atlantic Ocean on the Providence to Nassau, a Caribbean island rife with political intrigue, treachery, and piracy, to reunite with her love, Edward “Teach” Drummond (the future pirate known as Blackbeard). Once in Nassau, Anne is whipped and jailed when she warns the governor (who doesn’t believe her) that his wife is poisoning him. On his voyage to Nassau as first mate on the Deliverance, a Drummond merchant ship, Teach confronts the incompetent and cruel captain to save the crew from fiery deaths at the hands of enemy Spanish ships. Upon landing, he is threatened with the accusation of mutiny, a crime punishable by death. Blackmailed by Nassau’s Governor Webb into carrying out a dangerous mission in exchange for his own life and those of his crew— and with rescued, injured Anne smuggled aboard from a prison cell into his new ship’s quarters—Teach must decide who to trust in this swashbuckling revenge tale of adventure, betrayal, and deceit.

    —NB

    Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2). Cassandra Clare. 2017. Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.

    Lord of ShadowsIn this sequel to Lady Midnight (2016), Los Angeles Institute Shadowhunters regroup after warlock Malcomb Fade’s death opens the portal for demons to reenter their realm. Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorne continue to fight their love curse, while Mark Blackthorne (home after his captivity in the faerie Hunt) struggles to find his place among his Shadowhunter half-siblings. The Seelie faerie Queen coerces Emma, Julian, Mark, and Cristina (a visiting Shadowhunter) to leave the L.A. Institute to find the Black Volume of the Dead, a spellbook she can use against the Unseelie King, the Lord of the Shadows (not knowing that he will stop at nothing to get his hands on it) in exchange for ending the divisive Cold Peace Treaty between Shadowhunters and Seelie Court faeries. Will the quest of the young Shadowhunters be successful and peace be restored, or will it be too late to undo the horrifying events that have been set in motion?

    —NB

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

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    Human–Animal Connections

    Lesley Colabucci and Leigh Kaliss
     | Aug 07, 2017

    From classics like Charlotte’s Web to contemporary favorites like Because of Winn-Dixie, some of the best pieces of literature for children and young adults entwine the lives of humans and animals. The recently published books in this week’s column feature animals as compelling characters and companions to humans.

    Ages 4–8

    Princess Cora and the Crocodile. Laura Amy Schlitz. Ill. Brian Floca. 2017. Candlewick.

    Princess Cora When a princess struggles to find her voice and exert her independence, the most unexpected of characters comes to her rescue. In this slapstick, topsy-turvy fairy tale, an overworked (and over-bathed) princess wants a pet to break up the daily monotony of life as the queen-in-training. When her mother, father, and nanny all say no to a dog, she pens a letter to her godmother. A crocodile unexpectedly arrives and hijinks ensue as he takes her place for the day. Cora discovers what she’s been missing as well as the strength to stand up for what she wants. Young readers will laugh at the crocodile’s actions (which, in true crocodile fashion, involve some biting) and the happily-ever-after ending for both the princess and the cream puff-loving crocodile—and, perhaps, also learn something about the value of speaking their mind.

    —LK

    Shawn Loves Sharks. Curtis Manley. Ill. Tracy Subisak. 2017. Roaring Brook.

    Shawn Loves SharksShawn has a shark lamp, a shark alarm clock, a shark snow globe, and even a shark hoodie. When his teacher announces that each student will be drawing the name of a predator to research for a class project, Shawn is desperate to pick the great white shark. Unfortunately, his classmate Stacy picks the great white shark and Shawn gets the leopard seal. Shawn is devastated and tries to convince Stacy to switch with him. The two go back and forth arguing about their predators, and Shawn soon discovers that he might love seals too. The story is told through traditional narrative as well as speech bubbles and text embedded in the illustrations. Readers will enjoy the dynamics between Shawn and Stacy and the playful illustrations, including the various costumes Shawn’s cat wears throughout the book.

    —LC

    If Sharks Disappeared. Lily Williams. 2017. Roaring Brook.

    If Sharks DisappearedIn this informational book, a young girl helps tell the story of what would happen to the ocean’s ecosystem if sharks disappeared. The book functions well as both picture book and a nonfiction book, due to its interactive tone and cartoon-style illustrations. A vertical gatefold with the narrator fishing at the top dramatically captures the depth of the ocean as blue water turns darker. The end matter includes a glossary, a note on the endangered status of sharks, a “How You Can Help Save Sharks” list, an author’s note which encourages readers to do more research, a bibliography, and Internet resources.  

    —LC

    Ages 9–11

    CatStronauts: Mission Moon (CatStronauts #1). Drew Brockington. 2017. Little, Brown.

    CatStronautsThe world is facing an energy crisis like no one, not even the World’s Best Scientist, has ever seen. The problem approaches level cat-astrophe when the feline President acknowledges the situation. No power means more time for catnaps, but things get hairy when cats all over the world have to stop reading because of the darkness! With just sixty days of full power left, the CatStronauts are summoned to build a power plant on the moon. And that just scratches the surface. Major Meowser, Chief Science Officer Pom Pom, Technical Specialist Blanket, and Pilot Waffles face challenges galore as they try to save the world. Brockington’s lively and punny text and cartoon illustrations explore topics like teamwork, self-confidence, and leadership as well as environmental issues.

    —LK

    Otherwise Known as Possum. Maria D. Laso. 2017. Scholastic.

    Otherwise Known as PossumSet in the south in the 1930s, this book tells the story of Possum and her dog, Trav. Possum’s mother has passed away and her father decides to send her to school, despite her mother’s wish that “In a school you learn everything between four walls. I want you to learn the world.” Possum loves to read but resists school, worries that her father is dating the teacher, and finds herself in a battle with the teacher’s pet, whom her best friend Tully may have a crush on. Otherwise Known as Possum is beautifully written, with language that reflects the time and place as well as Possum’s creative thinking. Possum’s love of nature, rebellious attitude, and affection for her family and community make her a likeable character. Although her mom called her LizBetty, Possum fits her much better as she defies gender stereotypes, relies on camaraderie with Trav, and connects with her mom under the peach tree.

    —LC

    A Boy Called Bat. Elana K. Arnold. Ill. Charles Santoso. 2017. Walden Pond/HarperCollins.

    A Boy Called BatBixby Alexander Tam’s nickname, Bat, suits him just fine. Bat—a third grader on the autism spectrum—loves animals of all sorts, so when his veterinarian mom brings home a skunk kit, he cares for it and wants to keep it as a pet. There are a lot of reasons why a baby skunk is not a great pet, but in Bat’s case there are additional complications, including the fact that he spends weekends with his father. Bat’s sister Janie is not as excited about the skunk, whom she has named Thor. Bat is determined to be Thor’s caretaker for as long as he can, but he must learn about more than just skunks to prove to his mom that he’s up for the challenge. His desire to take care of Thor helps him to make connections with other people and engage in interactions he would usually avoid. Bat’s interior dialogue and the portrayal of his supportive family make for a realistic story, and the short chapters and black-and-white illustrations add to the overall appeal of this book.

    —LC

    Ages 12–14

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. Shannon Hale & Dean Hale. Ill. Vitale Mangiatordi. 2017. Marvel.

    The Unbeatable Squirrel GirlFourteen-year-old Doreen Green is adjusting to her new school and community after moving from California to New Jersey. She’s anxious to find a new best friend but is struggling to fit in—maybe because of her secret squirrel tail and other squirrel-like traits. Then Doreen makes two new friends: classmate Ana Sofia and Tippy-Toe, her first squirrel friend in her new community. The book alternates with chapters written from Doreen’s and Tippy-Toe’s voices and includes fun footnotes as well as electronic forms of communication. Any superhero story requires an evil villain; in this story readers meet the Micro-Manager, who is out to trap Doreen and destroy the neighborhood. Can Doreen defeat the Micro-Manager? Will her parents stop her from discovering her full superpowers? Is she finally old enough to face the world as Squirrel Girl?

    —LC

    Storm Horse. Nick Garlick. 2017. Chicken House/Scholastic.

    Storm HorseStorm Horse follows the exploits of Flip, an orphaned adolescent boy who’s uprooted to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm on a remote island off the coast of Amsterdam. Flip is lonely until he rescues Storm, a feisty horse who nearly drowns after a boating accident. Finding companionship with his equine friend (also an outsider), Flip navigates the unfamiliar island and family and meets a fellow lost soul in Ghost Girl—a silent, constant presence who is working through her own grief. Garlick’s descriptions of setting and action make this coming-of-age-story a good choice for middle-grade readers.

    —LK

    Ages 15+

    Frogkisser! Garth Nix. 2017. Scholastic.

    Frogkisser!Humorous, clever, wild, and inventive, Garth Nix’s fantasy centers on Princess Anya and her quest to transform a frog prince back to his human form. On the run from her evil stepfather, who wants her dead so that he has a clear line to the throne, Anya encounters various friends, enemies, and perils. With her faithful companion, Ardent (a talking dog), Anya attracts a squad of misfits as she seeks the magic ingredients that will enable her to rescue the prince. Along the way, she learns about her privileged life and the many troubles outside the castle walls. A fun, magical journey that remains lighthearted even as Anya faces grave dangers, including marauding robbers and duplicitous witches, this novel is a welcomed addition to fun-filled and thought-provoking fantasy from a talented author.

    —LK

    Dreaming the Bear. Mimi Thebo. 2017. Wendy Lamb/Random House.

    Dreaming the BearDarcy and her family have moved from England to Yellowstone National Park for her father’s research. Darcy is not adjusting well to the climate and new environment (no Wi-Fi and no nearby shopping). After a bad case of pneumonia, she remains sickly and can’t attend school. Her physical and mental health may be worse than anyone suspects. When Darcy finds and cares for a wounded mother bear. Unfortunately, this relationship results in the bear becoming food-dependent and thus a danger to everyone. Darcy’s brother, Jem, and his best friend, Tony, are the first to recognize the mistake Darcy has made. They must figure out how and when to tell the authorities and if they can trust Darcy’s parents with the truth. As Darcy learns more about bears and about how both humans and bears survive in harsh winter conditions, readers may become as attached to the bear as they are to Darcy.

    —LC

    Lesley Colabucci is an associate professor of early, middle, and exceptional education at Millersville University, Millersville, PA. She teaches classes in children’s literature at the graduate and undergraduate level. Leigh Kaliss is the volunteer and outreach Coordinator at Lancaster Public Library in Lancaster, PA.

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    Great Reads From Conference Authors

    Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Jul 31, 2017

    Attendees who registered for Author Meetups at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits had the opportunity to spend 10 minutes with each of seven authors in a chosen level (primary, mid-level, or young adult) to learn about their writing and their books. The books reviewed in this weekly column were all featured at Author Meetups.

    Ages 4–8

    Calling the Water Drum. LaTisha Redding. Ill. Aaron Boyd. 2016. Lee and Low.

    Calling the Water DrumHenri and his parents are in a rickety rowboat, fleeing Haiti in search of a better life in New York City. When the boat capsizes, only Henri is rescued. Henri arrives in the U.S. with only the red bucket his parents used to bail water and a letter with his uncle’s contact information. Encouraged by his uncle, Henri starts drumming on the bucket to express his grief, and eventually to connect with others. Watercolor paintings perfectly express the emotional tone of this poignant story of a young immigrant.

    —CA

    The Grand Canyon. Jason Chin. 2017. Roaring Brook.

    The Grand CanyonThis informational picture book follows a father and daughter as they explore the Grand Canyon. The illustrations, created with pen-and-ink, watercolor, and gouache, beautifully showcase the awe-inspiring majesty of the canyon. Sidebars detail the geology and ecology of the canyon and borders illustrate its rock strata, fauna, and flora.The story ends with a double gatefold showing the two explorers overlooking “the greatest canyon on Earth.”

    —CA

    Hattie & Hudson. Chris Van Dusen. 2017. Candlewick.

    Hattie and HudsonAs she paddles on a lake in her red canoe, Hattie’s singing lures a lonely green monster from his deep underwater cave. She is not afraid, but other boaters flee in panic. While the townspeople plan to get rid of “the Deadly Beast,” Hattie and her new friend (whom she names Hudson) must come up with a plan to convince them that they can all share and enjoy the lake.

    —CA

    Ninja!: Attack of the Clan (Ninja! #2). Arree Chung. 2017. Henry Holt.

    Aree ChungMaxwell is disappointed to find that Mama, sister Cassy, and Papa are too busy to help him hone his ninja skills. When he’s called to dinner one night, he finds no one at the table except the dog eating his miso soup. It’s a “SURPRISE ATTACK!” Colorful comic book-style panels show Ninja Maxwell defending himself against his ninja clan, despite sneaky little Cassy springing a totally unexpected move on him.

    —SW

    Raybot and Weebot! (Raybot #2). Adam F. Watkins. 2017. Price Stern Sloan/Penguin.

    Raybot and WeebotWhen a crate falls from a truck outside his junkyard, Raybot is delighted to find that it contains a little robot. However, Weebot’s activity level (“He rarely powers down, and he makes a lot of noise, even when it’s time to go to sleep.”) is overwhelming, and Raybot begins to long for his peaceful pre-Weebot life. Pair this book with Raybot (2016) for a fun-filled read aloud on robots.

    —CA

    The Space Disaster (The Mad Scientist Academy #3). Matthew McElligott. 2017. Crown/Random House.

    Mad Scientist When the planetarium computer malfunctions, Dr. Cosmic’s astronomy lesson (challenging the young monster students to identify where they are in the solar system) becomes a lesson in survival as they are literally sent into space. There is plenty of fun and science packed into this comic-paneled book. Students can read The Dinosaur Disaster (2015) and The Weather Disaster (2016) while waiting for Dr. Cosmic’s next science lessons.

    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Abby in Wonderland (Whatever After: Special Edition). Sarah Mlynowski. 2017. Scholastic.

    Whatever AfterIn the 10 previous books in Mlynowski’s popular series, siblings Abby and Jonah find a magic mirror that leads them into fairy tale adventures. In this Whatever After special edition, Abby and her best friends Frankie and Robin are spending the day at the castle-like home of her not-such-a-good-friend Penny. The girls find themselves in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when Frankie falls into a hole in the backyard.

    —CA

    Katana at Super Hero High (DC Super Hero Girls #4). Lisa Yee. 2017. Random House.

    Super Hero HighWhile attending Super Hero High, Katana practices the sword skills she learned from her grandmother, the first woman Samurai warrior who mysteriously disappeared. When Katana finds herself guardian of 100 Samurai swords and the recipient of a mysterious haiku ending with the line “Prepare for battle,” all the super heroes need to use their special skills to help Katana battle the Dragon King, who intends to claim Muteki Sword, the legendary Invincible Sword.

    —SW

    Lucky Broken Girl. Ruth Behar. 2017. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    Lucky Broken GirlAfter a bad car accident, 11-year-old Ruthie is in a full body cast. While spending the year lying flat in bed, she learns to see her life in a new way as she gains a better understanding of her Jewish Cuban family and its traditions, discovers new talents, and overcomes sorrow and disappointment in ways she does not expect.

    —SW

    Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White. Melissa Sweet. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Some Writer!Melissa Sweet uses a scrapbook-style compilation of letters, journals entries, family photos, manuscript excerpts, quotes, and her original mixed-media collage artwork and a warm narrative to present the life and work of beloved children’s book author E. B. White (1899-1985). Chapters on the writing of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, which exemplify White’s love of words and his process of crafting them into stories, are particularly interesting.

    —CA

    The Sweetest Sound. Sherri Winston. 2017. Little, Brown.

    The Sweetest SoundShy Cadence fantasizes about performing, promising herself that someday she will share her secret talent: singing. When Candace and best friends Zara and Faith form a trio to compete for places in a Youth Choir, Faith suggests that she lip sync to Cadence’s singing to gain a solo role. Cadence must overcome her shyness, question friendships, and decide how she will keep the promise she has made to herself.

    —SW  

    Ages 12–14

    In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. Kenneth C. Davis. 2016. Henry Holt.

    In the Shadow of LibertyDavis peels back the layers of history from George Washington’s move to Mount Vernon in 1757 to the death of Andrew Jackson’s personal slave, Alfred Jackson, in 1901. The book covers the views of four U.S. Presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson) toward slavery and their relationships with their slaves. Through the detailed narratives of five enslaved people against the backdrop of historical events, this book explores the role slavery played in the founding of America

    —SW

    Lily & Dunkin. Donna Gephart. 2016. Delacorte/Random House.

    Lily and DunkinLily & Dunkin is a powerful story about a new friendship between Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder. Told in alternating first-person narratives, their stories unfold as tall Dunkin joins the basketball team, stops his medication for bipolar disorder to increase his stamina and speed, and turns his back on his friendship with Lily, who must face the bullying and torment of the other players alone.


    Piecing Me Together
    . Renée Watson. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    Piecing me TogetherAs part of her scholarship to prestigious St. Francis High School, Jade must participate in Women to Women, a mentorshop program for “at-risk” girls. Jade is skeptical about what her mentor, who appears to have many challenges of her own, can teach her. In learning to appreciate her identity and aspirations, Jade discovers she wants to develop her talent for collage art and to help people rather than be considered someone who needs help.

    —SW

    The Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz. Michael Bornstein & Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux.

    Survivors ClubFour-year-old Michael Bornstein was one of the 52 children under the age of eight (out of the hundreds of thousands of children sent to Auschwitz) who were liberated by the Soviet Army in 1945. Based on extensive interviews and research, this personal story of survival during the Holocaust, from Nazi occupation of Michael’s hometown of Żarki, Poland, to immigration to the United States, ends with a photo album of Michael’s family, “The Survivors Club.”

    —CA

    Toni (Blacktop #4). LJ Alonge. Ill. Raul Allen. 2017. Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin.

    Blacktop ToniToni’s heart is in basketball, even though she is not very liked by Coach Wise or her teammates. Coach Wise tolerates her attitude until she punches a player on an opposing team and her team is dropped from league play. Toni, who has lived in group and foster homes her whole life, loses friends and her special interest in art, but a growing friendship challenges her to care about her family, Coach Wise, and her friends on the team in new ways. 

    —SW

    Ages 15+

    Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time. Tanya Lee Stone. 2017. Wendy Lamb/Random House.

    Girl RisingInspired by the documentary film Girl Rising, Tanya Lee Stone explores how education can break the cycle of poverty. Based on video interviews, the narrative, accompanied by full-page photographs, presents stories of girls from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, and Sierra Leone who tell how they survived experiences of slavery, rape, child labor, and forced marriage when they were not yet teenagers.

    —SW

    The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 2017. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    The Inexplicable Logic of my LifeMild-mannered, patient Salvador, who lives with his adoptive gay Mexican-American father in El Paso, is confused by his intensely angry reaction to taunting by school bullies. He becomes more puzzled about his self-worth and identity on the death of his beloved grandmother and the reappearance of Dad’s former lover in their lives. As he ponders how to present himself in college application essays, Sal wonders what he can offer to friends and the world.

    —SW

    The You I’ve Never Known. Ellen Hopkins. 2017. Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.

    The You I've Never KnownAriel, who has spent her life on the move with her alcoholic, abusive father, hopes to stay in Sonora, California, long enough to finish high school and escape his control. Seventeen-year-old Maya deliberately gets pregnant with a 27-year-old soldier, marries and accompanies him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to avoid moving to Los Angeles with her Scientology-obsessed mother. The girls’ stories (told in free verse for Ariel and prose for Maya) come together deftly in Hopkins’s beautifully-crafted novel.

    —CA

    Wildman. J. C. Geiger. 2017. Hyperion/Disney.

    WildmanValedictorian, college-bound Lance Hendricks is returning to his home in Oregon from a music audition in Seattle when his cherished Buick, a gift from his father who abandoned him, breaks down in a tiny town. While repairs are made and his mother and friends call and text arranging to get him home to the life he has planned, Lance finds himself in a culture he doesn’t understand and discovers new ways of being that he could never have imagined.

    —SW

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the School of Education and the English Department of Husson University, Bangor, Maine. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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    History in Fact and Fiction

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Jul 24, 2017

    Young people of all ages can learn important, timeless life lessons from history. Studies show that young people who engage in more nonfiction reading will build more background knowledge, which in turn will give them a greater foundation for all other reading. Here are a few recently published books—some nonfiction and some fiction based on real, historical events—that will inform and entertain readers.

    Ages 4–8

    Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History Is Unfortunately Unknown. Deborah Hopkinson. Ill. Giselle Potter. 2017. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Independence CakeIn an introduction, Deborah Hopkinson informs readers that Independence Cake is a fictional story about Amelia Simmons, author of American Cookery. First published in 1796 and the first known cookbook written by an American, Simmons adapted English recipes and cooking techniques. Giselle Potter’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations provide colorful details that complement Hopkinson’s imagined life story of Amelia Simmons in which local fame as a baker led to her creation of thirteen Independence Cakes (one for each of the thirteen colonies) for President George Washington’s inauguration celebration. Back matter includes an author’s note and online sources of Election Day cake recipes. 

    —CA

    Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing. Dean Robbins. Ill. Lucy Knisley. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Margaret and the MoonGrowing up, Margaret was curious about everything and loved to solve complicated math problems. When she discovered computers, she taught herself to code, using her problem-solving skill to write computer programs to perform increasingly more complex tasks. In 1964, she began working with NASA as software director for Project Apollo, and in 1969 became a hero of the Apollo 11 mission when a computer overload threatened its success. “Had Margaret thought of everything that could go wrong with a lunar landing?” Yes, and the safe landing on the moon of the lunar module Eagle was accomplished. An engaging text and cartoon illustrations make this life story of Margaret Heafield Hamilton accessible to young readers. Back matter includes an author’s note, bibliography, and an additional reading list.  

    —CA

    Patrick and the President. Ryan Tubridy. Ill. P. J. Lynch. 2017. Candlewick.

    Patrick and the PresidentIn this historically-inspired fictional story, Patrick, a young Irish boy, meets President John F. Kennedy during his 1963 visit to his ancestral home in Dunganstown, Ireland. Patrick sings with his class for the President, and attends the Kennedy family reception where he serves President Kennedy a special dessert and shakes hands with him. “Don’t ever wash that lucky hand of yours!” said Patrick’s mam. Realistic watercolor illustrations in soft hues capture the anticipation of Patrick and his classmates as they meet the President and create memories for a lifetime. Endpapers include the lyrics of “The Boys of Wexford,” which school children sang as part of Kennedy’s 1963 welcome to Ireland. Back matter includes a day-by-day itinerary of the President’s trip to Ireland accompanied by black-and-white photos.

    NB

    Ages 9–11

    Refugee. Alan Gratz. 2012. Scholastic.

    RefugeeThree young people from different places and times—Josef, a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany in 1938; Isabel, a girl living near Havana under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro in 1994; and Mahmoud, living in war-torn Aleppo, Syria, in 2015—have the same goal: to flee their homelands with their families. Written in alternating short chapters from the points of view of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud, Gratz’s novel is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure story. It is also a compelling and heartrending historical exploration of the plight of immigrants who take incredible journeys to survive, sustained by the quest for freedom and the hope of reaching a place in which their families can rebuild their lives. Maps help readers follow the three families’ journeys, and in an author’s note, Gratz identifies the historical background against which the fictional stories of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are set.

    —CA

    The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found. Martin W. Sandler. 2017. Candlewick.

    The WhydahThe Whydah, which sunk off the coast of Cape Cod during a storm on April 26, 1717, and was found in 1985, is the only shipwreck that has been authenticated as a pirate ship. Marine archaeologists have studied this “sunken time capsule” with its artifacts that provide evidence of pirate life that differs from their representations in popular movies and books. Sandler’s narrative, accompanied by biographical sketches, maps, charts, and photographs, chronicles the Whydah’s transformation from slavery ship to the mightiest and greediest pirate ship of the day. Insets include information about the history of slavery in the Americas, the Articles of Agreement (rules for pirates), the history of the Jolly Roger pirate flag, pirate attack strategies, coins as windows to the past, and other relevant and interesting topics. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Crossing Ebenezer CreekCrossing Ebenezer Creek. Tonya Bolden. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    The freedom Mariah has always longed for seems to be a possibility as she and her younger brother, Zeke, and others enslaved on the Chaney plantation join the march of General Sherman’s 14th Army Corps through Georgia following a raid by Union soldiers. As a relationship grows between Mariah and Caleb, a young black man working with the corps, she begins to dream of a home of her own with a man she loves. The hardships and dangers of the march are severe, but for Mariah, the struggles in freedom are nothing like the struggles in slavery. “Now the struggles of the march were hitched to striving for a new life.” An author’s note provides a context for this beautifully-written, carefully-researched novel which tells a personal story of a little-known event of the Civil War, the tragedy of “the betrayal at Ebenezer Creek” on December 9, 1864.

    —CA

    Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War. Paul B. Janeczko. 2017. Candlewick.

    Double CrossIn this companion to Top Secrets: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing (2006) and The Dark Game: True Spy Stories from Invisible Ink to CIA Moles (2010), Paul Janeczko chronicles the use of deception in war throughout history.  Focusing on the use of deception during World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars, Janeczko provides numerous examples of the interplay of various deception tactics used in military operations (such as the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944) in an informative, accessible text, complemented by captioned photographs and maps. Each chapter includes an interesting sidebar on a related topic such as the use of signals and ciphers in the Civil War, the code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park in World War II, and the important role of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for communication during Operation Desert Storm, the second phase of the Gulf War. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, image credits, and an index.

    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Magellan: Over the Edge of the World. Laurence Bergreen. 2017. Roaring Brook.

    MagellanThis young readers’ edition of Bergeen’s Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (2003) offers a true adventure story set in the age of exploration and discovery that expands the textbook story of  Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan (14801521). With Magellan as captain general, the Armada de Molucca of five ships and 260 sailors set sail on the Atlantic Ocean in 1519 under the Spanish flag. The expedition to the Spice Islands was plagued by treacherous sailing conditions over uncharted waters, storms, harsh weather, illness, starvation, and mutiny. Magellan was killed in the Philippines during a confrontation with natives in 1521. The following year, one remaining ship, the Victoria, returned to Seville with only eighteen survivors, completing the circumnavigation of the globe. The history of this important maritime expedition includes a list of major characters, maps, and captioned illustrations. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

    —CA

    Night Witches. Kathryn Lasky. 2017. Scholastic.

    Night WitchesIt's 1941; World War II is in full swing and the Germans are surrounding Stalingrad, intent on obliterating the city. After her grandmother and mother are killed and her home destroyed in raids on their town, 16-year-old Valya heads out on her own to not only survive, but to help. Taught to fly by her father, who was a major in the Russian Air Force, she longs to join her sister, Tatyana, as a member of the Night Witches, a band of young female Soviet pilots who bomb Nazi supply lines and clear the way for the troops, but she does not qualify because she is too young. Sneaking her way onto the base, Valya works her way up from the ground crew to the cockpit, where she is eventually able to prove herself. When Tatyana is captured by the Germans, Valya knows that it is up to her to rescue her sister, and it will entail precision timing and more than a little luck. 

    NB

    Maid of the King’s Court. Lucy Worsley. 2017. Candlewick.

    Maid of the King's CourtTwelve-year old Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne has accepted that it is her duty to save her impoverished but noble family by marrying well. After her engagement falls through in a scandal, she is sent to Trumpton Hall to train to become a lady. It is not long before Eliza and her cousin Katherine are sent as maids of honor to serve King Henry VIII’s latest wife, Anne of Cleves. Hoping for lucrative marriage matches, they are immediately drawn into court intrigue. When Anne doesn’t produce an heir, she is dismissed, and Katherine is chosen as the king’s next wife. This story follows the fictional character, Eliza, through age 18, when Katherine is beheaded for treason. In the epilogue, British historian Worsley tells how she used her knowledge of Hampton Court Palace to create this fictional version of Tudor history that she hopes will provide insights into Katherine Howard’s life.

    NB

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

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