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    Books About Books

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Sep 11, 2017

    The books in this week’s column take readers on imaginative adventures that tell the tales of people whose lives have been changed by books. Set in libraries, bookshops, and classrooms, these intriguing stories whet the appetite for more reading, and inspire readers to share the wondrous world of books with others.

    Ages 4–8

    Baabwaa & Wooliam. David Elliott. Ill. Melissa Sweet. 2017. Candlewick.

    Baabwaa and WooliamBaabwaa is a sheep who loves knitting. Wooliam is a sheep who loves reading. Inspired by the story Wooliam’s reading, they set off seeking adventure. Nothing exciting happens until they are approached by another sheep—one with a long tail, a toothy snout, and an unkempt fleece. Wooliam recognizes the stranger as the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing he’s read about, and the chase is on. Their adventure takes an unexpected turn with Baabwaa and Woolliam returning to knitting and reading and the wolf discovering the joy of reading (although there are still frequent interruptions for chasing). Sweet’s colorful and expressive illustrations, done in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media, add to the fun of this entertaining tale of an unlikely friendship.

    —CA

    A Place to Read. Leigh Hodgkinson. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    A Place to ReadA young boy is searching for the perfect place to sit for a bit to read. The playful rhyming text and mixed media-and-digital collage illustrate the boy’s search for the perfect chair. Observant readers will notice creatures that appear as the boy keeps rejecting chairs until he finally realizes that it doesn’t matter where you read a book. A final double-page depicts him lying on the floor, reading to all the creatures, as he declares, “. . . a book is best anywhere . . . /a book is best when you SHARE.”  

    —CA

    Robinson. Peter Sís. 2017. Scholastic.

    RobinsonWhen Peter, the narrator, and his adventure-loving friends make plans to go to the school costume party as pirates, his mother has another idea. She creates a furry outfit that transforms Peter into the hero of his favorite adventure story, Robinson Crusoe. At the party, all his pirate-costumed friends make fun of his costume. Back home and tucked in bed, he begins to dream. A series of exquisite double-page spreads and sequential panels show Peter cast upon a lush, colorful island where he survives as a strong and brave Robinson Crusoe. Just as pirates arrive on the island, Peter awakes in his bedroom to find his friends eager to play and hear more about Robinson Crusoe. In an author’s note, Sís tells how this book was inspired by remembrance of a childhood experience in which his mother dressed him up as one of his favorite storybook characters for a costume contest. The accompanying photograph shows the young Sís in his Robinson Crusoe costume.

    —CA

    This Book Will Not Be Fun. Cirocco Dunlap. Ill. Olivier Tallec. 2017. Random House.

    This book will not be funAs the Word-Eating Flying Whale makes an appearance to snack on a few words, a mouse who likes “boring things” addresses the reader, stating, “This book will not be fun.” Then, a worm materializes on the whale’s fin, transforming into a Glow-in-the-Dark Kung Fu Worm, and the lights go out. Following the worm’s lit-up footprints through convoluted zigs and zags in the dark, the mouse arrives at a GIANT ZERO-GRAVITY DANCE PARTY where, after frolicking, he finally admits, “Well, it [this book] was not fun for YOU. I had a great time.” Tallec’s bold and colorful illustrations effectively showcase this mouse with his long-suffering demeanor and quirky sense of humor. This is just the right book to knock lethargic readers out of their socks and into a book dance party!

    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Dragon’s Green (Worldquake #1). Scarlett Thomas. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    Dragon's GreenEuphemia (Effie) Truelove’s mother disappeared five years earlier during the Worldquake, which pitched the world back to pre-1992 technology. Now Effie faces a new loss when her grandfather, Griffin, is attacked in an alley. On his deathbed, he adds a codicil to his will, leaving his possessions to Effie, and whispers that she must find Dragon’s Green and protect his library of last editions. By that evening, her father, who hates magic and destroyed the codicil, has sold the library to an antiquarian bookseller. Although she doesn’t understand Griffin’s requests, she enlists the help of classmates from the Tusitala School for the Gifted, Troubled, and Strange, and assisted by some of her grandfather’s mystical artifacts, they embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the books. Readers will be primed to read what happens next in this new fantasy series.

    —NB

    Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids. Elissa Brent Weissman (Ed.) 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Our Story BeginsWith contributors ranging in age, gender, and ethnicity, this book is an inspiring collection of vignettes in which 26 authors and illustrators give firsthand accounts of their early talent and accomplishments. They also impart advice and provide photos of their early artwork, prose, and poetry. Readers will find themselves drawn to the stories of certain authors and illustrators. For me, some highlights included Linda Sue Park’s poem “Fog by the Ocean,” written at age nine; Brian Selznick’s description of drawing characters from Star Wars at age eleven; and Rita Williams-Garcia’s accomplishment of completing 39 journals/sketchbooks with story ideas and conversations by age thirteen. Perfect for aspiring writers and illustrators of all ages, this anthology concludes with a list of suggestions such as “Read, read, read,” “Daydream, doodle, and let your imagination run wild,” and “Believe.”

    —NB

    The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library. Linda Bailey. Ill. Victoria Jamieson. 2017. Greenwillow/HarperCollins.

    The Tiny HeroEddie, a tiny green bug, lives with his family (including 53 siblings) behind the chalkboard in a fourth-grade classroom. When Aunt Min leaves and doesn’t return, Eddie sneaks out and locates her in the library. Overhearing the substitute librarian on the phone as she plans to turn the library into a technology lab, Eddie writes “please,” “save,” and “the library” on sticky notes that he presses onto various books. The students decide that these notes are from the ghost of the founding librarian, Miss Cavendish, who wants them to save the library. After Eddie’s aunt is accidentally locked in a desk drawer, Eddie writes one last note, “Open,” and leaves it on the desktop. Can Eddie’s bright ideas save both the Fern Creek library and Aunt Min? It will be a tough job for a little bug. Jamieson’s black-and-white illustrations complement Bailey’s clever adventure story. Eddie & Min’s Bugliography (a list of children’s books referenced in the story) is a nice addition.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Books! Books! Books!: Explore the Amazing Collection of the British Library. Mick Manning & Brita Granström. 2017. Candlewick.

    Books! Books! Books!Manning and Grandström take readers on a tour of the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom and “the greatest library in the world!” Spreads of watercolor-and-digital collage art incorporate photographs of work from the library’s archives and a docent-like narrative (with humorous touches) provide an engaging, accessible peek at the British Library’s treasure of books, documents, manuscripts, and more. Back matter includes notes on the twenty-one featured treasures, including the handmade St. Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest surviving book produced in Europe; the Magna Carta; the First Folio of William Shakespeare; the original manuscript of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and the handwritten sheet music of Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks.”

    —CA

    The Unbreakable Code (Book Scavenger #2). Jennifer Chambliss Bertram. Ill. Sarah Watts. 2017. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt.

    The Unbreakable CodeTwelve-year-old Book Scavenger celebrities Emily and James go sleuthing again when they suspect their social studies teacher, Mr. Quisling, is involved with a string of arson fires, triggered by encrypted messages in hidden, Mark Twain-penned books. The only way for them to be sure—and to stop Mr. Quisling—is to solve the Unbreakable Code, a Mark Twain cipher (with its alleged fire curse), and locate the treasure from the Niantic, a ship that burnt in the San Francisco harbor during the 1851 Gold Rush. They must find the hidden Twain books (and decipher their encrypted messages) and discover (and figure out) the treasure map in the History Center before Mr. Quisling does. Readers will want to solve the ingenious black-and-white codes and ciphers along with the characters in the book. An author’s note describes the historical events that inspired this book. If they haven’t already done so, readers will want to check out Book Scavenger (2015) while waiting for the next book in the series.

    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Words in Deep Blue. Cath Crowley. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Words in Deep BlueAfter failing Year 12, Australian eighteen-year-old Rachel, whose younger brother, Cal, recently drowned, is sent to live with her Aunt Rose in Gracetown. No one in Gracetown knows of the tragedy, and Rachel remains silent. She reluctantly goes to work at Howling Bookstore, a local bookshop owned by the family of Henry Jones—her unrequited childhood crush. While working on a Letter Library project cataloguing comments written in certain books, she learns new things about her brother Cal from a surprising source. When the bookstore goes up for sale and she realizes she doesn’t have time to finish the transcriptions, Rachel turns her new understanding of Cal into a surprising solution—and finally finds her voice. Ready to heal, she reaches out to a community ready to embrace her. Readers will champion Rachel in her journey of loss, friendship, and love in this beautifully written book about reclaiming 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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    STEM Thinking in Emmet's Storm

    By Jacie Maslyk
     | Sep 07, 2017

    Emmet's Storm Set in the late 1800s, Emmet’s Storm (Catree, 2017) is about a quirky kid with a love of all things science, technology, engineering, and math. Though his technology is from another era, students will quickly connect with Emmet’s innovative nature and his pursuit of discovery.

    In a small town, Emmet’s ideas and experiments are often ridiculed (especially when one knocks a local nun to the ground) but he continues to build his knowledge by reading and asking lots of questions. He grows his skills through practice—creating multiple iterations of each invention.

    While many of Emmet’s experiments fall short, he doesn’t let failure get him down. He perseveres when others don’t believe in his ideas, including his own father. Like many students in our classrooms, Emmet’s abilities aren’t always recognized by those around him. His experiments serve a purpose in the end, as Emmet’s knowledge helps his friends and his teacher during a major storm. 

    This book will inspire students to tinker, sketch, and wonder. Emmet’s sketches throughout the book show readers that new ideas can be documented, revised, and engineered through trial, error, and a little persistence. As the character builds and messes with materials, students may be inspired to do the same! Look for ways that you might incorporate experimental design, building activities, and invention research into your curriculum.

    Emmet’s character engages in innovative thinking, problem-solving, data-driven research, and other STEM skills as the story progresses. As an educator who embraces STEM, STEAM, and the integration of hands-on learning into classrooms, I believe this book is a great addition to classroom or library.  

    Jacie Maslyk is an educator, presenter, and the author of STEAM Makers. You can find her on Twitter @DrJacieMaslyk or on her blog, Creativity in the Making.

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    Curriculum Connections

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Sep 04, 2017

    Trade books published for readers of all ages offer engaging and insightful—and sometimes surprising—perspectives on topics that have cross-curricular connections.  The imaginative books in this week’s column incite interest and raise questions about important subjects—from space science to species extinction and recycling—making them good choices for reading for pleasure and for knowledge.

    Ages 4–8

    Can an Aardvark Bark? Melissa Stewart. Ill. Steve Jenkins. 2017. Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster.

    Can an Aardvark Bark?In Stewart and Jenkins’ playful exploration of the vocalizations of animals, patterned questions and responses—“Can an aardvark bark?” No, but it can grunt.”—are paired with textured torn and cut paper collage portraits of the animals. Each Q&A double-page spread is followed by a double-spread presenting four other animals that make the same sound. The final page is an invitation for children to identify the seven featured animals (aardvark, seal, wild boar, porcupine, dingo, giraffe, and kangaroo) and to mimic their sounds: grunt, growl, squeal, laugh, bellow, bark, and whine. Back matter includes selected sources and books for further reading.

    —CA

    Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing. Leda Schubert. Ill. Raúl Colón. 2017. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook. 

    Pete SeegerThis picture book biography celebrates the life and work of Pete Seeger (19192014), who, through his music and activism “got America singing.” Schubert deftly weaves the titles of a host of original and traditional songs (printed in blue) that Seeger sang with audiences into the spare, expressive text of this tribute to an American hero who “cared about justice, peace, equality, and people everywhere.” Colón’s watercolor and colored pencil illustrations show the joy of the experiences Seeger shared with friends and gatherings of people of all ages. Back matter includes an author’s note, a timeline of significant events in Seeger’s life, sources of direct quotes, a selected bibliography, a list of books for children, and recommended recordings.

    —CA

    This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World. Matt Lamothe. 2017. Chronicle.  

    This is How We Do It Boys from Italy, Uganda, Iran, Russia, and Peru, and girls from India and Japan share their daily routines, including what they wear to school, how they get to school, the food they eat, their household chores, and their favorite games. Lamothe’s digitally-rendered drawings (based on photographs provided by the children’s families) in individual panels on double-page spreads show, at times, what they have in common and, at other times, how they are different. Back matter includes photographs of the families, a glossary, and an author’s note. A world map on the endpapers shows where the children live.

    —SW

    Ages 9–11

    Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World. Jan Adkins. 2017. Charlesbridge.

    Bertha Takes a DriveIt is 1888 and Bertha Benz’s husband, Karl, has invited the first Benz Motorwagen to visit her mother. she and her two sons had to sneak out of their house before dawn. Driving the motorwagen, which was considered a danger on the streets, was illegal in Germany. Driving over rutted and dusty roads caused problems with the car, but unflustered and undaunted, Bertha resourcefully invented solutions, such as using her hat pin to open the fuel line and a rubber garter to wrap around frayed electric wiring. She invented brake pads by having a cobbler put leather strips on the wood brakes so they would hold against the tires. Adkins' illustrations depict the challenging 100-kilometer cross-country road trip. An “Automobile Evolution” timeline, a labeled diagram of the Benz Motorwagen III, and Adkins’ author’s note explaining his research process help readers understand the period, the car, and the driver.

    —SW

    Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond. Martin Jenkins. Ill. Stephen Biesty. 2017. Candlewick.

    Exploring SpaceVoyager 1, the most distant man-made object in outer space, the evolution of the telescope, and possible future habitats on Mars are among the topics of space science depicted in intricate pencil and colored pencil drawings in this survey book on space exploration. This beautifully designed large-format book provides detailed information about exploratory projects such as the Mars Landing and Rover, satellites to support human communities living in outer space, and modes of travel outside of Earth’s gravity. The back matter includes a “Discovering Space” timeline, a glossary, and selected resources.

    —SW

    Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl. John Demos. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

    Puritan GirlIn the preface to this historical novel, based on his The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (1994), Demos provides context for the story of Eunice Williams, an 8-year-old Puritan girl who was kidnapped by Mohawks in a raid on her town of Deerfield, in the Massachusetts colony, in the winter of 1704. Having survived the 200-mile trek north into Canada during the bitter winter, Eunice is adopted into a Mohawk family living in a village near the St. Lawrence River. She is given a Mohawk name, A’ongote. Over the years, she accepts Mohawk beliefs and customs, and she chooses to stay with them throughout her life. Demos’ presentation of the story from the perspective of this captive Puritan girl who became a Mohawk makes this an accessible narrative history for young readers. Back matter includes an author’s note, source notes, and a selected bibliography.

    —CA

    This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash. Sarah Wassner Flynn. 2017. National Geographic Kids.

    This Book StinksSleeping bags from recycled water bottles, stylish dresses from discarded CDs and newspapers, waste bins on wheels with sensors to track and catch thrown trash—these are just a few examples of the possible future of trash that this survey book describes. A chapter on “Trashing the Earth” covers topics such as the location of the biggest dumps and landfills around the world, the islands of garbage that float on every ocean of the Earth, and waste in outer space. Alarming photographs and statistics (e.g., “5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s seas”) show the magnitude of the global problem of dealing with the trash humans generate from the smallest food scraps to cars and refrigerators. The format of This Book Stinks grabs the reader’s attention. Each chapter includes features such as special reports, infographics, quizzes, jokes, factoids, and full-color, captioned photographs. The book concludes with a wealth of actions readers can take to manage and reuse their trash to help “un-stink” our planet.    

    —SW  

    Ages 12–14

    The Great American Foot Race: Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby! Andrew Speno. 2017. Calkins Creek/Highlights.

    Great American Foot RaceAt the height of the Roaring Twenties, and in a period of growing interest in recreational sports, C. C. Pyle promoted a transcontinental foot race. The race coincided with the Good Roads Movement advocating the construction of national highways. Pyle planned the 1928 foot race from Los Angeles to Chicago along what would become U.S. Route 66, and then onto New York City with scheduled stops to rest, eat, and sleep. Raising funds along the way and securing provisions and accommodations for the runners were bigger problems than he anticipated. Speno weaves biographical remarks about some of the participants into the chronicle of the dramatic and often harrowing events of the 84-day race. Archival illustrations, photographs, maps, and charts of race results add interest.

    —SW

    The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea. Bryan Barnard. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    The New OceanThis book tells the stories of six sea dwellers: jellyfish, orcas, sea turtles, tuna, corals, and blue-green algae. A description of the life cycle, habitats, and eating patterns of each of six ocean dwellers is followed by a consideration of the sequence of events that has led to the dominance of some species, like the jellyfish and blue-green algae, and the decline of others. Each species is depicted in an oil painting, with a second illustration that shows how changes in the food chain and water temperature affect survival rates. “An Ocean of Plastic” map on the front endpaper shows the circulation of “garbage patches” by ocean currents, and a map on the back endpaper depicts how the absorption of heat and atmospheric carbon dioxide by the oceans is making the water hotter and more acidic and bleaching coral reefs around the world.

    —SW

    Ages 15+

    Soldier Boy. Kelly Hutton. 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux.

    Soldier BoyIn an author’s note at the beginning of the book, Hutton provides information on her interviews with Ricky Richard Anywar, a former “soldier boy,” and research about the Ugandan civil war and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to prepare readers for this biographical novel of a child soldier. In 1989, at age 14, Ricky was abducted by Joseph Kony’s rebel army during a raid in his village. Hutton gives a vivid account of the brutal training and horrors of the combat missions that Ricky endured and survived (which most child soldiers did not) over four years, while he remained determined to escape and return home. Interwoven into the narrative are chapters set in 2006 in which fictional 11-year-old Samuel, who is recuperating from battlefield wounds, distrusts his caregivers and the stranger who promises to help him get home. An afterword by Anywar provides information about the challenges and reality of life faced by former child soldiers and the work of Friends of Orphans, a charity helping them to recover from their past, with hope for a brighter future in Uganda.

    —CA

    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.

    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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    Fantastical Worlds and Imaginative Possibilities

    Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Aug 29, 2017

    From tales of mythical beasts, to historical fantasies, epic quests, and intergalactic thrillers, the recently published, playful, and inventive books in this week’s column take readers to fantastical worlds and invite the delight of imaginative possibilities.

    Ages 4–8

    The Giant of Jum. Elli Woollard. Ill. Benji Davies. 2017. Henry Holt.

    The Giant of JumThe grumpy Giant of Jum, with his rumbling tummy, thinks Jack, with a side of dish of beans, would be the perfect snack. Setting out in search of Jack, he meets a group of children. “‘Fum!’ he said, and ‘Fo!’ he said, and ‘Fi!’ he said, and ‘Fee! / Children, I feel, make a fabulous meal. / I will gobble you up with my tea!’” His original plans for a “little Jack snack” are forgotten as the children (including Jack) declare him to be a nice giant. After he does three good deeds for them, and they reward him with a giant-sized CAKE! Clever wordplay and brightly colored illustrations make this story in rhyme a good choice for reading aloud.

    —CA

    Time Now to Dream. Timothy Knapman. Ill. Helen Oxenbury. 2017. Candlewick.

    Time Now to DreamAlice and her little brother Jack are playing ball when they decide to explore the weird sounds they hear coming from the forest. Alice wants to explore, but Jack is timid. “What if it’s the Wicked Wolf?” As they venture deep, and then deeper, into the forest, they hear more haunting fragments of a song, and Jack adds more details to his worries about the Wicked Wolf (“big bad claws” and “snap-trap jaws”) while Alice reassures him that, “Everything is going to be all right.” In an unexpected turn of events, it is Alice who wants to flee as Jack discovers the source of the sounds: a mother wolf singing a lullaby to her three cubs. Knapman’s sparse, patterned fairy tale-like text and Oxenbury’s dreamy, softly colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations make this fantasy adventure a good read-aloud choice.

    —NB

    A True Home (Heartwood Hotel #1). Kallie George. Ill. Stephanie Graegin. 2017. Disney Hyperion.

    Heartwood HotelWhen her home is washed away by heavy rainfall, Mona, an orphaned mouse, finds shelter at the Heartwood Hotel, a grand establishment for woodland animals in Fernwood Forest. Given a bed for the night by Mr. Heartwood, the badger proprietor, in exchange for helping clean up after the evening’s Acorn Festival party, Mona does such a good job that she is asked to stay on to help Tilly, the maid, for the busy fall season. Mona becomes a favorite with both guests and staff, but as preparation for the First Snow Festival signals the start of the winter season, she realizes her time at the Heartwood will soon end. However, Mona, who is brave and clever as well as helpful and kind, saves the hotel from a pack of hungry wolves—and the hotel becomes her “true home.” Mona’s adventures at the Heartwood Hotel continue in The Greatest Gift, the simultaneously published second book in this cozy animal fantasy chapter book series.

    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    The Emperor’s Ostrich. Julie Berry. 2017. Roaring Brook.

    The Emperor's OstrichJoin the adventures of milkmaid Begonia and her wandering cow, Alfalfa; Key, a farm boy and self-proclaimed Finder of Lost Things and rescuer of damsels in distress; and a rude and bedraggled stranger wearing silk pajamas (whom they call Lumi when he fails to identify himself) and his companion, an eight-foot tall ostrich. Ancestral spirits mastermind their activities as they wend their way toward Lotus City, following a magic map. Begonia, Key, and the ostrich must escape after being kidnapped by Mr. Poka, Proprietor of Poka’s Carnival of Curiosities, who wants to add the “postrich” to his menagerie. Taken to be the kidnapper of the Emperor, Lumi is captured by soldiers. All end up in the palace dungeon under orders of three nobles scheming to take over the kingdom. Silly details such as the love-struck relationship of Alfalfa and the ostrich make this a madcap, magical romp that does have a happy ending.

    —CA

    The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. Stephanie Burgis. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    The Dragon With a Chocolate HeartAventurine, a young dragon, rebels against her protective family and sneaks out of their lair only to be cursed by a food mage, who transforms her into a feisty, chocolate-seeking 12-year-old human girl. Not understanding who she is as a human, but with the instincts of a dragon and lured by the scent of chocolate, she worms her way into an apprenticeship at The Chocolate Heart in the city of Drachenburg, where her experience affirms her passion for all things chocolate. When the efforts of her only human friend, Silke, to save The Chocolate Heart are sabotaged by political shenanigans and the town rallies against Aventurine’s dragon family, which has come to rescue her, she knows that she must dig deep into her “inner dragon” for a solution. It turns out that chocolate may, indeed, hold the key for a peace agreement between Drachenburg and the dragons, and that there may be a way for Aventurine to have it all: the life of a dragon, a human child, and a chocolatier!

    —NB

    The Princess and the Page. Christina Farley. 2017. Scholastic.

    The Princess and the PageTwelve-year-old Keira, forbidden by her mother to write anything creative, discovers her grandma’s magical Word Weaver pen after a robbery at her home. Angry at her mother and not knowing what the pen is (but drawn to it like a bee to honey), Keira writes a fairy tale for a writing contest. Her entry wins the prize, a trip to France for herself, her mother, and her best friend, Bella, where they will spend one week in a castle and Keira will be treated like a princess. As a series of odd and dangerous events unfolds, she sleuths the castle to find answers. Realizing that she is a Word Weaver whose fairy tale has come to life and that the princess in her story, as well as her mother, friend, and others, are in peril, Keira knows the only way she can save them is by writing a new ending and, possibly, sacrificing her own life.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Shadow Run (Kaitan Chronicles #1). AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    Shadow RunIn this intergalactic thriller, Prince Nevarian Dracorte, heir to the throne of Luvos, goes undercover on the starship Kaitan Heritage to convince 17-year-old Captain Qole Uvgamut to return with him so scientists can study her special ability to control the powerful Shadow fuel upon which the universe depends. When Qole and her crew discover Nev’s covert mission, they want to pitch him off the ship, but discover they are the target of an even greater threat. Returning in the starship to his home planet, Nev presents Qole to his father (the king) but is unprepared for the court machinations, political greed, and personal betrayal that seek to destroy not only Qole, with whom he shares a growing affection, but also him. Written in alternate chapters from their points of view, this sci-fi adventure leaves Nev and Qole needing to make life-and-death decisions to survive—and readers ready for the sequel, Shadow Call (2017).

    —NB

    The White Road of the Moon. Rachel Neumeier. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    The White Run of the MoonIn this stand-alone epic fantasy, 15-year-old orphan Meridy, an outcast because of her witchy black eyes and dark skin, runs away from her hateful Aunt Tarana, who plans to sell her as a laundry apprentice. She begins to understand her supernatural powers when she encounters a ghost boy, ghost wolfhound, and a mysterious injured stranger. Escaping from brigands, she joins a company of merchants traveling together for safety and makes friends with Jaift, a merchant’s daughter who also has magical gifts. With the help of Jaift—and a few ghostly and human friends she gathers along the way—Meridy discovers her witch’s power to change the future through righting the wrongs of the past as she steps into the realms of dreams. Embracing her gifts and heritage, she fights evil, helps defeat the Witch King, opens the White Road into the God’s realms, and witnesses the restoration of the rightful High King to the resurrected-from-the-sea city of Moran Diorr. Transformed from a helpless orphan into a respected sorceress, Meridy is now empowered to choose her future.

    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion #1). Rosalyn Eves. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Blood Rose RebellionIn mid-19th-century London, 16-year-old Anna Arden, whose family is part of the Luminate (the magical elite who rule society), has been labeled Barren—unable to perform spells—depleting her of rights and privileges of her class. After she inexplicably breaks  her sister Catherine’s debutante spell (and possibly Catherine’s chances for a successful marriage match), Anna is exiled by her parents to live with her Grandmama in Hungary, where the country is on the cusp of war. There she meets gypsy Romani Gabor and, at her father’s request, connects with the mysterious Lady Berri. As Anna struggles with her uncontrollable chimera, two souls in one body, she must choose which side of the rebellion she is on before either the Austrian Circle (the ruling body of the Luminate) or revolutionaries successfully commandeer her power for breaking, or keeping, the Binding (Luminate rule). Back matter includes an author’s note (describing historical truths and fiction) and a glossary of Hungarian words. The sequel, Lost Crow Conspiracy, in this historical fantasy trilogy is coming soon.

    —NB

    A Face Like Glass. Frances Hardinge. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

    A Face Like GlassIn the underground city of Caverna, babies are born with blank faces and must be taught to facially express emotions. Only the affluent can buy a full range of Faces from Facesmiths, the creators of nuanced expressions such as Face No. 312, a grave face designed to make the wearer look formidable, reliable, and respectable all at the same time. Twelve-year-old Neverfall, who has been locked away for seven years by Cheesemaster Grandible and believes she must wear a velvet mask to hide her ugly, frightening face, begins to wonder who she is and what life is like outside the cheese tunnels. When Neverfall finds a hidden passage out of the tunnels, she learns that she has “a face like glass,” a face that show all her thoughts and feelings, a face that does not let her lie. Neverfall’s face puts her in danger as she becomes a pawn of the Court and corrupt ruling families of Caverna. The plot of Hardinge’s beautifully crafted, insightful fantasy is as complicated and twisted as the tunnels of Caverna.

    —CA

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

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

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    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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