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    Debut Authors and Illustrators

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Apr 15, 2019

    Each year we look forward to reading the first books by children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. In this week’s column we review debut picture books and novels that caught our attention and left us eagerly anticipating the next literary offerings of these authors and illustrators.

    Ages 4–8

    Dust Bunny Wants a Friend. Amy Hevron. 2019. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Dust Bunny Wants a FriendEveryone craves love, even a lone dust bunny under a chair. In this almost wordless book (words are limited to “hi,” “bye,” “achoo,” and “byeee!”), Amy Hevron makes her debut as an author with the story of a little dust bunny seeking friendship with all the wrong creatures (a bug, ants, a cat, a teddy bear) which gives young bookworms lots to “read” in the humorous and colorful illustrations (rendered in acrylic and marker on wood and collaged digitally). When Dust Bunny finds himself swept under a bed by a broom, he finally discovers his people, a community of dust bunnies who happily welcome him.
    —NB 

    How to Walk an Ant. Cindy Derby. 2019. Roaring Brook/Macmillan.

    How to Walk an AntAmariyah, a self-proclaimed Expert Walker, shares with readers her very own nine-step “How to Walk an Ant” guide with handwritten instructions, tips, rules, and occasional footnotes. Debut authorillustrator Cindy Derby’s black ink-and-watercolor artwork with a distinctive goth vibe shows Amariyah working her way through the steps, including securing a leash to an ant and practicing walking it. A collision with a ladybug walker results in a tangle of leashes (and the need to reference “How to Conduct a Funeral” in the appendix) before step nine: “Celebrate when you reach your goal,” which Amariyah does with her new friend and business partner.
    —CA

    Ruby’s Sword. Jacqueline Véissid. Ill. Paola Zakimi. 2019. Chronicle.

    Ruby's SwordRuby’s brothers consider her a pest and always leave her behind. One day, Ruby finds three “swords” (long sticks hidden in the grass), gives two of them to her brothers so they will “swashbuckle” with her, and, after they run off without her, uses her imagination to fight a dragon, have a royal feast, and save loyal subjects all on her own. When she begins building a castle with sticks and a sheet, her brothers return with “honorable offerings” (twigs, rocks, dandelions, their swords), and together they build a magnificent castle perfect for three noble knights. Argentinian illustrator Paola Zakimi’s illustrations, rendered in watercolor and pencil as well as digitally, capture the challenges and sweetness of sibling relationships in author Jacqueline Véissid’s first book. 
    —NB  

    Snakes on a Train. Kathryn Dennis. 2019. Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan.

    Snakes on a Train“The conductor takes the tickets / as the snakes all slither on. / The tracks are checked. / The whistle blows. It’s time to move along. / Hissssssssssssssss goes the sound of the train.” The rhythmic text with a repetitive refrain and graphic illustrations with simple shapes and bold colors of Kathryn Dennis’ first picture book take young children on a day-long train trip with carloads of snake passengers reading books, enjoying snacks, and gazing at the scenery. At the end of the journey, as the snakes slither off to sleep in their dens, “the train rests for the night. / Snakes wrap themselves in little balls / and tuck their tails in tight. / Ssssssssssssssssh goes the sound of the train.”
    —CA

    Spencer and Vincent, the Jellyfish Brothers. Tony Johnston. Ill. Emily Dove. 2019. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Spencer and VincentJellyfish siblings Spencer and Vince share a special ditty: “My brother, my brother, / he’s sweet, not smelly. / I love him from down in / my jelly belly.” After Vincent disappears in a wave of “superior magnitude,” Spencer asks friends (a whale, mermaid, seahorse, and sea star) to help locate him, and with Spencer’s singing of their special song for encouragement and a helpful smack of the water by the whale, Vincent, so weak he can barely “slurp” forward, floats back to Spencer. “In a tenderness of tentacles the brothers clasped each other, an embrace of superior magnitude.” Debut illustrator Emily Dove’s imaginative illustrations, rendered digitally and with watercolor in oceanic hues, work in tandem with Tony Johnston’s clever text. An author’s note provides information about jellyfish.
    —NB 

    Ages 9–11.

    Hurricane Season. Nicole Melleby. 2019. Algonquin.

    Hurricane SeasonIt is storm season, and 11-year-old Fig fears the arrival of a hurricane that would draw her father (who has an undiagnosed bipolar disorder) to the dangerous beach of their New Jersey coastal town during a manic state. Her father, a once-accomplished pianist and composer, has not performed or written music since Fig’s birth, after which his wife abandoned them. In doing research for an art project on Vincent van Gogh, Fig sees similarities in the mood swings of her father and Van Gogh as well as parallels in their fatherdaughter relationship with that of the painter and his brother Theo. As a relationship between her father and a new neighbor, Mark, grows, Ruby is conflicted. Mark has a calming effect on her father, but is he interfering with the special bond she has with her father, who has always depended on her alone? Debut author Nicole Melleby’s novel is beautifully written, realistic, and thought-provoking. 
    —CA

    Ruby in the Sky. Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo. 2019. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan.

    Ruby in the SkyRuby Moon Hayes and her mother have just moved to the small town of Fortin, Vermont. They never stay long in any one place so Ruby plans to be “invisible” and not involved until she convinces her mother to return to Washington, DC, their home before her father, a police officer, was killed. Although not intending to, Ruby becomes friends with Abigail Jacobs, the reclusive “bird lady” who is considered a town nuisance by the mayor. Finding the courage to speak as Abigail in front of the whole town at the sixth grade’s Wax Museum project, in which the students imitate historical figures, is just what Ruby needs to do to make Fortin her true “forever home.” Ruby in the Sky is Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo’s first novel.
    —CA

    The Simple Art of Flying. Cory Leonardo. 2019. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    The Simple Art of FlyingDebut author Cory Leonardo’s characters are working their way through losses. Alastair, a cantankerous grey parrot, who composes original poetry based on books he’s eaten, longs to escape to a faraway island with Aggie, the sister he’s been separated from. Twelve-year-old Fritz, who journals about ailing animals he cares for at the pet store where he works part time and misses his deceased grandfather, adopts Aggie. Eccentric, 80-year-old Albertina Plopky, who writes letters to her dearly departed husband, adopts Alastair. Leonardo uses free verse poetry, letters, and narrative with zippy dialogue in the different storylines of her engaging middle-grade work of magical realism, which ends with Alastair concluding, “You don’t always get everything you want in this life. But sometimes what you do get is better than you imagined…”
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Cursed. Karol Ruth Silverstein.2019. Charlesbridge Teen/Charlesbridge.

    CursedFourteen-year-old Ricky Bloom was recently diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Since her parents’ divorce, her mother has sent her to sleep on a sofa couch at her father’s “Batch Pad,” and she’s attending a new school where she’s bullied. Ricky curses everyone around her, and after a truancy streak and swearing at Mr. Jenkins, her public speaking teacher, she may flunk ninth grade. Through the unexpected help of Mr. Jenkins (and his afterschool assignment make-up sessions) and new friend, Oliver (a cancer survivor), she learns that words have power and that sometimes the most important one is “help.” Debut author Karol Silverstein drew upon personal experiences with juvenile arthritis in writing her first novel.
    —NB

    The Line Tender. Kate Allen. 2019. Dutton/Penguin.

    The Line TenderWhen local fisherman Sookie catches a great white shark in his net off Rockport, Massachusetts, 12-year-old artistic Lucy and her best friend, science-savvy Fred, want to include the great white in their summer project, an illustrated field guide. Then Fred drowns during a nighttime swimming party in a nearby quarry, and his body is recovered by Lucy’s dad, a member of the police dive team. Learning how research currently being done on the relationship of the great white shark and gray seal in the Cape Cod area is related to a study proposed by her mother, a shark biologist, just before her death when Lucy was 7, becomes a way for Lucy, her depressed father, Sookie (a family friend), and Mr. Patterson (an elderly widower and neighbor) to connect and deal with grief over what they have lost. Each chapter in Kate Allen’s debut novel is introduced with a double-page pencil sketch of a shark.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Four Dead Queens. Astrid Scholte. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    Four Dead QueensSeventeen-year-old Keralie, a Torian skilled thief working with her childhood friend Mackiel and Varian Boltt, an Eonist messenger, become unlikely allies when his attempt to reclaim a case of comm chips with embedded memories she stole from him outside the Concord (where the queens of Toria, Eonia, Ludia, and Archia, the four Quadrants of Quadara, live and rule) leads to their shared knowledge of the memory embedded in the comm chips of the killing of the four queens and their subsequent life-endangering involvement in uncovering the identity of the assassins and who is behind the diabolical conspiracy. With masterful worldbuilding and complex timeline manipulation accomplished through alternating points of view, Astrid Sholte creates an action-packed suspenseful novel that will intrigue and delight both fantasy and mystery fans.
    —CA

    Genesis Begins Again. Alicia D. Williams. 2019. Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Genesis Begins AgainThirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson adds what she dislikes about herself to “100 Reasons Why We Hate Genesis” (created by two girls in her fifth-grade class), including her hair and skin color. When her troubled father doesn’t pay the rent and they are evicted, she and her mother temporarily live with her grandmother, who tells her that only light-skinned blacks succeed. After her dark-skinned father finagles another home in which she, her mother (who could almost pass for white), and him to live together, and Genesis attends a suburban school of mostly white students where she struggles to fit in by straightening her hair with frenemies and secretly trying to lighten her skin. After she develops relationships with two new friends and her music teacher who don’t care about these things, Genesis finds her voice, literally and psychologically, as she performs a medley of songs from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James for the school talent show. Debut author Alicia Williams draws on personal experience as she takes on sensitive issues of “colorism” (color prejudice) from outside, and inside, the African American community.
    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English, 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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    Shhh! I'm Reading!

    By Skye Deiter and Carolyn Angus
     | Apr 08, 2019

    What began as a celebration of National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day  on April 12 (the birthday of popular children’s book author Beverly Cleary) has become an annual month-long celebration. Join in the D.E.A.R. celebration by dropping whatever you are doing to read on April 12, or for a period of time each day during April. Better yet, keep the celebration going throughout the year.

    Ages 4–8

    The Alphabet of Peculiar Creatures. Katie Abey. 2019. Kane/Miller.

    The Alphabet of Peculiar CreaturesFrom Axolotl to Zebu, Katie Abey’s informational picture book features unusual and curious creatures for all 26 letters of the alphabet. Colorful, cartoonlike illustrations introduce the peculiar creatures and their scientific names and phonetic pronunciations. The brief, child-friendly text of interesting facts about the animals (such as a Binturong smells like popcorn, an Ermine changes coat color seasonally, and a Yeti Crab can grow food in its own claw hair) makes this book an excellent springboard for further investigation by young researchers interested in learning more about these peculiar creatures and other animal oddities on our planet.
    —SD  

    Breaking the Piggy Bank (Craftily Ever After #6). Martha Maker. Ill. Xindi Yan. 2019. Little Simon/Simon & Schuster.

    Breaking the Piggy BankWhen Bella, Sam, Maddie, and Emily discover supplies are running low at the Craft Clubhouse, they decide to make money by opening a stand where they will sell agua fresca, a fruit drink. The crafty friends prove to be resourceful as they prepare for their business venture, using only the materials they have while combining their talents in cooking, carpentry, artistry, and design. Finally, the stand is ready to open…or is it? The young entrepreneurs must find a way to make things right and attract some customers—and fast, before all the ice melts! Back matter shows readers how to make a piggy bank from a plastic bottle (one just like “Mr. Oinkers”).
    —SD

    Fast Fox and Slow Snail (Early Bird Stories). Lou Treleaven. Ill. David Creighton-Pester. 2019. Lerner.

    Fast Fox and Slow SnailFast Fox and Slow Snail like to move at different paces. When Snail suggests they go for a walk, Fox replies, “I never walk, I run.” He races ahead, leaving his small friend behind. Meanwhile, Snail walks on, enjoying the pleasant things he sees, including a flower, a bee, and moss on a log. When the two friends finally reunite, Fox realizes all he missed out on and agrees, “Let’s go slow.” The format of this inviting Early Bird Story with short sentences, some dialogue in speech bubbles, and brightly colored artwork featuring woodland animals with alliterative names makes it a good choice for young readers. Back matter includes a five-question comprehension quiz and guided-reading level information.
    —SD  

    Mr. Monkey Takes a Hike (Mr. Monkey #3). Jeff Mack. 2019. Simon & Schuster.

    Mr. Monkey Takes a Hike“He runs. / He ducks. / He climbs. / He swings. / He jumps. / He falls.” Mr. Monkey loses the video game he is playing. “GRRR!” A small yellow bird (just like the one in the game) enters through a window, watches as Mr. Monkey loses again, and flies away with the game controller. In pursuit of the bird, Mr. Monkey has a series of silly misadventures before returning home with the controller. “And now... / he’s ready... / to win!” Or is he? The limited vocabulary and repetition of the narrative and colorful cartoon illustration with one-word interjections in speech balloons make this action-packed story perfect for emergent readers.
    —CA

    Party Pigs! (Ready-to-Read). Eric Seltzer. Ill. Tom Disbury. 2019. Simon Spotlight/Simon & Schuster.

    Party Pigs!A simple rhyming text and comical illustrations make this an enjoyable book for beginner readers. The story begins as two pig families start the days by waking up, eating breakfast, and making plans to get together. The pig families greet each other in excitement by the lake and the party begins. “Pigs slip. / Pigs slide. / Pigs take / a big pig ride.” The afternoon is filled with pigs splashing in the water, chomping and burping, drawing and playing games, and, after a much-needed nap, bouncing on a trampoline. When the party is over, the pig families say their goodbyes and head home, taking with them the memory of a fun-packed day—just the kind of day young children enjoy.
    —SD  

    A Piglet Named Mercy. Kate DiCamillo. Ill. Chris Van Dusen. 2019. Candlewick.

    A Piglet Named MercyA Piglet Named Mercy is a delightful picture-book introduction to the “not-at-all ordinary” piglet who accidentally makes her way to the ordinary home of ordinary Mr. and Mrs. Watson on ordinary Deckawoo Drive just as Mrs. Watson begins to wonder if they aren’t “just the tiniest bit too predictable” and wishes something different would happen. The piglet immediately begins to transform the predictable lives of the Watsons and their elderly neighbors (Eugenia Lincoln and her younger sister, Baby Lincoln). Young children can continue reading about the adventures of this charming “porcine wonder” in Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen’s early chapter book series about Mercy Watson.
    —CA

    Shhh! I’m Reading! John Kelly. Ill. Elina Ellis. 2019. Tiger Tales.

    Shhh! I'm Reading!Having just reached an exciting part in the book she is reading, Bella turns down Captain Bluebottom’s invitation to join the Windy Pirates on an adventure even after he tries to convince her that “a voyage to Devil’s Island, a duel with Nobby Nasty, and then home again with a ship full of booty” is better than a book. She also turns down Maurice Penguin (who tries to entice her to perform with a troupe of dancing penguins) and Emperor Fabulon the Wobbulous (an octopus who wants her to help defend the Earth from invading aliens) with emphatic “I AM BUSY READING!” declarations. When she finishes reading the “BEST BOOK EVER!” and announces that now she is ready to go on an “INCREDIBLE” adventure, Bella is in for a big surprise.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Max & the Midknights. Lincoln Peirce. 2019. Crown/Random House.

    Max & the MidknightsThis graphic novel/fantasy hybrid by the creator of the popular Big Nateseries seamlessly transitions between prose and comic panels as Max, a young girl aspiring to be a knight, narrates tales of her knightly adventures with three unlikely friends, the self-dubbed Midknights. What starts as a quest to save Max’s troubadour uncle from evil King Gastley quickly turns into a mission to fulfill a prophecy that could save the city of Byjovia. Along their journey, the Midknights encounter a semi-retired wizard, an evil sorceress, the late king's commander of knights, a fire-breathing dragon named Bruce, and a surprise prisoner in the Forgotten Tower. Middle grade readers will enjoy the witty puns and humorous details on every page.
    —SD

    Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Gary D. Schmidt. 2019. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

    Pay Attention, Carter JonesOn the morning of Carter Jones’ first day of sixth grade, a mysterious man shows up at the Jones’ front door, introducing himself to Carter, his mother, and three younger sisters as their new butler. The British butler, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, explains he was left to the family as part of an endowment from Carter’s recently deceased grandfather. Carter is reluctant to conform to the butler’s expectations of his becoming a gentleman, and when cricket is introduced to him early one Saturday morning, he grows even more skeptical—until cricket turns into a schoolwide sensational sport at Longfellow Middle School. Now, Carter Jones must “pay attention” if he is to help deal with family troubles and lead his team, Team India, to their first victory.
    —SD

    Ages 12–14

    Missing! Mysterious Cases of People Gone Missing Through the Centuries. Brenda Z. Guiberson. 2019. Godwin/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    Missing!Brenda Z. Guiberson explores the intriguing stories of six famous unsolved cases of missing persons: Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa, airplane hijacker D. B. Cooper, child author Barbara Follett, aviator Amelia Earhart, ex-Mason William Morgan (who planned to publish a book about the secrets of the Freemasons), and Edward and Richard (King Edward IV’s sons, who were prisoners in the Tower of London). The text, illustrated with captioned photographs, maps, and drawings, includes profiles of the missing persons and details of what is known about their disappearances as well as searches for new clues and reexaminations of old ones over the years. Back matter includes a bibliography and index.
    —CA

    The Moon. Hannah Pang. Ill. Thomas Hegbrook. 2019. 360 Degrees/Tiger Tales.

    The Moon“For many thousands of years, humankind has looked up to the skies in awe, gazing in wonder at the Moon.” The Moon explores this fascination with the Moon and how it affects our lives and the world around us through an engaging, well-organized text and stunning, full-color artwork. Information on the science and history of research on the Moon from the work of early astronomers to current lunar exploration programs and the possibility of human colonization of the Moon is presented in an accessible format. Equally fascinating is the wealth of Moon-related folklore, mythology, and fiction included. A glossary of terms and a glossary of people are appended.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America. Ibi Zoboi (Ed.). 2019. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

    Black EnoughIn an introduction, editor Ibi Zoboi provides background on the origin of this anthology of short stories: her invitation to Black authors “to write about teens examining, rebelling against, embracing, or simply existing within their own idea of Blackness.” The result is an outstanding collection of stories by contemporary black authors (Ibi Zoboi, Renée Watson, Varian Johnson, Jason Reynolds, Justine Booth, and 12 others) about a diverse group of teens dealing with issues related to what it means to be young and Black in America today. The appended Authors Biographies section may lead teen readers to other works by the authors of these compelling stories.
    —CA

    Skye Deiter is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and a recent graduate from Pennsylvania State Harrisburg’s Masters in Literacy Education Program.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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    International Books

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Apr 01, 2019

    “Books Help Us Slow Down” is the theme for this year’s International Children’s Book Day on April 2 (the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen), sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. In this week’s column, we review books by authors and illustrators from countries around the world to share with young people in celebration of this annual event.

    Ages 4–8

    Angry Cookie. Laura Dockrill. Ill. Maria Karipidou. 2019. Walker/Candlewick.

    Angry Cookie“Close this book this very second, you nosy noodle. Don’t even think about turning the page.” After numerous pages in which a redheaded chocolate chip cookie persists in demanding that the reader close this book because he’s very angry and there is nothing the reader can do about it, he gives up and proceeds to enumerate all the things that happened to him the previous day that made him so angry. Finally, realizing the reader is still with him and listening, the cookie decides he’s not angry any more. He’s happy. A witty text and colorful, digitally created cartoonlike illustrations offer a gentle lesson on sticking with a friend even when they are acting like “an angry cookie.”(Laura Dockrill lives in England and Maria Karipidou lives in Germany.)
    —CA

    Birds. Carme Lemniscates. 2019. Candlewick Studio/Candlewick.

    Birds“Birds come in many different colors, shapes, and personalities.” Beginning with the first double-page spread featuring portraits of 12 colorful birds, a spare text and bright, mixed-media illustrations celebrate the diversity of birds in physical characteristics, habitats, and behaviors. And as the young narrator spends the day out of doors, she shares her thoughts about the many ways in which birds are such an awe-inspiring part of the world in which we live—from how their happy songs greet us in the morning to how they are free to fly away and make our imaginations soar. None of the birds are named, which offers the opportunity for adults sharing the book with young children to identify them as they talk about each page. (The authorillustrator lives in Spain.)
    —CA

    The Home Builders. Varsha Bajaj. Ill. Simona Mulazzani. 2019. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    The Home BuildersA series of questions—Do you see the home builders? Do you see the builders work? Do you see the homes? Do you see the babies? Do you see the families?—followed by a rhythmic text (with an ABCB rhyme scheme) focuses the reader’s attention on colorful mixed-media illustrations of idyllic woodland scenes showing animal parents digging, gnawing, gathering, and constructing homes in anticipation of the birth of their young (beaver kits, owlets, mole pups, and more) and raising them. This engaging format invites young children to point out and identify the various parents and their offspring on the  detailed, double-page spreads. (Varsha Bajaj grew up in India and now lives in Texas and Simona Mulazzani lives in Italy.)
    —CA

    It’s a Girl Thing!: Smart, Fierce, and Leading the Way. Pri Ferrari. 2019. StarBerry/Kane.

    It's a Girl Thing“What's a girl thing? What do girls like to do? What can girls be?” These introductory questions are followed by a series of brief patterned answers and clever mixed-media illustrations of girls involved in various activities. “Girls are..." statements are completed with professions: pilots, archeologists, chefs, mountain climbers, doctors, astronauts, creators, musicians, mechanics, gamers, business owners, chemists, adventurers, architects, and bus drivers. For example, “Girls are PILOTS. / They can fly helicopters, airplanes, / rockets...and even dragons” is paired with an image of a girl flying on a dragon. The last few pages describe characteristics of girls as brave, strong, and powerful, ending with “A Girl Thing is EVERYTHING!” (Pri Ferrari lives in Brazil.)
    —NB

    Lubna and Pebble. Wendy Meddour. Ill. Daniel Egnéus. 2019. Dial/Penguin.

    Lubna and PebbleAfter Lubna and her father arrive at the “World of Tents” as displaced persons, a small rock she names Pebble becomes her constant companion and best friend. She tells Pebble everything “About her brothers. About home. About the war.” When the weather turns cold, Lubna’s father gives her a tea towel and a shoebox in which to keep Pebble warm. Lubna befriends Amir, a little boy who arrives at the camp, and introduces him to Pebble. Amir cries when she tells him she is leaving for a new home, and Lubna gives him Pebble. Vibrant illustrations complement this emotionally powerful refugee story of friendship and compassion. (Wendy Meddour lives in England and Daniel Egnéus lives in Greece.)
    —NB

    The Neighbors. Einat Tsarfati. Trans. Annette Appel. 2019. Abrams.

    The NeighborsAs a girl climbs the stairs to her family’s seventh-floor apartment, she stops at the door on each floor and, based upon its distinctive appearance, describes the unit’s occupants. For example, muddy footprints outside the second door suggest to her that an old explorer and his pet tiger live there and, because the lights always shut off when she reaches the fourth floor, the apartment belongs to a vampire. Each double-page spread featuring the girl’s stop at a door is followed by a colorful, intricately detailed illustration of the apartment’s décor and activities in it according to her wild imaginings. When she unlocks the seventh door, she’s at home with her “so boring” parents. But after she’s asleep, readers discover that her parents lead a not-so-ordinary life. (The authorillustrator lives in Israel.)
    —CA

    Ages 911

    The Real Boat. Marina Aromshtam. Trans. Olga Varshaver. Ill. Victoria Semykina. 2019. Templar/Candlewick.

    The Real BoatMarina Aromshtam relates the story of the quest of a small paper boat floating in a pond to become a real boat. Navigating its way through a river, a stream, and a harbor, the paper boat finally reaches the ocean. During a storm, the paper boat sinks to the ocean floor but, fortunately, is rescued by a diver who takes it to his research vessel. Upon being given the paper boat, the ship’s captain says, “You’re so tiny—you must have sailed so far! / A true seafarer! / A real boat!” The paper boat, now a real boat named Intrepid, “sighed happily” from inside its new glass bottle. Victoria Semykina’s colorful, mixed-media illustrations express the textures, smells, and sounds of the ocean (along with the personalities of every boat or ship the paper boat meets along the way) and imaginatively celebrate the determination of an adventurous paper boat. (Marina Aromshtam and Victoria Semykina live in Russia.)
    —NB

    The Secret Cat. Katarina Strömgård. 2019. Eerdmans.

    The Secret CatOne night in bed, Lucy, whose mother won’t let her have a pet, hears something scratching in the wall, guesses its name is Silvring, and then sees a ghostly looking cat clawing through the wallpaper. After she feeds and plays with Silvring (who continues to grow throughout the story), they go for a nighttime walk and meet other people walking their secret pets (a winged dinosaur, a floating scarlet carp, a seal, a polar bear). But not all secret pets are nice. When she and Silvring are chased by Danger, a big, scary bird, Silvring (now huge) fights and scares Danger away, and they return home to sleep. In the morning, Lucy’s secret pet is gone. She’ll have to wait until night to whisper, “Silvring, come out!” Watercolor-and-ink illustrations in pinks and blues set the mood for this magical nighttime fantasy with just the right amount of scariness. (Katarina Strömgård lives in Sweden.)
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Stolen Girl. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2019. Scholastic.

    Stolen GirlIn 1950, 12-year-old Nadia arrives in Brantford, Ontario, with her Ukrainian adoptive mother, Marusia Kravchuk, after living in a European displaced persons camp for five years. Nadia is haunted by incomplete and confusing memories of World War II. Through nightmares and flashbacks, she relives the trauma of her childhood and learns that she is not German Gretchen, part of the family of SS General Himmel, but Larissa, a Ukrainian girl whose Tato was killed by the Soviets and Mama was killed by the Nazis. Finally, knowing her history, Nadia is ready to face the future. The author’s note provides information on the Nazi’s Lebensborn program, which stole blond, blue-eyed Polish and Ukrainian children and placed those considered “racially valuable” with German families, and the Ostarbeiters, Eastern European young adults the Nazis forced to work in munitions factories.(Ukrainian Canadian Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch lives in Brantford, Ontario.)
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Truth and Lies of Ella Black. Emily Barr. 2019. Philomel/Penguin.

    The Truth and Lies of Ella BlackEach chapter begins with a countdown to a death as 17-year-old Ella Black, who has a war waging within her between Ella, the good girl everyone sees and who is bullied, and Bella, the bad girl whose thoughts and actions she fights to control and keep secret, has her life turned upside down when her overprotective parents fly with her to Rio de Janeiro without notice. Snooping in their hotel room’s safe, Ella discovers that she is adopted and that her birth mother has been released from prison after serving time as an accomplice for the murder of five girls. On the run, Ella (urged on by Bella) survives through a series of name changes and relationships and ends up teaching art in a Brazilian ghetto. After the dramatic countdown to “One Hour,” the last chapter, “One Year Later,” brings an additional twist, with the last words, “The phone rang.” (Emily Barr lives in England.)
    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English, 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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    • Children's & YA Literature

    Fantasy and Science Fiction

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 25, 2019

    In the recently published books reviewed in this week’s column, readers of all ages can exercise their imagination as they meet traditional fantasy characters, such as dragons and fairies, in playful tales as well as humans having fantastical adventures in make-believe worlds of the past, present, or future.

    Ages 4–8

    Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon! Melissa Marr. Ill. Lena Podesta. 2019. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon!A red baby dragon swoops through a castle, shocking everyone except a young girl, who eagerly chases after it and then soars away on its back. Together they explore the treasures the dragon has gathered in its cave and chase each other through the forest. After calming down, they join a festive feast and then snuggle up for a nap—until the girl awakens. “Baby dragon, baby dragon, time to wake up! Let’s spread our wings and go explore. And see what else we can find together.”  Mixed-media illustrations complement this lighthearted story of an unusual friendship between a boisterous young girl and a playful dragon.
    —CA

    Dragon Night. J. R. Krause. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    Dragon NightWhen a huge dragon steps out his favorite book, St. George & the Dragon, and whispers that it’s afraid of the knight, Georgie says he’s afraid of the night, too. Agreeing to run away together, they soar away on a nighttime adventure, and Georgie learns that the night is dark, but not always scary. When Georgie comes to realize they are not worried about the same thing, he creates a new book (one with a friendly knight) for the dragon to hide in during the day. Now every night, after a flight, they read Georgie and Dragon and with a “Good knight” from the dragon and a “Good night” from Georgie, they fall asleep. J. R. Krause uses brush, pen, and ink and digital coloring to create the woodcut-style artwork for this imaginative tale.
    —CA

    Elbert, the Curious Clock Tower Bear. Andrew Prahin. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    ElbertWhen the curiosity of Elbert, one of five mechanical bears in the old clock tower, continues to disrupt their orderly parade each hour, he is given 24 hours to get rid of his curiosity or he will not be allowed to return. As Elbert travels through the town seeking a way to lose his curiosity, he discovers even more things to be curious about. Just as time is running out, Elbert comes up with the perfect way to keep his curiosity and make the other bears eager to discover the amazing things around them.
    —CA

    Fairy in Waiting (Fairy Mom and Me #2). Sophie Kinsella. Ill. Marta Kissi. 2019. Delacorte/Random House.

    Fairy in WaitingIn Sophie Kinsella’s sequel to Fairy Mom and Me (2018), Ella Brook resigns herself to being a fairy in waiting until she’s old enough to be like her mother, Aunty Jo, and Granny, who can turn into fairies with sparkly wings and Computawands (even though Mom isn’t good at doing spells and mixes up the codes, a lot). A chapter introducing Ella and her Fairy Mom is followed by four episodic chapters—“Fairy Mom and the Monkey Business,” ”You Can’t Stop a Magic Wardrobe,” “Ice Cream for Everyone” and “Best Birthday Party Ever”—offering hilarious stories about fairy spells that backfire. Short chapters with simple sentences and Marta Kissi’s strategically placed black-and-white drawings in this laugh-out-loud book make this a good choice for newly independent readers.
    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Gogi’s Gambit (Lost Rainforest #2). Eliot Schrefer. Ill. Emilia Dziubak. 2019. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    The Lost RainforestThe Ant Queen, who awakened from her imprisonment beneath the ancient Ziggurat of the Sun and the Moon in Mez’s Magic (2018), is moving with her hoard of ants and destroying the magical rainforest of Caldera. Just weeks before the next eclipse, Gogi, a “monkey-brained” capuchin monkey still working on controlling his fire powers, rejoins other shadowwalkers (eclipse-born animals with  magical powers)—Mez, a panther with the power of invisibility; Rumi, a tree frog who can control the winds; and Lima, a bat with amazing healing powers—to plan to save the rainforest by locating a powerful object that will allow them to capture the magic of the eclipse and help them defeat the Ant Queen. This fast-paced fantasy adventure is just as full of danger, treachery, and surprising plot twists as the first book.
    —CA

    Watch Hollow (Watch Hollow #1). Gregory Funaro. 2019. HarperCollins.

    Watch HollowAfter mysterious Mr. Quigley offers their father, a talented clocksmith, a sack full of gold coins to repair a clock at his home near Watch Hollow, Rhode Island, 11-year-old Lucy Tinker and her older brother, Oliver, find themselves spending the summer as residents of Blackford House, a derelict mansion. As Mr. Tinker puzzles out why the gigantic cuckoo clock that is the source of electrical power in the house has stopped working, Lucy and Oliver find themselves joining 12 magical clock animals in an epic battle to save magical Blackford House from Garr, a magical tree monster who lives in Shadow Woods, which is magically creeping toward the house. The cliffhanger ending of this suspenseful fantasy that pits evil against good and fear against love will leave readers eagerly anticipating the sequel.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Contagion (Dark Matter #1). Teri Terry. 2019. Charlesbridge Teen/Charlesbridge.

    ContagionIn this opener of a new thriller series set in Scotland, 12-year-old Calista Tanzer (known as 369X) is held captive as a guinea pig in a top-secret laboratory trying to develop a cure for the deadly Aberdeen flu. After Callie dies and is cremated (still existing as a spirit with muddled memories), the facility explodes, and she escapes and discovers the virus is spreading, leaving fatalities in its wake. Kai, Callie’s older brother who has dodged the virus, suspects his scientist stepfather of foul play in his sister’s disappearance one year earlier and connects with new friend Shay MacAllister, whose ability to communicate telepathically with Callie may hold the key to stopping this pandemic. With Shay on the run as the army rounds up those who have survived the disease or are resistant to it, what is discovered about the contagion can flip the government upside down.
    —NB

    A Tear in the Ocean. H. M. Bouwman. Ill. Yuko Shimizu. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    A Tear in the OceanBouwman offers fantasy fans two narratives set in an alternate second world during two times: “the present: 1949” (told from the points of view of 12-year-old Putnam, son of the king of Raftworld, and Artie, a 12-year-old Islander) and “about 100 years earlier” (told from the point of view of 14-year-old Rayel, a Raftworld princess). Artie, who is running away from an abusive stepfather, and Putnam, who is determined to travel to the cold south to discover why the once fresh water of the ocean is becoming too salty to drink, become reluctant allies when they both steal away on the same boat. In the other storyline, Rayel, the heir to Raftworld, is taking the same journey south to flee an unwanted arranged marriage. Bouwman masterfully weaves these two adventures together in this fascinating, action-packed companion to A Crack in the Sea (2017).
    —CA

    Ages 15+  

    The City in the Middle of the Night. Charlie Jane Anders. 2019. Tor.

    Charlie Jane AndersAfter a great catastrophe on Earth, the Mother Ship planted two cities on planet January in barely habitable biozones surrounded by wastelands. In Argelo, located in frozen darkness, almost anything goes, and in Xiosphant, rigid laws control sleep schedules, light, and heat. When student Sophie takes the blame for stealing three dollars and is thrown by Xiosphanti police from the furthermost mountain peak into the dark ice below, she is rescued by an indigenous, intelligent crocodile-like creature, who communicates with her telepathically and whose community in the hidden, underground city is the planet’s only chance to save itself as technology, resources, and society break down. The rotating viewpoints of Sophie (a silent revolutionary) and Mouth (a smuggler and the living remnant of an earlier society) draw readers into their complex transformations within the politics of a dying planet—and present an intriguing and challenging solution for survival.
    —NB

    Stain. A. G. Howard. 2019. Amulet/Abrams

    StainOnce upon a time, a magical war split a peaceful world into two kingdoms: Eldoria (the Day Kingdom with its endless sun) and Nerezeth (the Night Kingdom with its moon in the belly of the earth). After King Kiran of Eldoria, who has entered into a treaty that arranges for Lyra, his mute daughter, to marry Prince Vesper from Nerezeth when she turns 17, is killed, his greedy sister, Griselda, orders two knights to poison Lyra and dispose of her body in the Ashen Ravine between the two kingdoms so she can groom her own daughter, Lustacia, as an imposter princess. However, Lyra, rescued by a witch (who steals her memories) and a shape-shifting sylph and befriended by a temperamental Pegasus. Lyra, who is living disguised as a boy named Stain, must reclaim her identity and fulfill the treaty and marry Prince Vespers to reunite the two kingdoms in a “hopeful ever after.”
    —NB

    The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2). Holly Black. 2019. Little, Brown.

    In this riveting sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018), mortal Jude Duarte lives in the land of Faery where she has bound herself as seneschal to the sadistic Cardan, the sworn puppet High King of Elfhame for a year and a day, to control and protect the throne for her younger brother, Ash, heir apparent. Her foster father, General Madoc (who murdered her parents and brought Jude and her siblings to Elfhame), is a high-stakes conspirator waiting to move against the crown. As key players scheme for positions of power in the high court and with a secret traitor or two working against her, Jude is kidnapped and tortured by Orlagh, Queen of the Undersea and adversary of Elfhame, from her twin Taryn’s wedding to Cardan’s cruel brother Locke. When returned to Cardan in a complicated negotiation, Jude is confronted with a monumental twist that changes all the rules and leaves readers eager for the next book in this edgy, wicked series.
    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English, 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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    STEM Stories

    By Jennifer Shettel and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 18, 2019

    Reading trade books is an important component of an interdisciplinary approach to developing literacy skills and learning STEM content. This week’s column includes books that are effective choices for introducing lessons and activities on STEM topics as well as for independent reading in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    Ages 4–8

    Bloom Boom! April Pulley Sayres. 2019. Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster.

    Bloom! Boom!“Every spring, / across the land.... /Seeds sprout. / Stems pop out. / Bloom, / boom!” With lyrical text and stunning photographs, author and photo-illustrator April Pulley Sayres celebrates the profusion of flowers that burst out all at once in the spring in glorious bloom booms. Back matter includes information on the spring blooms in various regions (desert, meadows, woodlands, gardens, forests, and hills); “A Bit More About the Blooms” section with the common and scientific names and notes about the plants featured; and a list of resources.
    —CA

    Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate. Sarah C. Levine. Ill. Masha D’yans. 2019. Millbrook/Lerner.

    Flower TalkIn this book, a cranky cactus describes why the color of a plant’s flowers is important for attracting the appropriate pollinators. For example, plants with red flowers are typically visited only by birds, while plants with blue or purple flowers are usually visited by bees. Vibrant watercolor paintings add to the humor of this engaging informational picture book about “flower talk.” Back matter includes a more detailed explanation about pollination, some tips on how to protect animals that are pollinators, and a list of other books about plants and pollinators for young readers.
    —JS

    The Frog Book. Steve Jenkins & Robin Page. Ill. Steve Jenkins. 2019. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Frog BookIn their latest collaboration, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page introduce readers to some of the more than 6,000 species of frogs, amphibians that live both in the water and on land and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Double-page spreads feature images of frogs, created in Jenkins’ signature cut- and torn-paper collage technique, and accessible text on characteristics (body structure, metamorphosis, and behavior); the diversity of frogs in colors, shapes, sizes; habitats; special adaptations; “extreme frogs,” record holders in the world of frog; and conservation status (one-third of all frog species are in danger of extinction). Back matter includes a table showing the sizes, diets, and ranges of the frogs in the book, and a list of books and websites for more information.
    —CA

    The Night Flower. Lara Hathorne. 2019. Big Picture/Candlewick.

    The Night FlowerWith a descriptive text of rhyming quatrains and expressive stylized illustrations, Lara Hawthorne presents a story of the activity in the Sonoran Desert over 24 hours that ends with the dramatic once-a-year nighttime blooming of the Saguaro cactus. The strong scent and brilliant white petals of the magnificent flowers of the Saguaro attracts the cactus’ pollinators, brown bats with black wings. Back matter includes diagrams of the life cycle and structure of the Saguaro, a “Did you spot...?” section of fauna (including the long-nosed bat and white-lined sphinx moth, nocturnal visitors to the Saguaro flowers) in the illustration, and a glossary.
    —CA

    Seashells: More Than A Home. Melissa Stewart. Ill. Sarah S. Brannen. 2019. Charlesbridge.

    SeashellsYoung children, especially those who have collected seashells at the beach, will enjoy the informative text and realistic watercolor illustrations of this informational book that features 13 different types of shells and how they are used. For example, the flat, round bivalve shell of a scallop is used to propel the mollusk through the water and to protect it from predators when closed. A nature journal feature for each shell gives young naturalists a glimpse into how they might document their own sand treasures. Back matter includes a double-page spread identifying the five major groups of mollusks: bivalves, cephalopods, chitons, gastropods, and scaphopods; author’s and illustrator’s notes; suggested books for young readers; and selected sources used by the author and the illustrator. The endpapers provide information about the habitats and ranges of the 13 featured mollusks.
    —JS

    Skyscraper. Jorey Hurley. 2019. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    SkyscraperThis nearly wordless picture book features a single verb (such as “crush,” “scoop,” “dig,” or “push”) on each double-page spread alongside an image of the construction vehicle that performs that job in the building of a skyscraper. The colorful illustrations created in Photoshop will captivate young children who love construction trucks of all kinds. A two-page glossary presents images and names of the 14 construction vehicles featured in the book and brief descriptions of their special job. For example, “A front loader lifts and relocates batches of loose materials such as demolition debris.”
    —JS

    Soar High, Dragonfly! Sheri Mabry Bestor. Ill. Jonny Lambert. 2019. Sleeping Bear.

    Soar High, DragonflyThe life cycle of the green darner dragonfly is presented with a lyrical primary text and brightly colored, stylized illustrations with the look of collage artwork. Each double-page spread also includes a block of text in a smaller font that provides additional information about dragonflies and details of their incomplete metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult. Pair this inviting picture book with Bestor and Lambert’s Good Trick, Walking Stick! (2016) to introduce lessons on the life cycles of insects to young children.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    The Everyday Journeys of Ordinary Things: From Phones to Food and from Paper to Poo…The Way the World Works. Libby Deutsch. Ill. Valpuri Kerttula. 2019. Kane Miller.

    The Everyday Journeys“Every day we are surrounded by ordinary objects and services that have been on the most extraordinary journeys to reach us,” and this child-friendly oversize book describes some of these journeys through step-by-step diagrams with illustrations and brief text. Red arrows direct the reader in following numbered steps that meander across each double-page spread. Curious young children will enjoy following the steps of 20 examples from the journey made by a birthday card in “How Does Mail Reach Me?” to how milk gets to your breakfast table in “From Cow to Carton.”
    —CA

    Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. Curtis Manley. Ill. Jessica Lanan. 2019. Roaring Brook/Macmillan.

    Just RightA curious young girl wonders whether any of the stars she sees in the night sky have planets orbiting around them and whether there is life on them. Readers join her on a visit to a planetarium’s “Searching for Exoplanets Exhibition” to learn how astronomers use powerful telescopes to search for a planet much like Earth, a Goldilocks planet “just right” for supporting life. So far scientists have found no proof of life elsewhere, but they continue to search for it. The last part of this informational picture book explores the question of what that life might be like. “Maybe it’s beings like ourselves...Or maybe it’s like nothing we can even imagine.” The endpapers feature a timeline of discoveries of our place in the universe. Back matter includes additional information on the science of detecting exoplanets, a bibliography, and sources for information. 
    —CA

    Rotten!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers. Anita Sanchez. Ill. Gilbert Ford. 2019. Houghton Mifflin.

    Rotten!“It’s a rotten world” and that’s not a bad thing. Anita Sanchez explores the fascinating process of decomposition in eight accessible chapters that take the reader on “a trip into the world of rotten” that introduces different decomposers from dung beetles to earthworms to vultures. An inviting format features “decomposer selfies”; the answers to questions such as “Why do dung beetles love dung?” and “Why does a dead animal smell so bad?”; “Rot It Yourself” activities such as building a compost pile; and colorful cartoon artwork that complements the lighthearted tone of the text. Back matter includes a glossary, sources of quotes, an extensive bibliography, and an index.
    —JS

    Ages 12–14

    A Ray of Light: A Book of Science and Wonder. Walter Wick. 2019. Scholastic.

    A Ray of Light“What about light? What is it made of? How does it fit alongside everything else in the world? With these questions, author and photographer Walter Wick introduces this fascinating exploration of the science of light. Each spread features striking color photographs and paragraphs of text which serve as extended captions of the photographs on a specific principle such as incandescence, light waves, the color spectrum, and iridescence. Two pages of notes on the science and experiments Wick presents in this stunning visual presentation on light provide additional details that will be of interest to more advanced readers and those using this book in STEM programs.
    —CA

    The Woolly Monkey Mysteries: The Quest to Save a Rain Forest Species. Sandra Markle. 2019. Millbrook/Lerner.

    The Woolly Monkey MysteriesFor years, not much has been known about the species of woolly monkeys found in the rain forests of South America, but a recent project involving the installation of over 30 camera traps (a tool used by scientists to capture and record photographs of wild animals) has allowed researchers to understand more about the behavior of this primate species. Sandra Markle’s accessible text, with captioned photographs and diagrams, provides readers with information on how scientists are working to learn more about the complexities of survival of the woolly monkey in the wild. QR codes throughout the book allow readers to access related video and sound-bytes. Back matter includes an author’s note, glossary, a “Find Out More” section with text and web-based resources, and an index.
    —JS

    Ages 15+

    The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World. Mike Winchell. 2019. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    The Electric WarDuring the Gilded Age, a time when innovation became big business, a battle ensued over who would win “the race to light the world.” The competitors were Thomas Alva Edison (18471931), inventor of the established direct current system of electricity, and Nikola Tesla (18561943) and George Westinghouse (18461914), with their experimental alternating current system. The inviting conversational tone of Mike Winchell’s well-researched narrative, complemented by captioned black-and-white photographs and diagrams, provides an accessible account of this important scientific competition. Back matter includes a timeline, an extensive bibliography, and an index.
    —CA

    Jennifer W. Shettel is a professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy for preservice and practicing teachers. Prior to joining the faculty at Millersville, she spent 16 years as an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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

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