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    History in Fact and Fiction

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 21, 2018

    People of all ages can learn important life lessons from history. In this week’s column we review recently published books, some nonfiction and some works of revisionist history, speculative history, and historical fiction, that inform and engage readers and encourage them to further explore topics of interest.  

    Ages 4–8

    A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights. Kate Hannigan. Ill. Alison Jay. 2018. Calkins Creek/Highlights.

    A Lady Has the FloorThis picture book biography introduces young readers to Belva Lockwood, who spent her life fighting for women’s rights. Despite personal and social challenges, she was one of the first women to study law in the United States and, in 1879, became the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. In 1884, Lockwood accepted the National Equal Rights Party’s nomination for president, running on a platform supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights for all. Hannigan’s lively text is peppered with quotes incorporated into Jay’s signature, crackled, folk art-style illustrations. Back matter includes an author’s note; a timeline of key events in the women’s rights movement, from Lockwood’s birth to present day; a bibliography; and source notes.
    —CA

    Let the Children March. Monica Clark-Robinson. Ill. Frank Morrison. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    Let the Children MarchDebut author Monica Clark-Robinson’s free-verse picture book chronicles events around the May 1963 Children’s Crusade, following Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for participation in a nonviolent protest march in Birmingham, Alabama. When he urged the congregation to march, many adults were afraid of losing jobs, so young people offered to go. Although many of them were sprayed with water, arrested, and jailed, they persevered. The day after the march ended, Dr. King and white leaders negotiated a school desegregation agreement. Frank Morrison’s dramatic oil paintings offer a strong, emotional portrayal of events. A “Civil Rights and Children’s Crusade” timeline is displayed across front and back endpapers, and back matter includes an afterword, an artist’s statement, quote sources, a bibliography, and acknowledgments. 
    —NB

    Ruby in the Ruins. Shirley Hughes. 2018. Candlewick.

    Ruby in the RuinsRuby and her mum have survived the London Blitz and are awaiting Dad’s return from war. When they finally meet him at the train station, Ruby hardly recognizes him and doesn’t know what to say to him. But later, when Ruby is injured while playing with friends in a fenced-off bomb site, posted with “Danger! Keep Out” signs, and her dad comes to her rescue, Ruby knows exactly what to say: “Oh, Dad, I’m so glad you’re back!” Hughes’ detailed mixed-media illustrations beautifully set the scene for this gentle story of a family’s adjustment to life in postwar London.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Betty Before X. Ilyasah Shabazz (with Renée Watson). 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2018.

    Betty Before XCowritten by her daughter, Betty Before X shares the childhood story of Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcom X. When her beloved aunt and guardian dies, 7-year-old Betty is sent to Detroit to live with her mother and stepfamily. Feeling uncomfortable in her new home, she finds support in the local church, where she meets activist Helen Malloy, who encourages Betty and her best friend, Suesetta, to join the Housewives' League of Detroit and participate in the organization's boycott of businesses that refuse to hire or serve blacks. During the tumultuous 1940s, Betty begins to develop her “voice” for equality, a foundational skill for her lifelong activism—and discovered unexpected allies in her community in the fight against discrimination and violence toward blacks. Back matter includes an author’s note; “Detroit in the 1940s,” “Bethel AME Church,” a “Meet the Characters” sections; and a timeline.
    —NB

    The Island at the End of Everything. Kiran Millwood Hargrave. 2018. Knopf/Random House.

    The Island at the End of EverythingTwelve-year-old Ami lives on Culion, an island in the Philippines for people who have leprosy. Under orders that all healthy children are to be sent to an orphanage on a nearby island, “clean” Amihan is separated from her mother, who is suffering from an advanced stage of the disease. When Amihan learns that her mother is dying, she is determined to return to Culion to say goodbye to her. With the help of Mari, the one friend she has made at the Coron Orphanage, Amihan makes the trip in a small boat to return to Culion (known as the “island of the living dead” or “the island of no return” by those who were fearful and uninformed about leprosy). An author’s note provides background for the story and Hargrave’s choice to call Culion “the island at the end of everything.”
    —CA

    A Sky Full of Stars. Linda Williams Jackson. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    A Sky Full of StarsIn this sequel to Midnight Without a Moon (2017), 13-year-old Rosa Lee Carter has decided to remain in 1955 Stillwater, Mississippi, where she and her younger brother, Fred Lee, are being raised on a sharecropper farm by a cruel grandmother and gentle grandpa. Emotions sizzle after Emmett Till’s killers are acquitted and as white renegades terrorize black families and those attempting to register blacks to vote. Cousin Shorty proposes they shoot at white folks’ windows to even the score, but Rosa is persuaded, instead, to participate in the first peaceful demonstration in town with her best friend Hallelujah Jenkins, the pastor’s son. Although actions exact great cost for all who protest, Rosa courageously forges her own path to be part of the movement for change. An author’s note provides an historical context.
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Hunger: A Tale of Courage. Donna Jo Napoli. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    HungerSet during the Irish Potato Famine in the fall of 1846, 12-year-old Lorraine’s family members are tenant farmers for an English lord in County Galway, where their close-knit community is falling ill as potatoes, the staple of their diet, are blighted for the second year. While gathering wild greens, Lorraine encounters Susanna, the spoiled and lonely young daughter of the manse, who entices Lorraine to attend her dolly tea parties that comes with delicious treats. When Lorraine’s little brother, Paddy, becomes gravely ill, Susanna devises a plan for Lorraine to gather eggs for him (which she secretly uses to feed her family and community). While many Irish abandon their country to survive, Lorraine and her family stay to fight for their rights and rebuild Ireland. Back matter includes a postscript, glossary, bibliography, and timeline of famines throughout history. 
    —NB   

    The Night Diary. Veera Hiranandani. 2018. Dial/Penguin.

    The Night DiaryIn 1947 India, Hindu Nisha and her twin brother, Amil, have just celebrated their 12th birthdays. Nisha decides to write to her Muslim mother, who died giving birth to her, in the diary that Kazi, their beloved cook, gifted to her. Nisha chronicles the next three months as her comfortable life in Mirpur Khas (now a part of Pakistan) is turned upside down after her country gains independence from the British and is split into two separate countries, new India and Pakistan, based primarily on people’s religions (Hindu or Muslim). But what if you have both Muslim and Hindu relatives and friends and must choose between them? After violence breaks out, Nisha, Amil, their father, and their elderly grandmother, as Hindus, flee on foot to their newly designated homeland of India across the border. Back matter includes an author’s note on the historical background for the story and a glossary of commonly used Indian and Pakistani words used in the book.
    —NB

    Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today. 2018. Candlewick.

    Voices From the Second World WarIn this anthology individuals share accounts of their experiences during World War II. Many of the stories, first published in First News, were collected by children who interviewed elderly relatives and neighbors. Entries (arranged chronologically from the outbreak of the war to the bombing of Hiroshima) include moving stories of suffering, survival, and heroism of individuals who served in the military, women who met the demand to fill jobs on farms and factories and on the front lines as nurses, radio operators, and support staff in the armed forces, as well as children, including some who were part of the Kindertransport or survived internment in concentration camps. Although most of the interviewees are British, some are citizens of other Allies and Axis countries. Biographical sketches and black-and-white photographs of both the interviewers and interviewees accompany the stories. Back matter includes a subject index, an index of interviewees, and a glossary.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin. James L. Swanson. 2018. Scholastic.

    Chasing King's KillerThe Foreword, writtenby Congressman John Lewis, clearly establishes the impact of the tragic event that occurred on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. “After the assassination [of Martin Luther King, Jr.,] something died in America. The sense of hope, of optimism, of possibility was replaced by horror and despair.” James L. Swanson’s meticulously researched and documented narrative focuses on the murder of Dr. King and the manhunt for his assassin, James Earl Ray. He also provides information on Dr. King’s childhood in Atlanta and his work as a leader in the civil rights movement as well as background on convicted felon Ray, his escape from prison, his planning of the assassination, and his eventual apprehension. The epilogue ends with thought-provoking questions: “Where do we go from here? How long will it take? How long?” The abundance of quotations and captioned photographs add interest to the accessible and engrossing account. The extensive back matter includes source notes, bibliography, and an index.
    —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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    Just for Fun

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 14, 2018

    In spring, as students are busy with standardized testing and end-of-school projects, it’s especially important to make time for recreational independent reading, which increases motivation, generates a sense of agency, and sets the tone for summer reading, among other benefits. Here are some recently published books that are engaging, informative, and—above all—fun to read.

    Ages 4–8

    A Bear Sat on My Porch Today. Jane Yolen. Ill. Rilla Alexander. 2018. Chronicle.

    A Bear Sat on My Porch TodayIn this cumulative rhyming tale, a young boy tries to chase away a brown bear, gray squirrel, spraying skunk, playful possum (with her passel of eight babies), clever raccoon, friendly moose, and loudmouthed blue jay when they invite themselves, one at a time, to hang out on his porch, but reluctantly agrees to let them remain. “Okay. Okay! You can stay.” When the porch collapses under their collective weight, the creatures work together to rebuild it while bonding as friends. Pencil and digital collage illustrations and a gatefold picturing the uninvited guests gathered on the porch add to the fun of reading this story about hospitality.
    —NB

    I Got a Chicken for My Birthday. Laura Gehl. Ill. Sarah Horne. 2018. Carolrhoda/Lerner.

    I Got a Chicken For My BirthdayHaving told her abuela that she wants amusement park tickets for her birthday, a girl is disappointed with the gift she receives: a chicken. However, it’s not an ordinary chicken. Bright, detailed, mixed-media illustrations feature the plump black chicken, who communicates by holding up signs and who has no time for laying eggs. What the chicken has is a plan and a long shopping list (which unfurls across a double spread). Enlisting the girl’s pet dog, cat, and hamster, as well as her own bird friends, the chicken creates a private amusement park. After a fun-filled day, the girl declares, “Next year, I’m asking Abuela Lola for a trip to the moon!”
    —CA

    Kalinka and Grakkle. Julie Paschkis. 2018. Peachtree.

    Kalinka and GrakkleNeighbors Kalinka and Grakkle couldn’t be more different. Kalinka, a small yellow bird, is a helpful neat freak, and Grakkle, a burly and bad-tempered beast, is happiest snoozing in his favorite chair while soaking his feet in a bucket of pickle juice. When Kalinka decides to tidy Grakkle’s messy house without permission, her efforts create even more chaos as she stuffs his dirty socks in the woodstove, crumbles his cookies, pokes pencils into a box of spaghetti, and slides mail into the toaster. After frustrated Grakkle throws a tantrum, Kalinka almost perishes in the pickle juice, but he saves her just in time. Exhausted, they take a long afternoon nap together. Colorful, swirly, ink-and-gouache illustrations complement this silly story of unexpected friendship.
    —NB

    King Flashypants and the Creature From Crong (King Flashypants #2). Adam Riley. 2018. Henry Holt.

    King FlashypantsWhen Baxter the hermit from the Wilderness of Crong tells the people of Edwinland that he saw the Voolith, thought to be dead, eating his goats and cow, 9-year-old King Edwin Flashypants vows to defeat the monster. Evil Emperor Nurbison has plans of his own, however, and sends King Edwin on a wild goose chase into a volcano with fire toads. In the meantime, Nurbison tricks the Voolith into becoming his slave, so that he can take over Edwin’s kingdom while he’s gone, but that plan backfires when the Voolith eats him instead. Upon Edwin’s return, the Voolith gobbles him up (covered in pumpkin slush). Luckily, the Voolith burps him back up, and Edwin discovers that every hero needs a crew to defeat a monster. This rousing romp, complemented by expressive black-and-white cartoon illustrations, ends with a teaser for the third book in the series and a short comic strip.
    —NB

    Terrific Tongues! Maria Gianferrari. Ill. Jia Liu. 2018. Boyds Mills/Highlights.

    Terrific Tongues!After instructing readers to “STICK OUT YOUR TONGUE!”, a cute little monkey proceeds to introduce 12 types of tongues that belong to different animals in what becomes a guessing game. For example, an illustration of the monkey with a long straw sipping up water from a pond is paired with the text “If you had a tongue like a straw you might be a . . .” A turn of the page reveals the answer: “MOTH!” along with a brief paragraph providing information on the structure and function of the Darwin’s hawkmoth’s tongue. Back matter includes a “More About These Terrific Tongues” section and a list of eight more terrific tongues.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Itch!: Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About What Makes You Scratch. Anita Sanchez. Ill. Gilbert Ford. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    Itch!Those curious about the itch–scratch cycle will find this accessible and humorous book engrossing. After an introductory chapter about the anatomy of skin, “a bag with you inside,” seven chapters cover some of the animals and plants that commonly make humans itch, including lice, fleas, plants (such as poison ivy, prickly pears, and burrs), mosquitos, tarantulas, fungi, and bedbugs. The final chapter explores the question “Is there anything good about itching?” The inviting format also features historical anecdotes, insets with tips on avoiding and soothing itches, and illustrations. Back matter includes an author’s note, a glossary, a bibliography of books and websites, and an index.
    —CA 

    Spy Toys (Spy Toys #1). Mark Powers. Ill. Tim Wesson. 2018. Bloomsbury.

    Spy ToysAfter Auntie Roz (an employee of the Department of Secret Affairs) rounds up Dan (a Snugliffic Cuddlestar Bear strong enough to crush a car in a hug), Arabella (a Loadsasmiles Sunshine rag doll with nasty attitude), and Flax (a rogue custom-made police robot rabbit) to work for her, she explains that their weaknesses (malfunctioning chips) make them natural spies. Their first job of protecting Sam Spinks, a senator’s son, from being kidnapped by Rusty Flumptrunk (the half-human, half-elephant crime boss) goes awry when the Spy Toys are on a ski trip with Sam, and Flumptrunk swoops the boy away. After the Spy Toys race to rescue, Sam against the ticking of the giant mayonnaise bomb strapped to his back, Dan is left with a life-changing decision. Black-and-white cartoon illustrations add to the humor of this action-packed first book in the Spy Toys series.
    —NB

    They Didn’t Teach This in Worm School! Simone Lia. 2018. Candlewick.

    Worm SchoolWhen Marcus, a homebody worm, encounters Laurence, a flying chicken (with a flamingo complex) who intends to eat him, he never expects that they will become fast friends. The two head to Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya, with Marcus navigating from his perch atop Laurence’s soft feathers. Comic-style illustrations in gray, black, and red heighten the humor as the pair travel to places that aren’t what they think they are (mistaking an electrical tower for the Eiffel Tower, they think they’re in Paris), learn new skills (dancing and sleep-flying), and trick hungry new acquaintances (a mole, squirrel, and crow). Finally, they arrive at what they believe is Lake Nakuru (the flamingo pond in a zoo) only to discover they aren’t far from where they began and that dreams of adventure can come true—even if you discover you’re not a flamingo. Most important, Marcus learns that friends make you “try to be a better worm.”
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    George Washington! (Action Presidents #1). Fred Van Lente. Ill. Ryan Dunlavey. 2018. HarperCollins.

    George Washington!
    The first volume in this hilarious new graphic novel biography series, framed within a fictional story involving two kids and a talking turkey, balances humor and history to grab the interest of readers. Digital, black-and-white, caricatured illustrations keep the action going while a substantial amount of print content is contained within the panels. For instance, did you know that Washington didn’t have wooden teeth, but recycled real teeth (his own and those of others)? Back matter includes a timeline, a glossary, a “Stuff Named After Washington” section, and a bibliography. Abraham Lincoln! was simultaneously published in February 2018. 

    —NB

    They Lost Their Heads!: What Happened to Washington’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts. Carlyn Beccia. 2018. Bloomsbury.

    They Lost Their Heads!Carlyn Beccia presents curious readers with a most unusual book, focusing on what happened to various body parts (hair, teeth, head, brain, heart, or even a wart) of 17 historical figures after their deaths. Not for the faint of heart, these true stories (lightened by Beccia’s chatty and quirky style of writing and playful, black-and-white drawings) are fascinating as well as bizarre, creepy, and morbid. Additional sections on phrenology, embalming, cryogenics, cloning, organ donation, and forensic science are particularly interesting. Beccia includes an overabundance of footnotes. Some of these add information but most are flippant. Readers who feel compelled to read them may soon become annoyed by being pulled out of the text. Back matter includes notes on sources of quotations, a bibliography (organized by chapter), and an index.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Where’s Jane?: Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Novels. Rebecca Smith. Ill. Katy Dockrill. 2018. Kane/Miller.

    Where's JaneWhere is Jane? She’s hidden in 10 scenes from six of her classic novels: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. Following a plot summary presented in a series of illustrated panels and a line-up of miniature portraits of characters to be looked for, the next double-spread page features a colorful, intricately detailed scene of elegant 19th-century homes, garden parties, picnics, and grand ballroom dances in which the readers can find the characters and also Jane Austen. By the end of the book, readers will be well acquainted with the characters and the settings of Austen’s novels. An answer key is included.
    —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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    Family Matters

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | May 07, 2018

    Family stories are often popular with children and young adults who may find their own experiences mirrored in the pages. At times, books about families may even provide a roadmap for navigating relationships with siblings, parents, and other relatives or for handling life’s challenges with familial support. This week’s column features books that touch on family matters in some way.

    Ages 4–8

    Flo. Kyo Maclear. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    FloFlo, a young panda, dawdles through life, taking her time exploring the world around her and literally stopping to smell the roses. Most of the time the bigger pandas don't mind waiting for Flo, but they can only wait so long on this particular Saturday, when they have so much to do. They decide to leave her behind while they go boating. As it turns out, they need to be rescued, and Flo can help, simply because she's been paying attention to the little details that the others failed to notice. This picture book provides a humorous reminder that everyone needs downtime to observe, think, and dream.

    I Want My Dad! Tony Ross. 2018. Andersen.

    I Want My Dad!Although the Little Princess loves her father, he often cannot teach her the things she wants to learn. After the maid undertakes the Little Princess’s tutelage, they hike and camp, but the Little Princess is inept at these activities, just like her father. But, as it turns out, her father is proud of her for simply taking a risk and for trying something new. The last illustration shows the two embracing and a daughter who is grateful for the father she has.

    Ten Cents a Pound. Nhung N. Tran-Davies. Ill. Josée Bisaillon. 2018. Second Story.

    Ten Cents a PoundTold in alternating voices and illustrated in luminous colors, Ten Cents a Pound captures a mother’s love and the sacrifices that she will make to give her daughter a better life. In its pages, a young girl notes the toll her mother's hard physical labor in the coffee fields has taken on her body. One by one, she notes its effects on the older woman’s hands, her feet, her back, and her eyes, and deems the cost too high. Although the mother is illiterate and may never learn to read and write, she willingly sacrifices her dreams so that her daughter can attend school, which makes her tedious daily labor worthwhile. As has been the case for generations, this mother wants more for her daughter than performing backbreaking labor for 10 cents a pound. Although the daughter accepts her mother’s gift, embracing the opportunity to learn and see more of the world by going off to school, she swears to return.

    Ages 9–11

    Frenemies in the Family: Famous Brothers and Sisters Who Butted Heads and Had Each Other’s Backs. Kathleen Krull. Ill. Maple Lam. 2018. Crown/Random House.

    FrenemiesKrull unearths interesting facts about famous siblings, including Queen Elizabeth I and Mary I, who battled for the throne of England; Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, talented actors divided by their views on slavery; and Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins who married different women and had several children. The book is organized in chronological fashion, covering the siblings’ formative years and claims to fame, and while Krull includes material that shows her subjects in a positive light, she doesn't avoid dishing out less complimentary anecdotes. While history fans will enjoy the chapters on the Kennedys and Romanovs, other readers will gravitate to the chapters that depict recent siblings, including football stars Peyton and Eli Manning and older brother Cooper, and musician Demi Lovato and her sister Madison De La Garza. The cartoon drawings accompanying the biographical sketches add to the book's appeal, and there is a list of sources and an index for reference.

    Good Dog. Dan Gemeinhart. 2018. Scholastic.

    Good DogDevoted dogs such as Brodie, a “very, very good dog,” are an important part of many families. In this heartrending story, Brodie has died under suspicious circumstances, and is unable to cross over to the afterlife until he knows his boy, Aiden, is safe. Going against natural laws about life and death, Brodie returns to Earth, accompanied by Tuck, a strong pit bull, who seeks redemption for his own mistakes. As memories of his life with Aiden emerge, some blissful and others filled with fear, Brodie risks his own future out of love and loyalty. Back on Earth, Brodie and Tuck are joined by a stray cat named Patsy and beset by hellhounds bent on consuming their souls. Brodie faces disappointment, betrayal, and heartbreak, but he also realizes just how courageous he is and how loyal others can be as well. Readers will be captivated by the strong bond between a boy and his dog, and the idea of love that transcends death.

    The Journey of Little Charlie. Christopher Paul Curtis. 2018. Scholastic.

    The Journey of Little CharlieBad luck seems to plague Little Charlie Bobo. After his father dies in a freak accident in the South Carolina woods, slave catcher Cap'n Buck claims that the Bobo family owes him money and that 12-year-old Charlie can pay off those debts if he accompanies him on a journey north to bring back some thieves. But once Charlie realizes that they're after former slaves, a man, a woman, and their son, he balks. There's not a single misstep in this story about the Fugitive Slave Act and some of the evil practices it inspired as free African American and African Canadian men, women, and children were often kidnapped and taken down South. The rhythmic storytelling and deftly created characters prompt readers to question what they might have done in certain situations. The author's note ruminates on how rarely many of us act on our better instincts, leaving action to others.

    Ages 12–14

    P. S. I Miss You. Jen Petro-Roy. 2018. Feiwel and Friends.

    P.S. I Miss YouIn this powerful debut novel, seventh grader Evie is heartbroken when her pregnant older sister, Cilla, is sent to stay with an elderly relative. Forbidden to speak with Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters. Although readers never get to meet Cilla, she comes alive through Evie’s vivid anecdotes. As Evie struggles to make sense of what's going on and why her strict Catholic parents refuse to talk about her sister, she hopes that Cilla will come back. During the year that Evie sends letters to Cilla, she begins to question her faith, her parents' honesty and judgment, and her own sexuality. As she experiences strange new feelings toward June, a transfer student, she desperately seeks Cilla's advice about romantic feelings and what's right and what's wrong and whether something that seems so right could be wrong. As they follow Evie’s transformation, readers may question the price of conforming to the expectations of others and what it means to be true to oneself.

    Ages 15+

    Don’t Forget Me. Victoria Stevens. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Don't Forget MeSeventeen-year-old Hazel Clarke has been sent to stay in Australia with the father she never even knew existed while her mother resolves her health issues back in England. Her mother doesn’t remember Hazel’s name or recognize those around her. Diagnosis of her mother’s condition as early-onset Alzheimer’s means that Hazel must find a way to form new connections and create a new family while holding onto the precious memories she and her mother shared. In doing so, Hazel is supported her father and a friendly, artistic neighbor, Red, and his twin, Luca, who is battling his own demons.

    In Search of Us. Ava Dellaira. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    In Search of USWeaving past with present, this book follows 17-year-old Angie on a road trip to California and journey of self-discovery to find out the truth about her father. Interspersed with Angie’s story is that of Marilyn, her mother, who also lived and loved in Los Angeles 18 years ago. Marilyn’s mother dreams of a modeling and acting career for her daughter, but Marilyn longs to attend college. They are living in a crowded apartment with Marilyn’s uncle, and tension rises as he drinks and becomes increasingly demanding and controlling. He is displeased and judgmental when Marilyn begins spending time with James, the grandson of neighbors, because James is black. While Marilyn wants to please her mother and keep things calm at home, she also needs an outlet. As Angie learns the truth about what caused her mother to leave LA, she also connects with the missing pieces of her family and learns something about her own life choices and how she’s been running away from love. As often happens, realizations come with a high price for both Angie and Marilyn.

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

     

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

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    Graphic Novels

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Apr 30, 2018

    Covering a wide variety of genres, topics, and narrative styles, the graphic novel offers a highly visual format for engaging all types of readers and for making cross-curricular connections. This week’s column highlights some recently published graphic texts that are strong choices for inclusion in classroom and library collections.

    Ages 4–8

    Monsters Beware! (Chronicles of Claudette #3). Jorge Aguirre. Ill. Rafael Rosado. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Monsters Beware!Claudette marches to her own beat—a quality that goes unappreciated by many in her town. When Mont Petit Pierre hosts the Warrior Games, she's eager to use her sword-fighting skills to bring glory to her hometown. But after her brother, Gaston, and friend, Marie, join her team, the marquis softens the competition events because his wife doesn’t want to endanger their daughter. To Claudette's dismay, the teams compete in fierce bouts of butter churning, table-setting, and weaving. Claudette’s team does not fare well, and just when she is close to victory in one event, she must make a hard choice.

    New Shoes. Sara Varon. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    New ShoesFrancis the donkey is thrilled to make shoes for Miss Manatee, a talented calypso singer popular in Guyana, where the story is set. There's just one problem: He needs more tiger grass, an important material for his custom-made shoes. When he realizes that Nigel, his usual supplier, has disappeared, Francis must travel through the jungle himself to find what he needs. Along the way, Francis, accompanied by Rhoda, a friendly parrot, faces several challenges, including unfamiliar terrain and a river crossing, and meets several helpful animals. The back matter includes photographs of the places and animals taken by Varon in Guyana to use as references as she was creating the book.

    Ages 9–11

    Bad Kitty Camp Daze (Bad Kitty #11). Nick Bruel. 2018. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook.

    Bad KittyWhen a head injury causes Kitty to think she's a dog, Puppy is so traumatized by her strange behavior that he is sent to a camp to recover from his trauma. Uncle Murray's Camp for Stressed-Out Dogs provides an idyllic setting for canines to recuperate and get back their canine confidence. But this canine kingdom is in trouble when Kitty smuggles herself into camp. Kitty struggles with learning basic dog skills, such as fetching and swimming, but she enjoys the campfire stories. After sniffing some catnip, she channels her inner cat goddess and returns to her cat self, darting into the woods. But the woods are no place for a feline, even one like Bad Kitty, and she and Uncle Murray, her would-be rescuer, come face to face with a bear. Nick Bruel doesn't show readers what happens to the bear, but it's quite clear that it wasn't pretty, judged by how proudly Kitty leaves the battleground with her head and tail held high.

    Sparks! Ian Boothby. Ill. Nina Matsumoto. 2018. Graphix/Scholastic.

    Sparks!An intelligent, talking litter box narrates this humorous yet inspiring story. After two cats, August and Charlie, escape from an animal testing lab, they decide to fight local crime. Disguised in a mechanical dog suit, the partners leap to the rescue when someone is in peril. Meanwhile, a strange couple with an adorable baby appears at the most surprising places and times. Alert readers will realize right away that they can't be trusted, and won't be surprised when Charlie is lured into their home. The villains even persuade the cats’ squirrel friend, Steve, to betray them. While the friendships depicted here aren't perfect, August proves that he will do anything for Charlie.

    Ages 12–14

    The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire Graphic Novel #1). Tui T. Sutherland. Adapt. Barry Deutsch. Ill. Mike Holmes. 2018. Graphix/Scholastic.

    Wings of FireThis graphic novel version of the first book in Sutherland’s popular fantasy series provides insight into the dragons' personalities and how desperately the five dragonets, who are destined to change the world, want to escape from their underground prison. Had one of them not been threatened by their minders, they still might have remained hidden beneath that mountain. In this book, readers watch Clay, the mudwing dragon, develop and resist some of his darker urges. Vibrant artwork depicts the brave but perilous escape of Clay and Tsunami and dramatic battle scenes.

    Hermes: Tales of the Trickster (Olympians #10). George O’Connor. 2018. Neal Porter/First Second/Roaring Brook.

    HermesOnce again, George O'Connor brings the classic myths of Greek gods and goddesses in all their glorious imperfection to life, focusing on trickster Hermes in this latest book. Knowledgeable readers will know to question anything they see or hear from Hermes. The son of Zeus, Hermes is able to slip from the cave where his mother is hiding him to avoid Hera’s wrath, and steal Apollo's cows on his first day of life. From there, he wreaks havoc in Olympus and on Earth. Complemented by lavish, detailed artwork, sometimes relying on panels sliced into interesting strips and sometimes featuring a double-page spread of an important scene, the storytelling is engaging with subtle character development hinting at the human frailties of some of the gods and goddesses.

    Robots and Drones: Past, Present and Future (Science Comics). Mairghread Scott. Ill. Jacob Chabot. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Robots & DronesAlmost as irresistible as a potato chip from a newly opened bag, each book in the Science Comics series deep dives into a specific topic—in this case, robots and drones. Depicted visually with vivid colors and in panels of different shapes and sizes, the science concepts are easy to understand. From Pouli, a mechanized bird invented in 350 BCE in Italy, and on to the karakuri ningyo in the 1600s in Japan, and all the way to modern times when rovers travel across the terrain of planets and virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri respond to the voices of their owners, it's clear that robots have been part of our lives longer than we realized. While readers learn a lot about the usefulness of robots and drones, which may have an even greater impact on the future, the book challenges some assumptions about them. The book also explores fears associated with robots and raises ethical questions about artificial intelligence. Back matter includes snippets about 25 interesting and noteworthy robots.

    Ages 15+

    Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. Pénélope Bagieu. Trans. Montana Kane. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    BrazenThis collective biography in graphic novel format highlights 29 “rebel ladies” who brazenly took risks and changed their little corners of the world. The characters include familiar names, such as Nellie Bly, Mae Jemison, and Peggy Guggenheim, as well as unspoken heroes, such as Agnodice, Giorgina Reid, and Sonita Alizadeh. Bagieu devotes several multi-paneled pages to detail each subject's life from birth to death with milestones along the way, represented through meaningful colors and symbols. The individual panels rely on intricate drawings and carefully chosen colors to bring the subjects—women whose activities made them forces to reckon with—to life. The artwork is so detailed that readers can see facial wrinkles clearly present and eyes filled with intelligence, awareness, and determination.

    The Prince and the Dressmaker. Jen Wang. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    The Prince and the DressmakerMuch to his dismay, Prince Sebastian's parents have decided that it's time for him to take a bride. The prince is troubled because he worries that his penchant for wearing dresses will be revealed. His secret has been guarded by two trustworthy individuals, one of whom is Frances, his dressmaker, who has designed several exquisite gowns he has worn on public outings under the guise of Lady Crystallia. But Sebastian’s insistence on secrecy threatens his relationship with Frances and her ambitions as a designer, since no one can associate her with the prince’s hidden life. In a sense, she, too, is kept in a closet because of this. But Sebastian’s fondness for women’s couture is revealed in a very public and humiliating way. Pushing firmly against boundaries about gender, appearance, and expectations, this graphic novel is also highly entertaining. Read it for the love story. Read it for the secrets. Read it for the gowns. But above all, read it to open your heart.

    Speak: The Graphic Novel. Laurie Halse Anderson. Ill. Emily Carroll. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    SpeakGiven its pitch-perfect metaphors and descriptions of nature as well as it current relevance, this ground-breaking story of a sexual assault translates powerfully into a graphic format. Readers observe Melinda's first fumbling attempts at creative expression, and then her work as it transforms, revealing much about what she has endured over the school year. Readers will cheer as Melinda finally finds her voice, holds a shard of glass to the throat of her once- and would-be rapist, and urges the other girls to call the police. Even though the graphic novel version of the story has been updated so that there are references to cell phones and technology, those additions aren't intrusive. This story will resonate with teen readers, who will feel connected to Melinda through the powerful, stark black-and-white illustrations. 

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

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

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    Five Questions With Elizabeth Partridge

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Apr 24, 2018

    Elizabeth PartridgeElizabeth Partridge was an acupuncturist for more than 20 years before closing her medical practice to write full-time. The author of more than 15 books, she is a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner as well as a National Book Award finalist. Her latest work, Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam, gives readers a linear, multidimensional history of the war through the personal stories of eight individuals.

    Your latest title, Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam, captures one of the most harrowing, complex, and divisive events in history. What inspired you to start writing this book in 2011?

    I was very moved when I visited the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in 2011. Touching the names and seeing the enormous sweep of the wall was overwhelming and I began to cry. I thought, Why am I crying? I don't know these men and women. I decided I wanted to write about the memorial. And the best way was to interview Vietnam veterans who were alive and knew people on the memorial. It was a way for me to explore the Vietnam War, and to honor the dead.

    How has the shifting political and social landscape influenced the final product?

    This is one of those strange cases where life catches up with a book and suddenly makes it more topical. I didn't expect to see our faith in our government shaken again as it was during the Vietnam war. But here we are, with many people out protesting, feeling their voices aren't being heard, that their representatives and senators in Congress are not responsive to their needs. We also have men and women in ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East. What is it like for them to serve in the military? Many of the issues facing our country today were present during the Vietnam War.

    How did you create a narrative that’s accessible and personal to a young adult audience, decades removed? And why is it important? 

    Boots on the GroundI've always loved personal narratives. To get as close as I could to the impact the war had upon people, I interviewed seven veterans—six who fought in combat or served as medics—and a nurse. Realizing that all wars create refugees, I interviewed a woman who managed to get her mother and three of her siblings out of Vietnam just as Saigon fell. I interspersed these narrative chapters with chapters on the presidents and protestors in the United States. I also had another way to make the work immediate, which was to use photographs throughout every chapter. Even though it has been decades since the war, stories of courage and morality and patriotism and fear and conflict are always compelling.

    You’ve expressed excitement about the recent surge in youth-led activism. How do you think educators can best foster civic participation among students?

    Great question, and a huge one. I'd like to mention just one idea I find captivating. I really loved interviewing Vietnam veterans for my book, and found they were eager to talk with me about their experiences. Students in 10th grade and above can interview veterans of any war, using audio or video. The interviews are being collected by the Veterans History Project (a project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress).

    As a writer, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received?

    Stick with it. Writing well is a craft, it's not something you are born with. As Jane Yolen famously admonishes, "Butt in Chair."

    What can attendees expect from your panel at the ILA 2018 Conference?

    Can I just say right off the bat, it's going to be awesome? Four highly opinionated women (three panelists and a great facilitator), passionate about connecting teens to all kinds of literature, are going to give this our best shot. Come see if I'm right.

    Elizabeth Partridge will copresent the Putting Books to Work: Older Young Adult (AM) workshop on Monday, July 23, during the ILA 2018 Conference. For more information, visit ilaconference.org.

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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