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    The Magic of Words and Books

    By Laura Cutler and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 22, 2018

    This week’s column includes some recently published books that explore the magic of words and inspire creative wordplay. Other books celebrate the joy that comes from listening to and reading books as well as the importance of libraries and bookshops in our lives.

    Ages 4–8

    A Busy Creature's Day Eating!: An Alphabetical Smorgasbord. 
    Mo Willems. 2018. Hyperion.

    A Busy Creature's Day Eating!In Mo Willems’ outrageously funny picture book, a purple creature eats various edible (apples, berries, cereal) and nonedible (jacket, kilt, lunch box) items in alphabetical order. By the letter P, the creature feels ill and turns green from all the eating. The rest of the letters of the alphabet are depicted as remedies to soothe the creature’s tummy troubles. This clever spin on the traditional alphabet book, with Willems’ colorful cartoon illustrations and iconic frame-by-frame format, takes young readers on a humorous eating escapade—and comes with a warning: “Do not try this at home!” 
    —LC  

    The Great Dictionary Caper. Judy Sierra. Ill. Eric Comstock. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    The Great Dictionary CaperThis playful story introduces readers to Noah Webster, writer of the first dictionary of American English. A linguistic adventure unfolds when Webster’s words decide to take a break and escape across the story pages. The anthropomorphized letters and words are grouped together to teach various language concepts—from the onomatopoeia marching band to mirrored anagrams and hide-and-seek antonyms. The digitally rendered cartoon illustrations make the words in this book come alive. Leap is shown leaping across the page, little is drawn as a tiny insect, and big fills the whole page. An appended glossary provides definitions for language-related terms used in the book.
    —LC

    An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution. Beth Anderson. Ill. Elizbeth Baddeley. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    An Inconvenient AlphabetBen Franklin thought people should spell words by writing the sounds they hear. He created a new alphabet, eliminating letters that didn’t match sounds and adding some new ones so that each letter had its own. Noah Webster thought people should say the sounds that were written and wrote Blue-Backed Speller to teach American English focusing on pronunciation. Franklin and Webster’s meeting in 1786 launched a spelling revolution that eventually led to Webster’s 1806 publication of his American Dictionary of the English Language, which included many of his spelling changes and thousands of new words. Readers will enjoy spotting the cat and dog that join Franklin and Webster in promoting the usage of a standardized American English in the humorous illustrations.
    —CA

    Sylvia’s Bookshop: The Story of Paris’s Beloved Bookstore and Its Founder (As Told by the Bookstore Itself!). Robert Burleigh. Ill. Katy Wu. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Sylvia's BookshopA bookshop narrates the history of Shakespeare and Company and the passionate book lover who made it into a "magical" gathering place for writers and thinkers. Katy Wu’s colorful, digitally rendered illustrations complement Robert Burleigh’s rhyming text to celebrate this special bookshop. Back matter includes a “Hurrah for Books and Bookstores!” note, information on Sylvia Beach (1897–1962) and Shakespeare and Company, and brief biographical sketches on writers and artists (mentioned only by their first names in the story)—Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Janet Flanner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Simone de Beauvoir, and Man Ray—who gathered at Shakespeare and Company.
    —CA

    The Wall in the Middle of the Book. Jon Agee. 2018. Dial/Penguin.

    The Wall in the Middle of the BookJon Agee erects a brick wall in this book’s gutter as a clever way to separate one side of the book from the other. A small knight is happy to be safe on his side of the wall, away from the wild animals and the ogre who live on the other side. When the knight’s side begins to fill with water, he begins to realize his side might not be so terrific. Luckily, the ogre reaches over the wall and plucks the knight to his side, which turns out to be a good thing for him (as readers will know from seeing the fish in the water on the side that he’s just been rescued from being devoured by larger and larger fish with each turn of a page). Agee’s playful use of the gutter takes a functional aspect of a book’s structure and turns it into a focal point for the story being told. 
    —LC

    Ages 9–11

    Bookjoy, Wordjoy. Pat Mora. Ill. Raul Colón. 2018. Lee & Low.

    Bookjoy WordjoyPat Mora’s introduction to Bookjoy, Wordjoy ends with an enthusiastic invitation: “Let’s read, let’s write, let’s explore galore!” Her collection of 14 poems, paired with Raul Colón’s expressive illustrations, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, explore the fun of collecting words and using them in our speaking and writing and the pleasure of listening to, reading, and sharing books. An appended “Note to Educators and Families” includes a reminder that learning should be a mix of work and play, and that too often the reading and writing experiences of children involve “the work and not the play, the wordjoy”
    —CA

    The Bookshop Girl. Sylvia Bishop. Ill. Poly Bernatene. 2018. Peachtree.

    The Bookshop GirlEleven-year-old Property Jones, whose unique name comes from being left in the lost property cupboard at the bookstore when she was a young child, loves living in the White Hart bookshop. Netty Jones and her son Michael, the shop owners who adopted Property, remain unaware of her secret. Property doesn’t know how to read. When the Jones’ win a contest to become the new owners of the Great Montgomery Book Emporium, they close their used bookstore and arrive at the Emporium. They are delighted by the expansive bookshop and its rotating rooms, each dedicated to a different genre, but are quickly left to their own devices when the previous owner, Albert H. Montgomery, hastily departs. The Jones family soon discovers the reason for Montgomery’s swift disappearance and with the help of Property’s keen observational skills, solve the mystery that threatens to destroy their fantastic British bookshop.
    —LC

    Eat Your Words: A Fascinating Look at the Language of Food. Charlotte Foltz Jones. Ill. John O’Brien. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    Eat Your WordsCharlotte Foltz Jones serves ups a tasty treat of a book on the language of foods, “a shopping list of curious food etymology, and a menu of the origins of funny-sounding food.” Each of the eight chapters includes examples, John O’Brien’s clever black-and-white cartoons, fun facts, and a “Food for Thought” section. There are entries on foods named for people (such as Beef Stroganoff and Eggs Benedict), foods with place-related names (such as Baked Alaska and Buffalo Wings), a “Talking Turkey” chapter of common food-related sayings (such as “eat humble pie,” “spill the beans,” and “sell like hotcakes”), and more. Readers will find themselves savoring the entire book.
    —CA

    Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word. Sarah Jane Marsh. Ill. Edwin Fotheringham. 2018. Hyperion.

    Thomas Paine and the Dangerous WordsThis engaging picture book biography of Thomas Paine (1737–1809) includes an abundance of words, phrases, and sentences from British-born wordsmith Paine’s writings that are hand-lettered and incorporated into Edwin Fotheringham’s digital artwork. After immigrating to the American colonies in 1774, Paine, a persuasive debater and writer, became a powerful voice for independence with his pamphlet Common Sense. Back matter includes author Sarah Marsh’s notes on Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, the first of 13 essays urging support of the war; publication of Paine’s political views throughout his life; and the legacy of his continued influence and inspiration of America’s leaders, as well as a timeline, bibliography, and source notes for quotations.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings. Sarah Prineas. 2018. HarperCollins.

    The Lost BooksEscaping the military aspirations set forth for him by his father, 15-year-old Alex becomes an apprentice librarian. When the master librarian he is serving mysteriously dies, Alex assumes his role and becomes royal librarian at the castle of Queen Kenneret. Alex soon learns of the deaths of several other librarians in neighboring kingdoms, and his suspicions surrounding his own master’s death are confirmed. Someone, or something, is killing royal librarians. When he discovers that certain books are alive and may be responsible for the librarians’ deaths, Alex sets outs to solve the mystery of the Lost Books that are hidden deep within the royal libraries. This fast-paced fantasy novel leaves readers wondering where Alex’s adventures might take him next.
    —LC

    What a Wonderful Word: A Collection of Untranslatable Words from Around the World. Nicola Edwards. Ill. Luisa Uribe. 2018. Kane/Miller.

    What a Wonderful WordDiving into this collection of 30 words from around the world that have no one-word translations is the perfect way for word lovers to expand their collections of words. Each entry in this beautifully formatted book includes a block of text, including a word, its language of origin, a “translation” into English, it usage, and some facts about the culture, paired with a colorful painting. For example, koyaanisqatsi (Hopi) is translated as “Nature that is out of balance or a way of life that is so crazy it cannot continue long-term,” and on a humorous note, pålegg (Norwegian) is translated as “Anything and everything you can put on a slice of bread.” A pronunciation guide is appended.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings. Jez Burrows. 2018. HarperCollins.

    Dictionary StoriesJez Burrow’s has created an intriguing way of playing with words while exploring a dictionary. Dictionary Stories includes 150 short “stories” composed entirely of example sentences from 12 dictionaries, including the New Oxford American Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and Collins Primary Learner’s Dictionary. Burrow’s introduction includes “The Rules” for making small edits to the example sentences in the dictionary stories that are written in a variety of forms (fantasies, eulogies, lists, math problems, and more) and arranged alphabetically by topic. For example, under Education, “Sample Problems: Intermediate Mathematics for Poets” includes mind-boggling word problems such as, “What do you get if you multiply 6 by 9 with gay abandon?” 
    —CA

    Laura Cutler is a PhD student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. 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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    Boo! Spooky Stories

    By Carrie Thomas and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 15, 2018

    As Halloween nears, readers of all ages enjoy listening to and reading stories about witches, ghosts, monsters, and other creepy creatures. This week’s column includes slightly spooky stories for younger readers and terrifying tales for older readers. Give students a special treat by sharing these recently published books alongside classic Halloween tales.

    Ages 4–8

    Bone Soup: A Spooky Tasty Tale. Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Ill. Tom Knight. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Bone SoupIn this retelling of the folktale “Stone Soup,” Knight uses lush colors to illustrate the friendly monster, ghost, vampire, mummy, skeleton, and other creatures who fill the cauldron of three little witches with spooky ingredients to make a tasty soup. Capucilli fills the book with humorous descriptive language like “wrinkliest of prunes” and “slimy sludge” that make  reading this book a treat. The repeated words and phrases will appeal to beginning readers. A recipe for bone soup is included so children and their caregivers can make their own tasty Halloween treat.
    —CT

    Ghoulia (Ghoulia #1). Barbara Cantini. Trans. Anna Golding. 2018. Amulet/Abrams.

    GhouliaThis first book in a series imported from Italy, with ghoulishly detailed Tim Burton-style illustrations, introduces Ghoulia, “a perfectly normal zombie girl,” and the other residents of Crumbling Manor, including Tragedy (her albino greyhound), Auntie Departed, Shadow (Auntie’s cat), Uncle Misfortune (actually, just his head), and Grandad Coffin (a ghost). When Ghoulia overhears some children talking about dressing up in scary costumes and going trick-or-treating on Halloween night, she has the brilliant idea to disguise herself “as a normal, living child.” All is going well until Ghoulia forgets and demonstrates her special scary move, which reveals her true identity. All ends well, as the children (after three pages of staring) realize how incredible it is to have a friend who is “a REAL ZOMBIE!!!”
    —CA

    A Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween. Rubin Pingk. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    Samurai ScarecrowAfter telling his little sister Kashi about the Samurai Scarecrow, who wakes when the moon is full and vows to teach “the feathered fools who won’t flee” to be scared of him, Yukio, who considers himself to be a brave ninja, decides to dress up as a bird. When Kashi, who has been copying all his Halloween preparations, appears in a matching Ninja Bird costume, Yukio has had enough. His cruel words—“You’re not a real Ninja!”—make Kashi decide not to go trick-or-treating with him. Instead, she plays a clever ninjalike trick on Yukio at the end of the evening. The action-filled digital illustrations, done in black and white with orange accents against a mauve background, add to the fun of this “very ninja Halloween” tale.
    —CA
     
    Skelly’s Halloween. David Martin. Ill. Lori Richmond. 2018. Henry Holt.

    Skelly's Halloween“Head and shoulders, knees and toes. / Trick-or-treating, here we goes!” Skelly Bones Skeleton’s Halloween plans go awry when a gust of wind catches his “BOOOO-tiful” ghost costume and tosses him up into the air, and he lands with his bones scattered. The silly appearances of Skelly, the result of asking a snake and then a colony of ants for help in reassembling his bones, is a highlight in the colorful artwork (created with pen and ink, foam stamps, and Adobe Photoshop). Finally, a trio of children put Skelly together again by following the pattern of bones on a girl’s skeleton costume and invite him to join their night of trick-or-treating fun.
    —CA

    Stumpkin. Lucy Ruth Cummins. 2018. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    StumpkinStumpkin is nearly the perfect pumpkin. He is as orange as a traffic cone and as big as a basketball. But Stumpkin has no stem. Halloween is coming, and all of Stumpkin’s friends are picked to be carved into be jack-o-lanterns—even the gourd! Will he ever get chosen to be a jack-o-lantern? Lucy Ruth Cummins uses a minimal color scheme to keep the focus on the bright orange pumpkins. The striking inclusion of two completely black pages toward the end of the book helps to build suspense as the reader awaits the fate of Stumpkin. Young readers will enjoy the happy ending and the carved faces of the pumpkins in the windows.
    —CT

    Ages 9–11

    The Ghostly Carousel: Delightfully Frightful Poems. Calef Brown. 2018. Carolrhoda/Lerner.

    The Ghostly Carousel Brown’s anthology of 17 humorous poems and seasonally colored illustrations are more likely to induce groans and giggles than fright, making them a delightful choice for those who like their Halloween reading to be scary, but not too scary. The verses, filled with puns, alliteration, and clever wordplay, introduce a motley crew of characters, including Joel, a zombie eager to escape the hugs of his zombified aunts at a family reunion; the Gambling Ghost, an expert at rolling haunted dice; a telekinetic warlock, who “can easily open door locks” with his magical mind; and Hank, who says that “grubs and larvae make marvelous food.” (Hank’s recipe for insect pie is included in another poem.)
    —CA

    Nightbooks. J. A. White. 2018. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    NightbooksAlex loves writing scary stories in his “nightbooks.” On his way to destroy all his nightbooks, in an effort to be “less weird” and more like everyone else, Alex is drawn into an apartment by the sounds of his favorite horror movie. Alex quickly realizes that this is no ordinary apartment and that he has been lured to the apartment to tell scary stories to a witch. In the giant magical library, he learns about the Unicorn Girl, the only person to ever escape the apartment. Alex enlists the help of the hesitant Yasmin (another prisoner) and Lenore (a grumpy cat who is keeping an eye on the two children) to form an escape plan. The novel includes Alex’s stories, which are genuinely creepy without gore. Elements of spookiness and magic in this horror story will appeal to a wide range of middle-grade readers.
    —CT

    Scream and Scream Again!: Spooky Stories from Mystery Writers of America. R. L. Stine (Ed.) 2018. HarperCollins.

    Scream and Scream Again!R. L. Stine and 20 other members of the Mystery Writers of America contribute to this anthology of spooky short stories, each of which begins or ends with a scream, or better yet, begins and ends with a scream. For example, Bruce Hale begins “Raw Head and Bloody Bones” with “Screams ripped the suburban October afternoon in two like a construction paper pumpkin. ‘AAAHH!’” and ends the story with “And once more, screams pierced the suburban night.” The stories are suspenseful and feature surprising twists that add to the fun of reading them aloud.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Pitch Dark. Courtney Alameda. 2018. Feiwel and Friends.

    Pitch DarkLaura Cruz wants to rid herself of an implanted subjugator, and Tuck Morgan just woke up from being in stasis for a few hundred years. A crash between their two ships brings their worlds together. The crew on the Conquistador, Laura’s ship, is searching for the last bits of human history and the John Muir, Tuck’s ship, has one of the last pieces of history that could be the key to saving humanity. Laura and Tuck must work together while escaping griefers, mourners, and even other humans. There is plenty of action and scientific language in this action-packed book. An unexpected twist will keep readers interested until the very end of this science fiction thriller.
    —CT

    Small Spaces. Katherine Arden. 2018. Putnam/Penguin.

    Small SpacesOllie is on her way home from school when she sees a strange woman throwing a book called Small Spaces into the water. Ollie rescues the book and quickly becomes engrossed in the story. When Ollie’s class goes on a field trip to a farm, the bus driver gives Ollie strange advice: “Avoid large spaces at night. Keep to small.” On the way home, the bus breaks down. It’s nearly dark when Ollie escapes into the woods joined by Coco, a city girl who gets upset at the drop of a hat, and Brian, a hockey player who quotes Alice in Wonderland. They aren’t alone in the woods, as they encounter creepy scarecrows that seem to follow them. An unexpected source helps the three work together to solve a mystery that comes straight from the book Ollie has been reading. This fast-paced book will be enjoyed by middle-grade readers, particularly those who like spooky, but not too scary, stories.
    —CT

    Ages 15+

    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Kiersten White. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth FrankensteinKiersten White’s imaginative retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Elizabeth Lavenza, who, at the age of 5, was rescued from an abusive caregiver and taken in by the Frankensteins to be a companion for Victor in the hope that she might help socialize their brilliant eldest son. Over the years, Elizabeth becomes not just his companion but also his friend and protector; she becomes Victor’s Elizabeth. When he leaves home to pursue his studies in science, Elizabeth fears dismissal from the family. After almost two years without letters from Victor, she sets out with her friend Justine (the governess of the two young Frankenstein boys) to find him. When Elizabeth discovers the horrors of the scientific experiments he is undertaking in his lab in Germany, she realizes that she must save him from the monster he has created—and from himself. White effectively uses inserts in italics to provide details of the backstory of their relationship throughout her suspenseful, psychological horror story as she builds toward a dark Gothic conclusion.
    —CA

    The Price Guide to the Occult. Leslye Walton. 2018. Candlewick.

    The Price Guide to the OccultAll Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. That all changes when an obscure book, The Price Guide to the Occult, starts to mysteriously grow in popularity. The price for the spells isn’t just money, however; something bad happens to another person whenever a spell is cast. Nor knows that she comes from the powerful Blackburn family line of witches, but she doesn’t know how powerful she is until she is forced to come face to face with the witch performing the black magic behind the book’s spells.  Walton keeps the reader’s interest through to the action-packed showdown. The end is graphic and disturbing, so this dark, horrific fantasy is definitely for more mature readers.
    —CT

    Carrie Thomas is a reading specialist at First Philadelphia Charter School. Previously, she was a public school music teacher and worked with nonprofit administration and outreach. 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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    Reasons to Celebrate: New Editions of Old Favorites

    By Laura Cutler and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 08, 2018

    In this week’s column, we welcome the release of new editions of some old favorites. Join us in celebrating the anniversaries of these picture books and novels that were loved by readers when they were first published and make exciting and meaningful reading for those discovering them for the first time.

    Ages 48

    Borka: The Adventures of a Goose With No Feathers. John Burningham. 2018. Candlewick.

    BorkaIn the spring, Mr. and Mrs. Plumpster became the proud parents of six newly hatched goslings: Archie, Oswald, Freda, Jennifer, Timothy, and Borka. They all look alike except for Borka, who does not have any feathers. At the doctor’s suggestion, Mrs. Plumpster knits Borka a fuzzy sweater, which keeps her warm but doesn’t stop the other geese from teasing her about being featherless. When fall comes, she is unable to fly away with the flock. Upon finding shelter on a boat in the harbor on a cold, damp day, however, Borka begins an adventure that ends happily in London’s Kew Gardens. This 55th anniversary edition of John Burningham’s first picture book, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, showcases his signature style of using both full-color paintings and black-and-white drawings.
    —CA

    Company’s Coming. Arthur Yorinks. Ill. David Small. 2018. Hyperion.

    Company's ComingThirty years ago, Company’s Coming introduced readers to Shirley and Moe, whose preparations to host a family dinner party are interrupted by the arrival of a flying saucer in their backyard in Bellmore. Shirley, believing the pair of aliens is friendly (they do come bearing a gift), invites them to dinner. Moe is more apprehensive and notifies the authorities. Before they know it, their house is surrounded by the FBI, the army, the air force, and the marines. Found harmless, the spacemen join Shirley and Moe’s guests and enjoy a friendly spaghetti and meatballs dinner. A new edition of the sequel, Company’s Going (originally published in 2001), was released simultaneously.
    —LC

    Dress Up and Let’s Have a Party. Remy Charlip. 2018. Enchanted Lion.

    Dress UpIn this classic picture book, John and his friends find creative ways to dress up for a party. The children convert common household items into clever and inventive costumes and make grand entrances in the colorful illustrations. With the amount of time young children spend in exploratory and imaginative play continuing to decline, Remy Charlip’s first book (back in print for the first time since its original publication in 1956) endures as a reminder to young children of the fun that can be had anywhere, anytime—as long as they use their imaginations.
    —LC

    A Grain of Rice. Helena Clare Pittman. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    A Grain of RiceIn Pittman’s original tale set in 15th-century China (first published in 1986), Long Po, the son of a farmer, devises a plan to outwit the Emperor, who fails to keep his promise to allow Long Po to marry the Princess after he creates a potion that saves the ill princess’s life. When the Emperor tells him he can have whatever he wants—except permission to marry the Princess—clever Long Po asks for a single grain of rice, doubled every day for 100 days. The Emperor soon discovers that it’s impossible for him to meet this demand and allows the Princess and Long Po to marry. An afterword explains the mathematical concept behind Long Po’s ingenious request.
    —LC

    Intergalactic P.S. 3: A Wrinkle in Time Story. Madeleine L’Engle. Ill. Hope Larson. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Intergalactic P.S. 3Reissued to coincide with the release of the film version of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, this chapter book tells of an intergalactic adventure two of the Murray children, Meg and Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin have. Those familiar with the Time Trilogy will recognize Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, who help the children travel from Earth to a different galaxy to attend school at Intergalactic P.S. 3. In this brief story, originally published in 1970 and later developed by L’Engle into A Wind in the Door (1973), Meg must solve a particularly unusual entrance exam for the school to ensure that all three children can safely remain on the Framoch planet.
    —LC

    Stellaluna. Janell Cannon. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    StellalunaStellaluna, a baby fruit bat who is accidentally dropped by Mother Bat during an inflight attack by an owl, is fortunate to land in a nest full of fledglings. Stellaluna attempts to fit in by adapting to the behavior of the family of birds until she happily is reunited with her mother. The artwork has been enhanced by the coloring of ink drawings in this 25th anniversary edition, which includes an updated “Bat Notes,” an access code for downloadable crafts and activities, and a note from the author.
    —CA

    Strega Nona’s Magic Ring. Tomie DePaola. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    Strega Nona's Magic RingReissued with updated cover art and a new title, this story (originally published in 1979 as Big Anthony and the Magic Ring) recounts the misadventures of Strega Nona’s helper, Big Anthony, who uses Strega Nona’s magic ring to turn himself into a handsome stranger. Big Anthony heads out for a night of dancing, but soon discovers that the magic of the ring has worked a little too well! In this sequel to Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona (1975), young readers learn what can happen when one receives more than what they bargained for.
    —LC

    Ages 9–11

    Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali. Jim Haskins. Ill. Eric Velasquez. 2018. Bloomsbury.

    ChampionThis picture book biography (originally published in 2002) chronicles the life of Muhammad Ali, from his childhood roots in the segregated South to his 1960 Olympic gold medal win and subsequent illustrious boxing career, conversion to Islam, refusal to join the army during the Vietnam War, diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, and lighting of the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Velasquez’s vibrant oil paintings dominate the pages of this tribute to Muhammad Ali, bringing this American legend to life. The updated timeline in this new edition marks major events of Ali’s life, from his birth in 1941 to his death in 2016.
    —LC 

    The Enormous Crocodile. Roald Dahl. Ill. Quentin Blake. 2018. Puffin/Penguin.

    The Enormous CrocodileThe hungry Enormous Crocodile’s plans to fill his empty tummy by feasting on “a nice juicy little child” are thwarted by other jungle animals—Humpy-Rumpy (a hippo), Muggle-Wump the Monkey, and Roly-Poly Bird—who warn the children to run just as they are about to be devoured. Finally, Trunky the Elephant puts an end to Enormous Crocodile’s clever tricks by using his trunk to swirl him around and around and fling him up to the sun. “And he was sizzled up like a sausage.”  The picture book format of this 40th anniversary edition of Roald Dahl’s classic story with Quentin Blake’s signature cartoon illustrations makes it a terrific read-aloud choice. 
    —CA

    Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Richard Atwater & Florence Atwater. Ill. Jim Madsen. 2018. Little, Brown.

    Mr. Popper's PenguinsThe result of a letter sent to Antarctic explorer Admiral Drake by Mr. Popper, a house painter who dreams of visiting the South Pole, a penguin arrives on the Popper’s doorstep at 432 Proudfoot Avenue in the small town of Stillwater. Crazily wonderful events follow in this middle-grade classic as the penguin, which Mr. Popper names Captain Cook, becomes a member of the Popper family. This 80th anniversary edition of the Atwaters’s delightfully amusing Newberry Honor book has new black-and-white illustrations by Jim Madsen.
    —CA

    The Widow’s Broom. Chris Van Allsburg. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Widow's BroomChris Van Allsburg’s delightfully eerie tale about widow Minna Shaw and the broom she acquires when it is left behind by a witch, who plummets into Minna’s vegetable garden when her old broom loses its power to fly, is out in a 25th anniversary edition. With a beautifully crafted text and exquisitely detailed, textured, sepia-toned artwork, Van Allsburg blends reality and the supernatural as Minna teaches the broom to help with the chores and cleverly tricks neighbor Spivy, who considers the widow’s innocent, hardworking broom to be the wicked tool of the devil.
    —CA

    Ages 1214

    The Giver. Lois Lowry. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    The GiverIn Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning fantasy The Giver, after receiving the life-assignment as the Receiver of Memory, 12-year-old Jonas begins to question the colorless, conforming, and controlling sameness of the community in which he lives as he learns from the Giver disturbing secrets about this “perfect” society. The Giver is as provocative today as it was when first published in 1993. This 25th anniversary edition, with a redesigned book jacket, includes a new afterword by Lowry and her Newbery acceptance speech.
    —CA

    If You Come Softly. Jacqueline Woodson. 2018. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    If You Come SoftlyJacqueline Woodson’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet, which begins when two teens meet accidentally in the hallway of Percy Academy, a Manhattan prep school, on their first day as seventh graders, is an interracial love story of black Jeremiah and Jewish Ellie. In her preface to this 20th anniversary edition, Woodson addresses the relevance of If You Come Softly, with its heartbreaking ending, in light of present-day racism and cases of police brutality in our country.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Pigman. Paul Zindel. 2018. HarperCollins.

    The PigmanIn alternating first person narrations, high school sophomores John Conland and Lorraine Jensen tell the story of a prank phone call to a stranger that leads to their unexpected friendship with elderly Angelo Pignati (the Pigman). Things tragically goes awry when they betray his trust, leaving the teens aware of how their behavior contributed to his death and changing their lives forever. This 50th anniversary edition of The Pigman is the perfect novel to introduce readers to the works of the prolific author of young adult novels, Paul Zindel (19362003). Teens will be interested in reading the sequel, The Pigman’s Legacy (1980), too.
    —CA

    Laura Cutler is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. 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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    Detectives, Sleuths, and Spies: Mystery and Detective Stories

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 01, 2018

    From picture books and early chapter books in which cases are solved by clever animal detectives to novels involving the sleuthing (and even spying) of young people, the well-crafted “whodunits” highlighted in this week’s column will have readers using their own powers of detection as mysteries are solved.

    Ages 4–8

    Baby Monkey, Private Eye. Brian Selznick & David Serlin. Ill. Brian Selznick. 2018. Scholastic.

    Baby Monkey“Who is Baby Monkey?” “He is a baby. He is a monkey. He has a job . . .” And, as this innovative fusion of picture book, graphic novel, and beginning reader clearly shows, he’s good at this job of being a private detective. Brian Selznick and David Serlin’s simple, patterned text and Selznick’s fascinating black-and-white drawings reveal how Baby Monkey solves cases involving the missing jewels of an opera singer, the pie of a pizza maker, the nose of a clown, and the spaceship of an astronaut before taking on a most important case involving reuniting a mother with her baby. The décor of Baby Monkey’s office changes as each new client enters, and young and old can extend the fun of repeated readings by identifying items seen in the illustrations for each chapter by using the appended key to Baby Monkey’s office and the index. Adults sharing this book with children will get an extra chuckle over the clever, invented bibliography.
    —CA

    A Case for Buffy (Detective Gordon #4). Ulf Nilsson. Trans. Julia Marshall. Ill. Gitte Spee. 2018. Gecko.

    A Case for BuffyAt their small police station in a forest, Detective Gordon (an old toad) and Detective Buffy (a young mouse) have started a small police school. Their two police students, Sune (a baby toad) and Gertrude (a baby mouse) enthusiastically join the two detectives in their most challenging case to date: the search for Buffy’s mother from whom she was separated when she fled from a fox that attacked her family. Donning their spiffy police hats and energized by Buffy’s singing  (“Tramp, tramp, tramp and tramp./ Tramp, tramp and trampety-tramp.”) the four set out for Cave Island and pool their investigative skills to outfox the fox and rescue Buffy’s mother and 14 siblings. After they all return home to the forest, Gordon takes a nap and Buffy and the small police write up the report on the case and stamp it closed with a “KLA-DUNK. KLA-DUNK” in a fitting closing to this charming series.
    —CA

    The Detective Dog. Julia Donaldson. Ill. Sara Ogilvie. 2018. Godwin/Henry Holt.

    The Detective DogDetective Dog Nell uses her keen sense of smell to solve neighborhood crimes and locate missing items from Tuesday through Sunday, but on Monday she goes to school with her human, 6-year-old Peter, to listen to stories the children read to her and enjoy the classroom smells, especially the smell of books. One Monday, however, all the books are gone. The humorous rhyming text and colorful, detailed illustrations invite young readers to accompany Nell as she sniffs out a clue (a cap left on the bookshelf) and follows the smells of a man and books to a backyard where the thief is found reading their books. He sadly confesses, “Stealing is wrong—but I just meant to borrow. / I was planning to give all the books back tomorrow.” Clever Nell barks the perfect solution: Taking Ted, the thief, to the library to get a library card.
    —CA

    King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth (King & Kayla #4). Dori Hillestad Butler. Ill. Nancy Meyers. 2018. Peachtree.

    King & KaylaThe detective duo, King and Kayla, work together to solve another case as Kayla opens her class’s tooth fairy pillow and finds the tooth she lost at school missing. While Kayla employs reasoning, making lists of what she does and doesn’t know about its disappearance, King uses his nose to uncover clues (there’s the distinct aroma of turkey sandwiches on the pillow). Young readers will enjoy this story in beginning-chapter-book format told from King’s viewpoint and the way in which the humorous cartoonlike illustrations show how the golden retriever recovers Kayla’s missing tooth in a decidedly puppylike manner.
    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    The Art of the Swap. Kristine Asselin & Jen Malone. 2018. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    The Art of the SwapIn this historical fantasy, 12-year-olds Hannah Jordon, who considers herself an export on the Elms, a mansion and museum in Newport, Rhode Island, and heiress Maggie Dunlap, who lived there in 1905 when her portrait by artist Mary Cassatt disappeared right before the unveiling, swap places through a magic mirror portal. As the girls experience the differences that a century makes in the evolution of society and women’s rights, Hannah discovers that she can’t undo the heist before the big reveal, even when she’s learned what really happened, without changing history and their exits back home. Authors’ notes describe the writing process and include resources on The Elms and the Gilded Age, as well as the fight for women’s equality.
    —NB

    Arts and Thefts (MAX). Allison K. Hymas. 2018. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    Arts and TheftMiddle school students Jeremy Wilderson, a retrieval specialist who returns lost and stolen items to his clients, and his nemesis, Becca Mills, an impetuous detective who solves crimes, team up during the Scottsville Summer Art Show and Competition to stop whoever is sabotaging the event. If Jeremy’s two best friends, Case (who has a painting in the contest) and Hack (who has great technology skills) discover his betrayal in working alongside Becca, his friendships and retrieval business will be on the line. Moreover, Becca believes Jeremy, Case, and Hack are the culprits trashing the show’s top contender—and she can’t wait to expose them. Readers will want to catch up with the Under Locker and Key (2017), if they missed it, while waiting for the release of the third book in this clever mystery series.
    —NB

    Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans (Samantha Spinner #1).Russell Ginns. Ill. Barbara Fisinger. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    Samantha SpinnerWhen Uncle Paul vanished, leaving her teen sister 2.4 billion dollars, her 8-year-old brother the New York Yankees, and their dog a jewel-studded collar, 11-year-old Samantha Spinner received an old red umbrella that turned out to house a map of secret portals to places around the world. Pursued by stinky ninjas from the Parisian sewers who want the map, Samantha and her brother, accompanied by their pug, cross the world solving mysteries in search of their uncle, whom they believe is still alive, in a wild adventure story that includes Samantha’s journal entries and intriguing puzzle clues. Back matter includes facts, word searches, codes, messages, enigmas, and more. More adventures are coming in Samantha Spinner and the Spectacular Specs, due spring 2019.
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    The House in Poplar Wood. K. E. Ormsbee. 2018. Chronicle.

    The House in Popular Wood“The Agreement” specified that the house in Poplar Wood would forever be divided, with Felix Vickery living with his father and Death on the east side and his twin, Lee, living with his mother and Memory on the west side. The parents were never to see each other for the rest of their lives. Felix can never see his mother, and Lee can never see his father, although the twins can meet on the porch. While Memory allows Lee to attend the local school, Death keeps a tighter rein on Felix, who can only leave the house on Halloween. As apprentices-in-training, their last hope of not having to sign on with the Devil and Memory at age 16 comes from Gretchen Whipple, the daughter of the town’s mayor and summoner (whose is supposed to protect the town by keeping the powers of the Shades— the Devil, Memory, and Passion—in check). Gretchen agrees to help them break the Agreement if they help her solve the mystery surrounding the death of Essie Hastings, but with Death involved things will get dangerous—or even deadly. Fans of fantastical mysteries will find this novel eerie, suspenseful, and totally satisfying.
    —CA

    The Misfits Club. Kieran Crowley. 2018. Feiwel and Friends.

    The Misfits ClubAfter four years, The Misfits, a club begun when they were only 8 years old, is about to split up, but there is time for one last adventure in their hometown of Newpark, where boring is a way of life. Brian, Hannah, the twins, and Amelia (who has been banished to live in Newpark with her grandma for the summer) happen upon a real-life mystery that involves stolen goods and dangerous thieves. When no one believes what The Misfits have uncovered, it is up to them to bring the criminal gang to justice in a hilarious turn of events that includes a honey badger to the rescue. Interspersed with Amelia’s journal entries and newspaper articles, this mystery is sure to intrigue middle school readers.
    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Orphan Monster Spy. Matt Killeen. 2018. Viking/Penguin.

    Orphan Monster SpyIn 1939 Nazi Germany, 15-year-old blonde, blue-eyed Sarah is on the run after her Jewish mother is shot and killed at a checkpoint trying to get her to safety. Befriended by a mysterious man, the Captain (also known by the name, among others, of Helmut Heller), who enlists her to work for him, Sarah lives a double life of intrigue and danger as Ursula Heller, student and spy, in an elite and cruel boarding school with daughters of Nazi leaders. Even if her mission to retrieve a notebook with blueprints of a bomb designed by a Nazi scientist that could destroy much of Western Europe succeeds by befriending his daughter, Elsa Schäfer, succeeds, can she trust the man who recruited her—and will it be enough to make up for the loss of her family and country? 
    —NB

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

    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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    Conflict: Awareness, Understanding, and Resolution

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Sep 24, 2018

    A quick glance at a newspaper or social media reveals that conflict is everywhere–within families, in the workplace, and among nations. It’s clear that the world would be a better place if we approached one another with empathy and kindness. This week’s column highlights books about conflicts and resolutions in various forms, even when they take place within us.

    Ages 4–8

    An Anty-War Story. Tony Ross. 2018. Andersen.

    An Antywar StoryA patriotic ant named Douglas wants to do his bit for Antworld. His dreams of being able "to fit in, to carry food, and be in the beautiful line” as a worker ant are left unrealized as he is assigned to duty as a soldier, responsible for defending his homeland from intruders. Although he proudly marches in formation with the other soldier ants, his happiness is fleeting as war brings its inevitable conclusion. The final pages show the violence and destruction inherent in war, featuring a monument listing all the ants killed in the conflict, Douglas among them. This unexpectedly poignant anti-war allegory will leave some readers puzzled and perturbed while provoking rich discussion among others.

    The Turtle Ship. Helena Ku Rhee. Ill. Colleen Kong-Savage. 2018. Shen’s Books/Lee & Low.

    The Turtle ShipYoung Sun-sin, who spends his days in his seaside village with his turtle, Gobugi, dreams of traveling the world. When the ruler of Korea announces a contest to design a battleship, Sun-sin realizes his pet turtle is a good model. Although Sun-sin is belittled by others at the competition, the emperor watches as Gobugi fends off the attack of a cat, thanks to its shell and ability to retract its limbs, and realizes that the small turtle’s attributes offer possibilities for designing a warship. Sun-sin’s dreams of travel come true when he and his family are invited to sail with the royal navy on a Turtle Ship. He later becomes a famous navy admiral, but eventually finds more contentment in the peacefulness of home with Gobugi. Detailed collage illustrations beautifully set the scene for this story, loosely inspired by the story of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his Turtle Ship. The afterword includes a photograph of an actual Turtle Ship, compact and impregnable.

    A World of Kindness. Ann Featherstone. 2018. Pajama Press.

    A World of KindnessNine children’s book illustrators (Rebecca Bender, Suzanne del Rizzo, Brian Deines, Wallace Edwards, Kim La Fave, Dean Griffiths, Manon Gauthier, Francois Thisdale, and Tara Anderson) offer their artistic interpretations of what it means to be kind and avoid conflict by understanding others. Whether through courtesy and thoughtfulness toward others, reaching out to a new friend, or comforting someone in pain, each of us can make the world a better place through the simplest of actions. The child-friendly questions posed and the scenarios depicted provide food for thought and discussion about the importance of taking action. Ultimately, young readers may realize that kindness starts with one small act, rippling outward to touch others and improve the world.

    Ages 9–11

    Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid (Kid Beowulf #3)Alexis E. Fajardo. 2018. Andrews McMeel.

    Kid BeowulfIn this graphic novel, unlikely siblings Grendel and Beowulf find themselves in Spain, where a band of travelers mistakes them for gods and plans to use them in a sacrificial ritual. Their storyline eventually intersects with that of Rodrigo, a promising young knight whose fortune goes awry after he kills the father of his beloved, Ximena, and he is exiled from his homeland. Forced to become a mercenary soldier, Rodrigo eventually amasses a large army and gains back all that he has lost, including the woman he loves. Middle grade readers will be swept up by this epic drama and impressed by the honor of Rodrigo Díaz, the man who came to be called El Cid. The illustrations are filled with color and detail, bringing this centuries-old tale to life.A “More to Explore!” section includes author’s notes providing background for the graphic fantasy, a glossary of characters, fun facts, and a bibliography.

    The Sinking of the Vasa: A Shipwreck of Titanic Proportions. Russell Freedman. Ill. William Low. 2018. Henry Holt.

    The Sinking of the VasaIt has been said that pride comes before a fall, and this nonfiction account of a Swedish king’s hubris demonstrates this theory perfectly. Intent on intimidating those who might consider opposing him or his kingdom, King Gustavus II Adolf commissioned the construction of a mighty warship with 64 bronze cannons and various ornate works of art at an enormous cost. However, the king overestimated the ship’s capability to carry so many weighty weapons, and the Vasa never made it into battle. In fact, the ship sank on its maiden voyage, traveling less than a mile from shore. As fascinating as the details provided about its construction are, perhaps more interesting are the efforts to discover the reason for the ship's sinking and then, centuries later, to bring the Vasa out of the depths of the sea and restore it. Created with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, the illustrations brim with life and detail. Readers will feel as though they are along the dock in 1628 watching as the ship sinks and many lives are lost. Now that the Vasa is back on dry land and restored, it has become a popular tourist attraction in Stockholm, Sweden.

    Ages 12–14

    D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History. Deborah Hopkinson. 2018. Scholastic.

    D-DayArguably, the pivotal event of World War II, D-Day (June 6, 1944) was the largest invasion by sea in history. German Führer Adolph Hitler was firmly in control of Europe. The United States and other allied countries knew that they must come up with a plan that would strike at the heart of the Nazi stronghold. In this account of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, Hopkinson relies on government documents and personal anecdotes to highlight the contributions made by those involved in this enormous undertaking to free Europe.

    My Life Uploaded. Rae Earl. 2018. Imprint/Macmillan.

    My Life UploadedAs is the case for many girls her age, 13-year-old Millie Porter longs to be noticed by her peers. But being noticed for the right things instead of what she does wrong is easier said than done, especially when Erin Breeler, a popular classmate, always seems to be there when she's messing up. Since Erin has a social media presence, she is quick to post images and comments. Millie is a sensible sort, and after listening to her best friend, Lauren, bemoans her living situation and how fed up she is with her mother's neat freak of a boyfriend, she starts her own video blog, or "vlog." But Erin can’t stand to have anyone else gain attention, and an online war between the two girls begins. The fact that Canadian transplant, Danny Trudeau, seems to like Millie’s vlog adds fuel to the fire, and their classmates take sides.

    Ages 15+

    The Fandom. Anna Day. 2018. Chicken House/Candlewick.

    The FandomIt's no secret that some fans will go to great lengths to meet their idols, even almost becoming a part of that imaginary world. In this book, Violet (along with her two best friends Alice and Katie, and her younger brother) heads off to Comic-Con to meet the actors from The Gallows Dance, a book that has enchanted all of them except Katie for years. Alice even writes fan fiction set in that world. Dressed as their favorite characters, they are set to get autographs and photos when a strange accident thrusts them into the world in which the story takes place. Suddenly, Violet and company find themselves in the midst of a war between “the Gens,” genetically altered humans, and “the Imps,” lesser, imperfect citizens. As Violet tries to stick to the book’s plot, she isn’t sure how to end the conflict and have the four of them come out of it safe and sound and back home.

    Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1). Kristina Pérez. 2018. Imprint/Macmillan.

    Sweet Black WavesBased on the classic story of Tristan and Isolde, this version focuses on Branwen of Ivernic (Ireland), who befriends and falls in love with Tristan, whose country Kernyvak (Cornwall) is in conflict with her own. To achieve peace between the two nations, the Queen of Ivernic decides to marry off her daughter, Esseult (affectionately called Essy) to King Marc of Cornwall. Branwen and Tristan (the nephew of King Marc) accompany Essy as she reluctantly sails to meet her husband-to-be. But when Essy and Tristan drink a potion intended for Essy and King Marc, they are irresistibly attracted to one another, culminating in a shipboard tryst. Naturally, Branwen’s heart is broken, and she ponders how much she must sacrifice to achieve peace between the two lands. This well-written debut novel effectively immerses readers in a time and place from long, long ago.

    The War Below. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2018. Scholastic.

    The War BelowThis companion book to Making Bombs for Hitler (2017) follows Luka as he escapes from a work camp by smuggling himself out among corpses and tries to make his way back to Kviv to find his father and mother. Consumed with guilt for leaving behind his best friend, Lida, Luka swears that he will somehow find her. He is poorly prepared for the journey since he has no food and is barely clothed, but he finds help from a kindhearted farm couple with a secret of their own, a savvy refugee, Martina, with useful wilderness skills, and members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. And knowing something about medicine, Luka helps his companions, but losses take an emotional toll on him. The plight of Ukrainians like Luka who had to contend with enemies on both fronts, Hitler’s Germans and Stalin’s Soviets, is highlighted in this historical novel.

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

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

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