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    Biography and the Arts

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Aug 20, 2018

    In our second column on biographies this year, we focus on books about creative individuals who have made contributions in the visual, literary, and performing arts. Included are picture book biographies to read aloud and pair with related books and works in other media at all age levels as well as three biographies of authors for independent reading by older readers.

    Ages 4–8

    Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. Bethany Hegedus. Ill. Erin McGuire. 2018. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

    Alabama SpitfireThis engaging picture book biography introduces Nelle Harper Lee (19262016), who grew up in the segregated, small town of Monroeville, Alabama. Tomboy Nelle played with her brother rather than her sisters and watched her father try cases at the county courthouse. With her friend Tru, she read books, spied on the neighborhood from a treehouse, and wrote stories on an Underwood typewriter. Determined to become an author, Nelle dropped out of law school and moved to New York City. Success came with the publication of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, inspired by her own childhood, To Kill a Mockingbird. Back matter includes an extensive author’s note and a bibliography.
    —CA

    Blue Grass Boy: The Story of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass Music. Barb Rosenstock. Ill. Edwin Fotheringham. 2018. Calkins Creek/Highlights.

    Blue Grass BoyThe music of his bluegrass Kentucky home inspired shy Bill Monroe (19111996) to become a musician. The youngest of eight children, he joined his brothers’ group, the Monroe Brothers, playing for dances and on local radio stations. After the group broke up, Bill, who was influenced by many musicians, invented bluegrass music, a combination of ScotchIrish fiddle tunes, gospel, blues, jazz, and country string music. The lively narrative and bright illustrations reflect the joy in the music that Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys played for dances, in the studio, and at the Grand Ole Opry. Back matter includes additional biographical details and a bibliography.
    —SW

    Libba

    Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten. Laura Veirs. Ill. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. 2018. Chronicle.

    Elizabeth Cotten (18931987) heard music in the sounds of the world and recreated them on her brother’s guitar, which, as a left-handed person, she played upside down and backward. After composing her first song, “Freight Train,” at age 13, her life took a different track, and she didn’t return to music until decades later, when Ruth Crawford Seeger hired her as a housekeeper. Libba found herself surrounded by folk music again in the Seeger household. Earth-toned graphite illustrations, tinted digitally, reflect Libba’s gentle, quiet quality. Back matter includes an extensive author’s note and sources.
    —SW

    Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen. Deborah Hopkinson. Ill. Qin Leng. 2018. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

    Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen“It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of our greatest writers.” Deborah Hopkinson begins this biography of Jane Austen (17751817) by playing with the opening line of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813). Her simple, straightforward text and Qin Leng’s delicate, softly colored ink-and-watercolor illustrations introduce the life story of the shy, observant British girl who loved to read, began writing stories at an early age, and went on to write extraordinary novels during her short lifetime. Back matter includes a timeline, a “Jane’s Bookshelf” section of Austen’s novels (with publication dates, brief annotations, and famous quotes), and resources.
    —CA

    Ages 911

    Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. Sandra Neil Wallace. Ill. Bryan Collier. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Between the LinesGrowing up in the segregated south, Ernie Barnes (19382009) kept his childhood dream of being an artist alive. “When I became an athlete I didn’t stop being an artist.” Never without a sketchpad, Ernie, reluctantly became a high school football star. Attending college on a sports scholarship, Ernie studied art and played football. Even during his years in professional football, he kept sketching on the sidelines, and after retiring, became the official artist for the American Football League. This picture book biography, with Collier’s stunning watercolor and collage artwork, includes author and illustrator notes, a bibliography, a list of museums exhibiting Barnes’ paintings, and sources.
    —CA

    Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz. Mara Rockliff. Ill. Michele Wood. 2018. Calkins Creek/Highlights.

    Born to SwingGrowing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Lil Hardin (18981971) heard the blues outside her window and, although her mother thought it was the devil’s music, she took every chance she had to play the family and church organs with a beat and, in her piano lessons, improvised when she forgot the melody. As part of the Great Migration during World War I, her family moved to Chicago. Surrounded by music and with her independent spirit and vision, she played piano with the great bands of the day, married (and divorced) Louis Armstrong, recorded her music, and went on to perform internationally. Wood’s vibrant paintings depict the times, places, and Lil’s passion for music. Back matter includes additional biographical notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.
    —SW

    Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real. Marc Tyler Nobleman. Ill. Eliza Wheeler. 2018. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin.

    Fairy SpellIn 1917, cousins Elsie and Frances spent their days in the English countryside, where Elsie took photographs of Frances with her father’s camera and surprised her parents with fairies that appeared in the prints. After the girls’ mothers showed the photographs to a lecturer on fairies, questions circulated. Arthur Conan Doyle became interested and published the first article about the fairies in a popular magazine. Decades later, after renewed interest in the fairies, Elsie and Frances explained their photographs. With delicately detailed artwork and archival photographs, Fairy Spell shows how people came to believe “evidence” of unbelievable events. The author’s note includes remarks on evaluating evidence.
    —SW

    The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science. Joyce Sidman. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Girl Who Drew ButterfliesOne of the first female entomologists, Maria Merian (16471717) cared for her family and home while growing as an artist whose paintings of the life cycles of insects set the standard for scientific illustration for centuries. Her stepfather, who taught her drawing and painting, instilled in her the value of observation of the natural world, something Merian continued all her life as she painted the stages of the life cycle of insects and the plants on which they lived and fed, disproving centuries-old traditional wisdom of how they develop. This beautiful biography includes reproductions of Merian’s paintings and excerpts from her journals. Back matter includes author’s note, quote sources, and selected bibliography.
    —SW

    Ages 12–14

    Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters. Charlotte Jones Voiklis & Léna Roy. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Becoming MadeleineEducated in European boarding schools, Madeleine L’Engle (19182007) was passionate about writing, although she felt “awkward, unattractive, and stupid.” At Smith College, she excelled academically, had her work published, and discovered the theater, in which she was involved for years, noting that the theater was the best training ground for writers. This biography of her writing and family life includes archival photographs and many excerpts from her letters and journals. In the 1950s, one publisher, reviewing a manuscript of a novel, recommended she revise it for young readers. She received many rejections of what became A Wrinkle in Time, the 1962 Newbery Award winner, before it was ultimately published by John Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Back matter includes a lengthy authors’ note and acknowledgments.
    —SW

    House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery. Liz Rosenberg. Ill. Julie Morstad. 2018. Candlewick.

    House of DreamsThis biography of the creator of the ebullient and optimistic Anne of Green Gables books shows how Maud Montgomery (18741942) navigated conflicting influences throughout her life, from the contrast between her energetic and imaginative personality in the household of her pragmatic and serious grandparents to her life fulfilling the responsibilities of a minister’s wife and her career as an author. Maud loved her grandparent’s farm in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, where she grew up after her mother died and her father retreated to a new life in Saskatchewan. This comprehensive biography chronicles Montgomery’s pursuit of education and teaching, relationships, and devotion to writing.
    —SW

    Rosa’s Animals: The Story of Rosa Bonheur and Her Painting Menagerie. Maryann Macdonald. 2018. Abrams.

    Rosa's AnimalsGrowing up in France, Rosa Bonheur (18221899) studied with her father, Raymond Bonheur, a Realist, in his art studio. At age 19, Rosa’s painting of two rabbits nibbling on a carrot was accepted for the Salon de Paris, a prestigious art show held at the Louvre Museum. During her life, she created hundreds of paintings of wild and domestic animals, including The Horse Fair, recognized as a masterpiece of Realism, which is hung in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. This beautifully crafted biography includes numerous full-page reproductions of Bonheur’s paintings. Back matter includes an author’s note, source notes for quotations, a bibliography, a “Where to See Rosa Bonheur’s Work” section, and an index.
    —CA

    When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon and Garfunkel. G. Neri. Ill. David Litchfield. 2018. Candlewick.

    When Paul Met ArtieUsing a double-page format of free-verse poems paired with colorful, digitally created illustrations, G. Neri and David Litchfield pay tribute to two boys from Queens who became folk rock sensations as teens and are recognized as one of the most successful musical duos of all time. After opening with “Old Friends” about their reunion neighborhood concert in Central Park in 1981, the narrative shifts to 30 years earlier in “My Little Town” to set the scene for the meeting of Paul and Artie. In the final vignette, “Bookends,” they are listening to the top 10 countdown on a car radio on January 1, 1966, when “The Sound of Silence” became the number one song in America. “Paul and Artie / are still just / two boys / from Queens, / dreaming about / the future.” Back matter includes an afterword, discography, bibliography, and list of “musical connections.”
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. Lita Judge. 2018. Roaring Brook.

    Mary's MonsterWith expressive free-verse poems and double-spread black-and-white illustrations, Lita Judge tells the life story of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (17971851), the author of Frankenstein (1818). Judge’s intriguing portrait of Mary Shelley and her creation of the classic tale begins with a prologue in which Frankenstein’s monster speaks: “Most people didn’t believe Mary Shelley / a teenage girl, unleashed me, / a creature powerful and murderous / enough to haunt their dreams.” An epilogue, also voiced by the monster, expresses how Mary Shelley’s “. . . spirit whispers / eternally through me, her creature.” This fascinating fictionalized biography includes extensive historical notes, an author’s note, sources of quotations, and a bibliography.
    —CA

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

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

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    School Stories

    By Jennifer Shettel
     | Aug 13, 2018

    It’s August, and thoughts are turning to the beginning of a new school year. This week’s column includes reviews of picture books about first-day-of-school expectations and experiences that are good read-aloud choices for younger children and novels about navigating the ins and outs and ups and downs of middle and secondary school for older readers.

    Ages 4–8             

    All Are Welcome. Alexandra Penfold. Ill. Suzanne Kaufman. 2018. Knopf/Random House.

    All Are WelcomeReading aloud this picture book is the perfect way to welcome all children into the classroom at the start of the school year. Lyrical stanzas with the repeated refrain “All are welcome here,” combined with colorful illustrations (created using acrylic paint, ink, crayon and collage with Photoshop) featuring a diverse array of children, parents, and teachers, reassure young children that school is a safe, welcoming place for everyone. A final double gatefold showcases a joyful school community celebration. “You have a place here. / You have a space here. / You are welcome here.” 

    Dear Substitute. Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick. Ill. Chris Raschka. 2018. Disney Hyperion.

    Dear Substitute“Dear Substitute, / Wow. This is a surprise. / What are you doing here? / Where’s Mrs. Giordano, / and why didn’t she warn us?” Through a series of short letters written by a young girl, readers sense her frustration with the substitute teacher, who does not follow established daily routine and procedures. She doesn’t pronounce the student’s names correctly, they don’t clean out the class turtle’s tank even though it’s “Tank Tuesday,” and she doesn’t collect the homework. But she does read aloud some funny poems during an extra storytime, during which the girl discovers that she likes poetry. Chris Raschka’s colorful watercolor and gouache illustrations playfully portray the girl’s changing moods as she realizes that having a day or two with a substitute who mixes things up a bit is okay.

    School People. Lee Bennett Hopkins (Ed.). Ill. Ellen Shi. 2018. WordSong/Highlights.

    School PeopleThis collection of 15 poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins begins with Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s “School Story,” in which the school building itself extends a welcome to students: “I am waiting—come on in!” The following entries by other children’s poets introduce elementary school personnel—a bus driver, crossing guard, principal, lunch lady, custodian, nurse, coach, librarian, and various teachers and specialists—before ending with a second poem by Dotlich from the school’s point of view: “School’s Story Reprise.” Ellen Shi portrays diversity among students, their families, and “school people” in her colorful, digitally created artwork, which complements this welcome-to-school anthology of poetry.

    The Secrets of Ninja School. Deb Pilutti. 2018. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt.

    The Secrets of Ninja SchoolWhen Ruby goes to Ninja School, she is not as stealthy and skilled as the other young ninjas (or saplings). She’s worried she doesn’t have her own secret skill that Master Willow says each ninja possesses. But one night, when all the saplings are feeling homesick, Ruby discovers her secret talents in storytelling, making things, and being a good friend. Readers will be reminded that everyone has special gifts and talents and they don't need to all be good at the same things. Cartoon-style illustrations, created in gouache and pen and ink, add to the fun of reading this ninja school story. Back matter includes a pattern and step-by-step instructions that young readers can use to make their own dragon from felt or paper, just like the one Ruby made for her friends.

    Twig. Aura Parker. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    TwigIt is Heidi’s first day at Bug School, but as a stick insect, “tall and long like the twig of a tree,” she blends right in with the surroundings and no one notices her—not even Miss Orb, the teacher! When one of the students picks Heidi up to use in a weaving project, she finally speaks up and yells, “I’m NOT a twig! I’m me! I’m Heidi!” Miss Orb welcomes Heidi to the class, and all the students work together to weave a scarf to help Heidi stand out. Parker’s illustrations (rendered in watercolor, colored pencil, and artline pens) bring a soft, whimsical feel to this first-day-of-school story. Readers are challenged to identify various “bugs” (insects and spiders)—14 honeybees, one tarantula, 12 fire ants, and others—on the detailed endpapers.

    Ages 9–11

    Class Action. Steven B. Frank. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    Class ActionWhen sixth grader Sam takes a stand against homework, he finds himself in trouble with his parents and the school. During his three-day suspension for refusing to do homework, Sam gets to know his feisty elderly neighbor, Mr. Kalman, and discovers that this retired lawyer might just be the person he needs to help him. With the assistance of his older sister Sadie and the support of a group of Sam’s sixth-grade friends, Sam and Mr. Kalman take on homework in a class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles School Board that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. This humorous story will appeal to middle schoolers (and teachers) who appreciate the art of a finely crafted argument. Back matter includes a glossary of legal terms used in the novel.

    The 11:11 Wish. Kim Tomsic. 2018. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    The 11:11 WishMegan Meyers is starting seventh grade in a new school. She’s moved from Colorado to Arizona with her dad and younger sister, Piper, following her mom’s death. All Megan wants is to make some new friends. So, when she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a friendship rivalry and saddled with a dare to “make something exciting happen,” on her first day at school, making a wish on a cat clock in her history classroom at exactly 11:11 doesn’t seem like such a terrible idea. When the wish comes true and Megan finds herself unsure of how to deal with her new magical powers, she must decide if the consequences of using magic are worth the reward. This humorous story about making new friends, finding your voice, and second chances will appeal to middle school students, particularly fans of magical realism.

    Totally Middle School: Tales of Friends, Family, and Fitting In.Betsy Groban (Ed.).  2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    Totally Middle SchoolThis collection of stories by well-known authors—Lois Lowry, Margarita Engle, Katherine Paterson, Linda Sue Park, David Wiesner, and six others—includes middle school-themed stories in a variety of formats. For example, Joyce Sidman’s “Ode to the Band Room” is a short poem told from the perspective of the band room before the arrival of students; “Dog People,” by Linda Sue Park and her daughter Anna Dobbin, tells a story about what it’s like to be a first-time middle schooler from the perspectives of a young girl and her dog; and in “Middle School,” David Wiesner offers a short graphic memoir of his own middle school experiences. Each tale is followed by a brief, personalized biographical note on the writer.

    Ages 12–14

    Lights, Camera, Disaster. Erin Dionne. 2018. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

    Lights Camera DisasterTo begin the year in an unexpected way, read this novel about the end of the school year in which Hester Greene is in danger of not passing eighth grade if she fails English class. Dealing with executive functioning disorder, Hester knows her weaknesses (lack of organization, failure to complete homework, and inability to stay focused on the task at hand) and her strength and passion (the art of movie making). When her parents take away her beloved video camera as punishment for failing yet another English test, Hester is forced to take stock of her life and decisions and figure out how to harness her strengths. Hester asks herself, how would I direct this story differently? Would I let this stuff happen again? Readers are reminded that their successes—and failures—lie in their own hands. 

    The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Stacy McAnulty. 2018. Random House.

    The Miscalculations of Lightning GirlWhen she was 8 years old, Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning, causing brain damage resulting in acquired savant syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. After spending the last four years being homeschooled by her grandmother, taking advanced math courses, and chatting with other math enthusiasts online, 12-year-old Lucy is ready for college, but instead is enrolled in the local public middle school by her Nana, who challenges her to attend for one year, make one friend, read one book not about math, and try one new activity. Lucy gives it a go and discovers that, while middle school is not her favorite place in the world, it’s also not quite as terrible as she imagined it to be. Back matter for this engaging school story includes facts about Pi and the Fibonacci sequence for math lovers like Lucy.

    Ages 15+

    American Panda. Gloria Chao. 2018. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    American PandaMei is a Taiwanese American freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is starting college a year early because she skipped fourth grade. Her demanding and overly protective Taiwanese immigrant parents desperately want her to become a doctor and to marry a Taiwanese boy, but Mei hates germs and she finds herself attracted to a boy her parents disapprove of. When they cut Mei off financially after she tries to discuss alternative plans for her future with them, she must come to terms with the consequences of her decisions. This is a coming-of-age novel about family, finding your way, and making your own choices.

    How We Roll. Natasha Friend. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    How We RollWhen her family moves from Colorado to Massachusetts so that her younger brother Julian can attend a school for children with special needs, high school freshman Quinn sees this as an opportunity for a fresh start with friends who don’t know that she has alopecia, a medical condition that causes complete hair loss. She starts at her new high school with a new wig and a new attitude, hoping to keep her alopecia a secret. It isn’t long before she befriends Nick, a former star quarterback, who lost both of his legs in a snowmobile accident the year before. Together, they come to terms with what makes them different in this novel that combines a light romance with themes of friendship, family, starting over, and self-discovery.

    Jennifer W. Shettel is a professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate course in literacy education for pre-service and practicing teachers. Prior to joining the faculty at Millersville, she spent 16 years as an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools. 

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

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    Stories in Verse

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Aug 06, 2018

    Picture books written in verse engage young children in creating mental imagery through the auditory appeal of rhythmic language paired with expressive artwork. Novels in verse cut to the heart of the matter to draw older readers into contemporary and historical settings and situations. There are stories in verse format to delight everyone in this week’s column.

    Ages 48

    A Hippy-Hoppy Toad. Peggy Archer. Ill. Anne Wilsdorf. 2018. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    A Hippy-Hoppy Toad“In the middle of a puddle / in the middle of the road / on a teeter-totter twig / sat a teeny-tiny toad.” A snap of the twig catapults the little toad into an accidental journey that takes him from a “raggy-shaggy” tree to a flower, and then to other places along the roadside. When a “huff-puff wind with a cloud of dust” tosses him onto a child’s sneaker, the hippy-hoppy toad ends up back on the “teeter-totter twig” where this circular story poem with its tongue-tapping verses began. Lively, colorful, watercolor and ink illustrations set the scene and enrich this mini-adventure filled with rhythmic wordplay that children are going to want to read (or have read to them) again and again.
    —NB

    A House That Once Was. Julie Fogliano. Ill. Lane Smith. 2018. Roaring Brook.

    A House That Once Was“Deep in the woods / is a house / just a house / that once was / but now isn’t / a home.” Julie Fogliano’s lyrical text and Lane Smith’s beautifully composed mixed-media artwork tell a thought-provoking story of how two children come upon this derelict house in the woods. They enter through a now paneless window and, while exploring the contents of the house, wonder about the previous occupants whose portraits hang on the walls. Who were they? Where did they go? Is the house waiting for them to return? Or is the house just remembering stories of “someone who we’ll never know.” Going back through the window, the two children return to their cozy and warm home, leaving behind the house deep in the woods.
    —CA

    Pretty Kitty. Karen Beaumont. Ill. Stephanie Laberis. 2018. Godwin/Henry Holt.

    Pretty KittyAs an old man walks along a city street, he comes upon a stray cat. “Pretty kitty. Wants a pat. / Don’t you look at me like that. / I do not want a kitty cat. / SCAT!” As time passes, more kittens follow him home and, despite his repeated insistence that he does not want a kitty cat, the old man ends up with 10 on his door mat. On a cold and snowy day, he opens his home to the freezing kitties. The colorful, digital illustration in this rhyming,  counting book shows the old man snoozing before his fireplace surrounded by kitty cats. “Old man. / Big city. / Loves each, / pretty little kitty.”
    —CA

    Yellow Kayak. Nina Laden. Ill. Melissa Castrillon. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Yellow KayakSimple rhymes tell the story of a boy and a giraffe’s adventure launched with “Yellow kayak. / Blue sky. / Paddle swiftly. / Wave good-bye.” The two enjoy their excursion until they are overcome by a dangerous squall. A frightening night on the water is followed by a comforting rescue from an unexpected source. Stylized, surrealistic artwork (created in pencil and digitally colored in a predominately turquoise, rose, and gold palette) complement this lyrical narrative of friendship and perseverance that concludes with the boy and giraffe sitting on a dock next to their kayak. “Orcas dive. / Shunning glory. / Leaving only / this sea story.”
    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Knockout. K. A. Holt. 2018. Chronicle.

    Knock OutTwelve-year-old Levi just wants to be a regular kid. Born premature at only two pounds, he spent his childhood in and out of hospitals, relying on a trach to survive. Now a middle schooler, his mom and overprotective brother, Timothy, still think of him as damaged while his schoolmates see him as the same class clown he's always been. At his father’s encouragement, Levi learns to box without telling his mom or Timothy, until he suffers a concussion. After his family helps him apply to a boarding school with a boxing program, his confidence returns. “Hey, Xaviers, Levi is in the house, / and you know what? / I am going to / KNOCK YOU OUT.” The inclusion of some concrete poetry enriches this realistic verse novel that delivers a powerful punch. Readers can learn more about Levi and his family in the earlier companion book, House Arrest (2015).
    —NB

    Rebound. Kwame Alexander. Ill. Dawud Anyabwile. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    ReboundIn this companion/prequel to his 2015 Newbery Medal-winning The Crossover, Kwame Alexander tells the story of how Charlie Bell, who is dealing with grief over the death of his father and making poor choices, is sent by his mother to spend the summer with his grandparents in Washington, D.C. “It was the summer of 1988, / when basketball gave me wings // and I had to learn / how to rebound // on the court, / And off.” Not allowed to idle the summer away, Charlie is kept busy doing chores and spending time with Cousin Roxie, the star of the basketball team at the Boys and Girls Club, where Granddaddy Bell volunteers. Some of the free verse poems in Alexander’s coming-of-age novel are in graphic novel panels (with black-and-white artwork by Dwud Anyabwile) in which comic book-loving Charlie is the superhero basketball star he dreams of being.
    —CA

    Ages 1214

    Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots. Margarita Engle. Ill. Rudy Gutierrez. 2018. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Jazz OwlsWith titled, free-verse poems, Margarita Engle tells the story of a little-known dark episode in U.S. history during World War II. Mexican-American 16-year-old Marisela and 14-year-old Lorena work in a cannery by day and, as Jazz Owls, jitterbug all night at a Los Angeles USO club with sailors shipping out to the front lines. In June 1943, Mexican-American youth, including 12-year-old zoot suit-wearing Ray, are brutally attacked by sailors in a week-long period of racial violence in what became known as the Zoot Suit Riots. Back matter includes an author’s note providing a context for this work of historical fiction and references.
    —CA

    Siege: How General Washington Kicked the British Out of Boston and Launched a Revolution. Roxane Orgill. 2018. Candlewick.

    SiegeIt is 1775, and the U.S. colonies are rebelling. George Washington, the first commander in chief, must create a professional army out of an undisciplined militia, comprised mostly of farmers, to force the British out. The story is told through various voices and sources of information (including George Washington, Washington’s aide-de-camp, Martha Washington, a slave, a private, a British commander, Abigail Adams, Washington’s daily General Orders, and the Boston News). In novel-in-verse format, Orgill unfolds how inexperienced Washington freed Boston in March of 1776 from British captivity and isolation, resulting in a turning point in the Revolutionary War. A cast of characters and an introduction begin this historical novel. Back matter includes a map, portraits of characters, a glossary, source notes, and a bibliography.
    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Blood Water Paint. Joy McCullough. 2018. Douglas & McIntyre Dutton/Penguin.

    Blood Water PaintSeventeen-year-old Artemisia Gentileschi is her mediocre painter father’s best kept secret: He sells her art as his own. Before she died, Artemisia’s mother prepared her for Rome’s patriarchal and sexist society through her interpretations of Bible figures Susanna and Judith, who suffered and stood up to their abusers. Artemisia works through her own seduction and violent abuse by mentor Agostino Tassi as she paints the truths of these women: “Judith takes one of my hands, / Susanna takes the other. / They plunge my fingers into paint, / smear them across the outstretched cloth.” This powerful book portrays an original #MeToo story, complete with a trial. The afterword and acknowledgments provide information on McCullough’s retellings of the true story of the famous Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (15931656), written first as a play and then this novel in free verse, interspersed with Artemisia’s mother’s stories in prose.
    —NB

    Moonrise. Sarah Crossan. 2018. Bloomsbury.

    MoonriseSeventeen-year-old Joe has not seen his older brother, Ed, who is on death row for the murder of a police officer, in 10 years. When the date of his brother’s execution is set, Joe travels across the country to Wakeling, Texas, to make daily visits to Ed, who says he’s innocent and hopes for a stay of execution. Titled poems move back and forth between the past and present, revealing Joe’s close attachment to Ed during a difficult early childhood with a neglectful, abusive mother and his emotional turmoil— anger, confusion, and hopelessness—until Ed runs out of appeals and is executed. “I should be ready for this pain, / but I’m not / because I never believed / that Ed would die.” Crossan’s beautifully crafted verse novel is heart-wrenching. It’s not easy to read, and it’s impossible to stop thinking about.
    —CA

    The Poet X. Elizabeth Acevedo. 2018. HarperTeen/HarperCollins.

    The PoetTall, curvy, 15-year-old Dominican-American Xiomara Batista fights unwanted advances from boys and men. However, she is interested in Aman, her science partner, and he becomes her secret boyfriend even though she knows that her strict, religious mother and reformed run-around father wouldn’t tolerate their relationship. Xiomara’s perspective unfolds through her writing notebook in which she questions religion, sexuality, and authority, as well as through prose assignments for her English class. She joins her school’s Spoken World Poetry Club and performs her original slam poetry under the stage name Poet X. “I stand on a stage and / say a poem. /There is power in the word." Xiomara realizes that, through poetry, her family, friends, priest, and everyone will finally hear what she needs to tell them. Acevedo’s poignant and emotional writing, interspersed with Spanish, hits the gut with authenticity and wisdom.
    —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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    Adventure Stories

    By Lesley Colabucci and Leigh Kaliss
     | Jul 16, 2018

    Summer is a great time for stories of adventure, big and small. In the books featured in this column, readers will encounter characters who take on all sorts of challenges; some require them to go on long journeys while others happen close to home. These stories involve eager risk-takers, stubborn survivors, and curious adventurers.

    Ages 4–8

    Night Out. Daniel Miyares. 2018. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Night OutThis nearly wordless book opens with a young boy in a boarding school who eats separately at dinner and lies awake while his peers sleep. After receiving an invitation with the words “the honor of your presence is requested,” the boy looks out the window at a full moon, trying to decide if he will accept the invitation or not. Who could the invitation be from? What kind of adventure awaits? Should he follow the enclosed map? The boy exits the window and takes off on his bike under the moonlight. The gouache and colored pencil illustrations capture the mystery of nighttime as the boy travels across the countryside. The color palette changes as he meets new friends and enjoys a party at his destination. The story unfolds much like a dream, allowing children to bring their imaginations to the narrative as they wonder what adventures they might have on a night out.
    —LC

    Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-setting Dive of the Bathysphere. Barb Rosenstock. Ill. Katherine Roy. 2018. Little, Brown.

    Otis and WillThis nonfiction picture book tells the story of two men obsessed with the sea. Otis Barton, an engineer, and Will Beebe, a naturalist, both wondered what the deep ocean looked like. In the 1930s they worked together to build a diving tank called the Bathysphere that would allow explorers to go deeper than ever before. The dramatic text and mixed-media illustrations chronicle their record-setting dive in increments of 100 feet. A wordless double gatefold captures the blue-black beauty of the ocean at the depth of 800 feet. Roy’s lush illustrations portray the time period, the technical details, and action of the underwater world. Sea life is featured on the endpapers with labels. Readers will not be disappointed in the accuracy and depth of content. The ample back matter includes archival photographs as part of the author’s and illustrator’s notes.
    —LC

    The Treasure of Pirate Frank. Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham. Ill. Jez Tuya. 2018. Nosy Crow/Candlewick.

    The Treasure of Pirate FrankA boy and his faithful dog set out to find the fabled treasure of Pirate Frank, but the unexpected appearance of the treasure’s owner turns out to be the truly priceless discovery. Readers meet the intrepid explorers while traveling to the island of spice and gold. Once there, the pair hunt high and low and follow clues to Pirate Frank’s treasure. Children will be delighted by the rhythmic quality of the cumulative text and the charming digital illustrations. The emphasis on the journey is good news for readers who will thoroughly enjoy returning to the pages of this amusing adventure again and again.
    —LK

    Ages 9–11

    The Last Grand Adventure. Rebecca Behrens. 2018. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    The Last Grand AdventureIt is July 1967, and 12-year-old Bea is not looking for adventure. She struggles with anxiety and feels safer experiencing adventure through the pages of National Geographic. However, her grandmother Pidge, whom she barely knows, is taking her on a cross-country expedition. Pidge has a suitcase full of letters from her sister, Amelia “Meelie” Earhart, all inexplicably written after the pilot’s disappearance in 1937. The last of the letters hints at a possible reunion for the sisters on what would be Amelia’s 70th birthday. With Meelie’s letters in hand, the duo has four days to travel more than 1,000 miles to the rendezvous point on the banks of the Missouri River. Their journey is long, hard, and rife with disappointment, but Bea blossoms during their trip.
    —LK

    Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea. Lynne Rae Perkins. 2018. Greenwillow/HarperCollins.

    Secret Sisters of the Salty SeaA family road trip to the beach may be a common summer adventure for some, but for Alix and her younger sister, Jools, it’s exciting because it is their first time seeing the ocean. Readers get to know Alix best in this story, which is accompanied by black and white drawings highlighting key elements in the text. While on the beach searching for periwinkles for dinner, Alix discovers sea glass and then learns to make jewelry. On a visit to a wildlife refuge, Alix holds an injured peregrine falcon and later gets to release it back into the wild. From small challenges like flat tires to drifting too far from their beach umbrella to taking risks in a variety of ways, Alix’s first beach vacation will be a memorable one for readers as well.
    —LC

    Wed Wabbit. Lissa Evans. 2018. David Fickling/Scholastic.

    Wed WabbitWhat if you found yourself transported into the world of your favorite children’s book? In Wed Wabbit, Fidge finds herself in her little sister Minnie’s favorite book, The Land of Wimbly Woos, where Minnie’s stuffed rabbit has taken over control of the Wimblies. When Minnie gets hit by a car and is hospitalized, Fidge is sent to stay with her anxiety-ridden cousin Graham. After a fall down the stairs, the two find themselves in Wimbly Land and set out to save the Wimblies, recover Minnie’s stuffed rabbit and other toys, and return home. This action-packed story will have readers on the edge of their seats as Fidge and Graham, along with friends they make in Wimbly Land, figure out how to overthrow Wed Wabbit and restore Wimbly Land to peace. Ella, the stuffed elephant, and Dr. Carrot, Graham’s comfort object, add humor to the story, and various Wimblies surprise themselves and their friends with their bravery. The heroes in the story all bring different strengths to the challenge of getting everyone home safe again.
    —LC

    Ages 12–14

    The Book of Boy. Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 2018. Greenwillow/HarperCollins.  

    The Book of BoyBlending elements of historical fiction and fantasy, this story takes place in Medieval France and involves a long and dangerous journey. The main character, known only as Boy, is a servant in a manor in France who is mistreated because of the hump on his back. Boy travels across Europe with a mysterious and questionable man named Secundus. The land has been ravaged by pestilence, and Secundus is on a mission to find seven relics in order to be reunited in the afterlife with his wife and son. Boy believes that when he arrives in Rome, he will be transformed from a hunchback to a real boy by a miracle. Boy and Secundus have a contentious relationship as they journey to find and steal the relics. While historical and religious vocabulary may challenge some readers, the Indiana Jones-style heists to secure the relics make this an exciting read. The ending is especially satisfying as both Boy and Secundus discover much more about who they really are.
    —LC

    The Boy from Tomorrow. Camille DeAngelis. 2018. Amberjack.

    The Boy from TomorrowTwelve-year-olds Josie and Alec meet and form a bond while using the same Ouija board in the same house on Sparrow Street although they are living 100 years apart. Through late night “discussions,” Josie and Alec solidify their friendship and their commitment to helping each other resolve their respective predicaments. When Josie finds new ways to communicate with Alec after her mother takes away the Ouija board, it gives him strength to deal with the pain of his parents’ divorce and the stress of starting over in a new town. Bolstered by Alec’s research and encouragement, Josie finds the courage to plot her escape from her mother’s abusive ways. This fast-paced story stays with the reader long after the book’s conclusion.
    —LK

    Chasing Augustus. Kimberly Newton Fusco. 2018. Knopf/Random House.

    Chasing AugustusRosalita, who prefers to be called Rosie, was abandoned by her mother. Her mother also gave away her dog, Augustus, to a stranger. Rosie is determined to find Augustus despite being told repeatedly to give up. Rosie lives with her grumpy grandfather because her father is in a rehabilitation center after suffering a stroke. While he works, Rosie is supposed to help their neighbor, who is mothering a handful of foster kids. Instead, Rosie sneaks out on her bicycle in all kinds of weather, manipulates friends into helping, and even comes up with a complicated plan involving snakes in one of her attempts to rescue Augustus. Rosie is a stubborn risk taker who is fully convinced she will find her dog. Readers will enjoy going along with Rosie on her adventure to find Augustus.
    —LC

    Ages 15+

    The Summer of Broken Things. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    The Summer of Broken ThingsThere are two sides to every adventure. Take, for example, Kayla and Avery, the two teenage narrators thrown together in The Summer of Broken Things. Kayla, who comes from a disadvantaged family, is excited about spending the summer in Spain. For the privileged Avery, accompanying her father on an international business trip interferes with plans to attend soccer camp with her friends and being chaperoned by Kayla adds insult to injury. The reader slowly discovers there is more at stake than a quintessential summer adventure as the girls experience the complicated emotions that come with their evolving relationship. When Avery is not sulking, she is somehow managing to always say or do the wrong thing, an exhausting combination, though a realistic personality trait of a spoiled 14-year-old. Kayla makes the best of the situation. In the end, it is a brush with death that brings the girls together when their surprising shared history cannot.
    —LK   

    Time Bomb. Joelle Charbonneau. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    Time BombA high school is bombed, trapping six students inside. All six have their reasons for being at the school during summer break, but only one of them is there to blow it up. The students manage to find each other amid the wreckage and hole up in a classroom on the second floor. Bit by bit, Charbonneau reveals potentially incriminating details of each student’s backstory, a tactic that keeps the reader on their toes. Time is running out. Bombs continue to detonate, and the students realize they must work together to survive. However, the students do not trust each other and infighting threatens to thwart their tenuous escape plan. Although some readers may guess the bomber’s identity early on, it is a compelling story of survival that is part adventure, part thriller, and part mystery.  
    —LC

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

    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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    O Canada!

    Chelsey Bahlmann Bollinger and Carolyn Angus
     | Jul 09, 2018

    We are crossing our country’s northern border in this week’s column and reviewing recently published books by Canadian authors and illustrators. Included are books in various genres that feature perspectives of diverse voices in children’s and young adult literature. As you share these books with readers, mention the cities and provinces where the authors and illustrators live and have students locate them on a map of Canada.

    Ages 48

    Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Kyo Maclear. Ill. Julie Morstad. 2018. HarperCollins.

    BloomWritten in first person and illustrated using watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayons, Toronto author Kyo Maclear and Vancouver illustrator Julie Morstad’s picture book biography tells the story of Elsa Schiaparelli’s (1890–1973) “bloom” to becoming a fashion designer. Growing up in Rome, Elsa feels “brutta” (ugly) and finds flowers to be the most beautiful things. Following a visit to a flower market, young Elsa plants seeds in her ears, mouth, and nose, hoping she becomes beautiful. This only makes her sick, but does not stop her imagination from growing. Elsa finds inspiration in flowers, the night sky, and books. As a fashion designer, she famously introduced the world to wildly creative women’s apparel and her signature colors: shocking pink and ice blue. Back matter includes a note from the author and the illustrator, endnotes, and a bibliography. Before reading the book, take time to admire the artistic details of the cover.
    —CB

    The Honeybee. Kirsten Hall. Ill. Isabelle Arsenault. 2018. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    The Honeybee“Shhh! / What’s that? / Do you hear it? / You’re near it. / It’s closer, / it’s coming, / it’s buzzing, / it’s humming…./ A BEE!” A lively, rhyming text and vibrant double-spread artwork invite young children to follow a bee as it makes its way to a field of flowers to collect nectar and pollen and then returns to the bustling hive. Quebec illustrator Isabelle Arsenault’s double-spread illustrations (rendered using ink, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil) include eye-catching touches of neon yellow gold and playfully present the activity of a colony of honeybees throughout a year. Arsenault also designed the font, named Honeybee, for the text that is incorporated into the illustrations. An appended letter to the reader addresses the importance of honeybees in the ecosystem, their threatened status, and ways to help the species survive.
    —CA

    Ocean Meets Sky. The Fan Brothers. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    Ocean Meets SkyOn a day that his grandfather would have described as “a good day for sailing,” young Finn builds a boat from odds and ends on the beach near his seaside home. It’s the perfect way to honor his grandfather on this day that would have been his 90th birthday. After falling asleep on the boat, Finn awakes and, guided by a gigantic golden fish, makes a wonder-filled journey to “the magical place where ocean meets sky” that his grandfather had told stories about. Exquisite double-page spreads, rendered in graphite and digitally colored, are filled with a mix of different species of whales and other marine animals, ships of all shapes and sizes, and hot air balloons as Finn travels to the moon—until he is awakened by his mother for dinner. The rich detailing of Toronto-based Terry and Eric Fan’s artwork invites readers of all ages to explore this magical picture-book story again and again.
    —CA

    Wallpaper. Thao Lam. 2018. Owlkids.

    Wallpaper
    Toronto author/illustrator Thao Lam’s almost wordless picture book, created with paper collage, tells the story of a young girl whose family has just moved. As she sits in her new room, she hears voices and, peeking out the window, sees children outside but is too shy to join them. Sitting sadly on the floor, she notices a lifted corner of wallpaper and decides to investigate by peeling it back. To her surprise and fascination, a flock of yellow birds fly out from behind it. She continues to peel back the wallpaper to reveal the habitat in which these birds live, and feeling curious, she steps to explore. She hears footsteps and sees the frightening face of a monster. With the monster close behind, she peels back layer after layer of wallpaper and moves other hidden worlds. Overcoming her fears, she approaches the monster to say hello and discovers he is friendly. She has learned an important lesson about courage and friendship.

    —CB

    Ages 9–11

    Ebb & Flow. Heather Smith. 2018. Kids Can.

    Ebb & FlowThe narrator of this free-verse novel, Jett has been sent by his mother, who says he needs a change of scenery, to spend the summer with Grandma Jo. Jeff thinks she needed one too after the “rotten bad year” that was his fault. “I wondered if a summer spent / in a little wooden house / on a rocky eastern shore / would help us forget that.” Details of that rough year are revealed as Jett and his grandmother exchange stories while collecting sea glass on the beach: his father’s imprisonment for the drunk driving accident that killed four people, anger over his mother moving them to the mainland for a fresh start, and the despicable activity he got involved in after teaming up with the school bully and troublemaker, Junior. It’s a summer well spent as Grandma Jo helps Jett to deal with a lot of regrets, to forgive himself, and to be hopeful that he can make amends by taking responsibility for his actions.
    —CA

    The Fake-Chicken Kung Fu Fighting Blues (Lorimer Illustrated Humor). Aaron Lam. Ill. Kean Soo. 2018. James Lorimer.

    The Fake-Chicken Kung Fu Fighting BluesWhen his grandmother, Po Po, informs him that his family will be moving from Chinatown in the heart of Toronto to the small town of Berksburg in northern Ontario, where there are no Asian families, 12-year-old Anthony Chung is bummed about the move, especially because he’s leaving his best friend, Jackson. When they arrive at their new home, Po Po, who also is struggling with the move, places a fake chicken above the door for good luck. Most of the residents of Berksburg are hockey fanatics. Anthony is not interested in hockey. How will he fit in? His desire to help Po Po feel more comfortable in the new town leads Anthony to create a video documentary of Berksburg, and he meets interesting community members as he records their stories. At the end of this humorous story, illustrated with black-and-white spot art and comic-strip panels, Anthony finds himself the star of his new hometown—and a new hockey fan.
    —CB

    Ages 12–14

    Sadia. Colleen Nelson. 2018. Dundurn.

    SadiaFifteen-year-old Sadia loves playing basketball and even makes the coed basketball team. She won’t be allowed to play in a tournament unless she removes her hijab, but is determined to stick to her vow of modesty. Her best friend, Mariam, has been de-jabbing, removing her hijab, at school, which causes Sadia to have conflicting feelings about wearing her own hijab and their friendship. When Amira, a Syrian refugee, arrives at school, Sadia serves as her translator and mentor. As they become friends, Mariam and Sadia’s friendship grows further apart. A class project called "If You Give a Kid a Camera" (in which students are given cameras to take pictures reflecting their perspective of the world) inspires Sadia and other students to take on projects that involve standing up for others and fighting for what is right.  
    —CB

    A World Below. Wesley King. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    A World BelowA day trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park for Mr. Baker’s eighth-grade class becomes a disaster when an earthquake hits and the students are trapped deep underground. This action-packed adventure tale is told from the point of view of three characters: Eric, the class loner, who is separated from the other students as they are swept away by a swift-moving underground river; Silvia, a popular student with personal problems her classmates don’t know about (she’s prone to panic attacks), who takes the leadership role in organizing the group; and King Carlos, the insecure 13-year-old leader of the Midnight Realm, a group of humans who have lived secretly in a remote area of the caverns for four generations in fear of discovery by “surface demons.”  Survival in this bizarre world filled with oversize flora and fauna (including deadly spiders, bugs, and aquatic creatures) and hidden dangers—as they attempt to find a way through dark tunnels to the surface—depends on help from the Midnight Realm.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Fire Song. Adam Garnet Jones. 2018. Annick.

    Fire SongAnishinaabe Shane is grieving over the recent suicide of his younger sister, Destiny, while trying to deal with his mother’s overwhelming depression. What keeps him going are the stolen moments he has with his secret boyfriend, David, and his dream of attending university in Toronto.  Life gets complicated when he learns that he will not receive government funding for the upcoming school year and that David does not want to go with him to Toronto. What kind of future does he have without options or choices? This moving and insightful novel by Cree/Métis debut author Adam Garnet Jones (adapted from his 2015 award-winning feature film, Fire Song) ends on a hopeful note: “For the first time since he can remember, he isn’t terrified of what the future holds. He doesn’t have a plan and he doesn’t need one. For once, all paths are open and there is no pressure to choose.”
    ­—CA

    Here So Far Away. Hadley Dyer. 2018. HarperTeen/HarperCollins.

    Here So Far AwayGeorge has always been a loyal friend, and her family is well respected in the community where her father is a police officer. She plans to party with her friends during her senior year and to leave town after graduation to attend university. However, her plans begin to fall apart. Her father is involved in a life-changing accident, she begins dating an older guy named Francis, and her friendships deteriorate. Her relationship with Francis must be kept a secret because Francis is on the police force and George is a minor. George nearly loses everything and must learn how to keep a gut-wrenching secret to herself. George’s father’s saying that “life is a bad writer” rings true at the end in this humorous and poignant realistic novel by award-winning Toronto author Hadley Dyer.
    —CB  

    Chelsey M. Bahlmann Bollinger is an assistant professor in the Early, Elementary, and Reading Department at James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. 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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