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    Celebrating Children’s Literature Day

    By Carolyn Angus, Nancy Brashear, and Susan Knell
     | Jun 04, 2018

    ILA’s first-ever Children’s Literature Day, an entire day of programming dedicated to children’s and young adult literature, will debut at the ILA 2018 Conference, taking place July 20–23 in Austin, Texas. This week’s column features spotlighted books by keynote speakers and Putting Books to Work (Early Reader and Middle Grade) authors and facilitators, who will work with attendees to deliver title-focused materials and practical ideas for putting books "to work" in the classroom. 

    Keynote speakers

    The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection. Colby Sharp (Ed.). 2018. Little, Brown.

    The Creativity ProjectColby Sharp challenged 44 authors and illustrators (including Jennifer Holm, Minh Lê, Linda Sue Park, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Javaka Steptoe) to submit story starters (photos, drawings, cartoons, poems, and prose) for each other. They responded by transforming the prompts into creative works. For example, in response to Margarita Engle’s story starter (a haiku about a road trip), Debbie Ridpath Ohi created a comic strip, “Road Trip,” while Engle responded to Grace Lin’s photo prompt (a child racing across a bridge) with a poem about a puppy following a running girl. The final section includes prompts for readers to respond to creatively. Back matter includes biographical notes on the contributors and an index.
    —NB

    Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! Marley Dias. 2018. Scholastic.

    Marley Dias Gets It DoneMarley Dias made headlines as a sixth grader when she began the #1000BlackGirlBooks initiative to collect and donate books with young black female protagonists. Since then, Dias has achieved national acclaim for her work as an advocate for literacy and social justice. With colorful photos, dropped quotes, and interesting sidebars, the book explores activism, equity and inclusion, social media for good, book talking, and more and delivers hands-on strategies for becoming a lifelong reader. Readers of all ages will admire and be inspired by Dias’ passion to make the world a better place.
    —SK

    Solo. Kwame Alexander (with Mary Rand Hess). 2017. Blink/HarperCollins.

    SoloHow does it feel / to be the daughter / to be the son / of a fallen rock star? For 17-year-old Blade Morrison, son of an alcoholic, drug-addicted, former rock star, two things make his life bearable: his girlfriend, Chapel, and his guitar. When the reveal of a family secret leads Blade to travel to Ghana, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, during which he finds answers about his past and hope for his future in the remote village of Konko. This coming-of-age story is told through beautifully crafted poems filled with references to classic rock music.
    —CA

    Putting Books to Work: Early Reader (ages 4–8) 

    Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf. Nancy Churnin. Ill. John Joven. 2018. Albert Whitman.

    Charlie Takes His ShotCharles Luther Sifford (1922–2015) caddied at the private all-white Carolina Country Club, honed his golfing skills on public courses, and won the National Negro Open six times. Despite these accomplishments, he was forbidden to play in the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA), due to the color of his skin. Inspired by Jackie Robinson and aided by Stanley Mosk, former attorney general of California who petitioned the PGA to overturn its “Caucasian-only” clause, Sifford became the first black golfer to join the PGA Tour in 1961 and to be inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004. An engaging, accessible narrative and expressive mixed-media illustrations portray the determination of this notable sports figure, who paved the way for golfers of color. Back matter includes an author’s note and a timeline. 
    —NB

    God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin. Adah Nuchi. Ill. Rob Polivka. 2018. Hyperion.

    God Bless AmericaIn 1893, five-year-old Izzy Baline and his family arrived in New York City after escaping Jewish persecution in Russia. Inspired by the music all around him, young Baline decided to become a songwriter. By age 26, he had written 200 songs and had given himself a new name: Irving Berlin. In 1938, with U.S. involvement in another world war imminent, Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” which became the rallying song for Americans everywhere. This biography of his life includes an informative author’s note, timeline, websites, and sources.
    —SK

    What Do You Do With a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Chris Barton. Ill. Ekua Holmes. 2018. Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster.

    What Do You Do With a Voice Like ThatGrowing up in Houston, Barbara Jordan (1936–1996) confidently used her strong voice. After graduating from law school at Boston University, she returned to her home city, where she became involved in politics and was eventually elected as the first black woman to serve in the Texas state senate and, years later, the first black Texan to serve in Congress. Ending her service in government in 1979, she continued to use her voice to advocate for equality, justice, and trust by teaching courses in public policy and ethics in government at the University of Texas. This picture book biography about Congresswoman Jordan ends with an inspiring answer to the question posed in the title: “We remember it, and we honor it by making our own voices heard.” Back matter includes a timeline and bibliography.
    —CA

    Putting Books to Work: Middle Grade (ages 8–12)

    Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words. Donna Janell Bowman. Ill. S. D. Schindler. 2018. Peachtree.

    Abraham Lincoln's Dueling WordsYoung lawyer Abraham Lincoln was known for his mischievous, prank-playing sense of humor. But, in 1842, he took it too far; frustrated with the actions of James Shields, a political rival, Lincoln, his future wife, and a friend of hers wrote a series of fictional letters to the editor of the Sangamo Journal, in which they called Shields “a fool, liar, and conceity dunce.” Shields demanded a public apology and challenged Lincoln to a duel. The duel was about to commence when friends intervened and helped the two reach a face-saving compromise through words instead of swords. Schindler’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations complement Bowman’s humorous narrative. Back matter includes background for the story, an author's note, and links to expanded content and a bibliography.
    NB

    Code Word Courage (Dogs of World War II). Kirby Larson. 2018. Scholastic.

    Code Word CourageSet during World War II, Kirby Larson presents a touching story about lonely, 11-year-old Billie; Denny, a Navajo code talker; and an injured, stray dog named Bear. On a visit before shipping out, Denny leaves Bear with Billie. Bear becomes both the best friend that Billie desperately needs and the vision that guides Denny to safety during battle. Heroism is found both on the war front and at home, and Bear is the thread that connects everyone in this story with themes of friendship, courage, and the healing love of a dog.
    —SK

    Spy Runner. Eugene Yelchin. 2019. Godwin/Henry Holt.

    Spy RunnerScheduled to publish in February 2019, the publisher provided the following statement about Spy Runner: “It's 1953 and the Cold War is on. Communism threatens all that the United States stands for, and America needs every patriot to do their part. So when a Russian boarder moves into the home of 12-year-old Jake McCauley, he's on high alert. What does the mysterious Mr. Shubin do with all that photography equipment? And why did he choose to live so close to the Air Force base? Jake’s mother says that Mr. Shubin knew Jake’s dad, who went missing in action during World War II. But Jake is skeptical; the facts just don’t add up. And he’s determined to discover the truth—no matter what he risks.”

    Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California. Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Susan Knell is a professor in the department of Teaching and Leadership at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, where she teaches literacy and literature courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.

    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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    Celebrating Pride Month

    By Lesley Colabucci and Jennifer Shettel
     | May 29, 2018

    Established in 1994, National Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, a demonstration that is largely considered the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The books in this column invoke the spirit of pride through narratives about coming out, LGBT families, and gender nonconformity. Another way to characterize the essence of this movement, in the words of New Zealand suffragist leader Kate Sheppard, who is profiled in Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted Around the World, “We must be ourselves at all risks.”

    Ages 4–8

    Jerome by Heart. Thomas Scotto. Trans. Claudia Bedrick & Karin Snelson. Ill. Olivier Tallec. 2018. Enchanted Lion.

    Jerome by HeartThis picture book celebrates the joys of friendship between two young boys. Raphael readily admits he loves Jerome; he loves his warm smile, the stories he invents, and the way they laugh together. Raphael also knows that his affection for Jerome may be met with disapproval. He says he loves Jerome early on in the book, but qualifies it with “I can say it. It’s easy.” He repeats this statement again at the end of the book. Through the illustrations, readers see Raphael’s parents’ concern and his anger and frustration as they discourage this friendship. Raphael’s accessible voice and the use of color and perspective in the illustrations effectively capture the emotional intensity of the story. The book offers many entry points to young readers as they navigate feelings and friendships.
    —LC

    Julián is a Mermaid. Jessica Love. 2018. Candlewick.

    Julian is a MermaidWhile riding with his abuela to the swimming pool, Julián absolutely loves seeing the people dressed up as mermaids on the subway. As they return home, he says, “Abuela, I am also a mermaid,” and, while his abuela takes a bath, Julián creates the most splendid mermaid outfit from a gauzy curtain and a headdress created with ferns, fronds, and flowers. When Abuela sees Julián, he is unsure how she will react. She gives him a loving smile, hands him a necklace to add to his costume, and walks him down the street to join in the parade of mermaids and other sea creatures walking on the beach. The illustrations (done in watercolor, gouache, and ink) include Julián’s daydreams of his underwater transformation into a mermaid.
    —JS

    Teddy’s Favorite Toy. Christian Trimmer. Ill. Madeline Valentine. 2018. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Teddy's Favorite ToyTeddy has many toys, but his pink doll, Bren-Da, Warrior Queen of Pacifica, is his absolute favorite. One day, Bren-Da’s leg snaps off and Teddy wraps her up in bandages. Going off to school, he leaves her on the floor of his room, and his mom unknowingly throws Bren-Da in the trash. When a distraught Teddy discovers that Bren-Da is missing, his mom realizes what she’s done. She springs into heroic action and saves the day. Humorous mixed-media illustrations complement this story about a young boy who is free to choose what toys he wants to play with.
    —JS

    Ages 9–11

    Love, Penelope. Joanne Rocklin. Ill. Lucy Knisley. 2018. Amulet/Abrams.

    Love, Penelope2015 is an exciting year in Oakland, California; the Golden State Warriors, Penelope’s favorite team, win the NBA championships and marriage equality becomes law. Penelope wants her two moms to get married, but they say they already have a “marriage of the heart.” She also wants to learn all she can about her mother’s pregnancy and her soon-to-be sibling, so she starts a journal of letters to the baby. The book chronicles the baby’s development, but also tracks Penelope’s struggles in school. Penelope’s voice and humor shine through in her letters, in which she unpacks some complicated interactions with family and friends.
    —LC

    She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History. 2018. Chelsea Clinton. Ill. Alexandra Boiger. Philomel/Penguin.

    She Persisted Around the WorldIn this companion book to She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to 13 pioneering women who have defied gender roles and resisted societal expectations to shape history around the world. The women in this book have fought for what's right, including their education, right to vote, and access to professions and athletics. This book features Marie Curie, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Viola Desmond, Sissi Lima do Amor, Leymah Gbowee, Caroline Herschel, Wangari Maathai, Aisha Rateb, J.K. Rowling, Kate Sheppard, Yuan Yuan Tan, Mary Verghese and Malala Yousafzai. Each woman's story is accompanied by watercolor and ink illustrations and a quote.
    —LC

    Ages 12–14

    Hurricane Child. Kheryn Callender. 2018. Scholastic.

    Hurricane ChildTwelve-year-old Caroline lives on Water Island in the Virgin Islands, and her mother has been missing for over a year. Caroline travels by boat every day to a private school where she is ostracized by her peers and mistreated by the teachers. When a school administrator and a new student, Kalinda, show her some kindness, she finds herself motivated to uncover the story behind her mother’s disappearance and perhaps to discover her own story as a child born during a hurricane. Readers will wonder along with Caroline as she struggles to understand if she’s to blame for her mother leaving, if she’s being visited by a ghost, and if she might be in love with her new friend. The author was born and raised on the Virgin Islands and the book features an #ownvoices portrayal of childhood in the Caribbean.
    —LC

    One True Way. Shannon Hitchcock. 2018. Scholastic.

    One True WayAfter her brother dies and her parents split up, Allison Drake finds herself in a new school in rural North Carolina where she meets Sam, an equestrian and the star of the basketball team. Allison is drawn to Sam because she helps her meet people at school and get involved in the school newspaper. She may also have a crush on Sam. While Allison is just discovering these feelings; Sam has been aware of her own identity for a while, but her parents and church are clear on their disapproving stance. Sam's  mother calls her basketball coach—who is a lesbian and dating a fellow teacher—a pervert and an abomination. Set in the 1970s South, the blossoming romance between Sam and Allison portrays the confusion that often accompanies coming out and illustrates the historical and political factors that surrounded gay rights during that time.
    —LC

    Ages 15+

    And She Was. Jessica Verdi. 2018. Point/Scholastic.
                     
    And She WasWhen 18-year-old Dara finds her birth certificate and discovers her mom is her biological father, everything she thought she knew about her life is turned upside down. Driven to pursue her dream of becoming a professional tennis player, Dara first feels betrayed by her mom’s elaborate cover-up of her secret and is mad that she’s kept Dara from knowing her wealthy biological mother’s parents, who could have been supporting her tennis career. Joined by her best friend Sam, Dara sets out on a road trip to find the family she’s never known existed until now. Along the way, Dara and her mom exchange emails that lead Dara to new understandings about her mom and the life they’ve lived together in this story about family, friendship, and finding your way.
    —JS

    The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles). Amy Spalding. 2018. Sky Pony.

    The Summer of Jordi PerezAbby Ives is a pink-haired, plus-size, openly gay fashion blogger who is excited to have landed a summer internship at Lemonberry, her favorite boutique. It’s not long before she’s crushing on fellow intern Jordi Perez and finds herself falling in love. When Jordi displays photos that she’s taken of Abby without her consent, their relationship is tested and Abby must decide if she can trust Jordi again. Other leading characters include Abby’s best friend, Maliah, who is not sure Jordi is the best fit for Abby; goofy Jax, who wants Abby to be his “wingwoman” in his quest to discover the best burger in town; and Abby’s mom, who’s best known for her healthy eating franchise.
    —JS

    Troublemakers. Catherine Barter. 2018. Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner.

    TroublemakersSet in London during a time of heightened fear due to the “East End Bomber,” this novel’s cliffhangers will get your heart racing as Alena, the main character, struggles with finding trust and truth. Due to the death of their mother, Alena is being raised by her much older brother, Danny and his life partner, Nick. Alena’s relationship with her brother becomes strained because of his work on the campaign of a conservative politician and because of his refusal to talk about their mother at all. Alena is trying to find her roots and figure out what her mother was like. She wonders if she could be an activist like her mother and why Danny is so upset when she contacts one of her mother’s friends. While the action related to the bombing suspect keeps the plot moving, the real appeal of this story is Alena’s family’s history and her search for identity.
    —LC

    Lesley Colabucci is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in children’s literature for pre-service and practicing teachers. Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy. 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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    History in Fact and Fiction

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 21, 2018

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

    Ages 4–8

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 9–11

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 12–14

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 15+

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

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

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

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

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    Just for Fun

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 14, 2018

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

    Ages 4–8

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

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

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

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

    Kalinka and Grakkle. Julie Paschkis. 2018. Peachtree.

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 9–11

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 12–14

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

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

    —NB

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

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

    Ages 15+

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

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

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

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

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    Family Matters

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | May 07, 2018

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

    Ages 4–8

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 9–11

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

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

    Good Dog. Dan Gemeinhart. 2018. Scholastic.

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

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

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

    Ages 12–14

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

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

    Ages 15+

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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