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    Best of Friends

    Barbara A. Ward
     | Mar 12, 2018

    It is hard to imagine where any of us would be without our friends. After all, they have our backs during tough times, cheer us up when we feel blue, and point us in the right direction when we go astray. This week’s reviews focus on characters who are the best of friends.

    Ages 4–8

    Adelaide’s Secret World. Elise Hurst. 2018. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Adelaide's Secret WorldAdelaide, a rabbit, lives a quiet, lonely life in an old shop behind a red curtain. She spends her days observing others like her—"the still ones, the quiet ones, those who danced and sighed and dreamed alone"—and her nights crafting models of them. One stormy day she reaches out to one of these solitary creatures, Fox, and discovers that he too is an observer and an artist portraying the quiet ones. Hurst’s beautiful oil paintings reveal how this chance encounter leads Adelaide to spend time creatively connecting “those who had once been lonely and silent.” This book may remind readers to pay attention to the quiet individuals in their lives, those who often go unnoticed, and, through extending friendship, give them voice.

    Big Tree Down! Laurie Lawlor. Ill. David Gordon. 2018. Holiday House.

    Big Tree Down!When a storm’s heavy winds bring down Big Tree, a cherished landmark, the neighborhood feels quite different. While community workers remove the tree, nearby residents watch as Big Tree's branches are consumed by a wood chipper and its trunk is chopped into pieces. Eventually, they come together for an impromptu neighborhood picnic, sharing food and memories of Big Tree. Various parts of their old friend are reserved for firewood, mulch, and as place to sit. Later, one family decides to plant a new tree near where Big Tree once stood. Although the residents miss Big Tree, perhaps they will find a new friend in Little Tree.

    Timo Goes Camping. Victoria Allenby. Ill. Dean Griffiths. 2018. Pajama Press.

    Timo Goes CampingAlthough Suki, a squirrel, is excited about going on a camping trip with her friends (even though none of them are experienced campers), Timo, a timid rabbit, is hesitant. He doesn't like new things, and he worries about what could go wrong. Since Timo usually heads to the library to do research when he’s nervous about anything, that’s just what he does before the camping trip. On the trip, Timo is uncomfortable with how Suki teases everyone, even making fun of him for being such a book nerd. When Suki leads the friends into some trouble, Timo finally stands up for himself and tells her what's bothering him, and she acknowledges her mistakes. As it turns out, Timo has plenty of skills to share on the trip, and his notes on how to use a compass come in handy. Colorful, digital illustrations reveal each animal friend's personality and complement the text of this early chapter book, which describes an experience with which many children will be familiar.

    Ages 9–11

    The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley. April Stevens. 2018. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Frances PauleyEleven-year-old Frances, who prefers the name Figgrotten, is not like her fifth-grade classmates. Frances is a loner and keen observer of the world around her. She draws inspiration from anthropologist Margaret Mead, collects rocks and oddities with which she fills her room, and has even hung up a poster of Lucy, the famous 4 million-year-old skeleton. When her best friend, elderly school bus driver Alvin, dies, Frances is devastated; she thinks no one else can ever understand her like he did. As it turns out, there are others who honor Frances Pauley’s uniqueness while also offering her friendship even as she remains true to herself.

    The Hollow Under the Tree. Cary Fagan. 2018. Groundwood/House of Ananzi.

    The Hollow Under the TReeWhen a circus train derails, a lion escapes and finds shelter in a park near Toronto, where young Sadie Menken finds him hiding in a tree hollow. She enlists the help of Theodore Kendrick, Jr., the son of wealthy parents who’s often left alone, in caring for the lion until they can find a home for him. They must keep their efforts secret since many in the city would regard the lion as a monster. The lion eventually is returned to his trainer, leaving behind him two young people with fond memories and a fast friendship.

    Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen. Candace Fleming. Ill. Eric Rohmann. 2018. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    StrongheartWhen film director Larry Trimble meets Etzel, a fierce, highly trained, 3-year-old German shepherd police dog, he is certain that he’s found his next big star. He brings Etzel (renamed Strongheart) back to Hollywood, where he stars in his first film, The Last Call, capturing the hearts of American movie goers. The careful steps Trimble takes in gaining Strongheart’s trust and friendship are described in detail. Stunning black-and-white oil paintings capture the essence of Strongheart, showing his intelligence, playful nature, and star power. Back matter includes notes on the true events behind the fictional story, photographs of Strongheart, a bibliography, and source notes on quotations.

    Ages 12–14

    Sidetracked. Diana Harmon Asher. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

    Side TrackedSeventh grader Joseph Friedman has long been the object of teasing because of his ADD and small size. School bully and football player Charlie Kastner particularly delights in ridiculing him. But things start to change when Charlie agrees to join the school track team at the urging of Mrs. T, the coach and his resource room teacher, and he unexpectedly makes friends with Heather, a new student, who is strong and tough—and a super runner. She doesn’t put up with Charlie’s insults about her body, size, and lack of delicacy. While Heather helps Joseph learn to stand up for himself, she also faces up to her mother about her own needs. Both Charlie and Heather benefit from their friendship in surprising ways.

    Sparrow. Sarah Moon. 2017. Arthur A. Levine /Scholastic.

    SparrowFourteen-year-old Sparrow Cooke goes into a tailspin when Mrs. Wexler, her school librarian and friend, dies unexpectedly. The quiet girl with severe social anxiety ends up in therapy, where she uncovers truths about herself, acknowledges her fears, and even agrees to attend a music camp during the summer. It is in this most unlikely place that Sparrow finds her voice and finally lets others in, as music (the louder and punkier the better) provides an avenue to friendships.

    Ages 15+

    Give Me Some Truth. Eric Gansworth. 2018. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

    Give Me Some TruthSet on the Tuscarora Reservation near the town of Niagara Falls in the 1980s, this story is told from the alternating points of view of senior Carson Mastick, who dreams of rock and roll glory and cobbles together a band that might help him escape the reservation, and 15-year-old Magpie (Maggi) Bokoni, who has recently returned to the reservation with her family. The characters navigate racism, adulthood, and first love in this powerful novel about coming together in a world defined by difference. Friendships described here may not be perfect, but their stories ring true, challenging assumptions and reminding readers how hard it can be to swallow certain truths about ourselves, about those we love and admire, and about the world’s injustices.

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

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 05, 2018

    Series are popular with readers of all ages. This column features first books in new series, a sequel, the latest books in episodic series that can be read in any order, and the final book in a popular trilogy. We include reviews of a book from a new beginning readers series, some chapter books with interesting characters for early readers, and books with complex plots in a variety of genres for older readers.

    Ages 4–8

    Absolutely Alfie and the Worst Best Sleepover (Absolutely Alfie #3). Sally Warner. Ill. Shearry Malone. 2018. Viking/Penguin.

    Absolutely AlfieAll the second-grade girls at Oak Glen Primary School are aflutter as Lulu Marino whispers her plans for “the best sleepover ever.” Her mother, however, has said she can invite only six girls. Alfleta “Alfie” Jakes and Lulu used to be best friends, and Alfie desperately wants to be invited to the sleepover. It’s a school rule that you should ask everyone in the class if you have a party, and Alfie is troubled that six girls (probably including her) will be left out. Should she say something or stay silent and hope to be one of the chosen girls? As things get out of hand and parents become involved, Lulu’s sleepover is cancelled. But you can absolutely count on Alfie to set things right. With the help of her family, Alfie hosts “the Saturday Morning Jammie Breakfast Party” with all the girls invited and Lulu as the honored guest.
    —CA

    Hi, Jack! (A Jack Book #1). Mac Barnett. Ill. Greg Pizzoli. 2018. Viking/Penguin.

    Hi, Jack!A mischievous monkey named Jack snatches a purse from an elderly lady, named the Lady. Jack returns the purse, but keeps a lipstick. He uses it to put red lips and his name on a dog named Rex, and then to write Jack all over the Lady’s white walls. “Jack! Bad Jack!” Finally, the Lady retrieves her lipstick by making a clever trade with Jack that ends with kisses all around. With three short chapters, one or two lines of text on a page, simple vocabulary, repetition of sentence structure, and colorful cartoon illustrations, this is a fun first reader. Adding to the fun are pages with step-by-step instructions for drawing Jack, Rex, and the Lady. Beginning readers can move on to simultaneously published Jack at Bat. Two more books in the series, Jack Blasts Off and Jack Goes West, will be released next January.
    —NB 

    The Uncanny Express (The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters #2). Kara LaReau. Ill. Jen Hill. 2018. Amulet/Abrams.

    The Unconventional AdventuresHaving survived kidnapping by a band of female pirates in The Jolly Regina (2017), the Bland sisters, Jaundice and Kale, are content to be back in Dullsville pursuing their bland routine. When a letter from their long-absent parents arrives telling them to meet Aunt Shallot at the Dullsville Station, however, they become involved in another adventure as they are hurried aboard the departing express train for Uncanny Valley. When Magique (aka Aunt Shallot) disappears, Jaundice and Kale find themselves assisting rotund, mustached Hugo Fromage, the Great Detective, in interviewing a train car full of suspects to solve a complicated mystery. LaReau playfully (and intentionally) fills the Bland sister’s unintentional adventure aboard the Uncanny Express with parallels to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. In the final chapter, upon their arrival back in Dullsville, Jaundice and Kale find their home ransacked. Who would do this? And why? The arrival of another letter from their parents provides a clue—and sets the Bland sisters up for another unintentional adventure.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Avalanche! (Survivor Diaries). Terry Lynn Johnson. Ill. Jani Orban. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Survivor Diaries Avalanche!Twelve-year-old Ashley Hilder’s twin brother Ryan has always been the one who makes the big decisions—until they are caught in an avalanche on Colt Summit in Wyoming’s Teton Mountains. Separated from their parents, who are unaware that the twins are trapped at the bottom of a gorge, Ashley (with a sprained knee) rescues her brother, who has been buried in the avalanche only to discover that the big bump on his head has given him amnesia and that he is developing frostbite on his toes. Ashley must overcome self-doubts and insecurities to take the lead if they are to survive injuries and encounters with a wolverine and a bear in the harsh wilderness. Back matter includes an author’s note with avalanche and wilderness safety tips. Readers will be drawn into this thrilling new adventure in the Survivor Diaries series.
    —NB

    Best Buds Under Frogs (The Rizzlerunk Club #1). Leslie Patricelli. 2018. Candlewick.

    Best Buds Under FrogsShy Lily Lattuga’s disastrous first day in fourth grade at a new school involves barfing on the four-square court after being invited to play with the Jilly Beans (the popular girls in the class) at recess. Lily does make friends with weird classmate Darby Dorski. Since neither is welcomed into the Jilly Beans, they form their own two-member club, the Rizzlerunks, and with their shared interest in frogs, they pledge to be “best buds, under frogs, with loyalty and honesty for all.” All goes well until Darby’s former best friend, bossy and manipulative Jill Johnson, returns from London, declares herself Queen of the Rizzlerunks, and begins to mastermind brilliant pranks that get Lily and Darby in trouble. Patricelli adds lots of black-and-white cartoon illustrations to this funny “survival” story of frogs and friendship.
    —CA

    Mez’s Magic (Lost Rainforest #1). Eliot Schrefer. Ill. Emilia Dziubak. 2018. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    The Lost RainforestIn the magical rainforest of Caldera, there are some animals that can “cross the Veil” and be active during both night and day. Mez, a calico panther, is one of these special animals. Auriel, a boa constrictor, identifies Mez as a “shadowwalker,” an eclipse-born animal with the powers of the sun and the moon. Although she knows she doesn’t have any magical powers, Mez is convinced by Auriel that it is her destiny to join the other shadowwalkers he is gathering to keep the Ant Queen from awakening from her imprisonment beneath the ancient Ziggurat of the Sun and the Moon and once again conquering Caldera. In this fast-paced fantasy adventure, full of danger, treachery, and surprising plot twists, Mez discovers her special power and works with Lima (a bat with healing powers), Rumi (a tree frog who can control wind), and Gogi (a capuchin monkey with the power of fire), and other shadowwalkers to solve the riddle of the ziggurat to save Caldera.
    —CA

    The Terrible Two Go Wild (The Terrible Two #3). Mac Barnett & Jory John. Ill. Kevin Cornell. 2018. Amulet/Abrams.

    The Terrible Two Go WildSchool is out, and Miles and Niles (best friends and founders of the International Order of Disorder) are performing pranks with finesse and running free and wild in the woods near the Yawnee Valley Yelling and Push-Ups Camp (for troubled tweens), which is in session for summer. Miles and Niles have planned the best pranks ever for YVYPUC’s Papa Company, led by bully Josh Barkin (their principal’s son), who sends minions Mudflap and Dugout to do his bidding. War is declared when Papa Company loses its flag to Miles and Niles, and the pranks are on! When Niles is kidnapped by Papa Company and stashed in their cabin, he discovers “ammunition” for the best prank of all times, a fitting conclusion to the Terrible Two’s hilarious summer of fun. Cornell’s black-and-white cartoon-like line drawings add a hoot to this laugh-out-loud story.
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2). Shannon Hale & Dean Hale. 2018. Marvel/Disney.

    The Unbeatable Baby SquirrelDoreen Green has the challenge of balancing life as a middle-school student in Shady Hills with her secret Marvel Superhero Squirrel Girl persona. After foiling the amateur Super Villain in the series opener, Squirrel Meets World (2018), things heat up when a new mall is scheduled to open on the border of Shady Hills and Listless Pines—and the two towns are inexplicably drawn into a war over naming the mall mascot. With the help of hearing-challenged Ana Sofía, her BHFF (Best Human Friend Forever), Squirrel Girl must unveil the nefarious scheme of the evil cabal infiltrating her community (evil dogling army, psycho kitties, Hydra minions, and Lizard Brain with violence-triggering pheromones). Quite the challenge for the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
    —NB

    Ages 15+

    The True Queen (The Imposter Queen #3). Sarah Fine. 2018. Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.

    The Imposter QueenIn the final book in this fantasy trilogy, the lives of Elli, the “imposter queen” of book one, and Ansa, the “cursed queen” of book two, intertwine as Kupari is literally crumbling into the earth. Elli was chosen to succeed the Valtia of Kupari, but did not inherit the queen’s magic of ice and fire (although she does have the magical attribute of balancing the magic of others). Ansa, who was kidnapped from Kupari by the Krigere as a child, has the violent, uncontrollable magic gift of ice and fire that marks her as a queen but endangers the lives of all around her. Ansa is looking for a home in Kupari for her refugee Krigere people. Both young women have been betrayed and manipulated by trusted mentors, have lost their soul mates, and have untapped power and strength leading them toward their destiny. In a head-on collision course with each other, they might find an unexpected solution to the question of which queen will save Kapuri.
    —NB  

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English at 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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    Books Across the Curriculum

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Feb 26, 2018

    Children's and young adult trade books—both fiction and nonfiction—offer avenues through which readers can explore fascinating topics in various content areas. Here is a selection of books with curriculum connections to science and social studies that are sure to entice readers and to foster curiosity and critical thinking.

    Ages 4–8

    A Mammal Is an Animal. Lizzy Rockwell. 2018. Holiday House.

    A Mammal is an AnimalThis introduction to mammals for young children features ink-and-watercolor illustrations rendered in soft hues. Lizzy Rockwell describes the characteristics of mammals in an engaging manner as she makes the point that, while all mammals are animals, not all animals are mammals. She also clearly shows that all mammals are not the same, singling out “some strange mammals” such as egg-laying monotremes—duckbill platypus, short-beaked echidna, and long-beaked echidna—and pouched marsupials—koalas, Virginia opossums, and kangaroos. Sure to fly off the classroom library shelves, A Mammal Is an Animal is an informative addition to a collection of books about animals.

    Tails (Question and Animal). 2018. Flowerpot Press.

    TailsFor readers not quite ready for Steve Jenkins’ What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? (2003), this board book introduces young readers to animals that can be identified by their tails. Young children are presented with textual and visual clues concerning the striking tails of five different animals (peacock, lemur, chameleon, beaver, and whale) and asked which animal has such a tail. There are three more board books in this series, each focusing on another body part of animals: Ears (2018), Feet (2018), and Noses (2018).

    Ages 9–11

    Rodent Rascals. Roxie Munro. 2018. Holiday House.

    Rodent RascalsAlthough some might describe them as “rascals,” rodents are nonetheless fascinating, as this book demonstrates. With India and acrylic ink illustrations of the 21 featured rodents, Roxie Munro introduces readers to the diverse group of mammals in the order Rodentia, which vary in size, shape, behavioral characteristics, and habitat. Moving from diminutive to massive, the book begins with the small pygmy jerboa and concludes with the capybara, the world's largest rodent. Along the way, readers will learn interesting facts about rodents, such as how one rodent—the earth-tunneling naked mole rat—has lips behind its teeth. Another, the African giant pouched rat, has such a well-developed sense of smell that it can search out explosives and detect tuberculosis. Readers will finish the book with a different perspective on rodents.

    The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow. Jan Thornhill. 2018. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    House SparrowHandsome digital illustrations accompany the lively text that evokes sympathy for the house sparrow, considered a nuisance by many. Jan Thornhill describes this species’ earliest beginnings, its adaptations to environmental changes triggered by shifting agricultural practices, the disastrous results of China’s extermination, and other possible causes for the bird's decline. It's impressive how the house sparrow—an invasive species in the United States—has managed to adapt and survive for centuries, only to be faced with new challenges. The extensive back matter includes a map showing where sparrows originated and where they can be found today.

    Turtle Pond. James Gladstone. Ill. Karen Reczuch. 2018. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Turtle PondBased partly on the author's experiences at a turtle pond in Toronto, the book evokes curiosity as well as a sense of wonder and respect for these long-surviving reptiles. Created with graphite pencil and watercolors, the illustrations depict turtles as they move through the water, clamber onto rocks, soak up the sun, and gobble up their food. Because the story is told from the perspective of a young boy whose family visits the turtle pond quite often, readers can tell that these turtles matter to him and that he sees them as individuals, some slower and shyer than others and some more adventurous. An author’s note identifies the turtles featured in the book as Red-eared Sliders.

    Ages 12–14

    I Was Cleopatra. Dennis Abrams. 2018. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    I Was CleopatraAs almost anyone familiar with Elizabethan period drama knows, young boys played female characters—as women were forbidden, by law, to act in the theatre. But their acting careers were often short, lasting only as long as their facial hair was nonexistent or until their voices began to change, thus, destroying the illusion of femininity. In this fictional memoir of John Rice, an Elizabethan child actor, readers are given a glimpse into what life was like as he honed his stagecraft. For various reasons, including his recitation skills and his ability to memorize lines quickly, John leaves his home at 13 to join the King's Men in London as an apprentice, eventually playing roles as Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, and Desdemona, among others. Many passages of this book reference the migratory nature of acting in the Elizabethan period as well as the plague that often reduced the population of large cities such as London, making it impossible for the troupe to eke out a living since theaters were closed.

    Journeys: Tales of Travel and Trailblazers. Jonathan Litton. Ill. Chris Chalik, Dave Shephard, Jon Davis, & Leo Hartas. 2018. 360 Degrees/Tiger Tales.

    JourneysNorth, south, east, and west—no matter where they live, humans have often longed to travel and to learn what lies just over the next mountain, down the nearby river, beneath the sea, or even outside our planet’s orbit. This oversized book provides a fascinating introduction to the world’s explorers. Jonathan Litton includes the “journeys” of adventurers, both men and women, from different parts of the world. The book's organization into sections—"Water," "Land," "Ice and Snow," and "Man and Machine"—helps readers consider just how much these trailblazers have contributed to what we know about our world. Starting with a 17th-century sailor reputed to have explored the Antarctic region and concluding with the lunar orbit, the book offers just enough detail to tantalize readers. The inclusion of a list of references, a timeline, and suggested reading would have been helpful for finding out more about these journeys.

    The Radical Element. Jessica Spotswood (Ed.) 2018. Candlewick.

    Radical ElementAlthough sometimes it might seem that progress in women’s rights has been slow, this anthology about a diverse group of young women provides some perspective on how far we’ve come. Starting with a short story set in 1838 in Savannah, Georgia, an Orthodox Jewish girl named Rebekah leaves her home to pursue the education she craves, and concluding with a story set in 1984 in Boston, Massachusetts, about an immigrant girl who joins a feminist punk band, 12 young adult authors share stories about girls and women who found their voices, despite fears and consequences. Most compelling are Erin Bowman’s "The Magician," which features a protagonist who pretends to be a male; Mackenzi Lee’s "You're a Stranger Here," which highlights one Mormon girl's doubts about her faith; and Megan Shepard’s "Lady Firebrand," which features two Union spies. Perhaps this intriguing collection will encourage girls to embrace their best selves and to engage in radical actions of their own.

    Ages 15+

    Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam. Elizabeth Partridge. 2018. Viking/Penguin.

    Boots on the GroundComplemented with archival photographs, Elizabeth Partridge’s well-documented story of the Vietnam War is presented from the perspectives of eight individuals she interviewed: six American soldiers, a nurse, and a refugee. Because the accounts appear in chronological order, interspersed with vignettes concerning the men who led the country during those times—John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald R. Ford—as well as other influential individuals such as civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., and musician Country Joe Fish, readers are plunged deep into the conflict as the nation became increasingly divided. Even those who avoid history will find themselves compelled to read every story included.

    What the Night Sings. Vesper Stamper. 2018. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    What the Night SingsAfter being liberated from Bergen-Belsen “displaced persons camp” in 1945, 16-year-old Gerta must find a way to go on despite the many losses she has experienced during the war. The strength necessary to survive the horrors of the concentration camps and the eradication of one’s identity are themes explored here as Gerta connects with Lev, another survivor, and is aided by Micah in reaching Palestine. The power of music to heal is ever present in the lines of Gerta’s unique and riveting story. Accompanied by stark illustrations, rendered in ink wash, white gouache, and graphite, this novel is an account of hope even in the face of great evil. Back matter includes an extensive author’s note, glossary, maps, and resources (films, books, websites, places to visit, and music).

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

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

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    Worlds of Fantasy

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 19, 2018

    Looking for some imaginative and exciting fantasy and science fiction books? This week we include reviews of the latest additions to old favorites, as well as stand-alone and first books in new series. From animal fantasies to modern fairytales to science fiction set on futuristic Earth or in galaxies far, far away, there is something here for everyone.

    Ages 4–8

    Better Together (Heartwood Hotel #3). Kallie George. Ill. Stephanie Graegin. 2018. Disney-Hyperion.

    Heartwood HotelMona (an orphaned mouse who found a true home as a maid in the Heartwood Hotel in Book One) is busy spring cleaning. Amid rumors of a rival splashy hotel opening in Fernwood Forest, plans are underway to add more zing to the Heartwood’s spring season. Henry, a young squirrel, suggests replacing the annual Heartwood Hop with a season of competitions. Flyers about the Spring Splash go up throughout the forest, and the hotel is soon filled with guests staying for the season to participate in contests (Cutest Egg, Tiniest Talent, and Best Blossom) and the Grand Finale. Mona is overwhelmed with housekeeping chores and extra duties related to the festivities, and is jealous over all the attention clever Henry is getting from staff and guests. When unwanted intruders disrupt the festivities, however, it is brave Mona who saves the endangered hotel guests—and the reputation of the Heartwood Hotel. Readers can look forward to the summer season at the Heartwood Hotel in Home Again, out this July.

    —CA

    The Cherry Pie Princess. Vivian French. Ill. Marta Kissi. 2018. Kane Miller.

    The Cherry Pie PrincessThe King has many strict rules and severe punishments for disobeying them. After Princess Peony asks Librarian Lionel Longbeard if she can borrow a cookbook, he is thrown into the dungeon. When Peony bakes delicious cherry pies, the King bans her from the kitchen. While her parents busily prepare for her brother’s christening and invite the three good fairies (but not the nasty Hag from Scrabster’s Hump), Peony pesters her father to release Longbeard from the dungeon. As a result, he orders that she be locked in her room. Clever Princess Peony escapes, but when found, is thrown into the dungeon for Those Who Speak Out of Turn. With the christening ceremony in full swing, the hag sneaks in, springing a revenge spell on everyone in attendance (“Sleeping twine … that baby’s mine!). Peony, who has once again escaped, is the only one who can save the kingdom from a never-ending nap (well, with the help of the librarian and the jester from the dungeon and a talking cat) and reverse her father’s tyrant ways. Kissi’s humorous black-and-white illustrations complement this reimagined tale of Sleeping Beauty. 

    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    The Adventures of Alfie Onion. Vivian French. Ill. Marta Kissi. 2018. Kane Miller.

    The Adventures of Alfie OnionAs the seventh son of a seventh son, Magnifico Onion is sent adventuring by his fairytale obsessed mother to find a castle, to kiss and marry a princess, and to bring back gold and jewels so that the Onion family can live “Happily Ever After in Glorious Luxury.” Alfie, the eighth son, is sent along to carry Magnifico’s luggage and baskets full of porkpies, sausages, and buns. In true fairytale fashion, while self-indulgent and cowardly Magnifico is not equipped for the hardships and dangers of a great adventure, brave and loyal Alfie becomes the true hero. With the help of some talking animal companions—Bowser, his dog; a horse named Adeline; two mice, Penelope and Norman; and two magpies, Perce and Kev—Alfie frees the castle of the ogre Grindbone and his son, Flugg. Alfie Onion and Princess Mary Onion live happily ever after (so does Magnifico, in a different way). Black-and-white illustrations featuring the large cast of characters add to the fun of reading this rollicking adventure.

    —CA

    The Royal Rabbits of London (The Royal Rabbits of London #1). Santa Montefiore & Simon Sebag Montefiore. Ill. Kate Hindley. 2018. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    The Royal Rabbits of LondonAlthough it is forbidden by the Leaders of the Warren to venture to the burrow at the edge of the forest, Shylo Tawny-Tail, a small, skinny, and timid young rabbit, goes there to visit Horatio, an old, battle-scarred grey rabbit, who tells him stories from The Rise and Fall of the Great Rabbit Empire. When Shylo tells Horatio about overhearing three Ratzis planning to sneak into the Queen’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace to take pictures of the Queen in her nightie to sell to rat-on-a-celebrity.com, Horatio sends Shylo to alert the Royal Rabbits, who are charged with protecting the royals. Taking to heart Horatio’s “Go! By will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose, and a slice of mad courage,” Shylo makes the dangerous journey to London and leads the Royal Rabbits through a labyrinth of tunnels and, with a sensitive nose and quick thinking, foils the rats’ scandalous paparazzi scheme. This fast-paced, humorous animal fantasy with an unlikely hero is a delightful read-aloud adventure.

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    The Last Gargoyle. Paul Durham. 2018. Crown/Random House.

    The Last GargoylesPenhallow, who makes it clear he is a Grotesque and not a member of the “bunch of glorified water fountains” called Gargoyles, is the protector of the inhabitants of his Domain, an old apartment house. Penhallow, who can leave the apartment’s rooftop by taking his wisp form and shape-shifting (often as a boy in a hoodie), has become aware that a dark evil is abroad in the city. The Boneless King, ruler of the underworld, is gathering an army of Netherkins—malignant spirits of the dead who choose to stay “before moving on to what’s Next.”Aware that his Domain, the city of Boston, and perhaps the entire world is under threat, Penhallow must find a way to thwart the Boneless King. To do so he takes the mysterious girl who appears on his rooftop as an ally. The droll humor of the first-person narration of this suspenseful tale provides the perfect balance of creepy and funny. Back matter includes a glossary of “goyle-isms,” an author’s note, and a “Penhallow’s Real-World Haunts” list of real places in Boston.

    —CA

    War of the Realms (Valkyrie #3). Kate O’Hearn. 2018. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    War of the RealmsIn the latest book of this Norse trilogy, the Frost Giants, Fire Giants, and Dark Searchers, usually enemies, unite in a War of the Realms to murder Odin so that their chosen leader, Dirian, can rule all creatures and humans. As the war spills over into Earth, threatening to become Ragnarök (the War to End All Wars, which would end life in all of the realms—not just Earth), Valkyrie Freya (a legendary reaper who can cause death with her touch) enlists the help of family, humans, and creatures to turn the giants against each other and to stop the war. During the battle, Freya and her allies put their lives and souls on the line, but is this enough to turn back the clock as death and destruction reign? O’Hearn includes a “Guide to This World” with background information about the names, places, and events in Norse mythology in War of the Realm. Readers who missed the two preceding books in this apocalyptic series will want to experience the buildup to this climactic war of the worlds.

    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2). Neal Shusterman. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    ThunderheadIn a utopian society where death only happens at the hands of scythes—specially chosen and trained ethical reapers of souls—the Thunderhead (the computerized consciousness of the society and the perfect steward of the planet) has been programmed to observe the rulership of Scythedom. Rowan, the fallen apprentice pitted against Citra for the role of scythe, has gone off-grid to glean corrupt scythes. Citra, now Scythe Anastasia, gleans with compassion. Forbidden to act or to “feel,” the Thunderhead sees the acceptance of illegal perversions in some scythes resulting in a “new order,” while Citra, her mentor Scythe Curie, and others demand established decency and humane standards. High-stakes politics come to a head during the World Council election inquest in Endura, the elite Scythe floating island, with explosive results leading to the third book in the series, expected to be released next year.
    —NB

    Unearthed (Unearthed #1). Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner. 2018. Hyperion/Disney Book Group.

    UnearthedEarth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, the Undyings, from deserted planet Gaia, seemingly providing the technological solution Earth has been waiting for. Scientist Dr. Addison discloses the warning that comes with the message, and is jailed. His genius son, 17-year-old Jules Addison, who has been secretly hired by Global Energy Solutions to study alien energy technology on Gaia, plans to bring back evidence to restore his father’s reputation. Through unplanned circumstances, Jules reluctantly teams up with 16-year-old Amelia (a scavenger, raider, and out-of-the-box thinker, who secretly plans to steal technology she finds on Gaia). As they escape mercenaries with evil intentions, they translate hieroglyphs found in an ancient abandoned temple with supposed history and riches to solve complicated puzzles that allow them to proceed through the temple to the next challenge—or to be killed if they make a mistake. What they discover is beyond their imaginations and requires every ounce of their intelligence, strength, and courage to survive and solve the Undying’s last message. Readers will eagerly await the next installment in this series.

    —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.

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    Read-Aloud for Everyone: Notable Books for a Global Society

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 12, 2018

    On February 1 we celebrated World Read Aloud Day, when people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a right that belongs to all people. This week’s column includes books from the Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group’s 2018 Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS) list that will inspire engaging read-aloud in classrooms and libraries during February and throughout the year. The complete 2018 NBGS list (as well as lists from previous years) is available here.

    Ages 4–8

    I Love My Purse. Belle DeMont. Ill. Sonja Wimmer. 2017. Annick. 

    I Love My Purse 2One day Charlie decides to take the red purse his grandmother gave him to school. His father tells him he might love his purse but that doesn’t mean he should wear it, pointing out that sneakers and baseball caps are appropriate apparel for a boy (while also thinking about things he loves). At school Charlotte questions why he is wearing a purse. When Charlie says, “Because I want to,” she notes that although she loves face paint, she doesn’t wear it every day. As Charlie continues to carry his purse each day, he inspires others to embrace their own unique styles. This picture book is about the importance of being true to yourself, rejecting societal norms, and exploring new possibilities.

    —SW

    Stolen Words. Melanie Florence. Ill. Gabrielle Grimard. 2017. Second Story.

    Stolen WordsA 7-year-old girl comes home from school one day wanting to learn the Cree language from her grandfather. However, like many first-nation children in Canada, her grandfather had been sent to a residential school where he was taught English and punished for using his native language. He has forgotten his language and, after hearing his granddaughter’s excitement, is sad that he cannot teach her beautiful Cree words, so different from sharp-sounding English words. Determined to learn Cree and to help her grandfather, she brings home the book Introduction to Cree from her school library. Based on her experiences as a child, Florence has written a lyrical story of redemption, healing, and love. 

    —SW

    Wishtree. Katherine Applegate. Ill. Charles Santoso. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

    WishtreeThe narrator of this story is a loquacious old northern red oak named Red. The story of why people call her “the wishtree” (which goes back to her seedling days over two centuries ago) plays a part in Red’s story about a lonely young Muslim girl named Samar. When her family moves into a tiny house nearby, Samar, who ventures out nightly to sit under the tree, shares her wish for a friend by tying a pink ribbon to one of Red’s branches. The carving of the word “LEAVE” on her trunk one night is a disturbing sign to Red that not everyone in the neighborhood welcomes Samar’s family. The way Red (and a community of talking animals who live in the branches and hollows of the tree) deal with intolerance in the neighborhood makes Wishtree a warm, humorous read-aloud story that will encourage thoughtful discussion.

    —CA

    Ages 911

    Letters to a Prisoner. Jacques Goldskyn. 2017. OwlKids. 

    Letters to a PrisonerA man and his young daughter are participating in a peaceful demonstration when he is arrested by the police, hurried to a prison, and locked in a cell, where he falls into dark despair and lonely silence. During the weeks that follow, he thinks of sunny days walking and exploring with his daughter and weeps at his loss, until a ray of light arrives in the form of a letter. Despite the prison officers’ efforts to destroy them, letters from all over the world begin flooding the prison, allowing him to escape on wings of hope. Rendered in colored ink, the apocryphal story, inspired by the ongoing Write for Rights work of Amnesty International, pays homage to the actions of individuals in the name of hope and freedom.

    —SW

    Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees. Mary Beth Leatherdale. Ill. Eleanor Shakespeare. 2017. Annick.  

    Stormy SeasSea Stories recounts the stories of five teenage refugees who fled their homelands by boat between 1938 and 2006. Illustrated with collage, paint, and photographs, the stories, gathered through interviews, describe the conditions of war and persecution that forced them to leave, their life-threatening journeys to a better life, and life after they found new homes. The refugees must travel thousands of miles and sometimes backtrack before they can stop their journeys, only to be kept in detention camps, not knowing their fate. A timeline of boat refugees over four centuries in the front matter and a timeline of refugees from World War II to present in the back matter provide historical context. A list of resources provides information for additional exploration.

    —SW

    Ages 12–14

    One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance.  Nikki Grimes. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    One Last WordIn this anthology, Nikki Grimes shares “wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance” by combining her own original work with poems from the Harlem Renaissance era. The collection is a wonderful introduction to the work of eight master poets of the period: Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, William Waring Cuney, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Clara Ann Thompson, and Jean Toomer, as well as to the Golden Shovel poetry form that Grimes uses. Expressive full-color works of art by contemporary African American illustrators such as R. Gregory Christie, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, and Brian Pinkney beautifully complement the poems. Back matter includes poet biographies (including selected works), artist biographies, sources of poems and poet portraits, and an index.

    —CA

    Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. Kwame Alexander (with Chris Colderley & Marjory Wentworth). Ill. Ekua Holmes. 2017. Candlewick.

    Out of Wonder 2The title Out of Wonder comes from Lucille Clifton’s quote, “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” This collection of 20 original poems by Kwame Alexander and his coauthors pays tribute to a diverse group of 20 poets by “adopting their style, extending their ideas, and offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration.” Featured poets range from Bashō and Rumi to Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. Each poem is paired with a joyful mixed-media collage painting. Appended biographical notes support further exploration.

    —CA

    Ages 15+.

    Dreamland Burning. Jennifer Latham. 2017. Little Brown.

    Dreamland BurningWhen 17-year-old Rowan Chase discovers a skeleton in a shed behind her home, she has no idea that investigating the murder will lead to painful discoveries about the present and the past. Rowan’s story alternates with Will Tillman’s story—the white son of the owner of a music store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921. In a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will tries to do what’s right for the black community. The novel includes an account of the Tulsa race riots of 1921. At once a mystery and an historical fiction thriller, the stories of Rowan and Will converge in unexpected ways, demonstrating that history continues to influence people’s understanding of themselves and their communities.

    —SW

    Trell.  Dick Lehr. 2017. Candlewick.

    TrellSet in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1980s, Trell, the 14-year-old daughter of a man imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, sets out to clear his conviction. When Trell discovers that legal avenues are not available unless she can discover new information and evidence, she is determined to investigate the court case. Trell enlists the help of a retired journalist to help locate the witnesses used to convince the court of her father’s guilt. Working with the journalist, she discovers a complex web of false evidence and corruption in the district attorney’s office and the police department and uncovers collusion between those officers and a gang leader. In his author’s note, Lehr provides detail about the investigation of the murder case—based on a true story—that showed gross injustice and the “eventual search for justice.”

    —SW

    An Uninterrupted View of the Sky. Melanie Crowder. 2017. Philomel/Penguin.

    An Uninterrupted View of the SkySet in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 1999, Francisco is dedicated to working hard in school so that he can be admitted into university. But when his father, a taxi driver, is wrongfully arrested and sent to prison by a corrupt system, Francisco’s life is changed. Without resources to free his father (and an absent mother), Francisco and his sister, Pilar, live with their father in the prison, which houses thousands of inmates and their families. Each day the children leave the prison to go to school and, while their father makes pennies in the prison to support them, they scramble for money to buy food, hoping to rent a space in the prison that has a locking door and a view of the sky. In an author’s note, Crowder describes her experiences in Bolivia at the time the novel takes place.

    —SW

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the School of Education and the English Department of Husson University, Bangor, Maine. She served on the 2018 Notable Books for a Global Society. 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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