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    • Children's & YA Literature

    Animals, Animals, Animals

    Jennifer W. Shettel and Carolyn Angus
     | Jun 12, 2017

    From the tiniest insect to the largest dinosaur, animals never fail to fascinate readers of all ages. This week’s column includes recently published books that invite readers to explore the characteristics and behaviors of a variety of animals and to consider the role of humans in protecting the world’s biodiversity.

    Ages 4–8

    Little Wolf’s First Howling. Laura McGee Kvasnosky. Ill. Laura McGee Kvasnosky & Kate Harvey McGee. 2017. Candlewick.

    Little Wolf's First Howling LessonWhat happens when Little Wolf insists on adding his own special twist to the typical wolf howl? Little Wolf and his father, Big Wolf, set off into the forest for Little Wolf’s first howling lesson. Despite Big Wolf’s strong examples of a proper howl, Little Wolf can’t help but include some jazzy, scat-style additions to create his signature wolf howl. “Aaaaaooooooo dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-woooooo!” Young children will delight in joining in the howling fun of this read-aloud story. Gouache illustrations with digital coloring evoke a washed-in-moonlight look to this story of an eventful evening in Little Wolf’s life.

    —JS

    Penguin Day: A Family Story. Nic Bishop. 2017. Scholastic.

    Penguin StoryAward-winning nature photographer Nic Bishop took his camera to Antarctica to capture the images of rockhopper penguins featured in Penguin Day. With stunning close-up color photographs and a simple narrative, Bishop presents a day in the life of a family of penguins. Baby penguin waits for mama penguin to return from a day of hunting at sea to bring home food.  Papa penguin stays nearby and helps make sure that baby penguin stays safe. Upon mama penguin’s return, baby penguin gets a meal of regurgitated food, and it’s time to sleep. There is a brief note on Bishop’s experiences photographing a colony of penguins for this story in Antarctica. An author’s note includes more information about southern rockhopper penguins.

    —JS

    Robins!: How They Grow Up. Eileen Christelow. 2017. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Robins!Robins rule the roost in this carefully researched picture book narrated by two “teenage” robins. Details in Christelow’s sequential art panels and digital sketch-like illustrations add both humor and information to the text. Christelow doesn’t shy away from gory details as one of the eggs is taken by a squirrel and one of the babies is snatched up by a hawk, leaving only two survivors to tell the story of their first year of life. Back matter includes a glossary, a question and answer section, and a short reference list. This is a great book for young birdwatchers, especially those with robins in their yard.

    —JS

    The Secret Life of the Red Fox. Laurence Pringle. Ill. Kate Garchinsky. 2017. Boyds Mills/Highlights.

    The Secret Life of the Red FoxThis informational picture book follows a year in the life of an elusive red fox named Vixen as she survives a cold winter, finds a mate, gives birth to four pups, and raises them until they are are ready to go off on their own. Beautiful illustrations, created with pastels and aqua crayons on sanded paper, give the story a soft, muted feel. Back matter includes an author’s note with more information on the red fox, a glossary, and a short list of books about foxes for interested readers.

    —JS

    Ages 9–11

    Dino Records: The Most Amazing Prehistoric Creatures Ever to Have Lived on Earth! Jen Agresta & Avery Elizabeth Hurt. 2017. National Geographic Kids.

    Dino RecordsThis fascinating book about “the most amazing prehistoric creatures ever to have lived on Earth” is perfect for readers who think they know all there is to know about dinosaurs. Following a brief introduction and a double-spread timeline of the Mesozoic Era, the book is organized in seven chapters: “Biggest,” “Smallest,” “Deadliest,” “Weirdest,” “Most Intriguing,” “First,” and “Prehistoric Animals.” Each chapter introduces a winner and several runner-ups. For example, the winner for biggest dinosaur is the Titanosaur and for smallest, the Microraptor. Other sections include a “Creature Feature,” a “Flashforward” on a modern living relative, and a “Fun and Games” quiz.

    —CA

    Insects (Ultimate Explorer Field Guide). Libby Romero. 2017. National Geographic Kids.

    InsectsFollowing a brief introduction about insects, where to find them, insect protection, and how to use the book, this field guide is organized into two sections based on the type of metamorphosis insects go through. Each entry includes a color photograph of the insect with key features labeled; a listing of its common and scientific names, size, habitat, and range; and a paragraph about its characteristics and behaviors. Boxed, color-coded inserts offer tips for quick identification of the species, activities, insect facts, and jokes and riddles. “Information Reports” feature topics such as bugs vs. insects, invasive species, and the conservation of beneficial insects. Back matter includes a “Quick ID Guide,” resources, a glossary, and an index.

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest (Scientists in the Field). Sy Montgomery. Ill. Keith Ellenbogen. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Amazon AdventureIn their latest collaboration in the Scientists in the Field series, author Sy Montgomery and nature photographer Keith Ellengoben travel up the Río Negro and through Amazonian rainforests. They have joined Scott Dowd, senior aquarist at Boston’s New England Aquarium and the Project Piaba team, in studying piabas (tiny ornamental fish sold to aquarists around the world). The region’s small towns depend on income from the global exportation of piabas—which also help sustain the Amazon’s biodiversity. Amazon Adventure focuses on both the biology of the tiny fish and on the work of scientists and local fisherman to improve the fishery industry. Each chapter concludes with a catchy insert such as “Amazon by the Numbers” and “Meeting the Seven Deadly Plagues of the Amazon—in the Dark!” Back matter includes a bibliography, web resources, and an index.

    —CA

    American Pharoah: Triple Crown Champion. Shelley Fraser Mickle. 2017. Aladdin/Simon & Shuster.

    American PharoahEveryone loves an underdog—or in this case—an underhorse! This nonfiction chapter book details the life of American Pharoah, a thoroughbred who won the rare title of Triple Crown Champion in 2015, despite having a misspelled name, a chewed-off tail, and an aversion to loud noises.  Mickle weaves in additional narratives of the people who played important roles in American Pharoah’s life, including jockey Victor Espinoza, owner Amahd Zayat, and trainer Bob Baffert. Extensive back matter includes an epilogue, an author’s note, a glossary of equestrian terms, and even some of the messages that people wrote to American Pharoah, congratulating the horse for his inspirational victory.

    —JS

    Wicked Bugs: The Meanest, Deadliest, Grossest Bugs on Earth. Amy Stewart. Ill. Briony Morrow-Gribbs. 2017. Algonquin.

    Wicked BugsThis young readers’ edition of Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects (2011) includes introductory notes on the widespread use of the word “bugs” to refer to insects, spiders, and other creatures in the book and scientific classification. Stewart presents more than 100 “wicked bugs” (including assassin bugs, mountain pine beetles, giant centipedes, and black widows) and their roles in human history. The entries are organized into five sections: "Deadly Creatures," "Everyday Dangers," "Unwelcome Invaders," "Serious Pains," and "Terrible Threats." Each of the four to six examples in a section features the bug’s common and scientific names; an illustration; and an inset listing size, family, habitat, distribution, and relatives. Dropped quotes draw the reader into the text. Back matter includes a list of bug-related phobias, a glossary, resources, a bibliography, and an index. This book is informative, fascinating and—as promised by the title—often creepy, terrifying, and disgusting.

    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals. Joel Sartore. 2017. National Geographic.

    The Photo ArkThe Photo Ark is an amazing pictorial encyclopedia showcasing the diversity of animals on our planet. The book features portraits of more than 400 animals by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, who thinks of himself as “an animal ambassador, a voice for the voiceless.” Working with captive animals, Sartore photographed each species against a black or white background under controlled lighting to bring out details. Each photo is captioned with the common and the scientific name of the animal and the species conservation status. Sartore includes thought-provoking pairings of portraits that focus on particular features, for example, side-by-side photographs of an African leopard and a bobtail squid show a shared camouflaging pattern. The book also includes inserts about eight conservationists working to protect the Earth’s biodiversity. Back matter includes notes on the production of the photographs, National Geographic’s Photo Ark Project, information about Joel Sartore and contributors, acknowledgements, and an index of animals (in order of appearance by common name).

    —CA

    All Ages

    Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium. Maja Säfström. 2017. Ten Speed/Crown.

    Animals of a Bygone EraIn an introductory letter to the reader, Swedish artist Maja Säfström states she will be presenting “a few of the countless amazing creatures that once roamed the Earth.” What follows are double-page spreads that introduce readers of all ages to 54 extinct animals, some that lived long ago and others that died off recently. Whimsical, detailed black-and-white portraits with handwritten notes point out characteristics and additional facts. In some cases, the animal adds a comment (often a humorous one) in a speech balloon. For example, the Coryphodon, a hippo-like animal that had the smallest brain-to-body ratio of any mammal that has ever lived, says, “I am not intelligent but I’m not that smart either.” Readers will also enjoy Säfström’s The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts (2016).

    —CA

    Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where she teaches undergraduate and graduate course in literacy for preservice and practicing teachers.  Prior to joining the faculty at Millersville, she spent 16 years as an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools. 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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    Stories of Young Immigrants and Refugees

    Sandip Wilson
     | Jun 05, 2017

    These refugee and immigrant narratives teach readers about language, culture, history, geography, and politics while providing insight into the human experience. The books reviewed in this column follow the journeys of young people and their families as they leave different parts of the world in pursuit of happiness and security.

    Ages 4–8

    Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey. Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes. Ill. Sue Cornelison. 2017. Crown/Random House.

    Lost and Found CatWhen their lives are endangered by war, Sura and her family are smuggled out of their home in Mosul, Iraq, taking only what they can carry and their white cat, Kunkush. Their escape takes them across mountains to a Kurdish village, and then to Istanbul, where they eventually board a small open boat to a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Once on shore, Kunkush, wet and frightened by the crossing, escapes from his carrier. Near death from starvation, he is rescued by a volunteer who begins a search to reunite the cat with its family. Illustrated in rich, warm hues, the book includes photographs of Kunkush, his family, and people who cared for him.

    My Beautiful Birds. Suzanne Del Rizzo. 2017. Pajama Press.

    My Beautiful BirdsSet against the backdrop of the Syrian civil war, Sami finds solace in his connection with birds. When he and his family flee their hometown and find shelter in a refugee camp, Sami is devastated to leave his pet pigeons behind. His father tries to console him by reminding him that the birds likely escaped too, but Sami still can’t stop thinking about them. When pigeons appear in the camp, he feeds them seeds and spilled lentils, beginning his long healing process. Illustrations in polymer clay and acrylic paint show Sami’s slow transition into in his new life. The author’s note provides context about the Syrian war and information about the refugee camps.

    The Treasure Box. Margaret Wild. Ill. Freya Blackwood. 2017. Candlewick.

    The Treasure BoxWhen the enemy bombs the village’s library, only one book survives. In this parable of war, Peter and his father are forced to flee their home. Peter’s father insists on taking the book, which he says is “about our people.”  They wrap the book in cloth and keep it in a metal box in their suitcase. When his father dies of illness, Peter buries the metal box under a linden tree. The expressive illustrations, rendered in pencil, watercolor, and collage, depict Peter’s return to his native land to place the hidden book on the shelves of the rebuilt library “where, once again, it could be found, and read . . . and loved.”  

    Ages 9–11

    Greetings, Leroy. Itah Sadu. Ill. Alix Delinois. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Greetings LeroyRoy misses his home in Jamaica. He’s nervous to start his first day of school in a new country and nothing—not even Bob Marley songs—can calm him down. When he sees a photo of Bob Marley playing soccer in the principal’s office, Roy begins to relax. The rich acrylic and mixed media illustrations depict Roy’s journey to feel accepted and valued in his new home.


    One Good Thing About America.
    Ruth Freeman. Ill. Katherin Honesta. 2017. Holiday House.

    One Good Thing About AmericaAnaïs, her mother, and her little brother Jean-Claude have arrived in America after fleeing the Congo. In a series of letters to her grandmother, Anaïs recounts her life in school and in the shelter. American language and habits confuse and discourage Anaïs, but she finds solace in having the best handwriting in class and in her knowledge of mathematics—since numbers are always the same.  Her mother seeks asylum so that Anaïs’s father (an activist in their homeland) and older brother can come to America. Throughout the year, Anaïs reports good things she discovers about America to her grandmother, and she learns that her father and brother are safe in a refugee camp in Africa.  In an author’s note, Freeman explains what inspired her to become an ELL teacher, and says that she wanted this novel to offer a glimpse into the life of a student new to America.

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

    Stormy SeasStormy Seas follows the journeys of five teenage refugees escaping war, persecution, and possible murder in search of asylum. Ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape nazism; Phu departs from war-torn Vietnam; José ventures to the U.S. from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan; and Mohamed, an orphan, runs from his village on the Ivory Coast. After traveling thousands of miles to reach safety, however, they find they are treated as outsiders and sometimes prisoners. Their stories recount experiences of loss, risk, betrayal, fortitude, and patience. The book includes a timeline and further information about refugee movements in the 20th-century

    Ages 12–14

    A Crack in the Sea. H. M. Bouwman. 2017. Putnam/Penguin.

    A Crack in the SeaIn a visit to the islands of Putnam, the Raft King of the Second World kidnaps Pip, who has the power to talk to fish. Putnam wants Pip to use his power to get the fish to lead them to the portal to the First World so that he can find his mother, who abandoned him. Woven into the fantasy are flashbacks from the history of the First World, including the forced migration of slaves from Africa to Jamaica, and refugees escaping post-war Vietnam by sea. When a storm rises, the portal opens and figures from the First World are swept into the Second World where they meet Kinchen, Pip, and Putnam. In an afterword Bouwman explains the inspiration for the fantasy and his writing process.

    Hidden. Miriam Halahmy. 2016. Holiday House.

    HiddenFourteen-year-old Alix lives on an island off the coast in England with her mother. When Samir (a new student at school) is ruthlessly bullied, Alix decides to befriend him. She learns that Samir, his brother, and his aunt are all refugees from Iraq, seeking asylum. During a stormy afternoon, she and Samir save a badly beaten young man, Mohammed, from drowning in the surf.  They hide him in an abandoned hut in a wooded area and nurse him back to health. They learn that Mohammed is also an Iraqi refugee. Desperate not to be deported, Alix must keep Mohammed's secret.

    Ages 15+

    The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir. Thi Bui. 2017. Abrams.

    The Best We Could DoThis graphic novel is both a memoir and a history of 20th-century Vietnam. Bui chronicles generations of her family’s history, alternating between her father’s and her mother’s perspective. Her father grew up in northern Vietnam and lost his mother at the end of World War II. Bui’s mother was educated, French-speaking and lived in southern Vietnam.Through their stories, Bui illustrates her family’s resourcefulness as they flee Vietnam to start a new life in America.


    The Lines We Cross.
    Randa Abdel-Fattah. 2017. Scholastic.

    The Lines We CrossMina has lived with her mother in Sydney for 10 years since fleeing Afghanistan after the death of her father and aunt. Now her mother and stepfather have moved the family to a different part of the city where they open an Afghani restaurant. She finds herself on one side of a rising anti-refugee, anti-immigrant movement organized by the father of Michael, a fellow student at her prestigious high school. The story of school, family, politics, and their relationship unfolds, told from Mina’s and Michael’s points of view. Michael finds himself questioning his parents’ views towards refugees and immigrants finding them less and less reasonable and credible, and Mina shares the reality of her life while she works to contribute to her family and her adopted country.

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the English department and School of Education at Husson University, Bangor, Maine.

    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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    Then Comes Summer Reading

    Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 29, 2017

    As the school year ends, it is time to encourage students to include regular visits to their local libraries (and perhaps sign up for a summer reading program) over summer vacation. In this week’s column, we review recently published books, as well as some old favorites, for lazy days of summer reading.

    Ages 4–8

    And Then Comes Summer. Tom Brenner. Ill. Jaime Kim. 2017. Candlewick.

    and-then-comes-summerIn a series of reflections, a young boy considers the endless joys of summer. The smells, sounds, sights, and activities of summer are presented in lyrical text and cheery acrylic illustrations featuring the boy, his dog, and his friends. The activities the boy enjoys, including selling lemonade, marching in the fourth of July parade, and camping at the lake, will have young children thinking about their own anticipated summer pastimes.

    —CA

    The Jolley-Rogers and the Monster’s Gold (The Jolley Rogers #3). Jonny Duddle. 2017. Templar/Candlewick.

    Jolley RogersMatilda rejoins the Jolley-Rogers on another buccaneer adventure after finding a bottle with a treasure map inside. They set sail for the mysterious island, singing foreboding treasure hunting shanties. Mayhem erupts when Grandpa’s peg leg is stolen by a menacing sea monster, and their ship soon ends up at the not-so-deserted Banana Island with monkeys, a grizzly old pirate, and Banana Bill (a baker extraordinaire). When the Jolley-Rogers leave Matilda safely behind on the island and set out to find the sea monster, they find themselves in great peril. It’s up to Matilda to save the day with a plan—which may or may not include 99 retired old pirates and a boatload of bananas and gold pieces! Clever, black-and-white digital illustrations contribute to this great read-aloud for young swashbucklers.

    —NB 

    Little Pig Saves the Ship. David Hyde Costello. 2017. Charlesbridge.

    Little PigLittle Pig is too young to join his older siblings for a week at sailing camp, and must stay behind with Grandpa and Poppy. A book of sailors’ knots and a piece of rope from his oldest brother hold his interest until, one night, Poppy shows Little Pig a toy sailboat he’s building. The next day, Little Pig sews the sails and Poppy carves small figures to “man” the ship. They sail the ship every day until disaster strikes and Little Pig must put his rope-knotting skills to work. Ink-and-watercolor cartoon illustrations with speech balloons add to the fun of this charming adventure.

    —CA

    That’s What Friends Are For. Suzanne Chiew. Ill. Caroline Pedler. 2017. Tiger Tales.

    That's What Friends are forBadger and his friends enjoy splashing in a stream under the summer sun. When Mouse reports that the stream has slowed to a trickle, they all worrywill they have enough water to drink, swim, do laundry, and keep the flowers alive? Trekking upstream, they discover boulders blocking the stream and work together to move them. Colorful, detailed illustrations bring the community of clever critters to life in this gentle lesson on problem-solving and teamwork. 

    —NB

    There Might Be Lobsters. Carolyn Crimi. Ill. Laurel Molk. 2017. Candlewick.

    There Might be LobstersEleanor can’t coax her small dog, Sukie, from the stairs leading to the beach. Sukie has a list of reasons to avoid the beach, ending with “and, besides, there might be lobsters.” Eleanor carries Sukie and her stuffed toy monkey, Chunka Munka, down to the sand, and Sukie’s list of fears grows as she gets closer to the water. When Chunka Munka is washed out by the tide, however, Sukie puts aside her fears—including the possibility of encountering lobsters in the ocean—to rescue him.

    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Blueberry Pancakes Forever (Finding Serendipity #3). Angelica Banks. 2017. Henry Holt.

    Blueberry Pancakes ForeverIn the final book of the trilogy, Serendipity Smith (the author of the popular Vivienne Small series) is stuck in a period of year-long grief (and writer’s block) after the death of her husband. Serendipity arranges for her friend Colette to watch over her daughter, young Tuesday McGillycuddy, so she can return to the Land of Story to heal and begin writing again. When a villain from her mother’s book kidnaps her friend Vivienne, Tuesday is swept into the Land of Story. She must dig deep inside herself to write her way out of this dangerous plot and back into a life filled with love, good memories of her father’s blueberry pancakes, and new stories.

    —NB

    Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question. Martha Freeman. 2017. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Effie Starr ZookEffie Starr Zook, an 11-year-old girl from a “well fixed” New York City family (thanks to Effie’s great grandfather, the inventor of the barf bag) is spending the summer with her aunt and uncle at Zook Farm in Pennsylvania while her parents tour the world on a test flight of a solar airplane. Expecting to be bored, she’s pleased to meet Moriah Yoder, whose family lives on the edge of the property. She quickly learns there’s “bad blood” between the Zooks and the Yoders. Effie, a pro at asking questions, wants answers but gets none from her evasive relatives. The more she learns about her famous great grandfather, Mr. Yoder (the founder of the Beards of America movement), and Mr. Odbody (a bookstore owner and the only African American in town), the more questions she has. Uncovering family secrets will keep Effie busy for the summer.

    —CA

    Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3). Jen Calonita. 2017. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks.

    TrickedGilly Cobbler, former Fairy Tale Reform School (FTRS) student, worries that her younger sister, Anna—who was sent to FTRS for blowing up Red’s shop with her friends Hansel and Gretel— is in danger. The evil Rumpelstiltskin (Mr. Stilts), now in charge of FTRS, has a new school motto: If you can’t become a better person, become a better villain. Before Gilly can get Anna out of the school, she’ll have to get herself thrown back in. In this magical mashup of mermaids, fairies, pirates, and princesses, as Gilly and her crew work to banish Mr. Stilts, they learn that it’s not just important to be good, but to discover what they are good at.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    The Harlem Charade. Natasha Tarpley. 2017. Scholastic.

    Harlem CharadeSeventh graders Jin, Elvin, and Alex are researching class project ideas about their Harlem neighborhood when Elvin’s grandfather is mysteriously attacked. Elvin, locked out of the apartment, ends up living on the streets. The three friends work together to learn what happened to Elvin’s grandfather, who is in a coma. When their sleuthing uncovers a politician’s plan to build “Harlem World,” a nefarious money-making scheme that will cause some residents to lose their homes and businesses, they know they must follow the clues, even as they lead them into danger. Notes about the historical context, events, and locations in the book provide a background for this historical mystery.

    —NB

    When My Sister Started Kissing. Helen Frost. 2017. Margaret Ferguson/Farrar Straus Giroux. 

    When My Sister Started KissingClaire and Abigail had always loved spending a month each summer with their father at his cabin at Heartstone Lake. This year everything is different. Their father has remarried, and expecting a baby. And something between Claire and Abigail has changed. Claire is confused over the changes that are playing out this summer. In an endnote for this beautifully crafted novel in verse, Frost explains her use of different poetic forms to give voice to key characters: quatrains for Claire, free verse for Abigail, and acrostics for the Lake.

    —CA  

    Ages 15+

    Camp So-And-So. Mary McCoy. 2017. Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner.

    Camp So-and-SoLured by a glossy brochure, 25 girls find themselves at remote Appalachian Camp So-And-So. Once their parents leave, the girls realize that something’s not right; facilities and activities are not what the brochure promised, and there is a complete lack of adult supervision. The occupants of the cabins will need to ban together to survive challenges specially chosen for each cabin. McCoy weaves the story from cabin to cabin, across five separate plots, with comments from an omniscient narrator and a counselor-in-training. Readers won’t be able to put down this weird and totally absorbing horror story about a very dangerous summer at camp.

    —CA

    Zenn DiagramZenn Diagram. Wendy Brant. 2017. Loft/Kids Can.

    Reclusive 17-year-old math genius Eva has a special gift. When she touches another person, or anything that belongs to that person, she can instantly read them. This makes her a great math tutor; coaches know that she can be counted on to raise the GPAs of athletes sidelined by poor grades. Because she picks up pain through touch, Eva avoids direct contact with others. She senses an intense emotional “fractal” when she accidentally touches Zenn—a tutee—but as romance blossoms and they embrace, there is no physical agony. Just as Eva decides that it is time to break loose from her self-imposed prison and learn more about life, something happens that cracks her world apart.

    —NB

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

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

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    Sleuths, Detectives, and Spies

    Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 22, 2017

    Readers of all ages are invited to uncover clues, identify suspects, gather evidence, crack codes, and solve crimes alongside the sleuths in these well-crafted mystery and detective stories.

    Ages 4–8

    A Case in Any CaseA Case in Any Case (Detective Gordon #3). Ulf Nilsson. Trans. Julia Marshall. Ill. Gitte Spee. 2017. Gecko.

    Detective Gordon, a toad and longtime chief detective, has taken an extensive leave (a retirement, perhaps). Buffy, a young mouse, is now Detective Buffy. She takes her responsibilities seriously but misses Gordon, especially at night when she hears scrabbling noises at the police station windows. When two kindergarteners (a squirrel named Evert and a rabbit called Karen) go missing on a class excursion to the forest, the police officers don their spiffy police hats, organize a search party, and set out to safely return the children. A smattering of silly songs and an abundance of soft illustrations add to the fun of this chapter book, which makes a great read-aloud choice.
    —CA  

    King & KaylaKing & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats (King & Kayla). Dori Hillestad Butler. Ill. Nancy Meyers. 2017. Peachtree.

    King, a big golden dog, helps his owner, Kayla, figure out who stole the peanut butter dog treats she made for her friend’s new puppy. King is the chief suspect, but he didn’t take the treats…so who did? King does everything he can (in dog-speak, which Kayla doesn’t understand) to lead her in the right direction. While Kayla busily writes pages about what she knows—and doesn’t know—about the case, King follows his nose to the stinky culprit. This mystery for beginning readers, told from King’s point of view, is broken into five bite-sized chapters with clues in the pictures and storyline.
    —NB

    Olivia the SpyOlivia the Spy. Ian Falconer. 2017. Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Olivia’s know-it-all, free-spirited, self-assured behavior has gotten her in trouble. After overhearing her mother say that she wished to send her away “until she develops some sense,” Olivia decides to investigate. She then hears her parents agree that they should take her to an institution. Worried, Olivia asks her teacher, “What is an institution?” Her answer convinces Olivia she’s going to prison. Olivia (and young readers) learn a gentle lesson about eavesdropping, although Olivia still contends that she wasn’t eavesdropping. Welcome back, Olivia.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    The Case of the Counterfeit CriminalsThe Case of the Counterfeit Criminals (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #3). Jordan Stratford. Ill. Kelly Murphy. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    In this historical-mystery-steampunk mash-up, the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—run by two young girls, Ada Byron Lovelace (the first computer programmer) and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (the author of Frankenstein)—takes on a new case that involves fossil hunter Mary Anning and her beloved missing dog. Fossil fakers are blackmailing Anning; to get her dog back, she must authenticate fake dinosaur bones at the British Museum within three days. With Ada orchestrating the case, clues come together with word games, logic puzzles, sinister doll-like minions, Charles Dickens, smoke bombs, and rollicking action. The book includes short character biographies. Readers who missed the first two books in this mystery series will want to catch up while awaiting the release of the fourth book.
    —NB

    The Goldfish Boy. Lisa Thompson. 2017. Scholastic.

    The Goldfish BoyTwelve-year-old Matthew Corbin (Goldfish Boy) is a different sort of sleuth. Blaming himself for his baby brother’s death five years earlier, Matthew has psychological problems that leave him unable to leave his house, fearful of germs, and obsessed with cleanliness. He spends his days peering out his bedroom window, watching the activity in the cul-de-sac neighborhood. When a toddler next door goes missing, Matthew investigates. Taking an everyone-is-a-suspect approach, and with two neighbor kids doing the legwork, he strives to solve the case of the disappearing child that has baffled the police.
    —CA

    The Impossible Clue. Sarah Rubin. 2017. Chicken House/Scholastic.

    The Impossible clueSeventh-grade math whiz Alice Jones is recruited to find Dr. Learner, a scientist who disappeared from a locked room while working on a top-secret invisibility suit. Using keen observation, logic, and common sense, Alice (assisted by classmates Sammy and Kevin) searches for clues to this seemingly insolvable mystery. Alice soon realizes she is not the only one looking for Dr. Learner. With screeching car tires and danger around each corner, Alice knows mysterious men are hot on her trail. This middle-grade mystery invites inquisitive readers to search for answers alongside these three young sleuths.
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    First Class Murder (Wells and Wong Mysteries #3). Robin Stevens. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    First Class MurderIt’s the summer of 1935, and schoolmates Daisy Wong and Hazel Wells take a European excursion on the famed Orient Express. Soon after boarding, they sense that the other passengers have something to hide. During dinner, a scream is heard coming from one of the compartments in the Calais-Simplon-Istanbul Carriage. When the locked door is knocked down, Mrs. Daunt, the wealthy wife of William Daunt (owner of Daunt’s Diet Pills), is found dead. A locked-room murder, a jewel theft, a suspected spy, forged documents, and a first-class car full of likely suspects are all elements of a case that the crime-solving Wells & Wong Detective Society duo cannot resist taking on. Readers may want to read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express to compare plots.
    —CA

    Vampires on the Run (Quinnie Boyd Mystery #2). C. M. Surrisi. 2017. Carolrhoda/Lerner.

    Vampires on the RunThirteen-year-old Quinnie Boyd suspects that Ella’s Aunt Cecil and Uncle Edgar (writers of the popular Count La Plasma series), who are visiting for the summer, are real vampires, killing animals and wreaking havoc in the small Maine town of Maiden Rock. Why else would they avoid sunlight and cover mirrors? And who are the two unknown fishermen lurking around Ella’s home, apparently stalking the writers in the middle of the night? Quinnie, Ella, Ben (a sailing expert), and Dominic (a technology surveillance geek) decide to investigate, leading to two stolen boats and a high-speed chase. These fearless teens could end up grounded for the summer, or much worse. This adventurous, spooky, funny mystery is an engaging read for middle-grade readers.
    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Missing. Kelley Armstrong. 2017. Crown/Random House.

    MissingLike most teens, 17-year-old Crane Winter can’t wait to leave Reeve’s End, KY—her depressed, coal-mining hometown in Appalachia. Her only regret will be leaving the wilderness that she loves and where she spends much of her time to escape her abusive, alcoholic father. When she rescues Lennon Bishop, a stranger who has been attacked in the woods, she learns that he is trying to find out what happened to a missing friend. When Lennon also goes missing, Crane begins to question what really  happens to teens who leave Reeve’s End. The menace of an elusive stalker and a pack of feral dogs prevails throughout this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller.
    —CA

    Splinter. Sasha Dawn. 2017. Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner.

    SplinterWhen 16-year old Sami’s mother disappeared 10 years ago, Sami was convinced that she had deserted her, even though the police suspected foul play. When Sami was found wandering, no amount of questioning could restore her recollections of that day and no investigation turned up answers—or a body. Each November on the anniversary of her mother’s disappearance, Sami still receives a postcard that she turns over to the local sheriff. When new evidence surfaces that involves another missing person, a box of stained clothes, and old photographs, her father is back in the spotlight as a suspect. With the new investigation underway, her dad and stepmother separated, and the neighbors’ teenage nephew in town for the summer, Sami’s world becomes splintered in ways she could never have imagined.
    —NB

    You Don’t Know My Name. Kristen Orlando. 2017. Swoon Reads/Feiwel and Friends.

    You Don't Know My NameSeventeen-year-old Reagan Hillis changes names and identities constantly as her parents—top-secret spies—move around the world. She’s been trained to follow in their footsteps as a spy. This year in New Albany, OH, Reagan finally begins to feel like a normal teenager as she gets to know Luke, a neighbor and classmate, who is in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) with plans for a military career. When Reagan’s parents are kidnapped in retaliation for a murder, Reagan barely escapes being taken, too. Both she and Luke, who was with her, are put in protective custody. In a whirlwind of intrigue and suspense, Reagan and Luke head to South America to rescue her parents before they are killed. This fast-paced thriller delivers on action, hooking readers into the sequel.
    —NB

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

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


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    More Graphic Novels: Have They Taken Us by Surprise?

    By Stan Steiner
     | May 15, 2017

    Graphic novels tend to be more engaging and fast-paced while facilitating essential visual literacy skills, making them well-suited for younger audiences. More educators are embracing graphic novels as a way to hook reluctant readers who may not be interested in traditional texts. This list includes some of the most vibrant new primary-level graphic novels for readers of all ages, abilities, and interests.

    Ages 4–8

    The Amazing Crafty Cat (Crafty Cat #1). Charise Mericle Harper. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    The Amazing Crafty CatYoung Birdie’s positive energy, love of crafting, and strong imagination come together in her creation of the Amazing Crafty Cat—her superhero counterpart who can fix any problem. Crafty Cat’s powers are tested when disaster strikes; Birdie trips on the way to school, dropping and destroying her perfect birthday cupcakes. Is Birdie’s birthday celebration ruined, or will Crafty Cat come to the rescue? Together, Birdie and Craft Cat show readers how to handle bullies, embarrassing moments, and uncomfortable situations with a positive mindset.


    Hotel Strange 4The Ghosts in the Clouds
    (Hotel Strange #4). Katherine Ferrier & Florian Ferrier. Ill. Katherine Ferrier. 2017. Graphic Universe/Lerner.

    At Hotel Strange all occupants are doing their part to get things ready for winter. Their planning comes to a halt when grumpy ghosts arrive to capture Mr. Snarf, a new arrival at the hotel. After a brief encounter with the ghost patrol, the people at Hotel Strange learn that Mr. Snarf is wanted for crimes in his homeland, the Kingdom of Ghosts. A group of hotel guests believe Mr. Snarf has been unjustly accused and decide to launch a rescue mission by way of air balloon. The Kingdom of Ghosts is full of silly rules, and the rescue crew is thrown in jail for picnicking. An exercise in wit leads to their eventual freedom and a surprise realization for all inhabitants of the kingdom.

    My Kite is StuckMy Kite Is Stuck! and Other Stories (Duck, Duck, Porcupine). Salina Yoon. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    Loud and bossy Big Duck, quiet and smart Little Duck, and friendly and kind Porcupine are best friends, despite their personality differences. As they play together, they use their collective problem-solving skills and humor to solve challenges like how to free a kite from a tree, how to make new friends, and how to build the best lemonade stand.


    Word playWordplay
    (Toon into Reading). Ivan Brunetti. 2017. Toon.

    After learning about compound words in class, Annemarie starts to see them everywhere. One day her obsession with discovering compound words goes too far at dinner, and Dad sends Annemarie to her bedroom, where she finds even more. Brunetti’s engaging and humorous approach to learning compound words inspires readers to try their own hands at wordplay.

    Ages 9–11

    The-Big-Bad-FoxThe Big Bad Fox. Benjamin Renner. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Fox and Wolf are determined to get into the hen house to steal some tasty eggs. When Fox manages to sneak past the lazy guard dog and steal three eggs, they decide to raise the chicks until fully grown to provide them with a bigger, more satisfying meal. The plan goes awry when the chicks hatch and call Fox “Mommy.” The unexpected twists and turns that follow as Fox stumbles through parenthood are sure to have readers laughing out loud.

    HiloThe Great Big Boom (Hilo #3). Judd Winick. 2017. Random House.

    Hilo, a robot from another dimension, continues to have adventures with his two best friends, D.J. and Gina, in this latest book of this funny, gripping, and action-packed series. Hilo is still able to fly between planets, but suffers from a mysterious memory loss that is linked to his strange appearance on Earth. The army has picked up on Hilo’s superpowers and throws him and D.J. in jail. When Hilo starts tinkering with the prison security devices, readers are transported into Hilo’s flashbacks. Readers are taken on one rollicking intergalactic adventure after another with the dynamic trio

    Making ScentsMaking Scents. Arthur Yorinks. Ill. Braden Lamb & Shelli Paroline. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Yorinks spins the dog world on its nose in this heartwarming tale about Mickey, a boy raised in a family of bloodhounds by his dog-loving parents. His life is perfect until a tragic accident occurs, and he is sent to live with an aunt and uncle who do not like kids or dogs. In the end, however, Mickey’s dog-like instincts help him win his relatives’ love.


    Star ScoutsStar Scouts
    (Star Scouts #1). Mike Lawrence. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    This uproarious adventure stars two Star Scouts, one on earth and the other in space. As the new girl in town, Avani Patel’s father enrolls her in Flower Scouts to make friends. Avani dislikes the troop; she wants to have adventures, but all the other scouts just like to gossip. Mabel, a Star Scout in space, must identify an alien from Earth to earn a collection badge. Mabel abducts Avani, and they become fast friends through their shared knack for adventure. Life gets exciting for both Avani and Mabel when they compete against a team of bullies for the most badges at Camp Andromeda.  

    Ages 12–14

    Pigs-Might-FlyPigs Might Fly (Pigs Might Fly #1). Nick Abadzis. Ill. Jerel Dye. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Pigdom Plains is the backdrop to this fantastical tale starring Lily Leanchops, who must use her scientific prowess to save all of pigkind. Most hogfolk in Pigdom Plains believe that if pigs were meant to fly, they would have been born with wings. Lily Leanchops, the daughter of a renowned inventor, is determined to prove them wrong and sets out to build an aircraft. Pigs Might Fly is a classic story of good versus evil, complicated by father–daughter love, magic, and politics.  

    Volcano TrashVolcano Trash. Ben Sears. 2017. Koyama.

    This futuristic story follows Volcano Trash and his sidekick robot Hank, a pair of criminals with good intentions. When Volcano Trash and Hank take the rap for a string of break-ins, they are caught by the corrupt police force and put in jail. Hank decides to take the blame so that Volcano Trash can go. Volcano Trash, however, is lost without his partner. In a swashbuckling adventure, he carries out a risky and clever plan to liberate Hank.

    Ages 15+

    Another-CastleAnother Castle (Grimoire #1). Andrew Wheeler. Ill. Paulina Ganucheau. 2017. Oni.

    The story begins when Princess Misty of Beldora is captured by Lord Badlug, the feared, murderous ruler of a neighboring kingdom. Lord Badlug’s plan is to marry Princess Misty and lead Beldora into ruin and chaos. Chivalry, wit, and determination take Princess Misty on a death-defying path to heroism. Along the way, she befriends an assortment of characters with special powers, who help and challenge her mission.


    Colonial ComicsColonial Comics: New England: 1750-1775.
    Jason Rodriguez (Ed.). 2017. Fulcrum.

    Prefaced with factual background information, this story focuses on lesser-known figures and events from an important period in American history. Readers are introduced to such characters as Benjamin Franklin’s older brother James, Phyllis Wheatley, Molly Ockett, Thomas Hutchinson, and Samson Occom. They also get new perspectives on such events as the Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere’s ride. The story is equal parts educational and entertaining.

    YvainYvain: The Knight of the Lion. M. T. Anderson. Ill. Andrea Offermann. 2017. Candlewick.

    Yvain, well trained in King Arthur’s Court, finds more adventure than he bargained for when an unexpected confrontation puts him in direct combat with Sir Esclado, duke of a neighboring castle. Yvain is trapped inside the castle and learns Sir Esclado has died from the wounds he inflicted. As Yvain watches the funeral from his cell window, he realizes he is in love with Sir Esclado’s wife, Lady Laudine. For Yvain to win her heart, he must prove his bravery and defend her land.

    Stan Steiner teaches children’s/young adult literature at Boise State University. He has had a long relationship with bringing awareness to multicultural literature through his teaching and publications. Interacting with kids keeps him abreast of popular reads as is the case with graphic novels.

    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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