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    Books Across the Curriculum

    Susan Knell, Skye Hisiro, and Carolyn Angus
     | Sep 10, 2018

    According to an international study published in 2016 by Zeno Group, today’s youth are more socially and globally minded than previous generations and share an enthusiastic desire to find new solutions to the world's most pressing problems. In this week’s column, we review a few of the many recently published books that introduce critical issues, spark important conversations, invite further exploration, and support the activism of children and young adults who want to contribute to positive change.

    Ages 4–8

    The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: The Story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation. Kate Messner. Ill. Matthew Forsythe. 2018. Chronicle.

    The Brilliant Deep“It starts with one.” Kate Messner uses these four words to begin and end this informational picture book about the work of Ken Nedimyer, coral renewal pioneer and founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation. Though seemingly simple, these four words signify the power of one in generating change, a theme that is echoed throughout the book. Just as a single coral can grow into an entire reef, Ken Nedimyer is a single activist who inspires others to join his efforts to conserve the ocean’s ecosystems through coral reef transplants. The back matter lists additional information on coral reefs, including ideas for activism, print and online resources, and vocabulary terms.
    —SH

    The Day You Begin. Jacqueline Woodson. Ill. Rafael López. 2018. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    The Day You BeginThere will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” Children often feel very different and alone in school, whether it is because of their hair, skin, language, clothes, the food they eat, the vacations not taken, or physical limitations. Woodson gently shifts the story to show how the children in a class learn that they are more alike than different when they begin to share their stories. López’s bright mixed-media illustrations perfectly tell the story along with the text, especially in the eyes of the children. The final double-page spread depicting African-American Angelina and Rigoberto from Venezuela happily swinging together says it all. “This is the day you begin to find the places . . . where every new friend has something a little like you—and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”A Spanish edition, El día en que descubres quíén eres, is also available.
    —SK

    I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness. Kerascoët. 2018. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    I Walk With VanessaBullying is simply and effectively addressed in this wordless picture book by Kerascoët, a French husband and wife team of illustrators. A little girl enters a new school and is verbally accosted by a bully while walking home. A classmate watches as the girl runs into her house in tears. In a simple act of kindness, she knocks on the new girl’s door the next morning and walks with her to school. Other children join them and, as the two girls become surrounded by others, the bully stands alone. The book ends with an informational page on how children can help someone who is being bullied and how adults can talk about this book with children.
    —SK

    Pie Is for Sharing. Stephanie Parsley Ledyard. Ill. Jason Chin. 2018. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook.

    Pie is for SharingStephanie Parsley Ledyard’s spare, poetic text and Jason Chen’s lively watercolor and gouache illustrations depict a Fourth of July picnic, where a diverse group of children and their families are happily sharing books, trees, games, and, of course, pie. “Words and music are made for sharing. So are berries and the last piece of homemade bread. Even the crumbs.” Reading aloud Pie Is for Sharing to young children presents a gentle lesson about equitable sharing (even when it seems like there may not be enough to go around) and a platform for discussing inclusion.
    —SH

    What Can a Citizen Do? Dave Eggers. Ill. Shawn Harris. 2018. Chronicle.

    What Can Citizens Do“What in the world can a citizen do?” Quite a lot, as Eggers and Harris demonstrate in this child-friendly introduction to the basics of citizenship. A simple rhyming text and colorful cut-paper illustrations show how a diverse group of children work together and make compromises to create an inclusive treehouse community on an island on which a single tree grows. This picture book clearly and joyfully informs young children that, as citizens, they can get involved and make a difference. “A citizen’s not what you are—a citizen is what you do.”
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild. Catherine Thimmesh. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    Camp PandaCatherine Thimmesh provides an informative and engaging overview of the giant panda’s comeback by highlighting the work of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda and including numerous full-color photographs of the panda. While conservation efforts like Camp Panda have recently led to a change in the conservation status of the giant panda from endangered to vulnerable, Thimmesh also points out the negative impact humans have had on the species in the past and the necessity for continued activism and conservation. Back matter includes suggestions for how children can learn more about giant pandas and support conservation efforts as well as a glossary, bibliography, brief biographical notes on some of the panda conservation experts, and an index.
    —SH

    Harbor Me. Jacqueline Woodson. 2018. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    Harbor MeHaley recalls the events of the previous school year when Ms. Laverne, their teacher, took the six students in the special fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms to Room 501, the old art room that became the ARTT room—“A Room To Talk”—where they were to sit in a circle and talk about anything they wanted to without adult supervision each Friday. Over the year, within the community of respectful listeners they built, the six children from diverse backgrounds began to use their voices to express feelings and fears about personal problems (which readers will recognize as societal problems, including bullying, racial profiling, deportation of undocumented immigrants, and incarceration of a parent). Harbor Me is yet another moving and memorable novel from master storyteller Jacqueline Woodson.
    —CA

    Red Alert!: Endangered Animals Around the World. Catherine Barr. Ill. Anne Wilson. 2018. Charlesbridge.

    Red Alert!On the first page of this interactive picture book that features 15 endangered animals, the reader is asked to “pick a place” (a biome). This takes them to a page where they “choose a creature” (an endangered animal) and are directed to a colorful double-page spread that includes an introductory “story” and bulleted facts about the species as well as a boxed insert on the conservation status assigned to it by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Finally, the reader is directed to a page for follow-up information about how they can help the showcased endangered species. Back matter includes information on the IUCN Red List, including a list of an additional 60 “red” creatures not featured in the book, which may encourage research to learn about them too.
    —SH

    What’s the Big Deal About Elections. Ruby Shamir. Ill. Matt Faulkner. 2018. Philomel/Penguin.

    What's the Big Deal About ElectionsIn this third book in their What’s the Big Deal About series, Ruby Shamir and Matt Faulkner inform readers about the way our country’s leaders are chosen and why the results of elections are important to everyone. The format of the book is engaging. The topic of each double-page spread is introduced with a question followed by a general paragraph that provides an answer and a lively, interest-catching watercolor and pencil illustration. Additional facts are provided in text boxes paired with spot art. Back matter includes a timeline and an author’s note.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction. Nancy F. Castaldo. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Back from the BrinkThis engaging nonfiction book informs readers about animals that almost became extinct but were saved due to the caring, diligent, and sometimes controversial efforts of organizations, groups, and ordinary citizens. Nancy Castaldo writes about whooping cranes, wolves, bald eagles, giant Galápagos tortoises, condors, alligators, and bison in a well-organized way and includes quotes, sidebars, and captioned photographs. In a “Call to Action!” section, she also discusses ongoing challenges and ways readers can become advocates for wildlife. The extensive back matter includes a bibliography and links to organizations that encourage readers to further their knowledge on these animals that were close to being gone forever.
    —SK

    The Orca Scientists (Scientists in the Field). Kim Perez Valice, Ill. Andy Comins. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Orca ScientistsIn the prologue, readers are introduced to marine biologist Mike Big, who began counting and photographing orcas in the early 1970s over concern that their capture for marine parks was decimating both resident and transient pods in the Pacific Northwest. In six chapters, readers learn about the current research of biologists from the Center for Whale Research focused on Southern Resident orcas in the waters off the San Juan Islands. Sidebars and captioned photographs of orcas and the researchers at work add interest. A “How to Get Involved and Stay Informed” section on efforts to save the endangered orcas is included in the extensive back matter.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. Jessica Burkhart (Ed.). 2018. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    Life Inside My MindThis anthology includes eye-opening and real-life essays by 31 authors about depression, addiction, OCD, anxiety and other mental health problems which have not been discussed frequently in the past. Robison Wells discusses the pills he takes each day, including pills to combat the side effects of other pills. Francesca Lia Block laments on not realizing her good friend suffered from manic depression until it was too late. Dan Wells informs readers that “building your life around a crippling mental illness . . .  is a thing that never leaves you.”  For teenagers who are experiencing any of these issues, this book could be a lifesaver, letting them know that someone else is going through what they are. For all readers, the collection heightens awareness and encourages thoughtful discussions of important mental health issues.
    —SK

    Susan Knell is a professor in the department of Teaching and Leadership at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, where she teaches literacy and literature courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. Skye Hisiro is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is a recent graduate from Pennsylvania State Harrisburg’s Masters in Literacy Education Program.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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    Celebrating the Freedom to Read

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Sep 03, 2018
    Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom maintains a list of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. Last year, the office recorded 354 challenges to library, school, and university materials.

    Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read, affords the book-loving community the opportunity to reflect on the value of free and open access to information. First celebrated in 1982, this year Banned Books Week runs from September 23–29 with the theme “Banning Books Silences Stories.” Naturally, some ideas presented in books and other artistic expressions are more controversial than others, but those of us who support intellectual freedom consider Banned Books Week an important time to advocate for the free exchange of ideas and to speak out against attempts to silence voices by banning or limiting access to certain books.

    Thirteen Reasons Why. Jay Asher. 2007. Razorbill/Penguin.                                                                                                                 
    Thirteen Reasons WhyThrough tapes sent to some of her classmates, a troubled teen cites the reasons she no longer wants to live and makes them realize their culpability in her suicide. Several school districts challenged the book, which recently experienced a resurgence in popularity after it was adapted for a Netflix series, because it discusses suicide.

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sherman Alexie. Ill. Ellen Forney. 2007. Little, Brown.

    The Absolutely True DiaryThis autobiographical story about Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation who leaves to attend an all-white farm town high school, is humorous, honest, and eye-opening. The winner of a National Book Award, this novel has been challenged by schools because of how it portrays poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality and for its use of profanity.

    Drama. Raina Telgemeier. 2012. Graphix/Scholastic.

    DramaThe protagonist of this middle-grade graphic novel, Callie, a member of her middle-school drama department’s stage crew, finds that there is just as much drama offstage as there is on. Recipient of a Stonewall Honor Award, Drama was challenged and banned in some school libraries because complainants were worried about its inclusion of LGBT characters and others considered it to be “confusing.”

    The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini. 2003. Riverhead/Penguin.

    Kite RunnerKabul, Afghanistan, is the setting for this story of an unlikely friendship between two boys— the son of a wealthy family and the son of his father’s servant. Mistakes are made, and the friendship is betrayed, leaving Amir haunted by his past and his failure to act at a critical moment in time. The novel was challenged and banned in some cases for the inclusion of sexual violence. Other complainants worried that reading the book would “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”

    George. Alex Gino. 2015. Scholastic.

    GeorgeFourth grader George, who has always identified as a girl, longs to play the role of Charlotte in the school’s production of Charlotte’s Web. Her teacher and mother are less than supportive, but George finds a steadfast ally in her best friend, Kelly. A Lambda Literary Award winner, the novel was challenged and banned for including a transgender child.

    Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and YOU. Cory Silverberg. Ill. Fiona Smyth. 2015. Triangle Square.

    Sex is a Funny WordForthright and accessible, this informational book uses colorful cartoons and direct language to communicate basic information about the human body, gender, and sexuality. The book steers away from making judgments, instead offering a place for young people and adults to have important conversations about sex. Complainants were bothered simply because the book addresses the topic of sex education, leading some to be concerned that reading it would encourage students to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”

    To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

    To Kill a MockingbirdEvents in a small Southern town reveal both the goodness and the evil that are hidden there from a child’s point of view of her attorney father’s efforts to insure justice amid racism and bigotry. Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and a mainstay of many middle grade language arts classrooms, the book’s violence and use of "the N-word" were considered problematic by complainants.

    The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

    The Hate U GiveSixteen-year-old Starr Carter is galvanized into the social justice movement after her friend, Kahlil, is shot when they are on a ride in a car. A Michael L. Printz Honor Award winner, this novel for teens was challenged and banned because complainants considered it to be “pervasively vulgar” and were concerned about the inclusion of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.

    And Tango Makes Three. Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson. Ill. Henry Cole. 2005. Simon & Schuster.

    And Tango Makes ThreeWhen a zookeeper at the Central Park Zoo in New York City notices two male penguins, Silo and Roy, sitting on a rock in an apparent attempt to nurture an egg, he gives them a fertilized egg, which hatches, and their family expands with Tango becoming the much-longed for third member. This picture book has appeared on the Most Challenged list many times because it highlights a relationship between two males.

    I Am Jazz. Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. Ill. Shelagh McNicholas. 2014. Dial/Penguin.

    I Am JazzChallenged because it addresses gender identity, this picture book describes the experiences of coauthor Jazz Jennings, who says she knew she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body since she was 2 years old. The process of her parents’ coming to terms with their daughter’s feelings and identity and how they supported her in her struggles for acceptance are covered in simple terms here.

    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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    More Graphic Novels

    By Carrie Thomas and Carolyn Angus
     | Aug 27, 2018

    As we continue to read books in graphic novel format, we are delighted to discover many that we can recommend for instructional use in literacy-centered classrooms as well as for independent reading for both information and pleasure. The recently published books reviewed in this week’s column represent the diversity of graphic novels that readers of all ages will find engaging and enriching.

    Ages 4–8

    Grace for Gus. Harry Bliss. 2918. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    Grace for GusNew York City provides the setting for this story about Grace, a young girl who wants to raise money to get a friend for the class guinea pig, Gus. One evening, Grace goes into the city to earn money by playing the violin on the subway platform, drawing caricatures on Fifth Avenue, and dancing on a train. Bliss captures the diverse population of the city through vibrant illustrations, which include visual nods to other comic book characters and famous people and sight gags, that make this nearly wordless picture book in graphic novel format fun to read. It’s a treat to go along with Grace as she goes into the city, working to get a buddy for Gus.
    —CT

    Macanudo: Olga Rules! (Macanudo #4). Liniers. Trans. Mara Faye Lethem. 2018. Enchanted Lion.

    MacanudoSince 2002, Liniers has been writing “Macanudo,” a popular daily comic strip in La Nación, a leading Argentina newspaper. This latest collection of Liniers’ imaginative and sometimes surreal comics features Olga, the big-eyed, toothy, blue imaginary friend of a young boy named Martin. There are also comics about other favorite characters (introduced in the first three volumes of the Macanudo series), including the young girl Henrietta; Fellini, her cat; Mandelbaum, her teddy bear; Oliverio, the olive; and the Mysterious Man in Black. These comics, which are both entertaining and thought-provoking, will induce chuckles from readers of all ages.
    CA

    The Party and Other Stories (Fox + Chick #1). Sergio Ruzzier. 2018. Chronicle.

    Fox and Chick: The PartySergio Ruzzier introduces young readers to best friends Fox and Chick in three humorous short stories. In “The Party,” Chick disrupts Fox’s reading by knocking at his door, asking to use his bathroom, and then proceeding to use it to have a party with his friends. In “Good Soup,” Chick learns that it’s a good thing that Fox loves to eat vegetable soup rather than small animals such as squirrels, lizards—and little birds. In “Sit Still,” Chick comes along while Fox is painting a landscape and begs to have his portrait painted. Of course, Chick can’t sit still long enough. The cheerful pastel ink and watercolor illustrations and simple, repetitive text presented entirely in dialogue balloons make this book a good choice for newly independent readers.
    CA

    A Tale of Two Sloths (Peter & Ernesto #1). Graham Annable. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Peter and ErnestoPeter and Ernesto, two sloths, live contently in a tree until a conversation ending with “nothing ever changes for you and me” makes Ernesto want to see what else is out there. Despite Peter’s hesitation, Ernesto heads out on an adventure to see “ALL of the sky.” On his journey, Ernesto meets animals who help him discover what other pieces of the sky look like when viewed from the ocean to the desert. Back in the tree, concerned for Ernesto, Peter decides to go after him, and sets out on an adventure of his own. After a series of animal encounters, Peter and Ernesto are reunited to share what they learned from their adventures. The natural color palette of Annable’s illustrations provides a realistic background for Peter and Ernesto’ tale. Young readers will enjoy the simple text and the humor of this book.
    —CT

    Ages 9–11

    Akissi: Tales of Mischief (Akissi #2). Marguerite Abouet. Trans. Judith Taboy & Marie Bédrune. Ill. Mathieu Sapin. 2018. Flying Eye/Nobrow.

    AkissiAkissi, a strong-willed little girl, gets into humorous situations in this collection of graphic short stories that reflect the author’s experiences growing up in the Ivory Coast. This aptly titled book, first published in France, is filled with Akissi’s day-to-day mini-adventures and some cautionary tales. For example, in “Tooth-Puller,” Akissi eats too many sweets and must go to the dentist, which turns into a scary adventure. The panels with colorful, expressive artwork and dialogue in speech bubbles make these stories easy to follow. With 21 six-page stories, it’s a book that can be enjoyed in one sitting or in small bursts. Bonus pages include recipes and instructions on how to make African braids.
    —CT

    Be Prepared. Vera Brosgol. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Be PreparedNine-year-old Russian immigrant Vera, who has a hard time fitting in with her suburban classmates, looks forward to attending a summer camp where she is sure she’ll make friends—a camp for Russian American kids in the Connecticut woods. However, camp is not what she expected. Her cabinmates are mean, the toilets are smelly outhouses, and there’s too much marching, too many odd camp traditions, too many pesky insects and spiders, and too much Russian. Although camp is a big disappointment, Vera deals with it, trying to fit in but getting it all wrong. Readers should be prepared to laugh out loud as Vera Brosgol shares memories of her childhood experiences at Russian summer camp in this engaging graphic novel.
    CA

    The Cardboard Kingdom. Chad Sell. 2018. Knopf/Random House.

    Th Cardboard KingdomWhat do you get when you take a neighborhood full of resourceful kids, piles of discarded cardboard, and lots of imagination? The Cardboard Kingdom! In this delightful book, illustrated by Chad Sell and written by multiple authors, the reader is transported to a world where a prince is saved by a rogue, and a gentle cat is turned into a fierce dragon. A diverse neighborhood ensures that readers will relate to one or more characters. Sell uses subtle yet effective differences in illustration style to cue the reader as to which parts are real and which are imaginative. The expectation-defying kingdom inhabitants and their stories are woven together through chapters and in small vignettes. Will the Gargoyle keep his house safe from evil? Who will save Megolopolis from the Bully? A final adventure before school starts brings the kids together for a celebratory conclusion to a quest-filled summer.
    —CT

    Ages 12–14

    Illegal. Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin. Ill. Giovanni Rigano. 2018. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks.

    IllegalIllegal is an accessible exploration of the plight of illegal immigrants in the 21st century in graphic novel format. Orphaned 12-year-old Ebo makes a perilous journey from Ghana, crossing the Sahara Desert to Tripoli, Libya, where he eventually finds his brother, Kwame, who left, without a word, 19 months earlier. After earning funds to purchase a “ticket” on a boat, they set out to cross the Mediterranean Sea with the hope of locating their sister, Sisi, in Europe. Chapters shift between events at sea, from being adrift in an overcrowded dinghy to Ebo’s rescue by a search helicopter, and flashbacks of his trek across Africa. Ebo’s story ends in an Italian refugee camp, where although sad that Kwame did not survive, he is reunited with Sisi. Back matter includes a creator’s note providing a context for Illegal and “Journey: Helen’s Story,” a five-page comic adaptation of a true account of a refugee from Sudan.
    CA

    Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter. Marcus Sedgwick. Ill. Thomas Taylor. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Scarlett Hart Monster HunterScarlett Hart has taken over her parents’ monster hunting after they were killed, even though she is technically underage to be doing so. Unfortunately, the Count, also a monster hunter, uses every opportunity he can to take Scarlett’s catches away from her. Scarlett eventually finds out why the Count has it out for her and learns how he manages to be in the same place she is almost every time she finds monsters. The artwork, done in a dark color palette, captures the underground England setting. The panels clearly show small details of events and express the emotions of characters, which is especially helpful on the pages with little or no dialogue. Middle-grade readers will enjoy the action and the steampunk flavor of the book.
    —CT

    Ages 15+

    I Am Gandhi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero (Ordinary People Change the World). Brad Meltzer. 2018. Dial/Penguin.

    I Am Gandhi“Only united are we unstoppable.” Gandhi’s principles, accompanied by well-researched facts, are found throughout Brad Meltzer’s comprehensive biography of the peaceful activist Mahatma Gandhi. Twenty-five comic book illustrators bring this book (a version of Meltzer’s 2017 biography of Gandhi in his “I Am” series for younger readers) to life. Ghandi’s life story is told from his own point of view as well as from those of bystanders. Sometimes the characters interact with each other, and at other times, they face and seem to be speaking directly to the reader. Back matter includes quotes, a timeline, photos of Gandhi, sources, suggestions for further reading, information about Seeds of Peace (an organization the contributors feel “embodies Gandhi’s mission”), and biographical notes on contributors.
    —CT

    The Strange. Jérôme Ruillier. Trans. Helge Dascher. 2018. Drawn & Quarterly.

    The StrangeIn his first book translated into English, Jérôme Ruiller (who was born in Madagascar and lives in France) tells the story of the journey of an undocumented immigrant. With a third-person narrative and paneled artwork of colored pencil drawings, Ruiller portrays the life of an unnamed oversized dog–person, one of “the stranges” in an unnamed country, from the points of view of individuals he encounters as he tries to adapt and survive in the city while under the constant threat of deportation. These individuals (animal–persons of various species) reflect a range of responses to the immigrant: indifference, fear, hostility, exploitation, kindness, and advocacy. The epilogue tells how he is put on a plane by authorities and returned to the country he left nine years earlier. This beautifully crafted graphic novel is realistic, universal, and timely.
    —CA

    Carrie Thomas is a reading specialist at First Philadelphia Charter School. Previously, she was a public school music teacher and worked with non-profit administration and outreach. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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

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    Biography and the Arts

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Aug 20, 2018

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

    Ages 4–8

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

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

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

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

    Libba

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

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

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

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

    Ages 911

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 12–14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 15+

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

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

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

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

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    School Stories

    By Jennifer Shettel
     | Aug 13, 2018

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

    Ages 4–8             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Twig. Aura Parker. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

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

    Ages 9–11

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ages 12–14

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

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

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

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

    Ages 15+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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