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    • Children's & YA Literature

    Friends and Families

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Jun 19, 2019

    Books that focus on friends and families are popular with young readers, possibly because they remind them of their own supportive networks. The books on this list illustrate the positive power of community.

    Ages 4–8

    The Lost Sloths (Peter & Ernesto #2). Graham Annable. 2019. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    The Lost SlothsReturning to the same characters and territory featured in Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths (2018), Graham Annable follows Peter and Ernesto and their sloth friends as they search for a new home after their favorite tree is destroyed in a hurricane. Their requirements are simple: They want to be safe from predators and relax in comfort. They try various spots, but nothing seems ideal. After a bird suggests a perfect tree near the river, the sloths blunder toward where they think it might be. Eventually, they find a new home, but their journey is not without its challenges, including an encounter with a jaguar. As they settle into their leafy home, it’s not clear how long this new living situation will last, but they’re all safe for now. Annable tells this humorous adventure story for beginning readers through dialogue balloons in colorful graphic novel panels.

    Make a Wish, Henry Bear. Liam Francis Walsh. 2019. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook.

    Make a Wish, Henry BearAlthough Henry Bear’s birthday wish from last year came true, it hasn’t turned out well. Having permissive parents has resulted in a steady diet of chocolate cake, late night hours, and tardiness to school. Henry is sick of his parents’ behavior and ready to go back to normal as he reveals to Marjani, a new classmate. When he invites her to his birthday celebration, she brings him a cupcake with a candle for wishing, which comes in handy since Henry's parents are serving only candy, not a traditional birthday cake with candles. The colorful mixed-media cartoon artwork features charming village street scenes and humorously depicts Henry Bear’s parents behaving like children. By the end of the book, it’s clear what Henry’s new birthday wish will be.

    Old Man of the Sea. Stella Elia. Ill. Weberson Santiago. 2019. Lantana.

    Old Man of the SeaIn this picture book, a young boy and his grandfather grow closer through storytelling. Grandpa’s tales of adventures at sea, as he fell in love with one continent after another, thrill the boy and make him eager for his own adventures. Although the stories and illustrations, created with watercolor and finished digitally, are exciting and charming in their own way, the book gains power from the boy's observations about his grandfather’s increasing frailty and growing understanding of his advice about life, calling it “a sailor's knot: simple, resistant and easy to untie.” Youngsters will relate to the idea of listening to someone else’s stories and dreaming of their own adventures. Older readers may ponder over how elderly people look back on their life journeys, knowing that there isn’t much time left for future stories.

    A Squirrely Situation (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet # 5). Jacqueline Kelly. Ill. Jennifer L. Meyer. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    A Squirrelly SituationWhen Callie Vee’s brother Travis brings home an orphaned baby squirrel, the whole household is disrupted by its arrival. Fortunately, the family cat, Idabelle, nurses the squirrel (named Fluffy by Travis) alongside her kitten, Thud. Thud and Fluffy wreak havoc in the kitchen getting in the way of the family’s cook, Viola. Callie puts her veterinary skills to use when Fluffy's tail needs surgery after an accident with a door. When a contest is held at the local fair to determine who killed the most squirrels and who has bagged the biggest squirrel, Travis enters Fluffy in the biggest squirrel category since there is nothing in the rules that says the squirrel must be dead. Life lessons are woven in among humorous childhood adventures in rural Texas at the turn of the century in this engaging, illustrated chapter book.

    Ages 9–11

    Battle of Champions (Peasprout Chen #2). Henry Lien. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    Battle of the ChampionsIn her second year at the Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout Chen is determined to make the most of her opportunities. Her friendship with Doi, her former adversary, is on firm footing, and she continues to have romantic feelings toward Doi’s brother, Hisashi. When Hisahi arrives in Pearl with Yinmei, the heir to the Shinian throne, who is seeking asylum in Pearl, things get complicated. Peasprout, jealous of the possible relationship between the two, doesn’t trust the girl. As her new homeland faces attacks, Peasprout and the other students are sorted in battlebands to practice competitive skating and defensive maneuvers. Even though she becomes captain of her group, Peasprout struggles with making decisions and dealing with self-pride and impulsivity. Amid the exciting skating and battle scenes, Peasprout realizes her character weaknesses and how she has hurt others. Because of all the intrigue and layers of betrayal, readers won’t want to leave Peasprout’s world.

    The Epic Story (Cilla Lee-Jenkins #3) . Susan Tan. Ill. Dana Wulfekotte. 2019. Roaring Brook.

    The Epic StoryBecause she views the world through the lens of a writer, Cilla Lee-Jenkins provides readers with a unique perspective on life. The challenges she faces as part of a mixed-race family and as a preteen are relatable. Having already written a “bestseller” and a “classic,” Cilla decides to write an epic, an apt choice since her fifth-grade year has the types of challenges that might be found in one. Cilla feels unsure about transitioning to middle school, doesn't get along with her teacher, Ms. Paradise, and almost forsakes playing the tuba and silly games with her friend Melissa because of the dismissive remarks of classmates. Her beloved Ye Ye, who has always guided her about being true to herself, can no longer speak English because of a stroke, but Cilla soldiers on, supported by her family and librarian friend, Ms. Clutter. Cilla is not only writing an epic, she and those around her also seem to be living one—and she’s hoping for a happy ending.

    Ages 12–14

    The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. Dan Gemeinhart. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    The Remarkable JourneyTwelve-year-old Coyote and her father, Rodeo, have been crisscrossing the country in a repurposed school bus since her mother and two sisters were killed in a car accident. Coyote has had no problem with this lifestyle until she learns that Poplin Springs, Washington, plans to destroy the park where her family left a memory box. She concocts a plan to persuade her father to take her back home, and as they make their way across the country from Florida, they pick up various passengers, including Lester, who plans to forsake his music career for his lady love; Salvador, who is fleeing with his mother from an abusive father; Val, a girl whose parents won't accept her sexual identity; and a feisty goat named Gladys. Readers will come to care about Coyote, who is dealing with loss and grief, as well as those who become a family for her.

    Ages 15+

    Girls on the Verge.  Sharon Biggs Waller. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    Girls on the VergeThis timely novel about women’s reproductive rights focuses on three girls, one of whom is pregnant, on a road trip from rural Texas to Mexico and then New Mexico. When her best friend, Bea, lets her down, Camille arranges for Annabelle Ponsonby, an older theater friend, to drive her where she needs to go to find a way to terminate the pregnancy. The author captures Camille’s confusion, frustration, and disappointment in herself as well as the conflicted emotions of Bea, who decides to go along despite her belief that abortion is wrong. The solidarity of sisterhood is threaded through this story while the book raises important questions about the judgmental attitudes that surround the sexual behavior of women but not men. Important and relevant, this book should provoke much discussion.

    Heroine. Mindy McGinnis. 2019. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    HeroineSenior Mickey Catalan has the world on a string, and everything that matters is going her way—until suddenly it isn't. After the talented softball catcher and her best friend, Carolina, a pitcher, are injured in a car wreck, OxyContin eases Mickey’s pain as she faces months of recovery. When her doctor balks at prescribing more OxyContin, Mickey, who is desperate to be ready for the softball season, behaves in ways she’d never have dreamed she would, stealing from her family and a stranger and hanging out with others using the drug for recreational purposes. Things quickly spiral out of control, and Mickey looks for cheaper and more efficient ways to ease her feelings and stave off withdrawal symptoms. Through it all, she lies to everyone around her and comforts herself with the assertion that she isn’t an addict. For anyone trying to understand the opioid crisis in our country, Mindy McGinnis’ story provides a good starting point.

    How to Make Friends With the Dark. Kathleen Glasgow. 2019. Delacorte/Random House.

    How to Make Friends With the DarkSixteen-year-old Grace (Tiger) Tolliver is close to her mother, the only parent she’s ever known. Her mother somehow manages to pay the bills, and they scrape by. Lately, Tiger has been chaffing at her mother’s overprotective ways, and she unhappy when her mother buys a dress she considers inappropriate for the dance she’s attending with her long-time crush. She blasts her mother, and then spends a blissful few hours kissing Kai. The first 38 pages are devoted to Before—before her mother's death, that is—and are followed by what comes afterward as Tiger is placed in a series of foster homes near Tucson, where she learns that things can be much, much worse. Ultimately, Tiger saves herself with help from friends, some old, some new, and some having gone through similar experiences. The title is fitting since that is exactly what someone with a life-changing loss must do. Kathleen Glasgow takes an unflinching look at a topic that many avoid and includes resources about grief, loss, and suicide.

    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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    Celebrating Pride Month

    By Susan Knell and Carolyn Angus
     | Jun 12, 2019

    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan—a catalyst for the modern gay rights movement in the United States. The books reviewed in this column present stories for readers of all ages about gender identity and expression, LGBTQ+ families and relationships, and the spirit of Pride.

    Ages 4–8

    It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity. Theresa Thorn. Ill. Noah Grigni. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    It Feels Good to be YourselfThis picture books introduces four children: Ruthie, a transgender girl; Xavier, Ruthie’s cisgender brother; and Ruthie’s friends Alex and JJ, who both identify as nonbinary (Alex identifies as “both a boy and a girl” while JJ identifies as “neither a boy nor a girl”). Theresa Thorn and Noah Grigni explore gender identity with easy-to-understand language and colorful, expressive mixed-media illustrations. “There are a never-ending number of ways to be yourself in the world. Whether you feel like a boy, a girl, both, or neither, or if you describe yourself another way that is your gender identity.” Back matter includes a glossary, a note about pronouns and how they relate to gender identities, resources (books for kids, books for adults, a documentary film, and a list of organizations and helplines), an author’s note, and an illustrator’s note. 
    —CA

    Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. Rob Sanders. Ill. Jamey Christoph. 2019. Random House.

    StonewallThe Stonewall Inn itself narrates this picture book about its history. The building was erected in the 1840s as two side-by-side stable houses in Greenwich Village, and after a number of transformations, became the Stonewall Inn, a bar and dance club for the gay community in the 1960s. The Stonewall Inn witnessed frequent raids by the New York City police, and in the early hours of June 28, 1969, those not arrested during a raid didn’t just quietly disappear into the darkness as was usual; they defiantly stood in the street. “Immediately the spark of anger grew into a smoldering resistance….The Stonewall Uprising had begun.” Back matter includes a history of the Stonewall Inn; an album of captioned photographs; an interview with Martin Boyce, a participant in the Stonewall Uprising and LGBTQ+ activist; a glossary; and a list of books and websites for further reading.
    —CA

    When Aidan Became a Brother. Kyle Lukoff. Ill. Kaylani Juanita. 2019. Lee & Low.

    When Aidan Became a BrotherWhen Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a girl’s name, pretty dresses, and a room complete with a frilly, pink princess bed. As he got bigger, Aidan disliked his birth name and felt like his room belonged to someone else. Aidan knew he was really “another kind of boy.” He tells his parents what he knows about himself, and he and his parents join a supportive group of families with transgender kids. When his mother tells him she is having a baby, Aidan wants to make sure that this baby will feel understood right away. He helps his parents prepare for the baby’s arrival and knows that loving the baby is the most important part of being a big brother. The author’s note for this heartwarming and joyful story reminds young readers that “Aidan is a transgender kid, but he’s also just a kid. Like you.”
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel. Ray Terciero. Ill. Bre Indigo. 2019. Little, Brown.

    Meg, Jo, Beth, and AmyIn this modern adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the four March sisters are part of a blended family living in modern-day Brooklyn. Meg and her father are African American, Jo and her mother are white, and Beth and Amy are biracial. The four March girls have distinct personalities and interests. The eldest, Meg, works as a nanny, loves fashion, and dreams of marrying a rich man; Jo, who is gay, wants to be a writer and works as a personal assistant for Aunt Cath; Beth is shy, loves singing and playing the guitar, and has leukemia; and the youngest, Amy, who is bullied at school, is feisty and artistic. How the sisters support each other while dealing with personal and family problems is revealed through full-color digital graphic panels with realistic dialogue, journal entries, and emails to their father, who is serving in the military in the Middle East. This contemporary retelling of Alcott’s classic will appeal to middle-grade readers.
    —CA

    To Night Owl From Dogfish. Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. 2019. Dial/Penguin.

    To Night Owl From DogfishIn this novel told entirely in emails and letters, California surfer girl Bett and New York bookworm Avery discover that their dads have fallen in love. Having no interest in becoming part of a blended family, or even worse, becoming friends, the two girls start emailing, assuring each other that they’ll never become friends, but all the while getting to know each other online. To make matters worse, they’re both sent to a summer camp where their dads hope they will become good friends—and take to the idea of becoming sisters. The girls’ summer camp experience turns into an adventure that they never expected, and Night Owl and Dogfish (nicknames they give themselves) end up bonding in surprising and delightful ways.
    —SK 
     
    The Whispers. Greg Howard. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    The WhispersEleven-year-old Riley’s mother has been missing, and no one in his family wants to talk about it. Riley refers to his “condition” of wetting the bed, he also fears that his other “condition”—his interest in boys, especially one boy—may have been the reason for his mother’s disappearance. Remembering his mother’s tale about the Whispers, magical woodland creatures who will grant your heart’s desire if you leave them tributes, he ventures into the woods to hear them whispering that his mother is there. As Riley explores his identity as a gay preteen, readers discover what happened to his mother. Childhood traumatic grief is portrayed along with themes of sexual identity, family, friendship, and loss.
    —SK

    Ages 12–14

    The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets. Gayle E. Pitman. 2019. Abrams.

    The Stonewall RiotsGayle E. Pitman presents the history of the gay movement in the United States from the late 1800s to the Stonewall Riots in 1968 and their aftermath. Organized into five sections (Before the Riots, the Riots, Aftermath, Liberation, and Epilogue), brief chapter feature objects of historical importance in telling the story. Object #1 is the Jefferson Livery Stables, adjacent buildings constructed in 1843 and 1846, which eventually became the Stonewall Inn located at 52 and 53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The final chapter with Object #50, The Stonewall Inn Today, ends with a powerful statement, “The Stonewall Inn is where the gay community found its voice, seized its power, and took action. It’s the birthplace of the modern LBGTQ+ movement—and once an entire community comes out of the closet, there’s no turning back.” Back matter includes a timeline; notes about each of the objects; an extensive bibliography of primary sources, books, articles, papers, websites, and broadcast; and an index.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    I Wish You All the Best. Mason Deaver. 2019. Push/Scholastic.

    I Wish You All the BestWhen 18-year-old nonbinary Ben De Backer comes out to their parents, they are promptly kicked out of the house. They find a home with their sister, Hannah, who they haven’t seen in 10 years, and her husband. Ben navigates their way through anxiety, loneliness, and rejection as they finish their senior year in a new school with new friends, a supportive art teacher, and a special friend named Nathan. As their friendship with Nathan turnsinto something more serious, Ben begins to realize a happier life is in their future and they have the opportunity to help other teenagers understand their own sexuality and find happiness.
    —SK

    The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried. Shaun David Hutchinson. 2019. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    The Past and Other ThingsWhen Dino’s ex-best friend, a girl named July, dies suddenly, he has conflicting feelings toward his boyfriend, Rafi, who seemingly came between him and July. Dino makes his way to the funeral home that his parents own and finds July there, but not as he is used to seeing the dead. She is partly alive and partly dead, like a zombie. Dino and July try to understand what is happening with her while also figuring out how their friendship ended. Rafi patiently waits for Dino to come to terms with July’s death, which brings them even closer. This weirdly funny “zombie-esque” novel entertains and enlightens readers while dealing with topics of friendship, grief, and love.
    —SK

    The Weight of the Stars. K. Ancrum. 2019. Imprint/Macmillan.

    The Weight of the StarsRyann Bird, who has been living in a trailer park with her brother and nephew since her parents were killed in an accident, attends an affluent high school. When she is asked by her teacher to befriend new girl Alexandria, Ryann hides behind her “tough girl” exterior, and their relationship gets off to a rocky start. As Ryann and her friends learn more about Alexandria’s attempts to communicate with her mother, who volunteered for a one-way trip into space sponsored by a private company named SCOUT, they try to infiltrate SCOUT to find undelivered messages that Alexandria’s mother sent through the years. Ryann and Alexandria become close and discover that their feelings for each other run deeper than just friendship.
    —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. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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    Summer Reading

    By Jennifer W. Shettel and Carolyn Angus
     | Jun 03, 2019

    As the school year ends, it’s time to encourage students to include frequent visits to their local libraries throughout the summer (and perhaps sign up for summer reading programs). In this week’s column, we review some sweet and savory reads with summery themes as well as several informational books that will get readers of all ages involved in new activities.

    Ages 4–8

    Hello Summer! (Hello Seasons!). Shelley Rotner. Holiday House.

    Hello Summer!What do children do in the summer? They go barefoot, drink lemonade, play in the park, go swsimming, and more! Shelley Rotner’s simple but descriptive text and vibrant color photographs present a diverse group of kids doing all kinds of fun things as the days get longer and warmer following spring and then shorter and cooler with the approach of autumn. Hello Summer! completes author–photographer Rotner’s series celebrating the seasons of the year.
    —JS

    Hazy Bloom and the Mystery Next Door (Hazy Bloom #3). Jennifer Hamburg. Ill. Jenn Harney. 2019. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan.

    Hazy BloomSummer is finally here, and Hazy Bloom is “for real live” ready for the fun to commence. All her friends, however, have summer camp plans, so Hazy is on her own in making vacation exciting—and her “tomorrow power,” strange visions that foreshadow something that will happen the next day, will play a big part. The problem with this superpower, however, is that sometimes she can’t quite predict how a particular vision will actually play out and, in this case, it leads to hilarious missteps and a mystery involving the empty house next door that’s not quite as scary as Hazy thinks it is.
    —JS

    The Nature Girls. Aki. 2019. Godwin/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    The Nature Girls“We’re Nature Girls! We must explore. / We pack our bags, we’re out the door. / . . . and off we go!” The 16 adventurous and always-smiling Nature Girls take young readers on a trek around the globe as they explore various biomes, beginning with a journey to the sea where they scuba dive and swim with dolphins and fish. Aki’s vibrant cartoon illustrations invite readers to examine each page closely to spot the various animals that inhabit each biome. Back matter includes a two-page spread “Meet the Biomes” providing a definition of the term biome and brief information about the biomes (aquatic, desert, grassland, tundra, forest) featured in the book.
    —JS

    Sea Glass Summer. Michelle Houts. Ill. Bagram Ibatoulline. Candlewick.

    Sea Glass SummerIn the summer, Thomas enjoys using a magnifying glass that belonged to his grandfather to explore things that wash up on the beach near his grandmother’s island cottage and begins collecting sea glass with her. When Thomas finds a new piece, he has a dream that night about how the glass wound up in the sea long ago. Returning home at the end of the summer, Thomas drops the magnifying glass on the deck of the ferry and throws the broken pieces overboard. Years later, another child finds a piece of sea glass and dreams about a boy named Thomas. Bagram Ibatoulline’s stunning watercolor paintings show the connection between the past and present with the children’s summer activities at the seaside in full color and their dreams in dramatic, gray-toned double spreads.
    —JS

    Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore. Susan Wood. Ill. Steliyana Doneva. Sleeping Bear.

    Sandy Feet!“Wading feet,  / sandpiper hops / water curls and sprays. / Crawling feet, / click-clack crab / scuttles on its way.” On a family outing at the beach, two young children investigate a variety of tracks they find in the sand. Told in brief rhyming text, this is a delightful summer story about their joy in exploring footprints at the shore. An appended two-page spread includes notes about being an “ecology detective” and identifying the animals that made the tracks the children discover. Whimsical illustrations in beachy colors add to the warm tone of this story about a fun summer activity.
    —JS

    Waiting for Chicken Smith. David Mackintosh. 2019. Candlewick.

    Waiting for Chicken SmithThe narrator has just arrived at his family’s cabin and is awaiting the arrival of his friend, Chicken Smith, who spends the summer at the beach with his dad and his dog, Jelly. Ignoring his little sister’s attempts to get him to join her activities, he hangs around Chicken’s vacant cabin and thinks about the adventures they’ll have once he arrives. Realizing that his friend’s cabin looks different this year (readers will notice a Summer Rental sign on the door), he walk down to the beach and, responding to his sister’s “Just hurry up!” cry, follows her up the hill to the lighthouse and sees something he and Chicken have never seen: a whale. David Macintosh’s mixed-media illustrations set the scene for this touching story of a child’s anticipation of renewal of an old friendship and the possibility of making new memories of summer fun with someone else.
    —CA

    Ages 911

    Caterpillar Summer. Gillian McDunn. 2019. Bloomsbury.

    Caterpillar SummerEven though she’s only 11, Cat has always taken charge of her younger brother, Chicken, who has special needs. Their dad died when they were younger, and their mom is a children’s book author who holds down a variety of small teaching jobs to make ends meet. When their summer plans take an unexpected turn, Cat and Chicken find themselves spending three weeks on Gingerbread Island with their maternal grandparents, whom they meet for the first time. Cat and Chicken find island life fun, and they enjoy getting to know their grandparents in this story of family secrets, growing up, and getting along, which ends with Cat and Chicken looking forward to spending the next summer on Gingerbread Island.
    —JS

    Maybe a Mermaid. Josephine Cameron. 2019. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan.

    Maybe a MermaidWhen Anthoni and her mom make a plan, they always “stick to the plan!” That’s one of the many mantras of Beauty & the Bee, the cosmetics company that Anthoni’s mom works for as a salesperson. The plan for this summer is to spend a few weeks at the Showboat Resort on Thunder Lake, where Anthoni’s mom has wonderful memories of summers spent there as a child, and Anthoni has a plan to make this the summer she finds a “true blue” friend. When they arrive, it’s clear that the run-down resort is not the place that her mom fondly recalls, and soon Anthoni finds out why they’re really at the resort. Anthoni learns that having mantras to live by is not quite the same as living in the real world in this novel about finding new friends in unexpected places—and maybe a mermaid.
    —JS

    Ages 12–14

    The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten. Krista Van Dolzer. 2019. Bloomsbury.

    The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount TenTwelve-year-old artistic Esther’s plans for a fabulous week at Camp Vermeer go awry when her stepfather drives up the wrong mountain during a storm and they have an accident that disables their old truck. Taking refuge at Camp Archimedes, Esther is disheartened to find herself stuck at this remote camp for math geeks until the storm abates and the truck is repaired. She surprises everyone, including herself, when she solves the First Problem challenge set by Director Verity. She’s still anxious to get to the art camp, but when she finds a cryptic note from “Sphinx” about a riddle and warning that if it goes unsolved someone at the camp will be murdered, Esther bans together with some of the campers to find clues Sphinx has hidden around the camp and solve the puzzle logically—and also decrypt a cipher that leads to the arrest of a clever art forger.
    —CA

    Nerd A to Z: Your Reference to Literally Figuratively Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know. T. J. Resler. 2019. National Geographic.

    Nerd A to ZFrom Artificial Intelligence to Zombies, this information-packed photo-illustrated book could keep readers busy for the whole summer! Defining a nerd as “the kind of kid with smarts, passion, expert knowledge, and the kind of Einstein cool other kids can only dream about,” the National Geographic Kids’ team has put together an alphabet-soup themed book that highlights a variety of topics from science to pop culture. Entries alternate between short pops of information to two-page spreads highlighting high-interest topic and fun “26 Facts About . . .” lists. This is the kind of book that features facts you didn’t even know you wanted to know.
    —JS

    Ages 15+

    Hot Dog Girl. Jennifer Dugan. Putnam/Penguin.

    Hot Dog GirlThis is 16-year-old Elouise’s second summer dressing up as the Hot Dog at Magic Castle Playland, the local theme park, and while it’s not a glamorous role, somebody’s got to do it. Lou’s friend Seeley also works at the park, and Lou comes up with a scheme where she and Seeley will pretend they are a couple in order to make Nick, her secret crush who stars as a diving pirate in the park’s water show, jealous.  This seems like a good plan until she finds herself falling for Seeley and vice versa. A sweet romantic comedy that’s perfect for light summer reading.  
    —JS

    All Ages

    America’s National Parks. Alexa Ward. Mike Lowery. 2019. Lonely Planet Kids.

    America's National ParksReaders can use this Lonely Planet Kids guide to explore America’s 60 national parks from A to Z—from Acadia National Park to Zion National Park. Front matter includes a map with numbered locations of the parks, an introduction, and a “Safety and Responsibility” chart on visiting the national parks. Each entry features interesting notes on features of the park, a “Park in Numbers” chart, “Things to See” and “Things to Do” insets, and a wealth of stunning color photographs of expansive landscapes and snapshots of park features and wildlife. Back matter includes a glossary and an index. America’s National Parks is perfect for reminiscing about past park visits or daydreaming about adventurous vacation trips to make in the future as well as for armchair traveling across the country. 
    —CA

    The Dictionary of Difficult Words. Jane Solomon. Ill. Louise Lockhart. 2019. Frances Lincoln.

    The Dictionary of Difficult WordsIn an introduction to this illustrated collection of more than 400 words that are difficult to pronounce, hard to spell, and have obscure meanings, lexicographer Jane Solomon suggests 10 different ways to use the book such as reading it straight through from A to Z or reading a word aloud and having someone guess the meaning. Each entry includes a pronunciation of the word, its parts of speech classification, and an easy-to-understand definition. Back matter includes information on different types of dictionaries, a question about the reader’s favorite newly learned difficult words (mine is spaghettification), a note on the usage of the word they,and an answer to the question “What makes a word real?” about the creation of new words and how they make it into dictionaries.
    —CA

    Jennifer W. Shettel is a professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses 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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    Amateur Sleuths, Detectives, and Spies

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | May 20, 2019

    Readers of all ages who enjoy a well-crafted mystery or detective story will be interested in listening to or reading these recently published books that will draw them into the activities of amateur sleuths, detectives, and spies as they search for clues, break codes, solve crimes, and commit espionage.

    Ages 4–8

    King & Kayla and the Case of Found Fred (King & Kayla #5). Dori Hillestad Butler. Ill. Nancy Meyers. 2019. Peachtree.

    King & Kayla and the Case of Found FredWhen golden retriever King and his human, Kayla, find a lost dog in Grandma’s yard near the lake, they have a new case to solve. As Kayla makes a list of everything they about the dog (no collar, follows commands, Grandma’s neighbors don’t recognize him), King learns that the dog, Fred, ran away from his people during fireworks. When Kayla, Grandma, and the two dogs search for Fred’s family along the shore from a boat, Fred jumps overboard (with King on his heels) and sniffs his way to his family in a nearby campground. Finding himself separated from his humans, King trots back for a happy reunion with Kayla and Grandma on the boat dock. Brightly colored cartoon illustrations provide young readers with visual clues to follow as the detective duo solves this missing canine case, which is humorously told from the point of view of King.
    —CA

    Little Fox and the Missing Moon. Ekaterina Trukhan. 2019. Random House.

    Little Fox and the Missing MoonFor amateur sleuth Little Fox, spring cleaning involves dusting his collection of mystery books and polishing his Detective Magnifying Glass. Awakened during the night by a bad dream about monsters eating the moon, he looks out the window and discovers that, although the stars are shining brightly, the moon is not in the sky. With friends Owl, Bear, and Wolf, Little Fox goes to Rabbit’s house to get him to join the search for the missing moon. They find him in the kitchen scrubbing the moon in a suds-filled sink. Washing the moon is one of Rabbit’s spring cleaning activities. Case solved. Ekaterina Trukhan’s digitally created graphic artwork in muted colors and inky black includes a giggle-inducing scene of the nightmare monsters peppering the moon before chomping into it and a vertical double-page spread showing the friends putting the moon back in the sky.
    —CA

    Recipe for Disaster (Didi Dodo, Future Spy #1). Tom Angleberger. Ill. Jared Chapman. 2019. Amulet/Abrams.

    Recipe for DisasterSomeone has stolen baker Koko Dodo’s Super Secret Fudge Sauce, the topping he needs to put on his cookies to win the Queen’s Royal Cookie Contest being held at the mall that afternoon. Koko Dodo needs the sauce’s secret ingredient (which is so secret even he doesn’t know what it is), and the only clue is the empty jar. Not to worry. Didi Dodo, Future Spy, who has just speeded into the Cookie Shop on roller skates, has a daring plan to locate the thief and save the day. And so begins a complicated and wacky series of encounters with a host of interesting characters and daring misadventures ending with an outrageously riotous romp through the mall—and the promise of more cases to come. Short action-filled chapters and cartoon illustrations (including a comic strip and recipe cards) make this a fun-to-read first chapter book.
    —CA

    There Are No Bears in This Bakery. Julia Sarcone-Roach. 2019. Knopf/Random House.

    There Are No Bears in This Bakery“The name is Muffin. And this is my tale.” When unfamiliar night sounds hit the alley, Muffin the cat investigates. Discovering a hungry cub in the Little Bear Bakery, Muffin is on the case (the cookie case!) helping him to the bakery goods. Then an enormous mama bear that smells like a “dumpster on a hot day” sneaks up and, after an initial staring contest, engulfs Muffin and the cub in a big, long bear hug. Together they all finish the night with a snack of sprinkles before Muffin sends the bears on their way. Exhausted by the busy night, Muffin is ready for a nap, and this cat-noir tale ends with “So that’s it. Another case closed by Muffin. No bears in Little Bear Bakery. Not anymore.” Humorous illustrations created using acrylic paint, cut paper, and markers in a palette of just-right-for-night colors bring the world of this little cat detective with a big personality to life.
    —NB   

    Ages 9–11

    Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers (Kazu Jones #1). Shauna M. Holyoak. 2019. Disney-Hyperion.

    Kazu JonesIn this middle-grade series opener, 11-year-old Japanese-American Kazuko, a spunky self-proclaimed detective who lives with her parents and dog, Genki, walks dogs, delivers newspapers, and does odd jobs for a neighbor in Denver, where dognapping is occurring. While walking the neighbor’s dog, Barkley, Kazu lets him off leash. Barkley runs away, and, when she can’t find him, she suspects he has been dognapped. Within the week, classmates CindeeRae and Madeleine have their dogs stolen, and her own beloved Genki disappears. Even after the police and her mother warn her away from crime-solving activities, Kazu, March (fellow detective and tech hacker), CindeeRae, and Madeleine band together to gather clues, crack codes, and decipher notes to solve the mystery of the missing dogs—and discover more than they bargained for. A hook at the end will draw readers into the next book in the series.
    —NB

    The Secrets of Winterhouse (Winterhouse #2). Ben Guterson. Ill. Chloe Bristol. 2019. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    The Secrets of WinterhouseIt’s Christmas, and 12-year-old Elizabeth Somers, a book lover and puzzle solver, has returned as a permanent resident to Winterhouse, the enchanting hotel owned by her grandfather Norbridge. With the help of permanent guest and inventor 12-year-old Freddy, she observes the inexplicable behavior of eccentric guests prowling and tapping on walls, deciphers the Winterhouse seal in front of Grace Hall, sleuths for secrets in the library, searches for powerful artifacts hidden by former guest Riley S. Granger, and locates concealed passageways. Pitted against the spirit of Gracella Winter (Norbridge’s deceased sister), Elizabeth must win the fight of her life if Winterhouse is to survive. Fans of paranormal mysteries who missed Winterhouse (2018), in which Elizabeth makes her first visit to the hotel, may want to check it out too. Black-and-white illustrations, charts, anagrams, riddles, and puzzles invite readers to discover the secrets of Winterhouse along with Elizabeth.
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spies Who Saved America (Young Readers’ Edition). Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger. 2019. Viking/Penguin.

    Secret SixRecognizing that the small, untrained, poorly supplied Continental Army would not be able to overpower the British forces, in 1778, General George Washington directed Captain Benjamin Tallmadge to act as a spymaster on Long Island to create an intelligence network, the Culper Ring (which eventually included farmer Abraham Woodhull, longshoreman Caleb Brewster, tavern keeper Austin Roe, dry goods shopkeeper Robert Townsend, printer James Rivington, and a woman known only as Agent 355). The important role this top-secret ring of spies played in General Washington’s decision making during the American Revolution is chronicled in this accessible and engaging adaptation for young readers. Appendixes include interesting notes on the postwar lives of the Culper Ring; Washington’s time as a spy; the significance of the Culper Ring; ways of communicating in secret: use of invisible ink and alphabetical coding; a timeline; an annotated list of selected sources; and an index.
    —CA

    How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WW II London. Deborah Hopkinson. 2019. Knopf/Random House.

    How I Became a SpyOn the night of February 18, 1944, while on patrol as a London civil defense volunteer, 12-year-old Bertie Bradshaw runs into a girl with his bicycle and recovers a notebook she dropped. After learning that the journal was given to Eleanor, the American girl he hit, for safe-keeping by her French tutor, Violette, who has gone missing, and that someone else seems to be after the journal, Bertie, Eleanor, and his friend David set out to decipher its entries. In doing so, they uncover a double agent and a plot to disrupt the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Epigraphs from Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries and a Special Operations Executive’s Wartime Spy-training Manual add interest. Back matter includes ciphers to practice on; source notes; an author’s note; an interview with Deborah Hopkinson; and a roster of terms, events, and historical figures.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Lonely Dead. April Henry. 2019. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    The Lonely DeadSixteen-year-old Adele Meeker, who lives with her grandfather (her only living relative), suffers from familial schizophrenia and can see the dead when she’s not on her medications, and since she hasn’t taken them for the last two weeks, she feels more alive than she has for years. The day after a rowdy high-school party where everyone drank too much and where Adele was verbally attacked by Tori Rasmussen, her former best friend from grade school, after she caught Adele kissing her boyfriend, she finds ghost Tori leaning against a tree in Gabriel Park in last night’s outfit, tethered to her semi-buried body by a gray rope of mist. Quickly identified as a prime murder suspect, Adele must work with snarky Tori, whom no one else can see or hear and whose memory of her murder is slow in returning, to clear her name and help identify the real killer before she becomes the next victim in this paranormal thriller.
    —NB

    What We Buried. Kate A. Boorman. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    What We BuriedAlthough they despise everything about each other and their parents, 16-year-old Lavinia, a former child beauty queen suing her parents for legal emancipation because of her forced participation in a teenage reality TV show, and 18-year-old Jory, born with Moebius syndrome (partial facial paralysis) and a recluse, take off on a road trip to the family cabin in Nevada to solve the mystery of their parents’ disappearance from the courthouse on the day of Liv’s hearing. Readers quickly realize that things are not as they seem in this story told from the alternating points of view of Liv and Jory and interspersed with flashbacks to their childhoods and a pervading sense of déjà vu. This fast-paced psychological thriller builds to a surrealistic crescendo as Liv and Jory use the clues they’ve discovered and memories they’ve buried to figure out what happened to their parents, to uncover family secrets, and to deal with a final reality so duplicitous they never could have imagined it.
    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English, 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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    Stories in Verse

    By Skye Deiter and Carolyn Angus
     | May 13, 2019

    Stories in verse are popular with readers of all ages. The books reviewed this week include picture books with the auditory appeal of a rhyming text paired with expressive artwork for young children and novels that fuse poetry and narrative in a more engaging and accessible format for older readers. 

    Ages 4–8 

    The Cook and the King. Julia Donaldson. Ill. David Roberts. 2019. Abrams.

    The Cook and the King“There once was a very hungry king / Who needed a cook like anything,” but none of the offerings of applicants for the job satisfy him. Finally, the king gives Wobbly Bob (“I’m a bit of a wimp, but I’d love the job.”) a chance to make him some fish and chips. When it’s time to do each step in the preparation of the king’s favorite dish, however, Bob declares, “I’m scared! I’m scared! I’m terrible scared!” It is the king who ends up preparing the dish (from catching the fish and digging up the potatoes, to frying up and serving the fish and chips). After sharing the meal with Bob, the king is well pleased with the delicious dish—and the cook. “Congratulations, Wobbly Bob. / You may be a wimp, but you’ve got the job!” A clever, rollicking rhyme and colorful, expressive artwork make this book a read-aloud treat.
    —CA

    Hello, I’m Here! Helen Frost. Ill. Rick Lieder. 2019. Candlewick.

    Hello, I'm Here!Employing the perspective of a newborn Sandhill crane, Helen Frost poetically describes the chick’s first moments after hatching as it boldly announces itself to the world (“Hello, I’m here!”) and discovers family (“Look, I’m standing! / One step. Another. / Hey, who’s this? / Are you my brother?”). Simple, four-line stanzas with an ABCB rhyme scheme on double-page spreads chronicle the chick’s adventures and discoveries in the marsh while loving crane parents shield it from possible dangers. Frost’s lyrics are accompanied by Rick Lieder’s stunning full-color photographs, which depict interactions between adult cranes and their chicks. Back matter provides additional information on Sandhill crane families.
    —SD

    My Heart. Corinna Luyken. 2019. Dial/Penguin.

    My HeartAuthorillustrator Corinna Luyken scatters short lines of rhyming text across pages to deliver a timeless message of the heart’s role in our ability to love, heal, grow, and be self-guided. “My heart is a shadow, / a light, and a guide. / Closed or open . . . / I get to decide.” Luyken’s lyrical text, rich in metaphors, offers assurance to young readers that the heart is a place to turn to when shadows of self-doubt or sorrow creep in, and that it serves as a personal guide to help “mend” broken parts of one’s life. Lovely, monotype print illustrations (created with water-based inks and pencil) featuring a young child and camouflaged hearts enhance the mood of this delicate text as yellow and shades of grey, both separate and intermingling, echo the joys and sorrows our hearts endure.
    —SD

    Never Trumpet with a Crumpet. Amy Gibson. Ill. Jenn Harney. 2019. Boyds Mills/Highlights.

    Never Trumpet With a Crumpet“Now if perchance Her Majesty / so happens to ask you to tea,” you should definitely not do what a group of animals do when they receive an invitation from the Queen. Colorful, digitally created cartoon illustrations show animal guests breaking the rules of good table manners. “No wolfing food or snapping jaws. / Use your fork and not your paws…. // And—goodness, gracious!—never trumpet / when you’re nibbling on a crumpet.” A double-spread illustration shows the appalled queen and a delighted young prince witnessing the elephant’s trumpeting sending the teapot, dishes, platters of food, and even a small guest flying from the table. Nonetheless, as the guests depart, the gracious Queen smiles, waves, and extends an invitation to come again before she falls asleep amid the wreckage.
    —CA

    The Tall Man and the Small Mouse. Mara Bergman. Ill. Birgitta Sif. 2019. Candlewick.
     
    The Tall Man and the Small MouseAlthough they live in the same house, the tall man and the small mouse have never met. The tall man did tall things that needed doing during the day, while the small mouse crept around at night doing small things that needed doing. When their paths cross unexpectedly one morning, the tall man realizes the small mouse’s help is just what he needs to complete work on the town’s broken clock. The pair discover they make a great team, become good friends, and “come rain or shine, whatever the weather, / they do the things that need doing / TOGETHER!” In the cheery illustrations (done in pencil and colored digitally) that complement Mara Bergman’s rhythmic narrative, Birgitta Sif effectively elongates details to parallel the man’s tallness.  
    —SD

    Tomorrow Most Likely. Dave Eggers. Ill. Lane Smith. 2019. Chronicle.

    Tomorrow Most LikelyThis whimsical bedtime story explores the promises of what the next day might bring as a young black boy is tucked into bed. “Tomorrow most likely / there will be a sky. / And chances are it will be blue. /  Tomorrow most likely / there will be a squirrel. / And chances are his name is Stu.” The playfulness of Dave Egger’s rhythmic text is perfectly matched by Lane Smith’s colorful, textured illustrations that show the ordinary and extraordinary experiences the boy might have in his urban neighborhood tomorrow, including an encounter with a big bug who is worried about his missing friend, Stu. As the boy falls asleep, the story ends with a reassuring “Tomorrow most likely / will be a great day / because you are in it. / and Stu is okay.”
    —CA

    Wings. Cheryl B. Klein. Ill. Tomie dePaola. 2019. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    WingsCheryl B. Klein’s spare, rhyming text (one word per spread) and Tomie dePaola’s charming collage and mixed media illustrations tell the story of one baby bird’s determination to take flight for the first time. The timid bird “clings” to its nest, then finally “flings” itself downward in hopes of soaring and instead lands headfirst in a puddle. Almost defeated by the initial “stings” and “dings” of the first failed attempt, the sight of wriggling worms (“things”) brings hope to the baby bird as its hungry siblings wait back in the nest. “Things. / Brings? / Springs… / Sings!” The punctuation used in the poem eventually evolves from periods and ellipses to exclusively exclamation points, mirroring the change in tone from the young bird’s initial uncertainty to its later delight and triumph!
    —SD

    Ages 9–11

    Birdie. Eileen Spinelli. 2019. Eerdmans.

    BirdieTwelve-year-old Birdie Briggs is having a difficult time dealing with the changes in her life which are becoming so confusing that even her love of birds—and playing Scrabble every Saturday with her best friend, Martin Stefano—can’t lift her spirits. Birdie and her mother have been living with her grandmother, Maymee, in the small town of Hadley Falls since the death of her father, a Philadelphia firefighter who died three years ago while on duty. Now her mother is dating a police officer; Martin has a crush on Nina, a new girl in town; and even Maymee has a boyfriend. In short free-verse poems, Birdie’s narration reveals how she comes to understand that change is a part of growing up and that making room for others in her life can be a good thing. 
    —CA

    The Moon Within. Anita Salazar. 2019. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic.

    The Moon WithinCeli Rivera, who lives in Oakland, California, and describes her heritage as “Black-Puerto Rican-Mexican,” loves dancing bomba and participating in the traditional Puerto Rican drum dance performances in which her father is a master drummer, but also has a troubling concern about another cultural expectation. Her mother insists that they will celebrate her first period with a traditional Mexican “moon ceremony.” When her childhood friend Magda Sánchez asks to be called Marco, identifying as one of the xochihuah, “people who danced between or to other energies than what they were assigned at birth,” Celi’s loyalty to her best friend is tested by her first crush, “black-xican” Iván’s cruel and insensitive jokes about Mar’s genderfluidity. Aida Salazar tells this engaging coming-of-age story with beautifully crafted first-person poems.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Soaring Earth: A Companion Memoir to Enchanted Air. Margarita Engle. 2019. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Soaring EarthThis companion memoir told in verse through a combination of simple and complex stanzas that occasionally mix in Spanish words conveys the identity struggle Margarita Engle faced as a Cuban-American teenager during the Vietnam War era. The first of the memoir’s six sections, “Wide Air,” reveals Engle’s yearning to visit her Cuban family (despite a travel ban), which was initiated by her struggle over identity—a struggle which was further compounded by additional adversities mentioned in the “Drifting” section, including discrimination, failed education, abuse, drugs, poverty, and conflict over war. Engle finally rediscovers herself and poetry when she realizes her passion for agronomy. “This time, I won’t give up. / I need to learn how to help feed the hungry / with roots, shoots, seeds, fruit, / and perseverance/” Short titles beautifully capture the mood and subject-matter of each poem.
    —SD

    Ages 15+

    White Rose. Kip Wilson. 2019. Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    White RoseBased on a true story, this lyrical narrative recounts German Sophie Scholl’s involvement in White Rose, a World War II resistance group organized by her older brother Hans. To chronologize the historical events and build context, the novel in verse switches between “The End” (the period of interrogation and sentencing for the “treasonous” acts of creating and distributing anonymous wartime leaflets) and “Before” (Sophie’s upbringing and life events leading to her disapproval of the Nazi regime). “How can we expect / justice / in this world / if we’re not prepared to / sacrifice ourselves / for what is right?” Back matter includes a Dramatis Personae of Sophie’s family, members of White Rose, and individuals involved in the Gestapo interrogations and sentencing. A German glossary and bibliographical references are included.
    —SD

    Skye Deiter is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and 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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