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    International Books

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Apr 01, 2019

    “Books Help Us Slow Down” is the theme for this year’s International Children’s Book Day on April 2 (the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen), sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. In this week’s column, we review books by authors and illustrators from countries around the world to share with young people in celebration of this annual event.

    Ages 4–8

    Angry Cookie. Laura Dockrill. Ill. Maria Karipidou. 2019. Walker/Candlewick.

    Angry Cookie“Close this book this very second, you nosy noodle. Don’t even think about turning the page.” After numerous pages in which a redheaded chocolate chip cookie persists in demanding that the reader close this book because he’s very angry and there is nothing the reader can do about it, he gives up and proceeds to enumerate all the things that happened to him the previous day that made him so angry. Finally, realizing the reader is still with him and listening, the cookie decides he’s not angry any more. He’s happy. A witty text and colorful, digitally created cartoonlike illustrations offer a gentle lesson on sticking with a friend even when they are acting like “an angry cookie.”(Laura Dockrill lives in England and Maria Karipidou lives in Germany.)
    —CA

    Birds. Carme Lemniscates. 2019. Candlewick Studio/Candlewick.

    Birds“Birds come in many different colors, shapes, and personalities.” Beginning with the first double-page spread featuring portraits of 12 colorful birds, a spare text and bright, mixed-media illustrations celebrate the diversity of birds in physical characteristics, habitats, and behaviors. And as the young narrator spends the day out of doors, she shares her thoughts about the many ways in which birds are such an awe-inspiring part of the world in which we live—from how their happy songs greet us in the morning to how they are free to fly away and make our imaginations soar. None of the birds are named, which offers the opportunity for adults sharing the book with young children to identify them as they talk about each page. (The authorillustrator lives in Spain.)
    —CA

    The Home Builders. Varsha Bajaj. Ill. Simona Mulazzani. 2019. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    The Home BuildersA series of questions—Do you see the home builders? Do you see the builders work? Do you see the homes? Do you see the babies? Do you see the families?—followed by a rhythmic text (with an ABCB rhyme scheme) focuses the reader’s attention on colorful mixed-media illustrations of idyllic woodland scenes showing animal parents digging, gnawing, gathering, and constructing homes in anticipation of the birth of their young (beaver kits, owlets, mole pups, and more) and raising them. This engaging format invites young children to point out and identify the various parents and their offspring on the  detailed, double-page spreads. (Varsha Bajaj grew up in India and now lives in Texas and Simona Mulazzani lives in Italy.)
    —CA

    It’s a Girl Thing!: Smart, Fierce, and Leading the Way. Pri Ferrari. 2019. StarBerry/Kane.

    It's a Girl Thing“What's a girl thing? What do girls like to do? What can girls be?” These introductory questions are followed by a series of brief patterned answers and clever mixed-media illustrations of girls involved in various activities. “Girls are..." statements are completed with professions: pilots, archeologists, chefs, mountain climbers, doctors, astronauts, creators, musicians, mechanics, gamers, business owners, chemists, adventurers, architects, and bus drivers. For example, “Girls are PILOTS. / They can fly helicopters, airplanes, / rockets...and even dragons” is paired with an image of a girl flying on a dragon. The last few pages describe characteristics of girls as brave, strong, and powerful, ending with “A Girl Thing is EVERYTHING!” (Pri Ferrari lives in Brazil.)
    —NB

    Lubna and Pebble. Wendy Meddour. Ill. Daniel Egnéus. 2019. Dial/Penguin.

    Lubna and PebbleAfter Lubna and her father arrive at the “World of Tents” as displaced persons, a small rock she names Pebble becomes her constant companion and best friend. She tells Pebble everything “About her brothers. About home. About the war.” When the weather turns cold, Lubna’s father gives her a tea towel and a shoebox in which to keep Pebble warm. Lubna befriends Amir, a little boy who arrives at the camp, and introduces him to Pebble. Amir cries when she tells him she is leaving for a new home, and Lubna gives him Pebble. Vibrant illustrations complement this emotionally powerful refugee story of friendship and compassion. (Wendy Meddour lives in England and Daniel Egnéus lives in Greece.)
    —NB

    The Neighbors. Einat Tsarfati. Trans. Annette Appel. 2019. Abrams.

    The NeighborsAs a girl climbs the stairs to her family’s seventh-floor apartment, she stops at the door on each floor and, based upon its distinctive appearance, describes the unit’s occupants. For example, muddy footprints outside the second door suggest to her that an old explorer and his pet tiger live there and, because the lights always shut off when she reaches the fourth floor, the apartment belongs to a vampire. Each double-page spread featuring the girl’s stop at a door is followed by a colorful, intricately detailed illustration of the apartment’s décor and activities in it according to her wild imaginings. When she unlocks the seventh door, she’s at home with her “so boring” parents. But after she’s asleep, readers discover that her parents lead a not-so-ordinary life. (The authorillustrator lives in Israel.)
    —CA

    Ages 911

    The Real Boat. Marina Aromshtam. Trans. Olga Varshaver. Ill. Victoria Semykina. 2019. Templar/Candlewick.

    The Real BoatMarina Aromshtam relates the story of the quest of a small paper boat floating in a pond to become a real boat. Navigating its way through a river, a stream, and a harbor, the paper boat finally reaches the ocean. During a storm, the paper boat sinks to the ocean floor but, fortunately, is rescued by a diver who takes it to his research vessel. Upon being given the paper boat, the ship’s captain says, “You’re so tiny—you must have sailed so far! / A true seafarer! / A real boat!” The paper boat, now a real boat named Intrepid, “sighed happily” from inside its new glass bottle. Victoria Semykina’s colorful, mixed-media illustrations express the textures, smells, and sounds of the ocean (along with the personalities of every boat or ship the paper boat meets along the way) and imaginatively celebrate the determination of an adventurous paper boat. (Marina Aromshtam and Victoria Semykina live in Russia.)
    —NB

    The Secret Cat. Katarina Strömgård. 2019. Eerdmans.

    The Secret CatOne night in bed, Lucy, whose mother won’t let her have a pet, hears something scratching in the wall, guesses its name is Silvring, and then sees a ghostly looking cat clawing through the wallpaper. After she feeds and plays with Silvring (who continues to grow throughout the story), they go for a nighttime walk and meet other people walking their secret pets (a winged dinosaur, a floating scarlet carp, a seal, a polar bear). But not all secret pets are nice. When she and Silvring are chased by Danger, a big, scary bird, Silvring (now huge) fights and scares Danger away, and they return home to sleep. In the morning, Lucy’s secret pet is gone. She’ll have to wait until night to whisper, “Silvring, come out!” Watercolor-and-ink illustrations in pinks and blues set the mood for this magical nighttime fantasy with just the right amount of scariness. (Katarina Strömgård lives in Sweden.)
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Stolen Girl. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2019. Scholastic.

    Stolen GirlIn 1950, 12-year-old Nadia arrives in Brantford, Ontario, with her Ukrainian adoptive mother, Marusia Kravchuk, after living in a European displaced persons camp for five years. Nadia is haunted by incomplete and confusing memories of World War II. Through nightmares and flashbacks, she relives the trauma of her childhood and learns that she is not German Gretchen, part of the family of SS General Himmel, but Larissa, a Ukrainian girl whose Tato was killed by the Soviets and Mama was killed by the Nazis. Finally, knowing her history, Nadia is ready to face the future. The author’s note provides information on the Nazi’s Lebensborn program, which stole blond, blue-eyed Polish and Ukrainian children and placed those considered “racially valuable” with German families, and the Ostarbeiters, Eastern European young adults the Nazis forced to work in munitions factories.(Ukrainian Canadian Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch lives in Brantford, Ontario.)
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Truth and Lies of Ella Black. Emily Barr. 2019. Philomel/Penguin.

    The Truth and Lies of Ella BlackEach chapter begins with a countdown to a death as 17-year-old Ella Black, who has a war waging within her between Ella, the good girl everyone sees and who is bullied, and Bella, the bad girl whose thoughts and actions she fights to control and keep secret, has her life turned upside down when her overprotective parents fly with her to Rio de Janeiro without notice. Snooping in their hotel room’s safe, Ella discovers that she is adopted and that her birth mother has been released from prison after serving time as an accomplice for the murder of five girls. On the run, Ella (urged on by Bella) survives through a series of name changes and relationships and ends up teaching art in a Brazilian ghetto. After the dramatic countdown to “One Hour,” the last chapter, “One Year Later,” brings an additional twist, with the last words, “The phone rang.” (Emily Barr lives in England.)
    —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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    Fantasy and Science Fiction

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 25, 2019

    In the recently published books reviewed in this week’s column, readers of all ages can exercise their imagination as they meet traditional fantasy characters, such as dragons and fairies, in playful tales as well as humans having fantastical adventures in make-believe worlds of the past, present, or future.

    Ages 4–8

    Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon! Melissa Marr. Ill. Lena Podesta. 2019. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon!A red baby dragon swoops through a castle, shocking everyone except a young girl, who eagerly chases after it and then soars away on its back. Together they explore the treasures the dragon has gathered in its cave and chase each other through the forest. After calming down, they join a festive feast and then snuggle up for a nap—until the girl awakens. “Baby dragon, baby dragon, time to wake up! Let’s spread our wings and go explore. And see what else we can find together.”  Mixed-media illustrations complement this lighthearted story of an unusual friendship between a boisterous young girl and a playful dragon.
    —CA

    Dragon Night. J. R. Krause. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    Dragon NightWhen a huge dragon steps out his favorite book, St. George & the Dragon, and whispers that it’s afraid of the knight, Georgie says he’s afraid of the night, too. Agreeing to run away together, they soar away on a nighttime adventure, and Georgie learns that the night is dark, but not always scary. When Georgie comes to realize they are not worried about the same thing, he creates a new book (one with a friendly knight) for the dragon to hide in during the day. Now every night, after a flight, they read Georgie and Dragon and with a “Good knight” from the dragon and a “Good night” from Georgie, they fall asleep. J. R. Krause uses brush, pen, and ink and digital coloring to create the woodcut-style artwork for this imaginative tale.
    —CA

    Elbert, the Curious Clock Tower Bear. Andrew Prahin. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    ElbertWhen the curiosity of Elbert, one of five mechanical bears in the old clock tower, continues to disrupt their orderly parade each hour, he is given 24 hours to get rid of his curiosity or he will not be allowed to return. As Elbert travels through the town seeking a way to lose his curiosity, he discovers even more things to be curious about. Just as time is running out, Elbert comes up with the perfect way to keep his curiosity and make the other bears eager to discover the amazing things around them.
    —CA

    Fairy in Waiting (Fairy Mom and Me #2). Sophie Kinsella. Ill. Marta Kissi. 2019. Delacorte/Random House.

    Fairy in WaitingIn Sophie Kinsella’s sequel to Fairy Mom and Me (2018), Ella Brook resigns herself to being a fairy in waiting until she’s old enough to be like her mother, Aunty Jo, and Granny, who can turn into fairies with sparkly wings and Computawands (even though Mom isn’t good at doing spells and mixes up the codes, a lot). A chapter introducing Ella and her Fairy Mom is followed by four episodic chapters—“Fairy Mom and the Monkey Business,” ”You Can’t Stop a Magic Wardrobe,” “Ice Cream for Everyone” and “Best Birthday Party Ever”—offering hilarious stories about fairy spells that backfire. Short chapters with simple sentences and Marta Kissi’s strategically placed black-and-white drawings in this laugh-out-loud book make this a good choice for newly independent readers.
    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Gogi’s Gambit (Lost Rainforest #2). Eliot Schrefer. Ill. Emilia Dziubak. 2019. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    The Lost RainforestThe Ant Queen, who awakened from her imprisonment beneath the ancient Ziggurat of the Sun and the Moon in Mez’s Magic (2018), is moving with her hoard of ants and destroying the magical rainforest of Caldera. Just weeks before the next eclipse, Gogi, a “monkey-brained” capuchin monkey still working on controlling his fire powers, rejoins other shadowwalkers (eclipse-born animals with  magical powers)—Mez, a panther with the power of invisibility; Rumi, a tree frog who can control the winds; and Lima, a bat with amazing healing powers—to plan to save the rainforest by locating a powerful object that will allow them to capture the magic of the eclipse and help them defeat the Ant Queen. This fast-paced fantasy adventure is just as full of danger, treachery, and surprising plot twists as the first book.
    —CA

    Watch Hollow (Watch Hollow #1). Gregory Funaro. 2019. HarperCollins.

    Watch HollowAfter mysterious Mr. Quigley offers their father, a talented clocksmith, a sack full of gold coins to repair a clock at his home near Watch Hollow, Rhode Island, 11-year-old Lucy Tinker and her older brother, Oliver, find themselves spending the summer as residents of Blackford House, a derelict mansion. As Mr. Tinker puzzles out why the gigantic cuckoo clock that is the source of electrical power in the house has stopped working, Lucy and Oliver find themselves joining 12 magical clock animals in an epic battle to save magical Blackford House from Garr, a magical tree monster who lives in Shadow Woods, which is magically creeping toward the house. The cliffhanger ending of this suspenseful fantasy that pits evil against good and fear against love will leave readers eagerly anticipating the sequel.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Contagion (Dark Matter #1). Teri Terry. 2019. Charlesbridge Teen/Charlesbridge.

    ContagionIn this opener of a new thriller series set in Scotland, 12-year-old Calista Tanzer (known as 369X) is held captive as a guinea pig in a top-secret laboratory trying to develop a cure for the deadly Aberdeen flu. After Callie dies and is cremated (still existing as a spirit with muddled memories), the facility explodes, and she escapes and discovers the virus is spreading, leaving fatalities in its wake. Kai, Callie’s older brother who has dodged the virus, suspects his scientist stepfather of foul play in his sister’s disappearance one year earlier and connects with new friend Shay MacAllister, whose ability to communicate telepathically with Callie may hold the key to stopping this pandemic. With Shay on the run as the army rounds up those who have survived the disease or are resistant to it, what is discovered about the contagion can flip the government upside down.
    —NB

    A Tear in the Ocean. H. M. Bouwman. Ill. Yuko Shimizu. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    A Tear in the OceanBouwman offers fantasy fans two narratives set in an alternate second world during two times: “the present: 1949” (told from the points of view of 12-year-old Putnam, son of the king of Raftworld, and Artie, a 12-year-old Islander) and “about 100 years earlier” (told from the point of view of 14-year-old Rayel, a Raftworld princess). Artie, who is running away from an abusive stepfather, and Putnam, who is determined to travel to the cold south to discover why the once fresh water of the ocean is becoming too salty to drink, become reluctant allies when they both steal away on the same boat. In the other storyline, Rayel, the heir to Raftworld, is taking the same journey south to flee an unwanted arranged marriage. Bouwman masterfully weaves these two adventures together in this fascinating, action-packed companion to A Crack in the Sea (2017).
    —CA

    Ages 15+  

    The City in the Middle of the Night. Charlie Jane Anders. 2019. Tor.

    Charlie Jane AndersAfter a great catastrophe on Earth, the Mother Ship planted two cities on planet January in barely habitable biozones surrounded by wastelands. In Argelo, located in frozen darkness, almost anything goes, and in Xiosphant, rigid laws control sleep schedules, light, and heat. When student Sophie takes the blame for stealing three dollars and is thrown by Xiosphanti police from the furthermost mountain peak into the dark ice below, she is rescued by an indigenous, intelligent crocodile-like creature, who communicates with her telepathically and whose community in the hidden, underground city is the planet’s only chance to save itself as technology, resources, and society break down. The rotating viewpoints of Sophie (a silent revolutionary) and Mouth (a smuggler and the living remnant of an earlier society) draw readers into their complex transformations within the politics of a dying planet—and present an intriguing and challenging solution for survival.
    —NB

    Stain. A. G. Howard. 2019. Amulet/Abrams

    StainOnce upon a time, a magical war split a peaceful world into two kingdoms: Eldoria (the Day Kingdom with its endless sun) and Nerezeth (the Night Kingdom with its moon in the belly of the earth). After King Kiran of Eldoria, who has entered into a treaty that arranges for Lyra, his mute daughter, to marry Prince Vesper from Nerezeth when she turns 17, is killed, his greedy sister, Griselda, orders two knights to poison Lyra and dispose of her body in the Ashen Ravine between the two kingdoms so she can groom her own daughter, Lustacia, as an imposter princess. However, Lyra, rescued by a witch (who steals her memories) and a shape-shifting sylph and befriended by a temperamental Pegasus. Lyra, who is living disguised as a boy named Stain, must reclaim her identity and fulfill the treaty and marry Prince Vespers to reunite the two kingdoms in a “hopeful ever after.”
    —NB

    The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2). Holly Black. 2019. Little, Brown.

    In this riveting sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018), mortal Jude Duarte lives in the land of Faery where she has bound herself as seneschal to the sadistic Cardan, the sworn puppet High King of Elfhame for a year and a day, to control and protect the throne for her younger brother, Ash, heir apparent. Her foster father, General Madoc (who murdered her parents and brought Jude and her siblings to Elfhame), is a high-stakes conspirator waiting to move against the crown. As key players scheme for positions of power in the high court and with a secret traitor or two working against her, Jude is kidnapped and tortured by Orlagh, Queen of the Undersea and adversary of Elfhame, from her twin Taryn’s wedding to Cardan’s cruel brother Locke. When returned to Cardan in a complicated negotiation, Jude is confronted with a monumental twist that changes all the rules and leaves readers eager for the next book in this edgy, wicked series.
    —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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    STEM Stories

    By Jennifer Shettel and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 18, 2019

    Reading trade books is an important component of an interdisciplinary approach to developing literacy skills and learning STEM content. This week’s column includes books that are effective choices for introducing lessons and activities on STEM topics as well as for independent reading in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    Ages 4–8

    Bloom Boom! April Pulley Sayres. 2019. Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster.

    Bloom! Boom!“Every spring, / across the land.... /Seeds sprout. / Stems pop out. / Bloom, / boom!” With lyrical text and stunning photographs, author and photo-illustrator April Pulley Sayres celebrates the profusion of flowers that burst out all at once in the spring in glorious bloom booms. Back matter includes information on the spring blooms in various regions (desert, meadows, woodlands, gardens, forests, and hills); “A Bit More About the Blooms” section with the common and scientific names and notes about the plants featured; and a list of resources.
    —CA

    Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate. Sarah C. Levine. Ill. Masha D’yans. 2019. Millbrook/Lerner.

    Flower TalkIn this book, a cranky cactus describes why the color of a plant’s flowers is important for attracting the appropriate pollinators. For example, plants with red flowers are typically visited only by birds, while plants with blue or purple flowers are usually visited by bees. Vibrant watercolor paintings add to the humor of this engaging informational picture book about “flower talk.” Back matter includes a more detailed explanation about pollination, some tips on how to protect animals that are pollinators, and a list of other books about plants and pollinators for young readers.
    —JS

    The Frog Book. Steve Jenkins & Robin Page. Ill. Steve Jenkins. 2019. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Frog BookIn their latest collaboration, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page introduce readers to some of the more than 6,000 species of frogs, amphibians that live both in the water and on land and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Double-page spreads feature images of frogs, created in Jenkins’ signature cut- and torn-paper collage technique, and accessible text on characteristics (body structure, metamorphosis, and behavior); the diversity of frogs in colors, shapes, sizes; habitats; special adaptations; “extreme frogs,” record holders in the world of frog; and conservation status (one-third of all frog species are in danger of extinction). Back matter includes a table showing the sizes, diets, and ranges of the frogs in the book, and a list of books and websites for more information.
    —CA

    The Night Flower. Lara Hathorne. 2019. Big Picture/Candlewick.

    The Night FlowerWith a descriptive text of rhyming quatrains and expressive stylized illustrations, Lara Hawthorne presents a story of the activity in the Sonoran Desert over 24 hours that ends with the dramatic once-a-year nighttime blooming of the Saguaro cactus. The strong scent and brilliant white petals of the magnificent flowers of the Saguaro attracts the cactus’ pollinators, brown bats with black wings. Back matter includes diagrams of the life cycle and structure of the Saguaro, a “Did you spot...?” section of fauna (including the long-nosed bat and white-lined sphinx moth, nocturnal visitors to the Saguaro flowers) in the illustration, and a glossary.
    —CA

    Seashells: More Than A Home. Melissa Stewart. Ill. Sarah S. Brannen. 2019. Charlesbridge.

    SeashellsYoung children, especially those who have collected seashells at the beach, will enjoy the informative text and realistic watercolor illustrations of this informational book that features 13 different types of shells and how they are used. For example, the flat, round bivalve shell of a scallop is used to propel the mollusk through the water and to protect it from predators when closed. A nature journal feature for each shell gives young naturalists a glimpse into how they might document their own sand treasures. Back matter includes a double-page spread identifying the five major groups of mollusks: bivalves, cephalopods, chitons, gastropods, and scaphopods; author’s and illustrator’s notes; suggested books for young readers; and selected sources used by the author and the illustrator. The endpapers provide information about the habitats and ranges of the 13 featured mollusks.
    —JS

    Skyscraper. Jorey Hurley. 2019. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    SkyscraperThis nearly wordless picture book features a single verb (such as “crush,” “scoop,” “dig,” or “push”) on each double-page spread alongside an image of the construction vehicle that performs that job in the building of a skyscraper. The colorful illustrations created in Photoshop will captivate young children who love construction trucks of all kinds. A two-page glossary presents images and names of the 14 construction vehicles featured in the book and brief descriptions of their special job. For example, “A front loader lifts and relocates batches of loose materials such as demolition debris.”
    —JS

    Soar High, Dragonfly! Sheri Mabry Bestor. Ill. Jonny Lambert. 2019. Sleeping Bear.

    Soar High, DragonflyThe life cycle of the green darner dragonfly is presented with a lyrical primary text and brightly colored, stylized illustrations with the look of collage artwork. Each double-page spread also includes a block of text in a smaller font that provides additional information about dragonflies and details of their incomplete metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult. Pair this inviting picture book with Bestor and Lambert’s Good Trick, Walking Stick! (2016) to introduce lessons on the life cycles of insects to young children.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    The Everyday Journeys of Ordinary Things: From Phones to Food and from Paper to Poo…The Way the World Works. Libby Deutsch. Ill. Valpuri Kerttula. 2019. Kane Miller.

    The Everyday Journeys“Every day we are surrounded by ordinary objects and services that have been on the most extraordinary journeys to reach us,” and this child-friendly oversize book describes some of these journeys through step-by-step diagrams with illustrations and brief text. Red arrows direct the reader in following numbered steps that meander across each double-page spread. Curious young children will enjoy following the steps of 20 examples from the journey made by a birthday card in “How Does Mail Reach Me?” to how milk gets to your breakfast table in “From Cow to Carton.”
    —CA

    Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. Curtis Manley. Ill. Jessica Lanan. 2019. Roaring Brook/Macmillan.

    Just RightA curious young girl wonders whether any of the stars she sees in the night sky have planets orbiting around them and whether there is life on them. Readers join her on a visit to a planetarium’s “Searching for Exoplanets Exhibition” to learn how astronomers use powerful telescopes to search for a planet much like Earth, a Goldilocks planet “just right” for supporting life. So far scientists have found no proof of life elsewhere, but they continue to search for it. The last part of this informational picture book explores the question of what that life might be like. “Maybe it’s beings like ourselves...Or maybe it’s like nothing we can even imagine.” The endpapers feature a timeline of discoveries of our place in the universe. Back matter includes additional information on the science of detecting exoplanets, a bibliography, and sources for information. 
    —CA

    Rotten!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers. Anita Sanchez. Ill. Gilbert Ford. 2019. Houghton Mifflin.

    Rotten!“It’s a rotten world” and that’s not a bad thing. Anita Sanchez explores the fascinating process of decomposition in eight accessible chapters that take the reader on “a trip into the world of rotten” that introduces different decomposers from dung beetles to earthworms to vultures. An inviting format features “decomposer selfies”; the answers to questions such as “Why do dung beetles love dung?” and “Why does a dead animal smell so bad?”; “Rot It Yourself” activities such as building a compost pile; and colorful cartoon artwork that complements the lighthearted tone of the text. Back matter includes a glossary, sources of quotes, an extensive bibliography, and an index.
    —JS

    Ages 12–14

    A Ray of Light: A Book of Science and Wonder. Walter Wick. 2019. Scholastic.

    A Ray of Light“What about light? What is it made of? How does it fit alongside everything else in the world? With these questions, author and photographer Walter Wick introduces this fascinating exploration of the science of light. Each spread features striking color photographs and paragraphs of text which serve as extended captions of the photographs on a specific principle such as incandescence, light waves, the color spectrum, and iridescence. Two pages of notes on the science and experiments Wick presents in this stunning visual presentation on light provide additional details that will be of interest to more advanced readers and those using this book in STEM programs.
    —CA

    The Woolly Monkey Mysteries: The Quest to Save a Rain Forest Species. Sandra Markle. 2019. Millbrook/Lerner.

    The Woolly Monkey MysteriesFor years, not much has been known about the species of woolly monkeys found in the rain forests of South America, but a recent project involving the installation of over 30 camera traps (a tool used by scientists to capture and record photographs of wild animals) has allowed researchers to understand more about the behavior of this primate species. Sandra Markle’s accessible text, with captioned photographs and diagrams, provides readers with information on how scientists are working to learn more about the complexities of survival of the woolly monkey in the wild. QR codes throughout the book allow readers to access related video and sound-bytes. Back matter includes an author’s note, glossary, a “Find Out More” section with text and web-based resources, and an index.
    —JS

    Ages 15+

    The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World. Mike Winchell. 2019. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    The Electric WarDuring the Gilded Age, a time when innovation became big business, a battle ensued over who would win “the race to light the world.” The competitors were Thomas Alva Edison (18471931), inventor of the established direct current system of electricity, and Nikola Tesla (18561943) and George Westinghouse (18461914), with their experimental alternating current system. The inviting conversational tone of Mike Winchell’s well-researched narrative, complemented by captioned black-and-white photographs and diagrams, provides an accessible account of this important scientific competition. Back matter includes a timeline, an extensive bibliography, and an index.
    —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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    Biographies and History

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 11, 2019

    Biographies are unsung heroes in the reading lives of children. The recently published works in this week’s column present the stories of characters living in diverse situations, times, and places and offer insights into important moments in history as they provide memorable and exciting reading experiences.

    Ages 4–8

    Away with Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird. Lori Mortensen. Ill. Kristy Caldwell. 2018. Peachtree.

    Away With WordsBorn in 1831, Isabella Bird longed for adventure although she was sickly and in pain. On the advice of doctors for fresh air and a change of scene, Isabella set out on international travel. Digitally created illustrations depict her sometimes perilous adventure. She kept notes, some of which are quoted in the double spreads, during her journeys that included travel to Tibet. Publication of her notes in books brought her fame, a presentation to Queen Victoria, and the honor of becoming the first female member of London’s Royal Geographic Society. Back matter includes a timeline, source notes, bibliography, and an author’s note with an archival photograph of Isabella Bird in Manchu dress.
    —SW

    Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins. Michelle Meadows. Ill. Ebony Glenn. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    Brave Ballerina“This is the girl / who danced in the breeze / to the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh / of towering trees.” A spare text of four-line verses in a rhythmic “This is . . .” pattern and warm, expressive digital art tell the life story of Janet Collins, who was born in New Orleans, LA, in 1917. Supported by her family, Janet pursued her dream of being a dancer, even when segregation limited her opportunities for training. With her talent and perseverance, Collins went on to become the first African American prima ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera House. “This is the dancer, / bold like the sun, / a prima ballerina / in 1951.” Back matter includes an author’s note and sources.
    —CA

    Fearless Mary: The True Adventure of Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver. Tami Charles. Ill. Claire Almon. 2019. Albert Whitman.

    Fearless  MaryIn 1895, former slave Mary Fields heads west, and arriving in Cascade, Montana, decides to apply to be a stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo, a job in which she would face the threat of robbery, the challenge of controlling powerful horses, and hardships on the trail. As a woman in her 60s, determined to make a better life for herself, she proved she could do the job as well as any man and showed her strength of spirit in protecting mail, cargo, and passengers. In an author’s note, Tami Charles tells of her inspiration, explains the challenges of her research, and clarifies the separation of fact from fiction. 
    —SW

    Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. Anika Aldamuy Denise. Ill. Paola Escobar. 2019. HarperCollins.  

    Planting StoriesWhen Pura Belpré arrived in New York City from her native San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1921, she carried a wealth of her grandmother’s stories in her memory and heart. She found the perfect job as a bilingual assistant at the New York Public Library and, when she discovered the lack of Latino stories, began a program for families in which she told stories. Warm, richly colored, computer-generated illustrations complement the engaging text about Pura Belpre’s gift for storytelling that inspired her to write books “planting seeds in the hearts and minds of children.” Back matter includes an author’s note; selected bibliography; lists of archival collections, articles, and films; suggested reading; and notes on Belpré’s stories mentioned in the book.
    —SW

    Ages 9–11

    Elvis Is King! Jonah Winter. Ill. Red Nose Studio. 2019. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Elvis is KingIn 1952, shy, 13-year-old Elvis and his mother moved from his birthplace, Tupelo, MS, to Memphis, TN, to build a better life. With an engaging text and illustrations created with hand-crafted clay figures set in three-dimensional sets, Winter presents defining moments in the life of young Elvis, who found solace in music. He adapted songs he heard coming from the African American Church and the blues he heard in local nightclubs on a guitar his mother gave him when he was 11 years old. Finding a producer who wanted to record African American blues for a white audience, at a time when the music world was segregated, Elvis went on to become an international sensation.
    —SW

    Let ’er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Ill. Gordon C. James. 2019. Carolrhoda/Lerner.

    Let'er BuckA folksy narrative and energetic oil-on-board paintings tell the story of George Fletcher (1890–1973), who became an accomplished broncobuster, but as a black cowboy was frequently banned from competitions. In 1911, at the age of 16, George finally got his chance to prove his skill as a finalist in the Saddle Bronc Championship at the Pendleton Round-Up, the biggest rodeo in the Northwest. Despite George’s show-stopping ride on a wildly bucking horse, the judges gave first prize to a white rancher. The crowd booed, and Sheriff Tillman Taylor, recognizing the injustice of the decision, raised prize money for George on the spot from the spectators who proclaimed him “People’s Champion!” Back matter includes a glossary; biographical notes on Fletcher, the other finalist, and Sheriff Taylor; and a bibliography.
    —CA

    The Story of Olympic Swimmer Duke Kahanamoku (The Story of . . .). Ellie Crowe. Ill. Richard Waldrep. 2019. Lee & Low.

    The Story of Olympic SwimmerOpening with an account of Duke Kahanamoku’s incredible feat of riding out a rare 30-foot Bluebird wave for almost two miles on a wooden surfboard on Waikiki Beach in 1917, this new entry in Lee & Low’s chapter book biography series tells the life story of native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku (1890–1968), who grew up in Honolulu an avid swimmer. Despite racial and financial challenges, he went on to become a record-breaking Olympic swimmer and a legendary surfer. Sidebars on the history of Hawaii, the Olympics, and surfing and black-and-white illustrations add interest. Back matter includes a timeline; glossary; text, quotation and sidebar sources; and bibliography.
    —CA

    Wilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller. Doreen Rappaport. Ill. Linda Kukuk. 2019. Disney-Hyperion.

    Wilma's Way HomeRaised in a Cherokee community by a mother of Irish Dutch lineage and a Cherokee father, Wilma Mankiller understood Gadugi, the philosophy of helping one another. The narrative, enriched with quotations from primary sources, elaborates on formative events of Mankiller’s childhood, including her family’s move to San Francisco as part of the federal government’s initiative to relocate native people to urban areas. Miserable in the city, she found companionship with other native people and in that shared experience her fervor to promote the interests of her people grew. She became the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation in the 1980s. The warm, bright hues of the watercolor illustrations depict her work in improving the lives of members of the Cherokee nation until her death in 2010. Back matter includes author’s and illustrator’s notes, a timeline of Wilma Mankiller’s life, a pronunciation guide, sources, and source notes for quotations.
    —SW

    Ages 12–14

    Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer. Emily Arnold McCully. 2019. Candlewick.

    Dreaming in CodeWith an engaging, well-researched text, Emily Arnold McCully tells the intriguing life story of Ada Byron Lovelace (1815–1852). Fearing that Ada would grow up to have a wild imagination like her father, famous poet Lord Byron, Ada’s controlling mother, set her on a course of study of math and science. Mastering these subjects, however, did not break her spirit, and when teenager Ada met inventor Charles Babbage, who demonstrated the model of his Difference Engine, a basic calculator, she was thrilled to become his collaborator and went on to develop algorithms for Babbage’s proposed Analytical Engine. McCully clearly shows how Lovelace’s extraordinary insights and contributions to science during her short life time led to her present-day recognition as a pioneer in computer programming.  Back matter includes appendices of Ada’s Notes and documents related to failed attempts for funding Babbage’s Analytical Engine, source notes, glossary, bibliography, and index.
    —CA

    Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away (Young Readers Edition). Erica Armstrong Dunbar & Kathleen Van Cleve. 2019. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    Never CaughtThe daughter of a slave on the Washingtons’ Mt. Vernon plantation, Ona grew up as a special house slave to Martha and traveled with the family in the early days of George Washington’s presidency. In 1796, when President Washington and his wife lived in Philadelphia, 22-year-old Ona Judge left their house and headed to New Hampshire and an uncertain future. She would live in New Hampshire until her death in 1848, marrying John Staines, raising children, facing poverty, and living under the shadow of capture, but always knowing she was free.  This young reader’s edition of historian Erica Dunbar’s Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (2017) clearly separates fact from conjecture in telling the life story of Ona Judge.
    —SW

    Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of World War II. Mary Cronk Farrell. 2019. Abrams.

    Standing Up Against HateBy 1942, educated African American women who were officers in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps trained recruits who wanted to contribute to the war effort. Farrell’s historical account, illustrated with captioned archival photographs, chronicles the role black women played in the army during World War II, fighting for jobs worthy of their training and education while facing the challenges of a segregated United States and the prejudice that a woman’s place was in the home. One interesting example recounts how, in 1944, when the allied forces in Europe had mailbags of tens of thousands of packages and letters that had not been delivered, the women took on the challenge of clearing that backlog. Back matter includes a glossary, source notes, and a bibliography.
    —SW

    Ages 15+

    Queen Victoria: Twenty-four Days That Changed Her Life. Lucy Worsley. 2019. St. Martin’s/Macmillan.

    Queen VictoriaTaking the English throne at age 18 in 1837, Queen Victoria ruled England and a large fraction of the colonial world during the 19th century. Lucy Worsley incorporates descriptive details and quotations from primary sources in recounting 24 defining days in Victoria’s life as queen, wife, and mother. Worsley’s inclusion of details related to health practices and medicine of the time, government and politics, and the royal family make her biography of Queen Victoria also a history of the period. Captioned archival images and photographs in the middle of the book add information about Victoria’s personality and the time in which she lived. Back matter includes acknowledgments, sources and source notes on quotations, and an index.
    —SW

    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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    Sequels and Series

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Mar 04, 2019

    Series are perennial favorites for many readers of all ages. Once they have been introduced to characters in a picture book or novel, they enjoy following them through new books. This week’s column includes reviews of several much-anticipated sequels and some first books in new series in a variety of genres.

    Ages 4–8

    A Gift for Goose (Duck & Goose). Tad Hills. 2019. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    A Gift for GooseDuck has a gift for his friend Goose. After putting the gift (not pictured) into a white box, he decorates and presents a splendid blue, red, and yellow striped box to Goose. “For me?” honks Goose. “It is the nicest box I have ever seen!” “But…,” quacks Duck, looking downcast, as Goose makes plans to put his special things in it. When Duck finally says, “But, Goose, this box is not your gift,” it is Goose who looks sad. Duck explains, “Your gift is inside this box,” and when Goose opens the box, he—and the reader—are in for a surprise. Young children who have enjoyed listening to Duck and Goose stories will be delighted to read this new early reader on their own.
    —CA

    Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog. (Madeline Finn #2). Lisa Papp. 2019. Peachtree.

    Madeline Finn and the Shelter DogAfter Madeline adopts Star, puppy of Bonnie, the library dog who helped her love reading in Madeline Finn and the Library Dog (2016),Mrs. Dimple, the librarian, invites Madeline and her mother to join her at the shelter where she volunteers with animals needing “forever homes.” Soft pastel illustrations in pencil and watercolor show Madeline taking care of Star and, after visiting the shelter, worrying that those animals aren’t getting the same attention she gives Star. Creating a program (“Come read to the shelter animals. / Bring a blanket and a book.”), Madeline and other children read to the animals, and Mr. Chips, the loneliest dog there, finally finds his own “forever home.”
    —NB

    Penguin Flies Home (Flight School #2). Lita Judge. 2019. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Penguin Flies HomePenguin loves to fly, so he enrolled in flight school where he’s the mascot. However, it’s only when tethered to Flamingo high in the sky that he feels “the wind beneath his wings, / the song that rose from his little round belly, / the sight of new and wonderful places.” Realizing that Penguin misses his friends, Teacher and Flamingo “fly” him back to the South Pole where his fellow penguins are interested in swimming, not flying. Penguin’s question to himselfabout whether his friends will like him if they don’t share the same dreamsis answered when they celebrate his individuality before he returns to school. This lyrical story, accompanied by expressive illustrations rendered in pencil and watercolor, will encourage readers to follow their own dreams and soar.
    —NB

    William Wakes Up. Linda Ashman. Ill. Chuck Groenink. 2019. Disney-Hyperion.

    William Wakes UpWilliam, a young boy, awakens his sleeping animal friends (Chipmunk, Porcupine, Groundhog, and Bear) with the repeated refrain, “Wake up! It’s spring! / Today’s the day— / a special guest is on the way / Rise and shine—no time to lose.” Pencil-and-Photoshop illustrations in earth tones depict everyone busily baking a Welcome Cake, tidying up the cabin, and decorating—except for Raccoon, who “snores and burrows deep” until special guest Bluebird arrives and he hears the word “cake.” After Chipmunk and Bear protest that since Raccoon hasn’t helped at all, “He shouldn’t get a single slice,” Raccoon volunteers to help Bluebird build a nest, and William says, “But first / grab a plate— / …right now it’s time to celebrate!” A rhyming text with a repetitive refrain and humorous illustrations make this sequel to William’s Winter Nap (2017) a perfect read-aloud.
    —NB

    Ages 911

    Amazing Origami Animals (Amazing Origami). Rob Ives. 2019. Hungry Tomato/Lerner.

    Amazing Origami AnimalsThis book from a new series on origami begins with a brief introduction to the art of paper folding and a how-to-get-started section on folds, arrows, and directions that are the basics of origami. Clear and easy-to-follow illustrated steps lead children through projects of increasing difficulty from a bird, butterfly, and fox created in 78 steps to a dog, frog, mouse, and rabbit in 1314 steps. Each project is introduced with a brief note about the animal. Children can continue having more paper-folding fun with Rob Ives’ Amazing Origami Dinosaurs, Amazing Origami Vehicles, and Amazing Origami Gifts published simultaneously.
    —CA

    Escape from the Palace (The Royal Rabbits of London #2). Santa Montefiore & Simon Sebag Montefiore. Ill. Kate Hindley. 2019. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    Royal Rabbits of LondonShylo Tawny-Tail, the timid country bunny who journeyed to London and led the Royal Rabbits who live underground beneath Buckingham Palace in foiling the scandalous scheme of the Ratzis against the Queen in The Royal Rabbits of London (2018), is now proudly one of the Royal Rabbits. With the arrival of the POTUS (accompanied by the ROTUS, the Rabbits of the United States), Papa Ratzis has ordered the Ratzis to disrupt the Royal Banquet. Shylo, who has been kidnapped by the Ratzis, must escape if he is to help the Royal Rabbits and American Jack Rabbits prevent destruction of the “Special Relationship” between Britain and America. The intriguing Epilogue promises another adventure of Shylo Tawny-Tail, the unlikely hero of this fast-paced, humorous animal fantasy series.
    —CA

    The Extremely High Tide! (Secrets of Topsea #2). Kir Fox & M. Shelley Coats. Ill. Rachel Sanson. 2019. Disney-Hyperion.

    The Extremely High TideWhen Talise, the only bathymetrist in Topsea, the bizarre town first visited by readers in A Friendly Town That’s Almost Always by the Ocean (2018), discovers a mysterious message in a bottle on a beachcombing trip with Ms. Grimalkin’s fifth-grade class, she takes it as sign that she must build a boat in preparation for an impending Extremely High Tide. In 14 linked episodic stories about Talise and her fellow students, a delightfully wacky adventure unfolds as The Topsea School Gazette reports breaking news that an Extremely High Tide is coming and the Town Committee for Lunar Consequences sends out notification to ignore these rumors. And, when the predicted rare tide does hit, Talise’s boat is needed to return a beached narwhal to the ocean.
    —CA

    From an Idea to Nike: How Marketing Made Nike a Global Success (From an Idea). Lowey Bundy Sichol. Ill. C. S. Jennings. 2019. Houghton Mifflin.

    From an Idea to NikeFor an assignment in an entrepreneurship class at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Invent a new business, describe its purpose, and create a marketing plan,” Phil Knight, who had been a high school and college runner, developed the idea of a company to make affordable specialized running shoes for competitive athletes. Lowey Bundy Sichol tells the story of the growth of Knight’s idea into what is now the multibillion-dollar Nike corporation, focusing on the role marketing played in its success. The accessible text includes insets with definitions of basic business terms; “Fun Facts”; quotations; and sections on basic marketing concepts. Back matter includes a timeline of Nike, a list of Nike’s top endorsement deals, source notes, and a bibliography.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Comet Rising (Shadow Weavers #2). MarcyKate Connolly. 2019. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks.

    Comet RisingEmmeline (a shadow weaver) and best friend Lucas (a light singer) are hunted while searching for Lucas’ missing parents and talent allies to fight evil Lady Aisling, who kidnaps magical children of all sorts to plant in her dying Garden of Souls where she feasts on their powers. Using a sky shaker, Lady Aisling makes the Cerelia Comet appear 12 years early to produce more talents—and misaligns the heavens, which must be set right before destruction hits. More complications arise as Emmeline and Lucas race to save their world. Readers may want to revisit the first book in this duology, Shadow Weaver (2018), to fully appreciate this companion book.
    —NB

    Slayer (Slayer #1). Kiersten White. 2019. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    SlayetrIt’s two years since Buffy, the Chosen One (a slayer, specially endowed to fight demons), threw good and evil out of balance. It’s been 62 days since Buffy died destroying the Seed of Wonder that fed all magic on earth and Nina got showered in interdimensional demonic goo. Nina and her twin, Artemis, are students at the Watcher’s Academy in Scotland where Nina serves as the castle’s only medic, and Artemis trains to qualify one day as a Watcher (a personal slayer assistant). When a hellhound breaks onto the academy grounds and she kills it with hitherto unknown supernatural skill, Nina realizes that she is the last slayer, ever, and that while being chosen is easy, making choices is difficult.
    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Courting Darkness (Courting Darkness #1). Robin LaFevers. 2019. Houghton Mifflin.

    Courting DarknessIn this first book of a duology, it is 1489, and Sybella and Genevieve, daughters of Mortain (the god of death) who have trained as assassins at the Convent of Saint Mortain, make separate perilous journeys to the French court. Sybella continues serving as lady in waiting to Duchess Anne of Brittany, who will wed King Charles VIII, and Genevieve, embedded among the French nobility for years, intends to convince the king to save the Convent of Saint Mortain, which has been disbanded. All the political intrigue, conspiracy, betrayal, murder, and romance of Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin Trilogy set during the 15th Century French-Breton War continues as the stories of these two strong women, presented in alternating voices, finally come together in the last chapter of this complex historical novel that leaves the reader eagerly waiting for the next book.  
    —CA

    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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