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    Worlds of Fantasy

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 19, 2018

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

    Ages 4–8

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

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

    —CA

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

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

    —NB

    Ages 9–11

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

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

    —CA

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

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

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

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

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

    —CA

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

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

    —NB

    Ages 15+

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

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

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

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

    —NB

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

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

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 12, 2018

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

    Ages 4–8

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

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

    —SW

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

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

    —SW

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

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

    —CA

    Ages 911

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

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

    —SW

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

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

    —SW

    Ages 12–14

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

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

    —CA

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

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

    —CA

    Ages 15+.

    Dreamland Burning. Jennifer Latham. 2017. Little Brown.

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

    —SW

    Trell.  Dick Lehr. 2017. Candlewick.

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

    —SW

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

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

    —SW

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the School of Education and the English Department of Husson University, Bangor, Maine. She served on the 2018 Notable Books for a Global Society. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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

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    Meet Some Memorable Characters

    By Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 05, 2018

    I am drawn to books with memorable characters, and as I read the books reviewed this week, I met quite a few. There are stories of animal characters (including a sleepwalking lemur and a tiptoeing tiger) with whom younger children will enjoy sharing mini-adventures and realistic stories as well as fantasies in which older readers will meet a diverse group of characters doing interesting things in interesting places.

    Ages 4–8

    Click, Clack, Moo I Love You! Doreen Cronin. Ill. Betsy Lewin. 2018. Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Click, Clack, MooLittle Duck is busy decorating Farmer Brown’s barn with balloons, streamers, hearts, and lots of glitter for a Valentine’s Day dance. As the guests—all the barnyard animals except the cows, who are having a more formal evening out at the Divine Bovine Ball—arrive, Little Duck greets them with a valentine and a “Quack quack quack!” The chickens dance with the chickens, the pigs with the pigs, and the sheep with the sheep. With the arrival of an unexpected guest, a little fox who heard the music, the frightened animals stop dancing. Little Duck, however, is not scared, greets Little Fox with a valentine, and begins dancing with him. “Yip, quack, yip, quack, yip, quack quack!” Just what is needed to encourage mixing it up. Chickens dance with sheep, pigs dance with chickens, and everybody dances with everybody else until the cows come home. A line of seven barn mice doing the hustle is a delightful detail in Lewin’s lively watercolor illustrations.

    Lemur Dreamer. Courtney Dicmas. 2018. Kane Miller.

    Lemur DreamerLouis the lemur, who lives on the top floor at 32 Pebbly Lane, is a sleepwalker. During nightly wanderings, he usually just “snoozed” around the other apartments and then “snuffled” back to bed. Then one night, Louis snoozes down a clothesline and snuffles into traffic. What is he dreaming? Where is he going? His concerned neighbors follow him until he runs out of places to sleepwalk. They shout, “WAKE UP, LOUIS!!!” just as Louis, who is still fast asleep, falls off the edge of a cliff. His friends form a chain and pull him safely back up onto the cliff. As Louis tells them about the amazing adventure he was having in his dream, he realizes his sleepwalking is causing a lot of trouble. Not to worry. The next day, the neighbors give Louis the perfect gift to keep him safe no matter where his dreams take him.

    Old MacDonald Has a Boat. Steve Goetz. Ill. Eda Kaban. 2018. Chronicle.

    Old MacDonald Had a BoatOld MacDonald had a farm, and on that farm he had a truck (which readers learned about in Old MacDonald Had a Truck (2016)). And on that farm he had a wife, who drives the truck into the farmyard with a boat shell and supplies. Old MacDonald, Mrs. Mac, and a crew of farm animals get to work and very soon—with a lot of E-I-E-I-O-ing and buzzing of saws, banging of hammers, shhh-shhing of sandpaper, and rolling on of paint—they have a snazzy boat, the Finnastic. Putting the boat on a trailer and filling the truck with equipment for water play, they all head to the lake for a day of water skiing. “Old MacDonald had a farm / E-I-E-I-O. / And on that farm he had a . . .  / BOAT! / E-I-E-I-TOWWWW!” The colorful, detailed illustrations depicting farm and lake activities make this interactive read-aloud—or sing-aloud—book loads of fun. 

    The Tiptoeing Tiger. Philippa Leathers. 2018. Candlewick.

    The Tiptoeing TigerLittle Tiger’s big brother says he is too small and clumsy to scare anyone. Out to prove him wrong, Little Tiger begins to tiptoe through the forest as quietly as he can. “Tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe . . . ROAR!!!” Little Tiger fails at scaring Boar, who says he hears him coming from a mile away; Elephant, who says he’s too small to scare him; and three monkeys in a tree, who just laugh at him. Discouraged but determined, Little Tiger spies an animal he is certain he can scare, a frog jumping into a pond. He creeps up to the water’s edge. “Tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe . . . ROAAARR!!!” and at last succeeds. Leather’s depiction of an ever-so-cute Little Tiger tiptoeing through the forest in her digitally combined pencil-and-watercolor illustrations will have young children mimicking Little Tiger’s movements and roaring at storytime.

    Ages 9–11

    Lucky Enough (Fred Bowen Sports Stories). Fred Bowen. 2018. Peachtree.

    Lucky EnoughTrey credits his good luck charm, a piece of dark blue sea glass he found while beachcombing with his grandmother, for securing him a coveted position on the under-thirteen baseball travel team, the Ravens. With his lucky charm in his uniform pocket, and his superstitious routine on the field, things are going well. His batting and fielding stats keep getting better—until the day he loses the sea glass. Trey’s desperate search for it fails, and his performance slumps. It takes extra practice sessions with the coach, conversations with the groundskeeper, and a reminder from a family member that, “The harder you work the luckier you get,” to make Trey realize that he is “lucky enough.”  As he does in his other books in the Sports Story series, Bowen includes a “The Real Story” section related to the story, which adds an interesting history of superstitions surrounding the game and superstitions and jinxes that famous baseball players have believed in.

    Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure. A. L. Kennedy. Ill. Gemma Correll. 2018. Kane Miller.

    Uncle Shawn and BillBadger Bill has been kidnapped by nasty sisters Ethel and Maude McGloone, who plan to have him box as Battling Bob Badger in a series of matches with three ferocious dogs: Ripper, Cracker, and Snapper. Bill isn’t the only one in need of rescue. Four llamas—Brian, Carlos, Guinevere, and Ginalolobrigida—get a free trip to  McGlorious McGetaway at McGloone Llama Paradise after winning a poetry contest advertised in The Lima Llama Informer. Now, held captive behind an electric fence at the McGloone Farm, the llamas are nearly bald from being overly sheared by Farmer McGloone’s wife, who uses their wool to knit luxury llama wool socks, and they’re worried about becoming other McGloone’s Luxury Products—such as llama pies and llama skin wallets. In the nick of time, Uncle Shawn comes with a rescue plan (well, actually an almost entirely unplanned plan), which involves a lot of dancing and a mole friend. Correll’s clever black-and-white cartoons add to the fun of reading this laugh-out-loud story.

    Ages 12–14

    The Ambrose Deception. Emily Ecton. Ill. Gilbert Ford. 2018. Disney-Hyperion.

    Ambrose DeceptionThree Chicago students—Melissa Burris from Morton Middle School, Wilf Samson from Sutherland Academy, and Bondi Johnson at Noyes Central—unexpectedly find themselves invited to compete in the Kaplin/Baron Academic Scholarship contest. To win the $10,000 scholarship, a contestant must solve three cryptic clues to identify Chicago landmarks. They must also sign a contract specifying that they will abide by the contest rules, including no discussion of clues with other competitors or outside elements. Each is provided with a cell phone, a camera, a debit card, and a driver. The three contestants take very different approaches to solving the clues, but as the organizers appear to be taking advantage of the rule about their right to alter the rules, they become increasingly suspicious about the contest. Middle-grade readers will enjoy following along with Melissa, Wilf, and Bondi as they decide to break the rules and work as a team to untangle the real mystery behind the Ambrose deception.

    Black Panther, the Young Prince. Roland L. Smith. 2018. Marvel/Disney.

    Black PantherSmith offers fans of the Marvel Universe an origin story of the Black Panther. When the remote, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda is threatened with invasion, ruling Black Panther, King of Wakanda, sends 12-year-old T’Challa, the young prince and future Black Panther, and his best friend, M’Baku, to Chicago for safety (and to learn about the outside world). With a false identity as an exchange student named T. Charles and a ring and a suit made of the super strong metal Vibranium to be used only in the case of extreme emergency, T’Challa must navigate life as a student at South Side Middle School. He makes some friends but also an enemy, Gemini Jones. As strange things occurring on campus turn sinister, T’Challa is challenged to uncover Gemini’s involvement with ancient dark magic in Chicago and its ties to events in Wakanda. This fast-paced adventure ends with classmate Sheila asking T’Challa, “When’s the next mission?”

    Ages 15+

    Love and Other Train Wrecks. Leah Konen. 2018. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    Love & Other Train WrecksTwo strangers meet while traveling on a train to Hudson, New York. High school senior Ammy West from Roanoake, Virginia, is headed to her father’s commitment ceremony (a “wedding non-wedding” because her parents’ divorce hasn’t been finalized). Noah Adler, a freshman at Hunter College, is headed to Hudson with hopes of wooing back his ex-girlfriend with roses and dinner at a swanky restaurant on the anniversary of their first date. Their first impressions of each other are not good, but when the train breaks down during a snowstorm and no one knows when travel will resume, the two teens decide to leave the train together and set out for a bus station a mile away. As they begin their trek through the snow, however, they head in the wrong direction. This is just the first in a series of misadventures that result in the missing of their special occasions and not arriving in Hudson until the next day. Readers will not be surprised by the development of a mutual, if conflicted, romantic attraction—until a train wreck of an unsettling connection between Ammy and Noah is revealed.

    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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    New Year, New Releases

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Jan 29, 2018

    As reviewers, we eagerly anticipate reading the early releases in the new year. The books that we review in this week’s column suggest that 2018 will be another terrific year for children’s and young adult literature and that readers can look forward to a year of great books from which to choose. Happy reading to all in 2018!

    Ages 4–8

    Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon. Annette Bay Pimentel. Ill. Micha Archer. 2018. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    Girl RunningBobbi Gibb loved to run, and she was fast. After watching the Boston Marathon one year, she begins serious long-distance training. Her requests for an application to participate in the Boston Marathon, however, is rejected. Organizers respond, “Women are not physiologically able to run 26 miles and furthermore the rules do not allow it.” Determined to prove them wrong, Bobbi does run the Boston Marathon by hiding near the starting line and sneaking onto the course to join the racers. Rules being rules, she finishes unofficially. “Bobbi’s first race is over, but marathoning for women has begun.” The inclusion of a border of the route with mile markers and elevation indicators along the bottom of the colorful illustrations highlights the difficulty of the race. Back matter includes an afterword on Gibb’s 1966 race and the Boston Marathon and a bibliography.
    —CA

    I Am a Cat. Galia Bernstein. 2018. Abrams.

    I Am a CAtA green-eyed domestic cat introduces himself to Lion, Puma, Panther, Tiger, and Cheetah saying, “Hello, my name is Simon. I am a cat. Just like you!” They all laugh at Simon and point out that he can’t be a cat because he is nothing like them. Tiger even labels him a small, gray rat. Definitely not a cat. In turn, the big cats describe their special characteristics (spots, stripes, or a mane; roaring; living in jungles). When Simon questions what makes them cats since they are all so different, Lion points out what they have in common (small, perky ears, flat noses, long whiskers and tails, sharp teeth and claws, and night-vision eyes), and Simon protests, “I have all of those things. Only smaller.” Finally, all the big cats agree with him, and Simon spends the day with his new family “pouncing and prowling, prancing and playing, like cats of all sizes do.” Bernstein’s artwork (created digitally with applied hand-painted textures) boldly portrays the characteristics of the members of the Felidae family in this picture book, which is a good read-aloud choice.
    —NB

    One Fun Day with Lewis Carroll: A Celebration of Wordplay and a Girl Named Alice. Kathleen Krull. Ill. Júlia Sardà, 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    One Fun DayLewis Carroll was an expert at making any day “frabjous.” Once, while boating on the river, he told a girl named Alice a tale about a girl named Alice who tumbles down a rabbit hole. Kathleen Krull peppers her text with Carroll’s nonsense words and phrases, such as “slithy” (a combination of slimy and lithe), “realing and writhing” (a variation on the subjects of reading and writing) and “un-birthday” (any day other than one’s birthday).All the words and ideas invented or adapted by Carroll are color coded in the text to indicate the source—Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, or The Hunting of the Snark—and defined in a glossary. Júlia Sardà’s whimsical double-page illustrations playfully mix real people and fictional characters, such as the White Rabbit, the Mock Turtle, and the Lobster Quadrille. One Fun Day with Lewis Carroll is the perfect picture book for encouraging children to read Carroll’s fantasies, to incorporate some of his language into their conversations, and perhaps to coin some words on their own.
    —CA

    When Sophie Thinks She Can’t . . . Molly Bang. 2018. Blue Sky/Scholastic.

    When Sophie Thinks She Can'tAfter Sophie can’t complete a tangram at home, she thinks, “I can’t do ANYTHING!” Even after her teacher talks to the class about exercising their brains to become smarter by doing math puzzles, Sophie thinks she can’t—until her teacher says, “You haven’t figured it out … YET… Keep trying, and you will.” Finally solving the puzzle, Sophie realizes, “I did it! I can do it again!” Back home, she shares the magical word “YET” with her frustrated father, and they fix a stubborn cabinet door together. Double-page, brightly colored illustrations, outlined in thick primary colors, complement the story's positive message. Front matter includes information about tangrams, and back matter describes growth mindset teaching, a technique teachers can use to help students master new learning. Young children will also enjoy Bang’s two other books about young Sophie: When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry . . . (1999) and When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt (2015).
    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Blacksmith’s Song. Elizabeth Van Steenwyk. Ill. Anna Rich. 2018. Peachtree.

    Blacksmith's SongIn this imagined history picture book, set during the days of the Underground Railroad, Pa (a blacksmith and slave) hammers out rhythmic cryptic messages daily to runaway slaves while also awaiting the signal for him and his family to join the travelers. One morning, Pa becomes ill and can’t go to work. His 9-year-old son, who has been secretly practicing, takes on the responsibility of pounding out the “blacksmith’s song” until, at last, it is time for them to leave, too. Somber, muted oil paintings complement this emotionally charged storyline. Back matter provides a note on the inspiration for the story as well as historical background.
    —NB  

    The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1). Sayantani DasGupta. 2018. Scholastic.

    The Serpent's SecretOn Kiranmala’s 12th birthday, her overprotective parents and grandmother vanish, a rakkhosh demon attacks her New Jersey home and tries to eat her, and she discovers she is an Indian princess thrust into a hero’s journey to save her family. Rescued from the rakkhosh by two princes and whisked away to a fantastical dimension where she meets birth parents she never knew about (the Moon Queen and the Serpent King}, Kiran uncovers unknown magical within herself to use in fighting enemies she encounters. Kiran’s quirky first-person narration will sweep readers into one near-death adventure after another as she works to save the beloved mother, father, and grandmother of her childhood. An author’s note describes Indian folktales and stories referenced in this new series.
    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man. Tonya Bolden. 2018. Abrams.

    Facing FrederickIn this well-researched biography, Tonya Bolden chronicles the life and accomplishments of Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), focusing on decisions that shaped his life and the history of the United States. In her engaging and accessible narration, Bolden clearly communicates how Douglass used his personal experiences with slavery and racism—what he called the “twin-monsters of darkness”—to enhance his effectiveness as a voice for the anti-slavery movement and the rights for black people and women. A wealth of quotes and captioned archival photographs, drawings, and documents and insets of quotes contribute to the readers understanding of Frederick Douglass, a writer, orator, abolitionist, suffragist, statesman, diplomat—“a monumental American man.” Back matter includes an author’s note, timeline, source notes on quotations, selected sources, image credits, and index.
    —CA

    Martin Rising: Requiem for a King. Andrea Davis Pinkney. Ill. Brian Pinkney. 2018. Scholastic.

    Martin RisingAndrea Davis Pinkney’s lyrical poetry and Brian Pinkney’s stunning impressionistic illustrations create a moving “requiem” for Martin Luther King, Jr., which focuses on the final months of his life, from a family celebration of his 39th birthday on January 15, 1968, to his assassination on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had been speaking and leading rallies and marches in support of the garbage collector’s strike against the city’s discriminatory pay policy. The final poem, “Rejoice the Legacy” ends with “Can a Dream ever die? / A burst of sun replies: / His life well lived for peace and good. / Martin’s spirit—still alive! / And with love, we all shall rise,” an expressive reminder of why we celebrate Martin Luther King Day each year on January 15. Back matter includes reflections by the author and the illustrator on their creation of Martin Rising, a “Now Is the Time” section providing historical context, a time line, and a bibliography.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes. Atia Abawi. 2018. Philomel/Penguin.

    A Land of Permanent GoodbyesTeenager Tareq and the remaining members of his once-large family, consisting now of only his father, cousin, and 5-year-old sister, run for their lives from their war-torn country after their neighborhood is bombed in the ongoing Syrian conflict. Tareq grows up quickly as horrifying events befall him and his family: being threatened by Daesh fighters as they escape from Syria to Turkey and witness a public beheading; being separated from family members during the flight; surviving a treacherous raft trip from Turkey to Greece, in which many perish; the kidnapping of his sister; and fearing for the lives of his family at every turn of their traumatic escape. Tareq learns that although many of his countrymen put money above humanity, “helpers” from many countries stand in the gap to help them survive. Abawi, a foreign news correspondent, born a refugee in West Germany to Afghan parents fleeing a brutal war, brings insight and sensitivity to the plight of the refugee through the authentic storyline and the reflections of “Destiny,” who serves as the omniscient narrator. A glossary is included.
    —NB

    Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot. Winifred Conkling. 2018. Algonquin.

    Votes for WomenWith a strong storytelling voice, Winifred Conkling offers readers a captivating account of the long-fought battle for women’s suffrage in the United States. Drawing from letter, journals, speeches, newspaper articles, and documents, Conkling focuses on the compelling personal stories of leaders in the suffrage movement—from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul—and key events—from the 1848 Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, to the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Back matter includes an “In Her Own Words” section on key primary sources, a time line, a bibliography, chapter-by-chapter notes on quotations, and an index. Votes for Women! is an important, inspiring, and timely book.
    —CA

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

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

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    Books to Keep

    By Carolyn Angus
     | Jan 22, 2018

    I just completed my annual task of going through the many books I’ve read during the year and deciding which ones I’ll add to my personal collection. Since moving into a tiny apartment four years ago, my goal has been to keep only 10 books each year. Here are my 2017 list of “books to keep,” with notes on why I chose them. I cheated a bit by including a few pairings of a chosen book with other new releases.

    Ages 4–8

    The Alphabet Thief. Bill Richardson. Ill. Roxanna Bikadoroff. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    The Alphabet ThiefIn the dark of night, the Alphabet Thief creeps through the city creating havoc as she steals letters from words in alphabetical order. As the letter “A” is stolen, boats become bots, fairs become firs, and coats become cots—and so on through the alphabet. The devious Alphabet Thief handles the Q-with-U predicament by removing them as a pair, so queasy is easy and squash becomes sash. Having nearly reached the end of the alphabet, the Alphabet Thief seems unstoppable until the red-headed narrator, who has been following her, makes slingshots with the letter Y and fires Zs at the thief. “A halo of Z’s encircles her head. / Such snoring as never been heard. / When I open her sack, the letters spring back / And hurry on home to their words.” The clever story in rhyme and playful ink-and-watercolor illustrations depicting word transformations make this small book one to add to my collection of alphabet books.

    City Mouse, Country Mouse. Maggie Rudy. 2017. Godwin/Henry Holt.

    City Mouse, Country MouseOn a visit to the country, city mouse William Gray makes friends with Tansy Mouse and invites her to visit the city. “It’s so exciting! I could never live anywhere else!” Although she enjoys all there is to see and do in the city, Tansy is homesick and returns to the country. The city is too crowded and noisy for Tansy and the country is too quiet for William, but they miss each other. Their solution: settling in a small “halfway town,” where they live next door to each other and are close enough to both the city and the country to make visits. “And Tansy and Will, the best of friends, lived mousily ever after.” The illustrations for this retelling of one of my favorite Aesop’s fable are fascinating. Tansy, Will, and other characters are constructed with felt and positioned in sets created with found materials to create colorful, imaginatively-detailed scenes that are then photographed.

    Little Fox in the Forest. Stephanie Graegin. 2017. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Little Fox in the ForestBlue-toned panels in this wordless book show a young girl selecting a stuffed fox as her old and treasured item to take to school for show-and-tell. While she is playing on the swings at recess, a bright orange young fox sneaks up and runs off with the beloved toy fox. In a pursuit through the forest, she and a friend make inquiries of various animals (shown as colorful images in the blue scenes) and eventually come upon a fairy tale village of personified animals (shown in a brightly colored, double-page spread). Upon reaching the home of Little Fox, she is reunited with her toy fox—but not for long, as the ending panels reveal a surprise exchange. Little Fox in the Forest is my favorite wordless book of the year. There is more to discover with each rereading of the pictures in this beautifully crafted story.

    Ages 9–11

    Books! Books! Books!: Exploring the Amazing Collection of the British Library. Mick Manning & Brita Granström. 2017. Candlewick.

    Books Books BooksWith a “Welcome to the greatest library in the world!” Manning and Grandström take readers on a tour of the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom. Double-page spreads of watercolor-and-digital collage art incorporating photographic images of works from the library’s archives and a narrative presented in an informative, docent-like, conversational tone (with humorous touches) provide an engaging and accessible peek into the British Library’s treasure of books, documents, manuscripts, and more. Back matter includes notes on the 21 featured treasures, including the handmade St. Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest surviving book produced in Europe; the Magna Carta; the First Folio of William Shakespeare; and the original manuscript of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  I am interested in the history of books and I’d love to have the opportunity to explore the British Library, so I’m keeping Books! Books! Books!

    Lesser Spotted Animals: The Coolest Creatures You’ve Never Heard Of. Martin Brown. 2017. David Fickling/Scholastic.

    Lesser Spotted AnimalsIn the introduction, Brown sets the tone for this book with his “good-bye to the gnu and cherrio to the cheetah.” Each mammal (long-tailed dunnart, onager, gaur, zebra duiker, and 17 more) is given a heading with common name and an interest-catching identification (for example, “CUBON SOLENODON Shaggy Caribbean insectivore with a toxic bite”), a realistic portrait, and information about its characteristics and behavior. An inset provides information about size, diet, location, conservation status, and other trivia. The former science teacher in me loves finding books that I wish I had available when I was teaching. Thislively, informative book about lesser known mammals is also an interest-catching introduction about threats to the diversity of life on Earth.   

    Ages 12–14

    Gods and Thunder: A Graphic Novel of Old Norse Myths. Carl Bowen, Michael Dahl & Louise Simonson. Ill. Eduardo Garcia, Tod Smith & Rex Lokus. 2017. Capstone.

    Gods and ThunderThis introduction to Norse mythology in an accessible full-color graphic novel format includes four tales. In “Thor and Loki,” Thor (the son of Odin) and Loki (a sly, shape-shifting giant who has been raised with Odin’s children) journey into Jütunheim, the land of the giants. In “Thor vs. the Giants,” the thunder god outwits three giants in epic battles. “The Death of Baldur” tells the story of the tragic death of the beloved god of light, the son of Odin and Frigg. “Twilight of the Gods” chronicles the events of Ragnarök, the final battle that brings an end to the Nine Worlds. A glossary (with a pronunciation guide) is helpful in keeping track of the characters, places, and events in these ancient tales. I discovered Gods and Thunder while immersed in educating myself about graphic novels this year. It was the perfect book to get me prepped for reading Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki (2017) and Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (2017), two other books I’m adding to my collection.

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

    The Photo ArkThis pictorial encyclopedia showcasing the diversity of animals on our planet features portraits of more than 400 animals. Working with captive animals, Joel Sartore photographed each species against a black or white background under controlled lighting to bring out details. Each photo is captioned with the common and the scientific name of the animal and a notation of the species’ conservation status. Inserts on eight “heroes,” conservationists acting to protect the Earth’s biodiversity, add interest. Back matter includes notes on the making of the photographs and National Geographic’s Photo Ark Project. This book goes right next to Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures (2017), which includes a center double-page gatefold featuring National Geographic photographer Sartore’s animal portraits and “The Chorus of Creatures,” a poem by Kwame Alexander which celebrates connections between humans and the world’s wild animals.

    Ages 15+

    La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1). Philip Pullman. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    The Book of DustSet 10 years earlier in the parallel world of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra Belacqua is a baby under the care of nuns in a priory on the Thames. In a devastating flood, 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead rescues Baby Lyra from the destroyed priory in his canoe, La Belle Sauvage. Swept far away in the storm, Malcolm faces a long and perilous journey to get Lyra back to safety in Oxford with the aim of securing sanctuary for her at Jordan College. I have been a Philip Pullman fan from the early 80s and enjoyed reading all of his books. I like to reread earlier books in a series before reading the latest book, so I’ll be reading La Belle Sauvage again before the second book in the Book of Dust series is published.

    Tool of War (Ship Breaker #3). Paolo Bacigalupi. 2017. Little, Brown.

    Tool of WarIn this third book of master storyteller Bacigalupi’s post-apocalyptic series, Tool, a genetically engineered half man and half beast “augment” designed to be a fiercely obedient and loyal “killing machine,” has learned to suppress his inbred submissiveness to his masters. Aware of the potential for Tool to turn on his creators, General Caroa is using all of the powerful Mercier Corporation’s military resources to locate and destroy Tool, who is now set on a path of not only survival, but also revenge. Bacigalupi is the author who got me hooked on reading science fiction, and so this book joins my copies of the first two books in this series of dystopian thrillers: Ship Breaker (2011) and The Drowned Cities (2013).

    Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Catherine Reef. 2017. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    VictoriaWith a masterful storytelling voice, Reef offers readers a fascinating biography of Victoria, who became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1837, at the age of 18, and ruled until her death in 1901. The engaging narrative, enriched by a wealth of illustrations (including full-color formal portraits and archival paintings) provides a vivid portrait of the long-reigning queen and a history of the era in which she lived. Back matter includes a list of British monarchs, Queen Victoria’s family tree, source notes, an extensive bibliography, picture credits, and an index. Victoria stays on my bookshelf because of my interest in the reign of Queen Victoria but also because the book is such a wonderful model of a well-researched and well-designed biography. Victoria: Portrait of a Queen is a book I’ll enjoy read again and looking at all the archival visual material. As a bonus, the bibliography will serve as a guide for learning more about the Victorian Era.

    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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