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    History in Fact and Fiction

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Jul 24, 2017

    Young people of all ages can learn important, timeless life lessons from history. Studies show that young people who engage in more nonfiction reading will build more background knowledge, which in turn will give them a greater foundation for all other reading. Here are a few recently published books—some nonfiction and some fiction based on real, historical events—that will inform and entertain readers.

    Ages 4–8

    Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History Is Unfortunately Unknown. Deborah Hopkinson. Ill. Giselle Potter. 2017. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Independence CakeIn an introduction, Deborah Hopkinson informs readers that Independence Cake is a fictional story about Amelia Simmons, author of American Cookery. First published in 1796 and the first known cookbook written by an American, Simmons adapted English recipes and cooking techniques. Giselle Potter’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations provide colorful details that complement Hopkinson’s imagined life story of Amelia Simmons in which local fame as a baker led to her creation of thirteen Independence Cakes (one for each of the thirteen colonies) for President George Washington’s inauguration celebration. Back matter includes an author’s note and online sources of Election Day cake recipes. 

    —CA

    Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing. Dean Robbins. Ill. Lucy Knisley. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Margaret and the MoonGrowing up, Margaret was curious about everything and loved to solve complicated math problems. When she discovered computers, she taught herself to code, using her problem-solving skill to write computer programs to perform increasingly more complex tasks. In 1964, she began working with NASA as software director for Project Apollo, and in 1969 became a hero of the Apollo 11 mission when a computer overload threatened its success. “Had Margaret thought of everything that could go wrong with a lunar landing?” Yes, and the safe landing on the moon of the lunar module Eagle was accomplished. An engaging text and cartoon illustrations make this life story of Margaret Heafield Hamilton accessible to young readers. Back matter includes an author’s note, bibliography, and an additional reading list.  

    —CA

    Patrick and the President. Ryan Tubridy. Ill. P. J. Lynch. 2017. Candlewick.

    Patrick and the PresidentIn this historically-inspired fictional story, Patrick, a young Irish boy, meets President John F. Kennedy during his 1963 visit to his ancestral home in Dunganstown, Ireland. Patrick sings with his class for the President, and attends the Kennedy family reception where he serves President Kennedy a special dessert and shakes hands with him. “Don’t ever wash that lucky hand of yours!” said Patrick’s mam. Realistic watercolor illustrations in soft hues capture the anticipation of Patrick and his classmates as they meet the President and create memories for a lifetime. Endpapers include the lyrics of “The Boys of Wexford,” which school children sang as part of Kennedy’s 1963 welcome to Ireland. Back matter includes a day-by-day itinerary of the President’s trip to Ireland accompanied by black-and-white photos.

    NB

    Ages 9–11

    Refugee. Alan Gratz. 2012. Scholastic.

    RefugeeThree young people from different places and times—Josef, a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany in 1938; Isabel, a girl living near Havana under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro in 1994; and Mahmoud, living in war-torn Aleppo, Syria, in 2015—have the same goal: to flee their homelands with their families. Written in alternating short chapters from the points of view of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud, Gratz’s novel is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure story. It is also a compelling and heartrending historical exploration of the plight of immigrants who take incredible journeys to survive, sustained by the quest for freedom and the hope of reaching a place in which their families can rebuild their lives. Maps help readers follow the three families’ journeys, and in an author’s note, Gratz identifies the historical background against which the fictional stories of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are set.

    —CA

    The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found. Martin W. Sandler. 2017. Candlewick.

    The WhydahThe Whydah, which sunk off the coast of Cape Cod during a storm on April 26, 1717, and was found in 1985, is the only shipwreck that has been authenticated as a pirate ship. Marine archaeologists have studied this “sunken time capsule” with its artifacts that provide evidence of pirate life that differs from their representations in popular movies and books. Sandler’s narrative, accompanied by biographical sketches, maps, charts, and photographs, chronicles the Whydah’s transformation from slavery ship to the mightiest and greediest pirate ship of the day. Insets include information about the history of slavery in the Americas, the Articles of Agreement (rules for pirates), the history of the Jolly Roger pirate flag, pirate attack strategies, coins as windows to the past, and other relevant and interesting topics. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Crossing Ebenezer CreekCrossing Ebenezer Creek. Tonya Bolden. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    The freedom Mariah has always longed for seems to be a possibility as she and her younger brother, Zeke, and others enslaved on the Chaney plantation join the march of General Sherman’s 14th Army Corps through Georgia following a raid by Union soldiers. As a relationship grows between Mariah and Caleb, a young black man working with the corps, she begins to dream of a home of her own with a man she loves. The hardships and dangers of the march are severe, but for Mariah, the struggles in freedom are nothing like the struggles in slavery. “Now the struggles of the march were hitched to striving for a new life.” An author’s note provides a context for this beautifully-written, carefully-researched novel which tells a personal story of a little-known event of the Civil War, the tragedy of “the betrayal at Ebenezer Creek” on December 9, 1864.

    —CA

    Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War. Paul B. Janeczko. 2017. Candlewick.

    Double CrossIn this companion to Top Secrets: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing (2006) and The Dark Game: True Spy Stories from Invisible Ink to CIA Moles (2010), Paul Janeczko chronicles the use of deception in war throughout history.  Focusing on the use of deception during World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars, Janeczko provides numerous examples of the interplay of various deception tactics used in military operations (such as the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944) in an informative, accessible text, complemented by captioned photographs and maps. Each chapter includes an interesting sidebar on a related topic such as the use of signals and ciphers in the Civil War, the code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park in World War II, and the important role of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for communication during Operation Desert Storm, the second phase of the Gulf War. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, image credits, and an index.

    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Magellan: Over the Edge of the World. Laurence Bergreen. 2017. Roaring Brook.

    MagellanThis young readers’ edition of Bergeen’s Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (2003) offers a true adventure story set in the age of exploration and discovery that expands the textbook story of  Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan (14801521). With Magellan as captain general, the Armada de Molucca of five ships and 260 sailors set sail on the Atlantic Ocean in 1519 under the Spanish flag. The expedition to the Spice Islands was plagued by treacherous sailing conditions over uncharted waters, storms, harsh weather, illness, starvation, and mutiny. Magellan was killed in the Philippines during a confrontation with natives in 1521. The following year, one remaining ship, the Victoria, returned to Seville with only eighteen survivors, completing the circumnavigation of the globe. The history of this important maritime expedition includes a list of major characters, maps, and captioned illustrations. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

    —CA

    Night Witches. Kathryn Lasky. 2017. Scholastic.

    Night WitchesIt's 1941; World War II is in full swing and the Germans are surrounding Stalingrad, intent on obliterating the city. After her grandmother and mother are killed and her home destroyed in raids on their town, 16-year-old Valya heads out on her own to not only survive, but to help. Taught to fly by her father, who was a major in the Russian Air Force, she longs to join her sister, Tatyana, as a member of the Night Witches, a band of young female Soviet pilots who bomb Nazi supply lines and clear the way for the troops, but she does not qualify because she is too young. Sneaking her way onto the base, Valya works her way up from the ground crew to the cockpit, where she is eventually able to prove herself. When Tatyana is captured by the Germans, Valya knows that it is up to her to rescue her sister, and it will entail precision timing and more than a little luck. 

    NB

    Maid of the King’s Court. Lucy Worsley. 2017. Candlewick.

    Maid of the King's CourtTwelve-year old Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne has accepted that it is her duty to save her impoverished but noble family by marrying well. After her engagement falls through in a scandal, she is sent to Trumpton Hall to train to become a lady. It is not long before Eliza and her cousin Katherine are sent as maids of honor to serve King Henry VIII’s latest wife, Anne of Cleves. Hoping for lucrative marriage matches, they are immediately drawn into court intrigue. When Anne doesn’t produce an heir, she is dismissed, and Katherine is chosen as the king’s next wife. This story follows the fictional character, Eliza, through age 18, when Katherine is beheaded for treason. In the epilogue, British historian Worsley tells how she used her knowledge of Hampton Court Palace to create this fictional version of Tudor history that she hopes will provide insights into Katherine Howard’s life.

    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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    More Summer Reading

    Sandip Wilson
     | Jul 03, 2017

    Summer reading provides a change of pace, carrying readers to new places and offering adventure and glimpses into experiences that are thrilling, humorous, suspenseful, inspiring, and heartfelt. The books in this second summer reading collection are good company for readers wherever they are during vacation.

    Ages 8–11

    Away. Emil Sher. Ill. Qin Leng. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    AwaySkip does not want to go to summer camp. Rendered in watercolor and ink, the illustrations include a series of sticky notes that Skip and her mother write to each other about daily household chores, which also express Skip’s stubborn insistence that she will not go to camp, even as she prepares for it. When her grandmother, Mimsy, visits, Skip learns that when her mother went to camp the first time, she was also sad and afraid. Yet now, her mother’s memories of camp “are warm biscuits.” Talking with Mimsy and her mother is just what Skip needs to head to camp with a positive attitude. The good experience she has is evident in a letter she writes from camp.

    Danny McGee Drinks the Sea. Andy Stanton. Ill. Neal Layton. 2017. Schwartz & Wade/ Random House.

    Danny McGee Drinks the SeaWhen Danny McGee and his sister Frannie go to the shore on a summer day, Danny bets her that he can drink the entire sea. When his sister disagrees, Danny asks her for a straw and proves her wrong.  But he doesn’t stop there; he swallows other things including a tree, a squirrel and a bird, and the weather reporter on TV. Rendered in mixed media, Frannie watches in amazement as Danny swallows mountains, jungles, and even the author (who finds himself writing the book from inside Danny). 

    Jabari Jumps. Gaia Cornwall. 2017. Candlewick.

    Jabari JumpsAnyone who is learning to swim will take solace in Jabari’s story as he works up the courage to jump off the high diving board at his local swimming pool. Seeing his son’s fear, Jabari’s father tells him to take a rest, and after an afternoon of delaying the dive, the family goes home. When they return the next day, Jabari’s father suggests that he take some deep breaths and tell himself he is ready. Illustrations, done in pencil, watercolor, and collage, show Jabari overcoming his fear and his joy at the prospect of another dive.

    Ages 9–11

    Beach Party Surf Monkey (Welcome to Wonderland #2). Chris Grabenstein. Ill. Brooke Allen. 2017. Random House.

    TWonderlandhe beachfront Wonderland Motel in St. Petersburg, Florida, sits in the shadow of the new high-rise Conch Reef Resort. Mr. Conch has shown interest in buying the Wonderland, with plans to tear it down and develop the property as part of the Conch Resort, prompting P.T. Wilkes, who helps his grandfather and mother run the motel, to figure out new ways to promote the motel and keep it in the family. P.T. convinces a production team to use the Wonderland as the location for their movie, a 1960s beach party musical starring Academy Award-winning Cassie McGinty, heartthrob Aidan Taylor, and a Capuchin monkey named Kevin. As Mr. Conch’s daughter, Veronica, starts a competing campaign to attract the crew to the Conch Reef Resort and Kevin disappears, P.T., his friend Gloria, and his grandfather set out to find the monkey and rescue the movie production to save the Wonderland Motel.

    Lemons. Melissa Savage. 2017. Crown/Random House.

    LemonsWhen her mother dies, almost-11-year-old Lemonade Liberty Witt moves from San Francisco to Willow Creek, California, to live temporarily with her grandfather, whom she has never met. He owns a general store with a wide selection of Big Foot memorabilia for tourists. Tobin Sky, founder and president of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc., spends much of his time at the store when he is not following leads on big foot sightings or working in his headquarters, a space carved out of the garage at his home where he lives with his mother. Lemon joins Bigfoot Detectives and becomes Tobin’s assistant. As she makes major discoveries, Lemon also learns that Tobin has his own sorrow to reckon with, the disappearance of his father after he returned from Vietnam. With humor and heart, the story shows how Lemon learns that family, home, and friendship can be found in unexpected places.

    Ages 12–14

    Quicksand Pond. Janet Taylor Lisle. 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Quicksand PondTwelve-year-old Jessie, her father, older sister, and younger brother are “summer people.” This summer, they are renting a house next to the mysterious Quicksand Pond. Their neighbor is Henrietta Cutting, an old woman who lives in the house that her father built on the pond decades ago and spends the day watching the activity around the pond. One day, Jessie discovers an old raft not far from her family’s rental. When Jessie slips the old raft out of the reeds to pole it along the shore, she sees Henrietta watching from her window. Henrietta also watches as Terri Carr, who’s fleeing her father, swims to the safety of the raft. Terri and Jessie become friends and rebuild the raft using tools and lumber from Henrietta’s barn, which is full of old family furnishings. The novel becomes a mystery as details about the deaths of Henrietta’s parents and thefts of family treasures are revealed against the backdrop of the growing friendship between Terri and Jessie.

    This Would Make a Good Story Someday. Dana Alison Levy. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    This Would Make a Good Story SomedaySara has plans for the summer before the seventh-grade: spending time with her best friends, and carrying out a “reinvention project” that includes learning to surf, wearing black nail polish, reading nonfiction, and learning Latin. Instead she has to take a month-long, cross-country train trip with her younger sister, Ladybug; her older sister, Laurel, and her partner, Root; and her two mothers, one of whom has a grant to write a book about the family trip. Sara keeps a journal of sights, events, and history as they travel from Massachusetts to New Orleans, up to Chicago, and across the country to Los Angeles. She also meets Travis, who is traveling to Los Angeles with his father and two aunts, who takes an interest in Sara. In the story, told in journal entries, letters, and notes from varying points of view, Sara undergoes a “reinvention” she didn’t expect, and comes to appreciate her family and new friends.

    Ages 15+

    Be True to Me. Adele Griffin. 2017. Algonquin.

    Be True to MeThe year is 1976, and Jean is looking forward to a summer in the community of Sunken Haven on Fire Island, New York, sharing in the bicentennial social life of tennis, dinners, and parties.  Before she leaves New York City, she meets Burke, her godfather’s nephew. Enchanted by Gil’s interest in her, she looks forward to his arrival in Sunken Haven. Jean is also looking forward to winning the junior tennis championship back from Fritz O’Neill, who comes for summer work at the yacht club each year. When Gil arrives in Sunken Haven, both Jean and Fritz face challenges in their mutual interests in Gil and in winning the tennis tournament. 

    Girl Out of Water. Laura Silverman. 2017. Sourcebooks Fire/Sourcebooks.

    Girl out of WaterAnise, an expert surfer, has never left Santa Cruz, California, where she and her father live in a cottage. She and her friends have big plans for their last summer together after high school graduation. But when her aunt Jackie has a car accident and breaks her legs, Anise and her father have to go spend the summer in Nebraska to care for Jackie’s children. Anise’s disappointment and anxiety about leaving California and a new romance with an old friend is compounded by her misery in hot and flat Nebraska, but she agrees to take the children on daily trips to the park where they hone their skills on the skateboard course. When she meets Lincoln, an avid skateboarder, Anise discovers her skill in a new sport and finds her friendship with him becoming much deeper than she expected.

    Unscripted Summer. Jen Klein. 2017. Random House.

    Summer UnscriptedAt the end of her junior year, Rainie decides to audition for a summer theater program, in the Appalachian Mountains, where her classmate and crush, Tuck, spends his summers. Rainie’s friends, Sarah and Marin, are supportive, but her former best friend Ella doesn’t understand her attraction to Tuck. Since Ella is also part of the summer theater she agrees to let Rainie live with her and her sister. When Rainie meets photographer and actor Milo, her motivations and relationships are challenged. Told from Rainie’s point of view, the novel is about how Rainie discovers that she can make good decisions about her life and relationships as well as about theater production and performance. A surprise ending is funny, inventive, and heartfelt.

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson is a professor in the English department and School of Education of Husson University, Bangor, Maine.

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

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    Stories in Rhyme & Novels in Verse

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Jun 26, 2017

    From picture books filled with eye-catching illustrations to murder mysteries, these authors experiment with various poetic forms or a combination of poetry and prose to tell stories. The lyrical books featured this week will engage and delight readers of all ages.

    Ages 4–8

    Anywhere Farm. Phyllis Root. Ill. G. Brian Karas. 2017. Candlewick.

    Anywhere Farm“For an anywhere farm, here’s all that you need: / soil, / and sunshine, / some water, / a seed.” Rhyming text and warmly colored, detailed mixed-media illustrations tell the story of how an ethnically diverse group of inner-city children turn a vacant lot into a neighborhood garden. Questions and rhyming responses such as,“Where can you plant your anywhere farm?” (“An old empty lot / makes a good growing plot. / But a pan or a bucket, / a pot or a shoe, / a bin or a tin / or a window will do.”) and “What do you need?” (“Just one farmer—you—and one little seed.”), may inspire young readers to start their own anywhere farm.

    —CA

    The Curious Cares of Bears. Douglas Florian. Ill. Sonia Sánchez. 2017. Little Bee.

    The Curious Cares of BearsFlorian’s lively story in rhyme follows a bear family’s capers through the seasons of the year. For example, “In springtime there’s carefully climbing up trees, / and stealing the honey from beehives of bees.” Sánchez’s colorful, action-filled digital and mixed-media artwork draws the reader into the bears’ playful activities. After they have slept their way through the frozen winter, the bears awaken, ready to follow their “curious cares” throughout a new year. Pair this book with Florian and Sánchez’s The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits (2016) for a rhythmic read-aloud.

    —NB 

    Double Take!: A New Look at Opposites. Susan Hood. Ill. Jay Fleck. 2017. Candlewick Studio/Candlewick.

    Double Take!Double Take! invites young children to join a boy, his black cat, and a blue elephant in taking a new look at opposites. Readers are prompted to carefully consider the details in the colorful, digitally-created, retro illustrations that accompany the rhyming text. What’s high and what’s low? What’s fast and what’s slow? Who’s near and who’s far? It is all a matter of perspective, as readers will learn from this playful and engaging concept book.

    —CA

    Race! Sue Fliess. Ill. Edwardian Taylor. 2017. Little Bee.

    Race!As the race cars line up for a try at the coveted Winner’s Cup, a tiny red car squeezes in at the last minute. “Cars start, / lights glow... / “Rev your engines... / GO GO GO!” On a course filled with obstacles galore, the cars “SKID! SCREECH! SLIP! SQUEAL! SOAR!” After a fender bender temporarily brings the action to a stop, the red car takes a shortcut through the grass to jump into the lead, and the story makes an unexpected turn, prompting readers to reexamine the illustrations for clues. Whether young children are listening to this action-filled book or reading it on their own, they are bound to enjoy the ride.

    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse. Tamera Will Wissinger. Ill. Matthew Cordell. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Gone CampingLucy and Sam’s excitement over a long-awaited family camping trip changes when Dad’s bad cold means their parents must stay home. They are disappointed and worried when Grandpa (who is definitely not outdoorsy, in their opinion) becomes their camping companion. Much to their surprise, Lucy and Sam have a great time, and they request a camping trip for all five of them next weekend. Cordell’s sketch-like, pen-and-ink illustrations with watercolor wash, add to this adventure story, which is told through poems from different family members’ points of view. Wissinger includes a section on the 44 poetic forms and stanza patterns she uses and writing tips about rhyme, rhythm, and poetry techniques.

    —CA

    The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry. Danna Smith. Ill. Bagram Ibatoulline. 2017. Candlewick.

    The Hawk of the CastleExquisite acrylic and gouache paintings set the scene as a young girl spends the day with her father (the falconer of the castle) grouse hunting. The story is told from the girl’s point of view in rhythmic four-line stanzas, each beginning with “This is” or “These are” and ending with “the castle.” For example, the bird is introduced with “This is our hawk: a sight to behold, / a master of flight, graceful and bold. / My father trains this bird of prey / who lives with us at the castle.” Each double-page spread includes a boxed inset with additional information on raptors and falconry. Back matter includes an author’s note on the history of falconry, a reading list, and an index.

    —CA

    Izzy Kline Has Butterflies: A Novel in Small Moments. Beth Ain. 2017. Random House.

    Izzy Kline Has ButterfliesImpetuous fourth grader Izzy Kline lives bite-sized and larger moments in this poignant story about family issues, first-day-of-school jitters, mysterious illnesses, annoying boys, and a school play. Over the year, Izzy learns not to be so quick to judge others and that relationships develop in complicated and unexpected ways. This middle-grade verse novel is written in vignettes that bring Izzy’s world to life and leave readers thinking about their own.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

    Forget Me Not. Ellie Terry. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

    Forget Me NotWith each move she and her mother make, Calliope Snow hopes that she can hide her Tourette syndrome long enough to make friends. When their tenth move brings them to St. George, Utah, Calli meets Jinsong, an Asian-American boy who lives in the same apartment building. Calli hopes that her friendship with Jinsong, the popular student body president at Black Ridge Intermediate School, will help her fit in as she becomes the new girl at school. The dual narrative—Calli in free verse and Jinsong in prose—is a moving and realistic story about a search for friendship and acceptance. In an author’s note, Terry, who has Tourette syndrome, provides a context for the novel and shares her hope that the book will help readers understand the neurological disorder.

    —CA

    Who Killed Christopher Goodman? Allan Wolf. 2017. Candlewick.

    Who Killed Christopher Goodman?Inspired by a true story, Who Killed Christopher Goodman? follows the murder of an odd, but friendly, teenager in Goldsburg, Virginia, in the summer of 1979. Doc Chestnut and Squib Kaplan (who discover Christopher’s body on a morning run), and other classmates who interacted with Christopher during the last night of the festival, are plagued with thoughts that they may have played a role in his murder. Six narrators tell the story, which unfolds in poetry, prose, and a few play script entries. An author’s note clarifies what is fact and what is fiction in this beautifully crafted novel.

    —CA

    Ages 15+

    The Sky Between You and Me. Catherine Alene. 2017. Sourcebooks Fire/Sourcebook.

    The Sky Between You and MeRae, a competitive barrel racer, dreams of winning the Rodeo Nationals. When she realizes that she has almost outgrown her deceased mother’s beloved saddle, her obsession with losing five pounds turns into an eating disorder that spins out of control. Not even her devoted boyfriend Cody (who is being pursued by another girl) or Asia (her best friend from childhood) can help. Rae must face her dangerous disease head-on and welcome an uncertain future that promises a better way of life. The book concludes with a page of statistics about eating disorders and an author’s note about her personal connections to the topic.

    —NB

    We Come Apart. Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    We Come ApartJess is a rebel with a painful family secret. Nicu, a recent Romanian immigrant, is forced to work with his father to earn money to pay for his own arranged marriage. Trapped in their bleak lives, Jess and Nicu tell stories of abuse, discrimination, racism, and bullying in this verse novel. After the teens break the law (Jess for shoplifting with friends and Nicu for stealing a chocolate bar), they are placed in a Reparation Program, where they build a friendship that blossoms into romance.

    —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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    Fantasy and Imagination

    By Lesley Colabucci and Mary Napoli
     | Jun 19, 2017

    In this week’s column on the theme of fantasy and imagination, we review some creative and engaging books about mythical creatures, eccentric characters, and unusual friendships. Included are stories in which readers are introduced to characters who dwell in fantasy worlds and to others whose real-world lives include imaginative elements.

    Ages 48

    Everywhere, Wonder. Matthew Swanson. Ill. Robbi Behr. 2017. Imprint/Macmillan. 

    Everywhere, WonderIn this creative picture book, a young boy takes a journey inspired by his imagination and the worlds he discovers in books. He invites readers to observe their surroundings, advising, "You never know what you might see or where your mind might take you. So keep your eyes wide open as you go.” As he soars across faraway lands, sails vast oceans, and climbs trees, he muses about the world while reminding readers that everyone has a story to tell. Descriptive language and vibrant digital collage on watercolor-washed paper will inspire readers to wonder, to dream and perhaps to write stories of their own.

     —MN

    Boat of Dreams. Rogério Coelho. 2017. Tilbury House.

    Boat of DreamsOriginally published in Brazil, this book introduces U.S. readers to the magnificent artwork of Rogério Coelho. An old man who lives alone at the seaside wakes up one morning to find a bottle containing a blank piece of paper. His response is to draw a boat on the paper and set the bottle afloat again. This wordless book then shifts to a city scene where a young boy receives the picture of the boat in an envelope. How are these two connected? How did the drawing get from the bottle in the ocean to the boy’s door front? Using a limited palette of sepia tones and soft blues, and a mix of double-page spreads and panel art, Coelho gives the story a surreal feel and leaves readers wondering in the best way.

    —LC

    Pandora. Victoria Turnbull. 2017. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    PandoraPandora is a lonely fox who makes a home out of broken and forgotten things. It is clear that Pandora knows how to show love and care for things, but when she finds an injured bluebird, she is not as confident she will be able to save him. Pandora makes a beautiful nest for the bird in a cardboard box with feathers and flowers, but can something so fragile survive among her junkyard surroundings? With brief text and soft pencil and watercolor illustrations, Pandora tells a heartfelt story of friendship and renewal.

    —LC

    Ages 9–11

    Coyote Tales. Thomas King. Ill. Byron Eggenschwiler. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Coyote TalesMaster storyteller Thomas King shares two tales set in a time “when animals and human beings still talked to each other.” In Coyote Sings to the Moon, an old woman and a group of forest animals sing to the moon at night. When Coyotewhose singing voice is unbearablejoins the others in singing to the moon, everyone implores him to stop. In his disappointment, Coyote shouts, “Who needs the moon anyway?” Upon hearing Coyote’s declaration, the Moon disappears into the dark abyss of the pond. Will anyone find the Moon to light the night sky? In Coyote’s New Suit, a sly raven instigates a mischievous plan at Coyote’s expense. Coyote’s sudden insecurity about his appearance sends him on a path of admiring, and then stealing, the suits of other animals. The Raven causes further mischief by suggesting to the other animals that they steal clothing from the humans, and encourages Coyote to hold a yard sale. Poor Coyote is blamed for the mess. King’s witty and inventive story lines coupled with Eggenschwiler’s funny pen-and-ink illustrations will spark readers’ imaginations.

    —MN

    Yours Sincerely, Giraffe.  Megumi Iwasa. Trans. Cathy Hirano. Ill. Jun Takabatake. 2017. Gecko.

    Yours Sincerely, GiraffeGiraffe is bored and wants someone to join him on adventures. Upon reading a flyer from an equally bored pelican promising to “deliver anything anywhere,” Giraffe writes him a letter, hoping to find a new friend. Pelican takes Giraffe’s letter on a long journey to Whale Sea where he finds Penguin, who agrees to correspond with Giraffe. As the two pen pals exchange pleasantries and pose questions, they provide clues and tidbits about what life is like for them on their side of the world while also trying to solve the mystery of the other animal’s appearance. Translated from Japanese, this playful and imaginative early chapter book will charm readers, and maybe even spark an interest in letter writing.

    —MN

    The Goat. Anne Fleming. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    The GoatWhen a very shy young girl named Kid discovers that there may be a goat living on the roof of her apartment building in New York City, she sets off with her friend Will to find out if the rumor is true. They decide to survey the residents of the apartment building to get to the bottom of the mystery. Along the way, they meet Joff, a blind skateboarder and a best-selling teen author; Jonathan, who is recovering from a stroke but won’t show his wife his progress; and Kenneth P. Gill, who seems confused about whether he has hamsters or guinea pigs as pets. Mysteries unfold as these unique characters discover how they are connected by their community.

    —LC 

    Ages 12–14

    The Matchstick Castle. Keir Graff. 2017. Putnam/Penguin.

    Matchstick CastleBrian would rather spend his summer anywhere but in Boring, Illinois, with his Uncle Gary, Aunt Jenny, and his standoffish cousin Nora. When Brian takes Nora’s journal, her ensuing chase to recover it leads them into the forbidden woods where they discover the towering "Matchstick Castle" and meet Cosmo van Dash and his eccentric family. Together, the three new friends outwit giant wasps and wild boars, and navigate intricate passageways to find Cosmo’s missing uncle and defend the Matchstick Castle from demolition. With a quirky cast of characters, vivid descriptions, and an adventurous plot, this engrossing page-turner is anything but boring. 

    MN

    In Darkling Wood. Emma Carroll. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    In Darkling WoodAlice is staying at her grandmother’s home while her brother is in the hospital. When she arrives, she learns of her grandmother plans to cut down the beautiful Darkling Wood, despite the objections of the community. Alice finds comfort in the woods, where she meets a friend named Flo, whom no one else can see. Alice confronts questions like, Are fairies real? Could they work magic to save their forest home? Could she save their home just by believing in them?


    Ages 15+

    Strange the Dreamer. Laini Taylor. 2017. Little, Brown.

    Strange the DreamerOrphaned as a baby and raised by monks, Lazlo Strange grows up to become a librarian devoted to stories and fascinated by the lost city of Weep. Sarai, the daughter of a human and a god, is either cursed or gifted with the ability to enter people’s dreams. She and Lazlo meet in his dreams while he is on a journey to reclaim Weep and she is preparing to defend the citadel that has kept her safe. Broken hearts, rivalries, and vengeance drive the plot as Lazlo and Sarai are caught in the middle of an epic battle. Readers will be sympathetic to these convincing characters, charmed by the mythical setting, and absorbed by the stunning poetic language of Taylor’s fantasy.

    —LC

    Lesley Colabucci is an associate professor of early, middle, and exceptional education at Millersville University. She teaches classes in children’s literature at the graduate and undergraduate level. Her research interests include multicultural children’s literature and response to literature. Mary Napoli is an associate professor of Reading and Children’s Literature at Penn State Harrisburg, where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate literacy courses. 

    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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    Animals, Animals, Animals

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

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

    Ages 4–8

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

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

    —JS

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

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

    —JS

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

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

    —JS

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

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

    —JS

    Ages 9–11

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

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

    —CA

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

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

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

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

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

    —CA

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

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

    —JS

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

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

    —CA

    Ages 15+

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

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

    —CA

    All Ages

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

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

    —CA

    Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where she teaches undergraduate and graduate course in literacy for preservice and practicing teachers.  Prior to joining the faculty at Millersville, she spent 16 years as an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.  

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

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