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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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    Stories of Young Immigrants and Refugees

    Sandip Wilson
     | Jun 05, 2017

    These refugee and immigrant narratives teach readers about language, culture, history, geography, and politics while providing insight into the human experience. The books reviewed in this column follow the journeys of young people and their families as they leave different parts of the world in pursuit of happiness and security.

    Ages 4–8

    Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey. Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes. Ill. Sue Cornelison. 2017. Crown/Random House.

    Lost and Found CatWhen their lives are endangered by war, Sura and her family are smuggled out of their home in Mosul, Iraq, taking only what they can carry and their white cat, Kunkush. Their escape takes them across mountains to a Kurdish village, and then to Istanbul, where they eventually board a small open boat to a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Once on shore, Kunkush, wet and frightened by the crossing, escapes from his carrier. Near death from starvation, he is rescued by a volunteer who begins a search to reunite the cat with its family. Illustrated in rich, warm hues, the book includes photographs of Kunkush, his family, and people who cared for him.

    My Beautiful Birds. Suzanne Del Rizzo. 2017. Pajama Press.

    My Beautiful BirdsSet against the backdrop of the Syrian civil war, Sami finds solace in his connection with birds. When he and his family flee their hometown and find shelter in a refugee camp, Sami is devastated to leave his pet pigeons behind. His father tries to console him by reminding him that the birds likely escaped too, but Sami still can’t stop thinking about them. When pigeons appear in the camp, he feeds them seeds and spilled lentils, beginning his long healing process. Illustrations in polymer clay and acrylic paint show Sami’s slow transition into in his new life. The author’s note provides context about the Syrian war and information about the refugee camps.

    The Treasure Box. Margaret Wild. Ill. Freya Blackwood. 2017. Candlewick.

    The Treasure BoxWhen the enemy bombs the village’s library, only one book survives. In this parable of war, Peter and his father are forced to flee their home. Peter’s father insists on taking the book, which he says is “about our people.”  They wrap the book in cloth and keep it in a metal box in their suitcase. When his father dies of illness, Peter buries the metal box under a linden tree. The expressive illustrations, rendered in pencil, watercolor, and collage, depict Peter’s return to his native land to place the hidden book on the shelves of the rebuilt library “where, once again, it could be found, and read . . . and loved.”  

    Ages 9–11

    Greetings, Leroy. Itah Sadu. Ill. Alix Delinois. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Greetings LeroyRoy misses his home in Jamaica. He’s nervous to start his first day of school in a new country and nothing—not even Bob Marley songs—can calm him down. When he sees a photo of Bob Marley playing soccer in the principal’s office, Roy begins to relax. The rich acrylic and mixed media illustrations depict Roy’s journey to feel accepted and valued in his new home.


    One Good Thing About America.
    Ruth Freeman. Ill. Katherin Honesta. 2017. Holiday House.

    One Good Thing About AmericaAnaïs, her mother, and her little brother Jean-Claude have arrived in America after fleeing the Congo. In a series of letters to her grandmother, Anaïs recounts her life in school and in the shelter. American language and habits confuse and discourage Anaïs, but she finds solace in having the best handwriting in class and in her knowledge of mathematics—since numbers are always the same.  Her mother seeks asylum so that Anaïs’s father (an activist in their homeland) and older brother can come to America. Throughout the year, Anaïs reports good things she discovers about America to her grandmother, and she learns that her father and brother are safe in a refugee camp in Africa.  In an author’s note, Freeman explains what inspired her to become an ELL teacher, and says that she wanted this novel to offer a glimpse into the life of a student new to America.

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

    Stormy SeasStormy Seas follows the journeys of five teenage refugees escaping war, persecution, and possible murder in search of asylum. Ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape nazism; Phu departs from war-torn Vietnam; José ventures to the U.S. from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan; and Mohamed, an orphan, runs from his village on the Ivory Coast. After traveling thousands of miles to reach safety, however, they find they are treated as outsiders and sometimes prisoners. Their stories recount experiences of loss, risk, betrayal, fortitude, and patience. The book includes a timeline and further information about refugee movements in the 20th-century

    Ages 12–14

    A Crack in the Sea. H. M. Bouwman. 2017. Putnam/Penguin.

    A Crack in the SeaIn a visit to the islands of Putnam, the Raft King of the Second World kidnaps Pip, who has the power to talk to fish. Putnam wants Pip to use his power to get the fish to lead them to the portal to the First World so that he can find his mother, who abandoned him. Woven into the fantasy are flashbacks from the history of the First World, including the forced migration of slaves from Africa to Jamaica, and refugees escaping post-war Vietnam by sea. When a storm rises, the portal opens and figures from the First World are swept into the Second World where they meet Kinchen, Pip, and Putnam. In an afterword Bouwman explains the inspiration for the fantasy and his writing process.

    Hidden. Miriam Halahmy. 2016. Holiday House.

    HiddenFourteen-year-old Alix lives on an island off the coast in England with her mother. When Samir (a new student at school) is ruthlessly bullied, Alix decides to befriend him. She learns that Samir, his brother, and his aunt are all refugees from Iraq, seeking asylum. During a stormy afternoon, she and Samir save a badly beaten young man, Mohammed, from drowning in the surf.  They hide him in an abandoned hut in a wooded area and nurse him back to health. They learn that Mohammed is also an Iraqi refugee. Desperate not to be deported, Alix must keep Mohammed's secret.

    Ages 15+

    The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir. Thi Bui. 2017. Abrams.

    The Best We Could DoThis graphic novel is both a memoir and a history of 20th-century Vietnam. Bui chronicles generations of her family’s history, alternating between her father’s and her mother’s perspective. Her father grew up in northern Vietnam and lost his mother at the end of World War II. Bui’s mother was educated, French-speaking and lived in southern Vietnam.Through their stories, Bui illustrates her family’s resourcefulness as they flee Vietnam to start a new life in America.


    The Lines We Cross.
    Randa Abdel-Fattah. 2017. Scholastic.

    The Lines We CrossMina has lived with her mother in Sydney for 10 years since fleeing Afghanistan after the death of her father and aunt. Now her mother and stepfather have moved the family to a different part of the city where they open an Afghani restaurant. She finds herself on one side of a rising anti-refugee, anti-immigrant movement organized by the father of Michael, a fellow student at her prestigious high school. The story of school, family, politics, and their relationship unfolds, told from Mina’s and Michael’s points of view. Michael finds himself questioning his parents’ views towards refugees and immigrants finding them less and less reasonable and credible, and Mina shares the reality of her life while she works to contribute to her family and her adopted country.

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the English department and School of Education at 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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