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    Adventure and Survival Stories

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Sep 25, 2017

    Stories of adventure and survival get readers’ hearts pounding as they worry about whether the protagonist is going to make it out of a bad situation—or not. These books are hard to resist because they allow readers to live vicariously through unimaginable experiences, providing a chance to laugh in amusement or gasp in awe at the trouble in which the characters find themselves.

    Ages 4–8

    Claude on the Big Screen (Claude #7). Alex T. Smith. 2017. Peachtree.

    ClaudeFans of curious canine explorer Claude will happily follow him and his sidekick, Sir Bobblysock, as they set off on another adventure. This time the two check out the movie being made on Waggy Avenue. Claude’s curiosity results in the film’s stars being wrapped up in the clothesline he has been dragging around. Claude and Sir Bobblysock prevent the shutdown of the movie set by channeling their inner thespians, of course, and even rescuing one character from a rooftop. Claude's human companions are in for a big surprise when they see what he drags home. It is entertaining to watch Claude in action and to wonder what his sidekick is thinking. Absurd situations, wrapped up with a wry sense of humor, make it all silly fun.

    Out! Arree Chung. 2017. Henry Holt.

    Out!What young child doesn’t resist winding down after being put to bed? In this case, Jo Jo, the family dog, tries to entertain the little one, but the child is determined to get out of his crib. Jo Jo sticks with him as they have the time of their lives, flying down the stairs, knocking a cake from the table, devouring it, and leaving tell-tale tracks all over the house. The parents follow the tracks upstairs and find the two culprits asleep in the crib. Although Jo Jo ends up in his kennel, he might not stay there for long since the boy knows how to climb out of his crib and can open the door to the kennel. With a spare text of only a few words in dialogue balloons and full-page and paneled illustrations, created with acrylics, found paper, and Adobe Photoshop, Out! could serve as an introduction to the graphic novel format for young children, who will also enjoy predicting what mischief the pair might get into next.

    Rapunzel. Bethan Woollvin. 2017. Peachtree.

    RapunzelAs she did in Little Red (2016), Woollvin chooses one color—bright marigold yellow—as the focal point in her fractured version of this classic fairy tale with a sly message of self-empowerment. Rapunzel is no damsel in distress, and no prince is needed in this imaginative retelling. Although she has been warned by the witch not to leave the tower with the threat of a terrible curse, Rapunzel is curious about what lies beyond the tower in which she’s been imprisoned. She cunningly fashions her long locks into a ladder and explores the natural world around her, and eventually comes up with a clever plan for escaping from the witch. Readers will enjoy finding Rapunzel’s animal friends, including a bunny and a chicken, and the scissors in the illustrations, as well as the witches peeking out from behind trees on the back endpaper, which highlights the delightful happily-ever-after ending Rapunzel makes for herself.

    This Is a Book Full of Monsters. Guido van Genechten. 2017. Clavis.

    MonstersAfter warning readers about how scary the monsters in this picture book will be, van Genechten takes readers on an increasingly frightening and somewhat gross journey filled with monsters. Readers are given every chance to stop reading at any time, and there’s even a diploma to be given out to anyone who survives the book unscathed. The book is both scary and funny, primarily because of the images of the ugly monsters, some oozing with slime and others uttering horrible sounds. The story is a good way for readers to overcome some of their fears of the dark and the unknown. After all, they have survived a book full of monsters. What could possibly be worse?

    Ages 9–11

    Danger at the Dinosaur Stomping Grounds (The Wild World of Buck Bray #2). Judy Young. 2017. Sleeping Bear.

    Wild World of Buck BrayEleven-year-olds Buck Bray and Toni Shoop continue to travel with their fathers as part of a nature-themed TV reality show, The Wild World of Buck Bray. Having met at Denali National Park in Alaska, they now are exploring Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Buck is fascinated by the unique terrain of the canyons, but even more so by the dinosaur fossils nearby. To the youngsters’ dismay, the park’s pictographs have been vandalized by a most unlikely culprit. Although Buck’s impulsivity causes him to take foolish risks and make mistakes, usually his heart is in the right place. Curious-minded readers will appreciate the science snippets that introduce each chapter and are threaded through the dialogue in Buck's scripts.

    How Could We Harness a Hurricane? Vicki Cobb. Ill. Theo Cobb. 2017. Seagrass.

    HurricaneWith the arrival of hurricane season, this informational book that ponders whether humans might ever be able to stop, slow down, or even harness the hurricanes’ energy in a positive way. Complemented by colorful photographs provided by NASA and NOAA, the book imagines some possible solutions, but Cobb is careful to point out the disadvantages as well as the advantages. Readers will realize just how unlikely some of the ideas are. For instance, how much ice would a tug have to tow in order to cool an oncoming hurricane's path? The author also explains what a hurricane is and how it forms, and takes readers inside the eye of a storm. Several hands-on experiments for readers are included. The concluding section explores the role of humans in destroying the coastlines that act as barriers to hurricanes and slow them down as they approach land as well as our having built structures in vulnerable spaces. Back matter includes a glossary, a bibliography, an author’s note, and an index.

    Ages 1214

    Knife’s Edge (Four Points #2). Hope Larson. Ill. Rebecca Mock. 2017. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

    Knife's EdgePicking up right where Compass Point (2017) concluded, this graphic novel follows twelve-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra Dodge as they search for the treasure they are sure has been left for them. They hire Captain Tarboro to sail to the location and are grateful to have their adoptive father along as well. But the siblings argue over everything, and Cleo resents that only Alex gets to learn how to sail the ship. Even while things are unpleasant between the youngsters, the Dodges and their allies must keep an eye out for Felix Worley, the fierce pirate who is relentlessly seeking the same treasure. The book introduces some new characters and keeps readers on the edge of their seats as risks are taken, mistakes are made, and unwise alliances formed. There is a surprise reunion at the end, setting up more adventures. Middle school readers will be captivated by the story’s setting, its imperfect characters, and the realization that even heartless villains aren’t always without compassion.

    The Last Panther. Todd Mitchell. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    The Last PantherIn this grim, futuristic foretelling, eleven-year-old Kiri has strong connections with animals and is sad to realize that many species now exist only in captivity. Kiri spends her days helping her conservationist father as he tests ocean waters and watches over the native species in an unnamed jungle, but she also spends time with her best friend, Paulo, and her pet rat, Snowflake. Outsiders such as Kiri's father are considered to be wallers, and their interests clash with those of fugees, the jungle’s original inhabitants. Because Kiri's deceased mother was a fugee, Kiri is given some leeway in her actions, but there have always been conflicts between both sides. Differences are exacerbated after the villagers kill a large leatherback turtle for its meat. When Kiri happens upon a rare panther with three cubs, she is determined to save them. The hopeful ending points to a way to broker a compromise when it comes to environmental issues.

    Ages 15+

    Bang. Barry Lyga. 2017. Little, Brown.

    BangFourteen-year-old Sebastian Cody has never recovered from accidentally killing his baby sister when he was four. His story is told through two different sections, one labeled "History" with details of the accident and another labeled "The Present.” Sebastian has long known that he will kill himself when he can bear the guilt no longer. His friendship with one classmate, Evan, helps stave off the demons as does his budding relationship with Aneesa, a Muslim girl whose family has recently moved into the neighborhood. While Evan is away, Sebastian and Aneesa spend the summer posting videos of Sebastian's delicious and original pizzas online, attracting followers. Sebastian vacillates between guilt and thinking he might actually have found a reason to live. Clearly, Sebastian must learn to forgive himself for something that he considers unforgiveable. Teen readers will race through the pages to see whether Sebastian decides to choose life. This is gritty territory for a young adult novel. The book may provoke conversations about trauma, healing, and forgiveness.

    Odd & True. Cat Winters. 2017. Amulet/Abrams

    Odd & TrueThis unusual tale of adventure follows Trudchen Grey and her older sister Odette. Trudchen (Tru) is living in Oregon in 1909 when her sister returns after two years' absence. During their formative years, Odette (called Od by her family) often entertained her little sister with wild tales of monsters and stories about their mother's job as a monster hunter. The girls are given to using various supernatural rituals to keep scary things at bay, but as it turns out, the monsters are nothing like what one might expect. After Od persuades Tru to leave home to hunt monsters with her, Tru learns the truth about their mother, their family, and where Od has been during the time she's been away. There is just enough mysticism and fantasy to entice readers, making them eager to spend more time with the sisters. Perhaps magic is in the eye of the beholder, talismans work if someone believes they work, and truth may be found by reading tea leaves. Then again, perhaps not.

    Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor’s in Communications and a master’s in English Education from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

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

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    Celebrating the Freedom to Read

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Sep 18, 2017

    For more than 30 years, book lovers, librarians, teachers, publishers, book lovers, and supporters of intellectual freedom have celebrated the freedom to read through Banned Books Week. Librarians and teachers are all too aware of the threats to a free exchange of ideas that arise when a member of the community demands that a book be removed from the shelves.

    The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) maintains records of books that have been challenged, restricted, removed, or banned during the year. Typically, challenges are filed because someone considers the book or material to be "sexually explicit," to contain "offensive language," or to be "unsuited to any age group." The ALA OIF reported 323 challenges in 2016.

    This year, Banned Book Week is celebrated from September 2430. The reviews in this week’s column take a look at the eight children’s and young adult books that appear on the ALA's Top Ten Most Challenged Books list for 2016. In support of intellectual freedom, consider reading all of these books and discussing them with friends and colleagues.

    Ages 4–8

    I Am Jazz. Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings. Ill. Shelagh McNicholas. 2014. Dial/Penguin.

    I Am JazzEven at age two, Jazz Jennings knew that she had the brain of a girl but the body of a boy. This picture book provides insight into her feelings and the journey she and her parents took toward acceptance, understanding, and advocacy for those who experience gender dysphoria. Issues such as Jazz’s struggles for acceptance on sports teams and in school bathrooms are highlighted here. The simple text, complemented with cheerful watercolor illustrations, offers reassurance and hope and a place to begin conversations about gender roles and identity. The picture book memoir has been challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of “language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints.”

    Little Bill Series. Bill Cosby. Various years since 1997. Cartwheel/Scholastic.

    Little BillIntended for young readers, each of the thirteen titles in this series explores an emotion and traces the protagonist’s development. As Little Bill faces changes and choices related to loss, death, wealth, bullying, and honesty, readers have the chance to explore the same issues in their own lives. The series was challenged because of sexual assault allegations surrounding Bill Cosby, the author.

    Ages 9–11

    George. Alex Gino. 2015. Scholastic.

    GeorgeFourth grader George has felt that something wasn’t quite
    right for a long time. As she grows up, she becomes convinced that she’s a girl born into a boy’s body. When she auditions for the role of Charlotte in the class’s production of Charlotte’s Web, her teacher reacts negatively. But with the help of her best friend, Kelly, who understands George’s feelings, George ends up right where she wanted to be. Readers gain insight into the struggles faced by George when even her mother and teacher fail to understand or to act as her allies. Eventually, George’s mother realizes her mistakes, and George finds support in a surprising form—the school principal. This book was deemed inappropriate for young readers because it features a transgender child and sexuality “not appropriate at elementary levels.”

    Ages 12–14

    Drama. Raina Telgemeier. 2012. Graphix/Scholastic.

    DramaSeventh grader Callie is a theater geek with no musical talent. Instead, she channels her passion into set design for the drama department. Not only must she contend with an almost nonexistent budget, but there is as much drama off the stage as there is on it. As Callie gains confidence in her abilities to create a great set, she also deals with an unrequited crush on a classmate’s older sibling and another crush on one of the actors. Although she doesn’t find love, she does develop confidence and a sense of accomplishment. This graphic novel was challenged because it “includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint.”

    This One Summer.  Mariko Tamaki. Ill. Jillian Tamaki. 2014. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    The One SummerRose and her family always look forward to spending their summers at Awago Beach. Rose loves to hang out with Windy, a younger friend who is there as well. But this particular summer seems different from previous ones. Rose’s parents are constantly at each other’s throats, and her mother seems mired in some unnamed depression. With too much free time on her hands, Rose spends much of it watching horror films while Windy consumes unhealthy foods. On the cusp of her own physical maturity, Rose is fascinated by the relationship dramas unfolding among the local teens. This graphic novel was challenged because it “includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.”

    Ages 15+

    Eleanor & Park. Rainbow Rowell. 2013. St. Martin.

    Eleanor and ParkAt first glance, Eleanor and Park couldn’t have less in common, but as they get to know each other, it is clear that they are both misfits, just in different ways. Eleanor tries to stay beneath the radar because her size and fashion choices make her the object of ridicule, while Park rebels through his choices of music and the makeup he wears. The story is set in 1986 in Nebraska and contains just enough cultural references to make its setting believable. When the two teens happen to sit together on the school bus, they find commonalities while Park shares his music and comic books with Eleanor. This unlikely friendship blossoms into an even more unlikely love with little chance of lasting. Since the story is told from the dual perspectives of Eleanor and Park, readers gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of both characters, which only adds to the book’s heart-wrenching impact. The book was challenged for “offensive language.”

    Looking for Alaska. John Green. 2005. Dutton/Penguin.

    Looking for AlaskaLooking for something beyond the safe and predictable life he has been living, Miles (Pudge) Halter heads to Culver Creek Boarding School, where he meets classmates and makes friends who share a very different perspective on life than his own. If risk-taking is what Miles is looking for, he certainly finds it in his new surroundings while romancing one girl and falling in love with another one. Not only does Chip, Miles’ roommate, help him spread his wings, but Alaska, the mysterious girl who is clearly haunted by the past, awakens him to life’s possibilities while also crushing his spirit. Life can never be the same after meeting Alaska. This book was challenged for a “sexually explicit scene.”

    Two Boys Kissing. David Levithan. 2013. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Two Boys KissingSeventeen-year-old Harry and Craig are out to set a world record for kissing, but while they’re locked in an embrace, the former couple must sort out their feelings for one another as their parents and the world look on. As the competition continues, it garners media attention, and the boys become exhausted, thirsty, hungry, yet determined to press on. The fact that one teen’s family already knows about his sexual identity while the other boy’s does not adds to the drama, as does the use of commentary of individuals from an older generation in which many died of AIDS. This book was challenged for its cover featuring two boys kissing and for “ sexually explicit LGBT content.”

    Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor's in Communications, a master's in English Education from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

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    Books About Books

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Sep 11, 2017

    The books in this week’s column take readers on imaginative adventures that tell the tales of people whose lives have been changed by books. Set in libraries, bookshops, and classrooms, these intriguing stories whet the appetite for more reading, and inspire readers to share the wondrous world of books with others.

    Ages 4–8

    Baabwaa & Wooliam. David Elliott. Ill. Melissa Sweet. 2017. Candlewick.

    Baabwaa and WooliamBaabwaa is a sheep who loves knitting. Wooliam is a sheep who loves reading. Inspired by the story Wooliam’s reading, they set off seeking adventure. Nothing exciting happens until they are approached by another sheep—one with a long tail, a toothy snout, and an unkempt fleece. Wooliam recognizes the stranger as the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing he’s read about, and the chase is on. Their adventure takes an unexpected turn with Baabwaa and Woolliam returning to knitting and reading and the wolf discovering the joy of reading (although there are still frequent interruptions for chasing). Sweet’s colorful and expressive illustrations, done in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media, add to the fun of this entertaining tale of an unlikely friendship.

    —CA

    A Place to Read. Leigh Hodgkinson. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    A Place to ReadA young boy is searching for the perfect place to sit for a bit to read. The playful rhyming text and mixed media-and-digital collage illustrate the boy’s search for the perfect chair. Observant readers will notice creatures that appear as the boy keeps rejecting chairs until he finally realizes that it doesn’t matter where you read a book. A final double-page depicts him lying on the floor, reading to all the creatures, as he declares, “. . . a book is best anywhere . . . /a book is best when you SHARE.”  

    —CA

    Robinson. Peter Sís. 2017. Scholastic.

    RobinsonWhen Peter, the narrator, and his adventure-loving friends make plans to go to the school costume party as pirates, his mother has another idea. She creates a furry outfit that transforms Peter into the hero of his favorite adventure story, Robinson Crusoe. At the party, all his pirate-costumed friends make fun of his costume. Back home and tucked in bed, he begins to dream. A series of exquisite double-page spreads and sequential panels show Peter cast upon a lush, colorful island where he survives as a strong and brave Robinson Crusoe. Just as pirates arrive on the island, Peter awakes in his bedroom to find his friends eager to play and hear more about Robinson Crusoe. In an author’s note, Sís tells how this book was inspired by remembrance of a childhood experience in which his mother dressed him up as one of his favorite storybook characters for a costume contest. The accompanying photograph shows the young Sís in his Robinson Crusoe costume.

    —CA

    This Book Will Not Be Fun. Cirocco Dunlap. Ill. Olivier Tallec. 2017. Random House.

    This book will not be funAs the Word-Eating Flying Whale makes an appearance to snack on a few words, a mouse who likes “boring things” addresses the reader, stating, “This book will not be fun.” Then, a worm materializes on the whale’s fin, transforming into a Glow-in-the-Dark Kung Fu Worm, and the lights go out. Following the worm’s lit-up footprints through convoluted zigs and zags in the dark, the mouse arrives at a GIANT ZERO-GRAVITY DANCE PARTY where, after frolicking, he finally admits, “Well, it [this book] was not fun for YOU. I had a great time.” Tallec’s bold and colorful illustrations effectively showcase this mouse with his long-suffering demeanor and quirky sense of humor. This is just the right book to knock lethargic readers out of their socks and into a book dance party!

    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    Dragon’s Green (Worldquake #1). Scarlett Thomas. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    Dragon's GreenEuphemia (Effie) Truelove’s mother disappeared five years earlier during the Worldquake, which pitched the world back to pre-1992 technology. Now Effie faces a new loss when her grandfather, Griffin, is attacked in an alley. On his deathbed, he adds a codicil to his will, leaving his possessions to Effie, and whispers that she must find Dragon’s Green and protect his library of last editions. By that evening, her father, who hates magic and destroyed the codicil, has sold the library to an antiquarian bookseller. Although she doesn’t understand Griffin’s requests, she enlists the help of classmates from the Tusitala School for the Gifted, Troubled, and Strange, and assisted by some of her grandfather’s mystical artifacts, they embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the books. Readers will be primed to read what happens next in this new fantasy series.

    —NB

    Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids. Elissa Brent Weissman (Ed.) 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Our Story BeginsWith contributors ranging in age, gender, and ethnicity, this book is an inspiring collection of vignettes in which 26 authors and illustrators give firsthand accounts of their early talent and accomplishments. They also impart advice and provide photos of their early artwork, prose, and poetry. Readers will find themselves drawn to the stories of certain authors and illustrators. For me, some highlights included Linda Sue Park’s poem “Fog by the Ocean,” written at age nine; Brian Selznick’s description of drawing characters from Star Wars at age eleven; and Rita Williams-Garcia’s accomplishment of completing 39 journals/sketchbooks with story ideas and conversations by age thirteen. Perfect for aspiring writers and illustrators of all ages, this anthology concludes with a list of suggestions such as “Read, read, read,” “Daydream, doodle, and let your imagination run wild,” and “Believe.”

    —NB

    The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library. Linda Bailey. Ill. Victoria Jamieson. 2017. Greenwillow/HarperCollins.

    The Tiny HeroEddie, a tiny green bug, lives with his family (including 53 siblings) behind the chalkboard in a fourth-grade classroom. When Aunt Min leaves and doesn’t return, Eddie sneaks out and locates her in the library. Overhearing the substitute librarian on the phone as she plans to turn the library into a technology lab, Eddie writes “please,” “save,” and “the library” on sticky notes that he presses onto various books. The students decide that these notes are from the ghost of the founding librarian, Miss Cavendish, who wants them to save the library. After Eddie’s aunt is accidentally locked in a desk drawer, Eddie writes one last note, “Open,” and leaves it on the desktop. Can Eddie’s bright ideas save both the Fern Creek library and Aunt Min? It will be a tough job for a little bug. Jamieson’s black-and-white illustrations complement Bailey’s clever adventure story. Eddie & Min’s Bugliography (a list of children’s books referenced in the story) is a nice addition.

    —NB

    Ages 12–14

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

    Books! Books! Books!Manning and Grandström take readers on a tour of the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom and “the greatest library in the world!” Spreads of watercolor-and-digital collage art incorporate photographs of work from the library’s archives and a docent-like narrative (with humorous touches) provide an engaging, accessible peek at the British Library’s treasure of books, documents, manuscripts, and more. Back matter includes notes on the twenty-one featured treasures, including the handmade St. Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest surviving book produced in Europe; the Magna Carta; the First Folio of William Shakespeare; the original manuscript of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and the handwritten sheet music of Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks.”

    —CA

    The Unbreakable Code (Book Scavenger #2). Jennifer Chambliss Bertram. Ill. Sarah Watts. 2017. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt.

    The Unbreakable CodeTwelve-year-old Book Scavenger celebrities Emily and James go sleuthing again when they suspect their social studies teacher, Mr. Quisling, is involved with a string of arson fires, triggered by encrypted messages in hidden, Mark Twain-penned books. The only way for them to be sure—and to stop Mr. Quisling—is to solve the Unbreakable Code, a Mark Twain cipher (with its alleged fire curse), and locate the treasure from the Niantic, a ship that burnt in the San Francisco harbor during the 1851 Gold Rush. They must find the hidden Twain books (and decipher their encrypted messages) and discover (and figure out) the treasure map in the History Center before Mr. Quisling does. Readers will want to solve the ingenious black-and-white codes and ciphers along with the characters in the book. An author’s note describes the historical events that inspired this book. If they haven’t already done so, readers will want to check out Book Scavenger (2015) while waiting for the next book in the series.

    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Words in Deep Blue. Cath Crowley. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Words in Deep BlueAfter failing Year 12, Australian eighteen-year-old Rachel, whose younger brother, Cal, recently drowned, is sent to live with her Aunt Rose in Gracetown. No one in Gracetown knows of the tragedy, and Rachel remains silent. She reluctantly goes to work at Howling Bookstore, a local bookshop owned by the family of Henry Jones—her unrequited childhood crush. While working on a Letter Library project cataloguing comments written in certain books, she learns new things about her brother Cal from a surprising source. When the bookstore goes up for sale and she realizes she doesn’t have time to finish the transcriptions, Rachel turns her new understanding of Cal into a surprising solution—and finally finds her voice. Ready to heal, she reaches out to a community ready to embrace her. Readers will champion Rachel in her journey of loss, friendship, and love in this beautifully written book about reclaiming 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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    STEM Thinking in Emmet's Storm

    By Jacie Maslyk
     | Sep 07, 2017

    Emmet's Storm Set in the late 1800s, Emmet’s Storm (Catree, 2017) is about a quirky kid with a love of all things science, technology, engineering, and math. Though his technology is from another era, students will quickly connect with Emmet’s innovative nature and his pursuit of discovery.

    In a small town, Emmet’s ideas and experiments are often ridiculed (especially when one knocks a local nun to the ground) but he continues to build his knowledge by reading and asking lots of questions. He grows his skills through practice—creating multiple iterations of each invention.

    While many of Emmet’s experiments fall short, he doesn’t let failure get him down. He perseveres when others don’t believe in his ideas, including his own father. Like many students in our classrooms, Emmet’s abilities aren’t always recognized by those around him. His experiments serve a purpose in the end, as Emmet’s knowledge helps his friends and his teacher during a major storm. 

    This book will inspire students to tinker, sketch, and wonder. Emmet’s sketches throughout the book show readers that new ideas can be documented, revised, and engineered through trial, error, and a little persistence. As the character builds and messes with materials, students may be inspired to do the same! Look for ways that you might incorporate experimental design, building activities, and invention research into your curriculum.

    Emmet’s character engages in innovative thinking, problem-solving, data-driven research, and other STEM skills as the story progresses. As an educator who embraces STEM, STEAM, and the integration of hands-on learning into classrooms, I believe this book is a great addition to classroom or library.  

    Jacie Maslyk is an educator, presenter, and the author of STEAM Makers. You can find her on Twitter @DrJacieMaslyk or on her blog, Creativity in the Making.

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    Curriculum Connections

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Sep 04, 2017

    Trade books published for readers of all ages offer engaging and insightful—and sometimes surprising—perspectives on topics that have cross-curricular connections.  The imaginative books in this week’s column incite interest and raise questions about important subjects—from space science to species extinction and recycling—making them good choices for reading for pleasure and for knowledge.

    Ages 4–8

    Can an Aardvark Bark? Melissa Stewart. Ill. Steve Jenkins. 2017. Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster.

    Can an Aardvark Bark?In Stewart and Jenkins’ playful exploration of the vocalizations of animals, patterned questions and responses—“Can an aardvark bark?” No, but it can grunt.”—are paired with textured torn and cut paper collage portraits of the animals. Each Q&A double-page spread is followed by a double-spread presenting four other animals that make the same sound. The final page is an invitation for children to identify the seven featured animals (aardvark, seal, wild boar, porcupine, dingo, giraffe, and kangaroo) and to mimic their sounds: grunt, growl, squeal, laugh, bellow, bark, and whine. Back matter includes selected sources and books for further reading.

    —CA

    Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing. Leda Schubert. Ill. Raúl Colón. 2017. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook. 

    Pete SeegerThis picture book biography celebrates the life and work of Pete Seeger (19192014), who, through his music and activism “got America singing.” Schubert deftly weaves the titles of a host of original and traditional songs (printed in blue) that Seeger sang with audiences into the spare, expressive text of this tribute to an American hero who “cared about justice, peace, equality, and people everywhere.” Colón’s watercolor and colored pencil illustrations show the joy of the experiences Seeger shared with friends and gatherings of people of all ages. Back matter includes an author’s note, a timeline of significant events in Seeger’s life, sources of direct quotes, a selected bibliography, a list of books for children, and recommended recordings.

    —CA

    This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World. Matt Lamothe. 2017. Chronicle.  

    This is How We Do It Boys from Italy, Uganda, Iran, Russia, and Peru, and girls from India and Japan share their daily routines, including what they wear to school, how they get to school, the food they eat, their household chores, and their favorite games. Lamothe’s digitally-rendered drawings (based on photographs provided by the children’s families) in individual panels on double-page spreads show, at times, what they have in common and, at other times, how they are different. Back matter includes photographs of the families, a glossary, and an author’s note. A world map on the endpapers shows where the children live.

    —SW

    Ages 9–11

    Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World. Jan Adkins. 2017. Charlesbridge.

    Bertha Takes a DriveIt is 1888 and Bertha Benz’s husband, Karl, has invited the first Benz Motorwagen to visit her mother. she and her two sons had to sneak out of their house before dawn. Driving the motorwagen, which was considered a danger on the streets, was illegal in Germany. Driving over rutted and dusty roads caused problems with the car, but unflustered and undaunted, Bertha resourcefully invented solutions, such as using her hat pin to open the fuel line and a rubber garter to wrap around frayed electric wiring. She invented brake pads by having a cobbler put leather strips on the wood brakes so they would hold against the tires. Computer-generated illustrations depict the challenging 100-kilometer cross-country road trip. An “Automobile Evolution” timeline, a labeled diagram of the Benz Motorwagen III, and Adkins’ author’s note explaining his research process help readers understand the period, the car, and the driver.

    —SW

    Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond. Martin Jenkins. Ill. Stephen Biesty. 2017. Candlewick.

    Exploring SpaceVoyager 1, the most distant man-made object in outer space, the evolution of the telescope, and possible future habitats on Mars are among the topics of space science depicted in intricate pencil and colored pencil drawings in this survey book on space exploration. This beautifully designed large-format book provides detailed information about exploratory projects such as the Mars Landing and Rover, satellites to support human communities living in outer space, and modes of travel outside of Earth’s gravity. The back matter includes a “Discovering Space” timeline, a glossary, and selected resources.

    —SW

    Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl. John Demos. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

    Puritan GirlIn the preface to this historical novel, based on his The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (1994), Demos provides context for the story of Eunice Williams, an 8-year-old Puritan girl who was kidnapped by Mohawks in a raid on her town of Deerfield, in the Massachusetts colony, in the winter of 1704. Having survived the 200-mile trek north into Canada during the bitter winter, Eunice is adopted into a Mohawk family living in a village near the St. Lawrence River. She is given a Mohawk name, A’ongote. Over the years, she accepts Mohawk beliefs and customs, and she chooses to stay with them throughout her life. Demos’ presentation of the story from the perspective of this captive Puritan girl who became a Mohawk makes this an accessible narrative history for young readers. Back matter includes an author’s note, source notes, and a selected bibliography.

    —CA

    This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash. Sarah Wassner Flynn. 2017. National Geographic Kids.

    This Book StinksSleeping bags from recycled water bottles, stylish dresses from discarded CDs and newspapers, waste bins on wheels with sensors to track and catch thrown trash—these are just a few examples of the possible future of trash that this survey book describes. A chapter on “Trashing the Earth” covers topics such as the location of the biggest dumps and landfills around the world, the islands of garbage that float on every ocean of the Earth, and waste in outer space. Alarming photographs and statistics (e.g., “5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s seas”) show the magnitude of the global problem of dealing with the trash humans generate from the smallest food scraps to cars and refrigerators. The format of This Book Stinks grabs the reader’s attention. Each chapter includes features such as special reports, infographics, quizzes, jokes, factoids, and full-color, captioned photographs. The book concludes with a wealth of actions readers can take to manage and reuse their trash to help “un-stink” our planet.    

    —SW  

    Ages 12–14

    The Great American Foot Race: Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby! Andrew Speno. 2017. Calkins Creek/Highlights.

    Great American Foot RaceAt the height of the Roaring Twenties, and in a period of growing interest in recreational sports, C. C. Pyle promoted a transcontinental foot race. The race coincided with the Good Roads Movement advocating the construction of national highways. Pyle planned the 1928 foot race from Los Angeles to Chicago along what would become U.S. Route 66, and then onto New York City with scheduled stops to rest, eat, and sleep. Raising funds along the way and securing provisions and accommodations for the runners were bigger problems than he anticipated. Speno weaves biographical remarks about some of the participants into the chronicle of the dramatic and often harrowing events of the 84-day race. Archival illustrations, photographs, maps, and charts of race results add interest.

    —SW

    The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea. Bryan Barnard. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    The New OceanThis book tells the stories of six sea dwellers: jellyfish, orcas, sea turtles, tuna, corals, and blue-green algae. A description of the life cycle, habitats, and eating patterns of each of six ocean dwellers is followed by a consideration of the sequence of events that has led to the dominance of some species, like the jellyfish and blue-green algae, and the decline of others. Each species is depicted in an oil painting, with a second illustration that shows how changes in the food chain and water temperature affect survival rates. “An Ocean of Plastic” map on the front endpaper shows the circulation of “garbage patches” by ocean currents, and a map on the back endpaper depicts how the absorption of heat and atmospheric carbon dioxide by the oceans is making the water hotter and more acidic and bleaching coral reefs around the world.

    —SW

    Ages 15+

    Soldier Boy. Kelly Hutton. 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux.

    Soldier BoyIn an author’s note at the beginning of the book, Hutton provides information on her interviews with Ricky Richard Anywar, a former “soldier boy,” and research about the Ugandan civil war and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to prepare readers for this biographical novel of a child soldier. In 1989, at age 14, Ricky was abducted by Joseph Kony’s rebel army during a raid in his village. Hutton gives a vivid account of the brutal training and horrors of the combat missions that Ricky endured and survived (which most child soldiers did not) over four years, while he remained determined to escape and return home. Interwoven into the narrative are chapters set in 2006 in which fictional 11-year-old Samuel, who is recuperating from battlefield wounds, distrusts his caregivers and the stranger who promises to help him get home. An afterword by Anywar provides information about the challenges and reality of life faced by former child soldiers and the work of Friends of Orphans, a charity helping them to recover from their past, with hope for a brighter future in Uganda.

    —CA

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

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

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