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    Picture Book Biographies

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus.
     | Nov 20, 2017

    November is Picture Book Month, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate that books in picture book format are for everyone. The picture book biographies reviewed this week introduce readers of all ages to creative individuals who have made contributions in the visual, literary, and performing arts. These books make great read-alouds for students at different grade levels to spark interest and discussion in a topic and to pair with related books and works in other media.

    Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton. Sherri Duskey Rinker. Ill. John Rocco. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Big MachinesBig Machines is both a biography of children’s book author and illustrator Virginia Lee Burton (1909–1968) and an introduction to the stories she created for her sons about “the things they loved best: BIG MACHINES.”. Rinker and Rocco’s telling of Burton’s creation of the adventures of Choo Choo (train), Mary Anne (steam shovel), Katy (snow plow), and Maybelle (cable car) is the perfect companion to Burton’s books about these big machines and The Little House 75th anniversary Edition.

    —CA

    A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White. Barbara Herkert. Ill. Lauren Castillo. 2017. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt.

    The Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider“E. B. White / celebrated life through / a mouse’s journey, / the pact between a pig and a spider, / and the power of words.” Herkert’s poetic text, complemented by Castillo’s warm ink-and-watercolor illustrations, expresses beloved author E. B. White’s love of animals and words. After a career writing for various newspapers and The New Yorker, White made a farm in Maine his home. It was there that he wrote his first two children’s book featured in the biography, Stuart Little (1945) and Charlotte’s Web (1952). An author’s note about the life of Elwyn Brooks White (1899–1985) includes a mention of White’s revision of William Strunk Jr.’s book on writing well, The Elements of Style, in 1957 andhis third children’s book, The Trumpet of the Swan (1968).

    —CA

    Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico México. Duncan Tonatiuh. 2017. Abrams.

    Danza!Enthralled with the dancing she saw on the streets of Mexico City as a child, Amalia Hernández (19172000) convinced her parents to support her study of ballet and modern dance. As a choreographer and dance teacher, Hernández created dances inspired by the traditional folk dances of Mexico. Tonatiuh’s signature Mixtec-inspired illustrations depict graceful, energetic, and colorful folklórico performances, representing traditions of celebration and community. The dance company Hernández founded in 1952 grew and was celebrated in her homeland and globally. The back matter includes a glossary of Spanish terms, bibliography, and an author’s note.

    —SW

    Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos. Monica Brown. Ill. John Parra. 2017. NorthSouth.

    Frida Kahlo and ;her Animalitos Brown and Parra’s colorful child-friendly biography of Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) focuses on the relationship between the famous Mexican artist and her animalitos (monkeys, parrot, dogs, turkeys, cat, and many others), which were her companions in her childhood home, La Casa Azul, and throughout her life. Although she was always in poor health due to illnesses and a serious accident, she created hundreds of folk art paintings influenced by Mexican culture, including more than fifty self-portraits, many of which include her animalitos. The author’s note contains a selected list of Kahlo’s paintings that feature her pets.

    —CA

    Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat. Judy Sierra. Ill. Kevin Hawkes. 2017. Random House.

    Imagine That!In 1954, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was asked to write a book that would help children enjoy reading as they learned to read. Thinking the task would not take long, he soon discovered he had to rethink everything he knew about writing a story. Sierra’s engaging text and Hawkes’s illustrations, which combine Dr. Seuss’s whimsical drawings and paintings of the famed author at work, show Geisel’s processes of creating a first-grade reader that incorporated a “No-Nonsense List” of simple words. Lines such as “I will draw two nice kids to have fun with the cat, / And two naughty Things, and a keen cleaner-upper” reflect his clever language. The back matter includes tips on writing and illustrating from Dr. Seuss, notes from the author and the illustrator, and a list of books by written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.

    —SW

    John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien. Caroline McAlister. Ill. Eliza Wheeler. 2017. Roaring Brook.

    John Ronald's DragonsLiving in the English midlands, the young John Ronald loved trees, words, and—above all—fairy-tale dragons. When his mother died, he and his brother went to live with their distant, cold aunt, he longed for dragons, but his life as a student at school, and later at university, came first. After World War I, as a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, he had the idea for The Hobbit and told his four children stories of Bilbo Baggins. Wheeler’s fanciful illustrations depicting moments in Tolkien’s life show how he created Smaug, the dragon who first appeared in The Hobbit. The back matter includes McAlister’s extensive note about her writing process and Wheeler’s illustrator’s note, which explains references in the illustrations.

    —SW

    Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song. Kathryn Erskine. Ill. Charly Palmer. 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux.

    Mama Africa!Miriam Makeba (19322008) grew up feeling free in her singing, but not free in her homeland of South Africa, where she and all nonwhite people lived in increasingly oppressive conditions of apartheid.  Encouraged by singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, she sang songs of protest in other African languages to disguise the lyrics. Bright paintings depict her powerful voice, while somber hues depict the oppressive conditions of nonwhite people living in danger of being imprisoned in South Africa. Having left the country in 1959, Makeba was forbidden to return and began a thirty-year campaign to draw global attention to apartheid. The back matter includes an author’s note about her life in South Africa, a timeline of Makeba’s life along with events of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, a bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary.

    —SW

    Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters. Michael Mahin. Ill. Evan Turk. 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Muddy“But Muddy was never good at doing what he was told” is a refrain that runs throughout the blues-infused lyrical text of this picture book biography of McKinley Morganfield (1913–1983), who became Muddy Waters, the blues legend who left his childhood home in Mississippi and went north to Chicago. Even though his style of music didn’t fit in with “the bebop jazzing swing of horns and strings” popular in the clubs, Muddy, “never good at doing what he was told,” continued to play his own kind of music. Persistence paid off, and Muddy’s blend of traditional Mississippi Delta blues and jazz became the basis for the Chicago blues. Turk’s energetic, boldly colored mixed-media artwork gives Muddy’s story visual expression. Back matter includes an author’s note, bibliography, and a suggested list of collections of the “best of Muddy Waters” for listening. 

    —CA

    The Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori & the Invention of the Piano. Elizabeth Rusch. Ill. Marjorie Priceman. 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    The Music of LifeThe Music of Life tells two stories, one about Cristofori, an Italian builder of harpsichords, and one of his invention, the pianoforte: a musical instrument that combined the loudness of the harpsichord and the soft sound of the clavichord. Prince Ferdinand de Medici of Florence, a musician and patron of the arts, retained Cristofori to repair and build harpsichords and clavichords. Rusch’s integration of primary and secondary sources in the text gives a sense of the culture in which Cristofori worked, and the integration of the language of music—pianissimo (softest) and crescendo (becoming louder)—in Priceman’s lively gouache-and-ink illustrations convey the meaning of each double spread of this beautifully-crafted picture book. The extensive back matter includes an author’s note detailing Rusch’s writing process and notes on the history of the pianoforte and the modern piano.

    SW

    Silent Days, Silent Dreams. Allen Say. 2017. Scholastic.

    Silent Days, Silent DreamsSilent Days, Silent Dreams is a tribute to James Castle (18991977), American artist, born into a poor Idaho farm family, who was deaf and never learned to speak. In his silent and solitary lifetime, Castle created thousands of pieces of art. Say’s extensive author’s note details how he was introduced to the work of Castle, learned more about his life, and came to create this book in which he emulated the artist’s style in many of the illustrations, using the same kind of materials that Castle did— burnt matchsticks, soot mixed with spit, shoe polish, and laundry bluing—to make drawings on used grocery bags and scraps of paper. The result is what Say describes as “an imagined biography of a most original and enigmatic artist, whose fame continues to grow.”

    —CA

    Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky. Barb Rosenstock. Ill. Mary GrandPré. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    Vincent Can't SleepA lyrical text accompanied by stunning illustrations, rendered in acrylic, pen, and watercolor, chronicle the life of Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890), “A sensitive boy. / A hidden genius. / A brilliant artist.” Throughout his life, insomnia led to his wanderings and contemplation of the nature of the nighttime sky. One year before his death, Van Gogh created “The Starry Night,” which captures the colors, textures, and rhythm of the darkness of night that he perceived. Back matter includes an author’s note and photographs of his famous paintings.

    —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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    More Poetry, Please

    By Lesley Colabucci and Mary Napoli
     | Nov 13, 2017

    There’s no need to wait until National Poetry month in April to share poetry with young people. Make poetry a part of classroom and library activities throughout the year. The recently published books reviewed this week include collections of poems and verse novels that invite readers to celebrate nature, reflect on their experiences, and learn from history. 

    Ages 4–8

    Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs. Carol Murray. Ill. Melissa Sweet. 2017. Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt.

    Cricket in the ThicketOver 25 interesting insects and arachnids are captured in this lighthearted and enchanting poetry collection. With internal rhyme, wordplay, and clever end rhyme and meter, Carol Murray’s creative poetry about bugs will captivate young readers. Each poem highlights information about the insect’s characteristics or behavior. For example, in the jumping spider poem, readers glean information about its behavior: “He spins and winds / a silky thread, / and lets it all unravel.” On every page, readers will find a text box with nuggets of interesting facts and insights about each insect. The playful and creative poems are accompanied by Melissa Sweet’s eye-catching, humorous, and collage-inspired mixed media illustrations. The back matter includes further information about all of the creatures featured.  This whimsical poetry collection will surely be a favorite to read aloud and perhaps even inspire a budding entomologist.

    —MN

    My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads. Hope Anita Smith. 2017. Christy Ottiaviano/Henry Holt. 

    My Daddy Rules the WorldThrough fifteen heartwarming poems told from a child's perspective, Hope Anita Smith celebrates and honors the treasured moments between fathers and their children. There are poems about learning to ride a bike, sharing Sunday breakfasts, playing catch, and reading books together. The poems present a diverse array of people and the roles dads play in children's lives. "Some dads go to meetings / and spend hours on the phone. / But my dad has the greatest job—he's a dad that stays at home." Accompanied by Smith's beautiful torn paper collage illustrations, the poems in this collection, which are well-crafted, insightful, and heartfelt, will resonate with young readers. Smith employs accessible language, rhyme schemes, and natural line breaks that make the poems perfect for reading aloud.  

    —MN

    Once in a Blue Moon. Danielle Daniel. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Once in a Blue MoonThis beautifully illustrated book is comprised of 14 short poems, each starting with “once in a blue moon.” The book opens with the image of a double rainbow and closes with a tree and child in an embrace. Together, the poems serve as an homage to nature as narrators, depicted as children of a variety of races, pay tribute to animals, stars, and other natural phenomena. In one poem, a young girl on a bike spots “a row of ducks” while in another a child sits “deep inside the forest” and watches an eagle overhead. Each four-line poem is paired with a richly colored, folk art-style painting, rendered in acrylics. Poems could be read individually, or the collection shared as a whole, to celebrate connections to the natural world.

    —LC

    Ages 9–11

    Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and Don Quixote. Margarita Engle. Ill. Raúl Colón. 2017. Peachtree.

    Miguel's Brave KnightIn this collection of narrative poems, Margarita Engle explores the early beginnings of the great Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes and why he is revered as an essential figure in the Western canon. Cervantes's imagination and love of storytelling is detailed throughout this book. As a young boy, Cervantes dreamed of a bumbling knight slaying imaginary monsters. Despite a difficult upbringing, his love for books and stories allowed him to persevere. Engle’s extraordinary wordsmithing captures the spirit and creativity of a young Cervantes in her beautifully crafted lyrical verses: "But when I close my eyes, / the spark of a story flares up. /A tale about a brave knight / who will ride out on / a strong horse / and right /all the wrongs / of this confusing / world." Raúl Colón's pen and ink-and-watercolor illustrations pair perfectly with the text and enhance the subject. The back matter includes author and illustrator notes, and historical and biographical notes. Engaging and exquisitely illustrated, this poetry collection will surely inspire and educate readers.

    MN

    Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library. Carole Boston Weatherford. Ill. Eric Velasquez. 2017. Candlewick.

    SchomburgIn a series of twenty poems, Weatherford offers readers a biography of the life and work of Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938). Since no other children’s books featuring Schomburg exist, this book will likely function as an introduction for most young readers to this African American historian and book collector. The first poem, “Fifth Grade,” tells of an experience Schomburg had in school during which his teacher tells him that “Africa’s sons and daughters / had no history, no heroes worth noting.” As the story unfolds, readers learn of Schomburg’s move from Puerto Rico to New York City, his jobs and marriages, his obsession with history and founding of the Negro Society for Historical Research, and his devotion to the New York Public Library. Velasquez’s expressive oil paintings capture the time period beautifully. Readers will learn about other neglected figures of African descent as they learn about Schomburg. The book includes ample back matter with a timeline, source notes for quotations, and a bibliography.

    —LC

    Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea. Lee Bennett Hopkins (Ed.). Ill. Bob Hansmen & Jovan Hansmen. 2017. Seagrass Press.

    Traveling the Blue RoadTwelve poets contributed pieces to this collection of 14 poems focused on events at sea. The book is organized chronologically starting in the 15th century and ending in present day. The poems highlight historical periods and some offer detailed context. For instance, Georgia Heard’s poem focused on people fleeing Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine describes “90 days they slept / four to a bunk in a dark hull. / Dazed, dirty, stench in every pore.” The poem goes on to mention a seisún (a traditional Irish music session), adding to the authenticity and historical specificity of the poem. Several of the poems include esoteric words that are translated in a footnote, and some are complemented by quotes about the sea interspersed on the page. The illustrations are rendered in pastels and feature deep blues, thick lines, and a variety textures. The back matter contains photo and quotation credits as well as notes on the poets, typography, and art.

    —LC

    Ages 12–14

    Forest World. Margarita Engle. 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Forest WorldEdver, who lives in Miami with his mom, is obsessed with video games. Luza, who lives in Cuba with her father, loves art and their forest home. When Edver is sent to Cuba to visit his father, he meets his half-sister, Luza. Through alternating poems in each character’s voice, readers get to know these two young people as they discover each other and try to figure out their family history and make a difference in the future of the forest. In the style that earned her the status of Young People’s Poet Laureate, Margarita Engle tells the story of Edver and Luza through the use of metaphors and rich description. As Luza debates how much of herself to reveal to her brother she wonders “if butterflies recognize themselves / while they’re still all wrapped up / inside motionless cocoons.” As Edver learns more about the threats to the environment, he notes, “That’s all it takes to wipe out a species. / Just a few ordinary people making a string / of greedy / decisions.” The varying perspectives of the two narrators will keep readers interested as they learn about Cuba and threats to the environment.

    —LC

    Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess. Shari Green. 2017. Pajama Press.

    Macy McMillanIn this poignant verse novel, readers will be touched by the humor and heroism of Macy McMillian, who faces unwanted changes in her life as her mother is remarrying and she soon will be forced to move into a different home with her new stepdad and two stepsisters. The move also means a new school and a new sign language interpreter for her. To make matters worse, a fight with her best friend leaves her feeling even more isolated. Things start to change when her mother asks her to help their elderly neighbor Iris, also known as "the Rainbow Goddess." Iris doesn't know any sign language but it doesn't take long for the pair to find ways to communicate about their shared love of books. Iris also shares life lessons through cookie metaphors, such as: "Oatmeal cookies say / you're strong enough . . . you can do this” and “Peanut butter cookies send joy / and laughter.” While Macy’s deafness is a feature of the book, the focus is her gradual acceptance of the changes in her life. This novel in verse is an accessible read about the families we chose for ourselves and the power of stories. 

    —MN

    Ages 15+

    This Impossible Light. Lily Myers. 2017. Philomel/Penguin.

    This Impossible LightAs she enters her second year of high school, Ivy finds her life falling apart. Her parents have divorced, her brother has moved out, and her best friend, who was away for the summer, may not be her best friend anymore. The series of short poems in Ivy’s voice take on a wide range of issues from depression to eating disorders. Ivy excels in school, especially in math, and one teacher invites her to participate in a scholarship competition. Will her eating disorder stop her from making it into the competition? The book is divided into sections based on mathematical concepts, and Ivy describes her binging and purging in those terms: “And I know / that the lower my x is / the less I put inside of me / the better / my output / will be.” Ivy’s language is honest and raw as she navigates her pain and confusion. While the book’s ending is a bit too tidy, Ivy’s perspective will resonate with young readers, especially those who may be struggling with similar problems.

    —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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    Still More Series

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Nov 06, 2017

    Series are popular choices for readers of all ages who love to follow familiar characters on new adventures. This column features first books in new series and the latest books in episodic series that can be read in any order as well as standalones that will entice readers to earlier books. We have included a picture book and some early chapter books for younger readers as well as complex plots in a variety of genres for older readers.

    Ages 48

    Fergus and Zeke (Fergus and Zeke #1). Kate Messner. Ill. Heather Ross. 2017. Candlewick.

    Fergus and ZekeFergus, pet mouse of Miss Maxwell’s room, is disappointed that he is not invited on the class field trip and stows away in Emma’s backpack for the outing. In the lobby of the natural history museum, he meets fellow mouse, Zeke, who guides him around exhibits of space rocks, butterflies, ocean life, reptiles, African animals, and dinosaurs. When it’s time to leave, Fergus smuggles Zeke, his new best friend, back to the school. The children are delighted to have two class pets now. Messner’s first book in this new series, told in four short chapters scaffolded by Ross’s humorous, eye-catching digital illustrations, will have early readers primed for Fergus and Zeke’s next adventure.
    —NB

    Sail Away Dragon. Barbara Joosse. Ill. Randy Cecil. 2017. Candlewick.

    Sail Away Dragon Girl and Dragon share the same dream of sailing to the “far-est Far-Away!” And that’s exactly what they do, taking to the sea with Girl on Dragon’s back where, in addition to meeting expected sea creatures (dolphins and a whale), they have some unexpected encounters with Bad Hats (Vikings) and a cat that jumps ship to join them. Finally reaching Far Away, they gulp the “goodie gumdrops” and dance the “jerry jig” before settling down to dream of the very same thing: HOME. The rhythm and playful language of Joosse’s lyrical text as well as some details of the adventure revealed in Cecil’s charming oil paintings that are reminiscent of Edward Lear’s “The Owl and Pussycat” make this a delightful read-aloud. Lovabye Dragon (2012) and Evermore Dragon (2015) are earlier books about this pair of adventurous “friends forevermore.”
    —CA

    Wallace and Grace Take the Case (Wallace and Grace #1). Heather Alexander. Ill. Laura Zarrin. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    Wallace and GraceWallace and Grace, birds-of-a-feather partners in the Night Owl Detective Agency, love solving mysteries. When Edgar the rabbit asks for help in finding and banishing a ghost in the garden, the sleuths take the case and begin asking questions and gathering clues. The unexpected culprit is exposed through clues in Alexander’s clever text and Zarrin’s detailed colored-pencil and Photoshopped illustrations. Enticed by its interesting plot, clever dialogue, short and snappy chapters, and enriching vocabulary (such as quandary and investigation), young readers will want to continue solving mysteries alongside these owl friends in Wallace and Grace and the Cupcake Caper (2017) and Wallace and Grace and the Lost Puppy (2017).
    —NB

    Ages 911

    In the Deep Blue Sea (Jack and the Geniuses #2). Bill Nye & Gregory Mone. Ill. Nick Iluzada. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

    In the Deep Blue SeaTwelve-year-old Jack and his genius foster siblings, Ava and Matt, are invited to a private Hawaiian island as birthday guests for obnoxious Steven Hawking, whose technology billionaire mother’s Thermal Ocean Energy System (TOES) project has been sabotaged. Thrown into the middle of a mystery, Jack, Ava, and Matt use common sense, intelligence, and survival tactics to uncover the culprit. Back matter includes an “Eleven Absolutely Essential Questions About the Deep Blue Sea” and an experiment for budding scientists about how much of the Earth is covered by ocean. Readers who missed Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World (2017) can read it while awaiting the next book in the series.
    —NB

    Overboard! (Survivor Diaries #1). Terry Lynn Johnson. Ill. Jani Orban. 2017. Houghton Mifflin.

    OverboardEleven-year-old Travis and his family are whale watching in Washington’s Puget Sound when the Selkie Two is capsized by a rogue wave and sinks. Separated from his family in the cold ocean, Travis and 12-year-old Marina, the captain’s injured daughter, wash up onto a deserted island where they must overcome more life-threatening challenges. With pointers from Marina, Travis stretches his survival skills and instigates their rescue in an ingenious way. Back matter includes an author’s note and the U.S. Coast Guard-Approved Cold-Water Survival Tips. Young readers drawn into this fast-paced survival adventure can look forward to the next book in the series, Avalanche!, set in the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming.  
    —NB

    Patina (Track #2). Jason Reynolds. 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy/Simon & Schuster.

    PatinaTwelve-year-old African-American Patina Jones, one of the four newbies (Ghost, Sunny, Lu, and Patina) on the elite youth track team, the Defenders, loves to run—and to win. She knows that she “ain’t no junk,” (as she constantly reminds herself), but she’s out to prove this on the track team, at preppy Chester Academy, and in family relationships. As they did for Ghost in Ghost (2016), middle-grade readers will cheer for Patina’s success on and off the field as she learns an important lesson about teamwork in sports and in life while working toward being anchor on the 4x800 meters relay team.
    —CA

    Ages 1214

    The Best Kind of Magic (Windy City Magic #1). Crystal Cestari. 2017. Hyperion.

    The Best Kind of MagicThe gene for full-out witchcraft skipped over teen Amber Sand. She does, however, have a magical gift for envisioning a person’s true soul mate by looking into their eyes. After Chicago’s Mayor Blitzman meets secretly with her mother at Windy Magic City (the family’s shop on the Navy Pier) about his missing girlfriend, Charlie, his hunky son who is interested in breaking up their romantic relationship, seeks Amber’s help in locating her. Even as she falls for Charlie, Amber knows she is not his match and should step away, but their dangerous quest to solve this supernatural mystery keeps them together. The ending sets readers up for discovering what the Fates have in store for Amber and Charlie in the sequel, The Sweetest Kind of Fate, due out in February.
    —NB  

    Children of Refuge (Children of Exile #2). Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    Children of RefugeOne day after being transported from Fredtown, where he was raised, to Cursed Town, where he meets his birth parents, 12-year-old Edwy is smuggled to glitzy Refuge City just as borders are closed to live with his siblings in a luxurious apartment. After a lifetime of indoctrination, Edwy questions his new reality and steps out on a mission to rescue his old Fredtown friends, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana, who have not yet escaped from Cursed Town where they are being hunted by the new Enforcers. Help comes from unlikely places in Edwy’s race against time to save his friends. Children of Refuge is a stand-alone, but it will send science fiction fans back to the first book, Children of Exile (2016) to read while waiting for the last book in the trilogy.
    —NB

    Ages 15+

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

    La Belle SauvagePullman returns fantasy fans to the parallel world he created more than 20 years ago in His Dark Materials trilogy. Set 10 years earlier, Lyra Belacqua is a baby under the care of the nuns in the priory across the Thames from the Trout Inn, in Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, run by the parents of 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead. Malcolm hears all the news about what’s happening around Oxford while helping in the inn. He becomes concerned about Lyra’s safety when the secret police of the Consistorial Court of Discipline and a villainous man with a maimed hyena daemon start making inquiries about a baby. When a devastating flood hits, Malcolm rescues Baby Lyra from the destroyed priory in his canoe, La Belle Sauvage. Swept far away by the swift current, Malcolm faces a long and perilous journey to get Lyra back to Oxford with the aim of securing sanctuary for her at Jordan College. This complex, intriguing, and beautifully-crafted fantasy leaves readers with a lot to think about before the publication of the next book in the trilogy.
    —CA

    Now I Rise (And I Darken #2).Kiersten White. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    Now I RiseTold in alternating chapters by siblings Lada Dracul and her brother, Radu, the saga begun in And I Darken (2016) continues in this alternative historical fantasy set in 15th century. Mehmed, the calculating sultan of the Ottoman empire, still rules both of their hearts with unrequited love for Radu, who is serving as a spy for him in Constantinople, and the determined, barbarous Lada, who will do anything to claim her rightful place as the Prince of Wallachia, as his secret lover. At cross-purposes, the stakes for Lada and Radu grow higher along with the bloody paths left behind them. Those who love complex historical fantasies and missed the first book in White’s retelling of the Vlad the Imposter legend will enjoy reading And I Darken while waiting for the conclusion of the trilogy.
    —NB

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

    Tool of WarIn this third book of master storyteller Bacigalupi’s post-apocalyptic series, Tool, a genetically-engineered “augment,” half man and half beast designed to be a fiercely obedient and loyal “killing machine,” has learned to suppress his inbred submissiveness to his masters. He became the leader of an army of human child soldiers and has been in hiding since their annihilation. Aware of the potential for Tool to turn on his creators, General Caroa is using all of the powerful Mercier Corporation’s military resources to locate and destroy Tool. Tool is now set on a path of, not only survival, but also revenge. Bacigalupi is such a brilliant world-builder that Tool of War works as a stand-alone, but those new to the series will be drawn to Ship Breaker (2010) and The Drowned Cities (2012).
    —CA

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

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    Cultural Diversity in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

    By Sandip Wilson
     | Oct 30, 2017

    The picture books and novels in this week’s collection travel to a range of historical and contemporary settings, addressing important issues and events while following the day-to-day lives of people from around the world. These stories serve as windows, providing insights into different human experiences within different cultural contexts.

    Ages 4–8

    Kissimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani=Only in My Hometown. Arnakuluk Friesen. Trans. Jean Kususak. Ill. Ippikasuat Friesen. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    Only In My HometownSet in the Canadian territory and archipelago of Nunavat, this story shows the daily life of a tightly knit Arctic community. Bright acrylic-and-watercolor illustrations complement the richness of the lyrical text. For example, accompanying the illustration of children and women in parkas standing in blowing snow are the lines “‘Only white remains of the fourteen long blizzarding days. / Get out the shovel. /Don’t fuss or grovel. / Only in my hometown.’” The bilingual text is in both written and spoken Inuktitut followed by an English translation on each page, which highlights the importance of language to cultural self-identity.

    Nipêhon=I Wait. Caitlin Dale Nicholson (with Leona Morin-Nielson). 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    I WaitIn this gentle intergenerational story, a young girl waits with her mother for her grandmother before the First Nations family sets out on a day trip to collect wild yarrow. Written in Cree and translated into English, the story shows the fullness of their day as they share a quiet connection walking through fields and woods. Warm acrylic illustrations express the sense of peace and pleasure of time spent together conveyed by the text, which is punctuated with playful humor. The back matter includes a recipe for yarrow tea and a dedication by each author to the women and others in their lives with whom they have shared love, connection, and work.

    When the Rain Comes. Alma Fullerton. Ill. Kim La Fave. 2017. Pajama Press.

    When the Rain ComesLiving in Sri Lanka, Malini is delighted to awaken one morning to the sound of an approaching ox cart bringing rice seedlings. The arrival is particularly exciting because she will be learning to plant them. With a monsoon storm approaching, her first task is to hold the reins of the huge, snorting ox. When the wind blows the seedlings across his back, the ox becomes increasingly agitated, and when the rain floods the roads, Malini is cut off from family. She must swallow her fear of the frightened ox, lead him to safety, and find shelter to protect the seedlings. Rendered in pencil and watercolor, the illustrations depict the drama and danger of the wind, driving rain, and Malini’s effort to protect the rice seedlings and soothe the ox.

    Ages 9–11

    Amina’s Voice. Hena Khan. 2017. Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster.

    Amina's VoiceAmina, a middle school student in Milwaukee, faces two challenges: participating in a pioneer project with her friend, Soojin, and another student, Emily, who has teased her in the past and, at the wishes of her father, practicing for a public competition in reading the Quran organized by the Iman of her Islam Center. Amina loves music and when she sings she feels transformed from a skinny girl into a glamorous star, but her singing is discouraged when her uncle, visiting from Pakistan, insists music is forbidden by their religion. When Soojin becomes an ally of Emily, Amina questions the alliances she has with others at school while she also strives to meet her family’s expectations. As she reads the Quran, Amina finds new meaning in the values of her family, and when vandalism devastates the mosque, she uses her special musical talents to soothe the pain of her family and community.

    Beyond the Bright Sea. Lauren Wolk. 2017. Douglas & McIntyre Dutton /Penguin.

    Beyond the Bright SeaThe only life that 12-year-old Crow has known is living on the Elizabeth Islands off Cape Cod, Massachusetts with Osh, the man who rescued her, as a newborn, from the sea. In this historical novel set in 1925, she yearns to find out where she is from and who her parents were. Once she learns she came from Penikese, a nearby island that had been a leper colony, she gains insight, but the discovery brings more questions into her life.  She now realizes why people avoid her and why she wasn’t permitted to attend the local school. People fear what they do not understand. All she has of her past is a ring and a nearly indecipherable letter that had been attached to the swaddling when Osh found her. Searching for answers about her family puts Crow and the people she loves in danger as she learns the history of her family and the people who lived on the island.

    Three Pennies. Melanie Crowder. 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Three PenniesEleven-year-old Marin has had seven foster mothers in San Francisco, California. The only consistent part of her life is a copy of the I Ching (The Book of Changes) that she consults daily. To determine her reading for the day, she uses three pennies to indicate the change lines identifying the hexagram that gives her guidance into the events of her life. When Gilda, her social worker, interviews her for possible adoption, Marin reads her fostercare file left open on the table containing a sheet with a contact name given when Marin was surrendered to social services. As Marin discovers a link to her birth mother, Gilda arranges a probationary period with Lucy, a doctor who wants to be Marin’s adoptive mother. Although her life is made comfortable and she is cared for and valued, she yearns to find her birth mother. In this novel of discovery, Marin gains an unconditional acceptance that both sustains her in her search for her birth mother and challenges her to think about her life in a new way.

    Ages 1214

    Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People.  Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger. 2017. Annick.

    Turtle IslandChronicling thousands of years, this nonfiction book illuminates cultures of First Peoples in different parts of the continent and shows how civilizations grew and changed from the Ice Age to the 20th century. In the creation myth, pregnant Sky Woman falls through a hole in the sky and birds set her down on the back of the Great Turtle. Other animals plunge into the sea and retrieve mud to make the world on the turtle’s back. Each chapter focuses on a different cultural community of the North American Northwest, the Plains, the Southwest and Mexico, and the Northeast and presents the history and mythology of the people, their invention in building communities, the effects of the encounter with Europeans, and information on contemporary daily life. The book includes sources and suggestions for further reading in the back matter.

    Ages 15+

    #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women. Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale (Eds.). 2017. Annick. 

    Not Your PrincessIn a book of multiple genres, including narrative, poetry, drawings, and paintings, the stories of contemporary girls and women of First Nations from all over North America share their fears and aspirations, as well as their experiences with self-identity, family, community, and sisterhood. The stories, accompanied by photographs, include calls to action, rousing women to take pride in who they have been and who they are now. The back matter includes credits and acknowledgments. 

    In a Perfect World.
    Trish Doller. 2017. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    In a Perfect WorldCaroline looks forward to summer vacation, working with her best friend at the local amusement park, and traveling with her boyfriend before their senior year of high school, until suddenly, plans are disrupted. Instead, Caroline must move to Egypt for the coming year, with her mother who is opening an eye clinic in Cairo. As part of her mother’s residency, the family has a driver who shows them historical and religious sites until he falls ill and his son, Adam, takes over the job. Adam dutifully chauffeurs Caroline around the city and environs, and takes her to famous sites such as Giza and to places that tourists do not usually see such as neighborhood markets and ancient religious sites. In this novel of self-doubt, discovery, and loss, affection grows between Caroline and Adam, until Caroline’s life is once again disrupted.

    Speak of Me as I Am. Sonia Belasco. 2017.  Penguin/Philomel.

    Speak of Me As I AmAfter the death of his best friend, Carlos, Damon sets out to discover what Carlos experienced in his life as a photographer. While working in the family diner, Melanie explores the world of painting that her mother had been immersed in before her death from cancer.  They each ponder the lives of the people they were so close to and discover their growing friendship as they prepare for the upcoming high school production of “Othello,” with Damon as Othello and Melanie as the designer and painter of the stage sets. In this novel of loss and healing, Damon and Melanie discover they can make contributions to people they love in ways they didn’t expect.

    When Dimple Met Rishi.  Sandhya Menon. 2017. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    When Dimple Met RishiIn this romantic comedy, Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel participate in Insomnia Con, a web technology summer program at San Francisco State University for students entering college. Dimple, who is keenly interested in coding, is committed to education, and she challenges her parents’ expectations that she finds a good husband. Rishi, who loves comic book art, as the eldest son of his family, is committed to meeting the family’s expectations to be an engineer. Although their families have intended that Dimple and Rishi get to know one another, the two Indian-American teens (who plan to attend universities on opposite coasts) have no intention of cultivating a relationship. When they are paired up to work on a special project, however, things get complicated, and they are challenged in pursuing their own dreams while honoring their families’ values.

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the School of Education and the English Department 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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    Boo! Scary Stories

    By Danielle Hartsfield, Kristina Chérres, Rebekah Mitchell, Selina Rosario, Alexis B. Sharbel, and Amanda C. Shreve
     | Oct 23, 2017

    As Halloween approaches, there is no better treat than a spooky story or two! The recently published books in this week’s column include some whimsical and not-too-scary stories for younger children and suspenseful and chilling tales for older readers. Share these books with students to give them a ghoulishly good time.

    Ages 4–8

    Boo Who? Ben Clanton. 2017. Candlewick.

    Boo WhoNew to town, a little ghost named Boo is searching for some friends. Luckily, Boo meets T. Rex (a dinosaur), Gizmo (a robot), Wild (a monster), and Sprinkles (a unicorn rabbit). The four pals welcome him, but he has a hard time fitting in. Boo is not good at playing their favorite games, and this makes him sad. However, they are determined to find a way to help him fit in. How about a game of hide-and-seek? This playful read-aloud with expressive cartoon art will help young children see that differences are what make us special and that there are always ways to include new friends.

    —RM

    Creepy Pair of Underwear! Aaron Reynolds. Ill. Peter Brown. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    Creepy Pair of Underwear!Children who loved Reynolds and Brown’s Creepy Carrots!, a 2013 Caldecott Honor book, will delight in Jasper Rabbit’s latest fright. When his mom takes him underwear shopping, Jasper insists he is not a little bunny anymore and begs for a pair of Creepy Underwear. When he is alone in his room that night, however, he finds that the “ghoulish, greenish glow” of the underwear is too scary. Desperate to get rid of the underwear, he tries everything from cutting it to shreds to mailing it to China. To Jasper’s horror, the Creepy Underwear keeps returning! Jasper finally devises a solution to his creepy undies problem that also helps him conquer his fear of the dark and proves he is a big rabbit after all. The black and white of the illustrations add a spooky tone and provide the perfect backdrop for the Day-Glo green underpants. The comical faces of the Creepy Underwear lend humor to this not-too-creepy story.

    —DH

    I Want to Be in a Scary Story. Sean Taylor. Ill. Jean Jullien. 2017. Candlewick.

    I Want to Be In a Scary StoryLittle Monster, a purple monster with big yellow eyes, declares that he wants to be in a scary story, but he soon learns that witches, ghosts, and haunted houses might be too scary for him. What kind of story is just right for Little Monster? Could it be a funny story? The story is told as a dialogue between Little Monster and the writer, presented in alternating font colors—purple for Little Monster and black for the writer. The bold digital illustrations spookily and humorously reveal the evolution of the story, ending with a delightful surprise.

    —SR

    The Scariest Book Ever. Bob Shea. 2017. Disney-Hyperion.

    The Scariest Book EverThe narrator, a small ghost, would rather stay home than venture into the dark woods. After all, the woods might have scary things in it. Although the ghost wants you, the reader, to keep him company, you enter the woods. Upon your return, you tell him about the harmless things you saw, but he won’t believe you. When the ghost finally goes into the woods to see for himself, he is in for a fright and a surprise. Young children will enjoy journeying through this giggle-inducing story with brightly colored comical illustrations.

     —ACS

    Ages 9–11

    Elizabeth and Zenobia. Jessica Miller. Ill. Yelena Bryksenkova. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

    Elizabeth and ZenobiaFollowing the unexpected departure of his wife, Dr. Murmur retreats to Withering House, his childhood home, to lose himself in his scientific work with his daughter, Elizabeth, and her best friend, Zenobia, in tow. Elizabeth is unsure about the creepy atmosphere of Withering House, but for Zenobia, who loves all things macabre, living at Withering House is an adventure. The weathered, stately mansion holds secrets from Dr. Murmur’s past which Zenobia is determined to ferret out. Timid Elizabeth reluctantly follows Zenobia on a ghoulish quest to contact the Spirit Presence that she is positive resides in the forbidden East Wing of Withering House. The girls uncover more than they bargained for, and Elizabeth must conquer her fears to confront ghosts from her father’s past and save them all from grave danger. Middle school readers will relish the humor as well as the gothic influences of this horror/mystery novel.

    —KC

    The Girl with the Ghost Machine. Lauren DeStefano. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    The Girl With the Ghost MachineWhen Emmaline’s father begins building a ghost machine to bring back her deceased mother, it is as if Emmaline has lost both of her parents—her mother to the grave and her father to his obsession with the machine. Though Emmaline knows it’s preposterous to imagine the machine working, she has a sliver of hope that it could. But getting involved with spirits is risky business, and the ghost machine just might have some unintended consequences. This intriguing story of death, loss, family, and friendship will appeal to middle graders who enjoy ghost stories with a twist.

    —RM

    A Properly Unhaunted Place. William Alexander. Ill. Kelly Murphy. 2017.  Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.

    A Properly Unhaunted PlaceRosa, the daughter of a ghost appeaser, can’t imagine living in a town without spirits, but that’s where she finds herself when she moves to Ingot, the world’s only “unhaunted” town. While Jasper, a lifelong Ingot resident who has never witnessed a haunting, is showing Rosa around Ingot’s Renaissance Festival, a supernatural creature invades the mermaid lagoon. The town of Ingot is about to change. Can Rosa and Jasper save the only ghost-free town in the world? This story keeps readers guessing until the very end. With its strong character development, humor, and unexpected twists, readers will lose themselves in a world filled with family, friendship, and the supernatural.  

    —ACS

    Spirit Hunters. Ellen Oh. 2017. HarperCollins.

    Spirit HuntersTwelve-year-old Harper is troubled. She knows something bad happened to her last year, something that landed her in a mental health hospital. Harper simply can’t remember, and nobody in her family will talk about it. Things become worse when Harper’s family moves into an old, supposedly haunted house, and her younger brother Michael’s personality takes a sudden turn from sweet and loving to angry and insolent. After being attacked by an unseen force in Michael’s room, Harper becomes convinced that his imaginary friend, Billy, might be a manipulative spirit. As Harper’s repressed memories surface, she realizes it is up to her to save Michael from Billy’s malevolence. But she’s going to have to be brave. Very brave. The swift action and increasing suspense of the plot will appeal to middle-grade readers, especially those who love a paranormal mystery.

    —DH

    Ages 12–14

    The Disappearances. Emily Bain Murphy. 2017. Houghton Mifflin.

    The DisappearancesWhen 15-year-old Aila arrives in Sterling, her deceased mother’s hometown, she quickly realizes that something is not right. Soon Aila learns about the Disappearances; every seven years, some part of life disappears for good. Scent. Reflections. Color. Music. When Aila realizes her arrival in Sterling coincides with the next Disappearance, she hurriedly works to unravel the mystery of Sterling’s curse. Meanwhile, a reclusive stranger with long-forgotten ties to Aila’s family finds out she possesses something he wants—and he plans to get it no matter the cost. Mystery fans will love the convergence of two seemingly unrelated storylines at the novel’s dramatic conclusion.

    —DH

    Poe: Stories and Poems. Gareth Hinds. 2017. Candlewick.

    PoeThis graphic novel adaptation includes seven of Edgar Allen Poe’s most enduring short stories and poems: “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven.” While Poe’s tales are frightening on their own and have earned their rightful place as literary classics, the illustrations in this graphic novel heighten their horror and suspense for a new generation of readers. Much of Poe’s original text is retained, and the illustrations will aid young adults in their comprehension of the tales. As a bonus, Hinds includes an introductory “checklist” of horror motifs such as creepy animals, death, disease, and murder used by Poe, which are listed at the beginning of each story. An author’s note provides additional information on Edgar Allan Poe (18091849) and notes on the stories and poems Hinds selected for this volume.

    —DH

    Ages 15+

    A Good Idea. Cristina Moracho. 2017. Viking/Penguin.

    A Good IdeaIt is the final summer before starting college, and Finley is back in Williston, her coastal Maine hometown, after a tumultuous senior year in New York City. This summer is different. Her best friend, Betty, disappeared last fall. Did Betty run away, or did something more sinister happen? Finley is enraged when she learns no one in Williston seems to care what happened to Betty. Aided by Serena, her new love interest, Finley is determined to learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance. But before she does, Finley must uncover Williston’s unsavory secrets and peel back the many layers of Betty’s troubled life. Finley’s growing despair and the bleakness of the cold, rainy summer set the perfect mood for this fast-paced, dark thriller. A Good Idea will keep older teens up all night as they race through the pages to learn what becomes of Betty.

    —DH

    The Special Ones. Em Bailey. 2017. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Special OnesEsther has spent two years as part of the Special Ones: an ominous cult living a “simple” life on a secluded farm. She was chosen by the cult leader, who none of the Special Ones has seen. He, supposedly, is constantly watching them, making sure they are playing their parts as spirit guides and following his rules. The Special Ones live one day at a time, fearful of “renewal.” Although they have no idea what happens when a Special One is renewed, they suspect nothing good will come from it. Esther feels that she can no longer keep up the act of obedience she puts on. Is it her time to be renewed, or will she continue to live this troublesome lie? The progression and ending of the book will leave readers shocked, wanting more of the troubling story of Esther and the Special Ones.

    —ABS

    Danielle Hartsfield is assistant professor in the Teacher Education Department at the University of North Georgia in Cumming. Kristina Chérres, Rebekah Mitchell, Selena Rosario, Alexis B. Sharbel, and Amanda C. Shreve are all seniors majoring in Elementary and Special Education at the University of North Georgia. They are currently enrolled in Hartsfield’s Children’s Literature and Language Arts class.

    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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