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    Conflict: Awareness, Understanding, and Resolution

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Sep 24, 2018

    A quick glance at a newspaper or social media reveals that conflict is everywhere–within families, in the workplace, and among nations. It’s clear that the world would be a better place if we approached one another with empathy and kindness. This week’s column highlights books about conflicts and resolutions in various forms, even when they take place within us.

    Ages 4–8

    An Anty-War Story. Tony Ross. 2018. Andersen.

    An Antywar StoryA patriotic ant named Douglas wants to do his bit for Antworld. His dreams of being able "to fit in, to carry food, and be in the beautiful line” as a worker ant are left unrealized as he is assigned to duty as a soldier, responsible for defending his homeland from intruders. Although he proudly marches in formation with the other soldier ants, his happiness is fleeting as war brings its inevitable conclusion. The final pages show the violence and destruction inherent in war, featuring a monument listing all the ants killed in the conflict, Douglas among them. This unexpectedly poignant anti-war allegory will leave some readers puzzled and perturbed while provoking rich discussion among others.

    The Turtle Ship. Helena Ku Rhee. Ill. Colleen Kong-Savage. 2018. Shen’s Books/Lee & Low.

    The Turtle ShipYoung Sun-sin, who spends his days in his seaside village with his turtle, Gobugi, dreams of traveling the world. When the ruler of Korea announces a contest to design a battleship, Sun-sin realizes his pet turtle is a good model. Although Sun-sin is belittled by others at the competition, the emperor watches as Gobugi fends off the attack of a cat, thanks to its shell and ability to retract its limbs, and realizes that the small turtle’s attributes offer possibilities for designing a warship. Sun-sin’s dreams of travel come true when he and his family are invited to sail with the royal navy on a Turtle Ship. He later becomes a famous navy admiral, but eventually finds more contentment in the peacefulness of home with Gobugi. Detailed collage illustrations beautifully set the scene for this story, loosely inspired by the story of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his Turtle Ship. The afterword includes a photograph of an actual Turtle Ship, compact and impregnable.

    A World of Kindness. Ann Featherstone. 2018. Pajama Press.

    A World of KindnessNine children’s book illustrators (Rebecca Bender, Suzanne del Rizzo, Brian Deines, Wallace Edwards, Kim La Fave, Dean Griffiths, Manon Gauthier, Francois Thisdale, and Tara Anderson) offer their artistic interpretations of what it means to be kind and avoid conflict by understanding others. Whether through courtesy and thoughtfulness toward others, reaching out to a new friend, or comforting someone in pain, each of us can make the world a better place through the simplest of actions. The child-friendly questions posed and the scenarios depicted provide food for thought and discussion about the importance of taking action. Ultimately, young readers may realize that kindness starts with one small act, rippling outward to touch others and improve the world.

    Ages 9–11

    Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid (Kid Beowulf #3)Alexis E. Fajardo. 2018. Andrews McMeel.

    Kid BeowulfIn this graphic novel, unlikely siblings Grendel and Beowulf find themselves in Spain, where a band of travelers mistakes them for gods and plans to use them in a sacrificial ritual. Their storyline eventually intersects with that of Rodrigo, a promising young knight whose fortune goes awry after he kills the father of his beloved, Ximena, and he is exiled from his homeland. Forced to become a mercenary soldier, Rodrigo eventually amasses a large army and gains back all that he has lost, including the woman he loves. Middle grade readers will be swept up by this epic drama and impressed by the honor of Rodrigo Díaz, the man who came to be called El Cid. The illustrations are filled with color and detail, bringing this centuries-old tale to life.A “More to Explore!” section includes author’s notes providing background for the graphic fantasy, a glossary of characters, fun facts, and a bibliography.

    The Sinking of the Vasa: A Shipwreck of Titanic Proportions. Russell Freedman. Ill. William Low. 2018. Henry Holt.

    The Sinking of the VasaIt has been said that pride comes before a fall, and this nonfiction account of a Swedish king’s hubris demonstrates this theory perfectly. Intent on intimidating those who might consider opposing him or his kingdom, King Gustavus II Adolf commissioned the construction of a mighty warship with 64 bronze cannons and various ornate works of art at an enormous cost. However, the king overestimated the ship’s capability to carry so many weighty weapons, and the Vasa never made it into battle. In fact, the ship sank on its maiden voyage, traveling less than a mile from shore. As fascinating as the details provided about its construction are, perhaps more interesting are the efforts to discover the reason for the ship's sinking and then, centuries later, to bring the Vasa out of the depths of the sea and restore it. Created with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, the illustrations brim with life and detail. Readers will feel as though they are along the dock in 1628 watching as the ship sinks and many lives are lost. Now that the Vasa is back on dry land and restored, it has become a popular tourist attraction in Stockholm, Sweden.

    Ages 12–14

    D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History. Deborah Hopkinson. 2018. Scholastic.

    D-DayArguably, the pivotal event of World War II, D-Day (June 6, 1944) was the largest invasion by sea in history. German Führer Adolph Hitler was firmly in control of Europe. The United States and other allied countries knew that they must come up with a plan that would strike at the heart of the Nazi stronghold. In this account of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, Hopkinson relies on government documents and personal anecdotes to highlight the contributions made by those involved in this enormous undertaking to free Europe.

    My Life Uploaded. Rae Earl. 2018. Imprint/Macmillan.

    My Life UploadedAs is the case for many girls her age, 13-year-old Millie Porter longs to be noticed by her peers. But being noticed for the right things instead of what she does wrong is easier said than done, especially when Erin Breeler, a popular classmate, always seems to be there when she's messing up. Since Erin has a social media presence, she is quick to post images and comments. Millie is a sensible sort, and after listening to her best friend, Lauren, bemoans her living situation and how fed up she is with her mother's neat freak of a boyfriend, she starts her own video blog, or "vlog." But Erin can’t stand to have anyone else gain attention, and an online war between the two girls begins. The fact that Canadian transplant, Danny Trudeau, seems to like Millie’s vlog adds fuel to the fire, and their classmates take sides.

    Ages 15+

    The Fandom. Anna Day. 2018. Chicken House/Candlewick.

    The FandomIt's no secret that some fans will go to great lengths to meet their idols, even almost becoming a part of that imaginary world. In this book, Violet (along with her two best friends Alice and Katie, and her younger brother) heads off to Comic-Con to meet the actors from The Gallows Dance, a book that has enchanted all of them except Katie for years. Alice even writes fan fiction set in that world. Dressed as their favorite characters, they are set to get autographs and photos when a strange accident thrusts them into the world in which the story takes place. Suddenly, Violet and company find themselves in the midst of a war between “the Gens,” genetically altered humans, and “the Imps,” lesser, imperfect citizens. As Violet tries to stick to the book’s plot, she isn’t sure how to end the conflict and have the four of them come out of it safe and sound and back home.

    Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1). Kristina Pérez. 2018. Imprint/Macmillan.

    Sweet Black WavesBased on the classic story of Tristan and Isolde, this version focuses on Branwen of Ivernic (Ireland), who befriends and falls in love with Tristan, whose country Kernyvak (Cornwall) is in conflict with her own. To achieve peace between the two nations, the Queen of Ivernic decides to marry off her daughter, Esseult (affectionately called Essy) to King Marc of Cornwall. Branwen and Tristan (the nephew of King Marc) accompany Essy as she reluctantly sails to meet her husband-to-be. But when Essy and Tristan drink a potion intended for Essy and King Marc, they are irresistibly attracted to one another, culminating in a shipboard tryst. Naturally, Branwen’s heart is broken, and she ponders how much she must sacrifice to achieve peace between the two lands. This well-written debut novel effectively immerses readers in a time and place from long, long ago.

    The War Below. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2018. Scholastic.

    The War BelowThis companion book to Making Bombs for Hitler (2017) follows Luka as he escapes from a work camp by smuggling himself out among corpses and tries to make his way back to Kviv to find his father and mother. Consumed with guilt for leaving behind his best friend, Lida, Luka swears that he will somehow find her. He is poorly prepared for the journey since he has no food and is barely clothed, but he finds help from a kindhearted farm couple with a secret of their own, a savvy refugee, Martina, with useful wilderness skills, and members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. And knowing something about medicine, Luka helps his companions, but losses take an emotional toll on him. The plight of Ukrainians like Luka who had to contend with enemies on both fronts, Hitler’s Germans and Stalin’s Soviets, is highlighted in this historical novel.

    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.

    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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    Worlds of Fantasy

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Sep 17, 2018

    For readers of all ages looking for an escape from the ordinary, the new fantasy and science fiction books we review in this week’s column provide just the ticket for adventures rooted in the “real” world (with magical twists) as well as in imaginative realms created by the expert world-building talents of authors and illustrators.   

    Ages 4–8

    Backyard Fairies. Phoebe Wahl. 2018. Knopf/Random House.

    Backyard FairiesA young girl hunts in her backyard and woods for signs of fairies and other magical creatures. “Have you ever found, while out on your own … / A tiny, magical somebody’s home?” In addition to enjoying the gentle, rhyming text directed at them, readers will delight in seeing what the girl does not in the earthy illustrations (created with water color, gouache, collage, and colored pencils): fairies in trees, pixies braiding her dog’s hair, a cave of magical creatures under her feet. After sneaking out of bed one night to follow the music of elusive magical sprites, she returns home, wondering if they really exist, and awakens in the morning with a special crown of flowers in her hair.
    —NB

    Cat Wishes. Calista Brill. Ill. Kenard Pak. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    Cat WishesA hungry cat wishing for something to eat as he prowls through the woods pounces on a wiggly snake. Although Cat doesn’t believe the snake’s promise to grant him three wishes for its release, he lets Snake go. While continuing to voice his skepticism, Cat gets three wishes: something to appease his hunger (a fish), somewhere to shelter from the rain (a cozy house), and a friend. The friend turns out to be a small girl whose wishes for the same things were also granted by Snake. Calista Brill’s spare, repetitive text peppered with onomatopoeic words and Kenard Pak’s soft edge watercolor and digital media illustrations make this animal fantasy a good read-aloud choice.
    —CA

    The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight. Elli Woollard. Ill. Benji Davies. 2018. Godwin/Henry Holt.

    The Dragon and the Nibblesome KnightWhile flying through a storm in search of “a bite of a dribblesome, nibblesome, knobble-kneed knight” (the favorite food of Dragons of Dread), Dram, a small green dragon, crashes into a lake. James, a young knight who has never seen a dragon, strips off his armor and rescues what he thinks is some rare kind of duck. When they meet again on Sports Day at the castle, their true identities are revealed. Will Dram bite? Will James fight? Their model of good behavior leads the knights of the kingdom to recognize that dragons aren’t simply beasts and the dragons to vow not to nibble on knights—"though every so often, they sort of . . . forgot.” Colorful, detailed cartoon artwork adds to the fun of reading this delightful tale of mistaken identity and friendship.
    —CA

    The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful. Nancy Tupper Ling. Ill. Andrea Offermann. 2018. Putnam/Penguin.

    The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon FrightfulOn the very day that twins Wei and Mei were born in the village of Woo, a dragon named Frightful stretched his long, scaly body across the Dan-Tat Bridge, blocking the villagers’ passage across a gorge. Nothing would budge him. From birth the different personalities of the twins were evident, and their Auntie YiYi predicted that they would grow up to fight the dragon together. And finally they do, but in a surprising way. “‘With a little yin,’ said Wei. ‘And a little yang’ said Mei. ‘Together we make the perfect pair.”’ Andrea Offermann’s intricately detailed illustrations, rendered in pen and ink and watercolor, beautifully picture the scene for this tale set in ancient China. Adults reading this picture book to young children may want to talk about the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang with them.
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    The Spinner Prince (Pride Wars #1). Matt Laney. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Spinner PrinceThirteen-year-old Leo, heir to the throne of Singara, a futuristic world of highly evolved lions, must keep secret that he is a Spinner, a teller of tales. In a society that believes only in science and fact, discovery that he has this uncontrollable “fiction affliction” would result in exile. Leo faces threats from both outside and within the walled kingdom. Are the Maguar planning an invasion? Is his life under threat from Tamir, his older cousin who has named himself the new Singa-Kahn?  Leo will need to use his special magical power as a Spinner to save himself and Singara’s future. Laney includes a list of folktales from different cultures and traditions upon which the stories Leo tells in this first book of his action-packed animal fantasy series are based.
    —CA

    The Stone Girl’s Story. Sarah Beth Durst. 2018. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin.

    The Stone Girl's StoryTwelve-year-old stone girl Mayka, created by her master stonemason human father (who also carved her living stone animal companions), worries when Turtle’s marks fade and he stops moving. With her father dead and no one to repair the unique marks that tell their stories and give them life, Mayka leaves her secluded mountain home, accompanied by flying stone birds Risa and Jacklo, to find a stonemason to save them. Arriving in the city of Skye as it prepares for the Stone Festival and where strict rules limit the power and actions of carvers, she uncovers the sinister plot of a stone carver engraving illegal obedience marks into a secret army of cretures and a giant monster. Mayka makes allies and uncovers unexpected solutions to thwart the enslavement of all stone animals as well as to save her friends in this adventurous fantasy.  
    —NB

    Ages 12–14  

    The Door to the Lost. Jaleigh Johnson. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    The Door to the LostRook, who can draw doors with chalk to other dimensions, and best friend Drift, who has tricks of her own, were among the magical children in the skyship that sailed from the world of Vora into Regara City in the world of Talhaven just before the portal arch connecting the two worlds exploded. With no memories or family, Rook and Drift have grown up refugees in a land that distrusts magic of any kind and survive by transporting others to safer places. When a young fox-turned-boy bursts through one of the doors and joins them as they elude rangers, their lives intertwine with the wizard Dozana, who tries for the biggest power grab of all, enough magic to destroy Regara, before escaping to a new world. It falls on Rook, Drift, and Fox to use their returning memories and magical powers to save their adopted world.
    —NB

     

    Magic, Madness, and Mischief. Kelly McCullough. 2018. Feiwel and Friends.

    Magic, Madness, and MischiefThirteen-year-old Kalvan Monroe’s ordinary life flips upside down when he discovers that he has fire magic with the gift of persuasion, that he has bound Sparx (a snarky, ageless, talking fire hare) to him, and that his evil, controlling stepfather is the true Winter King. If that isn’t enough, his emotionally fragile mother may have some magic of her own, but her ability to function in is dissipating quickly. Kalvan, Thomas (his best friend), and Sparx must solve three clues to recapture the hidden Corona Borealis before the culmination of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival—and bring down the Winter King—or the crown will not be passed on to Summer, resulting in dangerous consequences for earth’s climate and seasons. This imaginative middle-grade fantasy will engage readers with its non-stop action and healthy dose of humor.
    —NB

    Ages 15+ 

    The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza. Shaun David Hutchinson. 2018. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    The Apocalypse of Elena MendozaFew believe that 16-year-old Elena Mendoza was the product of a virgin birth, but after she heals Freddie (a girl on whom she’s had a crush) from a bullet wound and the shooter is “raptured” up in a bright beam of light, things change. Elena struggles to ignore the voices of inanimate objects (the siren on the Starbucks coffee mug, My Little Pony, Lego Gandolf) telling her she has been chosen to save humanity, but with people raptured worldwide in increasing numbers after each healing, her best friend, Fadil, a devout Muslim boy, believes her gift is from God. Elena is not sure. As the FBI investigates her, people continue to beg for healings, and Carmen Ballard, an attorney, hires Elena’s weak stepfather to kidnap her for an anonymous client, Elena finally devises a plan that will either save or end the world in this inventive and thought-provoking fantasy.
    —NB

    Ink, Iron, and Glass (Ink, Iron, and Glass #1). Gwendolyn Clare. 2018. Imprint/Macmillan.

    Ink, Iron, and GlassSixteen-year-old Elsa lives on Veldana, a new world written into reality by a 19th-century French scriptologist, Charles Montaigne. Her mother, Jumi, a scriptologist, has continued expanding Veldana by writing in its worldbook, and is training Elsa to become its caretaker. When the Veldana worldbook is stolen and Jumi abducted, Elsa travels to Earth through a portal to locate the worldbook and rescue her mother. Fearing for her safety, De Vries, a friend of Jumi, settles Elsa in at Casa della Pazzia, a residence for children with special talents in three branches of science: scriptology, mechanics, or alchemy.With three gifted allies she makes in the Casa, Elsa embarks on a dangerous mission to find and rescue her mother that will also involve them in a diabolical political conspiracy. The author’s note provides a context for this steampunk fantasy that provides an alternate history of actual political conflict over unification in 19th-century Italy. A sequel, Mist, Metal, and Ash, will be out in February 2019.
    —CA

    When Light Left Us. Leah Thomas. 2018. Bloomsbury.

    When Light Left UsThe Vasquez children are in mourning after Donovan, their dad, leaves, but when Luz, a shimmering figure, appears in the New Mexico canyon behind their home, he fills that grief as a father-substitute who brings personal gifts: basketball prowess for 17-year-old Luke, vivid memory images for 14-year-old Ana, and friendship for 8-year-old autistic Milo. However, as Luz’s plays with their minds and then leaves them, each sibling loses something precious, and the void is back. In an unexpected unfolding of events, the family learns that Luz is a parasitic alien who manipulates humans only to learn more about, and to control, them—so when he returns, they know he must be stopped. And their mother, Maggie, is concealing a secret that will change everything they think they know in their struggle as a family to understand the truth and heal.
    —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.

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

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    Books Across the Curriculum

    Susan Knell, Skye Hisiro, and Carolyn Angus
     | Sep 10, 2018

    According to an international study published in 2016 by Zeno Group, today’s youth are more socially and globally minded than previous generations and share an enthusiastic desire to find new solutions to the world's most pressing problems. In this week’s column, we review a few of the many recently published books that introduce critical issues, spark important conversations, invite further exploration, and support the activism of children and young adults who want to contribute to positive change.

    Ages 4–8

    The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: The Story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation. Kate Messner. Ill. Matthew Forsythe. 2018. Chronicle.

    The Brilliant Deep“It starts with one.” Kate Messner uses these four words to begin and end this informational picture book about the work of Ken Nedimyer, coral renewal pioneer and founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation. Though seemingly simple, these four words signify the power of one in generating change, a theme that is echoed throughout the book. Just as a single coral can grow into an entire reef, Ken Nedimyer is a single activist who inspires others to join his efforts to conserve the ocean’s ecosystems through coral reef transplants. The back matter lists additional information on coral reefs, including ideas for activism, print and online resources, and vocabulary terms.
    —SH

    The Day You Begin. Jacqueline Woodson. Ill. Rafael López. 2018. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    The Day You BeginThere will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” Children often feel very different and alone in school, whether it is because of their hair, skin, language, clothes, the food they eat, the vacations not taken, or physical limitations. Woodson gently shifts the story to show how the children in a class learn that they are more alike than different when they begin to share their stories. López’s bright mixed-media illustrations perfectly tell the story along with the text, especially in the eyes of the children. The final double-page spread depicting African-American Angelina and Rigoberto from Venezuela happily swinging together says it all. “This is the day you begin to find the places . . . where every new friend has something a little like you—and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”A Spanish edition, El día en que descubres quíén eres, is also available.
    —SK

    I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness. Kerascoët. 2018. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    I Walk With VanessaBullying is simply and effectively addressed in this wordless picture book by Kerascoët, a French husband and wife team of illustrators. A little girl enters a new school and is verbally accosted by a bully while walking home. A classmate watches as the girl runs into her house in tears. In a simple act of kindness, she knocks on the new girl’s door the next morning and walks with her to school. Other children join them and, as the two girls become surrounded by others, the bully stands alone. The book ends with an informational page on how children can help someone who is being bullied and how adults can talk about this book with children.
    —SK

    Pie Is for Sharing. Stephanie Parsley Ledyard. Ill. Jason Chin. 2018. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook.

    Pie is for SharingStephanie Parsley Ledyard’s spare, poetic text and Jason Chen’s lively watercolor and gouache illustrations depict a Fourth of July picnic, where a diverse group of children and their families are happily sharing books, trees, games, and, of course, pie. “Words and music are made for sharing. So are berries and the last piece of homemade bread. Even the crumbs.” Reading aloud Pie Is for Sharing to young children presents a gentle lesson about equitable sharing (even when it seems like there may not be enough to go around) and a platform for discussing inclusion.
    —SH

    What Can a Citizen Do? Dave Eggers. Ill. Shawn Harris. 2018. Chronicle.

    What Can Citizens Do“What in the world can a citizen do?” Quite a lot, as Eggers and Harris demonstrate in this child-friendly introduction to the basics of citizenship. A simple rhyming text and colorful cut-paper illustrations show how a diverse group of children work together and make compromises to create an inclusive treehouse community on an island on which a single tree grows. This picture book clearly and joyfully informs young children that, as citizens, they can get involved and make a difference. “A citizen’s not what you are—a citizen is what you do.”
    —CA

    Ages 9–11

    Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild. Catherine Thimmesh. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    Camp PandaCatherine Thimmesh provides an informative and engaging overview of the giant panda’s comeback by highlighting the work of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda and including numerous full-color photographs of the panda. While conservation efforts like Camp Panda have recently led to a change in the conservation status of the giant panda from endangered to vulnerable, Thimmesh also points out the negative impact humans have had on the species in the past and the necessity for continued activism and conservation. Back matter includes suggestions for how children can learn more about giant pandas and support conservation efforts as well as a glossary, bibliography, brief biographical notes on some of the panda conservation experts, and an index.
    —SH

    Harbor Me. Jacqueline Woodson. 2018. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin.

    Harbor MeHaley recalls the events of the previous school year when Ms. Laverne, their teacher, took the six students in the special fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms to Room 501, the old art room that became the ARTT room—“A Room To Talk”—where they were to sit in a circle and talk about anything they wanted to without adult supervision each Friday. Over the year, within the community of respectful listeners they built, the six children from diverse backgrounds began to use their voices to express feelings and fears about personal problems (which readers will recognize as societal problems, including bullying, racial profiling, deportation of undocumented immigrants, and incarceration of a parent). Harbor Me is yet another moving and memorable novel from master storyteller Jacqueline Woodson.
    —CA

    Red Alert!: Endangered Animals Around the World. Catherine Barr. Ill. Anne Wilson. 2018. Charlesbridge.

    Red Alert!On the first page of this interactive picture book that features 15 endangered animals, the reader is asked to “pick a place” (a biome). This takes them to a page where they “choose a creature” (an endangered animal) and are directed to a colorful double-page spread that includes an introductory “story” and bulleted facts about the species as well as a boxed insert on the conservation status assigned to it by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Finally, the reader is directed to a page for follow-up information about how they can help the showcased endangered species. Back matter includes information on the IUCN Red List, including a list of an additional 60 “red” creatures not featured in the book, which may encourage research to learn about them too.
    —SH

    What’s the Big Deal About Elections. Ruby Shamir. Ill. Matt Faulkner. 2018. Philomel/Penguin.

    What's the Big Deal About ElectionsIn this third book in their What’s the Big Deal About series, Ruby Shamir and Matt Faulkner inform readers about the way our country’s leaders are chosen and why the results of elections are important to everyone. The format of the book is engaging. The topic of each double-page spread is introduced with a question followed by a general paragraph that provides an answer and a lively, interest-catching watercolor and pencil illustration. Additional facts are provided in text boxes paired with spot art. Back matter includes a timeline and an author’s note.
    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction. Nancy F. Castaldo. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Back from the BrinkThis engaging nonfiction book informs readers about animals that almost became extinct but were saved due to the caring, diligent, and sometimes controversial efforts of organizations, groups, and ordinary citizens. Nancy Castaldo writes about whooping cranes, wolves, bald eagles, giant Galápagos tortoises, condors, alligators, and bison in a well-organized way and includes quotes, sidebars, and captioned photographs. In a “Call to Action!” section, she also discusses ongoing challenges and ways readers can become advocates for wildlife. The extensive back matter includes a bibliography and links to organizations that encourage readers to further their knowledge on these animals that were close to being gone forever.
    —SK

    The Orca Scientists (Scientists in the Field). Kim Perez Valice, Ill. Andy Comins. 2018. Houghton Mifflin.

    The Orca ScientistsIn the prologue, readers are introduced to marine biologist Mike Big, who began counting and photographing orcas in the early 1970s over concern that their capture for marine parks was decimating both resident and transient pods in the Pacific Northwest. In six chapters, readers learn about the current research of biologists from the Center for Whale Research focused on Southern Resident orcas in the waters off the San Juan Islands. Sidebars and captioned photographs of orcas and the researchers at work add interest. A “How to Get Involved and Stay Informed” section on efforts to save the endangered orcas is included in the extensive back matter.
    —CA

    Ages 15+

    Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. Jessica Burkhart (Ed.). 2018. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    Life Inside My MindThis anthology includes eye-opening and real-life essays by 31 authors about depression, addiction, OCD, anxiety and other mental health problems which have not been discussed frequently in the past. Robison Wells discusses the pills he takes each day, including pills to combat the side effects of other pills. Francesca Lia Block laments on not realizing her good friend suffered from manic depression until it was too late. Dan Wells informs readers that “building your life around a crippling mental illness . . .  is a thing that never leaves you.”  For teenagers who are experiencing any of these issues, this book could be a lifesaver, letting them know that someone else is going through what they are. For all readers, the collection heightens awareness and encourages thoughtful discussions of important mental health issues.
    —SK

    Susan Knell is a professor in the department of Teaching and Leadership at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, where she teaches literacy and literature courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. Skye Hisiro is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is a recent graduate from Pennsylvania State Harrisburg’s Masters in Literacy Education Program.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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    Celebrating the Freedom to Read

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Sep 03, 2018
    Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom maintains a list of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. Last year, the office recorded 354 challenges to library, school, and university materials.

    Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read, affords the book-loving community the opportunity to reflect on the value of free and open access to information. First celebrated in 1982, this year Banned Books Week runs from September 23–29 with the theme “Banning Books Silences Stories.” Naturally, some ideas presented in books and other artistic expressions are more controversial than others, but those of us who support intellectual freedom consider Banned Books Week an important time to advocate for the free exchange of ideas and to speak out against attempts to silence voices by banning or limiting access to certain books.

    Thirteen Reasons Why. Jay Asher. 2007. Razorbill/Penguin.                                                                                                                 
    Thirteen Reasons WhyThrough tapes sent to some of her classmates, a troubled teen cites the reasons she no longer wants to live and makes them realize their culpability in her suicide. Several school districts challenged the book, which recently experienced a resurgence in popularity after it was adapted for a Netflix series, because it discusses suicide.

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sherman Alexie. Ill. Ellen Forney. 2007. Little, Brown.

    The Absolutely True DiaryThis autobiographical story about Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation who leaves to attend an all-white farm town high school, is humorous, honest, and eye-opening. The winner of a National Book Award, this novel has been challenged by schools because of how it portrays poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality and for its use of profanity.

    Drama. Raina Telgemeier. 2012. Graphix/Scholastic.

    DramaThe protagonist of this middle-grade graphic novel, Callie, a member of her middle-school drama department’s stage crew, finds that there is just as much drama offstage as there is on. Recipient of a Stonewall Honor Award, Drama was challenged and banned in some school libraries because complainants were worried about its inclusion of LGBT characters and others considered it to be “confusing.”

    The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini. 2003. Riverhead/Penguin.

    Kite RunnerKabul, Afghanistan, is the setting for this story of an unlikely friendship between two boys— the son of a wealthy family and the son of his father’s servant. Mistakes are made, and the friendship is betrayed, leaving Amir haunted by his past and his failure to act at a critical moment in time. The novel was challenged and banned in some cases for the inclusion of sexual violence. Other complainants worried that reading the book would “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”

    George. Alex Gino. 2015. Scholastic.

    GeorgeFourth grader George, who has always identified as a girl, longs to play the role of Charlotte in the school’s production of Charlotte’s Web. Her teacher and mother are less than supportive, but George finds a steadfast ally in her best friend, Kelly. A Lambda Literary Award winner, the novel was challenged and banned for including a transgender child.

    Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and YOU. Cory Silverberg. Ill. Fiona Smyth. 2015. Triangle Square.

    Sex is a Funny WordForthright and accessible, this informational book uses colorful cartoons and direct language to communicate basic information about the human body, gender, and sexuality. The book steers away from making judgments, instead offering a place for young people and adults to have important conversations about sex. Complainants were bothered simply because the book addresses the topic of sex education, leading some to be concerned that reading it would encourage students to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”

    To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

    To Kill a MockingbirdEvents in a small Southern town reveal both the goodness and the evil that are hidden there from a child’s point of view of her attorney father’s efforts to insure justice amid racism and bigotry. Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and a mainstay of many middle grade language arts classrooms, the book’s violence and use of "the N-word" were considered problematic by complainants.

    The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

    The Hate U GiveSixteen-year-old Starr Carter is galvanized into the social justice movement after her friend, Kahlil, is shot when they are on a ride in a car. A Michael L. Printz Honor Award winner, this novel for teens was challenged and banned because complainants considered it to be “pervasively vulgar” and were concerned about the inclusion of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.

    And Tango Makes Three. Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson. Ill. Henry Cole. 2005. Simon & Schuster.

    And Tango Makes ThreeWhen a zookeeper at the Central Park Zoo in New York City notices two male penguins, Silo and Roy, sitting on a rock in an apparent attempt to nurture an egg, he gives them a fertilized egg, which hatches, and their family expands with Tango becoming the much-longed for third member. This picture book has appeared on the Most Challenged list many times because it highlights a relationship between two males.

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

    I Am JazzChallenged because it addresses gender identity, this picture book describes the experiences of coauthor Jazz Jennings, who says she knew she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body since she was 2 years old. The process of her parents’ coming to terms with their daughter’s feelings and identity and how they supported her in her struggles for acceptance are covered in simple terms here.

    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.

     

    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 Graphic Novels

    By Carrie Thomas and Carolyn Angus
     | Aug 27, 2018

    As we continue to read books in graphic novel format, we are delighted to discover many that we can recommend for instructional use in literacy-centered classrooms as well as for independent reading for both information and pleasure. The recently published books reviewed in this week’s column represent the diversity of graphic novels that readers of all ages will find engaging and enriching.

    Ages 4–8

    Grace for Gus. Harry Bliss. 2918. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    Grace for GusNew York City provides the setting for this story about Grace, a young girl who wants to raise money to get a friend for the class guinea pig, Gus. One evening, Grace goes into the city to earn money by playing the violin on the subway platform, drawing caricatures on Fifth Avenue, and dancing on a train. Bliss captures the diverse population of the city through vibrant illustrations, which include visual nods to other comic book characters and famous people and sight gags, that make this nearly wordless picture book in graphic novel format fun to read. It’s a treat to go along with Grace as she goes into the city, working to get a buddy for Gus.
    —CT

    Macanudo: Olga Rules! (Macanudo #4). Liniers. Trans. Mara Faye Lethem. 2018. Enchanted Lion.

    MacanudoSince 2002, Liniers has been writing “Macanudo,” a popular daily comic strip in La Nación, a leading Argentina newspaper. This latest collection of Liniers’ imaginative and sometimes surreal comics features Olga, the big-eyed, toothy, blue imaginary friend of a young boy named Martin. There are also comics about other favorite characters (introduced in the first three volumes of the Macanudo series), including the young girl Henrietta; Fellini, her cat; Mandelbaum, her teddy bear; Oliverio, the olive; and the Mysterious Man in Black. These comics, which are both entertaining and thought-provoking, will induce chuckles from readers of all ages.
    CA

    The Party and Other Stories (Fox + Chick #1). Sergio Ruzzier. 2018. Chronicle.

    Fox and Chick: The PartySergio Ruzzier introduces young readers to best friends Fox and Chick in three humorous short stories. In “The Party,” Chick disrupts Fox’s reading by knocking at his door, asking to use his bathroom, and then proceeding to use it to have a party with his friends. In “Good Soup,” Chick learns that it’s a good thing that Fox loves to eat vegetable soup rather than small animals such as squirrels, lizards—and little birds. In “Sit Still,” Chick comes along while Fox is painting a landscape and begs to have his portrait painted. Of course, Chick can’t sit still long enough. The cheerful pastel ink and watercolor illustrations and simple, repetitive text presented entirely in dialogue balloons make this book a good choice for newly independent readers.
    CA

    A Tale of Two Sloths (Peter & Ernesto #1). Graham Annable. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Peter and ErnestoPeter and Ernesto, two sloths, live contently in a tree until a conversation ending with “nothing ever changes for you and me” makes Ernesto want to see what else is out there. Despite Peter’s hesitation, Ernesto heads out on an adventure to see “ALL of the sky.” On his journey, Ernesto meets animals who help him discover what other pieces of the sky look like when viewed from the ocean to the desert. Back in the tree, concerned for Ernesto, Peter decides to go after him, and sets out on an adventure of his own. After a series of animal encounters, Peter and Ernesto are reunited to share what they learned from their adventures. The natural color palette of Annable’s illustrations provides a realistic background for Peter and Ernesto’ tale. Young readers will enjoy the simple text and the humor of this book.
    —CT

    Ages 9–11

    Akissi: Tales of Mischief (Akissi #2). Marguerite Abouet. Trans. Judith Taboy & Marie Bédrune. Ill. Mathieu Sapin. 2018. Flying Eye/Nobrow.

    AkissiAkissi, a strong-willed little girl, gets into humorous situations in this collection of graphic short stories that reflect the author’s experiences growing up in the Ivory Coast. This aptly titled book, first published in France, is filled with Akissi’s day-to-day mini-adventures and some cautionary tales. For example, in “Tooth-Puller,” Akissi eats too many sweets and must go to the dentist, which turns into a scary adventure. The panels with colorful, expressive artwork and dialogue in speech bubbles make these stories easy to follow. With 21 six-page stories, it’s a book that can be enjoyed in one sitting or in small bursts. Bonus pages include recipes and instructions on how to make African braids.
    —CT

    Be Prepared. Vera Brosgol. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Be PreparedNine-year-old Russian immigrant Vera, who has a hard time fitting in with her suburban classmates, looks forward to attending a summer camp where she is sure she’ll make friends—a camp for Russian American kids in the Connecticut woods. However, camp is not what she expected. Her cabinmates are mean, the toilets are smelly outhouses, and there’s too much marching, too many odd camp traditions, too many pesky insects and spiders, and too much Russian. Although camp is a big disappointment, Vera deals with it, trying to fit in but getting it all wrong. Readers should be prepared to laugh out loud as Vera Brosgol shares memories of her childhood experiences at Russian summer camp in this engaging graphic novel.
    CA

    The Cardboard Kingdom. Chad Sell. 2018. Knopf/Random House.

    Th Cardboard KingdomWhat do you get when you take a neighborhood full of resourceful kids, piles of discarded cardboard, and lots of imagination? The Cardboard Kingdom! In this delightful book, illustrated by Chad Sell and written by multiple authors, the reader is transported to a world where a prince is saved by a rogue, and a gentle cat is turned into a fierce dragon. A diverse neighborhood ensures that readers will relate to one or more characters. Sell uses subtle yet effective differences in illustration style to cue the reader as to which parts are real and which are imaginative. The expectation-defying kingdom inhabitants and their stories are woven together through chapters and in small vignettes. Will the Gargoyle keep his house safe from evil? Who will save Megolopolis from the Bully? A final adventure before school starts brings the kids together for a celebratory conclusion to a quest-filled summer.
    —CT

    Ages 12–14

    Illegal. Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin. Ill. Giovanni Rigano. 2018. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks.

    IllegalIllegal is an accessible exploration of the plight of illegal immigrants in the 21st century in graphic novel format. Orphaned 12-year-old Ebo makes a perilous journey from Ghana, crossing the Sahara Desert to Tripoli, Libya, where he eventually finds his brother, Kwame, who left, without a word, 19 months earlier. After earning funds to purchase a “ticket” on a boat, they set out to cross the Mediterranean Sea with the hope of locating their sister, Sisi, in Europe. Chapters shift between events at sea, from being adrift in an overcrowded dinghy to Ebo’s rescue by a search helicopter, and flashbacks of his trek across Africa. Ebo’s story ends in an Italian refugee camp, where although sad that Kwame did not survive, he is reunited with Sisi. Back matter includes a creator’s note providing a context for Illegal and “Journey: Helen’s Story,” a five-page comic adaptation of a true account of a refugee from Sudan.
    CA

    Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter. Marcus Sedgwick. Ill. Thomas Taylor. 2018. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    Scarlett Hart Monster HunterScarlett Hart has taken over her parents’ monster hunting after they were killed, even though she is technically underage to be doing so. Unfortunately, the Count, also a monster hunter, uses every opportunity he can to take Scarlett’s catches away from her. Scarlett eventually finds out why the Count has it out for her and learns how he manages to be in the same place she is almost every time she finds monsters. The artwork, done in a dark color palette, captures the underground England setting. The panels clearly show small details of events and express the emotions of characters, which is especially helpful on the pages with little or no dialogue. Middle-grade readers will enjoy the action and the steampunk flavor of the book.
    —CT

    Ages 15+

    I Am Gandhi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero (Ordinary People Change the World). Brad Meltzer. 2018. Dial/Penguin.

    I Am Gandhi“Only united are we unstoppable.” Gandhi’s principles, accompanied by well-researched facts, are found throughout Brad Meltzer’s comprehensive biography of the peaceful activist Mahatma Gandhi. Twenty-five comic book illustrators bring this book (a version of Meltzer’s 2017 biography of Gandhi in his “I Am” series for younger readers) to life. Ghandi’s life story is told from his own point of view as well as from those of bystanders. Sometimes the characters interact with each other, and at other times, they face and seem to be speaking directly to the reader. Back matter includes quotes, a timeline, photos of Gandhi, sources, suggestions for further reading, information about Seeds of Peace (an organization the contributors feel “embodies Gandhi’s mission”), and biographical notes on contributors.
    —CT

    The Strange. Jérôme Ruillier. Trans. Helge Dascher. 2018. Drawn & Quarterly.

    The StrangeIn his first book translated into English, Jérôme Ruiller (who was born in Madagascar and lives in France) tells the story of the journey of an undocumented immigrant. With a third-person narrative and paneled artwork of colored pencil drawings, Ruiller portrays the life of an unnamed oversized dog–person, one of “the stranges” in an unnamed country, from the points of view of individuals he encounters as he tries to adapt and survive in the city while under the constant threat of deportation. These individuals (animal–persons of various species) reflect a range of responses to the immigrant: indifference, fear, hostility, exploitation, kindness, and advocacy. The epilogue tells how he is put on a plane by authorities and returned to the country he left nine years earlier. This beautifully crafted graphic novel is realistic, universal, and timely.
    —CA

    Carrie Thomas is a reading specialist at First Philadelphia Charter School. Previously, she was a public school music teacher and worked with non-profit administration and outreach. 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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