Friday, December 11, 2015

Flop to the Top!

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2015)
Wanda is a superstar—in her own mind. Oblivious to her family’s dismay, she forces everyone within arm’s reach to endure invasive photos, rude orders, and diva-like dismissals. After posting a selfie taken with her droll and droopy-faced dog, Wilbur, she scores millions of online likes. Hordes of admirers fill her street, and Wanda receives her fandom, only to be swiftly snubbed by the crowd. They want “FLOPPY DOG!” Wilbur is swept away to party with the celebrity du jour, Sassy Cat, and Wanda, jealous, tails the duo. The blinged-out dog is offered a contract to leave his “old life behind,” but instead decides to devour the document after a heartfelt apology (of sorts) by Wanda. Wife-and-husband team Davis and Weing share author-illustrator duties (“Can you tell who drew what? They bet you can’t!”) for this expertly paced—and funny and topical—early-reader comic. The digitally rendered art is a departure from the pen-and-ink cartooning of Davis’s Stinky (a 2009 Geisel honoree) and more closely related to her Matisse-like work for adults. It is infused with so much warmth, color, and whimsy that young readers will gladly see this book through to its pleasing reversal of fortune. patrick gall

Castle Hangnail

From the Publisher
From the creator of Dragonbreath comes a tale of witches, minions, and one fantastic castle, just right for fans of Roald Dahl and Tom Angleberger.

When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.

The Arctic Code

From the Publisher
Perfect for fans of the Percy Jackson and Seven Wonders series, The Arctic Code is the first book in an epic, fast-paced middle grade adventure trilogy by acclaimed author Matthew J. Kirby.
It is the near future, and the earth has entered a new ice age. Eleanor Perry lives in Tucson, one of the most popular destinations for refugees of the Freeze. She is the daughter of a climatologist who is trying to find new ways to preserve human life on the planet. Dr. Perry believes that a series of oil deposits she has found in the Arctic may hold the key to our survival. That's when she disappears—but not before sending Eleanor a series of cryptic messages that point to a significant and mysterious discovery. Now it's up to Eleanor to go find her.
This search will launch Eleanor on a breathless race to unlock the mysteries of what has happened to our planet, solving the riddle of the cold that could be humanity's end—and uncovering a threat to the earth that may not be of this world.

Adventures with Waffles

Booklist starred (April 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 15))
Grades 2-4. When readers meet nine-year-old Trille and his best friend Lena, Lena is barely hanging onto the rope they have strung between their houses’ second-floor windows, and Trille is frantically hauling his parents’ mattress down the stairs and out to the yard to save her. It’s a fitting introduction, since Lena races headlong into every crazy scheme they concoct, with Trille following close behind. Set in a tiny seaside community in Norway, the story contains other adventures, such as the duo’s amusing attempt to re-create Noah’s Ark with a rowboat and livestock. Although two events threaten to overwhelm Trille with a sense of loss, one ends well and, after the other, he finds comfort in family and friends. Trille’s accessible first-person narrative shares both his adventures and his feelings, which run the gamut from terror to grief to elation. Parr creates a strong sense of the characters as individuals, especially Lena, Trille, and Trille’s grandfather. For all its emotional resonance, the narrative is never soppy. In fact, humor plays a big part in this rewarding book. Published first in Norway and translated into 20 languages, this appealing chapter book has a distinctive setting, plenty of humor, and unusual emotional clarity.

100 Pablo Picassos

From the Publisher
Pablo Picasso is one of the most celebrated artists in the world, and this amusing book shows his life in a remarkably original way. By featuring 100 Pablo Picassos throughout the book, young readers will explore the artist life from his childhood, to his major contributions to modern art, and from his love for pets to his endless curiosity about life. The book also invites readers to count the Picassos all the way to a 100, adding an entertaining element to discover the life and work of the great Pablo Picasso.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Boats For Papa

Booklist starred (May 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 17))
Grades K-2. A gentle storyteller’s voice, in a soothing cadence, introduces the details of this simple, moving tale. Buckley, a young beaver, lives with his mama in a “small wooden house by the sea.” He clearly loves his mother. He also loves finding beach treasures and crafting boats from driftwood. Watercolor illustrations in warm tones range from expansive two-page spreads to full page and more intimate vignettes, capturing the quiet setting, the bond between the two, and their activities. Only one thing is missing: Papa. When Buckley makes a boat of which he is especially proud, he decides to set it adrift with a note to Papa. If it doesn’t return to shore, Buckley will know that Papa has received it. Mama agrees; she misses Papa, too. Buckley builds many beautiful boats for Papa. It is only at the end of the year that Buckley makes a discovery: Mama has all the boats. The pacing is exquisite as Buckley absorbs and reacts to this information, recognizing and expressing love in return. These two will persevere in the tender journey of life. Reassuring, consoling, and lovely.

The Bear Report

Booklist (October 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 3))
Preschool-Grade 2. Sophie’s homework is to find three facts about polar bears, but she is more interested in watching TV and just phones it in: “They are big.” “They eat things.” “They are mean.” Just as she is settling down in front of the glowing screen, however, she discovers a giant polar bear perched in an armchair. His name is Olafur, and he wants to show her around his home. In beautiful watercolor illustrations, Sophie playfully learns about life in the Arctic, from whales singing beneath the frigid water to the iridescent aurora borealis. With Olafur as a guide, Sophie realizes the Arctic isn’t a barren wasteland of ice, but a vibrant environment worth saving. Heder’s conversational, handwritten lines casually identify wildlife and Arctic features without getting too fact heavy, which may be more welcoming to kids turned off by informational texts. Meanwhile, the aqueous watercolor washes are the perfect medium for the icy seas. A final spread reveals Sophie enthusiastically researching polar bears and plastering the TV with drawings of Olafur. A breezy, entertaining introduction to the Arctic.

The Astounding Broccoli Boy

From the Publisher
From Frank Cottrell Boyce—the beloved, award-winning, New York Times–bestselling author of Millions and Cosmic—comes another hilarious, heartbreaking, and completely original middle grade novel.
Rory Rooney likes to be prepared for anything. That sort of planning pays off when you're the smallest kid in your class. Rory is even prepared (mostly) for Tommy-Lee, his nemesis, who starts most days by throwing Rory out of the back of the school bus. Don't be scared, his favorite book says, be prepared. And Rory aims to be. What's more heroic than that?
But Rory isn't prepared when he suddenly and inexplicably turns green and finds himself stuck in an experimental hospital ward. The doctors are just as baffled as Rory is, and that's when he begins to wonder: What if this isn't caused by his genes, or a virus, or something he ate? What if it's something even more extraordinary? After all, more than a few superheroes' careers began when they turned green. Could this be a sign that he's meant for something greater? Rory is going to find out—and that's going to start with escaping from the hospital.

The Night World

Booklist starred (March 15, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 14))
Preschool-Grade 1. Caldecott Medalist Gerstein delights and inspires readers in this meditation on the night. A sleeping boy is awakened by a “meow.” The cat on his bed, Sylvie, wants to go outside, even as the boy protests it’s too early. But out of the dark house—“Is this our house?”—they creep, and Sylvie, who can now speak, tells the boy, “It’s coming.” Several stunning two-page spreads executed in shades of black and charcoal and dotted by hundreds of bright stars bring the nighttime world close. Then animals step out of the shadows, making the outdoors pulse with life. By the time birds appear in the trees, the shadows are lifting, and the stars fade into the glow of morning. Glorious sunlit spreads capture not just the look of a breaking dawn but the haunting feel of watching night turn to day. Gerstein is at the top of his game here, capturing a nearly inexpressible mood. Beginning with the very darkest shades while the boy is in the house (with only the green eyes of the cat or the whites of the boy’s eyes for color) makes readers look and look again, and once they are outside, the animals’ stirrings will have children pointing at the darkened pages with delight. The strong yet simple message impresses: look around; there are so many wonderful things to see.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Emmanuel's Dream

Booklist (February 15, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 12))
Grades K-2. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born in Ghana with a severely deformed leg, but with boundless self-determination, he became a world-renowned athlete and activist. In the beginning of her straightforward, free-verse text, Thompson only lightly touches on what it’s like for disabled people in Ghana: “Most people thought he would be useless, or worse— / a curse.” But most of Emmanuel’s childhood is characterized by discrimination. When he tries to find work to support his sickly single mother, most people “told him to go out and beg / like the other disabled people did.” Stalwart Emmanuel, however, is resolute about making a difference, and he obtains a bicycle to travel around Ghana, nearly 400 miles in 10 days, to prove just how capable disabled people can be. Qualls’ illustrations—simple line drawings and stylish, expressive figures filled with layers of rich, warm color on pale, thickly painted backgrounds—capture Emmanuel’s triumphs beautifully. An author’s note describes Emmanuel’s activism in more detail, particularly the Persons with Disabilities Act, passed in Ghana following his bike ride.

Detective Gordon The First Case

Booklist starred (May 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 17))
Grades 2-4. An agitated squirrel arrives at a woodland police station and reports the theft of many nuts from his pantry. Detective Gordon, a toad, listens patiently. As snow falls in the forest, he investigates the area around the squirrel’s tree. A long stakeout leaves the detective ignominiously trapped, frozen and immobilized, under a mound of snow. His first suspect becomes his rescuer and, ultimately, his law-enforcement apprentice: a young mouse named Buffy. After fortifying themselves with tea and little cakes, they study the evidence, track down the thieves, and mete out justice—tempered with mercy. Readers can join Buffy in pondering Detective Gordon’s dual goals of police work: “No crime / No punishment.” Illustrations include many appealing line drawings, brightened with delicate colors, and an appended map of the narrative territory. First published in Sweden, this involving, thought-provoking chapter book is utterly charming. Nilsson, who wrote the Batchelder Award–winning If You Didn’t Have Me (1987), creates endearing characters and a childlike sensibility through writing that is clean, precise, and amusing. A wonderful choice for independent reading, particularly for kids who become accomplished readers early, the handsome first volume in the Detective Gordon series is a rewarding read-aloud as well.

The Fog Diver

From the Publisher
Joel Ross debuts a thrilling adventure series in which living in the sky is the new reality and a few determined slum kids just might become heroes. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull, this fantasy is filled with daring and hope and a wonderfully imaginative world.
Once the Fog started rising, the earth was covered with a deadly white mist until nothing remained but the mountaintops. Now humanity clings to its highest peaks, called the Rooftop, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the lower slopes and floating junkyards.
Thirteen-year-old Chess and his friends Hazel, Bea, and Swedish sail their rickety air raft over the deadly Fog, scavenging the ruins for anything they can sell to survive. But now survival isn't enough. They must risk everything to get to the miraculous city of Port Oro, the only place where their beloved Mrs. E can be cured of fogsickness. Yet the ruthless Lord Kodoc is hot on their trail, for Chess has a precious secret, one that Kodoc is desperate to use against him. Now Chess will face any danger to protect his friends, even if it means confronting what he fears the most.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dream On, Amber

Booklist starred (July 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 21))
Grades 4-7. Almost-12-year-old Amber Miyamoto hates germs, loves to draw, and can’t figure out why her father left 6 years ago. She is also half Italian and half Japanese, which makes her feel “mixed up like a salad” and isn’t helping with her anxiety over starting middle school. Other things bothering her include Bella, her little sister; having a “cavewoman” phone that doesn’t have Internet access; the swirling black hole inside her where her dad should be; maybe liking a boy; and being targeted by a school bully. When Amber has a “genius idea” that goes awry, she has to learn to confront her fears and mistakes in order to regain control of her life. Shevah’s debut novel is a charmer, and it not only supplies some much-needed diversity to the middle-grade fiction scene but also addresses the emotional impact of living in a single-parent home. Amber’s amusing self-awareness, imagination, and drawings keep the tone light, and her true-to-life tween concerns (e.g., existing in an Instagram and WhatsApp dead zone, hating Justin Bieber) will resonate with many. While its humor and illustrations lend it Wimpy Kid appeal, its emotional depth makes it stand out from the pack. Molto bene!

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

Booklist starred (April 15, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 16))
Grades 4-7. Well worth waiting for, this sequel to the Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (2009) offers a narrative full of secrets, revelations, and droll humor. In the spring of 1900, 13-year-old Callie, who continues to study science with her beloved, eccentric grandfather, spots a seagull 200 miles inland. Soon a deadly hurricane engulfs Galveston and sends two refugees their way: Callie’s older cousin Aggie, who is traumatized, abrasive, and cagey; and Dr. Pritzker, a veterinarian who offers Callie unexpected opportunities. Meanwhile, her brother Travis enlists her help in caring for a series of unsuitable wild pets without letting their parents know. As the story unfolds, Callie begins to articulate goals for herself and take quiet, practical steps to achieve them. Character development progresses gradually, with Callie lying when it suits her but increasingly taking responsibility for her words and actions. She becomes more painfully aware of both the inequity of her place in the family and women’s roles in society. The novel offers many pleasures, from its well-realized setting to its vividly portrayed characters, but the most irresistible is Callie’s wry, observant narration. Readers will flock to this sequel for the pleasure of revisiting this beloved character and her world.

Buddy and Earl

Booklist starred (August 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 22))
Grades K-2. Buddy the dog is bored on a rainy day, but he’s in for a surprise when a small box arrives with a mysterious prickly thing inside, who introduces himself as Earl. Inquisitive Buddy asks, “What are you, Earl?” Earl replies that he’s a race car, but Buddy’s not convinced. Tricky Earl agrees, “I’m not a race car. I’m a giraffe.” That’s still not right, but Earl soon turns the tables on Buddy: “You’re very tall. Are you a skyscraper?” Their lighthearted game of pretend culminates in a thrilling pirate adventure on the sofa, and Buddy knows he’s found a friend. Though savvy little ones will likely recognize that Earl is a hedgehog (despite his insistence that he’s a talking hairbrush), Sookocheff’s cute, cartoonish pictures, rendered with thick black outlines and flat patches of subdued color, cleverly illustrate Earl’s imaginative japes. When he claims to be a race car, the holes in his box transform into tires, and when he’s a sea urchin, the blue area rug is a pool of sea water. Though the muted palette may not immediately dazzle, it’s the perfect backdrop for Buddy's and Earl’s wild imaginations to take center stage. Their charmingly raucous game of make-believe is appealing enough, but the sneaky lesson in deductive reasoning makes this frolicsome, read-aloud-friendly picture book truly outstanding.

Babymouse 19 Bad Babysitter

From the Publisher
Winner of the Eisner Award and multiple children's choice awards and with over 2 million books sold, kids, parents, and teachers agree that Babymouse is perfect for fans of Junie B. Jones, Ivy and Bean, Bad Kitty, and Dork Diaries! NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING, THREE-TIME NEWBERY HONOR-WINNING author Jennifer Holm teams up with Matthew Holm to bring you a graphic-novel series packed with humor and kid appeal: BABYMOUSE!

Wanted: Expert babysitter. Babymouse will finally have enough money to buy cool stuff! All she has to do is take care of a few kids. No problem! Who's more responsible than Babymouse? She's practically Mary Poppins! (Okay, maybe that's going a little too far.) Will Babymouse be the ultimate sitter? Or will triplets mean triple trouble? Find out in Bad Babysitter--the nineteenth laugh-out-loud installment of the beloved Babymouse graphic novel series. BONUS PAGE: Learn to draw a character!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Nooks & Crannies

Booklist starred (May 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 17))
Grades 3-6. This loving homage to classic mysteries features an early twentieth-century English setting, a snowed-in manor house, mistaken identities, a decades-old secret, hidden passageways, and a passel of precocious children. Tabitha Crum, the unfortunate child of greedy, awful adoptive parents, receives a mysterious invitation to the home of a reclusive, famously philanthropic countess for the weekend. Her parents are hoping for a profitable windfall, but all Tabitha wants is an adventure. Once Tabitha and the other guests, five other children her age, arrive, they finally discover their purpose: the countess is looking for her long-lost grandchild, and since they’re all adopted, it’s very likely one of them. Yet something is askew. Children start disappearing, and Tabitha, who’s a great fan of Inspector Pensive mystery novels, uses her powers of deduction and her faithful pet mouse, Pemberley, to root out clues. But she finds more than just secrets; long starved for affection from her horrid parents, Tabitha is delighted to discover some heartening friendships in the process as well. Lawson offers a compelling puzzle, vividly drawn characters, and a clever and capable young detective, who bravely sniffs out clues before the final secrets are revealed—with everyone together in the parlor, naturally.

Growing Up Pedro

Booklist (February 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 11))
Grades 2-4. Tavares’ latest baseball profile, featuring Pedro Martínez, is as much an homage to the love between brothers as it is a biography. Watching his older brother, Ramón, pitch in their village of Manoguayabo, in the Dominican Republic, is just the beginning of young Pedro’s admiration. As Ramón teaches him how to throw rocks at the mangos in the trees—but only the ripe ones—and starts training with the Dodgers’ Dominican baseball academy, Pedro follows every bit of his big brother’s advice. In time, Pedro catches the attention of the Dodger scouts himself, but he almost misses the opportunity because of his smaller stature. Expressive watercolor-and-gouache illustrations help depict the next two decades, as Pedro first joins Ramón in the major leagues and then is traded to the Expos, where he finally stands out as a starting pitcher in his own right. Despite the awards and accolades over the years, Pedro never loses sight of his humble background or gratitude for his brother’s talent and teaching. Concluding stats top off this winning title.

Fable Comics

Booklist (September 15, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 2))
Grades 1-4. Editor Duffy delivers another knockout collection of comics, this time focusing on fables. Although the majority are interpretations of different Aesop stories, other selections have their roots in Russia, India, and the U.S. Ranging from familiar to obscure, modern to traditional, this vibrant collection boasts an impressive catalog of top-name artists, who interpret the original tales with an astonishing range of creativity and originality. Many, such as James Kolchaka, Corinne Mucha, and Maris Wicks, bring a decidedly contemporary sensibility to classic fables with humor, sarcasm, and twenty-first-century vernacular. Others, like Jaime Hernandez’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” hold much closer to the traditional narration. The fables are illustrated in traditional comic-panel format, with the notable exception of Jennifer L. Meyer’s “Fox and Crow,” a fantastical interpretation in softly hued, full-page illustrations, which beg for multiple viewings. George O’Connor’s Hermes makes several welcome appearances throughout the book, delighting readers with his easygoing demeanor. Consistently strong and exceptionally cohesive for such a varied collection, this will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Dory and the Real True Friend

School Library Journal (April 1, 2015)
Gr 2-4-Dory has quite the imagination. She has a monster for a friend, a fairy godmother who understands her, and a nemesis named Mrs. Gobble Gracker. When Dory starts a new year at school, however, she decides that it's time to make a real pal. After all, her monster friend caused a lot of trouble. Rosabelle, a girl her age who has an amazing imagination just like Dory seems like a good option. But Rosabelle doesn't seem to want to spend any time with her. Can Dory win her over? What will happen when Mrs. Gobble Gracker gets in the way? The story is well written, humorous, and engaging. The illustrations are amazingly detailed and complement the text well. The characters are fairly well developed and will grab young readers. Fans of Annie Barrows's "Ivy and Bean" (Chronicle), Barbara Park's "Junie B. Jones" (Random), and books with a little bit of humor and fantasy mixed into a school setting will enjoy reading this second installment in the "Dory" series. VERDICT A great addition to any library collection.-Kira Moody, Whitmore Public Library, Salt Lake City, UT © Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Booklist starred (April 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 15))
Grades 3-5. The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here. Barton has a lot of territory to cover, from slavery to the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond, along with Lynch’s personal journey. Because of this, the information at times seems clipped, though it’s consistently incisive. The complete time line at the end of the book helps fill in the gaps, and the story generates interest that will encourage additional research. Tate’s often expansive illustrations emphasize important incidents in the text. A reference to harsh laws passed by whites is coupled with a dramatic two-page spread of whipping, a potential lynching, and lots of angry white faces in the foreground, fists clenched. A small African American boy covers his eyes at the scene. A scene of the horrors of a school burning shows praying figures overshadowed by masked attackers with burning torches. The emphasis in other illustrations is on faces, full of emotion, which adds to the power of the telling, and the rich, soft tones of Tate’s palette welcome the eye to linger. Pair with Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, by Gretchen Woelfle (2014), for another story of a unique and relatively unknown figure in African American history.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I am Cow, Hear Me Moo!

School Library Journal April 1, 2014
PreS-Gr 2-In this amusing tale, a cow named Nadine is put to the test when she boasts that she's not afraid of anything. She and her two friends leave the safety and familiarity of the barnyard to explore nearby woods. At first hesitant to venture into the overgrown wooded area, Nadine quickly discovers much to love about the different surroundings. She spots a bird's nest, tastes blackberries, smells a pinecone, and notices tiny paw prints. When the sun sets, she becomes separated from her friends Starla and Annette while she inspects a cave. Nadine becomes frightened by sounds, shadows, and a tickling on her rump. Fearing a bear is after her, she gallops off a cliff and lands in a creek, where she is spotted by her lost pals, who believe that Nadine has come to their rescue. Written in rhyme, Esbaum's comical and suspenseful plot keeps readers interested. A mix of watercolor, pencil, crayon, and collage, Gordon's spirited and delightful artwork is full of activity and gives Nadine a winsome personality. Readers will chuckle when Annette and Starla boost Nadine up to look in the bird's nest and will laugh when they spot her swinging Tarzan-style from a tree. This story could spark discussions among children about their own fears and would be a worthy read-aloud.-Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron, OH (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Interstellar Cinderella

School Library Journal June 1, 2015
K-Gr 2-In this galactic retelling of the beloved children's story, Cinderella has a knack for repair. With the help of her sidekick, a robotic mouse named Murgatroyd, she tinkers with her stepmother's household appliances, but dreams of repairing spaceships. When an invitation to the Prince's Royal Space Parade arrives, the evil stepmother and her daughters leave Cinderella stranded, zooming into space with her toolbox. With the help of her fairy godrobot, Cinderella fixes a broken rocket and then dons a bejeweled atomic blue space suit, to race across the "starry sky" and join the crowds at the parade. When the royal ship has engine trouble, Interstellar Cinderella comes to the rescue. The grateful prince whisks her away to the Gravity Free Ball. At midnight, Cinderella has to run away, but the couple is reunited when the prince searches the cosmos for her. In a modern twist, Cinderella rejects his marriage proposal, but agrees to become his chief mechanic. The rhyming text is accompanied by somewhat jumbled illustrations painted in shadowy browns, greens, and blues. Cinderella resembles a Disney princess with her wide eyes, red hair and determined expression. The appropriately themed endpapers showcase an array of her space-age tools and gadgets. VERDICT An interesting take on a classic fairy tale.-Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston, MA © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France

Booklist starred December 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 7)

Grades 1-3. On brilliantly illustrated pages full of rococo details and beautifully calligraphed text, Rockliff tells the story of how Benjamin Franklin debunked Dr. Mesmer’s magical cure-all. As scientific innovation swept France in the eighteenth century, Mesmer decided to bring his own discovery to the mix—animal magnetism, an invisible force responsible for remarkable, seemingly spontaneous healing. Dubious of the true benefits of being mesmerized, King Louis XVI called on the most popular man of science, Ben Franklin, to help investigate. With a heavy emphasis on his use of the scientific method, Rockliff shows how Franklin’s experiment—blindfolding subjects so that they don’t know they’re being mesmerized—led to the discovery of the placebo effect, a vital component of medical testing to this day. Her dramatic text is perfectly complemented by Bruno’s lush, full-color illustrations, stuffed with period detail and sweeping ribbons and curlicues. Each page is teeming with personality, from the font choice to the layout to the expressive figures to the decorative details surrounding a name—on one spread, Franklin is in a tidy serif, while Mesmer is nearly choked by flourishes. Together, Rockliff and Bruno make the scientific method seem exciting, and kids interested in science and history will likely be, well, mesmerized.

Outstanding in the Rain

Booklist starred March 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 13)
Preschool-Grade 2. Creator Viva hints on the cover that this is not your ordinary picture book by segmenting the first word of the title into two parts via color: out in gold, and standing in turquoise. And to reiterate, the subtitle states that this is “a whole story with holes.” Inside, using highly graphic art and a limited palette (predominantly turquoise and brown, complemented by variations of yellow and orange), Viva takes readers on a wild trip to an amusement park with the city skyline behind. The composition is often busy, with action that keeps eyes moving across the two-page spreads (fireworks in the night sky, a train roaring off, the rain hitting close). The rhyming text has an additional surprise: wordplay linked to holes on the page that relate to the action. For instance, the hole that encircles the cream in the word ice cream encircles the narrator’s big teeth on the next page as he screams over the loss of his treat. And these holes also accentuate the use of oronyms, words or phrases that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings (ice cream and I scream). The excitement of the story is enhanced by changing perspectives; sometimes the illustrations are close-ups, and other times they are broad abstracts (e.g., landscapes with just enough recognizable shapes to keep a sense of reality). All is neatly concluded with end pages that head back home, where the night rain will fall on the night train. A must have because of the originality of the concept, the unusual palette, and the thrill of the reading experience.

Rude Cakes

Publishers Weekly April 13, 2015
So what's it going to be, kid? Are you a Rude Cake or a Giant Cyclops? Watkins, a former Sendak Fellow, debuts with an absurdist "Goofus and Gallant" story for the 21st century, about a thuggish, pink two-layer cake. "Rude cakes never say please, and they never say thank you, and they sometimes take things that don't belong to them," writes Watkins as the inconsiderate, ungrateful, and selfish cake bullies other sweets and disrespects his four-tier parents. But when the cake is spirited away to a land where goofy-but extremely polite-Giant Cyclopses use cakes for "jaunty little hats," the cake discovers a way of life that's kind, patient, and affirming ("Giant Cyclopses always say thank you, and they always say please"). Watkins's delicate lines and translucent colors give his story a sly, understated humor, and his liberal use of verbal asides ("Seriously," says the cake as it sulks in a tub, "I'm a cake... How dirty can I be?") make a familiar message about thoughtfulness as fresh and tasty as his confectionary cast. Ages 3-5. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Super Fly: The World's Smallest Superhero!

Booklist April 15, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 16)
Grades 1-3. Eugene Flystein is an unusual fly, preferring books and perfecting his inventions to outside pursuits. He and his family have recently moved to Stinkopolis, where the fourth-grader finds himself the target of class bully Cornelius C. Roach—a giant bug who runs off with Eugene’s Top-Secret Robot Notebook. Eugene and his new friend Fred Flea botch an attempt to fend off Cornelius with Eugene’s Ultimo 6-9000—an invention, delivered via key lime pie, that increases intelligence and strength by a factor of 9,000—and make a supervillain out of the roach, Crazy Cockroach, who builds an army of robots bent on destroying humankind. Knowing what he must do, Eugene eats the pie and transforms himself into Super Fly. With the help of his sidekick, Fantastic Flea, he battles Cornelius and saves the day . . . but for how long? Unapologetically silly, with plenty of gross-out humor and charming illustrations by author Doodler, beginning readers will thrill to the adventures of Super Fly.

What is the World Series?

From the Publisher: "Strike – you're out!" "He's safe!" "Homerun!" Every October, millions of baseball fans around the country anxiously wait to see which team wins baseball's biggest championship. But the original games of the 1900s hardly look like they do today. Take a look back over one hundred years and discover the history of baseball's greatest series. With triumphs, heartbreak, and superstitious curses, this action-packed book brings America's Pastime to life.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise

School Library Journal January 1, 2015

K-Gr 2-Hoot Owl explains that he is hungry and proud of his creative disguises employed to capture prey. He assembles a carrot costume in pursuit of rabbit and becomes an ornamental birdbath to nab a pigeon. He is totally unsuccessful until he dons waiter's attire and devours..a pizza! The owl's braggadocio and camouflage amuse throughout. Jullien's spreads feature primary colors and mostly black backgrounds that feature playfully rounded cartoon characters. Use this read-aloud for levity during a study of nocturnal animals or when discussing different ways to approach a problem.-Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred)

Booklist May 1, 2015 (Online)
Preschool-Kindergarten. Everybody sleeps. It’s a common bedtime-book premise. In this send-up, there’s an exception to the rule: Fred. Don’t let his nighttime routine of bathing and toothbrushing fool you. His toy boat (SS Insomnia) grows large! Fred packs for his adventures in the snoozy jungle, where he jumps; and on the dozy farm, where he shouts, blowing the barn apart. No one can sleep when Fred is around. The art tells its own cumulative tale. An exhausted character from each setting carries over into the next (many of them foreshadowed by the toys in Fred’s room). They appear against backdrops of white space, allowing youngsters to pore over their expressive faces as well as other details in the art. What tuckers out Fred? The rhyming verse introduces a poetry book “so boring / children soon are prone and snoring.” With Fred finally asleep, the tale concludes with a warning: “Close book softly or Fred will wake up . . .,” prompting screams. A bedtime story sure to inspire dreams of imaginative antics.

Circus Mirandus

School Library Journal April 1, 2015
Gr 4-6-Fifth-grader Micah Tuttle has been living with his Grandpa Ephraim since his parents died when he was very young. The two are close; Grandpa Ephraim teaches Micah how to tie complicated knots and tells him fanciful tales about the magical Circus Mirandus and its many performers, including a powerful illusionist called the Lightbender. When Grandpa Ephraim becomes gravely ill, his sister, the strict and dour Aunt Gertrudis, comes to take care of the household. She severely limits Micah's time with his sick grandfather, and the boy is distraught at the idea of losing the only important person in his life. In a stolen moment, Grandpa Ephraim surprises Micah by revealing that the Circus Mirandus is real, and that the Lightbender promised him a miracle when he was a child. The protagonist begins to hope that his grandfather will get well. The Circus Mirandus arrives in town on the wind, and Micah, with the help of his classmate Jenny Mendoza, seeks out the Lightbender and tries to retrieve the miracle that Grandpa Ephraim has requested. During a whirlwind adventure in the Circus, Micah learns about his family and discovers that the miracle that Grandpa Ephraim asked for might not be the one that Micah had in mind. Circus Mirandus is not a simple story, but readers will be rewarded for delving into its intricacies. VERDICT This gripping fantasy tale will have readers hooked from the opening scene to the breathtaking-and unexpected-conclusion.-Sarah Reid, Broome County Public Library, Binghamton, NY © Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ms. Rapscott's Girls

Booklist starred January 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 9)
Grades 3-6. A notice goes out: “Attention Busy Parents! Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents has a unique curriculum designed solely for your daughter.” For parents who are too busy to bring their daughters (which is all of them), a cardboard box is provided for mailing them to the school. This sets the tone for a story that fits neatly into the literary world of Mary Poppins and Nanny Piggins, where bemused children are brought up to snuff by a caring, albeit odd and occasionally alarming, caretaker. Here the children are belligerent Bea, fact-filled Amanda, nervous Fay, and lazy Mildred, and their teacher is Ms. Rapscott, a head-girl type who was once a child of busy parents herself and prefers a life so bracing that she lives in a lighthouse where the weather is always bad. How Ms. Rapscott pushes her charges beyond what they thought themselves capable of makes for a clever, highly amusing read with some sterling life lessons slipped in the cracks. Almost best of all are Primavera’s fanciful pencil illustrations, featuring two of the most delightful (if silent) of the book’s characters, Lewis and Clark, turtlenecked corgis that efficiently manage the girls and their hair-raising adventures. A plucky, invigorating romp with more adventures on the horizon.

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans

Booklist starred February 15, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 12)
Grades 3-5. In droll counterpoint to the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, Yep and Ryder offer a similar interspecies matchup from the dragon’s point of view. Miss Drake, a 3,000-year-old dragon, is initially annoyed when Winifred, 10, barges into her hidden lair beneath a San Francisco mansion. It seems that Winnie’s widowed mom has inherited the house from Miss Drake’s most recent and still sharply missed human “pet,” Fluffy (aka Great-Aunt Amelia). The irritating child has been left a key and a charge to take care of the lonely dragon. Being a responsible sort (as well as a shapechanger and a thoroughly modern dragon with a smartphone and a debit card), Miss Drake reluctantly takes Winnie under her wing—or tries to, as the strong-willed child has ideas of her own. Despite their differences, the two make a good team, as they prove in narrowly averting major disaster to the city and its magical community, after a flock of creatures Winnie has drawn in a special sketchbook come to life. In vignettes that open each chapter, illustrator GrandPré depicts the diverse creatures, along with glimpses of dragon, child, and various significant items with her customary flair and expertise. Warm humor, magical mishaps, and the main characters’ budding mutual respect and affection combine to give this opener for a planned series a special shine that will draw readers and leave them impatient for sequels.

The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake

Kirkus Reviews starred February 15, 2015

Two police mice, one missing cake, a bunch of suspects--it's a big case!When Miss Rabbit leaves her carrot cake (with cream-cheese icing) out to cool and returns later to find only a mess of crumbs, she calls Detective Wilcox and Capt. Griswold. Over 100 animals on Ed's farm means there's a lot of suspects. Tongue firmly in cheek, Wilcox tells the story of this challenging case in clipped tones reminiscent of Dragnet. Fowler, the observant owl, loves rabbits, he informs readers. "She liked them for breakfast. She liked them for lunch. And she loved them for dinner." His narration is peppered with food references that elevate this entertaining mystery, already fizzing with humor and inside jokes. To open their investigation, they slide down the rabbit hole, but Miss Rabbit does not have a crumb of an idea. The repeated food-based idioms (hard nut to crack, slower than molasses, take the cake) alternate with puns that a young reader will appreciate. When questioning Porcini the pig, Wilcox accuses, "Seems like you've spent some time in the pen." The droll language is complemented with full-color cartoon illustrations that extend the text and add to the laughter. Readers ready for chapter books will solve the crime and then be surprised by the twist at the end. Here's hoping for more hard-boiled detecting from Wilcox and Griswold! (Mystery. 5-9)

By Mouse & Frog

Publishers Weekly February 16, 2015
Mouse and Frog are avid storytellers. But the careful, deliberate Mouse has in mind a solo project-a tightly focused sketch of domestic life ("Once upon a time... in a quiet little home, Mouse woke up early and set the table")-while Frog is eager to collaborate on a sprawling, mostly incoherent epic involving a king, a dragon and lots of ice cream. It's a clash of creative wills and methods, which Freedman (The Story of Fish and Snail) portrays by having her protagonists draw their subject matter as they narrate it. Frog's ideas quickly (and literally) overwhelm Mouse, but the rodent's friendship clearly means a lot, and in one of many funny scenes, Frog sadly but dutifully erases his contributions, and solemnly tells his characters, "This story is Mouse's." But maybe a partnership isn't out of the question: Mouse's gift for structure and restraint and Frog's boundless imagination could create something wonderful. Wearing its metafictionality lightly and told largely through dialogue that begs for performance, Freedman's story speaks to power of creative passion and the rewards of playing well with others. Ages 3-5. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Bambino and Me

Booklist May 15, 2014 (Online)

Grades 2-4. What’s a Yankees fan doing in a Red Sox jersey? For his tenth birthday, George received both a dream and a nightmare. The dream: a pair of tickets to a Yankees game. The nightmare, for a true-blue fan: a Red Sox jersey and cap from a Boston uncle. Looking back at his childhood in the Bronx in 1927, the elderly storyteller recalls that summer. When he resisted the shirt, he got his mouth washed out with soap for “talking back.” In spite of his having to wear the hateful colors, his first-ever trip to a baseball game and a conversation with his hero, Babe Ruth, made for a day he never forgot. The narrator’s discomfort and embarrassment are realistic, as is Ruth’s advice. In Pullen’s stylized oil paintings, facial features are exaggerated and expressive. These elements add plenty of humor to this nostalgic and heartwarming story for fans of any age. Extra innings: the book jacket becomes a poster, and the book comes with a CD of the story, ably narrated by actor Jason Alexander.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2014)
Imaginative illustrations and spare words present deep themes in this picture book. Norman Qwerty has ideas that are "far from ordinary." Afraid people will think them strange, he hides his ideas under his hat and feels completely alone. But when he creates a contraption that brings ideas to life, Mr. Qwerty realizes that he is not alone after all--everyone has ideas. As others use the contraption to manifest and share their ideas, they create a community that both validates and welcomes the creative diversity. (An opportunity is lost to add another layer to the diversity theme by visually portraying more diverse skin shades within the characters; only one looks nonwhite.) Strambini's detailed black-and-white pencil illustrations are filled with Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that resemble fantastical notebook doodles and are saved from monochromatic overwhelm by judiciously placed spots of color. A red-orange cravat identifies Mr. Qwerty, and the cloud-studded sky-blue scarf drifting through the story draws symbolic attention to the necessity of letting imaginations soar. Visual symbolism abounds, and astute readers, noticing something unusual on the title page, will know to pay close attention going forward. The book's theme is presented subtly; this is a story that rewards multiple readings with multiple layers of understanding. A picture book that celebrates creativity and imagination...and the courage to share them. (Picture book. 4-8)

Tiny Creatures The World of Microbes

Booklist starred (June 1, 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 19))
Grades K-3. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by organisms that can eat anything: plants, animals (alive or dead), even oil and rocks? English biologist Davies introduces the strange realm of microbes: their minute sizes, their vast numbers, their diverse forms, and their varied roles in shaping our world. Simply written and concise, the text opens with comparisons that describe just how small these microorganisms are, noting that the picture of an ant would need to be as big as a whale in order for the millions of microbes on its antenna to be visible. While the analogy comparing the number of microbes in a teaspoon of soil to the population of India may be challenging for some young children to grasp, the colorful painting illustrating the idea could serve as a jumping-off point for further discussion. The information that some microbes cause illness is placed within the context of the many amazing things they accomplish. Reminiscent of Alice and Martin Provensen’s artwork in its combination of formal structure and amiable tone, Sutton’s large-scale illustrations help children to visualize microorganisms and processes that are too small to see. The sequence of simple images illustrating multiplying microbes is quite effective. A handsome and rewarding picture book about the power of tiny creatures.

Ben Franklin's Big Splash

School Library Journal (July 1, 2014)
K-Gr 3-Before he was an inventor, before he was a statesman, before he was a printer, Franklin was a young son of a soapmaker with big ideas and a penchant for swimming in the Charles River of Boston. This made him a bit of an odd duck at the time, as many people of the 18th century believed swimming could make them sick. With this "mostly true story," Rosenstock shares how even as a boy, Franklin possessed a powerful curiosity and a can-do attitude that led him to create swim paddles for his feet and hands that would help him move faster and better, much like the fish he observed in the river. The alliterative, sibilant text is a rollicking read to share aloud with young students ("where he slid off his stinky shoes, stripped off his sweaty stockings, squirmed out of his sticky shirt, shed his steamy breeches, and splashed in"). There is plenty of emphasis on words and phrases that are highlighted by colorful and distinct typefaces, some sliding down the page or shaped like a watery wave. The watercolor and ink artwork conveys joy and motion, with young Ben splashing into the water, gleefully trying out his fins. An extensive bibliography, source notes for quotations, and a time line of Franklin's life add to the veracity and strength of this story. This is a fun introduction to one of the nation's founding fathers and a solid addition to collections needing a different perspective on this American icon.-Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal (January 1, 2014)
PreS-Gr 1-Readers will fall in love with Maple, whose parents planted a tree in her honor when she was "still a whisper." Each page turn shows the child growing, playing, and seeking refuge under her leafy companion. She sometimes longs for the friendship of someone who can play with her ("The tree wasn't very good at throwing snowballs") and wonders if the tree feels the same way. One day, Maple is surprised to realize that there's a sapling growing next to her tree, and she soon discovers that a sibling of her very own is on the way. The crispness of Nichols's lush, leafy illustrations on each thick white page helps Maple's adventures around the little sapling stand out. This may be Nichols's debut picture book, but the only thing green about this effort is the perfect shade of a maple leaf. This is a fresh addition to the standard new sibling fare, and young naturalists will identify with Maple's adventurous and tender spirit.-Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The Map To Everywhere

Booklist starred (October 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 3))
Grades 4-7. Marrill is used to adventure; she and her parents travel the world so much that she has never lived in one place for more than six months. But after a sailing ship emerges in the wavering heat mirage of an Arizona parking lot, and Marrill finds herself stuck aboard, she is in for her biggest adventure yet. Desperate to find a way back to her family, she recruits the help of the wizard Ardent and his crew, as well as a young boy, Fin, whom everyone except Marrill forgets as soon as he is out of their view. While sailing on the Pirate Stream, a body of water that connects the known universe, the adventurers race to find pieces of a cleverly imagined map to everywhere, before an evil wizard can get them first. Ryan and Davis’ swashbuckling quest features fantastic world building, gnarly creatures, and a villain who is both spooky and formidable. Each new location is a treasure, and even the ships themselves are full of character. Ardent’s ship, for instance, is manned by a giant made of rope (he handles all the rigging, naturally). The unique details, expert plotting, charming characters, and comic interludes combine in a tantalizing read that’s made even more appealing by the promise that the story will continue in future volumes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Map To Everywhere

Booklist starred (October 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 3))
Grades 4-7. Marrill is used to adventure; she and her parents travel the world so much that she has never lived in one place for more than six months. But after a sailing ship emerges in the wavering heat mirage of an Arizona parking lot, and Marrill finds herself stuck aboard, she is in for her biggest adventure yet. Desperate to find a way back to her family, she recruits the help of the wizard Ardent and his crew, as well as a young boy, Fin, whom everyone except Marrill forgets as soon as he is out of their view. While sailing on the Pirate Stream, a body of water that connects the known universe, the adventurers race to find pieces of a cleverly imagined map to everywhere, before an evil wizard can get them first. Ryan and Davis’ swashbuckling quest features fantastic world building, gnarly creatures, and a villain who is both spooky and formidable. Each new location is a treasure, and even the ships themselves are full of character. Ardent’s ship, for instance, is manned by a giant made of rope (he handles all the rigging, naturally). The unique details, expert plotting, charming characters, and comic interludes combine in a tantalizing read that’s made even more appealing by the promise that the story will continue in future volumes.

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2014)
In a twist on numerous picture books about little animals who are determined to stay awake, Chengdu the panda is trying his hardest to get to sleep. Droll illustrations accompany spare, lulling text, leading to Chengdu's success and a humorous surprise near the book's end. The cover art is an immediate draw: The small panda's oversized paws cling to a tree branch as his expressive, sleep-deprived face stares at readers, expertly matching the "could not, would not fall asleep" of the title. Initial pages establish a soporific mood, showing utterly relaxed, drowsily smudged pandas snoozing against a star-studded black sky, muted green bamboo branches the only spots of color. Large, softened white letters murmur, "It was late, and it was quiet, // and everyone in the bamboo grove was sleeping."The next double-page spread consists of white space with only two wide-awake, black-masked panda eyes and the words, "Everyone except...."Of course, the page turn leads readers back to wide-awake Chengdu, staring plaintively from his moon-washed tree branch. Varied compositions and a couple of gatefoldsadd to the fun for readers as poor Chengdu tosses, scrunches and climbs his way to sleep...almost but, happily, not quite at the expense of his brother, Yuan. Little sleepyheads will love chanting along with the words, and no one can deny the appeal of the art. A bedtime winner. (Picture book. 1-5)

The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2014)
With his dad's help, a young frog conquers nighttime fears by harnessing his imagination. Hamilton Squidlegger and his wooden sword thwart the (imaginary) threats looming in the swamp, be they fire-breathing frackensnapper, clawed skelecragon or twining bracklesneed. Hamilton's bravado disappears at sunset, though, as his prodigious imagination animates those same fictive monsters. He flees his own mud for his "secret hideaway"--wedged between his sleepless parents. While Hamilton wakes refreshed and ready for more fearless exploits, his beleaguered dad's weary of this pattern. He bakes Hamilton's luscious fave, a "double-decker grasshopper worm-cake," offering it as breakfast in exchange for Hamilton's successful overnighter in his own mud. As a storm threatens, Hamilton worries: "What if a l-l-lightning monster comes tonight?" Dad encourages Hamilton to enlist his mind to turn the tide: "Think good thoughts is what I say. Monsters are silly, and they love to play!" More than a dozen full spreads, including a double gatefold, spool out Hamilton's ensuing dream-adventure. A junked TV spews a pink-lemonade sea; a flying ship with a striped-bass cook unites Hamilton, his dad and the now-friendly monsters, who all sleep in their "very own cabins." Ering's pictures splice together spindle-legged, popeyed creatures, etchy linework, and lush layers of washy, brushy, splotchy, gorgeously colored paint. In the last image, Hamilton digs into that yummy worm cake at sunrise. Appealing--and empowering. (Picture book. 3-7)

A Poem in your Pocket

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2014)
Mr. Tiffin is back, just in time for National Poetry Month at school. The third in what's becoming a series about life in Mr. Tiffin's class (The Apple Orchard Riddle, 2013, etc.) celebrates both a poet's school visit and Poem in Your Pocket Day. By the time poet Emmy Crane visits, the children have learned all about metaphor, simile, concrete poetry, haiku and acrostic verse, as well as using a "poet's eye." Almost all the children are excited and ready for the big day, heads full of words and pockets full of poems. Elinor, who is thought to be the best poet in the class, has struggled with an epic case of writer's block and arrives at school with no poem at all. As each child shares a poem with the famous poet, Elinor's misery grows until she finally speaks with the kind writer. Karas' gouache, acrylic and pencil illustrations sensitively extend the story, showing both the enthusiasm in the classroom and Elinor's frustration in trying to compose the perfect poem. Sprinkling circular spot illustrations with double-page spreads of the friendly classroom, Karas shows each child joyfully looking, creating, sharing and writing. Gray and yellow are used to reflect Elinor's moods. Gentle and subtle, this sensitive story teaches a lot about poetry, perfectionism, and the power of a teacher and a poet. (Picture book. 4-10)

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

Horn Book (January/February, 2014)
Those who visited Tupelo Landing previously (in Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, rev. 7/12) are familiar with the numerous colorful inhabitants of this small North Carolina town. Newcomers, though, will need more than a smidgen of time and patience to sort them all out, time that would be more enjoyably spent reading the first book. But once readers get the lay of the land, their efforts will be rewarded. Mo LoBeau (accent on the final syllable) and her best friend Dale find themselves slap-dab in the middle of another mystery. When the abandoned Tupelo Inn goes up for auction, Mo and Dale accompany Miss Lana (who, along with The Colonel, form Mo's "family of choice") and Grandmother Miss Lacy (no relation, but the nicest old person in town) to the sale. Fearing that a snippy banker will buy the property, the two women outbid her and take ownership of the ramshackle inn and all its history, including a strange apparition. Mo's distinctive voice, full of humor and Southern colloquialisms, narrates a tale with as many twists and turns as North Carolina's own Tar River, giving readers a sweet, laid-back story that reveals a ghost who, bless her heart, just wants to set the record straight about her death. betty carter

Grandfather Gandhi

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2014)
This first-person account presents Mohandas Gandhi through the eyes of his then--12-year-old grandson. Arriving at Sevagram, the ashram Gandhi lived in as an old man, young Arun and his family greet their famous relative and start participating in the simple lifestyle of morning prayers, chores and pumpkin mush. It is challenging for the boy, who misses electricity and movies and dreads language lessons. The crux of the story hinges on the moment Arun is tripped and injured during a soccer game. He picks up a rock and feels the weight of familial expectations. Running to his grandfather, he learns the surprising fact that Gandhi gets angry too. Grandfather lovingly explains that anger is like electricity: it "can strike, like lightning, and split a living tree in two.... Or it can be channeled, transformed....Then anger can illuminate. It can turn the darkness into light." Turk's complex collages, rich in symbolic meaning and bold, expressive imagery, contribute greatly to the emotional worldbuilding. Watercolor, gouache and cut paper set the scenes, while fabric clothes the primary players. Gandhi's spinning wheel is a repeated motif; tangled yarn surrounding Arun signals frustration. Never burdened by its message, this exceptional title works on multiple levels; it is both a striking introduction to a singular icon and a compelling story about the universal experience of a child seeking approval from a revered adult. (authors' note) (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)

Separate is Never Equal

School Library Journal (May 1, 2014)
Gr 2-5-When the Mendezes moved to Westminster, CA, in 1944, third-grader Sylvia tried to enter Westminster School. However, the family was repeatedly told, "'Your children have to go to the Mexican school.' 'But why?' asked Mr. Mendez.'That is how it is done.'" In response, they formed the Parents' Association of Mexican-American Children, distributed petitions, and eventually filed a successful lawsuit that was supported by organizations ranging from the Japanese American Citizens League to the American Jewish Congress. Younger children will be outraged by the injustice of the Mendez family story but pleased by its successful resolution. Older children will understand the importance of the 1947 ruling that desegregated California schools, paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education seven years later. Back matter includes a detailed author's note and photographs. The excellent bibliography cites primary sources, including court transcripts and the author's interview with Sylvia Mendez, who did attend Westminster School and grew up to earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tonatiuh's illustrations tell a modern story with figures reminiscent of the pictorial writing of the Mixtec, an indigenous people from Mexico. Here, the author deliberately connects his heritage with the prejudices of mid-20th century America. One jarring illustration of three brown children barred from a pool filled with lighter-skinned children behind a sign that reads, "No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed," will remind readers of photographs from the Jim Crow South. Compare and contrast young Sylvia Mendez's experience with Robert Coles's The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic, 1995) to broaden a discussion of school desegregation.-Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Don't Want To Be A Frog

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2014)
A tiny frog desperately wishes to be any other animal.After reading a book about a cat, the young frog stretches open his mouth as wide as it will go and decidedly declares, "I want to be a CAT." His father patiently explains, "You can't be a CAT....Because you're a FROG." But frogs are too wet and slimy. The little frog then decides to be a rabbit. After all, he can already hop. But father points out that he does not have long ears. The young amphibian is not deterred. There are many other options--a pig, perhaps? Or an owl? But his no-nonsense father explains away each one. Until a wolf, who enjoys eating many animals--except wet, slimy frogs--comes along and changes the young frog's perspective. Debut author Petty presents a droll take on this oft-explored wish of being different. But what shines the brightest is Boldt's expressive frog duo. Question-weary grown-ups will understand the father's heavy-lidded eyes, and nothing embodies a childlike curiosity (and/or crazy, determined declarations) more than the tiny frog's wide-open mouth. Colored speech bubbles distinguish the speakers' words and tumble over each other on the page. A lively look at self-acceptance. (Picture book. 3-6)

What the Moon Said

Booklist (December 15, 2013 (Vol. 110, No. 8))
Grades 4-7. When Depression-era hard times send Esther’s family from their Chicago home to try their luck on a small Wisconsin farm, the 10-year-old learns that there are many ways people show love. Esther’s mother never hugs or kisses her. Does she even love her? Over the course of their year in the country, Esther tries desperately to be a good daughter, but the practical realities of their near-pioneer life (no electricity or running water) leave her mother little time to notice. And while the bookish child admires her fearful mother’s ability to read signs, she can’t bring herself to give up her new friend Bethany, even if her mother says the girl was marked by angry fairies. Eventually, Esther finds much to enjoy in her new farm life. Debut author Rosengren weaves plenty of Old World superstitions into her heartwarming story, contrasting those who fear the future with those who embrace it. Esther’s positive attitude offers a fine model for readers of this engaging historical fiction.