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.