Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Gr 4–7—A viscerally affecting story of war, loss, and the power of friendship. Pennypacker, author of the exuberant "Clementine" series (Disney-Hyperion) and the charmingly morbid Summer of the Gypsy Moths (HarperCollins, 2012), here displays not only her formidable writing skills and a willingness to stretch her storytelling into increasingly complex narrative forms but also her ability to tackle dark and weighty themes with sensitivity and respect for the child reader. Set in an intentionally undefined time and place that could very well be a near-future America, the novel opens with a heartbreaking scene of a tame red fox, Pax, being abandoned at the side of the road by his beloved boy, Peter. Perspectives alternate between the boy and the fox, and readers learn that a terrible war rages in this land. Peter's father is about to leave for the frontlines, and while he's away, Peter must live with his grandfather out in the country—and his father makes it clear that there is no place for Pax in Peter's temporary home. Almost as soon as he arrives at his grandfather's, Peter is overcome with guilt, and he sets off under the cover of darkness to trek the 300 miles back to his home, where he prays he'll find Pax. The loyal fox, meanwhile, must figure out how to survive in the wild—though never losing hope that his boy will return for him. As the protagonists struggle to reunite in a world in the grip of violence and destruction, they each find helpers who assist them on their respective journeys: Peter breaks his foot and is rehabilitated by Vola, a hermit suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, while Pax is taken in by a leash of foxes who teach him the basics of foraging and hunting. Pennypacker doesn't shy away from some of the more realistic aspects of war, though she keeps most of the violence slightly off-screen: in one scene, the wild foxes define war for the naive Pax as a "human sickness" that causes them to turn on their own kind, akin to rabies; later, as the battle creeps closer, several creatures are maimed and killed by land mines. Black-and-white drawings by Klassen offer a respite for readers, while adding to the haunting atmosphere.With spare, lyrical prose, Pennypacker manages to infuse this tearjerker with a tender hope, showing that peace and love can require just as much sacrifice as war. VERDICT A startling work of fiction that should be read—and discussed—by children and adults alike.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal Copyright 2015 Reed Business Information.

Audacity Jones to the Rescue


Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color

Swatch is a free-spirited young girl who loves to chase and manipulate colors, teaching them to dance and do magic. But when she begins to capture the colors and collect them in jars, Yellowest Yellow, the final unconfined color, reminds Swatch that colors are meant to be free and wild. With bright swirls and splatters of watercolor, pen, ink, and pencil on white backgrounds, author and illustrator Denos creates a bold celebration of colors and the joys of freedom. “Denos' text is fierce and crisp, her color-characters wondrous … For color wranglers and windblown spirits everywhere” (KIRK).

The Secret Subway

K-Gr 3—This picture book tells the story of Alfred Ely Beach, whose Beach Pneumatic Transit was an early version of the New York subway, which was eventually abandoned to the shadows of history. The story begins, "Welcome to New York City—the greatest city on earth!" The fervent pace continues throughout. The artwork is intriguing: photographs of puppetlike polymer figures are shown talking while cartoon ideas emanate from their mouths. Often, white text is set on a black background, creating an underground feel. A fact spread is appended, revealing more of Beach's life. Keen artwork combines with inviting language, illuminating an obscure part of New York City's history. VERDICT Perfect for young subway enthusiasts, especially those with an interest in New York City.—Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2016 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal.

Miss Mary Reporting

Gr 2–4—A heartfelt, informative, and thoroughly engaging picture book biography about groundbreaking sports reporter Mary Garber (1916–2008). Garber became a sportswriter at a time when there were few women in the field, when women were not welcome in the press box, in the locker room, or on the sidelines. Her love of sports, her fierce determination, and her independent spirit gave her the tools she needed to succeed. She became known for reporting on teams and people who were out of the mainstream, athletes whom other sportswriters wouldn't even consider, such as African American individuals and college teams. Her admiration of Jackie Robinson inspired her to face her detractors with stoicism and grace and to go about doing the best job she could. In Macy's adept hands, Garber comes to life, from her childhood antics on the football field to her important work giving a fair shake to kids and athletes she thought deserved more attention. Payne's mixed-media art lends itself well to the topic. His paintings fill the pages with movement and humor, and the characters' expressions draw the eye and complement the tone of the narrative. Pair this entertaining biography with a few about other women journalists, such as Nellie Bly, for a more in-depth examination of an area that is often overlooked in children's literature. VERDICT An excellent and welcome addition to any elementary biography collection.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2016 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal.