Significant Others II: Luther Student Reviews

Mr. Wolf's Class

Steinke, Aron Nels. 2018. Mr. Wolf’s Class. Scholastics Inc. (Graphix). 160pp. $9.99 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-33-804768-4.

Mr. Wolf, a fourth grader teacher at Hazelwood Elementary school, wants the first day of school to go well for his students. Like most classrooms, the students in the class are going through unique struggles and are diverse. Unfortunately, the first day does not go as planned. The  Mr. Wolf’s Class is a vibrant and light hearted read which explains the first day of school from the perspective of both the teacher and the students. The plot depicts all of the characters in a deep and meaningful way, students will be able to identify and empathize with the characters in the graphic novel. The graphic novel gives a diverse number of characters. Margot, a new student to the school wants to make friends. Penny has a new younger brother at home and is tired because of him. Aziza wants to get her work done in class in a quiet environment. The graphic novel is not too overwhelming for readers, as it has a limited number of panels per page and keeps the reader focused on the story. Steinke also keeps the reader engaged by using humor. A delightful read for lower elementary students with themes of friendship and growth. (APA)


The Crimson Serpent

Jolley, Dan. 2018 The Crimson Serpent. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 317pp. $6.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-241170-9

The Crimson Serpent is the third book in the Five Elements series, a modern action packed magical adventure.

The Crimson Serpent follows the story of Gabe and his friends as they need to find a way to destroy the dimension of Arcadia, however, they were tricked and instead they destroy San Francisco, California. Both universes collide into one and millions of people become trapped. Magic and monsters roam the streets and cause havoc on everyone trapped inside San Francisco. It is up to Gabe and his friends to work together to battle the the collision of dimensions  to save everyone from the horrors being caused by a cult leader Jonathan Thorne. The Crimson Serpent is a edge of your seat book which will engage any middle school reader, wondering what will happen next. Themes prevalent in The Crimson Serpent include teamwork, trust, and action. These themes help to connect to the reader in a new level and leave them wanting more. (APA)


van de Vendel, Edward. 2018. I’ll Root for You: And Other Poems. Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 44pp. $17.00 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-80-285501-5.

I'll Root for You

Illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch. Translated by David Colmer.

The poems invite young readers to empathize with a duck who wins a marathon, a pig who participates in gymnastics but is made fun of for his leotard, and a bunny who is afraid of the high diving board at the pool. A cohesive muted yellow helps to pair all of the illustrations and poems together as well as provide a tranquil sense of peace and happiness throughout the pages. Characters wear bright colors, textures are sparsely applied, and characters are placed behind a plain background to bring attention to themselves. The illustrations help set the overall mood of the poems of encouragement and empowerment. From cover to cover, the poems provide an overall message of following one's goals, taking pride in wins and losses, and trying one’s best. (APA)


The Winner Is… (Next Best Junior Chef Book 3)

Harper, Charise Mericle. 2018. The Winner Is… (Next Best Junior Chef Book 3). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 192pp. $12.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-54-499144-6. Illustrated by Aurélie Blard-Quintard.

Three talented tween contestants remain in the final showdown during a cooking contest where their skills are put to the test. Rae, Caroline, and Oliver must participate in an on and off camera challenge. The winner will receive an apron, a food truck, and the prestigious title of being the next best junior chef. In the end, there can only be one winner. The plot provides the young reader with confidence in participating in a competition, and coping with the outcomes. The exciting plot  also teaches any aspiring young chef common kitchen phrases. Proper cooking and baking techniques appropriate for a real live kitchen are unique stylistic features. Black and white illustrations help to bring another level of depth and visual aid to the educational and entertaining text. (APA)


Kitten and the Night Watchman

Sullivan, John. 2018. Kitten and the Night Watchman. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-48-146191-7. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo.

A watchman leaves his family for his job at a large construction site. While at his job, the watchman comes across a tiny furry kitten who wants to be friends. The kitten immediately follows the watchman everywhere he goes. During his shift, the kitten disappears, which worries the watchman. The watchman is anxious for the kitten because of barking dogs and moving cars. In the end, the man is reunited with the kitten and decides to take the kitten home for his family to love. Dark blues, as well as shades of indigo are used to depict a calm construction area which is a contrast to the site during the day. Yellows showcase light from street lamps and the moon. Objects are darker so readers can focus on the watchman and the kitten. The dominant theme of the text is  love between humans and animals. (APA)


The Elephant Thief

Kerr, Jane. 2017. The Elephant Thief. Scholastic Inc. (Chicken House). 325pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-33-818843-1.

In 19th century England, Boy, a young thief from the slums is given an important task. After meeting a charming showman, Boy is tasked with charting an Elephant, Maharajah, 200 miles from Edinburgh to Manchester in one week. Accepting the assignment, Boy takes Maharajah across northern England. Along his route, Boy gains self-confidence, strength, and builds new friendships. At the resolution of the novel, Boy must part ways with Maharajah, but Maharajah helped Boy develop as a human.Without the help of Maharajah, Boy would have never been able to learn these valuable life skills. Readers will be able to see themselves within Boy and will be able to connect with him and understand his growth as a human. Overall, a heartwarming charming story perfect for any age. (APA)


Ella Unleashed

Cherry, Alison. 2018. Ella Unleashed. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division). 208pp. $17.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-53-441212-5.

Ella must learn how to live in a world of unknowns and unpredictability. She must navigate a world with divorced parents and an upcoming dog show which thousands will watch. Ella’s stepfather lets Ella train his dog for the upcoming prestigious National Dog Show in Philadelphia. However, her father, is overprotective and overbearing, and refuses to watch Ella perform due to underlying drama with Ella’s stepfather. Ella decides to find her father a date so he would feel more comfortable going to the National Dog Show to watch Ella perform. Ella’s plan backfires on her last minute. Ella’s story about navigating life will help readers connect with Ella on a meaningful level. (APA)



Maldonado, Torrey. 2018. Tight. Penguin Random House LLC. (Nancy Paulsen Books). 192pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-52-474055-9.

An emotional and honest first-person narration about two middle school boys and self discovery,  a dynamic read that breaks down common stereotypes and dangers of male friendship. Bryan, a typical middle schooler, enjoys drawing comics, superheros, and reading. Bryan enjoys his drama free lifestyle until he meets Mike. Mike pressures Bryan to go on risky adventures for fun and to stray from Bryan’s interests. At first, Bryan enjoys the rush of the risky adventures, however, Bryan encounters guilt while committing such acts. During these encounters with Mike, Bryan also has to juggle the his life of having his father behind bars whose motto is to live a life of being hard and feared instead of being liked. Maldonado helps to bring in ideas of traditional middle school friendship between boys and social pressures into a story that many children will be able to relate with. (APA)


Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice

Chambers, Veronica. 2018. Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 224pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-279625-7.

A collection of 35 biological profiles introduces readers to a diverse range of courageous heroes who stood up for their beliefs. Readers are connected to famous well-known leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Susan B. Anthony, and  to lesser known leaders such as Alicia Garza, Anastasia Somoza, and Harvey Milk. Important themes span over the chapters, involving the reader in ideas of race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexuality, disability, and patriarchy. Issues include the right for women to vote in the United States, and current day struggles such as Black Lives Matter. At the end of each chapter, lessons are presented to the reader in a bold font to reinforce these ideas for the reader. (APA)


Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

Yoo, Paula. 2014. Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank. Lee & Low Books Inc. 40pp. $10.78  (paperback). ISBN 978-1-62-014809-9. Illustrated by Jamel Akib.

The story of Muhammad Yunus is told in a meaningful way that will connect the reader to the story of Yunus and his venture in helping to start the first micro-bank within Bangladesh. Readers are drawn into the life of Yunus,  a child growing up in Bangladesh during British colonial rule. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his being known as the Banker to the Poor. Illustrations enhance the life of Yunus to the reader. Vivid colors such as blues and purples convey moments of tranquility but also conflict within the story. Yellow and orange bring warmth to moments of happiness and success. Texture emphasizes certain people and objects within the book. Illustrations reflect the time period of  the late 1900’s setting in both the United States and Bangladesh. Yunus’ story helps to provide readers with knowledge of micro-lending and his story of becoming a hero to many who ended up helping change the world and promote wealth in developing countries. (APA)


Just like us! Fish.

Heos, Bridget. 2018. Just like Us! Fish. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 32pp. $14.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-54-457095-5. Illustrated by David Clark.

An array of aquatic creatures are  showcased in a playful way. Factual and amusing information about each fish is visible on each page. The relationship between humans and fish is explored using common examples such as hunting, dress, and grooming. An appealing mix of  photographs and cartoon illustrations of fish are used to engage young readers with the text. Both dark and light colors promote contrast between the fish and the background. A blue and green ocean backdrop promotes consistency and tranquility. Overall, a charming read to bring factual evidence in a cheerful way. (APA)


Backyard Bears

Cherrix, Amy. 2018. Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Changes, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 80pp. $18.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-32-885868-9.

North Carolina’s black bears are the subject of this text. They are discussed in the context of conservation, habitat, ecosystems, and urban wildlife. Cherrix  did extensive research with scientists around Asheville, North Carolina before writing the text. Young readers will learn about the efforts to provide black bears a home, but also Cherrix’s first hand encounters with black bears while writing this story. Besides black bears, other issues of urban wildlife such as coyotes in the Eastern US, chickens in Hawaii, and Boars in Berlin are discussed. Photographs of black bears as well as the scientists tracking the expansion of black bears within Asheville are revealed to the reader.  Black bears are quickly becoming neighbors within cities and suburbs around the United States, readers will be intrigued by this relatively new field of science, urban wildlife. (APA) 


Keplinger, Kody. 2018. That’s Not What Happened. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 336pp. $18.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-338-18652-9.

That's Not What Happened

Powerful and profound, are two words to describe the experiences of the six survivors in the years following a traumatic event , a school shooting. In her first year at Virgil County High School, Lee, and her best friend Sarah, were in the bathroom when an active shooter entered their school and shot seven students (including Sarah) and two teachers The media quickly shared  the events of the day throughout the town, county and country. A major newsworthy story from the shooting was Sarah talking back to the shooter and dying while proclaiming her faith. Lee knew this was not what happened. The other survivor who had been in the bathroom, Kellie, spoke up right away and said it was her necklace, not Sarah’s. Nobody believed Kellie, the quiet emo girl, would have owned a cross necklace, much less proclaimed her faith in what were possibly her final moments. The town shunned her and drove her family out of town. Lee was unable to speak the truth for three years about the events of the shooting. When she did tell people the truth, she faced hostility and was called a liar. In order to get the truth out, she came up with the idea to have all of the survivors write letters about their experience.  While collecting these letters from Denny, Eden, Miles and Ashley, Lee believes she has to find a way to contact Kellie and get her to write a letter as well so she could have everyone’s story. After hearing Kellie say she does not want to write a letter, Lee realizes trying to force her to tell her story is the opposite of giving a voice to the survivors. They should all have the choice to share their experience, or not. Lee decides to give Kellie the letters and let her make the decision to publish them or not.

Told from the first person point of view, readers see Lee’s current narrative, flashbacks to her past, letters from the other survivors and small obituaries for the victims. These different settings enable the reader to see different points of view and piece together the events of the shooting. The setting painted by the use of flashbacks to the day of the shooting creates a dreadful, deafening mood transporting the reader to the position of the survivors recounting their actions. The exposition of the story shows readers how Lee is coping three years after the shooting. Underlying the exposition is the big anticipated reveal of the truth about what happened with Sarah in the bathroom. Lee’s desire to reveal the truth begins the rising action, along her reading of her friend Denny’s scholarship letter, which prompts her to collect letters from each of the survivors in order to tell their stories. The main conflict occurs while Lee is trying to tell her community the truth about Sarah. Sarah’s parents, her pastor, and members of the community, all reject her statements and believe that Lee is lying. This creates the person versus society conflict between Lee and the community, which underlies the rest of the story. The climax occurs when Lee is finally able to meet with Kellie, who refuses to write a letter. Following this conversation, Lee realizes that trying to make the survivors share their stories is not making their voices heard, unless they freely choose to do so. The falling action occurs when she goes to a party Miles and Denny are at, but gets cornered by other students harassing her for lying about Sarah. Miles saves her from the panic attack she is having and gives her his letter. Thus, his story is revealed to the reader and Lee realizes she loves him. The resolution is Lee deciding to give the letters to Kellie so she can choose to publish them or not. One of the aspects of a compelling story is having relatable characters. Readers see firsthand into the eyes of each and every survivor as they write their letters. The reader also sees Lee’s transformation from an anxious girl who is struggling to tell the truth about the shooting, into a more enlightened version of herself. She realizes telling the truth may do more harm than good, and survivors should have the option to share their experiences.There are themes of trauma, PTSD, gun violence, perseverance, friendship and the power of rumors addressed throughout the story. Each survivor deals with PTSD in their own way, but readers clearly see  the effects on Lee as well as Eden.The theme of friendship is shown through Lee and her friends, and fellow survivors, Eden, Denny and Miles who supported her unconditionally throughout her endeavors of trying to come out with the truth. She needed each of the other survivors after the shooting and formed bonds with them others could not understand. (SAB)


Stein, David Ezra. 2019. Hush, Little Bunny. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $17.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-284522-1.

Hush, Little Bunny

A heartwarming tale about a father’s love for his son is revealed through a new version of a traditional children’s rhyme. Told from the 3rd person point of view, the exposition depicts the season changing to spring and papa bunny deciding to show his son the new world. They encounter a host of conflicts throughout their day; cloudy skies, dying clovers, hawks, rain, unfair bunnies, a firefly flying away, and the sun setting. The baby bunny encounters a few different types of conflicts, one of which is person vs person. This happens when the other bunnies are not playing fair with baby bunny as well as when the hawk flies overhead. The other type of conflict is person vs nature. Multiple times throughout the day, the bunnies run into different aspects of nature. These include the cloudy skies, dying clovers, rain and the sun going down. In this regard, the setting can acts as the antagonist when these acts of nature occur and challenge the bunnies. Throughout all of these obstacles, papa bunny protects his son and helps him to overcome his fears. The resolution occurs when papa bunny tells his son he will always love him, no matter the season. 

Throughout the course of the narrative, the lines created by different aspects of the illustrations create direction and lead the readers eyes across the page. For example, the hill in the beginning with the bunny at the bottom curves, leading the eye across the pages. In addition, often the bunnies are either looking the direction the reader should go or running across the page leading the eyes. When it rains, both the rain falling and the bunnies jumping create diagonal lines. Diagonal lines imply a loss of balance or chaos, which is very accurate of a rainy day. The predominant colors include green, brown, yellow and blue. These are very typical colors of an outdoor setting. The warm yellows and greens give the reader a bright and happy feeling as the bunny is content and safe with his father. When the rain comes, the colors shift to more cool shades of blue and grey. This contrasts the warm colors used when things are going well for the bunnies. In addition, the sky illustrates the passing of time. In the introduction, the sun is just coming up and gives off a light yellow hue. As the day progresses, the yellow gets brighter until the sun  sets at the end of the day giving off an orange and pink glow. As the book is set in nature, the curved shapes are used and vary between pages, as real plants would. The only geometric shape is a house off in the distance, which has straight lines and right angles denoting a synthetic structure. This house also appears on the page about papa bunny bringing his son back into the light after hiding from a hawk. Therefore, the house projects safety and stability through its solid shapes. The uneven shapes used for the plants and surrounding environment make the reader visualize real plants. This leads to the brush strokes looking fairly large in order to portray that nature isn’t perfectly contained to precise shapes. Texture is seen through these brush strokes as well as the use of watercolor paper to make the illustrations. Watercolor paper gives the illusion of the different dimensions of color that are true to nature. The overall themes of love and overcoming obstacles are present in the text. Papa bunny clearly loves his son, and does everything in his power to protect him. He also shows his son how to look on the bright side of situations and overcome challenges he may face in his life. Baby bunny begins as a sheltered child who did not know very much about the world, but through his father's guidance, blossoms into a more knowledgeable bunny. (SAB)


How Do Dinosaurs Learn How to Read?

Yolen, Jane. 2018. How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? Scholastic Inc (The Blue Sky Press).  40pp. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-338-23301-8. Illustrated by Mark Teague.

The question of how a dinosaur learns to read is explored throughout the book, followed by different actions showing what a dinosaur might do with a book. In the resolution the reader learns a dinosaur would be kind to books and read each page carefully. By reading this text young readers can learn appropriate ways to treat books. Cool colors of blue, brown, and green are used on dinosaurs, however , they do not depict anything sad or calm. Warm yellows and reds are  used on a few dinosaurs demonstrating what not to do to a book. The texture is a unique feature of these illustrations. The brush strokes used on the dinosaurs make the reader feel like they are leaping off the page. The ridges in their throats are clear as well as the differences in their skin and the bumps on one of the dinosaurs. The shapes of the dinosaurs vary from one to another, a few have patterns of abstract shapes and some have stripes or circles. This variation in the illustration excites young readers .The dinosaurs have  clearly curved lines making up their bodies, where as the rest of the scene has very straight lines which imply objects being artificial. This difference clearly illustrates how different and unique the dinosaurs are to their environment, which makes them stand out. Readers are compelled to guess what might happen next, through the constant restating of the question and title of the book. They can develop their cognitive skills through observing the actions of the dinosaurs who are behaving badly and then analyze what makes their behavior inappropriate. In addition, readers can compare dinosaurs in terms of actions they take as well as the ways in which they look different or similar. Along with developing cognitive skills, children can also expand their imaginations by thinking about dinosaurs to read books. The overall theme of the story is showing children how to properly care for books and to be respectful when it comes to reading them. (SAB)


Dragon Night

Krause, J. R. 2019. Dragon Night. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-52-551424-4.

Georgie and his dragon friend embark on a journey and face their fears in this heartwarming tale about friendship. In the exposition, Georgie is lying in bed, trying to sleep but he is unable to as he is afraid of the night. The only colors present in the entire scene are black, white and blue. The cool blue color dominates depicting the sad and scared mood of Georgie. When a book falls open and a dragon pops out, they become fast friends over their seemingly common fear. The dragon is afraid of the knight, but Georgie is afraid of the night. This difference introduces and reinforces the concept of homophones. When the dragon pops out of the book, yellows and oranges are used to reflect the changing mood. After they fly across the city, they sit down and talk about the night. The dragon tells Georgie the dark is not always scary, because without the dark you would be unable to see the stars and would not be able to experience the quietness and peace night brings. This is when the characterization of Georgie becomes apparent. He matures and realizes the night is not as terrible as he thought. The theme of facing one's fears is revealed through the characterization of Georgie. Looking on the bright side and positives about one's fears is one way to face them. Learning how to face fears helps to further the personal development of readers, as all children experience fears. In the morning, they realize the dragon cannot stay, but he does not want to go back with the knight. The resolution occurs when Georgie decides to draw a new story for the dragon  in which the knight wants to be his friend. This shows the theme of creativity, as Georgie had a problem and used creativity to solve the problem. Imagination and cognitive skills can be furthered by thinking about creative ways to solve new problems and hypothesizing the possible outcomes. The dragon itself has a ridged looking texture. The lines across the entirety of its body denote this, making it more lifelike. As Georgie and the dragon fly on their journey, the illustrations lead the reader’s eye across the page. The different scenes they fly over include warm colors of yellow, orange, and red. These colors show there is light and life below. The buildings are geometric in design, as they have lines going up and down the side of each. In addition, they have straight vertical edges, denoting non-movement while the dragon is diagonal to depict the chaos of flying through the sky. The friendship between Georgie and his dragon helps him to overcome his fears and creatively help the dragon solve his problem. Overall, themes of friendship, facing fears, and creativity, are prominent in the text. (SAB)


The Secrets of Tutankhamun

Cleveland-Peck, Patricia. 2017. The Secrets of Tutankhamun. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 64pp. $18.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-68-119712-8. Illustrated by: Isabel Greenberg

    From the life, death, discovery and recovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, readers get a glimpse into life in Ancient Egypt and the excavation of tombs. The biography is divided into three sections; the life and death of Tutankhamun, the discovery of his tomb, and the mysteries still surrounding his life and death. In the exposition, readers are exposed to King Tutankhamun’s heritage and rise to becoming Pharaoh. The boy king is hastily buried when he dies mysteriously around the age of 18. His tomb remained hidden for over 3,000 years. Long after the Pharaoh’s death, archeologist Howard Carter and rich Egyptologist George Carnarvon teamed up to excavate the boy king’s tomb. After many years of searching, Carter finds the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Upon excavation, the separate chambers of the tomb are sifted through and the body of the pharaoh is found. In the resolution, scientific discoveries are made however, there are still existing mysteries surrounding Tutankhamun’s burial and his family. Illustrations depict aspects of the story which are provided on each page. These illustrations help young readers understand the text, which at times talks about concepts which children may not have prior knowledge about. For example, there is a diagram of the chambers of Tutankhamun’s tomb, as well as diagrams when embalming and the burial chamber are discussed. The author, Patricia Cleveland-Peck is a travel journalist and used primary texts from Howard Carter, written in 1923-4, about the excavation of the tomb. In addition, she used a book written by Nicholas Reeves, who is an Egyptologist, for more of her information about King Tutankhamun. Readers can further develop cognitively as they learn more about Egypt and King Tutankhamun. In addition, the process of discovering a tomb and excavation is detailed, thus providing glimpses into the life of an archeologist and Egyptologist. The processes of embalming, how burial chambers are set up as well as typical contents of tombs are discussed which provide children with more facts about Ancient Egypt. (SAB)

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Aguilar, David. 2018. Seven Wonders of the Milky Way. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 80pp. $18.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-45-147686-9.

From the biggest star in the galaxy to a planetary system, which could contain other cosmic life, children are invited into the enchanting Milky Way. The author identifies the seven wonders of the galaxy including he Great Nebula in Orion, Omega Centauri, UY Scuti, the strange planet J1407b, the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, the Hourglass Nebula and the mystery of Tabby’s star. Each of the wonders are explored from all aspects through detailed descriptions and comparisons to planets and stars we are more familiar with. The illustrations complement the wonders being discussed in the text. When exploring each wonder, there is a text regarding what is being discussed and an illustration shows what it looks like. Thus clarifying what is being said in the text and helping younger readers to understand the complex ideas of planets and stars beyond our solar system. Illustrations include the use of vivid colors which depict the realistic colors of the wonder being shown. In addition, the illustrations are definitely remarkable and they allow readers to feel like they are in the galaxy exploring these places for themselves. There are also diagrams showing size comparisons between stars or planets and help the reader put sizes into perspectives. Along with these diagrams, comparisons are used to real life objects to further put things in perspective.

The author, David Aguilar, is an astronomer and is the former Director of Science Information for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and therefore credible. When reading, children must think critically and analytically as it can be difficult to imagine abstract concepts such as stars, which are thousands or millions of light years away from Earth. Thus, readers will further their cognitive development through analyzing the size differences and concepts of time which are essential to understanding how the solar system works. In addition, there is information about the author in end-notes as well as an index. (SAB)


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De La Cruz, Melissa. 2019. All for One. Penguin Random House (G.P.  Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers). 400pp. $17.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-525-51588-3.

    In a tale of romance, betrayal, forgiveness and joy Alexander and Eliza Hamilton experience the hardships of life in 1780s New York City. In the introduction, Eliza and Alex pick up Eliza’s brother John who has come to stay with them for college, take in an orphaned girl named Emma, and employ a new servant named Drayton. They find out their readily expanding house is going to increase more as Eliza is pregnant. Alex is overjoyed to hear the exciting news, yet he is taking on multiple new difficult clients and has to spend a lot of his time working. While Eliza is home to plan for the baby, she decides to play matchmaker with John and Emma as well as Drayton and Betty, who is the daughter of a very rich family. However, after another woman points it out, she realizes it is actually John and Betty as well as Drayton and Emma who are in love with one another. One day in his office, rising action starts to take hold as he meets Maria Reynolds. She claims her husband has been mistreating her and she needs his help to get out of the marriage. Eliza also comes up with the idea to open the first orphanage in New York City. In order to fund this, she must receive donations from all of the wealthy families around the city. Thus, she goes on a carriage trip for a week to visit the different families. While on this trip she falls ill for three weeks with pneumonia. During the expedition of his wife, Alex goes to visit Maria and he cheats on his wife with her. The Ruston’s Inn is where his cheating happened, and thus becomes a symbol for scandal and gives the mood of ominousness and deceit. Feeling ashamed, Alex goes to court and his affair is exposed by his rival, Aaron Burr. Alex challenges him to a duel. The challenge becomes the physical manifestation of his person vs self conflict which he is having over cheating on his wife. He feels so extremely guilty and ashamed, he is willing to risk his life and almost feels he deserves death. The climax occurs when Eliza wakes up from being sick, and finds out about Alex cheating as well as the duel, then rushes off to stop him. When she finds him, he apologizes and she does not forgive him right away, but he does call off the duel. This depicts the person vs person conflict which occurs between Eliza and Alex. While they still love one another, it is difficult to move on after a spouse cheats on another. Eventually, Eliza forgives Alex and attend John and Betty’s wedding. Themes of classism, sexism, love and forgiveness are evident. Classism and sexism are apparent, as at this point in US American history, women did not have the same rights as men. In addition, slaves and servants are treated poorly and not given the same opportunities as others, while the rich have everything they want. The love which Alexa and Eliza share for one another is what eventually allows her to forgive him. Through finding forgiveness, Eliza finds not only a stronger marriage but also finds herself as a stronger person. As a historical fiction novel, the plot contains many facts about law, independence, the Revolutionary War, the government and social norms. Readers are able to further their cognitive development by learning about the aforementioned topics, as well as improve their social development through the relationships illustrated in the story and the forgiveness Eliza bestows upon her husband. In addition, the author leaves a note as an afterword detailing the parts she changed for the sake of the plot line. (SAB)


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Stevens, Janet and Susan Stevens Crummel. 2019. The Donkey Egg. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-732767-9. Illustrated by Janet Stevens.

This is a heartwarming story of a bear who is tricked by a fox into believing that a watermelon is a donkey egg. The story may help readers learn valuable lessons about life. Fox sees Bear sitting in his chair outside his run-down farmhouse and tricks him into paying him for a “donkey egg.” Bear believes Fox and takes care of the egg by keeping it warm, safe, and happy. Hare sees Bear with the egg and tries to tell him donkeys are not born from eggs, but Bear believes Fox was telling him the truth. When Fox returns to talk to Bear, readers can see the disheveled look of bear and his house. The illustrations show trash, scattered tools and a shaggy looking Bear. The textures of his fur coat, depicted by lines going every direction, help to add to the idea of Bear being extremely worn out and grumpy. When Bear eventually falls asleep, the egg rolls away down a hill. After Bear and Hare chase the egg, it hits a tree and cracks. While they are chasing the egg, the shapes of the characters from lines leading the readers eyes across the pages, portraying the idea of a fast paced chase happening. When the egg hits the tree, Bear finds out the egg is not actually an egg, but a watermelon. As the bright warm red which makes up the inside of the watermelon spills out, it at first seems sad. However while Bear is sad about not getting a donkey, he realizes he can plant the seeds to grow more watermelons. This optimism and hope for the future is what the color red is portraying. Hare helps Bear plant his fields and when the watermelons are sold, they buy a baby donkey. In seeing this, the reader finds out Fox was for certain, not to be trusted. In a way, person vs person conflict is present between Bear and Fox, however this conflict is not apparent to Bear until the end of the story. This interaction displays the theme of not trusting everyone right away and not taking things at face value. In order to determine if someone is telling the truth, one would have to know more about the situation as well as the person. Thus children learn not to trust everyone they meet, but to look further into situations they may face. In being able to buy the donkey he wanted in the first place, Bear learns the value of hard work. In addition, by taking care of the egg for so long, he learns about perseverance. While the egg may not have turned into a donkey like he had hoped it would, it still played an instrumental role in getting his farm up and working again. Bear transforms from a grumpy, disheveled bear into a bear that knows how to work hard, persevere through challenges and not trust everything people say. Hard work and perseverance are greatly valued in cultures all around the world, and are valuable concepts for children to learn at a young age.

The story also has a unique aspect to the style. It contains “Did you know?” boxes at the bottom of the pages where Bear is talking about the length of time he has been taking care of the egg. These boxes not only give equivalent measures of time to the time Bear talks about, but also provide real-life examples of things which take the same amount of time to occur. This allows children to put an amount of time into perspective and compare it to things they already have a concept of. The story uses the traditional characters of Fox, Hare and Bear to portray the lessons to be learned. Foxes are generally sly, clever characters who often trick others for their own gain. Hare is a fast paced friendly character while Bear is old, lazy and cranky. The way these animals are portrayed in this story stay true to the common ways these animals are depicted in folk literature. The story even points these personality traits out on a page before the book begins. (SAB)

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Phelan, Matt. 2018. Knights vs. Dinosaurs. HarperCollins Publishers. (Greenwillow Books). 160pp. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-268623-7.

    Two common fascinations of children; knights and dinosaurs, collide in this exciting tale of unlikely heroism and action. In the exposition, Sir Eric, one of the knights of King Arthur’s round table, is attending a banquet in Camelot. When he decides to exaggerate his feats by saying he defeated forty dragons, Merlin challenges him to defeat  fearsome lizard in a cave. Eric and three other knights agree to come along on this quest. As they venture into the cave, they read a book and are placed to a new world in which dinosaurs roam the Earth. The new setting of the world in which dinosaurs exist is the antagonist, as the knights are continually challenged this unfamiliar world. This new setting in time presents aspects of a time warp, even though the central part of the plot based on a mythical quest. The main conflict arises as they face a dinosaur for the first time in battle and their encounter does not go as planned. Person versus person conflict arises in the form of knights vs dinosaurs, and continues until the resolution. Another central conflict is the knights against one another. Each knight believes they will be best if they go off on their own. After they encounter more hardships on their own, they reconvene and realize in order to survive, they must work together. The aforementioned theme of teamwork is central to the plot. Once they are back together Mel, whom is the squire of one of the knights, is taken by a flying dinosaur. The knights know they must work together to save her. After saving her, the climax occurs as they go back to the cave they arrived in to find a way to escape. However, they find the path blocked by multiple giant dinosaurs. As the knights fight, Mel has the brilliant idea to use fire to encircle the dinosaurs so they can escape. This illustrates the theme of unlikely characters being heroes. Mel is only a squire, and female as well, but without her the knights would not have escaped. Readers can further their social development skills in learning about teamwork and cooperation along with the knights. The illustrations on a number of pages supplement the sequence of events occurring in the tale. There is a battle with the dinosaurs, which is conveyed through illustrations in a graphic novel type of format. In addition, while the knights are in a lake swimming, a dinosaur comes up from the depths through an illustration, not a written description. This not only makes things easier for young readers to grasp, but it also helps suspend disbelief. The illustrations show events actually happening, which helps readers place the writing into a visual representation of the enchanted world. In addition, disbelief is suspended by having flawed, realistic and relatable characters. None of the characters are perfect, or make all the right decisions. They struggle with cooperation and teamwork. This encourages children to relate to the characters by reflecting on their own behaviors and actions. Disbelief is suspended by using an already established setting: Camelot, with King Arthur and Merlin from the Knights of the Round Table. Readers are introduced to characters they may have been exposed to prior to reading. Also, children learn from a young age dinosaurs were real at one point in time, which furthers the credibility of the plot, conflicts, themes, characters, and setting. (SAB)


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Simler, Isabelle. 2019. Sweet Dreamers. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans books for Young Readers). 80pp. $19.00 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-80-285517-6.

    Animals of all different kinds have unique dreams in this bedtime tale. A habitat is depicted in the following pages present different animals who live in the habitat and what their dreams are like. Cognitive development is promoted as different habitats and animals are categorized into their respective habitat, comparing animals and habitats to one another, as well as learning a little about the characteristics of the animals. In addition, caregivers may read children to sleep at night while simultaneously improving their cognitive development.

    The illustrations are the defining characteristic of the book, instead of reading about the new habitats, the reader is exposed to them., This helps to transport the reader to the new place where the animals live. The background of all the pages is black, most likely to portray the feeling of sleepiness and dreaming. In addition to this, the black allows the other colors to pop. Each page depicts an animal sleeping in its own way as well as where it generally sleeps. These animals are illustrated in bright, warm colors in the case of the red-breasted robin who dreams of spring and the flamingo who dreams in pink. These colors help to portray the positive feelings about the dreams of the two animals. Other animals, like the swallow, are portrayed using primarily cool colors  of blue and grey to depict the skies they fly in. Series of small lines show the texture of fur on the animals as well as in the trees and grass. Lines also show the light across the sky from the moon. (SAB)


Sylvia's Bookshop

Burleigh, Robert. 2018. Sylvia’s Bookshop. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-7245-6. Illustrated by Katy Wu.

A historic bookstore in Paris tells of what it was like to host brilliant writers within her walls and the wonderful worlds and ideas brought to life by books. The simple rhymes and rhythm are appealing to young readers  ears. The rhythm is the key factor propelling the prop. The visual elements help to establish a clear timeline as the plot develops. In one of the first scenes, the bookstore is depicted using dark colors of grey, pink, and brown. These colors suggest the building is old and has been unused for some time. Once the bookstore is open and there is rising action the colors brighten into yellows, blues, and greens conveying a feeling of hope and adventure. The curved lines support the text. It is clear when the plot is coming to a resolution by the way the colors once again change. The colors shift to dusky purples and blues suggesting that the day is over and the bookstore is closing for the night. Even though the colors are dark, the illustrations maintain a sense of adventure yet to come  through curved lines. When Sylvia is sleeping geometric shapes in the final scene grounds the store in reality. The theme of adventure inside a book is obvious to the reader but the idea of the exciting nature of books encourages young readers to continue reader on their own. (ALB)

  Dear Sister

McGhee, Alison. 2018. Dear Sister. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 192pp. $13.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5142-0. Illustrated by Joe Bluh.

A graphic novel, takes the reader into the life of a boy growing up with a little sister. This text does an impressive job of letting the reader into the head of the boy as he grows up. The plot is cleverly designed by starting at age eight and matching the visual elements to the age of the main character. The illustrations are drawn to look like a child drew them with pencil making them relatable to young children. The writing is done in the style of a young child. The pictures and writing are scribled and wobbly and usually look like they are done on scraps of paper. The reader sees the main character grow from a child to an eighteen year old heading off to college. Over this time he learns to love his little sister and appreciate all her quirks and the little things that used to bother him. Setting is used as antagonist. When the main character’s best friend moves to Florida it causes the main character to be upset. It is also used as antagonist when his little sister goes to camp and at the end of the text when he finally goes to college. A relatable story for many kids who have to cope with siblings going away, this story is short enough for young readers to be able to complete in a short time to encourage continued reading. (ALB)

The Little Girl Who Wanted To Be Big

Engledow, Dave. 2018. The Little Girl Who Wanted To Be Big. HarperCollins. 40pp. $17.99.  ISBN 978-0-06-242539-3. Illustrated by Dave, Engledow.

The protagonist desires to be a “big kid”. The exposition features a young girl who wants to be bigger and the plot is moved by conflicts that arise because she is not big enough. These conflicts are solved by the protagonist waking up big. The conflicts are simple and the resolutions do not make sense without the reader being able to see the images accompanying the text. The main feature of the images is the size of the child compared to her surroundings. She is smaller than everything else for the first half of the book and larger than her surroundings for the second half.

This text supports the idea that children will magically be given exactly what they want without any work. It projects an idea that children are incapable, and the upper middle class, white, hetero-normative family image that a majority of children simply do not have. (ALB)


The Curse of the Bully's Wrath

Saldña, René. 2018. The Curse of the Bully’s Wrath. Arte Publico Press. 64pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-55-885866-4.

Bullying is a serious issue and a topic in this text. Arco, shows a slight change in character as he tries to be helpful to a disabled classmate. The book is print twice, once in English and once in Spanish.  The plot is driven by person versus person conflict and there is little resolution leaving readers with an unfinished feeling. Descriptions of most characters and places are vague. (ALB)


The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

Glaser, Karina Yan. 2018. The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-877002-8.

The Vanderbeek's are a mixed race family in Harlem bringing color and diversity to the audience. They live in an urban setting and show readers the struggles that come with living in this setting. The plot moves through several small conflicts. During  the rising action the reader sees the children fight back against a contractor who wants to destroy their community garden. The characters are young (mostly elementary and middle school age) but the reader can see how they develop morally and ethically as they are faced with conflict. This book pushes the general themes of doing what is right and supporting one's family, community, and friends. There are a hand full of small blue-print like drawing throughout the book for the reader to better understand the layout of houses and neighborhoods. This would be a highly enjoyable book for middle school students perfectly suitable for pleasure reading. (ALB)


Love to Everyone

McKay, Hilary. 2018. Love to Everyone. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McEldery Books). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442710-5.

Tenderhearted Clarry is continually unphased by her father’s generally cross nature and spends her days helping their house maid peel potatoes and her older brother, Peter, with his homework. All year Clarry looks forward to summer where she spends a few months with her brother and cousin, Rupert, at their Grandparents’ home in Cornwall. The plot is driven by person versus world conflict due to the outbreak of World War I. This drives Clarry’s desire for knowledge and her pursuit for making the world a better place. This turns in to the main theme of the book. This historical fiction shows its readers how to keep a brave face in times of trial, an increasingly relevant lessons for today’s youth in the face of recurring natural disasters, school shootings, and grief. This book could be used in the classroom when studying World War I or suggested for middle school students for leisure reading. (ALB)


Picturing America

Talbott, Hudson. 2018. Picturing America. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-39-954867-3.

Thomas Cole was a great painter who was able to show what it meant to be an American and what it meant to be human through his work. The exposition of the  biography takes readers through Cole’s youth and reveals his early love of drawing inspiring his life long career. The plot moves through person versus society conflict. For a long time no one would buy Cole’s work and in pursuit of buyers he traveled and pursued more education. The final scenes show the works Cole created as he reflected on his life. This biography featured many of Cole’s pieces as the illustrations which featured landscapes of the American countryside. Overall this biography had quality information. (ALB)


Streetcar to Justice

Hearth, Amy Hill. 2018. Streetcar to Justice. HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 160pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-06-267360-2.

Elizabeth Jennings was an African American woman who lived in New York City in the mid 1800’s. She was a catalyst for African American rights activists. This short biography includes descriptions  of a brutal beating she received when trying to get to church. The plot of this biography is difficult to follow because of the choppy writing style. The rising action is often broken by the addition of other historical facts about slavery and oppression in New York City. This style makes it difficult for the reader to connect to the characters and it becomes difficult to remember why the character is important to history. (ALB)


Ecclesiastes to Everything There is a Season

Rylant, Cynthia. 2018. Ecclesiastes To Everything There Is A Season. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-147654-6.

A Bible verse from the book of Ecclesiastes serves as the  plot. The short phrases on each page allow this book to be read by the youngest readers. Every color from red to black is used throughout this book in pastel tones. Illustrations accompany the text of the bible verse. (ALB)


Burleigh, Robert. 2015. Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-58-089558-3. Illustrated by Wendell, Minor.

Trapped! A Whales Rescue

An informational text about whales. Whales live in the ocean and some of the dangers whales face are topics covered in this book. After the conclusion of the text, the information presented is expanded on and sources are given for further inquiry. This adds to the credibility of the text. The plot is driven by nature versus nature with the whale fighting for survival. The vast range of blues and greens create a realistic depiction of the ocean inviting the reader to join the whale on a journey. Line is used to separate the water from the air above. Appropriate for students in kindergarten through third grade. (ALB)

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue

Seymour, Jeff. 2018. Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-5247-3865-5. Illustrated by Brett Helquist.

Nadya is an orphan who has been brought aboard a cloudship with few possessions and a lot of questions. Life aboard the Orion is unusual, especially when she helps the crew navigate a pirate invasion and later helps rescues  kidnapped crew mates. All this action leaves her with even more questions than before. 

The plot of this story starts by hinting at a deeper and more complex story to come and ends with the reader expecting more stories to come. This is a great hook for junior high aged kids that will help them stay excited about reading. The characters are relatable. As the plot thickens it is heartwarming to follow the characters in their development towards independence, self-reliance, and a mutual trust among friends. The setting is an antagonist that creates conflicts to propel the plot forward. The story is set in the sky over an ocean. This limits supplies and increases the danger for the characters and often the effects of these challenges are seen  in how the characters react to situations. The reader’s point of view is that of Nadya herself. This is important as it gives the reader a look into what it is like to be a leader and Nadya talent of being a skylung. 

There are very few illustrations in the book. From the few included it leaves the reader wanting more. There are some more difficult terms and maneuvers the characters perform which would be difficult for young readers to understand without an illustration to help. There is no color which leaves imagination to the reader. The illustrations are drawn in a whimsical style representing the lack of reality in the story, however, the frequent horizontal and vertical lines give the reader a grounding in reality. Overall, an enthralling adventure book for young readers which will keep them on the hook for many more stories of Nadya to come. (ALB)

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

Serlin, David & Brian Selznick. 2018. Baby Monkey, Private Eye. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-338-18061-9.

Baby Monkey solves cases of missing items for his animal friends and eventually his mom asks him to find her baby. Baby Monkey then goes back to his crib with his mom to go to sleep. The characters are consistent in their behaviors and readers will recognize the repetitive sequence of events as objects are lost and found within 4-5 pages over and over again. The setting is a suspended reality somewhere in an animal world.  The illustrations make this book enjoyable for its readers. There is no color in the majority of the illustrations but this is made up for in shading. The illustrator has given incredible definition, depth, and volume to the images he has created. The images feel semi realistic in their entirety and give the reader a feeling of being grounded with strong vertical lines in several illustrations. The shapes are realistic and organic when appropriate adding to their credibility. This book could be enjoyed by some very young audiences for the illustrations and the simple repetitions. (ALB)


Skeleton Tree

Ventrella, Kim. 2017. Skeleton Tree. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-804270-2.


Stanly Stanwright is looking out the window to the backyard when he sees a skeleton finger sprouting from the earth like a tree. His annoying, but loving sister Miren pleads to be his assistant archeologist to uncover the magically emerging skeleton in this low fantasy motif. Stanly wants to protect his sister from this mysterious skeleton, but later learns that Princy, the skeleton, is like an angel to watch over Miren when she is scared during her persistent hospital visits. Children and the babysitter, Ms. Francine, are the only ones who can see Princy as he dances around and wears ridiculous top hats and clown wigs with the purpose of cheering up Miren who has lung cancer. The skeleton contributes to the solemn mood, when readers’ are challenged to ponder the difficult topics of death, cancer, and divorce. The setting as the antagonist with problems of cancer, financial struggles, and heartache contributes to the themes of the importance of family and helpfulness. These themes are revealed through conflicts between Stanly and his mom caused by the stress of finances, divorce, and Miren’s health. Young readers may develop personally by expressing their emotions and experiencing empathy while learning about challenges of death, cancer, and divorce. (JSC)

The Spinner Prince

Laney, Matt. 2018. The Spinner Prince (Pride Wars). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-870726-0.
In a faraway future on earth, exists  a superior personified cat species with high intelligence. Leo is part of the Singa race, which is superior to the enemy feline race the Maguar. He is an heir to the throne of his people, but hides a secret about a disease known as being a spinner where fictional stories overcome him. He encounters many other earthly battles, but it is the battle to accept who he is that is the most difficult. To Leo’s surprise, being a spinner is actually convient, because his stories produce real beings to help him in his quests. The high fantasy motif with its unrecognizable kingdom, magical beings, dream world, and ghostly figures will have young readers expanding their imaginations and wishing to visit Leo in the future. The fictional stories overcoming Leo are traditional folktales from various cultures such as Korea, Tibet, Ethiopia and India, which show their cultural values and teach young readers lessons of wisdom and bravery. The use of these folktales along with the example of contrasting the Maguar and Singa races, expands Leo’s acceptance for diversity among the pride. Young readers are exposed to values of honesty and identity as Leo searches to accept who he is in the first book of this series. (JSC)


Dog Days in the City

Kendall, Jodi. 2018. Dog Days in the City. HarperCollins. 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-248456-7.

Young readers will relate to the sequel of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City with twelve year-old Josie Shilling and the responsibilities she learns with her pets. She proved her diligent and determined work ethic in the previous story by finding a pig a proper home. In the exposition readers learn that on the curb of her volunteer pet clinic Josie finds seven puppies addressed to her since she is responsible with animals. With a family of seven already, it seems there is too much on the Shilling’s plate; however, the household fosters the puppies until all seven find proper homes in the resolution. The puppies uniting the family conveys the theme of community since many of the siblings are busy working their summer jobs. Another ongoing theme is friendship between Josie and her best friend Lucy as they navigate trying times because of their differences. In the climax, the family’s beloved dog, Sugar, takes her last breath. This brings the family together to show community as they grieve their loss. Young readers will develop personally in their ability to empathize with Josie and her family with the passing of their family pet as well as the struggles of being a young teen to relate to Josie’s obstacles in her friendships. Readers will turn the last pages with smiles on their faces as they may have hypothesized in the dénouement that Josie and her family bought the final seventh puppy of the litter. Josie learns she can create new memories with this youthful new family puppy, but can also cherish the memories the family formed with their beloved dog, Sugar. (JSC)


Over on a Desert: Somewhere in the World

Berkes, Marianne. 2018. Over on a Desert: Somewhere in the World. Dawn Publications. 18pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-58-469630-8. Illustrated by Jill Dubin.

Young readers may feel inclined to tap their toes to this narrative of desert animals around the world with its bouncy rhythm and rhyme. The rhyme paired with the illustrations encourages readers to learn their numbers up to ten as the animals and their families continue  their daily routines of sniffing as a dingo, digging as an armadillo, and even hiding as a tortoise. All these desert animals obey their parents in performing these daily actions, which sets a good example for the young readers to respect their elders while they develop socially. The warm reds and oranges support the setting of the temperature in the desert. Additionally, the layered textures with hidden animal friends show the diversity of critters as well as plants in the desert ecosystem. These personified desert animals will also expand the imaginations of young readers as they sing along to the playful rhythms. (JSC)


Who Will I Be?

Huntsman, Abby. 2018. Who Will I Be? HarperCollins. 32pp. $23.99. ISBN 978-0-06-284004-2. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.

With a charming inspirational message young readers will yearn to make their communities a better place, just like Isabel. In the exposition when her teacher asks the class who they want to be when they grow up, Isabel does not know. Her father encourages her to discover more about herself as they peruse the town to observe many workers. Young readers will be inspired to develop their identity and values when Isabel learns she wants to help people once she is grown up. While reading, children will be encouraged by the themes of community and identity because of Isabel’s vocational calling as she realizes who she is. Isabel is the only character to wear vibrant red, which portrays the discovery of her passion to help people around her. The use of a sketched texture shows the simplicity of realizing the call to support the people in her community, and that every individual can help; even if they are as small as Isabel. (JSC)


Nate Expectations

Federle, Tim. 2018. Nate Expectations. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 256pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-140412-9.

After Nate Foster’s Broadway show was canceled, he had to travel back to his home of Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where the horror of high school awaited him in this whimsical contemporary realistic fiction novel; the final book of Federle’s trilogy. In the exposition Nate commits to writing and directing a musical in his English class, a risky move for his first day of high school. He builds many friendships as the musical progresses but high school life is not  easy for Nate. He overcomes many challenges including troubles with his family, puberty, and hiding that he is gay. Developing readers will relate to Nate as he learns how to conquer this multitude of challenges, and readers will experience empathy. The style of writing supports the contemporary realistic fiction text with its casual dialogue and humorous interjections narrated by Nate. Nate is a modern character because he references popular culture, and uses current technology  including frequent social media and texting breaks throughout, young teen readers will relate to Nate for this reason. Other themes include identity because Nate is learning to become confident in who he is as a gay teenager before he coming out to his parents. Readers may reflect on their identities as Nate’s character unfolds. (JSC)


Bluecrowne: A greenglass house story

Milford, Kate. 2018. Bluecrowne: A Greenglass House Story. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 272pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-846688-4.

This hybrid between fantasy and historical fiction will have young readers expanding their imaginations into a world of time travel and trouble.  It is 1810 and Lucy Bluecrowne is the daughter of a skilled sailor, with a compassionate stepmother from China who is immortal, and half brother with an itch to play with fire. In the exposition the Bluecrowne family moves to try to start a normal life on land. Lucy is heartbroken because she basks in every moment living at sea with her family. One benefit of moving to land is that Lucy’s seven-year-old brother, Liao, is able to play with fire more easily and safely than on the boat. Person versus person conflict begins to brew when the omniscient point of view shares time traveling strangers are suspiciously interested in Liao and his skills. Liao’s pyrotechnical skills in addition to Lucy’s privateer skills showcase the theme of unique talent in this novel. The handful of black and white cross-hatched illustrations portray the time period, while the geometric shapes such as the triangular trees show the novel is written with a fantasy motif. The style of Old English writing also accentuates the time period so the reader feels immersed in the 1800’s. In the climax the strangers kidnap Liao, then Lucy with the help of her immortal stepmother rescue him from their grasp. However, in the midst of this chaos the stepmother is struck with a firework and blown out of her body. Young readers will empathize with Lucy and Liao, for the loss of their mother. After finishing this hybrid fantasy, developing readers will also be motivated to grow in their unique talents so one day they would be able to fight off time traveling strangers too. (JSC)


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Levine, Kristin. 2018. The Jigsaw Jungle. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers). 368pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-39-917452-0.

Twelve-year old Claudia Dalton will have developing readers turning pages as fast as they can to discover why her father abandoned his family in this realistic contemporary fiction mystery. In the exposition, the father who was always loving, creative, and caring does not return home after work, and Claudia and her mom start to panic. After his absence stretches to a week her father begins to leave Claudia clues of why he has left. Then in the climax Claudia learns her father has been hiding he is gay. Developing readers will learn how to empathize with Claudia as she is going through this trying time to accept her father for who he is even though he has been lying about his identity for years. Readers will also relate to how Claudia interacts with her friends in healthy ways, and learn how to solve relational conflicts such as when her friend is upset about having a new baby sister. The overarching theme of forgiveness by accepting her father through all the hurt he has caused the family will inspire readers. The scrapbook style of the text, by piecing clues together supports the puzzle theme as well. This style is shown through movie ticket stubs, text messages, voice recordings and more. Readers will understand the metaphor of puzzles in the telling of Claudia’s journey by her explanation that some puzzles get mixed together, for instance the complicated lives of her mother and father. (JSC)


Among the Red Stars

Katz, Gwen C. 2017. Among the Red Stars. HarperCollins (HarperTeen). 389pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-264274-5.

Teen readers can learn about World War II through the eyes of Soviet Union soldiers. The protagonist, Valka, is a young woman who becomes part of the Soviet Union’s 588th regiment of night bombers. The exposition opens by sharing real events from the Rodina, a plane flown by three women pilots who broke distance records. The majority of the novel is historically accurate and based off of real people and events. In the rising action Valka’s softhearted best friend, Pasha, is drafted to fight for the Soviets. He and Valka continue to write letters to one another building up to the climax when Valka flies in to rescue Pasha after he was separated from his regiment. Valka and Pasha’s romance contributes to the theme of perseverance, because there were many close calls with death but both characters pushed through with consistent thoughts of being reunited one day. Another theme is color supported by Pasha’s description of characters’ voices, gunshots, and even animals walking on snow all described by vivid colors of muted greens, piercing yellows, and more. The person versus society conflict will motivate readers as Valka reaches new heights in women’s rights during the 1940’s. (JSC)


The Golden Thread

Meloy, Colin. 2018. The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236825-6. Illustrated by Nikki McClure.

This poetic biography celebrating the life of Pete Seeger informs readers of his hardships, such as being blacklisted, as well as shares his great accomplishments influencing Americans in the civil rights movement. Pete was born and raised a musician and pacifist, so when World War II began, he did not physically fight but chose to inspire Americans with his song lyrics. The illustrations are all black and white with accents of gold. These golden ribbons flowing from page to page have Pete’s song lyrics on them, and show the impact he made on American history. The golden thread represents how music connects  people and helps them understand one another. The golden lines are wavy which show movement, specifically how Americans were moved and continued to be inspired by Pete’s music today. As they read, youngsters will be able to understand the values and impacts of music, especially in difficult times, such as war. (JSC)


Look at Me! How to Attract Attention in the Animal World

Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page. 2018. Look at Me! How to Attract Attention in the Animal World. HarperCollins. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-493553-2.

From the realistic illustrations to sharing facts about unique animals around the world, young readers will enjoy this informational text time and time again. The introduction opens by sharing why some animals need to stand out, instead of blending in, which includes warning predators, luring in prey, and mating. Each page has a theme that shares similar characteristics between the organisms, so children will grow in their ability to compare and contrast these special traits. Vibrant colors of red and blue hues engage the readers visually. This informational text  has additional details about the organisms as well as resources for learning more about these animals. Young readers will continue to pick up this text repeatedly and will learn new facts every time. (JSC)


The Hyena Scientist

Montgomery, Sy. 2018. The Hyena Scientist. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 80pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-54-463511-1. Photographs by Nic Bishop.

 The photographs in this informational text enhance the reader's understanding of how hyenas have been misunderstood by popular culture references such as The Lion King. Zoologist Kay Holekamp shares her research of how incredible and intelligent hyenas really are. The table of contents, fast fact section, and index all add to the trustworthiness of this informational text. Readers will likely change their perspective of hyenas and will grow to appreciate these misunderstood animals after opening their eyes to the fascinating lifestyles and behaviors of hyenas . One example of a unique behavior is their greeting of lifting a leg to each other to say hello. Facts such as these will have young readers comparing human behaviors like handshakes to mannerisms such as the hyena leg lift. This informational text will leave young readers with an urge to continue learning unique characteristics about hyenas and other animals. (JSC)


The Forest Queen

Cornwell, Betsy. 2018. The Forest Queen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 304pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-847676-0.

The young Lady Loughsley, Sylviana, finds herself torn between two worlds when her brother promises her hand in marriage to a lord from another village. Sylviana wants to flee to the woods to escape the cruelty of her brother and the confines of her home, but wonders if she could even survive and knows she will miss the comforts of Loughsley Abbey. When Sylviana’s lifelong friend, Bird, promises to run away with her, she agrees. Though happy with her decision, Sylviana worries if they will survive the winter. The setting acts as the antagonist during the winter season with freezing weather and  a scarcity of food. Beyond trying to survive the winter, Sylviana battles herself in trying to find her identity. As more and more people join Sylviana and Bird in the forest to escape the oppressive laws of the feudal system, Sylviana becomes a natural leader. She wonders if people look to her guidance because they are recognizing the title she gave up or if she has really earned their trust and support. As Sylviana battles her nature, her title, her feelings for Bird, and her oppressive brother, she faces conflicts in herself, nature and others. This twist on the classic Robin Hood tale will resonate in readers with current political undertones and a fiery feminist energy. (KAC)


The girl in the locked room

Downing Hahn, Mary. 2018. The Girl in the Locked Room. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 200pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-885092-8.

Lily died centuries ago, but does not know she is dead. She has spent what feels like an eternity in a locked room, waiting for her release. Lily cannot remember her parents, her life, or even her name. All she does is sit and wait. She is always tired, but cannot sleep. The house ages and it is overgrown with vines. Jules’s father restores houses. His newest project is the house where Lily onced lived and is still haunting, but no one knows he is there. Jules and her family live in an addition behind the old house. Jules can see Lily, but no one believes her. One day, when Jules is out exploring she finds an old key. Jules’s instincts tell her the key is to Lily’s room and she needs to let her out. The only problem is the old house is so worn down, Jules’s father forbade her from entering it. Jules must battle her own fears of ghosts in this person versus person conflict, as well as her parents rules in a person versus person conflict. The setting of the old and worn down house creates a mood which makes for a suspenseful story. (KAC)


Bookjoy Wordjoy

Mora, Pat. 2018. Bookjoy Wordjoy. Lee and Low Books. 32pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014286-8. Illustrated by Raul Colón.

In this collection of poetry, readers discover the joy of books and words. Pat Mora writes about her love of words. Mora describes “bookjoy” as the excitement of reading and “wordjoy” as the fun of playing with words and writing. Some writing includes rhyming assonance and consonance in different patterns while others include alliteration or simply have a sense of rhythm. Poems vary in style and topic, but the central theme of the collection is Mora’s love of writing. From fireflies to libraries, each poem has a nostalgic and happy attitude. Illustrations explore the use of light from sunshine to reading lamps to stars. Colors are predominantly yellow-toned and warm to amplify the joyous content of the writing. Other colors used are the deep greens and blues of the natural world. Some poems contain a few Spanish words and phrases, but poems are predominantly English. Bilingual readers or those looking to expand their Spanish skills will enjoy the culture radiating from the writing. (KAC)


Saving Winslow

Creech, Sharon. 2018. Saving Winslow. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 176pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-257070-3. Illustrated by Vincent Moustache.

When it comes to taking care of animals, Louie just cannot seem to get it right. A slew of small creatures including worms, fireflies, cats and birds have either died in his care or escaped. So, when Louie’s father comes home with a sick donkey foal, he feels compelled to save it. From the exposition, when everyone else is certain it will die, Louie does all he can to save the little creature he names Winslow. Though faced with many challenges and naysayers , Louie and his friend Nora battle it all to save the little donkey. The heart-warming story will inspire readers with themes of perseverance and love. (KAC)


The Day You Begin/El Día En Que Descubres Quién Eres

Woodson, Jacqueline. 2018. The Day You Begin/El Día En Que Descubres Quién Eres. Penguin Random House LLC. 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-39-924653-1. Illustrated by Rafael López.

The Day You Begin and the Spanish counterpart is targeted towards students who might be the minority in their school settings. The subject matter discussed in the text is the challenges that come with being part of a minority group  in a school setting but, how all this makes them brave. All this is done in a meaningful and approachable way. Colors of cool gray and blue are used to convey a feeling of being alone. Towards the end warm tones of yellow show a change in how the characters feel. The Spanish translations from English are not word for word translations, but the plot  holds its meaning in both languages. The text seems more meaningful since the translations are not exact because colloquialisms and language specific phrasings shine through and keep the material authentic in either language. This story is a heart-warming read which could prove to be a great asset to a student who may be from a minority culture or another country. (KAC)


Elephant Secret

Walters, Eric. 2018. Elephant Secret. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-879617-2.

Sam has grown up with a big family: one dad, and eleven siblings: all elephants. Born and raised on an elephant sanctuary, Sam knows the thoughts and feelings of her elephant siblings. Her first word was not “Dad”but “Ella which is what Sam called elephants when she was younger. Sam actually prefers  elephants to some people, such as her dad’s girlfriend. Still, all seems well for Sam and her unconventional family. The setting is serene and warm. A new arrival to the sanctuary, a baby elephant, becomes  hard work for Sam. This new baby has a secret, which could threaten the whole herd. Readers will enjoy this text with unexpected science fiction elements and a shocking twist. They will race through the pages to the unexpected denouement. (KAC)


Gone to Drift

McCaulay, Diana. 2018. Gone To Drift. HarperCollins. 266pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-267296-4.

Lloyd always loved the sea. Coming from a long line of Jamaican fishermen, Lloyd is the most at home on the Caribbean sea with his grandfather, Maas Conrad. When his grandfather does not return from a fishing trip on time, Lloyd is sure something unfortunate has happened to him. The reader gets a unique viewpoint of the story as Maas Conrad’s thoughts are shared sparingly throughout the novel. Jamaican colloquialisms in dialogue helps set the setting. The sea which had once been a safe place for Lloyd, quickly becomes the antagonist as he realizes the dangers of the sea and some of the people who use it. The terrors Lloyd discovers are based off real life issues with the ocean and its uses. Readers get a glimpse in to Jamaican culture and the life of a fishing family. Dedicated to the Caribbean Sea, Gone to Drift presents readers with a heart-wrenching story and an awareness of social issues surrounding fishing culture. (KAC)

The Season of Rebels and Roses

Sanchez-Korrol, Virginia. 2018. The Season of Rebels and Roses. Pinata Books. 248pp. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-55-885865-7.

Set in late nineteenth century Puerto Rico, readers go back to the time of Puerto Rico’s fight for independence from Spain. This historical fiction text  focuses on the role of women in the struggle for liberation. The setting acts as historical background as well as the antagonist. The main conflicts in the plot are centered around racism, sexism, and independence. This text provides readers with insight into an often overlooked historical event while providing an entertaining narrative of rebel women and their part in the struggle for liberation. (KAC)


Drummer Boy of John John

Greenwood, Mark. 2012. Drummer Boy of John John. Lee & Low Books. 40pp. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014806-8. Illustrated by Frané Lessac.

When the Roti King promises free rotis (folded pancakes with chicken and spices) for the best band in in the Carnival parade, young Winston wishes he could be in a band. Winston’s love for music, and rotis, leads him to create a youth band for the parade using items found in the junkyard as instruments. The kids practiced every day, motivated by the idea of free rotis. This story is inspired Winston “Spree” Simon, who was a pioneer of the steel drums. Born in a poor district of Trinidad, Winston’s neighborhood was surrounded by factories that made all sorts of products  stored in steel containers. The illustrations provide insight into the village of John John would have been like. While Winston Simon is well worth reading about, the story is highly embellished to make it appealing to children and not factually accurate. Winston Simon did not win free rotis for being in the best band at Carnival, but he is an important figure in the history of music. Though this biography is not entirely accurate, it is still enjoyable. (KAC)


The Spirit of Cattail County

Piontek, Victoria. 2018. The Spirit of Cattail County. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Trade Publishing). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-816705-4.

Sparrow Dalton has no friends. Well, no friends anyone else can see. Through her whole life, there has been the Boy. He cannot speak, but he looks like life. Always there to keep Sparrow company, the Boy helps Sparrow deal with the loss of her mother. Left with her stuck-up Aunt Geraldine, who plans to sell the family house, Sparrow goes on an amazing journey of discovery. Mysteries of her once familiar southern home unfold as Sparrow tries to save her home, reconnect with her mother’s spirit, and find the true identity of the Boy. Eloquent prose mixed with southern dialect and colloquialisms take readers deep into the heart of Cattail County where themes of life, love, and loss pull the plot to a surprising denouement. Follow Sparrow through a season of mourning and growth, and see how the Boy, and other surprising people, help her heal. (KAC)


Paul writes a letter

Raschka, Chris. 2018. Paul Writes A Letter. W.m. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-80-285494-0.

Spread with warm-toned watercolor drawings, Saint Paul’s letters are presented  in a unique way. Biblical writings from the books of Paul, Galatians, II Corinthians and more are accompanied by simple drawings of trees, birds, and cities. The letters of Paul are transformed by Raschka into approachable and understandable language while retaining their original morals and teachings. The muted tones of blue, red, and sandy yellow make the illustrations seem old, like the text. The words themselves are an integral part of the illustrations, causing the drawings to deeply enhance the text. Raschka, a two-time Caldecott medal winner and deeply religious man, uses his own passions to make biblical teachings accessible to young readers. While some bias may be present in the text, Raschka acknowledges his own bias and gives readers the agency to believe him or not. (KAC)


Welcome, Wambat

Einhorn, Kama. 2018. Welcome, Wombat. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-32-876702-8. Photographs by Phil Melzer, Donna Stephan, and Jacky Ling.

Native to Australia, wombats are curious creatures. Unfortunately, cars hit or injure many of them, making it unsafe for wombats to remain in the wild. Kama Einhorn writes about the operators of Sleepy Burrows, a wombat sanctuary. Focusing on the four Rs of a wildlife sanctuary, readers learn about the process of rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and release. Readers learn about wombats through the narrator, Chance, a two year old wombat who lives in the sanctuary. Pictures enhance the text by showing readers exactly what a wombat looks like and what happens in the sanctuary. Captions to photographs help clearly explain what is happening in simple and understandable terms. First hand accounts from the sanctuary operators guarantee the information is authentic. Readers are introduced to a lesser known creature in an engaging yet informative way. (KAC)



Draper, Sharon M. 2018. Blended. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-44-249500-5.

11-year-old Isabella (or Izzy) is the biracial daughter of a white mother and black father who moves from one parent to the other every Sunday, a situation Izzy hates. She feels as if she is two different people - her mom’s Izzy and her dad’s Isabella. Izzy as she struggles to determine her racial identity while also dealing with the racism present in her own school after a noose is left in her friend’s locker. Although slow-paced at times, the story is engaging and readers will experience Izzy’s emotional highs and lows as she sorts through her feelings on the painful dynamics of racism and her difficult family life. Blended is realistic in portraying the interactions between a middle school girl, her struggles with identity, and her friends and family. (AMC)


Meet Miss Fancy

Latham, Irene. 2019. Meet Miss Fancy. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-39-954668-6. Illustrated by John Holyfield.

Frank is a young black boy who desperately wants to meet his favorite animal, an elephant. Frank’s school raises money to bring Miss Fancy, a retired circus elephant, to Avondale Park, but segregation laws prohibit him from entering. Frank, determined to meet Miss Fancy, writes a letter to the City Commission asking for permission for his church to host a picnic in the park. His request is granted, but the day before the picnic, the City Commission reverses its decision. One day when Miss Fancy escapes from the park, it is up to Frank to return her safely. 

Cool colors such as blues and greys convey a sad mood when the reader learns Frank is not allowed in Avondale Park, because of his race. Curved lines illustrate the uncertainty felt when it is unknown if Frank will ever be allowed to meet Miss Fancy. Warm colors such as red and yellow were used to illustrate high energy when Miss Fancy escaped from the park. The theme of perseverance is seen throughout the plot when Frank refuses to give up on his dream despite opposition from a racist society. (AMC)


Smiley’s Dream Book

Smith, Jeff. 2018. Smiley’s Dream Book. Scholastic Inc. (Graphix) 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-567477-5. Illustrated by Jeff Smith.

Smiley decides to go for a walk on a beautiful day in the woods where he listens to singing birds. He wonders how many birds there are and begins to count them. When he counts to seven, he begins to fly with the birds. He counts to 12 and sees there are still more birds, so he decides to stop counting. Smiley is flying happily alongside the birds when suddenly a hawk appears and attacks the birds. Thankfully, Smiley is there to protect them from harm. He counts the birds again, but this time backwards from 10. Once reaches the number one, he is shown  asleep underneath a tree. He wakes up and realizes it was all a dream. This unique book uses bubbles for dialogue. Pastel colors such as blues, purples and greens show the calming nature of flying next to singing birds. Lines show the movement of flying and floating in the air and create a soft texture on the birds’ wings. Young readers aged 3-5 will experience cognitive development as they help Smiley count the songbirds. (AMC)


Bim, Bam, Bop...and Oona.

Briggs Martin, Jacqueline. 2019. Bim, Bam, Bop...and Oona. University of Minnesota Press. 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-51-790395-4. Illustrated by Larry Day.

Everyday Bim, Bam, Bop go the pond and Oona is always the last duck to arrive. Oona has legs for waddling, not running like Bim, Bam, and Bop. Oona confides in her friend Roy and says being last is a blot on her life and she does not feel as a big as a duck should feel. Roy tells her she is plenty big and she is good with gizmos. Readers follow Oona as she works to create gizmos to help her be the first duck to arrive at the pond. Readers must pay careful attention to the illustrations in order to follow the plot and identify minor characters Lines create a soft texture on the ducks, the trees, and rippling water as the ducks swim. Geometric shapes represent the artificial nature of Oona’s gizmos in comparison to the organic shapes featured in the landscape. Rhymes such as “sound sleep, deep, deep, counted sheep” as well as repetition make the text easy to read. Onomatopoeia words such as, “Ooo-hoolie-hoo” make the text engaging for young readers as they learn the value of embracing their flaws and transforming them into unique strengths. (AMC)


Zoogie Boogie Fever: An Animal Dance Book

Rim, Sujean. 2018. Zoogie Boogie Fever: An Animal Dance Book. Scholastic Inc (Orchard Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-590005-8. Illustrated by Sujean Rim.

What do zoo animals do at night after the zoo closes and all the people are gone? They boogie all night. Before they can begin the dance party, the giraffes ensure there are no people around and proceed to signal the elephants once the coast is clear. The elephants cue the monkeys, who alert the birds, who then let all the zoo animals know it is time to zoogie boogie. Conflict arises when the zookeeper reappears unexpectedly. After almost being caught, they wonder if they should be less wild. Ultimately, the animals decide to continue dancing until dawn just like they have always done. Vibrant pinks, purples, and yellows illustrate the high energy scenes of the animals dancing. Various shades of a single color create texture in the animals. Lines represent the movement of the animals jumping and dancing. Geometric shapes convey the artificial nature of the zoo, which contrasts with the organic shapes of the animals. This picture storybook is easy to read with a single sentence on most pages and rhyming phrases such as, “But they can’t stop moving...just look at them grooving.” Readers ages 2-7 will enjoy the humorous nature of turtles wearing hats and bears in skirts dancing after the zoo closes. (AMC)


Dactyl Hill Squad.

Older, Daniel José. 2018. Dactyl Hill Squad. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-826881-2.

The year is 1863 and the Civil War is ongoing as dinosaurs roam the streets. Magdalys Roca, an independent Cuban orphan and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum must escape New York City when the evil magistrate and leader of the Kidnapping Club, Richard Riker, burns down the Colored Orphan Asylum and riots break out. Magdalys and the other orphans escape to the Dactyl Hill community in Brooklyn where they join the Vigilance Committee, a group of people assisting slaves in escaping to the north and stopping the Kidnapping Club from selling people of color to the south. Magdalys discovers she has a secret talent; she can communicate with dinosaurs through her thoughts. However, despite her talent, she still has to learn to be a team player to take down the Kidnapping Club.  Real cities and historical events allow readers to suspend their disbelief. The struggles and emotions Magdalys experiences in her transformation from a lone wolf to a team player allows readers to relate to her experiences contribute to the readers suspending disbelief. Themes of friendship and teamwork are prevalent as the reader watches the orphans learn to trust each other and work together to defeat a common enemy. (AMC)


A Moon for Moe and Mo

Zalben, Jane Breskin. 2018. A Moon for Moe and Mo. Charlesbridge. 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-58-0-89727-3. Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini.

Moe is Jewish and Mo is Muslim. One day, the boys meet in a store and quickly become friends. They play and eat together while their mothers shop. When it is time to leave, the boys say they will see each other again soon, but it is weeks before they meet again. Eventually, their mothers bring them to the park and the boys race off to the playground together. Their mothers panic when the playground gets crowded and they cannot find their sons, and eventually find Moe and Mo digging in the sand. The mothers become friends and agree to allow the boys to have a picnic in the park. The families wish peace in their own languages. The story concludes with Moe looking out at the moon and wishing Mo a blessed Ramadan and Mo also looking out into the night and wishing Moe a happy new year. Dark blues, greens, and purples illustrate the calmness of the night. Vibrant oranges and reds show the high energy present in the park. Geometric shapes show the artificial nature of the buildings, while organic shapes represent the landscape. Lines create texture on plants and animals. The unique style of this book includes both photographs and drawings in the illustrations. Hebrew and Arabic words show these two families of different backgrounds can still be friends and celebrate holidays together (AMC).


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Bajaj, Varsha. 2019. The Home Builders. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-39-916685-3. Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani.

The home builders live in and around the forest. They are beavers, turtles, birds, a fox, and a deer. The plot follows the animals as they prepare homes for their babies. When the babies arrive, “Hatchlings go forth,/ fox cubs nuzzle,/beaver kits swim,/ owlets huddle.” The babies, like their parents, learn to work and play before going to sleep in their homes. The unique style uses an abcb rhyme pattern to propel the sequence of events of animals building homes for their babies. Cool pastel blues, greens, and browns develop a calm mood while bright oranges, greens, and browns illustrate the hustle and bustle of animals creating new homes. Lines create texture on the animals while multiple shades of a color give the animals’ habitats texture. Readers ages 3-7 will enjoy learning the various ways in which animals shelter their young. (AMC)


Stand on the Sky

Bow, Erin. 2019. Stand on the Sky. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-855746-9.

When Aisulu’s brother, Serik breaks his femur on a trip in the Mongolian countryside, her life is changed. Serik’s injury causes their parents to take him to the hospital over 100 miles away in Ulaanbaatar where his leg is amputated, leaving Aisulu behind with her uncle and aunt. Conflict occurs when Aisulu’s father informs her they will have to sell their ger (yurt) and herds, so they can live near the hospital and buy Serik a prosthetic leg. Aisulu, who has just rescued a weak and starving eaglet, is determined to save and train it, in order to win the prize money at the eagle festival in Ulaanbaatar. In Kazakh culture, girls are not burkitshi, which translates to eagle hunters. Readers follow Aisulu as she learns to rise above society’s limitations placed on her gender with support from her aunt, who accepts her for who she is. The unique style uses Kazakh and Arabic words and phrases, as they relate to the life of Kazakh nomads in Mongolia. The theme of family is evident as Aisulu seeks to save her family’s nomadic lifestyle and as she leans on her aunt and uncle for support while she trains her eagle. (AMC)


Poison in the Colony: James Town 1622

Carbone, Elisa. 2019. Poison in the Colony: James Town 1622. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 320 PP. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-42-529183-2.

Virginia Laydon lives in colonial James Town and has a unique gift; she has premonitions. Her gift is dangerous, as her grandmother, who also had this gift, was executed after being found guilty of witchcraft. When Virginia’s mother discovers Virginia’s gift, she tries to kill her daughter. Virginia survives the attempt on her life, but her mother informs her she must get rid of her gift or she will be killed. Virginia attempts to get rid of her gift and it begins to disappear. However, one day Virginia has a feeling the colony is going to be poisoned and must decide whether to tell or not.  Virginia overcomes her fear of retribution for using her gift to risk her life to save the colony. Trust is a recurring theme as Virginia learns to trust herself as well as her mother when trying to alert the colony to the possibility of being poisoned. There are some historical inaccuracies, as the Colonists are portrayed as being kind and eager to get along, while the Algonquian people are portrayed as wanting conflict. Additionally, the colonists’ negative views on slavery reflect those of the modern day rather than those of people in 1622. (AMC)


The Frog Book

Jenkins, Steve and Page, Robin. 2019. The Frog Book. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-438760-7. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins.

Frogs are amphibious creatures of land and water. They have lived on Earth for millions of years and can be found on almost every continent. In this informational text, readers will learn what a frog is, the difference between frogs and toads, and how a tadpole develops. Detailed color illustrations of various frogs species use the art of collage to create realistic textures. The greens, browns, oranges, and yellows accurately capture the appearance of each frog. A table providing information about the length, diet, and geographic location of each frog mentioned is located in the back of the book, as well as additional print and online resources for learning about frogs and toads. There is a lot of text on each page and the font is small, which may make it difficult for young readers to read independently. (AMC)


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Leggett Abouraya, Karen. 2019. Malala Yousafzi: Warrior with Words. Lee & Low Books Inc. 36pp. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-799-3. Illustrated by Susan L. Roth.

Leggett Abouraya, Karen. 2019. Malala Yousafzi: Guerrera con Palabras. Lee & Low Books Inc. 36pp. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-800-6. Illustrated by Susan L. Roth.

Malala Yousafzi was born and raised in Mingora, Pakistan, which became the center of a war between Pakistan and the Taliban in 2007. The Taliban forbade girls from getting an education, which prompted Malala to begin writing a blog under a pseudonym to speak of the difficulties of life under Taliban rule. In 2012, Malala was shot in the head on the school bus by a member of the Taliban. Only nine months after she was shot, she spoke before the United Nations. She has since continued to advocate for an education for every child and is the youngest person to receive a Nobel Prize. Although there are gaps in the sequence of events in Malala’s life, the content of the text is factual. Collages and photographs complement the text. Malala is easily identifiable in the illustrations, as she is shown wearing her favorite color, pink, throughout the text. A map of Pakistan and more information on the Taliban at the back of the book. Both primary and secondary sources are cited at the end of the book. The Spanish version has an error in syntax on page 14, but is otherwise accurately translated. (AMC)


The Language of Spells

Weyr, Garrett. 2018. The Language of Spells. Chronicle Books. 256pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-45-215958-4. Illustrated by Katie Harnett.

In a world where magic and dragons have been all but forgotten, a seemingly ordinary eleven year old girl named Maggie makes friends with a very special dragon named Grisha. Magic chooses  these characters to embark on a quest to find all the dragons who went missing during the outbreak of World War II. This journey includes themes of magic, friendship, and remembering what has been forgotten. The illustrations are in black and white but still give off a magical feeling with many twisting lines and unique patterns around the borders. As the unlikely friends solve riddles and face magical dangers throughout the text, they form a special bond and are able to find and awaken the missing dragons, restoring them to their former glory. (EMC)


Flashback Four: The Pompeii Disaster

Gutman, Dan. 2018. Flashback Four: The Pompeii Disaster. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 256pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-237444-8.

Four friends named Luke, Julia, David, and Isabel, who are  known as “The Flashback Four” are sent back in time to 79 AD  to photograph the Roman city of Pompeii during the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The book includes themes of friendship, courage, historical events, and time travel. The friends deal with conflicts where they must escape being trapped under the lava of Mount Vesuvius while still obtaining a photograph of the deadly event. The pictures in the book are unique because they include real photographs of the event and are incorporated smoothly into the storyline. This story is an engaging way for children to learn and experience the famous disaster of Pompeii. (EMC)


Sometimes you fly

Applegate, Katherine. 2018. Sometimes You Fly. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-54-763390-9. Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt.

The successes and failures of adolescence are explored. With themes of growth, childhood, and overcoming obstacles, this book is meant to be read at a time when someone wants to gain encouragement through difficulty, or look forward to future successes. The rhyme scheme, as well as the repetition of the word “before” throughout the entirety of the text, gives it a poetic rhythm. The bright, happy, childlike illustrations exemplify the themes by showing the successes, failures, and milestones of the children throughout the book. A great read at multiple ages. (EMC)


King of the Bench: Comeback Kid

Moore, Steve. 2018. King of the Bench: Comeback Kid. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 192pp. $13.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-220336-6.

Steve and his athletically challenged best friends decide to join the Mighty Plumbers basketball team. With themes of sports, friendship, humor, and bullying,  children will be engaged and learn it’s okay to not always be the star of the team. Though Steve spends most of his time on the bench instead of on the court, he is not discouraged, because he helps his team by performing a top-secret ritual right from his acclaimed spot on the bench. Though he may be less than stellar on the field, Steve has earned his title of “King of the Bench” and wears it proudly. (EMC)


The Fishing Lesson

Böll, Heinrich. 2018. The Fishing Lesson. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 44pp. $17.00 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-80-285503-9. Illustrated by Emile Bravo.

When a tourist encounters a sleeping angler, he questions him about his plans for fishing since it is such a beautiful day. The angler argues that he has already gone out and caught what he needed in the morning and is not planning on going out to fish  again. The tourist is surprised and insists that the angler could be more successful if he went out again and continued to fish throughout the day. Themes of hard work and success are revealed as the tourist talks about all the fisherman could have if he kept fishing during the day. Line us used along with shading to show depth and texture. When the tourist and angler are talking, the illustrations are in comic strip form. The pictures which show what the tourist is imagining throughout the story. In the dénouement, the fisherman integrates the theme of contentment when he ignores the tourist's suggestions and argues he was happy enough sleeping and enjoying the view before the tourist came along. (EMC)


If This Were a Story

Turley, Beth. 2018. If This Were a Story. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 256pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-53-442061-8.

Ten-year-old Hannah wrestles with the ups and downs of peer relationships, growing up, and bullying while she is in  fifth-grade. These themes included are friendship and imagination. Her coping mechanisms to deal with challenges consist of focusing on her love of long, frivolous words, imagining what her life would be like if it were an elaborate story, and making inanimate objects, such as her stuffed elephant, come to life. The repetition of the phrase “If this were a story” throughout the book whenever Hannah had thoughts of wanting her life to be something other than it is and establishes a common theme and rhythm in the text. She follows this theme throughout as well as comparing her life events to a dramatic structure as well. Though the protagonist is consistently melancholy throughout the text , she learns coping mechanisms and happiness with the help of her friends and family. (EMC)


Dream Country

Gibney, Shannon. 2018. Dream Country. Penguin Random House LLC (Dutton Books). 368pp. $17.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-73-523167-2.

Themes of family, strength, diversity, power, and perseverance over five generations dominate.Spanning two hundred years and two countries, the plot has many instances of setting as historical context and setting as mood. The plot begins with a dealer teenager named Kollie who lives in an area of Minneapolis where cultural tensions are high between African Americans and Liberians. An additional element of tension is queerness as Kollie’s sister, Angel, deals with judgment and oppression because of her sexuality in 2018 Minneapolis. The rising action and climaxes of each narrative deal with racial issues and the circumstances or consequences of slavery. The second narrative is about Togor, an 18-year-old boy living in 1926 Liberia who must flee Congo soldiers who would capture him and make him a slave. The third narrative describes a family who moves from Norfolk, Virginia in 1827 to Monrovia, Liberia to escape slavery. The fourth narrative, which occurs before the concluding story about Kollie’s sister Angel, is about lovers Ujay and Evelyn who must endure Liberia’s revolution in 1980. Spanning from historical fiction to modern fiction, this text  encompasses elements of both genres in a captivating journey which effectively relates racial and social themes throughout each story. (EMC)


The Length of String

Brent Weissman, Elissa. 2018. The Length of a String. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 384pp. $17.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-73-522947-1.

Imani is a young Jewish girl in Baltimore, getting ready to have her bat mitzvah. Being the only black girl in her community, the gift she wants more than anything is to learn about her family and find her birth parents. Soon after, her great-grandmother Anna passes away and Imani finds her great-grandmother’s journal detailing her escape from Nazi Germany during World War II. These journal entries tell of Anna’s journey from Luxembourg to Brooklyn and her longing for her family who she had left behind. The dramatic irony of Anna’s narrative  is that Imani and the readers are aware that ultimately, Anna’s family did not escape Nazi Germany but were sent to internment camps. Anna would never see them again. Imani finds a sad kind of comfort in this narrative where her great-grandmother is able to belong to a new family despite the death of her own and find happiness and love while still mourning her family. This bittersweet story encompasses important themes of belonging, loss, war, and family. The inspiring character of Anna as well as Imani, who finds a sense of affinity through Anna’s story draws readers in and inspires them. (EMC)


Silent Star: the story of a Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy

Wise, Bill. 2012. Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy. Lee & Low Books. 44pp. $10.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014808-2. Illustrated by Adam Gustavson.

William Hoy, player overcomes his deafness to become a major league baseball player. The exposition reveals how young William came to lose his hearing and struggled to overcome the obstacles he faced because of his deafness. William has always loved baseball and dreamed of playing major league baseball, despite his impairment. In the rising action, William is able to buy a shoemaker’s shop he had worked in and builds a baseball diamond out back where he and others from the neighborhood could play. Soon thereafter, William joined a minor league team and was able to figure out strategies for success despite deafness. In the climax, William is able to play on a major league team, and for the first time in the history of professional baseball, a deaf batter is paired with a deaf pitcher. The earthy tones, lines, and shadows create texture and depth. In the dénouement, William retires to a peaceful life with his family but continues to exemplify a courageous hero who followed his dreams. (EMC)


The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator Mary Shelly

Reef, Catherine. 2018. The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator Mary Shelley. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 224pp. $18.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-32-874005-2.

Frankenstein and his creature are famous characters, many people have read the horrifying tale of these characters’ tragic fates, or heard reference to these characters in popular culture. Many will not know the woman behind the madness, Mary Shelley, a dark and incredible woman who contributed to  the beginnings of the genre of science fiction. With themes of love and loss the plot is of Shelley’s family and her voyage to Scotland, her love affair with Percy Shelley and their exile, as well as the devastating loss of two of their children.Using setting as antagonist and setting as historical context, this story includes well known factual evidence about Mary Shelley as well as little known facts about the mysterious horror fiction writer. Sketches of the lands described as well as portraits of the characters are included to help readers obtain a minds-eye-view of the life and time period of Mary Shelley. (EMC)


True Tales of Rescue: Sweet Senior Pups

Einhorn Kama. 2018. True Tales of Rescue: Sweet Senior Pups. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144pp. $14.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-32-876703-5.

Just because a dog in a shelter is classified as a senior does not mean it does not deserve a family and a loving home. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. The text is told through the viewpoint of Mino, a fifteen-year-old golden Pomeranian, and his roommates, Buffy, a twelve-year-old miniature pinscher, and Jack, a fourteen-year-old French poodle. They are called the “three blind mice” at the Senior Dog Sanctuary in Maryland because they are all three partially or completely blind. Photographs, educational inserts, and short stories are used to further the plot. With themes of abandonment, hardship, love, and reclamation, the story of these three senior dogs’ progress through rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation. (EMC)


The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

Brown, Don. 2018. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96pp. $18.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-32-881015-1.

A graphic novel geared towards older students contains the heart-wrenching stories of the Syrian refugees from 2011-2017. With themes of war, humanity, suffering, and perseverance, the text  humanizes a situation which may seem unreal or far off to those who live in ignorance of the horrific events occurring overseas. Lines and muted colors portray the mood of the hardships of the characters.  The slanted lines and shadows of the characters’ eyes also show the dolefulness of the tragedy they face. The dénouement shows many of the refugees finding a home within the United States’ borders, which subtlety reminds readers how important it is that the United States has open borders, where refugees and immigrants can come to find safety and another chance at life. (EMC)


Caterpillar Summer

McDunn, Gillian. 2019. Caterpillar Summer. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-68119-743-2. Jacket Illustrated by Alisa Coburn.

It is the last day of school for fifth grader, Cat, and her first grade brother, Chicken. They are excited for summer break to begin because they will be spending the next three weeks with their best friend, Rishi, who recently left San Francisco to move to Atlanta. When they arrive at the airport, their mom gets a voicemail from Rishi’s mom saying they are taking an emergency trip to India to take care of his grandmother and will be gone for the entire summer. Not knowing what to do, Cat’s mom decides to leave the kids with her parents in North Carolina while she stays to work in Atlanta. Cat is disappointed because she was looking forward to spending more time with her mom because her mom has been working nonstop to keep the family financially secure after her dad died of cancer a few years back. At first, Cat is nervous about meeting her grandparents for the first time and wonders why she had never met them before. Their grandparents, Lily and Macon, live on Gingerbread Island. As Cat and Chicken get to know them, they find a wonderful pair of grandparents who love them immensely. Wanting to bring her family back together, Cat enters a fishing contest hoping it will give her mom and grandfather an opportunity to bond. But things don’t quite work out as planned. This realistic fiction story will bring summer joys, but also deep themes of what family means, how a family can form a rift, and how the pressure of having a little brother who has special needs can be challenging for an older sibling. (KRE)


Bird Watch

Matheson, Christie. 2019. Bird Watch. HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239340-1. Illustrated by Christie Matheson.

Tiny treasures live all around us, one must simply look outside to find them. Bird Watch takes readers on a counting search-and-find journey through the forest. Along the way, ten chickadees, nine bluebirds, eight sparrows, and others can be found. The illustrations were created using watercolor paints and collages. The light and luscious natural colors bring a feeling of springtime to the reader’s mind. The pinks, blues, and oranges add vibrant pops of color to the peaceful forest of greens, yellows, whites, and browns. Readers will develop cognitively by learning about what the birds eat, how the birds look, predator and prey relationships, nocturnal animals, and camouflage. Included in the book are tips about how to find birds, why they are important for the planet, and the author’s favorite resources for learning about birds. Also listed are the ten North American birds from the book with detailed descriptions of the birds’ physical features, habitats, diets, and other fun facts. Christie Matheson is a sustainability advocate who has written three other nature picture books titled Plant the Tiny Seed, Tap the Magic Tree, and Touch the Brightest Star. She enjoys spending time outside with her three young children watching birds in the Presidio of San Francisco, which is a National Park and the inspiration for the setting of the book. (KRE)


Look Up With Me

Berne, Jennifer. 2019. Look Up With Me. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-1284494-1. Illustrated by Lorraine Nam.

Children have hopes and dreams for the future. This biography about Neil DeGrasse Tyson shares how his dream to become an astrophysicist came true. It all began when young Neil visited the Hayden Planetarium in New York City with his family. This visit sparked his interest in astronomy. He began reading books about space, he put glow-in-the-dark stars around his room, and was so determined to buy a telescope, he began to walk dogs to earn money. During his middle school years, he won a trip on the S.S. Canberra across the Atlantic Ocean to see a total solar eclipse. By the age of fifteen, he gave his first astronomy lecture, which paid him fifty dollars. Neil continued his education by completing college and graduate school. During his free time, Neil also enjoyed wrestling, photography, and having fun with his friends. His first job after graduation was writing for a magazine column in the perspective of Merlin, a five-billion-year-old visitor from Andromeda who answered people’s questions about outer space. He loved writing for the magazine, but later became the director of the Hayden Planetarium, the place which first sparked his interest in the field. Neil became famous by writing books, airing on television, and by talking on the radio. This book is illustrated by using paper, glue, colored pencils, a camera, and Adobe Photoshop. It also enhances cognitive development by including a glossary of science terms with their definitions at the end. (KRE)


A Long Line of Cakes

Wiles, Deborah. 2018. A Long Line of Cakes. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-815049-0. Jacket Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.

Emma Alabama Lane Cake is an eleven year old girl who lives with her five younger brothers, four dogs, and two parents. The family moves often, spreading happiness from town to town through their homemade goodies. Emma feels like everytime she has made a new friend, her family moves again. The most recent move takes her to Halleluia, Mississippi. The thought of adding another friend that she will ultimately leave to her “friend atlas” breaks her heart. For this reason, Emma is determined to make no friends, even though she wants to. Aurora County, however, has a different plan for Emma Cake. Ruby Lavender, a neighborhood girl, befriends Emma. Together, they make a plan for Halleluia to become the Cake’s forever home. Themes of friendship, belonging, family, and home dominate the rising and falling action. (KRE)


Stop That Yawn!

Levis, Caron. 2018. Stop That Yawn! Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-144179-7. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

Gabby Wild is bored of her usual bedtime routine. Wanting to stay awake, Gabby and her grandma travel from “Sleepytown” to “Never Sleeping City.” The colors of each location set a mood. Warm shades of reds, pinks, and yellows portray the energy of the awake city. Where as the cool shades of blue portray the calm dark night in Sleepytown. Gabby and Granny have tons of fun in the city, dancing and eating ice cream. They visit a brightly lit carnival which is accentuated with pastel purples, pinks, greens, and yellows. All of a sudden, Granny lets out a big yawn which begins to spread throughout the city. As Gabby runs to stop the yawn, the motion of the line draws the reader’s eye across the page. The yawn travels in light blue and teal in the form of a wave. The curvy line of the yawn conveys its unpredictable nature. When the yawn is passed to new characters, their faces and clothes turn to shades of blue and they begin to fall asleep. The yawn eventually reaches Gabby as she falls asleep back in her bed in Sleepytown. The bed represents a place of calmness and relaxation. Gabby learns bedtime is not boring because she can have fun in her dreams all night long. (KRE)


Toht, Patricia. 2019. Dress Like a Girl. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-279892-3. Illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean.Dress LIke a Girl
This book celebrates the idea that girls should be able to choose what they want to wear in the form of a dress-up sleepover. The second person narrator uses poetic words in an aabb rhyming scheme along with watercolor, gouache, colored pencils, and ink illustrations to convey this message to its readers. Society has preconceived notions on how women should dress, look, and act; the book explores this idea through person vs. society conflict. This book suggests that females can dress how they want to in order to express their true self. When reading this book, children may develop emotional intelligence when they come to understand that “the right outfit is the one that makes you feel like you.” The entire rainbow is represented through a wide array of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, grey, brown, black, and white shades. During the sleepover, these colors come to life when the girls play dress up as astronauts, firewomen, athletes, scuba divers, and doctors etc. These costumes show that girls do not only wear pink, purple, and sparkly clothes, but they can dress however and become whomever they want to be. The friends end their night snuggled up in their sleeping bags falling fast asleep. (KRE)


A Story that Grows

Bachelet, Gilles. 2019. A Story That Grows. Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-80-2855-12-1. Jacket Illustrated by Gilles Bachelet.

Bedtime stories are a treasured part of childhood. Through the colorful illustrations and easy-to-read text, young readers imagine the bedtime habits between parents and children of different species. Some examples include giraffes, walruses, pandas, dragons, and aliens. The parents read bedtime stories to their children who are snuggled in bed holding a stuffed toy which alludes to the next family pair. The illustrations elevate the setting by presenting a calm and playful bedroom, explicit to the character’s habitat, through the elements of line and color. Children may develop emotional intelligence because bedtime stories are as unique as the parents and children who share them. (KRE)


Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real.

Nobleman, Marc Tyler. 2018. Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-469948-9. Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.

Magical creatures like mermaids and unicorns are figments of childhood imagination, but cousins Elsie and Frances convince the world otherwise in regards to fairies. In the exposition, readers learn that Frances and her mother moved to Cottingley, England to live with her aunt and uncle while her father served in World War I. Elsie and Frances spend sunny days playing in the back garden where a stream flows through. One day in July of 1917, Elsie borrows her father’s new camera. While the girls are down in the garden, Elsie takes a picture of Frances with fairies. Again in September, Frances takes a picture of Elsie holding hands with a gnome. Uncle Arthur doesn’t believe the girls, but Aunt Polly does. The following summer, their mothers attended a lecture about fairies where the pictures the girls had taken spread around the city and landed in the hands of Edward Gardner and Arthur Conan Doyle. Wanting more pictures, Gardner insisted the girls take more photos. Gardner published an article with photographs in the December 1920 issue of The Strand. This article became a controversy across England; some people believed the pictures were real, while others did not. The illustrations are created with India ink, watercolors, cut paper, and digital collage. The different shades of green illuminate the lush garden vegetation and England’s countryside which is accentuated with the blue stream and ocean. (KRE)


Lily & Kosmo in Outer Outer Space

Ashley, Jonathan. 2018. Lily & Kosmo in Outer Outer Space. Simon & Schuster (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers). 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441364-1.

Lily Lupino wants nothing more than to be an astronaut when she grows up. Angry with her father for turning off her favorite radio show starring her idol, Trip Darrow, she cuts her hair to look like Trip’s. Her father becomes even more angry with the astronaut rubbish and throws away all of Lily’s space decorations, comic books, and action figures. Later in the evening, after her parents fall asleep, a rocket ship lands in her kitchen. Kosmo Kidd, a spaceronaut, was on a mission to rescue Agent Argos, who happens to be Lily’s younger brother, Alfie. Lily wanted to become a spaceronaut, so she boarded the rocketship with Kosmo and Alfie to travel to Fort Spaceronaut. They flew through regular space, outer space, and outer outer space. During their adventure, they meet a large three-eyed chicken named Mr. Gluck, and the five Piranha Sisters who have fins for ears. Lily learns about the space villain named Mean-Man of Morgor who hunts for kids to de-juvenate because he wants a “tot-free galaxy.” Readers are confronted with person versus person conflict when they learn about how Kosmo Kidd is afraid of Mean-Man because he spanked Kosmo in the past. Another conflict readers face throughout is person versus society. Lily is told multiple times where a girl’s place is. He father tells her she cannot be an astronaut because she is a girl, and she should stay inside to play with her tea party set. The other spaceronauts yell a code pink when they find out Lily is a girl, and they tell her to go pick flowers because girls do not belong in space. To prove she can truly be a spaceronaut, she goes on a mission to take the Mean-Man’s mustache. This fantasy of talking animals, mythical quests and conflicts, preposterous characters and situations, strange and curious worlds, time warp, and science fiction proves girls can do anything, become whomever, and wear they want they want. As Lily said it best, “I ain’t a guy in a dress. I’m a girl with astronaut hair.” The style brings engaging aspects to the text by including intermittent pencil sketches, interactive page turning, and made up words spelled in funny ways. (KRE)


Mary McScary

Stine, R.L. 2017. Mary McScary. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-803856-9. Illustrated by Mark Brown.

Mary McScary is very scary. She likes to frighten her parents and pets. She is so scary, she can even scare a balloon. The conflict is addressed when Mary’s cousin, Harry McScary, visits her house. Harry is the only person who does not get scared by Mary. Mary tries to scare Harry with spiders, snakes, and even a hippo, but Harry is never afraid. Mary gives up and gives Harry a kiss on the cheek. He runs away with a shriek and Mary is happy to have finally scared Harry. This picture storybook is brought to life with the colors of the rainbow which reflect everyday life. When Mary kisses Harry, the background is multiple shades of pink and red to represent romance and Harry’s yelling throat. The lines help to show the motion of the gorilla riding a scooter, and the direction of Mary’s shout. Young readers will enjoy this story through the laughable actions of Mary and rhyming words. (KRE)


Lizzy McTizzy and the Busy Dizzy Day

Weeks, Sarah. 2019. Lizzy McTizzy and the Busy Dizzy Day. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-244205-5. Illustrated by Lee Wildish.

The bright colors of the rainbow draw young readers into the happy and comical story of Lizzy McTizzy, who is headed to a friend’s birthday party but cannot find her other shoe. She looks under her bed, on top of the bookshelf, in the washer, and under the cat. Then she looks outside, on top of the roof, under the doormat, and in between the bushes. She sits on the couch tired of running in circles all day, which has made her dizzy, and underneath the couch cushion she feels a lump. It is not the shoe she is looking for, but a boot instead. Lizzy arrives at the party with two different shoes, which does not bother her one bit, she is excited to have arrived and to eat cake. The texture of Lizzy’s curly orange hair makes it look frizzy. The organic shapes show the natural everyday objects one might find in a house, emphasizing the setting as a house and identifying the different rooms of a house. The rhyming text and lively illustrations create a humorous story which will show readers that being yourself is the best accessory of all. (KRE)


Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Schmidt, Gary D. 2019. Pay Attention Carter Jones. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 224pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54-479085-8. Jacket Illustrated by James Lancett.

It was the first day of sixth grade for Carter Jones. At 7:15 in the morning, amongst the chaos of his three younger sisters getting ready, the doorbell rings. He is greeted by a British butler who served Carter’s grandfather and shares news that the grandfather has passed away leaving an endowment which will provide Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick to come serve Carter’s family. This coming of age story has themes of loss and change. A few years ago, Currier, Carter’s younger brother was diagnosed with an illness and shortly thereafter died. To remember his brother Carter keeps a green marble in his pocket. The other loss Carter faces is the abandonment of his father. After serving in Afghanistan with the military, Carter’s father is stationed in Germany where he finds a new family to be a part of. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick becomes a positive male role-model for Carter. He teaches Carter to drive his purple Bentley, forms an intramural cricket team at Carter’s school, shows Carter how to be a gentleman, and helps support Carter while coming to terms with the losses of his brother and father. Through the humorous words of Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick and the acts of the Jones’ family pet, a dachshund named Ned, who is prone to getting excited and puking on everything makes a difficult topic easier to talk about. (KRE)


The Me I Meant to Be.

Jordan, Sophie. 2019. The Me I Meant to Be. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-897706-9.

High School is full of drama. Even though the world may seem like it is falling apart, true friendship helps one get through these challenging times. This is an experience best friends Willa and Flor encountered after Flor’s confusing break-up with Zach. The girls learned that romantic relationships are not the only important relationships. Their challenges with romantic relationships cause them to create a “girl code” that consisted of the rules between best friends and boys. Even though the pair seems inseparable, the girls quickly learn that boys may alter one’s morals and cause them to break the “girl code.” The narration switches between Willa and Flor, allowing the reader to understand the emotions and perspectives of both girls as they face their challenges. Not only does the story focus on best friend and boyfriend drama, it also touches on the challenges young teens face at home. Flor struggles to balance school and soccer, and on top of it all, her recently divorced father has decided to ask the unbearably rude Dana to move into their house. Willa, on the other hand, works through her sister moving home with her child, her dad working far from home, and discovering that she is in love with her next door neighbor, her best friend’s ex-boyfriend. The novel moves quickly and helps the reader understand tough circumstances and see the importance of love, self respect, honesty, and most powerfully, friendship. (EJE)


We’ve got the Whole World in Our Hands.

López, Rafael. 2018. We’ve got the Whole World in Our Hands. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard books). 40pp. (hardcover). $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-817736-7.

Inclusion with intentionality is the main theme of this new spin on a classic spiritual. Rafael López “loves color because it speaks all languages” (p. 32). He uses his love of color to display colors found all around the world. He uses earth tone colors like red orange, darker greens and blues, tans, black, white, greys, and reds in all different hues. A ball of string travels around the world to represent the inclusion of everyone. The darker shades of color change to represent the countries at night time. Lopez uses different textures to help the reader imagine what the trees, hair, water, plants, and animals feel like. At each different place the ball of string travels to, there is a horizontal line with hills. This represents stability and gives the reader a calm feeling while looking at the image. The hills may describe a form of uncertainty in where the string will travel to next. The overall theme of the novel is inclusion which is displayed in the variety of colors and hues. (EJE)

Remarkably YOU.

Zietlow Miller, Pat. 2019. Remarkably YOU. HarperCollins. 32pp. (hardcover). $17.70. ISBN 978-0-06-242758-8. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. 

Follow along as a group of diverse children march in a parade focused on embracing what makes them happy and unique. The parade contains horizontal and curved lines which gives the reader a safe feeling with an unknown destination. These lines spark a journey and causes the eyes to travel across the page, eager to learn about what is coming next. The imperfect illustrations remind the reader that perfection is not the goal and it is okay if things get messy. The illustrations contain various textures, blurred shapes, mixed colors, and sketched lines, which encourage creativity and quirkiness. Welcoming pastel and earth tone colors of the rainbow portrays a joyful and encouraging tone. The lack of definition brings the focus of the book back to the text, reiterating how important it is to embrace what makes oneself happy. The story and illustrations also help the reader reflect on who they are and who they would like to become. It also inspires children to merge their imagination and reality and embrace their uniqueness. Not only does the message of the story help the reader embrace their own individuality, it teaches them to respect the individuality of others. This is demonstrated in the upbeat theme of the story and the calm illustrations. (EJE)


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Moore Thomas, Shelley. 2019. From Tree to Sea. Simon & Schuster. 32pp. (hardcover). $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149532-5. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.

Secrets of life can be seen through the nature that surrounds children. A child’s imagination is often sparked by their surroundings, and this is visible throughout the story and the illustrations. One of the main messages of inclusion can be seen by the variety of children included in the nature. The images of nature are portrayed in different locations of the world. From the desert containing bright yellows and oranges to the hills of green with pale blue skies. The story can be followed by the changing sky. In the beginning the sky is a mix of pale blues and by the end the sky has transformed to a sunset of oranges and pinks, followed by a dark blue sky. This encourages the idea that beauty can be found in all different types of nature. A horizontal line can be found across each page symbolizing the calm and stable energy found in nature. As the reader follows along with the story and learns about different components of nature, they learn about themselves. The reader learns that the world can withstand many obstacles, and so can they. (EJE)


The Big Green Book

Graves, Robert. 1962. The Big Green Book. HarperCollins. 64pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-0-06-264483-1. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Magic may be in between the pages of a good book. Reading has the power to engage children’s imagination while expanding their knowledge. This is what the little orphan discovered when he came across a big green book in the corner of his attic. Jack was a frustrated boy who found his life with his aunt and uncle extremely dull and bland. He longed for adventures in the fields with his trusty companion, his dog. Instead, he was forced on long strolls with his unexciting aunt and uncle. After Jack opened the cover of the big green book, his life was never  the same. He was thrilled by the enchanting poems that taught him tricks and allowed him to deceive others. What is written in the big green book is unknown, but it sparks imagination and creativity in Jack. Suddenly as Jack is reading, he turns himself into an old man with a long beard. This old man that Jack has become embarks on a whimsical experience with the aunt and uncle. The old man tricks the aunt and uncle into playing card games with a magical spin, causing Jack to win every time. When the old man transforms back into Jack, he convinces his aunt and uncle that it was all a dream. This experience is comparable to reading a captivating story. The reader may find themselves transported into a new world, only to discover that when the story ends, they are back in reality. Even though the story is over, themes extend through the last page of the book and apply to reality. The illustrations of the story also engage the reader’s imagination. The lack of color and simplistic sketches of the scenes force readers to use their imagination and expand the images. The reader may add their own color and movement to the illustrations. This creativity encourages the idea of books being capable of taking the reader on an adventure. (EJE)


Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadow

Calejo, Ryan. 2018. Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadow. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442660-3.

Since Charlie Hernández can remember, his abuela has been telling him fascinating stories of his Latinx American Heritage. Charlie always thought the myths his abuela told him were make-believe. Charlie’s world turns upside down when he learns the myths he has memorized are about to become reality. When Charlie starts to experience the body manifestations that his abuela told him, he is swept into the Hispanic folklore he grew up listening to. Charlie’s passion for his heritage helped him on his journey to save his parents. Charlie and his crush Violet Rey, must go back in time to the ancient battle between La Liga and La Mano Negra to save his parents and the whole world. This story captures the Latinx and Hispanic heritage through its encounters with mythological creatures. The reader is immersed into the culture of Charlie Hernández. It opens the door to new perspectives and multi-cultural appreciation. This fantasy novel uses mythological incorporations to excite and interest the reader by sparking their imagination. Follow along Charlie’s journey in search of his family while embracing his childhood myths as a reality. (EJE)


An ABC of Flowers.

Hilpuesch, Jutta. 2019. An ABC of Flowers. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551785-6.

From roses and peonies to orchids and tulips, all different types of flowers are included in An ABC of Flowers. Follow along as Amelia takes the reader into a stunning garden while teaching the ABCs. The garden of flowers contains bright blues, yellows, reds, oranges, pinks, and purples, which captivate readers. The flowers are accented by the backdrop of calming pastel blue, yellow, red, orange, pink, and purple letters, which correspond with the flowers. Each flower is strategically located on the letter. This draws the reader’s attention to the alphabet. The bright colors and the carefully placed flowers encourage language development and literacy skills in the reader. Another aspect to the illustrations is Amelia, herself. The character is represented through a stick figure found on each page. She is usually found on the flower, which highlights the importance of the letters. Amelia is often performing some sort of activity with the flowers. This engages the imagination of the reader. Through the combination of colors, placement of flowers, and the help of Amelia, readers will learn their ABCs in an exciting new way. (EJE)


Flower Fairies of the Winter.

Barker, Cicely Mary. 1985. Flower Fairies of the Winter. Penguin Random House LLC (Frederick Warne & Co.). 54pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-24-133548-2.

Young children dream of small fairies playing in the garden wearing flowers as clothing. Their whimsical thoughts take them to new places and allow for their imagination and creativity to grow. Flower Fairies of the Winter incorporates enchanting fairies to help introduce readers to the world of plants. Each page contains intricately designed illustrations that contain little flower fairies. Muted earth tone colors represent the season that the flowers are growing in. Light and fluffy textures define the delicate sketches of the flower children and the surrounding scenes of nature. The childlike fairies are dressed like the flowers that are described in the poetry. The poems that capture the beauty of winter are described in a rhythm and rhyme poem. The beat of the poem create a sweet, light, and musical feel. This emphasizes nature that blooms despite the cold of winter. Barker’s descriptive poems allow the reader to learn more about nature by incorporating the magic of fairies. (EJE)


To Night Owl From Dogfish.

Sloan, Goldberg Holly, & Wolitzer, Meg. 2019. To Night Owl From Dogfish. Penguin Random House LLC. 304pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-555323-6.

Two young girls, Avery and Bett, come from completely different worlds but have one thing in common. They both have single dads who have fallen in love with each other. Avery is shy, afraid, and loves to read while Bett is outgoing and fearless. Their fathers’ love for each other causes both girls to be sent to summer camp against their will. The story is written in the style of an epistolary novel. The girls communicate only in emails. This lends the novel a personal tone. The style captivates middle school age students because they relate to the mode of communication. Despite their many differences, Avery and Bett are able to bond over the course of the summer. This book is honest about friendship, families, same-sex marriage, parental arguing, and even periods. By placing these mature themes into accessible teenage communication, middle school students everywhere are able to learn about tough topics. Follow along in this realistic fiction novel as both Bett and Avery mature emotionally, physically, and mentally. (EJE)


Inventing Victoria

Bolden, Tonya. 2019. Inventing Victoria. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. 272pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-68-119807-1.

The Post-Reconstruction Era is an important era following the Civil War and preceding the Civil Rights movement. This time posed opportunities for African-Americans to create a new life for themselves. Essie, a young African-American girl, adopts a new identity in which she is named Victoria. After the death of her prostitute mother, Essie is taken under the wing of a wealthy woman who helps Essie rewrite her story in a way that requires her to leave her past behind her forever. The story follows Essie’s conflict with herself as she decides if she should jump into her future and leave her past behind. This historical fiction novel allows the reader to dive into this part of history from the perspective of a young girl. The protagonist allows young adult readers to connect to the story and its history. The incorporation of historical figures like Fredrick Douglas is one example of the Post-Reconstruction Era included in the story. Inventing Victoria sheds light on a significant part of history while highlighting mature topics of sexual abuse and racism.  (EJE)


Bloom Boom

Sayre, April Pulley. 2019. Bloom Boom. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149473-1.

Spring is just around the corner and flowers are starting to pop out of the cold ground and reenter the world. Bloom Boom is an informational book which teaches readers about how flowers bloom. The author, April Pulley Sayre, has a degree in biology and writes intriguing children's books which educate the reader about nature. Each page of the book contains vivid images of small buds, emerging stalks, and blooming flowers. The captivating images of nature are paired with phrases like “stalks emerging” or “buds grow”. These short and informative phrases educate the reader about what is occuring in that part of the growing cycle. The flowers can be seen in full bloom with the phrase “bloom boom”  after a page about how they grow. The style of the book is repetitive since each flower has a page about the bud followed by a page about the stalk and a page about the flower. Even though each page does not contain much information, a more detailed description can be found at the back of the book. This provides the reader with a clearer understanding of which flower they are watching bloom. The small phrases allow for the image to have the reader’s attention. The placement of the text contribute to the clarity and attractiveness of the book. Readers’ knowledge about flowers will grow after reading the captivating information in Bloom Boom. (EJE)


Tigers and Tea with Toppy

Kerley, Barbara & Rhoda Knight Kalt. 2018. Tigers and Tea with Toppy. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-33-813427-8. Illustrated by Matte Stephens.

Finding one’s passion in life can be a challenge. With the help of her grandfather, Rhoda Knight Kalt learns more about his passion and how to find her own. Tigers and Tea with Toppy takes the reader on a weekend with Toppy, otherwise known as Charles R. Knight, the man who painted the murals in the National History Museum. The story dives into Toppy’s history and how he came to find that painting was his passion. Early on, the reader learns that an accident left Toppy visually impaired and over time his condition worsens. He does not let this stop him. He finds work in a taxidermy workshop where he studies an animal by its anatomy. This leads him to paint the murals of ancient creatures that are found in the National History Museum. Readers will be captivated by the heartwarming relationship between granddaughter and grandfather. The simplistic illustrations allow for Charles original images to be the focus of the illustrations. By incorporating copies of his creations, the reader is able to appreciate the detail his artwork. Each page is filled with bright colors and images containing paint stroke textures.  This biography of Charles R. Knight teaches the reader to follow their hearts. By following one's heart, their passion can shine through. It is important to highlight the hardships Charles R. Knight faced while achieving his dream. Despite challenges, he created images that are still on display in a famous museum. By including this in the story, readers who are struggling with their own hardships will be encouraged to pursue their dreams nonetheless. (EJE)



Weeks, Sarah. 2016. Soof. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 208pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-584665-3.

Rory’s life  starts with the luck that Heidi posses. Heidi has a special relationship with Ruby, Rory’s soon to be mother, and longs for the relationships with her passed mother. Soof is a way to say “I love you” born out of the longing for this relationship. Hiedi passes her luck to Ruby allowing her to have a child. Aurora, Rory, is then born and grows up as an unusual child. Ruby thinks she is on the spectrum and takes her to all sorts of doctors. Rory’s father is fed up with the situation and wants his daughter to simply live happily. Rory goes to school, not having many friends besides her favorite dog, Duck. He is her best friend by her side through everything, ultimately Duck helps Rory through difficult times. Hedi plans to visit the family, and this visit causes conflict. Rory is jealous of the special relationship between Heidi and her mother. In build up to Hedi’s visit the family’s house catches on fire, and Duck goes missing. These conflicts cause Rory to fall apart and puts a strain on her relationship with her mother. Soof includes themes of friendship, relationships, and  jealousy that comes with them. The constant struggle of fitting in while also maintaining your individuality and uniqueness. This is already a struggle  without also worrying about a stranger coming into your house, your house burning down and your best friend going missing. In the denouement, the conflicts are resolved and Rory realizes she is just where she needs to be. (MEF)


A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés

Mora, Pat. 2002, 2019. A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés. Lee & Low Books (Children's Book Press). 40pp. $10.95. ISBN 978-0-37-580643-8. Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal.

Juana is determined to learn to read. In order to be successful, she wants to learn about anything and everything. Set in a town outside of Mexico City, Juana surrounds herself with her Abuelo's books. Juana questions why she would stay in the home sewing when she could be learning wonderful things; she states, “Why decorate the outside of my head if the inside is empty?” She pushes herself and everyone around her to learn and eventually convinces her mama to let her go to Mexico City to live with her aunt and uncle so she can study. Eventually, Juana gets the opportunity to prove herself to forty male scholars. With both an English and Spanish translation, the author Pat Mora gives the opportunity for readers to learn just as Juana would have wanted. Both young English and Spanish readers can hear the story of Juana Inés and her dedication to not becoming an intelligent and capable woman. By including Spanish words such as abuelo, bella, estrella, and hermosa in the English translation, English readers are taught some Spanish. The illustrations contain vibrant colors including orange, blue, green, red, and white. There are illustrations on every page, which provide a visual representation of what is happening in Juana’s life. The story of Juana gives women everywhere the courage to exceed expectations. (MEF)


Mapping Sam

Hesselberth, Joyce. 2018. Mapping Sam. HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $17.99.  ISBN 978-0-06-274122-6. Illustrated by Joyce Hesselberth.

Sam, the family cat, goes on an adventure during the night. Mapping Sam maps his adventure in the night. His adventures are shown through vibrant illustrations using a mix of warm and cool colors. There is an abundance of horizontal lines, showing Sam’s journey along with right angles used to make the synthetic objects such as the house and bed. Organic shapes are prevalent in the illustrations of trees, bushes, stones, stars, and leaves. Texture is used to portray the outside world. The style of describing new things and providing examples is unique for example, the use of a map with a compass and a scale is likely something young readers will experience for the first time. The map is simple and engaging, showing the path Sam is taking around the neighborhood. There are also bigger maps like the world and outer space. The use of a diagram is also prevalent with the description of a feline's body, showing all the inner workings of a cat. There is also a diagram of a flower, pointing out the specific parts that make a flower, a flower. Line, color, light, shape, and texture are used strategically to tell the adventures of Sam the cat. (MEF)


I'll Love You Till The Cows Come Home

Cristaldi, Kathryn. 2018. I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-257420-6. Illustrated by Kristyna Litten.

“I Love You” are three words with a huge meaning and it is said over and over again in I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home. There are many examples of how long one would love someone including till the cows come home from space, and deer are having a dance party. These examples are all impossible in the real world, implying that the love they have will never end. The adventures of these animals throughout the story are told through continuous use of rhyming. Between the rhyming and the animals on interesting adventures such as steering a boat, driving a Cadillac, and peddling a bike, the reader is sure to take a liking to I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home. The illustrator, Litten, pays close attention to detail in every page along with bringing in many different colors including blue, grey, orange, white, brown, green, and purple. None of the illustrations are too distracting, allowing the reader to pay close attention to the words. There is heavy use of organic and soft shapes with the animals and their surroundings creating a whimsical and dreamy setting. The way the words and illustrations are laid out, allow a large area for interpretation and imagination. However, on every page there is a use of horizontal lines, creating a feeling of safety for the reader no matter the level of adventure that is occurring on for the animals. (MEF)


Khan, Hena. 2019. Under My Hijab. Lee & Low Books Inc. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014792-4. Illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel.

In today’s society, culture plays a huge role in what people do and how they understand and react to others. Under My Hijab depicts a young Muslim girl who watches all the women around her live their lives in their hijab. In many ways, wearing a hijab sets them apart from others and shows a difference. However, Khan brings up the similarities between Muslim women and other women while also celebrating their differences. By the end of the story, the young girl is excited to wear her hijab in many different ways that she learned from the influential women around her.  Jaleel utilizes many bright and cheerful colors on every page. The use of pink, orange, purple, blue, green, yellow, and white provides a celebratory mood throughout, portraying the story in an upbeat and exciting fashion. The young girl struggles with how society will perceive her but in the end, she gains the confidence to represent her culture in her everyday life. (MEF)


Luyken, Corinna. 2019. My Heart. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-73-522793-4
In life, people have good days and bad days and My Heart by Corinna Luyken illustrates this concept for children in a simple way. As a child, it can be hard at times to understand your emotions and My Heart attempts to make this concept accessible. The pictures emphasize the story’s meaning and are interesting to look at. As the heart gets smaller, so do the illustrations; as the heart grows bigger, the illustrations also grow. This is done through the use of grey, black, white and yellow colors. This allows the reader to focus on the words on the page and relate to what is being said into their own life. (MEF)


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Chen, Jeff. 2019. Ultraball #1: Lunar Blitz. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-280266-8.

One moment may change the outcome of your life. This is how Stike felt at tryouts for the elite Ultra Ball team. Stike had either to make the team and do something with his life or play for the Miners team. The story takes place on the moon ten years after Earth went nuclear. Their uniforms are quite different than one would expect for a typical football team; they have suits of armor with magnetized gloves. Stike is attempting to build his team based on who will be the best for him to pass to as he is a quarterback. Strike wants to go with Jin-Lee. Jin-Lee has made his fair share of mistakes on the field but Strike sees in him a drive to succeed.  

The team has some wins and some loses but Strike always stays positive. Misfortunes happen to the team and some players are no longer able to participate so Strike looks to bring some people up from his backup list. The rest of his team is wary about the talent of the new players. After some competition, the team with the new members comes together and works as a family to win. Despite their determination, they end up getting disqualified due to technicalities. However, Strike and his friends saved their society, Taiko Colony. (MEF)


Got to Get to Bear’s

Brian Lies. 2018. Got to Get to Bear’s! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-494882-2. Illustrated by Brian Lies.

Four friends team up to help celebrate their dear friends’ birthday. Bear, Scritch, Bingle, and Snaffle all work together to ensure Izzy makes it to Bear’s for her surprise party. All of her friends work hard to make her birthday special. According to one of the friends, “No matter how steep or tough the climb a friend is worth it, every time!.” Got to Get to Bear’s! Shows the importance of friendship. As the quote says, if someone means a lot to you, you will go through anything in order to help them in any way. There may be struggles along the way but when you have people supporting you along the way, anything is possible. 

The illustrations provide a visual of their journey to Bear’s. Putting illustrations right next to each other like a comic strip allows the reader to follow along step by step what the animals do. The illustrations are crisp looking with the fur of the animals containing texture. The colors are primarily dull with bursts of bright colors including red, orange, green, purple and white. The illustrations provide a sense of safety when they arrive at Bear’s as everything is dark around them but when they look forward to the house there is a glowing light as a guide. (MEF)


High Five

Rubin, Adam. 2019. High Five. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 64pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-52-542889-3. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.

The reader goes on a journey with Sensi to win the high five tournament, a contest of who can create the most interesting and unique high five. The first round is against Gigantic the Bear, whom the reader defeats. Next, the reader must beat Kangaroo Paul, who jumps all around, distracting the reader. After defeating Kangaroo Paul, the reader goes up against Shifty the Lizard who can camouflage himself except his sneaky grin. The reader defeats the lizard and then goes on to beat Glen the Elephant. Now the reader is in the final round, up against Octopus Jones; competing with 8 hands, the reader must defeat Octopus Jones solely with two hands. The reader defeats Octopus Jones and goes on to receive the High Five Trophy. The conflict between the reader and their opponents is driven through rhyming along with extraordinarily vibrant illustrations. Neon versions of orange, pink, blue, purple, yellow, and green are presented on every page with characters drawn as if they were going to come off the page. This allows the reader to not only become a part of the illustrations but also a part of the story as the reader is the main character. (MEF)


Orange for the Sunsets

Athaide, Tina. 2019. Orange for the Sunsets. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-279529-8.

Follow the adventures of two best friends as they struggle to stay friends despite the conflicts of their country, Uganda. Yesofu and Asha have been best friends since they can remember with Yesofu’s family works for Asha’s. Yesofu, a Ugandan boy, and Asha, an Indian girl, do everything together; they have snacks together, go to school together, eat lunch together and walk home together until Yesofu starts noticing all the differences between them and how his people are looked down upon by everyone else. The Ugandan people are typically the servants for the Indians who have moved to the country. The president of Uganda keeps having dreams sent from God; one such dream suggests that the native people must take their country back and drive all the Indians out of Uganda. 

Orange for the Sunsets is told through a first-person omniscient point of view; the chapters alternate perspectives between Yesofu and Asha. Yesofu has a conflict within himself about whether he should ignore the differences between him and his best friend or if the differences are too large to overcome. Asha’s father eventually gets arrested and the rest of her family flees to Canada.

A story of realistic fiction, Asha and Yesofu were created by the author. However, the story of the Uganda president forcing Indians out of the country is true. The author, Tina Athaide, was an Indian born in Uganda whose family quickly moved to Britain after Idi Amin became president. Athaide learned about the happenings in her home country through relatives fleeing for their safety. The book’s themes, conflicts, and settings are based on actual events of the time. (MEF)


Alan Cole Doesn’t Dance

Bell, Eric. 2018. Alan Cole Doesn’t Dance. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-256706-2.

“I want to change the world,” says Alan Cole, the main character of Alan Cole Doesn’t Dance. As the recently outed gay boy in his middle school, Alan feels as though he has a target on his back. Alan Cole believes there is good and bad in everyone and that everyone needs the opportunity to show the good. Even when Alan is bullied at school by Ron, he continues to have faith in humanity. He is an avid artist and loves to paint; but rather than being seen as artistic, he is known only as the gay boy. A new boy named Odin causes a change in Alan. As the two boys become friends while working on an art project, they become more than friends and allies. Their paintings cause a stir in the school and the biggest bully of all is brought down to earth. Alan stands up to everyone trying to hold him down and starts to live his life as who he really is. (MEF)


Inside The World of Roblox

Official Roblox. 2018. Inside The World of Roblox. HarperCollins (Harper). 72pp. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-06-286260-0. Illustrations by Official Roblox.

Virtual life is one place in which you can build your avatar, play games, and collaborate with others. Written by the makers of Roblox, this book provides lots of tricks from an insider perspectives on how to play the game. As you become more advanced in the game, it allows the player to do more with their avatar and the game. There are many platforms on which a player can choose to play, including PC, Xbox, and mobile phone. Roblox provides an outlet for imagination and creativity with awards every year for the player who performed the best in a number of areas such as builder, studio, and lifetime achievement. The vibrant pictures throughout both the Roblox book and the game keeps players and readers attention. Inside the World of Roblox allows readers to see behind the scenes of the making of one of their favorite games. (MEF)


Secondhand Heros: The Last Battle

Hansen, Justin Larocca. 2018. Secondhand Heroes: The Last Battle. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 160pp. $8.00. ISBN 978-0-80-374096-9. Illustrated by Justin Larocca Hansen.

Tuck and Hudson are two normal teenage boys during the day but turn into the superheroes Stretch and Brella who use the ordinary objects of an umbrella and a scarf as their superpowers. They are accompanied by their sidekick Steen, a talking squirrel. As they learn to hone their powers for good they realize  their arch nemesis Trench, otherwise known as Mr. Motstander, has come back to defeat them and take over the world. In order to accomplish his plan Tench makes the citizens of the town believe Tuck and Hudson are enemies even though they are not. The friends of Tuck and Hudson arrive back in town to help them figure out what is happening. They realize Trench was back and set on destroying Tuck and Hudson  and taking a magic trunk capable of going back in time. Trench wants to use this trunk to stop Tuck and Hudson from stopping him the first time. All the superheroes of the town come together to help defeat this villain using their combined powers. In the conclusion, Tuck and Hudson realize they must be the ones to beat Trench once and for all. They bring him back to the time of the dinosaurs using the trunk and leave him there to become extinct. When Tuck and Hudson come back the town realizes how helpful all of the superheroes are and how much the town needs them.

The characters of Tuck and Hudson are linear and do not change much throughout the plot.. They remain respectful and humble, saving their town from evil and are both willing to risk their lives to help the people they love and put the needs of the town first. The character of Steen keeps the text light and hilarious, adding in quirky lines. In the middle of the conflict readers realize he is complex. Steen is a wizard but is only a squirrel due to him sending his magic out of his human body, hoping it would fan out into the universe. This is when his soul moved into the body of a squirrel and the rest of his magic moved into common objects which became the objects used by the superheroes in the town. Steen is selfless and takes care of those around him, which can be seen when he saves Elvira, another superhero, and dies because of his bravery. The characters who change the most in personality are Ethan and Jason. In the beginning they both are on the side of Trench, completely blind to the evil within him. Towards the end of the conflict Ethan and Jason realize Trench’s  actions are despicable and help the superheroes stop Trench. The constant battle between good and evil is prevalent in this story. The value of perseverance in the face of obstacles is also prevalent. Tuck, Hudson, the rest of the superheroes in the town, and ordinary people work hard and persevere until Trench is defeated. The setting is shown through illustrations that are eye-catching and pop through the word bubbles within them. Epic fights between the superheroes and villains are depicted in the illustrations. The use of bold lines helps distinguish between each scene and it is easy to transition between the changing of worlds from a rural town to the prehistoric age where dinosaurs rule. (LGF) 


Elementals: Ice Wolves

Kaufman, Amie. 2018. Elementals: Ice Wolves. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 352pp. $15.75. ISBN 978-0-06-245798-1. Illustrated by Levente Szabo.

Everyone in the town of Vallen knows ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies. Twins Rayna and Anders live in this divided world as orphans, scrounging for food and money to survive. Rayna is cunning and is the leader between the two while  Anders is worried and careful about everything. When the time of The Trial of the Staff comes children go through a transformation to see if they are an ice wolf. This is a perfect time for Rayna and Anders to steal from people but they end up getting in trouble, moving to the Trial of the Staff to distract from what they have just done. Rayna transforms into a scorch dragon and Anders transforms into an ice wolf which is seemingly impossible because it unfathomable for siblings to be of different environmentals. Soon Rayna gets taken away by other scorch dragons. This transformation causes Anders to question whether or not him and Rayna are even siblings but  does not stop him from wanting to save her due to her being his only family. Anders joins the Ulfar Academy for ice wolves where his goals are to learn more about dragons to figure out where Rayna could possibly be. There he meets Lisabet who helps him learn more about artifacts which are magical objects used to assist humans, ice wolves, and scorch dragons lives. Lisabet is kind and believes dragons are not as cruel as they are described. The two discover an artifact which could lead them to where Rayna could be. They travel to this area and find Rayna finally reuniting.

This fantasy text  suspends disbelief through the setting. The setting is described in extreme detail ; even the rooftops of houses are described. The reader can imagine what the town, the academy, and even streets looks like. The reader is able to imagine the sounds of busy streets during the time of the Trial of the Staff.  The character Anders grows in confidence. In the beginning he is dependant on Rayna, doing what she asks. After figuring out that he had ice wolf blood within him and Rayna had scorch dragon blood his life changes. He is alone when Rayna gets taken away. While studying at Ulfar Academy he becomes increasingly confident in himself and what he is able to do. In the conclusion when he gets in a fight between ice wolves and scorch dragons his confidence enables him to save his friends from death. Anders  learns the value of family and that it is okay to break rules in order to save the ones he loves. The character of Rayna stays stagnant in being a leader, treating Anders as a baby. In the conclusion she realizes that Anders is able to take care of himself and can make his own decisions. Person against self conflict is seen within the main character of Anders. He has to overcome his fears and doubts in order to save his sister from the scorch dragons whom he believes are about to kill her. Anders has trouble figuring out what he is capable of when in reality he has been accomplishing many tasks without knowing it throughout his studies at Ulfar. The theme of friendship is prevalent. The friendship between Rayna and Anders is so powerful that he is willing to risk his own life just to save her life and vice versa. Anders is able to realize his true potential through his love for both Rayna and Lisabet. Another theme is the idea that home is a place you make not just a physical space. This theme is revealed through Anders when he is able to see his home is with Rayna and Lisabet. (LGF)


Making Friends

Gudsnuk Kristen. 2018. Making Friends. Scholastic Inc. (Graphix). 272pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-33-813922-8. Illustrated by Kristen Gudsnuk.

Being able to draw inside of a sketchbook and having the drawing  materialize is something many people would find remarkable. This is exactly what happens to 12 year old Danielle when she discovers a sketchbook which belonged to her great aunt Elma. Danielle is used to a routine schedule in sixth grade, going through her days with her best friends Joan and Leah, but her routine changes when she moves up to seventh grade. Danielle finds comfort when she is in her bed, watching her favorite T.V. show, Solar Sisters,  and reading comic books. Without thinking, she decides to draw one of the show’s characters’ head, Prince Neptune, soon realizing that her drawing became a reality. After becoming aware of her powers she decides to create her own personal friend named Madison because she was beginning to drift away from the friends she had in sixth grade. Little does she know there is a difference between creating a friend and making a friend. Madison helps Danielle create a new look for herself, thinking this is what will help her become popular. After Madison figures out that she is not an actual human being, and is a drawing, she leaves Danielle telling her  she has to make friends the normal way. While Danielle tries to make friends Prince Neptune begins to manipulate Danielle, using her own weaknesses to get her to perform evil deeds. He makes her believe people need to be hateful and rude in order to make friends and be popular. Danielle soon understands this is not the true way to make friends with others. Through using this sketchbook, she finally recognizes that one just needs to be themselves and move out of your comfort zone in order to get to know others. Prince Neptune does not understand this way of life and makes it his main goal to be feared through the act of destroying the world. Danielle and the friends  she has made along the way join together to defeat this enemy, realizing friendship is the greatest power of all.

The characterization of Danielle and Madison drastically changes throughout the story. Danielle is shy and set in her ways in the beginning. She believes cool clothes and many friends is what makes a person popular. Through the magic of her sketchbook and the joining of close friends to defeat a villain she finally understands all she needs is to be herself in order to make new friends. Madison in the beginning is dependent on Danielle because she created her to be her best friend. She does not seem to understand how she became Danielle’s friend or who her parents even are. Through the rising action Madison comes to realize she was just a drawing from Danielle’s sketchbook. She leaves Danielle, wanting to figure out who exactly she is as her own person. Through living by herself and finally joining a foster family she comes to understand she is able to do things without focusing solely on Danielle. The setting is shown through the illustrations of this graphic novel. They are eye-catching following a manga like style. Illustrations show the incredible powers of the magic sketchbook and the final battle between Prince Neptune and Danielle and her friends. The use of bold lines helps the reader distinguish between the different scenes and the transitions between the settings of the school, mall, and Danielle’s home. The overarching theme follows the possible problems that a teenager can have such as making friends, popularity, and body image. This is revealed through the character of Danielle as she goes through the changes of seventh grade, deals with making new friends, the problems of what it takes to be popular, and the idea of what a perfect body looks like. (LGF)


Jack B. Ninja

McCanna, Tim. 2018. Jack B. Ninja. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54-591728-5. Illustrated by Stephen Savage.

In this ninja fantasy based on the classic nursery rhyme “Jack Be Nimble”, children follow the character of Jack as he goes on a secret adventure to find a hidden treasure chest. He climbs over walls and swims through tunnels in order to find this treasure. When he finally obtains the treasure chest he realizes his family created this adventure in order to celebrate his birthday. Within the treasure chest is a birthday cake which the family all eats together before disappearing. The rhyme scheme makes the plot more exciting and enhances the action packed adventure Jack is experiencing. Rhythm makes the text sing-song like allowing the children to clap along to the rhythm of this nursery rhyme. The repetition of the line, “Jack B. Ninja…” allows children to join in making them feel as if they are involved in the story.  The characterization of Jack is stagnant and does not change. The setting is used as mood, creating suspense and mystery as readers follow Jack through his adventures. The illustrations are minimalist but create an impact on the reader. There are five colors used throughout which signify different moods. The color yellow, used in the exposition, conveys the mood of happiness and stability as Jack practices the art of being a ninja. Through the rising action green and purple convey the mood of mystery as Jack sneaks his way past guards in order to find the treasure. In the climax the color red conveys danger as Jack trips over a wire when finding the treasure and when he escapes the toils of bandits. Through the falling action and dénouement the color blue conveys safety when Jack realizes that the bandits were his family all along. Simple geometric shapes are used to create a sense of stability and are recognizable to all. Curvy lines are used to show the hills and mountains that surround Jack as he goes on his quest to find the chest. This creates a sense of the unknown as Jack is not sure what type of treasure is inside the chest. Texture in the bricks of walls and roofs of houses, reveals the detailed buildings in this setting. (LGF)


Postcards From Venice

Romito, Dee. 2018. Postcards From Venice. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 272pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-53-440338-3.

Thirteen-year-old Skyler has been dreaming of touring Italy to experience everything it has to offer. This dream becomes reality when her mother gets relocated to Venice, Italy for a job over the summer. Her mother is an extreme workaholic and in order to keep her daughter busy and away from her, she sets Skyler up with an internship. At first, Skyler almost ends up in the accounting department but when she meets an Australian boy named Logan, she learns of an opportunity within the social media department. During this internship, Skyler must write blogs about an outsider's perspective of Italy. If Skyler does well by the end of the summer, she might be able to earn an opportunity to work with the company to travel the world and write about her experiences.  Skyler takes this opportunity hoping to get away and do her own thing but slowly begins to realize she enjoys writing about her experiences. Throughout the summer, she goes on adventures with the other interns, Zara and Logan, learns how to speak Italian, and learns some unique facts about Italy. Even though her writing, in terms of grammar and word choices, is improving, Marissa, the leader of the internship, cannot hear Skyler’s voice in her writing, which is the main goal. Skyler is not motivated enough to complete her blog entries on time. Marissa can tell how stressed and overwhelmed Skyler is becoming during this process and decides to cut her from the internship. She agrees with Marissa and moves to the accounting department, working for the last two weeks in a cubicle. Skyler’s mother can tell how heartbroken and  decides she needs to take time away from work to spend time with her daughter. They spend some much-needed mother-daughter time together and Skyler learns the whole family is moving to Italy for the rest of the year because her mother earned a full-time job. Skyler finally begins to find the motivation and the drive she needs in order to write interesting blogs showing her own perspective of how she sees Italy. She decides to fix old blog entries. Skyler then realizes the emails she has been sending to her best friend Ella have been telling her perspective of Italy all along. She edits these emails along with Logan and decides to send them to Marissa just to see what she thinks of them. Marissa reads these entries and sees Skyler’s full potential, making a separate blog website for her.

The characterization of Skyler and her mother evolve drastically throughout the text.  In the beginning Skyler has no clue who she is or what she wants to do with her life. She is doubtful of her true potential and tends to look at the downside of things. When she finds her passion for writing she understands she is not like everyone else, especially her friend Ella. Ella has a structured life, making lists for everything, whereas Skyler is a free spirit and takes one thing at a time. Throughout her internship, Skyler learns she does not need to have her entire life figured out, it is okay to take it one step at a time. In the beginning Skyler’s mother is an extreme workaholic and often chooses work over spending time with Skyler. She believes this is a good decision in order to teach Skyler to have a good work ethic. When she observes her daughter experience heartbreak after quitting the internship she realizes an internship is not what Skyler needed, Skyler desperately needed her mother. She spends some quality time with Skyler by traveling and going to cooking classes, showing Skyler that she was going to be there for her. The major conflict is person versus self, shown through the character Skyler who  struggles to find who she is truly and what she is meant to do. Skyler is constantly doubting herself and what she is able to accomplish, often quitting due to a lack of motivation. The overarching themes are figuring out one’s identity are and the relationship between a parent and a child. The theme of identity is revealed through Skyler as she navigates her way through her internship job. Skyler comes to understand everyone is different, realizing she is a free-spirit and needs to take her life one step at a time. The theme of the relationship between a parent and a child is shown through Skyler’s mother as she realizes that spending time with her own daughter is more important than work. The reader will relate to the struggles Skyler experiences and will learn about Italy. As Skyler is learning Italian the reader will learn the same words such as “ciao” and “il piccione”. As Skyler is traveling through Italy, the reader will be able to learn about the culture. The setting is described effectively through the detailed descriptions of what Skyler can see, smell, and hear. (LGF)


The Turtle Ship

Rhee, Helena Ku. 2018. The Turtle Ship. Lee & Low Books. (Shen’s Books). 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-88-500890-9. Illustrated by Colleen Kong-Savage.

In a small Korean village there is a young boy named Sun-sin who longs to travel the world and visit new places. He spends his days dreaming and spending time with his best friend Gobugi, a turtle. Unfortunately, Sun-sin believes his dream of traveling the world will never become a reality due to his family not having enough money. Luck strikes when the king creates a competition to design a battleship and whoever wins will receive ten bags of copper coins and will  get the opportunity to sail the ocean with the navy. Sun-sin immediately begins to design his own battleship with the help of Gobugi, trying and failing each time. Through trial and error, he realizes his turtle may offer the best design. Sun-sin, along with his family, travels to the royal palace to present his design. The others doubt him and even laugh at his idea. By chance, a cat attacks Gobugi and fails. After this attempted attack the king understands how strong the turtle can be, ordering to have this design come to life. Sun-sin wins the competition and is able to travel the world. Thirteen years pass and Sun-sin becomes a navy admiral and with his ships defeating  hundreds of enemies. This tale is loosely based on Korean history of the creation of the Gobukson, otherwise known as the Turtle Ship. In the afterword, the reader can learn more about the history of the plot. 

The characterization of Sun-sin is stagnant, but the reader, can learn from him. Sun-sin shows the power of determination and how one a dream can impact  the world. He is able to go through trial and error, fixing his mistakes along the way, as he creates the perfect design for a battleship. The character of Gobugi aids Sun-sin on his journey by teaching him to be patient and strong as he watches the turtle throughout the day. The overarching themes of determination and perseverance are shown through Sun-sin creating the battleship. He is willing to do anything to win this competition in order to make his dream a reality. The illustrations have a bold texture on  wood on the ships, the raging sea, and even the surrounding trees, created through paper collage. Light blue is used to depict serenity during the exposition as Sun-sin and Gobugi stare out at the sea, watching the ships sail by. A darker blue is used to depict struggle and determination through the rising action as Sun-sin designs the perfect battleship.As a child, Sun-sin is shown wearing white, depicting purity as the reader watches him dream about visiting other places in the exposition. Curvy lines are used to show the unknown as Sun-sin and his family travel to the royal palace, not knowing whether or not he will have the winning design. (LGF)


Following Baxter

Kerley, Barbara. 2018. Following Baxter. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-249978-3. Illustrated by Gilbert Ford.

Twelve-year-old Jordie had been waiting patiently for new neighbors in the hopes of meeting other children her age. An elderly woman, Professor Reese, and her dog move in next door. However, Professor Reece is not an ordinary old woman. Jordie and her younger brother T.J. learn that she is a scientist with a lab in the basement of her new home. Jordie falls in love with science and the professor’s dog, whom they name Baxter. Jordie takes responsibility for the dog, wanting to walk and play with him any time she can. While taking care of Baxter, Jordie and T.J. learn what Professor Reese is creating a teleporter in her lab. Jordie soon discovers Professor Reese is missing and realize she went through the teleporter herself. Jordie realizes a chip in Baxter’s spine is intercepting the longitude and latitude of where the objects teleported and develops a plan to bring Professor Reese her back home safely. However, Jordie also has to navigate life at school, where she frequently gets in trouble for her poor listening skills and struggles to find interests and activities both she and her friends enjoy. Readers ages 8-12 may relate to Jordie’s experiences at school and will develop a greater appreciation for the world of science. (LGF)


An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Anderson, Beth. 2018. An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 48pp. $12.75. ISBN 978-1-53-440555-4. Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley.

While the American Revolution was taking place, a smaller revolution was also transpiring. Writer and printer Benjamin Franklin believed people should write words the way they were heard. He wanted to invent new letters and remove older letters to create a new alphabet. These new letters had their own sounds, the ABCs were no longer needed. Unfortunately for Ben Franklin, others were not interested in this new alphabet, so he focused on the business of the colonies. Noah Webster, like Benjamin Franklin, believed others should pronounce words the way they were written. To help others with this problem he decided to write a book to teach American English. This book included grammar lessons, speaking instructions, and pronunciation practice. Like Benjamin, others did not appreciate his work and ignored his ideas. Noah traveled the world telling others about his ideas when finally he met Benjamin. They discussed their common ideas and decided they should work together to change the alphabet. Even though people were intrigued by this new idea, they did not have the patience to change everything; they simply wanted their lives to return to normal after the war. Ben and Noah realized that maybe they did not need to change the alphabet. Noah’s new ideas stuck well with others and his ideas soon began to spread throughout the world. Noah continued to work hard until finally, he wrote a dictionary which included new words, new meanings, and new spellings. His ideas have stuck with the populace since then, changing the way humans spell words for the future.

    This gives a new and entertaining look at how the alphabet came to be. The readers are able to see what Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster encountered when it came to the English language. Children will be able to relate to the frustrations of Benjamin and Noah, realizing everyone has difficulty spelling certain words. The characterization of Benjamin and Noah are linear and do not change much. They are both hard-working men who persevere through their problems and frustrations. Not only are the readers able to learn about the reform of American English, but they are also able to learn more about the American Revolution itself and how others were feeling during this time of hardship. The overall theme is about never giving up. Noah learned from the mistakes that he made, wanting his dreams of American English to become reality. Even though others did not believe in his ideas for a long time, it never distracted Noah from his end goal. This teaches readers to never give up on their dreams even if they make mistakes. The illustrations are colorful, showing the diversity of each human during the time of the American Revolution. The illustrator turns the letters of the alphabet into physical beings that the characters are able to carry around and talk about, making the concept of spelling easier for children to understand. Speech bubbles are added throughout the scenes, showing the reader different responses and objections to the proposed reforms Noah and Benjamin were trying to enact. The last couple pages include notes from the author and illustrator, research notes, quotation sources, and a bibliography. This gives the reader the confidence that the information within is correct and reliable. (LGF)


Little Helpers: Animals On The Job.

Everett, Michéle Brummer. 2018. Little Helpers: Animals On The Job. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $12.75. ISBN 978-0-54-487955-3.

Animals of every shape and size are able to help out human beings with whatever they need. Children are introduced to animals who, in their own special way, help out humans with everyday tasks. The story introduces dogs who help those who cannot hear and see. Readers also learn about snakes who help remind those who need to take medicine by giving them a gentle squeeze. Each page is dedicated to a specific animal, giving one or two sentences, describing how they help humans with their everyday lives. The reader is able to see just how important animals are to humans, and the strong connections we as humans are able to have with animals. Not only is the reader able to see how helpful animals are, but they are told humans can be just as helpful towards others. The author encourages the reader to look for opportunities to help others. The illustrations use thick round lines to depict the animals, making it easy for the reader to understand what the animal is. The same four colors are used throughout the book, yellow, brown, black, and gray. The color yellow pops out the most due to how bright it is. This color depicts just how happy and bright these animals can make humans feel. The characters are diverse; they depict many different skin colors. At the dénouement, there is a section on each service animal that was discussed in the book. This allows the reader to delve deeper into the world of service animals. (LGF)


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Portes, Andrea. 2018. Henry & Eva and the Castle on the Cliff. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 277pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-256002-5.

Conflict, perseverance, and togetherness are reflected in Portes’ story of two children who have just lost their parents in a boating accident. Soon after their parents’ deaths, Henry and Eva’s uncle Claude and his girlfriend, Terri, move into their house to take care of them. However, their uncle and his girlfriend don’t seem to have a care in the world for two little kids who just lost their parents. To Henry and Eva, it feels as though they can only rely on each other. Their strenuous lives become even worse when their ancestors’ spirits come with a message from their deceased parents, their boating accident was not an accident. Wanting justice for their parents’ murder, Henry and Eva begin to investigate. The story is told from Henry and Eva’s perspective and shows the reader an account of all their hardships they had to face to reach their end goal. Henry and Eva’s adventure will serve as a lesson to young kids that their will be many obstacles to be overcome in order to fulfill one’s goal. Recommended for ages 8-12. (NJG)


The Secret Cat

Stromgard, Katarina. 2019. The Secret Cat. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.). 32pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-80-285511-4. Illustrated by Katarina Stromgard. 

During the exposition of The Secret Cat, a young girl wishes for a pet and keeps on asking her mother for one; however, her responses are all terrible excuses to why she can’t have one. The young girl is clearly saddened by this terrible turn of events and Katarina Stromgard clearly shows that in the illustrations of the girl longingly looking at a pet. The moon right off the bat is set as sad and dismal based from the cool colors which are predominantly gray and black. 

Throughout the day the girl is unhappy, and when she gets ready for bed the mood is still gloomy, which is depicted by the cool colors of many different shades of blue and green. However, during the night, a voice calls to the girl behind her wall to guess the voices name. When the girl gives the voice a name, a cat pops out. Throughout the rest of the book the girl and the cat venture outside and play together and the illustrations show that the girl is clearly happy to have the cat as her companion. Despite the illustrations depicting that it is still nighttime, there are many bright colors of green, yellow, and pink which show the girl’s happiness of being with her cat. This book is relatable to everyone who has ever wished for a pet that they cannot have. It clearly shows that the power of imagination can bring not only fear and joy, but can also remedy the loneliness of not having a pet. Recommended for ages 5-9. (NJG)


Misunderstood Shark

Dyckman, Ame. 2018. Misunderstood Shark. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-811247-4. Illustrated by Scott Magoon.

The oceans are filled with astonishing creatures ranging from whales, seals, octopuses, eels, crabs, lobsters, and SHARKS! Even though sharks are carnivorous, they are often misunderstood. Dyckman sheds light on the shark and reveals how misunderstood these prepossessing creatures are to the young reader. A theme of suspense is portrayed throughout the book as the reader uncovers bits of information about sharks in a way that gets the reader to wonder what the shark is going to do next and what they will learn from his actions. 

Scott Magoon sets the mood right from the start as happy and calming with the bright colors of green, blue, yellow, orange, pink, and purple. The illustrations also show the direction of where the shark is going by the bubbles that follow him wherever he swims. The illustrations also show the suspense when the shark, on many occasions, swims off to what seems to be his next meal. Those images are portrayed by the dark colors of gray, black, and dark green. However, the bright colors return and the mood is once again calm and happy when the truth is revealed. 

This book is perfect for young readers as they learn interesting facts about sharks. Join the filming crew in Misunderstood Shark as they learn about this astonishing creature. This book will get young readers to want to learn more about sharks and hopefully help them understand this astonishing creature. Recommended for children ages 3-5. (NJG)


Moby Dick

Melville, Herman. 2019. Moby Dick. Chronicle Books. 16pp. $40.00. ISBN 978-1-45-217384-9. Illustrated by Joelle Jolivet.

Adventure. Many young readers have a fondness for reading books that contain adventure, and the pop-up book of Herman Melville’s extraordinary novel Moby Dick is perfect for those young readers. Young readers will be enthralled by pop-up pictures that help tell the story of the hunt for the mysterious white whale. Throughout the book, there seems to be an ever-constant threat that seems to be looming just under the horizon; it is depicted throughout the story by the dark colors of blue, black, gray, and brown as the sailors of the ship named the Pequod attempt to hunt down the ever elusive white whale.

While the wording of this story might be difficult at times for young readers, and the story feeling incomplete, the literature of the book tells the reader the key events that happened in the original novel. However, on each page there are footnotes that give a brief background to help give the reader a better understanding of what is going on. From the introduction of Ishmael to the sinking of the Pequod, the story’s literature helps paint a picture for young readers of the famous novel Moby Dick. This book though gives off an important lesson: the captain of the Pequod wants to do nothing else except hunt down the white whale, and in the end it destroys him. Young children need to realize that sometimes they need to let go of something in order to recognize the beauty of what they have. Recommended for children ages 2-5. (NJG)


The Greatest Adventure

Piedra, Tony. 2018. The Greatest Adventure. Scholastic Inc. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-813419-3. Illustrated by Tony Piedra.

Kids have always had a great imagination when it comes to creating adventures. Whether fictional or nonfictional, they are all the same thing to a child: a great adventure. Eliot is a young boy who is just like those kids. He goes on amazing adventures that are so realistic that they seem to be actually happening before he is pulled out of the confines of his mind. When those “adventures” end, he finds himself wanting the real thing. He wants a real adventure. He was happy while those “adventures” lasted, which can be seen in the illustrations through the use of bright colors green blue, yellow, and white. However, he gets to experience real adventures when his grandpa comes back from sailing. After being able to sail on his grandfather’s boat, Eliot could truly say that he has had the greatest adventure.

Young readers will be drawn to the book’s wording of simple sentences describing the adventures of Eliot and his grandfather. However, those simple sentences help young readers realize two very important pieces of information. The first is that no matter how amazing the adventures that are created within one’s mind the real ones will always be better. Secondly, an adventure does not have to be something that happens on the other side of the world. It can happen in their very own neighborhood or with their grandpa on his small boat. This book is recommended for children ages 4-8. (NJG)


The Secret of Zoone

Fodi, Lee Edward. 2019. The Secret of Zoone. HarperCollins. 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-284526-9.

Children often come up with a world that teems with monsters, knights, princesses, wizards, and other various forms of fantasy. Sometimes those worlds can be reached from our world; through a portal or some form of door leading from this world into a mystical world. This is what happens to Ozzie in The Secret of Zoone. Ozzie is a young boy who lives in an apartment with his aunt Temperance. One day Ozzie discovers a door in the basement of the apartment that has the letter “N” on it; the door seems to lead to nowhere. However, Ozzie discovers that the door leads somewhere when a skyger, a winged tiger, appears on the sofa in his apartment. The skyger, Tug, and Ozzie go through the door and into a portal that transports them to the land of Zoone. However, the doorway that led Tug and Ozzie to Zoone from Earth has crumbled. Now Ozzie wants to do nothing more than to fix his way home… and maybe save the multiverse at the same time.

Throughout his adventures in the land of Zoone, Ozzie meets many different people. For example, some of the people he meets are a princess and a wizard’s apprentice. The dominant themes in The Secret of Zoone are trustworthiness and family. Ozzie has to trust his friends to help him to prepare the door to his “dying” world and save the multiverse. The second theme, family, is about being there for others, loving and cherishing them no matter what happens, and taking care of each other, regardless of where they live or who a person is related to. Even though Ozzie is not with his Aunt in Zoone, he finds a family with his new friends. Readers can share an amazing adventure of suspense, joy, family, friendship, and trustworthiness with Ozzie and his friends. Recommended for ages 8-12. (NJG)


The Second Sky

Guest, Patrick. 2017. The Second Sky. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-80-285520-6. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley.

When Gilbert the penguin hatches, the first thing his eyes sees is the sky with the stars and the moon glowing amidst the vast heavens. At that moment, Gilbert decides to join the birds in the sky. He continually tries to flap his wings and falls down. However, he keeps getting back up to attempt to fulfill his dream of flying in the sky. Even after his family tells him to stop his feeble attempts of flying, Gilbert persists. Determination is a key theme of this book and serves to encourage readers that it is okay to fall down while striving towards a goal. The question is, will a person get back up and press onward?

As Gilbert attempts to fly he accidentally falls into the ocean and discovers something amazing. He discovers that he can fly in the second sky he sees in the ocean. The Second Sky stresses that readers should never give up on their dreams. Young readers can learn many things from Gilbert: in order to make dreams realities, people often have to discover what their limits are and find creative ways to overcome the obstacles that come their way. The illustrations depict the sequence of events and establish the mood. Gilbert is always shown apart from the other penguins and looking up at the sky while the others look away from him, demonstrating the abnormality of his dream of flying. The colors also show the frustrations that Gilbert is having with the blues and grays that dominate the pictures. As for the birds and the sky, they represented in many bright colors such as orange, red, light brown, and blue. When Gilbert discovers his second sky–the ocean–the colors are bright: blue, green, red, orange, yellow, and lime. This book is recommended for children ages 3-6. (NJG)


I’m Ok

Kim, Patti. 2018. I’m Ok. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441929-2.

    Moving to the United States from Korea as a three-year-old can be difficult for anyone. For Ok, whose father passes away unexpectedly during his sixth-grade year, is forced to grow up faster than any child should. Ok, pronounced like pork without the p and r is determined to find a way to make money to help his mother, who works three jobs to make ends meet after the death of his father. The theme, coming of age, is prevalent as Ok works to find the optimal way to make money to help pay the bills which keep piling up at home. He tries hair braiding, tutoring, and trying to win a talent show, which all prove to be less profitable than he initially thought. During the rising action, Ok is at his peak trying to make as much money as possible; as a result, he starts to lose sight of his values. Ok becomes focused only on money and forgets how much his friends and family care about him. At the climax, his friends, mother, and mother’s new boyfriend all support Ok individually to aid him in realizing there is more to life than making money. 

    Through this coming of age story, young adults will be able to relate to Ok’s struggles, from living in a country as an immigrant to bullying to growing up fatherless, to living on a low budget. Ok proves to have the same typical struggles as other adolescents, despite dealing with abnormal situations. Ok’s story  provides children an insight into life as an immigrant and life after losing a loved one. (GRG)


A Story Like the Wind

Lewis, Gill. 2018. A Story Like the Wind. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 80pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-19-275895-8. Illustrated by Jo Weaver.

Most thirteen-year-olds do not have to worry about their safety or where they are going to live, but Rami, the main character, deals with these issues as he is on a blow-up plastic raft with other refugees leaving their war-torn home country. Each refugee carries their memories and a few prized possessions. Rami could only bring his violin and plays for the people on the raft while telling them the story of Suke to help them get through the long night. Suke, an adolescent boy, rescued a horse from the snow, giving him shelter and food, but maintained the horse was not his possession. During the climax, the Dark Lord kills Suke’s horse. Devastated, Suke’s horse comes to him in a dream. The horse tells Suke to us one of his ribs and some of his hair to create a bow. Afterward, he should draw the bow across his lifeless body to make music and continue telling his story. The theme of hope is prevalent as the refugees listen to Suke’s story and relate it to their own lives. The setting serves as an antagonist. Being on the ocean on a raft escaping from a war-torn country proves difficult for all the refugees, but they band together to help each other survive the journey. Suke’s story and the music from the violin help everyone on the raft forget about their setting, at least temporarily. The illustrations show the emotions the refugees are feeling. All the pictures use only cool colors, specifically shades of blue and grey. The color scheme conveys the calm the refugees feel, even if their journey is rough. The lines illustrated during Rami’s storytelling are curved and whimsical to show the dreamlike nature of Suke’s journey with his horse. The texture used in the pictures of the ocean depicts the waves and ripples in the water. The shapes are almost all organic, which Norton (2011) would suggest means they are not human-made structures but as one would find them in nature. Through both the illustrations and the plot, young adults will share the hope of refugees and perhaps empathize with the conflicts and challenges of the characters. (GRG)


If the S in Moose Comes Loose

Hermann, Peter. 2018. If the S in Moose Comes Loose. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-229510-1. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

Readers follow along as Cow goes on an adventure to find a way to fix his friend Moose because his S came loose, and his E broke free, leaving him as a moo. Through the rising action, Cow tries to find letters G, L, U, and E to make glue to stick Moose’s S and E back by manipulating words to find the letters he needs. Conflict arises when Cow asks Bull for his U, and Bull gets angry and starts chasing her. Cow manages to escape into a house where she removes the U, turning it into a hose. During the climax and falling action, Cow finds the last letter she needs, makes the glue, and puts Moose’s S and E back in place. Moose is once again safe with his friend Cow. Vibrant colors are used to show all of the places in Cow’s adventure. Orange is used for the words, giving them contrast with the other colors on the page. Diagonal lines are used to show Cow’s movement patterns, and rough lines are used to show texture in the animals and hair. The shapes are almost all organic, meaning they are natural. While reading this book, children will observe the different ways letters can be manipulated to make new words. By taking away or adding letters, new words are formed from previous words such as moose to moo or house to hose. Learning and teaching this skill is difficult, and engaging storyline will help children see words differently. (GRG).


Tomorrow Most Likely

Eggers, Dave. 2019. Tomorrow Most Likely. Chronicle Books. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-45-217278-1. Illustrated by Lane Smith.

No one can be certain what tomorrow will bring, but most likely, it will be an astonishing day with exciting experiences for everyone. Told through the lens of a young boy getting ready for bed, readers journey through the endless possibilities of tomorrow from meeting a squirrel named Stu to eating a cloud. The many featured potential outcomes allow children to imagine what may happen tomorrow as they journey with the young boy on his exploration. The pictures help depict the different scenarios possible tomorrow. The use of vibrant blues, greens, purples, pinks, reds, and oranges helps convey the astonishing day tomorrow will be for this young boy. The horizontal baselines and straight horizontal lines represent the safety of tomorrow. The textures and shapes of the surroundings are unrealistic, suggesting the imagination of the young boy forms the adventures of tomorrow. (GRG)


Angel and Bavar

Wilson, Amy. 2018. Angel and Bavar. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-267151-6.

    Follow along on an exciting adventure with two young adults, each with their separate secrets. The magical quest and conflicts provide a fantasy element and create the perfect adventure for readers. During the exposition, Angel, whose parents died, was moved to a new foster home and started at a new school. Angel knows she does not fit in, an idea she is content with until she meets a boy named Bavar, and forms an unlikely friendship with during the rising action. Angel notices something different about Bavar, reminding her of the night her parents died. She decides she must find out why he is different and goes to his house. Bavar pushes her away until she sees him fighting a monster on the roof one night. It is at this time they decide to team up to fight these monsters, called raksasa. The main conflict is person versus monster, as Bavar protects the world from the raksasa, so they do not hurt others as they did Angel's parents. 

During the climax, a raksasa breaks free from Bavar's estate and goes straight for the school on parent night. Angel tries to help fight, but Bavar sends her back to the house to use a spell to close the rift, a portal raksasa use to transport between their world and the mortal world. Angel starts the spell but cannot finish it, but Bavar comes to help, and together, they close the rift forever. During the resolution, Bavar and Angel start to adjust to their new lives without magic and raksasa. Each chapter changes point of view from Bavar to Angel, a unique style helping propel the story. These distinctive perspectives allow readers to see both Bavar and Angel's reactions to the events in the plot and conflicts. (GRG)

Sometimes Rain

Fleming, Meg. 2019. Sometimes Rain. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-145918-1. Illustrated by Diana Sudyka.

Sometimes there are rainbows, sometimes there is rain, but life always finds a way to work itself out. Through a person versus nature conflict, readers receive an opportunity to see the ups and downs in life as the children in the story find a way to appreciate the day no matter the weather. During the exposition and rising action, the children are playing in different weather conditions. The weather tries to ruin their plans with rain, but the children decide to make the most of their circumstances by jumping in muddy puddles. Through the falling action and resolution, everyone finds something to make them happy and realize they are always safe at home, no matter the weather.

The illustrations show a variety of different colors to depict the mood of each situation. For example, when it is raining, there are darker blues and greens, but when the children are home, there are bright whites, blues, reds, oranges, and greens. These color changes depict the transitions of mood. The shapes are all organic, meaning they could all occur in nature. The trees and animals are all made up of organic shapes to help establish the naturistic ambiance of the story. Multiple layers of lines and different colors provide texture to the trees and animals. For example, the trees use numerous shades of browns with diagonal lines, showing the intricacies of the bark. (GRG) 


Vanishing Colors

Ørbeck-Nilssen, Constance. 2019. Vanishing Colors. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $18.00. ISBN 978-0-80-285518-3. Illustrated by Akin Duzakin.

    Follow a young refugee and her mother spending the night in a war-torn city. During the exposition and rising action, the young girl’s mother comforts her during the night in a demolished building, trying their best to stay dry and safe, which proves difficult. To calm the young girl’s nerves, her mother tells her a story of a bird as she drifts to sleep. While asleep, the bird comes to the girl and helps her remember the best parts of her life. The conflict is person versus society because the girl and her mother are trying to survive while the war goes on around them. The climax occurs when the girl starts to remember her past and happy memories. During the resolution, the girl comes to realize there is still hope in her situation, and her family will survive the war. 

    Color is used to depict the grimness of the situation. When the girl is in the present, the pictures use copious amounts of grey and black while bright reds, yellows, and greens are slowly added as compliments to show happy memories. By the resolution, all the colors of the rainbow are used, depicting the hope the girl feels for her future. The use of on the bird’s feathers is apparent, achieved through multiple curved lines with different shades of black and grey. The buildings are organically shaped, showing the effects of the war on the city. (GRG)



Klein, Cheryl B. 2019. Wings. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99 ISBN 978-1-53-440510-3. Illustrated by Tomie dePaola.

    Follow the first flight of a young bird, who experiences many trials and tribulations. This picture storybook, told through single rhyming words, encourages readers to use the illustrations and their imagination. The exposition shows the baby birds in the nest with their wings, one clings to the edge of the nest, getting ready to take flight. During the rising action, the bird flings itself out of the nest but falls and experiences the sting of hitting the ground. The bird must wring the water out, and finds a few dings from the fall, but encounters some food on the ground. The conflict is bird versus nature because the bird is trying to fly but keeps being knocked down. It perseveres through being knocked down, always getting back up again during the falling action and resolution. The bird must take their findings and fly them up to the nest to feed its family after they do, it zings through the sky.

Illustrations of the bird’s emotions, shown by various facial expressions, as well as actions, play a vital role in telling the story as the only text is single rhyming words. The shapes are organic; emphasizing the setting as nature. The colors are bright and vibrant yellows, greens, pinks, and reds, signifying spring and the hatching of new birds. The use of lines show the bird’s movement of falling and flying in loopy patterns.The texture of the birds’ feathers, leaves, and trees are created through multiple colors and lines mixing, creating an effect of feathers. (GRG)


New Kid

Craft, Jerry. 2019. New Kid. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 256pp. $21.99 ISBN 978-0-06-269120-0.

Being the new kid is never easy, but when one looks different from everyone in school, it can be more challenging. This adversity is what Jordan deals with when his mom sends him to a prestigious private school. Jordan wants to attend an art school, but his mother decides the prestigious environment would be better for his future. During the exposition and rising action, Jordan starts his new school and faces stereotyping from both his teachers and other students. He is one of few students of color, which leads to one of the main conflicts, person versus society. Jordan and the other students of color must face stereotyping every day from other students and teachers. The climax occurs when Jordan and his friend Drew stand up to their teacher, who called them by the wrong names and treated them differently than other students because of their skin color. In the dénouement, Jordan realizes despite the adversity he faced, he likes his new school and can spend time with both his old and new friends.

This graphic novel has a realistic setting of a private school, which serves as an antagonist. Here is where Jordan must face prejudice for being on financial aid and a student of color in a predominantly white, upper-class environment. Different colors reflect mood; for example, when Jordan is upset, the colors of the images are muted and use a black background while bright colors convey a good mood. Line shows safety in Jordan’s house. There is always a horizontal baseline in his house, which denotes safety, While at his school, there are no baselines, representing the uneasiness Jordan feels. Texture is used to show details in the characters’ hair through curling, multi-color lines. The illustrations and the organic and artificial shapes give readers a glimpse into the way Jordan views the world. (GRG)


Lovely War

Berry, Julie. 2019. Lovely War. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 480pp. $18.99 ISBN 978-0-45-146993-9.

    Follow the tragic love story of Hazel and James, who leaves to fight for Britain during World War I. Told mostly through the viewpoint of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and various other Greek gods, including Ares, Apollo, Hephaestus, and Hades. The multiple perspectives, switching from one god to the next, helping to weave Hazel and James’ story with Aubrey and Colette’s, another soldier and his love, demonstrating the interrelation of war and love.

There are multiple settings, including Britain, America, France, and the combat zone. France and the combat zone both serve as antagonists, representing the distance between Hazel and James, who had to leave soon after they met. While taking place during World War II, flashbacks to World War I, Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette’s time occur. The major conflict is person versus society, the war separating Hazel and Colette from James and Aubrey, with the possibility the men will never return home. 

During the exposition, readers are introduced to the first narrators, Aphrodite, Ares, and Hephaestus. Hephaestus has captured Aphrodite and Ares, accusing her of cheating on him with Ares. Aphrodite convinces Hephaestus to let her tell a story of how love and war are interrelated. During the rising action, Aphrodite begins to tell the story of Hazel and James, a young couple from Britain who meet and fall in love at first sight days before James goes off to war. Aphrodite calls her witnesses, Ares, Apollo, and Hades, to help her narrate. The other gods integrate Aubrey and Colette’s journey into Hazel and James’. James witnesses horrific events during the war and goes home, suffering from PTSD. James initially refuses to see Hazel, but overtime returns to her. James’ Trauma is an internal conflict, but with some help, he heals enough to return to war and finish the fight. The climax occurs when Hazel and Colette travel to see James, but their train is bombed. Hazel is hit with glass and shrapnel, causing substantial injuries. She is about to die, but Aphrodite pleads with Hades to spare her, who begrudgingly agrees. Everyone in the mortal world becomes reunited, and James and Hazel marry. Through her story, Aphrodite and Hephaestus reconcile, and the charges of her cheating drop. (GRG)


Power Up: Your Incredible, Spectacular, Supercharged Body.

Fishman, Seth. 2019. Power Up: Your Incredible, Spectacular, Supercharged Body. HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-245579-6. Illustrated by Isabel Greenberg.

A pinkie has enough energy to power one of the largest cities for an entire day. A femur can resist a force of up to 2,500 pounds. By using Einstein's E=MC2 and the human body as an example, the author describes how the smallest objects have more power than imaginable. By using the body, readers can comprehend the power they hold, no matter their size. Facts presented in simple language allow readers of all ages to understand the content, inspiring them to use their energy and power. There are many facts about the human body, such as the clavicle, which is the most commonly broken bone.  

    The illustrations use vibrant yellows, reds, oranges, and blues to depict the power and energy of the body. Line is used to show both movement and emphasis. When the characters are running, lines behind them show their quick movements. When they discuss the power in the pinkie, there are lines around the little finger to emphasize its power. Texture is created with lines and shading to add realistic features to the shapes, such as the illustrations of buildings.   

The author is credible because, in his endnotes, he describes the way he uses Einstein’s E=MC2 in his work. Fishman explains how and why it works in simple language to appeal to his young audience. (GRG)


The Story of Olympic Swimmer Duke Kahanamoku

Crowe, Ellie. 2019. The Story of Olympic Swimmer Duke Kahanamoku. Lee & Low Books. 80pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-16-2014852-5. Illustrated by Richard Waldrep.

Many children dream of competing in the Olympics and winning the gold for their country. This is exactly what Hawaii native Duke Kahanamoku, one of the fastest swimmers in the world did during the 1900s. He competed primarily in Hawaii until he was discovered by his coach. Despite facing racial discrimination while attempting to qualify for the Olympic team, he won a total of three golds, two silvers, and one bronze during his Olympic career. Kahanamoku was born in Hawaii and did not leave the islands until the opportunity to participate in the Olympics came along. In order to try out, he had to go to the mainland. However, his family could not afford it, so friends and extended family helped to raise enough money for Kahanamoku to take a boat to the mainland. He became one of the most popular swimmers in the world, living by the “motto of aloha,” which requires one to treat all people with love and hospitality. Young readers will be introduced to Olympians of lower socioeconomic status or differing ethnicities and may find a role model in Duke Kahanamoku. Sources used to research Kahanamoku’s life, a glossary, and a timeline are provided for readers interested in learning more about the swimmer. (GRG)


Naomis Too

Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola and Vernick, Audrey. 2018. Naomis Too. HarperCollins (Balzer and Bray). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-268515-5.

As two sisters navigate their new routines at a new school, readers observe their experiences with racism, divorce, remarriage through the eyes of a child. The two Naomis are attempting to adjust to the realities of divorce and how it has impacted their family life. At school, the girls experience racial harassment because Naomi E. is black and Naomi Marie is white. Naomi E. is treated poorly at school by her classmates, who make judgments on her character based on her race and struggles to make sense of the racism she encounters on a daily basis. Naomi Marie tries to adjust with not getting to see her mother that often and feeling like her father and her aren’t quite part of the family yet. As the sisters grapple with growing up and figuring out their identities, they realize they must rely on each other, their friends, and their parents. Readers ages 8-12 will find this a compelling tale of modern racial prejudice and may help students struggling with divorce or navigating a racism as a member of a blended family. (CRG)



Cummings, Pat. 2019. Trace. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-269884-1. 

Trace Carter loses his parents in a car accident and must go live with his strange aunt. Themes of friendship and family are evident in this story as Trace tries to navigate life after trauma in a new home and school. Tace begins to see a young boy in tattered clothing in different places and swears he is able to see through him. He then digs deeper into the history of the town, only to discover the circumstances of a fire and a string of events that reveal a hidden side of his family's history. Trace cannot seem to make any friends, with the exception of his one close classmates, Ty. His other classmates frequently mock him with racist taunts and his teacher does not understand his needs. Despite his aunt’s best efforts, Trace often battles the feelings of isolation and loneliness as struggles to process his parents’ death. Mental health stigmas also plays a large role in the plot, as Trace visits a therapist every week to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. The author uses descriptive language and dialogue to build a world which keeps readers engaged. However, there are also problematic elements of Trace’s behavior, such as misogyny underage drinking, and skipping school, that may not be appropriate for all readers. If used in a classroom setting, teachers should preface these sections of the text with a discussion of how and why Trace may partake in these behaviors and what healthier coping mechanisms for loss are. This book is recommended for ages 8-12. (CRG)

How to Talk to Your Computer

Simon, Seymour. 2019. How to Talk to Your Computer. HarperCollins. 42pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-06-445010-2. Illustrated by Mike Lowery.

Computer programing and the inner workings of technology can be an intimidating subject to cover in a classroom. This text takes a complex subject and explains it in an accessible manner for  children. Colorful and engaging illustrations of children using technology and robots doing different tasks allow readers to picture themselves using the technology as well. The language is also accessible to elementary students. The author has worked with many organizations to develop child-friendly science and technology programs. Since the book is relatively text dense and does not have a plot, this text would serve best in a classroom setting to complement lessons about technology and cyber skills still relevant today, despite the fact that the book was published in 1985. This is the second book in the series so it would also be helpful to have the first as well. This text is an up-to-date and accurate new edition with revised text and brand-new art was vetted by Dr. Justin Solomon, Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is recommended for readers in grades 2-3. (CRG)


Spy School Goes South

Gibbs, Stuart. 2019. Spy School Goes South. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 384pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-48-147786-4.

Two of the countries top agents in training at the Academy of Espionage in Washington D.C. Agents Ben Ripley and Erica Hale receive a strange meeting request where they must decide whether or not to trust former agency mole, Murray Hill, and embark on a top secret mission to take down the dangerous criminal organization SPYDER. Their adventure quickly takes them on a rickety private jet to the tropical jungles and beaches of Mexico with the help of two stowaway agents, Zoe and Mike, where they must face some of the world’s most dangerous criminals while also juggling romance and friendships. The adventure not only makes them question each other’s motives but also themselves as they decide what is most important; their friendships and loyalties to each other, or the mission at hand. Although the plot itself is a bit surface level and predictable, it touches on themes of political corruption as well as the importance of protecting the environment in ways that young readers would be able to grasp. The female characters are strong and independent, qualities that are valuable for readers of all genders to observe and model in their own lives. The storyline is packed with action and suspense, which keeps readers of ages 8-12 engaged from beginning to end. (CRG)


Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival

Moore, Lindsay. 2019. Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival. HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-279128-3.

Polar bears must make a difficult journey over melting ice as global temperatures rise and the search for food grows more challenging. The majority of the illustrations are filled with various shades of the color blue, which gives a feeling of cold and also represents isolation and calmness. The lines of the waves give a feeling of flow and motion and also convey a sense of time passing as the bear moves past the various animals such as narwhals and a whale. The biggest contrast of color is between the dark blues of the water and the light purples, blues, and whites of the sky. This split in color creates a clear divide between above and below the surface as if they are two separate worlds that the white bear navigates. Many of the colors are blended there are few solid blocks of color in the images. This spongy effect gives a sense of depth and adds to the texture of the various objects that are illustrated. The shapes are very organic and the edges of natural formations like icebergs and rocks are jagged, while the animals’ bodies and the waves appear smooth and contain very few sharp edges. Readers ages 4-8 will enjoy accompanying the polar bear on its journey. (CRG)


Quiet Wyatt: Super Shy or Superhero

Sauer, Tammy. 2018. Quiet Wyatt: Super Shy or Superhero? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-411330-5.

When readers meet Wyatt for the first time, they learn all of the activities he excels at because of his reserved nature, such as being a ninja, visiting museums. While Wyatt generally keeps to himself, he learns to use his voice in order to protect his field trip partner from danger. Introverted children are frequently misunderstood and encouraged to change their ways. However, readers will learn the value of active listening and how to embrace different communication styles. The illustrations depict Wyatt using his observation skills to watch out for dangerous situations, despite his field trip partner repeatedly boasting about how great of an outdoor explorer she was. Readers ages 4-7 will develop a greater appreciation for the ability to stop, look, and listen. (CRG)


Goat’s Coat

Percival, Tom. 2018. Goat’s Coat. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury Children's Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-68-119901-6. Illustrated by Christine Pym.

Young Goat receives a brand new coat. As he travels through the forest, Goat meets c other animals in need who he assists by giving them parts of his coat. As Goat’s coat decreases in size, his generosity gains him more friends. The illustrations are composed of  natural colors like greens and browns, while the bright, yellow hue of the coat pop off the page. The soft textures of the grass and animals are inviting and emphasize organic shapes. Horizontal baselines and geometric shapes convey a sense of security throughout Goat’s journey through the forest. While Goat may give up most of his coat, he remains safe his entire trip, especially with the assistance of all his newfound friends. Readers ages 3-6 will learn the value of sharing, generosity, and gratitude they can apply to their own friendships. (CRG)


The Royal Rabbits of London: Escape from the Palace

Montefiore, Santa and Montefiore, Simon Sebag. 2018. The Royal Rabbits of London: Escape from the Palace. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 224pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149863-0. Illustrated by Kate Hindley.

Shilo Tawny-Tail might look like just a scrawny country bunny, but through his heroic acts as part of the Royal Rabbits of London, a secret order of rabbits who live below Buckingham Palace, Shilo proves physical strength is not everything. When the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is in danger of falling apart at the hands of an evil pack of mega rats, called the Ratzis, Shilo must use his intelligence to save the day and will readers will learn not to underestimate others because of their size or place of origin. Detailed illustrations and descriptive action keep readers engaged from beginning to end. The antagonists of the story conduct their evil schemes through the use of spreading negative comments online, a prevalent issue in modern society. Teachers and guardians can use this story to spark conversations about digital citizenship and the complex topic of internet terrorism for readers ages 8-12. (CRG)


Chicken Talk

MacLachlan, Patricia. 2019. Chicken Talk. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239864-2. Illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.

Have you ever wished that you could communicate with animals? Farmer Otis, his wife Abby, and their children William and Belle begin to speak to their chickens once the creatures begin leaving messages for the family in the dirt around their farm. They begin requesting changes in their diet, a fan, and soon begin to fully communicate with their caretakers. At first, the townspeople don’t believe the family, soon discover how intelligent the birds are. Watercolor illustrations composed of bright, warm colors such as yellows, oranges, and reds are well-suited to the story’s offbeat plot. The different colors of the chickens’ feathers reflect their unique personalities, which stresses the importance of diversity. This light-hearted story will work well in classrooms as a tool to emphasize the value of diversity, the importance of active listening, and respecting others’ needs. (CRG)


We are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders

Belafonte, Harry. 2019. We are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders. Chronicle Books. 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-45-217039-8. Illustrated by various artists.

Quotes from inspirational historical figures, humanitarians, and civil rights leaders are featured in this text. In addition to the quotes, background information on historical figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a brief history of the time in which these figures lived, and context for the quotation is provided for readers. Readers will learn how various thinkers, writers, and Civil Rights leaders addressed society in order to create lasting change. The illustrations are composed by a large team of artists, which emphasizes the importance of diversity of thought, style, and skills. The quotes on the pages themselves become part of the illustrations by incorporating the text into the images. Variations in size or font changes reflect different emotions or moods. Readers ages 8-12 will learn more about American history and the many people who advocated for human rights throughout time. (CRG)


Fear the Bunny

Morris, Richard T. Fear the Bunny. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Book). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-147800-7. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris.

Competitors often size up their opponents based on their size. However, just because something is small doesn’t mean that it isn’t tough. The text is based on “The Tyger” by William Blake. The tiger believes he is the most feared animal in the forest and proclaims there is nothing to fear about a bunny. However, the forest animals tell the tiger they are more fearful of the bunnies. Tiger thinks all the bunnies can do is hop on his head, nibble on his tail, or “cute” him to death. In the end, many bunnies manage to frighten Tiger enough to run him out of the forest. From prickly porcupines to feathery owls, each animal depicted in the illustrations have unique textures and colors. The background clearly shows that it is currently night time when the tiger claims that he is the most fearsome animal of all with the dark, browns, greens, and blacks on all of the trees in the background. As the plot progresses, the background darkens to signify the passage of time. Readers ages 4-8 will remain engaged with the storyline and will learn to never underestimate others based on their physical appearance. (NJG)


Lizzie Flying Solo

Stevenson, Nanci Turner. 2019. Lizzie Flying Solo. HarperCollins. 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-267318-3.

Lizzie’s world turns upside down when her mother informs her they are unable to make ends meet. They are forced to sell their house and must place most of their belongings in storage. Lizzie and her mother move into low-income housing. Lizzy is afraid people will judge her or spread rumors because her father is in jail for embezzling money from his employer. As Lizzie and her mother struggle to adjust to their new lives, she finds a worn path in the woods behind the apartment complex that leads to a horse farm. Lizzie meets a young horse named Fire and forms a close bond with the animal. Lizzie begins to write poetry and enters her work in the local newspaper’s competition to win $25 to put towards buying Fire. She works many odd jobs to earn the $1,000 necessary to purchase Fire, only to learn Fire was previously stolen and his real owner has come to reclaim him. Lizzie is heartbroken but decides to use her money she raised to buy Fire to fund horseback riding lessons for other children at the apartment complex. Young readers ages 8-12 will learn the value of perseverance and generosity through Lizzie’s actions. (NJG)


The Mad Wolf's Daughter

Magras, D. 2018. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-73-522926-6.

One night, Drest's sheltered life on a remote Scottish coastline is shattered when knights from a distant kingdom capture her family, but leave her behind. Her father, known as the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who is able to save them. So, after disobeying her father’s orders to stay hidden, she starts off on a long journey to save them. Before she leaves, she remembers seeing a wounded knight fall during the battle whom she finds and takes with her. He was badly wounded, so Drest must support him the while they walk. She hoped to use him as a means of trade for her father and brothers. Along the way, there are many obstacles such as hunger, thieves, bandits, witches, not to mention she only has five days to get to the castle before her family is murdered. There is one bandit in particular with a dark link to her family's past, who incessantly follows her throughout her travels. Drest, the knight Emerick, and a new friend, Tig, travel through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, Drest’s five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns her family’s war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. She worries what would happen if she freed them: would they harm Emerick, who has now become a close friend of hers? Drest thought all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father's daughter or is it time to become her own legend? 

The plot moves through conflict in the form of person against nature, person against self, and person against person. Braving the wilderness is one of Drest’s many challenges on her lengthy journey to the castle. She battles the bandit and several others in sword fight along the way too. Her self-image changes throughout the novel as she discovers the truth about her father and brothers’ past. She chooses kindness and cleverness rather than brutality like her family. The setting is believable, but readers may be confused when characters, concepts, and places are not clearly introduced. Drest was only twelve years old in the story, and while this may be an inspiring story for young girls, there are things that Drest’s behavior is not typical of a twelve-year-old. (SAH)


Podkin One-Ear

Larwood, K. 2016. Podkin One-Ear. (Longburrow). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (Clarion Books). 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-869582-6. Illustrations by David Wyatt.

Podkin is a rabbit who is from a time far beyond the extinction of humans, in a world run by rabbits who live in a way similar to the way humans once did. An old Bard, or storyteller, comes to visit a family of rabbits on Bramblemas Eve to tell the tale of the legendary Podkin One-Ear. At the beginning of the Bard’s story, Podkin is the young son of the Chieftain of the Munbury Warren. Though he is lazy and entitled, he is next in line to be the Chieftain of the warren. All is well until the Gorm, rabbits transformed into evil creatures through from iron dark magic, attack Munbury Warren. Only Podkin, his older sister Paz, and baby brother Pook, are able to escape the attack. Before they flee, Podkin’s father gives him the most valuable treasure, Starclaw, a magical sword that can cut through anything, except iron. The three bunnies must run to escape the evil Gorm and their leader Scramashank. After deceit of a long time family friend turned evil, Podkin loses his ear in an accident. Running away, Podkin needs help with his ear, as he lost a lot of blood. Eventually along their journey they receive help from a kind witch who mends his ear and takes in the three bunnies for several weeks. They miss their parents dearly, wishing they could return home, but there would be nothing for them there anymore. Their parents were likely killed by the Gorm, so they had to keep moving. Their journey continues resulting in a surprisingly brief climax of Podkin battling Scramashank. Though the odds are unlikely, Podkin defeats the evil rabbit. This is the first book of a series and more tales of Podkin One-Ear are to come! As Podkin as the protagonist of this story, he gets all the credit for the accomplishments of the three siblings, however, his sister Paz is much more intelligent, caring, and fit to be Chieftain than Podkin. Only the first male child can be named Chieftain. This old motif is too outdated for a novel written in the 21st century. Podkin hardly develops as a character, except he has to learn to be clever and brave in the face of danger. Paz on the other hand, continually learns how to be resourceful and a worthy leader throughout the book. Though the illustrations within the book are helpful, especially for readers to visualize the rabbits and their surroundings, they can be frightening and graphic. For young readers, this may be problematic and may cause them to be turned away from this series in the future. For a preteen/teen book, it has some dark themes, such as when Podkin loses his ear and the death of the parents in the beginning of the book. This book is enjoyable for older readers interested in young reader novels. (SAH)


Forgiving Moses (Roosevelt High School Series Book 10)

Velásquez, G. 2018. Forgiving Moses. Arte Público Press (Piñata Books). 160pp. $10.95. ISBN 978-1-55-885864-0.

It is Moses Vargas’ first day as a freshman at Roosevelt High, and he is not looking forward to being the new “tonto” at school. He misses his life in Salinas, CA, where he would hang out with his best friend, Arturo. He is tired of moving from one school to another and being the “new kid.”. He could not care less about first impressions at Roosevelt High. Moses also avoids speaking to anyone about his father, who is serving 25 years to life in prison on drug-related charges. Moses is suspended after a fight when a photo of him with his father in a prison uniform circulates among the students at school. A significant portion of the plot and conflicts center on Moses’ anger, pain, and confusion with varying degrees of success. Moses’ family is in tatters, particularly Moses’ relationships with his parents. Moses cannot understand why his mom wants to wait for his dad. Meanwhile, he struggles to appreciate and care for his father as a flawed human being throughout his prison visits. The other half of the novel is told through the perspective of the school counselor, Mr. Gutiérrez. Mr Gutiérrez begins a Círculo support group at school to reach out to students, including a reluctant Moses. Both Mr. Gutiérrez, and Dalana, a fellow Roosevelt High student whose father is also in prison, help Moses overcome his challenges of humiliation and mixed feelings about his family’s situation. Moses develops as a character by changing from being suspended from school and unhappy with his life, to a thriving student who accepts himself after finding people with similar backgrounds. Plot conflicts of person versus society and person versus self, Moses finds positivity in his life, new friends, and success in school despite his difficult start in Roosevelt High. From the perspectives of both Moses and Mr. Gutiérrez, readers can experience the challenging life of a young adult like Moses and view his situation through the lens of Mr. Gutiérrez’s job as a school counselor. High school, a place where everyone is trying to fit in and avoid too much attention while hormones are raging, gives this novel the element of setting as mood. In addition to accurately depicting a high school atmosphere, Forgiving Moses addresses the painful issue of children, particularly brown and black youth, whose fathers are not present in their life. With this, readers will connect with and/or sympathize with Moses and his day-to-day life. (SAH)


Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship

Elliott, L. M. 2018. Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 448pp. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-06-267130-1.

Set during the Revolutionary war, young Margarita “Peggy” Schulyer must watch her older sister Angelica elope with a dashing young man, Alexander Hamilton. In the exposition, the friendship between Peggy and Alexander develops as Peggy plays a role in connecting her sister with Alexander. In the meantime, the war relentlessly continues, and her father, General Phillip Schuyler, is largely involved with aspects of the planning and fighting, although he is not always successful in his military endeavors. Through her father’s powerful position in the war effort, Peggy uses the opportunity to prove herself as a valuable asset to the cause of liberty with her wit and intelligence. Peggy fights against the restrictions put upon women, meets many of the luminaries of the time, but also helps her mother with work around the house when her mother is caring for her younger children. Peggy faces many challenges of the era, per the setting as mood and portrays a theme of perseverance. For example, she travels in the bitter winter weather to speak her mind and prove she is not subdued! Set against many details of everyday life as well as the political challenges of war convinces readers of the historical accuracy of events and characters. The author cites her research in the back of the book, giving credit to her sources from which she gathered the historical information. Peggy’s strong sense of nationalism leads to her taking on daring escapades, much of which would not have been tolerated of women at the time period. Today, women can easily appreciate the unprecedented strides Peggy took to involve herself in the war effort. As a historical fiction, Peggy’s character fits the time period even though she was different from most women of her time, which suspends the disbelief for readers and keeps them engaged as they read. (SAH)


Struttin’ with Some Barbeque: Lil Hardin Armstrong Becomes the First Lady of Jazz.

Powell, P. H. 2018. Struttin’ with Some Barbeque: Lil Hardin Armstrong Becomes the First Lady of Jazz. Charlesbridge. 96pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089740-2. Illustrated by Rachel Himes.

This biography in free verse poetry tells the story of Lil Hardin Armstrong, the first lady of jazz and Louis Armstrong’s first wife. While the plot starts with Hardin Armstrong’s birth, most of the sequence of events focuses on her time as a jazz pianist in the 1920s and her influential role in Louis Armstrong’s successful career. The poetry is free-form and includes bits of scat, a typical technique of early jazz, and it works well as a vehicle to tell the story of such a strong figure in this movement. Hardin Armstrong’s life is compelling, and readers will be inspired by her perseverance and rise to fame in a male-dominated field and in the face of segregation. However, details about her life are less evident than in a typical biography partly because of the book’s lyrical format. Due to this, Powell includes a variety of information on Hardin Armstrong, jazz music, and the rise of jazz clubs in the 1920s in the back of the book in the form of a timeline, glossary, quotation sources, and an index. The charming illustrations of charcoal on paper nicely enhance the text with an emphasis on texture and fine detail. Attention to detail is conveyed through shading in the grayscale color scheme, line to define edges, creases, and motion in objects and the swing-dancing bodies of the people. Shapes in the illustrations are a mixture of organic and geometric, such as the illustrations of people, as well as many structural forms such as flat instruments like Hardin’s piano. (SAH)


Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World

Halligan, K. 2018. Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 112pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-53-443664-0. Illustrated by Sarah Walsh.

Halligan tells the stories of 55 historical women across the globe with notable personal and professional accomplishments. They include artists and writers, political and social leaders, health care workers and healers, scientific innovators, and activists and visionaries. The author and illustrator duo, Halligan and Walsh, devote each bustling, scrapbook collage-style spread to a different subject, layering biographical details against expressive portraits, photographs, and items of importance. In a very comprehensive manner of organizing the book, by women whose lives inspire the themes of “Believe & Lead,” “Imagine & Create,” “Help & Heal,” “Think & Solve,” and “Hope & Overcome,” readers will be able to compare and contrast the women by their achievements and lives. Halligan makes little distinction between figures of the distant past and those more contemporary, underscoring how change makers throughout time share a common bond. Alongside Empress Wu Zetian of China are scientist Dian Fossey and artists Frida Kahlo, Coco Chanel, and Billie Holiday. Activists include Malala Yousafzai, Indian secret agent Noor Inayat Khan, and Mayan human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú. Halligan and Walsh offer approachable educational content about lesser-known subjects in a warm and vibrant visual presentation. However, the exciting information about these influential women the book leaves out some negative aspects of some women’s lives. For example, Queen Isabella I of Spain, was one of the initiators of the Spanish inquisition, which displaced and killed countless Islamic people. Though she, and others with questionable stories, do belong in this book for being leaders among women in history, Halligan should have been more up front with the truth about these women, rather than presenting these facts as an afterthought and omitting historical information in order to not tarnish the images of these fifty-five women. Another example, she says that Queen Elizabeth I of England had her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, murdered for treason, but there is no mention she was indeed beheaded by Elizabeth’s people, the two women never met in real life, and Queen Mary was only trying to take a throne that belonged to her. Yes, Queen Elizabeth I was a powerful woman in a time of men, but all facts should be presented in order to give these women an accurate representation. As it is a children’s book, it is understandable to leave out some more mature information, however it should not be left unmentioned. This book would be an excellent discussion starter for people of all ages, and could be expanded in a classroom lesson with more detailed biographies about specific women. (SAH)


Stinkiest!: 20 Smelly Animals

Jenkins, S. 2018. Stinkiest!: 20 Smelly Animals. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $5.99. ISBN 978-1-32-884197-1.

This informational text brings the readers’ attention to some of the world’s stinkiest animals. Through illustrations, infographics, facts, and figures, readers will see the size of each animal compared to humans, where it lives on the globe, and just how putrid it can be! The pages are fact-packed and span the globe, detailing the astounding abilities of every shape, size, and species. Each page focuses on amazing and unusual animals, making this book, and the rest of the Extreme Animals series accessible, informative, and fascinating. The animals are organized by increasing stench as well as the way in which they produce their stink. With vibrantly illustrated pages, this book will be irresistible to children. The texture and style of illustration is unique. Jenkins illustrates with a style similar to Eric Carle, in which he uses pieces of patterned paper to make a collage to build the features of each animal. The patterned paper gives the animals a texture that is not lifelike, but still appealing. Almost all lines are organic to illustrate animals, however horizontal lines joined with vertical to make a rectangle denote caption boxes for each page. The aesthetic and organization of the pages is simple, with a white background, bringing attention to the text and pictures. (SAH)


Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Gardner, K. 2018. Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth. HarperCollins (Balzer & Bray). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-274161-5. Illustrated by Heidi Smith. 

Lovely Beasts is an informational book which teaches readers that animals may believe to be scary, are actually not so bad and there is so much more to them. The author uses a negative adjective, typically used for an animal. Then, uses a positive one others may not consider. The text also explains the reasoning behind it. Spiders are definitely known to be creepy, but people do not usually think of them as crafters. They design beautiful webs! Rhinoceroses might seem tough on the outside with their big horn and strong body, but they are also vulnerable and may soon become extinct. These are some of the animals examined along with gorillas, porcupines, bats, and others. The plot looks at animals differently, instead of just sticking to the stereotypes. It is educational with some interesting facts, for example some kinds of bats can eat 8000 mosquitoes a night, which makes them a caretaker. On the pages stating the negative stereotype of each animal, only shades of gray and black are used. This portrays a solemn feeling, making readers aware of the negativity directed at the animal. On the pages with the positive adjectives to describe the animals, the illustrations are full of color, which portrays the inherent value of these animals and refutes the previous stereotype. In the background of most of these illustrations, light green or blue convey the home of the animal, if they are terrestrial or aquatic. The colorful illustrations emphasize how these “beasts” are lovely. The brush-stroke technique makes for a soft and velvety texture on the animals and their surroundings. All shapes are organic; only illustrations are of animals and their surroundings. The contrast between the negative and positive illustrations for each animal initially shares the “bad side” of the animal, such as a snarling wolf or a charging herd of rhinos, but then by a softer expression follows on the faces or a more docile action. The “friend” quality of wolves shows three wolves standing close together, with expressions mimicking a human smile. The rhino, on his “vulnerable” page, stands alone, far away, making him appear very small. This enforces the author’s statement about how rhinos are in danger of becoming instinct, and perfectly described as vulnerable. Overall, an excellent book that would be a strong addition to a children’s lesson about stereotypes, or simply for lesser-known information about animals. (SAH)


The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA

Woods, Brenda. 2019. The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-52-473709-2.

A boy named Gabriel discovers the reality of the town he has lived in his entire life. The setting of the story is Birdsong, USA as well as the gas station owned by Jake, Gabriel’s father. On a surface level, Birdsong is a town where the people live harmoniously and is a generally safe place. Through a newfound perspective, Gabriel learns the harsh truth of the complexities of his town. Gabriel is the main character in this story. His parents are Agatha and Jake. Other main characters include Meriwether Hunter, a man who saves Gabriels life and works as a mechanic in Jake’s gas station; Abigail, Meriwether’s daughter; Lukas, a mechanic at Jake’s gas station; Tink, Gabriel’s cousin; and Patrick, Gabriel’s best friend. The plot begins as Meriwether saves Gabriel from getting hit by a car. Meriwether is then given a job at the gas station to work with Jake, thus introducing the complication between Meriwether and Lukas. As the story evolves, the conflict between Meriwether and Lukas thickens until the climax occurs. Lukas attempts to murder Abigail, Meriwether’s daughter because of the racial conflict as well as Lukas’ discovering how Meriwether is a WWII veteran. This climax is de-escalated through the intervention of Gabriel and Jake. Conflicts are resolved as Meriwether and his family decide to move to Michigan where the mindset is different and they might be safer. This resolution also comes through the death of Lukas. Told from the point of view of Gabriel, Meriwether shows Gabriel how to look through the eyes of others to see a situation more clearly. Therefore, an argument could be made there are multiple points of view as the book progresses and Gabriel gains perspective in his outlook of Birdsong. Gabriel’s character develops drastically throughout the narrative. He begins as a naive twelve-year-old boy who has not encountered much conflict on a grand scale in his life. As the plot develops, he begins to gain perspective and see the truth of his town. This truth is that Birdsong is a town with a flawed mindset centered around racist beliefs. Before meeting Meriwether, Gabriel had not encountered or seen racism directly affecting any one person. His relationship with Meriwether reveals to him the stark contrast in the way people treat one another based on skin tone. Meriwether teaches Gabriel to see through many pairs of eyes and gives him the tools he needs to develop his perspective and see Birdsong from many different angles thus forming the whole picture on various situations rather than accepting the way things are and seeing them on a surface level. The two main themes are race and socioeconomic status (SES). Race is a main theme between Meriwether, a black citizen of Birdsong, and the other white citizens. This conflict is one purely conceived through white superiority and dominance over people of color. The theme of race has a significant relationship with the second theme, SES. The SES of colored people in Birdsong is very poor compared to their white counterparts. A prime example of the priority when it comes to funding is the schooling system of white children vs. black children in Birdsong. The white school includes classrooms full of desks, a library, a playground, and a cafeteria while the school for non-white children consists of a single room with a couple of desks. This prioritization of white schools is a direct product of the racial inequalities in the town. Therefore, these racial inequalities negatively affect the SES of black people. One of the most crucial conflicts in this novel is Meriwether v. Lukas. Lukas is a racist mechanic at Jake’s gas station and is a suspected member of the KKK. This conflict is a product of the theme of race. Lukas represents more than just himself in this conflict. He represents the mindset of the majority in the USA at the time while Meriwether represents the black experience in this time period. Another conflict in this narrative is Gabriel v. self. Gabriel is constantly asking questions and is a deep thinker. He engages in an inner conflict over how to help or impact the people in Birdsong. He also is conflicted over his “destiny.” He is unsure of his path in life and seems to think those around him are sure about their futures. This causes him to think even more deeply on what he wants to do with his life, thus initiating his search for his own destiny. This book is important to include in a classroom library because it approaches difficult issues such as race in a comprehensive manner. The author uses the tool of perspective and seeing through multiple pairs of eyes to aid the reader’s understanding of race by showing the reader how to see a situation from multiple angles. This takeaway allows readers to enter the world with an understanding of how to critically analyze a situation through multiple lenses. (JMH)


Harold Snipperpot’s Best Disaster Ever

Alemagna, Beatrice. 2019. Harold Snipperpot’s Best Disaster Ever. HarperCollins. 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-249882-3.

    A lonely seven-year-old boy named Harold Phillip Snipperpot is about to celebrate his birthday. He is excited for this particular birthday because he has never had a real birthday party. A man named Mr. Ponzio promises Harold to invite the best guests for his party. When his guests start arriving, Harold is surprised to see they are wild animals.The plot describes the chain of events for his party. Harold’s parents experience a similar development of character. They begin as having a rigid relationship with little room for affection. This relationship is emphasized in the illustrations. The plot begins with a mix of vertical/horizontal and diagonal/asymmetrical lines representing a conflict in the home. The boys’ parents are very grumpy. Harold says, “They never hugged or laughed. And forget about a kiss goodnight - they barely even talked.” This relationship evolves as the story progresses and Harold’s parents become closer through experiencing the chaos of the party and remembering to bring energy back into their relationship. Similarly, the beginning of the book has illustrations which are largely geometric shapes in the house. Squares, rectangles, triangles, circles and hexagons are seen in the details of the house interior. This rigid interior reflects back to the conflict in the house among Harold’s parents. They have settled into a rigid relationship where little affection is shown for one another. In addition, as the plot progresses and more animals enter the household, organic shapes appear. The animals introduce an unbalanced wild nature into the house shocking the parents out of their rigidity and brings them back together again. 

    The personal conflict between Harold’s parents is a person v. person conflict. This conflict is reflected in the theme as well. The theme of family is see throughout the text as Harold hopes his parents will find their way back to each other. In addition, as the chaos ensues at the party, Harold and his parents are forced to work together to attempt to maintain some sense of order. At the end of the story, Harold’s parents embrace each other and the whole family is playing, being silly, and showing affection for each other. This resolves the conflict between Harold’s parents and reminds them all to take life a bit less seriously. This resolution spills into the second theme of liberation. The story opens with a family filled with barriers. As the animals come in, they break down those barriers and show the family how to enjoy themselves, thus freeing them from their mental boxes. The family is free to play together and show their love for each other again. 

    The setting reflects the mood. The setting of the fountain at the end supplements the narrative in the aspects of symbolism and mood. The fountain represents community; a place where people often gather together. This community is something lacking in the boy’s life at the beginning. The party at the fountain is also the setting of the climax of the color scene. Colors of red, yellow, green, blue, purple, grey, black, white, pink, and orange, jump off the page making the reader feel they are a part of the party. 

    Color is used extremely well. In the beginning, the boy wears a warm red sweater representing his hope and anticipation of his birthday. Cool tones of faded yellow, gray-blue, brown, and washed out green surround him. This dreary pallette illustrates his fear this birthday will be just like the others with no celebration. Mr. Ponzio enters in a bright red jacket and red pants. These warm red tones introduce the answer to Harold’s hope as Mr. Ponzio brings in the celebration into Harold’s home for his birthday. When the party arrives, an image appears of the exterior of the home. Light gray tones are accented by black shading. This dull image is balanced by the bright and colorful balloons tied to the railings in front of the house. The animals at this party introduce color into the house once more. Their wild nature and exotic color shocks the family back to life. 

    Lastly, texture in the illustrations of this book is in the details of the animal’s fur. The shading of the sheep makes it look fluffy and soft, the lines on the elephant back paired with the shading makes it appear scratchy and rough. Shading shows the reader what the pictures should feel like. 

 The plot pulls at the heartstrings of its readers pulling them in and takes them on a ride of emotions as they see the boy happily enjoying his first birthday party. This book would be an excellent addition to any classroom library as it portrays a complex family life and reminds the reader to let go and be wild occasionally. (JMH)


My Wish for You

Hahn, Kathryn. 2018. My Wish for You. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-815040-7. Illustrated by Brigette Barrager.

 The plot opens with an author’s note detailing the intended purpose for writing this book. The author states that her daughter inspired the text. It is unlike others in narratives as this book does not contain “characters” but instead contains many different girls. The plot details how girls can overcome the boxes society places on them defining how they should act, behave, or be. This story allows girls and women to see how they can play, get dirty, experience a multitude of emotions, speak their mind, and be intelligent and curious. Simply put, the girls in show the reader how to break free of the constraints put on them by society. The text is a rallying cry against the oppression the patriarchy has put on women and girls around the world. It challenges the notion girls should act a certain way because “that is just the way it is.” Additionally, this book illustrates girls of all colors. The diverse representation allows the reader many opportunities to connect with the girls illustrated. In this way, the book will be received more personally by the reader than if the book had little to no representation connecting it to its readers.

In the illustrations, the use of color is very noticable. The beginning pages shows diagonal streaks of rainbow colors across the page. The color then changes to show a green field with flowers of yellow and white. On this same page, all of the girls are grasping each other’s hands while wearing or holding the yellow and white flowers in some way. The choice of yellow as the color for the opening flowers alludes to a sense of optimism for the girl’s futures. Additionally, the color white signifies femininity and safety. These colors were specifically chosen to illustrate the outlook on the girl’s future through the theme.

One theme is liberation. My Wish for You liberates girls from the confines put onto them by society and allows them to be true to themselves. Girls are told from a very young age how to act, but the plot frees them from this expectation by showing the reader as long as you are true to yourself, you are free. Another theme outlined in the book is empowerment. The author details in the author's note, “I want young girls and women to feel empowered, inspired, free to be themselves. . . I want girls to live life on their own terms. To never be afraid of loving oneself - flaws and all - in a world that demands perfection.” The book empowers the girls shown in the illustrations to be themselves and not to let anyone tell them otherwise.

This plot details a person v. society conflict. From young ages, children, especially girls, are told who to be and how to be. The author challenges this by telling girls they can be who they are meant to be by simply being themselves. We live in a patriarchal society in which labels and expectations are automatically placed on people through social constructs such as gender and sexual identity/orientation. My Wish for You serves as a reminder to break through those expectations and live true to yourself. (JMH)


Bear Needs Help

Brannen, Sarah S. 2019. Bear Needs Help. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551650-6.

A big polar bear is wearing red shoes. The bear approaches other animals politely, but when they see him approaching, they run away. Finally, two white birds appear and help the bear untie his shoelaces. They then comment the bear needs to learn how to untie his shoelaces himself. The plot ends with a brown bear approaching the polar bear saying, “excuse me” while wearing yellow shoes. It is predicted the brown bear will ask the polar bear for help untying his shoes. The setting of the arctic tundra sets the mood because cold environments signify isolation. The bear is continually ignored and isolated by the other animals and the setting amplifies the bear’s feeling of seclusion. The feeling of isolation is contrasted by the beginning sense of safety. A horizontal baseline in the majority of the illustrations at the beginning show a sense of home and safety. 

A person v. society conflict is present between the polar bear and the other animals. The polar bear is struggling to find someone to help him untie his shoes because whenever he approaches the other animals they run away. The animals’ fear of the bear is based solely on his appearance. The reader can infer the animals are profiling the bear and anticipating a threat from him. This situation translates to today’s society whenever individuals are discriminated against because of color, race, religion, et. al. Another person v. society conflict presented relates to the idea of the dominant culture i.e. white cultures attitude to those of low socioeconomic status. 

Classroom libraries for students ages 4-8 should add this title to their shelves because it aids the reader in strategies of inferencing, predicting, and analyzing. Additionally, social skills are addressed. Readers learn how to not be a bystander and learn how to help those around them when they are struggling. (JMH)


Hands Up!

McDaniel, Breanna J. 2019. Hands Up! Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-555231-4. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans.

The opening scene shows a young girl with her hands up. The main character is a young black girl and the narrations follow her throughout different situations in which she puts her hands up. All of these situations in which the main character puts her hands up are positive situations such as getting dressed, reaching for something up high, playing with parents, worshiping at church, or playing a sport. Throughout all of these activities, the illustrations depict people of all colors. Towards the end of the book, we see the main character raising up her hands holding a sign at a protest. Signs surrounding the scene of the protest include phrases such as spread love, water = life, Ningun Ser Humano Es Ilegal, Love Your Neighbor, Black Lives Matter, and Lift Every Voice. 

In the current political climate, the phrase “Hands up!” is popularly known within the United States as a phrase spoken by the police force when posed with a threat. To people of color, this phrase is heard more often than the typical middle class white person. As the issue of police brutality climbs in the United States, the fear of the phrase, “Hands up!” also increases. In the Author’s Note, McDaniel states, “For many people, the phrase ‘hands up’ brings forward difficult emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, and fear. With this story, I wanted to emphasize the ways I’ve experienced that phrase as part of my everyday life.” The theme of reclamation is present as the author reclaims the phrase “Hands Up!” by showing the reader all the ways those words are utilized in everyday life. Additionally, the author reclaims the childhood of young girls of color by characterizing them as exactly what they are – children. 

The plot addresses a variety of social issues surrounding race. The conflict shown is a person v. society conflict surrounding societal issues concerning race and profiling of people of color, specifically black people. In the Author’s Note, McDaniel notes, “I worry that this world casts black kids as victims, villains, or simply adults before they’re grown up. And because of that, sometimes they don’t get a chance to grow up at all.” This text emphasizes the issue of young children being forced to grow up too fast and face societal issues due to the color of their skin at an early age. The innocence of childhood regardless of race is reintroduced and personifies the unnamed young black girl as a child just like any other.  

The author states her concern how the world casts labels such as villain and victim on black children. To combat this, she illustrates a young girl engaging in daily activities, experiencing emotion, worshipping in faith, and learning how to use her voice for change. In this way, she takes away the predetermined label put on black children simply because of the color of their skin and humanizes them. The illustrations reiterate this message through color. The first page shows the top of the head of a young girl with her hands raised up above her head. Yellow and orange tones originate from the center and radiate out into light blue and green tones. This shows positivity and hope in the youth as the young girl is at the center of the brightest point in the color yellow. Yellow, green, and blue backgrounds lay the scene throughout the text. These three colors elicit a feeling of positivity and hope as they are calming colors. As the book progresses and the unnamed young girl is humanized, the colors display the progression of hope and positivity for change in the girl’s future. This text would be an excellent addition to any classroom library because it presents a very important discussion in a comprehensible way for young readers. (JMH)


Dreaming Dangerous

DeStefano, Lauren. 2018. Dreaming Dangerous. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 208pp. $16.43. ISBN 978-1-68-119447-9.

Four main characters, Plum, Artem, Vien, and Gwendle have a unique bond because they dream in tandem. They journal what happens in their dreams and report their dreams to “men and women in pink.” When Artem, one of the four friends, disappears, Plum must find him in her dreams. Throughout her journey, she discovers the truth of her past: she was taken from her mother by the man who raised her. The four friends eventually escape the school. Plum is the main character and the plot is through Plum’s point of view. She is the protagonist and is a very persistent character. She does not give up trying to find Artem regardless of obstacles. 

The theme of friendship and the strength of the bond is prevalent. Regardless of obstacles the friends remain true to each other. This continued theme is an important one to be reading about for middle school students who would be the target audience. 

There is also a theme of determination present throughout the plot and character development in the story. When Artem is lost, Plum and the other two friends do not rest until they find him. They do not let anything get in their way of bringing the four back together. This persistence is important and shows what solid and tenacious determination looks like. 

There is a person v. person conflict present. This conflict is between Plum and Dr. Abarrane. At first, this conflict is not present. At the beginning, Plum viewed Dr. Abarrane as a fatherly figure who raised her and taught her how to control her extraordinary abilities in her dreams. Throughout the development of the plot, Plum learns the truth about Dr. Abarrane. He took her away from her mother because he thought he could raise her better and teach her how to use her abilities. When Plum learns of this truth, a divide forms between her and Dr. Abarrane and he becomes the antagonist. 

Because of the emphasis on friendship and perseverance, libraries should add this title to their shelves. Despite the odds, these friends stick together from the beginning to the end and did not falter in their loyalty. (JMH)


Mary Wears What She Wants

Negley, Keith. 2019. Mary Wears What She Wants. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-284679-5. 

Mary hates wearing dresses. In her society, girls wear dresses and boys wear pants. Mary does not hold this mindset and dares to wear pants. She is quickly met with opposition and is forced to decide to hold true to her belief girls can wear pants or retreat in her act of defiance and continue to wear her dresses. Mary chooses to persevere and her action is rewarded as she enters her schoolhouse to see her classmates all wearing pants they can play in, girls and boys alike. 

A person v. society conflict is obvious as the plot unfolds. Mary stands out from society visually through the choice in color of the illustrations. The people illustrated as the text opens are drawn using the gendered colors of pink and blue primarily. Although these colors are inherently gendered, the men and women illustrated wear a combination of these colors rather than women wearing pink and men wearing blue as is most common in American society. Despite this, Mary, the main character, is illustrated wearing a blue skirt, a yellow shirt, and a pink sash around her waist. The addition of yellow within the sea of pink and blue draws the reader’s eye to Mary. As this conflict unfolds, Mary decides to wear pants in public, and is met with an overwhelming negative response from her community. The illustrations of this conflict depict town members throwing eggs at her and blocking her entrance into the schoolhouse due to her choice in clothing. The opposition she faces initially makes her question if she should go back to wearing dresses. Her inner distress introduces a person v. self conflict. Mary spends all night contemplating whether she should wear her pants or wear her dress the next day. During this time, the colors on the page show dark blues and black tones contrasted by Mary’s yellow shirt. Mary’s pants are hung up to the left of her bed and her dress is hung up to the right of her bed. The placement of these garments on either side of Mary represent Mary’s internal struggle and her decision on whether to challenge the status quo or remain complacent in society. 

The themes of defiance and independence echo throughout Mary’s choice to defy the status quo in her community. When introducing how girls only wear dresses and boys only wear pants, Negley states, “It’s the way things have always been and the way things will always be, they said. And no one thought it should be any different.” Mary opposes this mindset and puts her views into action by declaring her independence through wearing pants instead of a dress. 

The theme is very applicable to today’s society. In the cultural history of the United States as well as present-day America, society has created a gendered code of conduct when it comes to clothing. There is a common societal pressure for women and girls to dress one way and men and boys to dress another way. The separation and structure of cis-gendered clothing oppresses the autonomy of all people and reduces a person’s ability to choose for themselves, how they want to dress. While some may say this issue is miniscule and not worth arguing about, clothing and choice of clothing have direct ties to a person’s identity. By dictating what people are allowed or not allowed to wear, one’s ability to express their identity is compromised. (JMH)


The Undefeated

Alexander, Kwame. 2019. The Undefeated. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Versify). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-878096-1. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

The words in this poem highlight black history in the United States and celebrate the lives and contributions of black people in America. The poetic element of repetition is utilized. Each page starts with “This is for…” as the book continues, there are three consecutive pages in which the phrase “This is for the unspeakable” is present. These words are paired with three images. The first illustration depicts a blueprint of the arrangement of slaves within a slave ship in transport from Africa to the United States. The second page shows shattered picture frames with women and girl’s photos. The third page depicts lit candles, floral arrangements, stuffed animals, and photos of those killed by gun violence as well as police brutality. 

A person v. society conflict is present. The poetry brings a voice to the black human experience in the United States. It reclaims the absence of the black experience through “This is for… the Unspoken but no longer untitled.” This phrase is particularly powerful because for so long, black voices have been silenced and the author gives those voices back and reminds readers of their true history. The illustrations aid this message. The poem states, “This is for the ones who survived America by any means necessary. And the ones who didn’t.” On the page where the text shows “And the ones who didn’t,” the illustrator chose to leave both sides of the page blank, representing those who died from racially driven conflict in America. At the end, the author writes her intentions behind creating this poem. She describes her passion to combat the whitewashed history frequently taught in schools across the country. She ends her testimony with just two words, “Keep rising.” (JMH)



John, Antony. 2018. Mascot. HarperCollins. 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-283562-9.

A car accident caused Noah Savino to lose the function of both of his legs. This loss of mobility has affected his mental health as he becomes frustrated by the way people treat him differently and he is afraid he will never be the same again. Most of all, he misses playing baseball. Noah must deal with many issues. For example, the grief and sadness he feels due to his accident, which took his father’s life and left him in a wheelchair. 

The author chose to integrate humor into these harsh topics in order to integrate a sense of reality into the story. When faced with adversity, Noah tends to turn to humor to make light of a negative situation. The theme of resilience echoes throughout the plot. Even though Noah is in a wheelchair frustrated he cannot walk or play baseball, he perseveres. Additionally, even though Noah feels uncomfortable with his mother seeing another man, he manages to handle this aspect of his new life. Another theme of growth is evident. Noah is initially angry at the way his life has turned out. His dad has died, he cannot play baseball, his peers are bullies, and his mother is dating another man. Noah soon discovers while many doors in his life have been slammed closed, there is opportunity to grow from all he has experienced. 

This book would make an excellent addition to any classroom library as it integrates issues elementary/middle school students are experiencing. This coming-of-age novel beautifully integrates humor, reality, and hope to keep the reader engaged from cover to cover. (JMH)


This is Kind of an Epic Love Story

Callendar, Kheryn. 2018. This is Kind of an Epic Love Story. HarperCollins (Balzar + Bray). 304pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-282022-8.

Being best friends with your ex-girlfriend, who cheated on you and is now the girl, may seem like a tricky situation. For Nate Bird, a junior in high school, this is exactly the case. Nate and Florence were still inseparable even after all they went through together. He chose to forgive her for what she did, but still struggled with it every day. Relationships had never looked easy for Nate, and he thought they were all destined to end badly. His father died when Nate was only nine years old, leaving him to watch his mother in despair over the loss. After losing Florence, Nate decided relationships were pointless. Then his childhood crush moved back in town. Oliver James and Nate had left off in an awkward place five years prior, and were not sure how to proceed. Nate was forced to explore his own values and friendships as this new and exciting love story started to unfold. Themes of love, sex, family, and friendships are all prominent as Nate, his family, and his friends make their ways through this chapter of their lives. (SJK)


Best Friends in the Universe

Watson, Stephanie. 2018. Best Friends in the Universe. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-565988-8. Illustrated by Le Uyen Pham.

Best friends Hector and Louie decide to write a book together to show the world what makes their friendship great. As the plot unfolds, Hector accidentally tells one of Louie’s secrets, and the boys decide they are no longer friends. The whole book appears to be illustrated in crayon, and up until the point of conflict the line strokes are light, but when the boys become angry the strokes are drawn more forcefully. Another aspect involving texture is the difference between the drawings of themselves in the book they are creating and the actual boys themselves. The boys are shown in real life with much smoother skin, solid colors, and more detailed faces. The lines throughout the book direct the reader’s eye in the direction of their book. The whole book the boys are creating is drawn on horizontally lined paper, which directs the eye from left to right. On pages where there are more than one drawings of the two boys, there is a dotted line winding around the page to show the order of those movements. Bright colors are present including reds, greens, purples, and yellows and represent the childlike atmosphere the two boys have together. Themes of friendship are prominent as Hector and Louie discover a pivotal aspect of a quality friendship: forgiveness. (SJK)


Lubna and Pebble

Meddour, Wendy. 2019. Lubna and Pebble. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-555416-5. Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus.

As Lubna and her family go through difficult and confusing times, Lubna seeks comfort and friendship in a small pebble. She found it on a beach full of dark blues, blacks, and purples, showing the mystery of the nighttime and the new place in which they have arrived. Lubna finds comfort in her father’s arms. The shape of his body is circular, he has horizontal lines on his shirt, and the texture of his skin and shirt appears smooth; all of these contribute to the feeling of comfort and safety when he is around. As the exposition continues, Lubna and her family make it to a “World of Tents” where the colors are dark blue, light blue, cream, and white. Lubna is in a shadow and appears to be dark brown, perhaps in a shadow, suggesting she is unsure of what is going on. Throughout the book, the texture appears to be fuzzy, as if Lubna is in a daze and not fully understanding everything happening. Through all of this, Lubna has kept her pebble safe. She draws a happy face on it, hinting at themes of hope. Bright colors of red, green, and light blue appear in the box Lubna carries her pebble in, showing the joy and comfort the pebble provides her. These colors also start to appear when a new boy, Amir, is introduced to Lubna. Themes of friendship appear as the two become closer, play together, and tell each other stories. When it comes time for Lubna and her family to leave, Amir was sad, so Lubna decides to give her pebble to him. When readers first see Amir, he is surrounded by a dark outline of a tree, and when he receives the pebble, the same image appears, but the tree is filled with colors of red and green, suggesting Amir’s happiness and acceptance of Lubna leaving. In the denouement, Lubna is leaving on a boat full of reds, oranges, and purple, implying happiness and success in Lubna’s life to come. (SJK)



Zeltser, David. 2017. Stinker. Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. (Carolrhoda Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-51-241792-0. Illustrated by Julia Patton.

Following along from the point of view of a cat, readers embark on a journey with a dog named Stinky, who has been stuck in the pound his whole life. As curvy, dotted lines make their way across the pages; readers follow the movement and energy of Stinky as he plays, barks, and even passes smelly gas. As Stinky goes from family to family hoping to be adopted, the style of the text engages readers to guess along with the narrator whether or not Stinky will be accepted into this new family. Throughout the exposition, the colors are mainly white with the occasional light blue, green, and orange, hinting at Stinky’s focus on his possible adopters. Themes of endurance are present as Stinky stays a positive and energetic dog through rejection after rejection. As the rising action emerges, the cat (narrator) reads books about escaping, allowing readers to hypothesize the cat may have something to do with Stinky’s escape from the pound. In the resolution, the colors shift from being mainly white to being full of color. Greens, blues, oranges, and yellows make their way across the whole page as Stinky finds his forever home with Mr. Curtis, who loves Stinky despite his flatulence, presenting themes of love. (SJK)


Chen, Julie. 2018. When I Grow Up. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149719-0. Illustrated by Diane Goode.
When I Grow Up

As a little boy wonders what he will be when he grows up, readers are drawn into his imagination and wonder what their future holds for them as well. Written from the perspective of a little boy talking to his mother as he gets tucked in for bed, this style allows readers to see into the little boy’s brain and follow along on his journey of wonders. Colors of light blues, purples, and greens dance across the page, the lightness of the texture, and the curved lines all suggest the dazed, sleepy state of the little boy. Along with him is his trusty dog, allowing readers to search for the pup on each page. Themes of family prevail as the little boy’s mother makes an appearance throughout the plot. While the majority of the plot is written through the voice of the little boy, the end switches to the voice of the mother speaking encouraging words to her now sleeping son. The style also allows readers to easily insert themselves into the context. Hope and excitement for the future is a prominent theme as the little boy imagines a large variety of opportunities his future may hold. (SJK)


The Lighthouse Between the Worlds.

Crowder, Melanie. 2018. The Lighthouse Between the Worlds. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-53-4405140-1.

A usual morning on the Oregon coast is gray and dreary, and for young Griffin and his father, Philip, it’s what they call home. This setting sets a mysterious and unsettling mood. The father and son duo are caretakers of a very old lighthouse and have been for as long as Griffin can remember. As the rising action unfolds, Griffin and his father are ambushed by intruders. When Griffin learns he may not know as much as he thought about his home, his father gets sucked into the lighthouse and into another world. Themes of perseverance prevail as Griffin stops at nothing to learn more about his lighthouse so he can get his father back. Griffin’s determination leads to him going into the lighthouse after his father. Along his journey, he meets Fi, a young fighter of society, who helps him along the way. The style allows readers to understand what is happening as the third person narrative switches back and forth between Griffin and Fi’s point of view. A self v. self conflict is presented as Griffin has to decide whether or not to join the resistance with Fi in order to save his father. (SJK)


Carl and the Meaning of Life

Freedman, Deborah. 2019. Carl and the Meaning of Life. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-45-147498-0.

As an earthworm, Carl spends his days digging through the soil. The style of the text allows readers to follow along Carl’s trail as it winds up and down the pages in large wiggly lines. The color dark brown takes over almost the entire pages showing the depth of the soil of which Carl is digging. The texture of the soil appears light, fluffy and soft. In the rising action, a field mouse asked Carl why he was doing what he was doing, and Carl had no answer. Themes of dedication arise as Carl decides to figure out what it is he is doing. As he embarks on his journey, the color brown disappears completely as Carl leaves the comfort of the soil. Green takes its place, representing a new setting as Carl meets animal friends above ground. The light, smooth texture of the grass shows comfort for Carl even though he is out of the comfort of his own soil. Horizontal lines of the horizon run across the page, indicating the distance Carl has ventured on his journey of self-meaning. As the climax approaches, Carl notices the soil under him is dry and hard, and many of his animal friends are gone. The color of the soil is light brown, the texture appears to be rough, and the lines are curved around Carl, all representing barren, dry, soil. He then realizes the meaning of his life and begins digging again. In the falling action, Carl does his duty by digging, and brings back the luscious, dark brown soil, the green grass, and all of the animals. Themes of self-appreciation arise when Carl learns the animals are able to live because of what he does. (SJK)



Reynolds, Shauna LaVoy. 2019. Poetree. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-39-953912-1. Illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani.

According to Norton (2011), children tend to show preference to poems dealing with enjoyable experiences, and poems with rhyming and rhythmical verses. This is true for Sylvia, a young girl who has a passion for writing poetry. With spring approaching quickly, there are so many opportunities to write about the beautiful nature coming with the season. In the exposition, Sylvia writes a rhyming poem about spring and ties it to a blossoming tree. The next day, to her surprise, she finds another poem attached to the tree, and assumes the tree is writing back to her. As the rising action unfolds, Sylvia is caught daydreaming in class, thinking about her “poetree.” Person v. person conflict arises as a classmate named Walt mocks her for getting in trouble. As the plot continues, Sylvia keeps writing poems for the tree and receives poems back as responses. The illustrations pull readers into Sylvia’s world as a poet. The simple, white backgrounds suggest the simplicity of Sylvia’s life, which focuses on the tree and her poems. The light greens, browns, blues, and oranges suggest the calmness of Sylvia when writing and reading poetry. The smooth, slightly curved lines of the trees, the leaves, and the sidewalks represents the comfort Sylvia feels while outdoors in nature. As readers reach the climax of the story, Walt approaches the tree and tells Sylvia the poem she just read is not for her. The two come to realize they had been writing poems back and forth to each other, not the tree. This made Sylvia sad, but in the denouement, Walt apologizes for being mean at school, and the two become poetry friends. All the poems in this book are written in a different font than the rest of the book so it is easy for readers to differentiate between the two poets. The poems also appeal to children because they all have rhythm and rhyme. (SJK)



Spinelli, Eileen. 2019. Birdie. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 208pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-80-285513-8.

For any 12-year-old, the loss of a family member is difficult to understand and a challenge to overcome. Birdie Brigg’s love for birds is what comforts her through the loss of her father, who was killed in the line of duty as a firefighter three years ago. Birdie, her mother, and her grandmother, Maymee live together in the small town of Hadley Falls. The town is calm and quiet, but not without some drama between Birdie, her friends, and potential boyfriends, making the setting as an antagonist. Person v. person conflict is present throughout the rising action, as Birdie’s friends Nina and Martin start dating, her mother starts dating a police officer and even Maymee has found a new love interest. Birdie struggles to accept these changes, and tries to distance herself from Nina, Martin, and her mom’s new boyfriend. Through all of her conflict, Birdie and her mother always take time to reflect and remember her father, allowing themes of family to resonate. As Birdie begins to accept these changes in the falling action, she blossoms into an open-minded, happy, and understanding young girl. According to Norton (2011), contemporary realistic contain important themes relating to the needs of modern children, and a plot developing as children grow up and go through the hardships of life. This is true in Birdie, making it a contemporary and realistic novel. (SJK)


White Rose

Wilson, Kip. 2019. White Rose. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Versify). 368pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-859443-3.

Standing up for one’s beliefs when it seems everyone else’s beliefs contrasts them can be scary, but these actions can inspire others and make a difference. This is exactly what the White Rose resistance group does. In the exposition, readers meet Sophie Scholl, a college student in Germany in the late 1930s-early 1940s. Sophie is part of a resistance group called White Rose, and is being interrogated for trying to spread her anti-Nazi beliefs. Sophie is a strong young woman who refuses to stay quiet just to stay safe. As children, Sophie and her brother Hans, were members of Hitler youth organizations, but as they watched the Nazis continually hurt many people, the siblings became determined to resist. When they were older, they formed the White Rose resistance group. They gathered some trusted university friends to join in the fight, showing themes of trust and friendship. As the group worked to raise awareness by handing out pamphlets to their peers and trusted university influencers, person v. person conflict arises when the university custodian catches them in the act, leading to the climax. What follows are intensive interrogations, trials, and a sentence that will give readers chills. The style is portrayed mainly through the eyes of Sophie written in free-verse poems allowing readers to be immersed into her thoughts. Readers also have glimpses into other’s lives as some of the entries are from Sarah’s boyfriend, a Gestapo investigator, and more. Based on real events, the themes are relevant during WWII and today such as hope, determination, and sacrifice. Young people standing up for what they believe in can really have an impact, and this plot allows readers to see this and be inspired to make a difference in the world today. (SJK)



Simon, Seymour. 2018. Elephants. HarperCollins. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-247061-4.

This in-depth text focusing on one of the world’s most fascinating animals will captivate readers and encourage them to learn more about elephants. With intense detail on every page, this book encourages readers to explore the behavior, anatomy, and environment of elephants. Each page offers a beautiful picture of an elephant relating to the text, which allows readers to visualize what the author is explaining. Award winning author, Simon Seymour, has been interested in animals from a young age. He spent 25 years of his life as a classroom teacher while also writing articles and books on science and nature before becoming a full-time author. Through teaching, he learned how to write for an audience of students with the intent to learn. With vocabulary words bolded and defined, readers can also look to the back of the book and find a glossary and an index with important words and aspects defined further. The text is separated from the pictures, and is easy to read because of its placement on a white background. For young readers interested in learning more about elephants, this is the right book for them. (SJK)


The Story of Movie Star Anna May Wong

Yoo, Paula. 2009. The Story of Movie Star Anna May Wong. Lee & Low Books Inc. 63pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014853-2. Illustrated by Lin Wang.

Anna May Wong is an inspirational figure in the film industry and the civil rights movement. As a child, Anna May helped in her family’s clothes washing business, but always dreamed about being elsewhere. Her Chinese heritage was sometimes ridiculed at school, but she did not let it drag her down. She loved going to the movies, and when a movie was being filmed in her town, she skipped school to observe the filming process. As Anna May became older, she began to imitate actresses and taught herself how to artificially cry, laugh, and smile. As a teenager, she began auditioning for movie rolls. Her career began as an extra, but soon the film world noticed her admirable expressions and acting skills, and gave her larger roles. Throughout her life, Anna May played a multitude of different roles, and faced difficulties along the way. She realized her race was being mocked by the productions she was participating in. The movies used white actors to play Asian roles, and the white actors were not allowed to kiss actresses of a different skin color. Anna May took a stand against this and vowed to only participate in movies accurately portraying her culture with people of her race. This biography addresses the harsh realities of race in the film producing industry, and is extremely important to discuss today. The book has sections dedicated to educating the readers about a time or important concept, such as whitewashing, when a white actor plays a character who was originally supposed to be of a different race. Paula Yoo is a Chinese American author whose goal is to open readers’ eyes to stand up against racism and stereotypes. With bolded vocabulary words and a glossary in the end pages, readers are exposed to new words and concepts as they learn about Anna May Wong and the unjust reality of the film production industry. (SJK)


You Don’t Know everything, Jilly P!

Gino, Alex. 2018. You Don’t Know everything, Jilly P! Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 256pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54-595624-6.

Having a new baby sister can be exciting. Jillian Pirillo is so thrilled to meet her new sister Emma. As Emma begins to grow, doctors realize Emma is deaf. Jillian’s parents struggle to accept Emma’s hearing loss and are devastated when they originally find out.  They work to accept Emma's differences and began to learn sign language so the family could communicate. Jillian has many friends whom she meets in a chat room about her favorite book series. One friend who she has a special connection with is Dereck. Dereck is black and also deaf. Jillian begins to talk to Dereck every day and learns a substantial amount about deaf culture. She hopes this will help her get to know her sister better. Conflict includes person versus self and person versus society. Jillian meets Dereck’s tutor Jessica, a young woman who is also black and deaf. Later that year, Jessica is killed because she is a black girl running at night. Jessica is told to stop but because she is deaf did not hear. She is shot because she did not stop.  This event and many other similar events scare the Pirillo family because Emma will have disadvantages because of her disability. There is a theme of discrimination towards people who are black and people with differences or disabilities in the United States. Jillian realizes she will not have to worry as much about discrimination as Emma will.  Through everything that occurs in Jillian’s new life with her baby sister, Jillian learns being accepting of differences is important. In the resolution of the story, Jillian realizes what she says to other people does matter. The themes of the story leave young readers with a message to be careful about what they say because people can be hurt. (KRK)


Good Morning, Snowplow

Bruss, Deborah. 2018. Good Morning, Snowplow! Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books ). 32 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-808949-3 Illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson.

Snow is such an unbelievably magnificent part of winter.  Snow can also cause very dangerous travel conditions. Snowplow drivers are to thank for making roads safer.  The drivers give everyone the ability to safely travel on the roads after a snowfall. This story goes through the day of a snowplow and the driver.  The story begins at the snowplow driver’s house, transitions to the snowplow, and follows the snowplow and the driver as they plow around the city. In the resolution, the day has begun and the driver heads to sleep after working all night and all morning clearing the snowy roads. The texture in the illustrations is eye-catching.  The reader's eyes are immediately drawn to the bumpy sides of the plow and the realistic looks of tires and the plow head. The details on the snowplow are realistic and the reader can practically feel the rough sides of the plow. The strokes of paint are impeccable throughout the scenes depicted in the story. The detailing of each individual snowflake is exquisitely done.  The illustrations show each snowflake falling gingerly to the ground. The lights on the streets and snow plow light the way and help to lead the plow driver where he needs to go next. The different shades of blue show a quiet and calm mood. The shades of orange show the friendliness and the security the snowplow gives to people who have to travel the roads. Many geometric shapes including the plow, the bridge, and houses, help show the snow plow’s progression as he winds through town.  The trees sit subtly in the background of the illustrations and blend in with the beauty of the night sky. As time passes and day begins to approach, the night sky slowly begins to fade and daylight prepares to come. (KRK)


Sauer, Tammi. 2018. Making a Friend! HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227843-7 Illustrated by Alison Friend.
Making a Friend

It can be challenging to learn how to make friends. This story walks the reader through the life of a young beaver as he tries to make friends, but continues to fail. This young beaver figured if he could make himself a friend, he would be happy. The plot begins at beaver’s dam and rapidly progresses to the snowy forest where beaver thinks of a genius idea. As readers navigate their way through the story, they observe a young beaver in conflict with multiple animals he is attempting to befriend. By the end of the story, beaver realizes he made a great friend in raccoon.  The overarching theme of this story is the unexpected friendship between raccoon and beaver. The animals show that kindness and creativity lead to finding friends in unexpected people. Beaver shows kindness by allowing raccoon to assist in creating and dressing the snow animal. The book builds on many values of the children who will read it. One value is a child's personal development. The student’s personal development is crucial for being able to work in pairs and with others. The story provides positive examples of how to do this. Students can begin learning to organize and hypothesize, such as guessing what may happen next to beaver and raccoon.  The mood of this story develops from sad to hopeful. The blue of raccoon’s outfit makes him seem calm and friendly. Whereas beaver’s orange sweater shows his excitement and happiness in coming up with a great idea and finding a new friend. The texture of the snow is light and fluffy but when packed into a snowball, is smooth. The imagery is very realistic. The organic shapes including the trees are exquisitely drawn. The reader can virtually feel the rough bark and smooth needles. The trees are made of many vertical lines. The vertical lines show the sturdiness of the trees. The curvy lines in the snow show the movement of beaver and the snowball through the forest.  Overall readers will be drawn in by the marvelous art and the adorable creatures. (KRK)


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Dubé, Pierrette. 2018. The Little Pig, the Bicycle, and the Moon. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441472-3 Illustrated by Orbie.

Young children love to go on adventures and learn about what they can do independently.  Sometimes it takes multiple errors or falls to learn what to do to be successful. Rosie, the little pig, wants to learn how to ride a bike all by herself.  Rosie learns that she needs padding for when she falls. She also may need a push to get her going. The theme of this book is perseverance. If they are not successful in what they are attempting to master the first time, the book encourages them to continue to persevere in order to succeed.  The book begins in Rosie’s splendid pigpen. At night, Rosie sneaks out of her pigpen and tries for several nights to ride the bike. One night, she ends up in the water and another night in the garden. The colors present in the book are pastels, pastel pink for Rosie and a pastel blue-gray for the night sky.  The pastels create a calm environment and calm nights around the chaos of Rosie attempting to ride the red bike. The horizontal lines show the movement of where Rosie is going and are particularly visible when Rosie loses control. For example, when Rosie is riding up the hill with the dog pulling her, he takes off to chase the rabbit and the diagonal line shows her losing control and flying into the garden. The main aspect of cognitive development focused on in The Little Pig, the Bicycle, and the Moon is hypothesizing. Young readers learn how to hypothesize about what may occur next in the story.  Once Rosie learns to ride her bike, she decides to continue riding up the hill and away. In the story’s conclusion, Rosie rides away on the red bike and readers do not know where she is going.  Readers are able to hypothesize where she may have gone on her little red bike. This picture storybook helps young readers by nurturing and expanding their imagination. The young readers may imagine what it would be like to ride a bike or what it would be like to see animals riding a bike.  The shape of the moon is portrayed throughout the entire book as brightly colored and well defined which draws in the reader’s eye. The illustrator made the moon one of the strong focal points of the illustrations. The moon lit the path for many of pigs adventures. (KRK)


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Sehgal, Kabir and Surishtha. 2018. Thread of Love. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-440473-1. Illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang.

This story gives students who follow the Raksha Bandhan tradition a chance to share their personal beliefs.  Raksha Bandhan is an important event in Indian culture. The readers are able to see what this Indian family does during Rahki.  Not only are readers’ beliefs strengthened but other readers, the ones who are not from the same culture as the children in the book, learn to see value in cultures different from their own. Traditional Indian dress is portrayed within the illustrations.  The boys wear traditional long or short shirts and pants. The young girls wear the traditional dresses or pants with long shirts. Color is a crucial piece of this book. There are blues, greens, pinks, purples, and yellows throughout the book. The vibrant colors illustrate the excitement the girls feel about creating bracelets for their brothers. The book includes directions on how to make a Rakhi bracelet. The curvy lines show the movement in the children's bracelet making.  The strings seem as though they are dancing across the pages. The horizontal lines show stability. The table is a sturdy surface on which the girls can make their extravagant bracelets. Throughout the book, traditional designs are painted on the walls of the house. The reader is exposed to different words and phrases they might not be used to, creating a fantastic teaching moment for parents, teachers, and children. The mood radiating through the illustrations is happiness and joy.  These themes are maintained throughout the book showing the joy of this holiday. (KRK)


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Shumaker, Heather. 2019. The Griffins of Castle Cary. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-443088-4.

Traveling is a great adventure, especially when a person is going to see family or traveling to a different country.  Megan, William, and Ariel are going to see their aunt in a different country. Megan, William, and Ariel make their way via train to their Aunt Effie's house.  Before the siblings even make it to their Aunt Effie's, they are nervous. When the siblings are boarding the train, their parents decided to tell them about Uncle Ben whom they have never heard about before.  The siblings soon met their Uncle Ben, a large drooling Newfoundland dog, and their fear is gone. This dog quickly becomes Ariel’s buddy. The setting of the story is Aunt Effie’s house, the land surrounding it, and the haunted manor.  The haunted manor is a historical building for the people in the area. Aunt Effie’s house is located in the United Kingdom in Somerset County. Soon after the siblings arrive at Aunt Effie’s thatched house, the trek to the haunted manor begins.  During the trek to the haunted manor, Megan trips and falls down near the river into a thicket of stinging nettles, where a girl once died in a horse accident.

The plot and themes promote imagination.  Readers are able to imagine what the siblings’ adventures may look like and what the haunted manor looks like. Person versus person conflict is evident between Ariel and Kay Kay, the ghost. Five year old Ariel does not understand that the reason Kay Kay keeps disappearing is because she is a ghost.  In the end, Ariel learns Kay Kay is a ghost. The point of view shifts multiple times throughout the book. There is a portion with a narrator, a portion in the first person as the ghost, and portions in the first person as Ariel, William, and Megan. Hearing from different voices may help the reader to see multiple characters’ points of view. (KRK)


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Bernstein, Ariel. 2019. Where is my balloon? Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441451-8. Illustrated by Scott Magoon.

Will monkey safely protect owl’s balloon? As the story unfolds, readers will learn what happens between two friends, owl and monkey.  The shapes drawn are mostly abstract with imperfect edges that are non distinctive. There are many horizontal lines in the illustration that direct the story forward.  The illustrations are bright and bold. The colors used in the illustrations are bright, like lime green and red. The balloon is an unmistakable shade of bright red. While monkey is taking care of bird’s balloon he accidentally pops it.  He feels bad. The illustrations depict monkey try to make up for ruining his friend’s balloon. He tries to give owl many other things before telling him he broke the balloon. The theme of this story is forgiveness. The ability to forgive someone for their mistakes is crucial.  This message shows that even if a person is made sad by the actions of others, a person should be willing to forgive. (KRK)


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Adams, Jennifer. 2018. How Do I Love Thee? HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239444-6. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.

Love is an important emotion shared between friends. Young children of different races become friends throughout this story.  The readers float through the seasons along with the friends who are trying to find the words to explain to each other how much they love one another.  Readers can help the characters count the ways they love each other. Readers infer how their friends may feel about each other. The setting and mood of the story is joyful.  The children have smiles on their faces as they continue through the book.

Throughout the illustrations, bright colors convey the cheerfulness of the group of friends.  As the friends sail the wavy blue waters, whales, fish and birds gathered around them. The strokes of color show the vivid night sky as the friends splash through the puddles. With a smile upon her face, a young girl leads her friends through the puddles.  The young children lay in the warmth of the bright sun and the wispy blue clouds form above them. The colors are altered as the setting changes. The setting changes by the weather and the location. Summer, fall, spring and winter are portrayed. For example, teal stars and fireflies appear in summer and spring flowers bloom as spring begins to approach. The brush strokes create texture and variety in each illustration. The depth created in the illustrations, using texture causes objects like the lion and the trees to appear both more realistic and rough. (KRK)


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Williams, Alicia. 2019. Genesis Begins Again. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books). 384 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-146580-9   

School is a difficult place for many young children.  Often, students just want to fit in and be liked by their peers.  This is what school is like for thirteen-year-old Genesis. Genesis wants to fit in and have friends.  Genesis is similar to children in society because she faces the reality of not having enough money to pay rent.  For many families, this is the sad and unfortunate reality. When their house is boarded, and their belongings thrown on the lawn, they need to find a place to go quickly. In the past, Genesis and her family have stayed in many different temporary places, including a motel and a friend’s basement.  However, this time Genesis is grateful her to go to her grandmother's house. A few days later, there is a very hopeful turn of events. Genesis’s dad, Emory finds them a big house– Is it too good to be true? Readers will be on the edge of their seat trying to hypothesize whether or not Genesis will be able to remain where she is living.  Genesis is happy in her new big house and begins going to a different school. Unfortunately, the joy of having a big house with a yard, does not last long. Genesis goes to her father’s office to learn more about what is going on. She learns that he is not paying the rent. After her mother learns her husband is not paying rent and does not have a job, she is extremely upset.  Genesis’s mom feels terrible that her daughter has had to deal with all of the trials and the lies.  

The characterization of Genesis describes a young girl many children are able to relate to.  This young black girl describes all the pieces of herself she wishes she could change. Pieces like her hair, her skin color, the color of her gums, and many other features which make her who she is.  Young readers are able to compare themselves to Genesis and often understand what she may be going through. The theme of the story is perseverance through the hardest times and learning to accept who you are. Readers learn that life is not always easy but they have to continue to persist. Throughout Genesis Begins Again, there is conflict. Person versus person conflict occurs both between Genesis and her father and between Genesis’s mother and her father.  Genesis and her mother have major conflicts with Genesis’s father. Emory has gotten them evicted multiple times because he did not pay the rent.  Both of the women are also upset because Emory continues to lie and make up excuses. Person versus self conflict appears as Genesis continues to be self-conscious about her appearance.  The story is told from Genesis’s point of view with her as the narrator. (KRK)


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Alkaf, Hanna. 2019. The Weight of Our Sky. Simon & Schuster (Salaam Reads). 288pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442608-5.

Mental health can be a difficult topic to address with young readers.  Readers at some point will encounter a friend, neighbor, or family member who battles a mental illness.  The conflict present in this story is person versus self, person versus person, and person versus society.  Readers will very quickly learn of Melati’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One obsession Melati cannot control is the obsession that her mother may die or be killed if she does not do certain motions her djinn tells her to do.  She has multiple arguments with the djinn. These arguments can be seen as both a person versus person conflict or a person versus self conflict. To Melati, the djinn is a separate person she cannot control. She feels as though he has a large impact on her life.  For many readers, this book will be an eye-opening dialogue about what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can look and feel like. Melati learns to control her compulsions in public because she fears the judgement of the people around her and particularly the judgement of her mother.  

The story takes place in Malaysia in May of 1969. The location is Kuala Lumpur, a historical place for the people of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a city set in flames and fury, which burned as a result of political hate. In 1969, in the country of Malaysia and many other countries, mental health was stigmatized. This often caused people, young and old, not to seek the treatment they so desperately needed.  Readers are able to develop a sense of the hardships some people endured in the 1960’s.  

One goal of this text is spreading awareness of mental health to children and young adults.  The imagery shows young readers what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or an anxiety attack may look like.  Her reactions are depicted vividly to a point where the reader can visualize what it may feel like to be in her situation.  The story is told in first person. Melati explains her fears and issues to the readers. Another theme in the story is racism.  The Malays and the Chinese are fighting and several hundred people were killed because of these differences in May of 1969. This event impacted many people and gives readers a historical background of oppression and other forms of hate.  (KRK)


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Simon, Seymour. 2019. Guts, All about our digestive system! HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-247042-3.

The images chosen by the author are realistic.  Some readers may find some of the images disgusting while others may find their interests peaked.  Young readers are able to obtain in-depth visualizations and descriptions of what each piece of the digestive system does.  The images of the pyloric sphincter and the intestines are scoped images of a human’s body. Some of the images are computerized renderings and others are microscopic images enlarged to show definition.  The book is remarkably detailed in a form that young readers are able to understand and relate too. The purpose of this non-fiction children’s book is to inform readers on the science of food digestion. Each step of digestion is mapped out and explained.  The parts of digestion are written and illustrated in the order they take place in our body. Seymour takes readers through the entire digestive system from the mouth through the esophagus, to the stomach, through the small intestine, and finally through the large intestine and out of the body as waste.  The amount of time human bodies take to digest food varies from twenty-four hours to around forty hours. Guts is written for readers ages ranging from six to ten.  With the number of words on each page, readers around age six and seven would probably not be able to read the book alone until after the book has been read to them several times.  At the end of the book, there is both a glossary which explains each word and an index showing where some words are located in the book.

The book Guts is written by Seymour Simon. Seymour is a credible author because he has several different degrees in science, literature, psychology, history, and many other areas which enriched his writing skills.  He taught science for twenty-three years. He has authored several books containing scientific information and hundreds of others both fiction and nonfiction. (KRK)


Haskins, Jim & Kathleen Benson. 2019. The Story of Civil Rights Hero: John Lewis. Lee & Low Books Inc. 64pp. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014854-9 Illustrator Aaron Boyd.
The Story of Civil Rights Hero John Lewis

Growing up in the South as a black person has never been easy. Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans were not treated as equal to whites even though slavery had been abolished after the Civil War.  This biography goes through the life of young John Lewis and leads readers to the present days of 2018. From the time he was a young boy, John Lewis wanted to become a preacher. While he was in charge of his family’s sharecropper chickens he began to preach to the chickens and soon obtained the nickname “preacher.” Lewis had been an agent of change for black people’s civil rights since he was sixteen years old.  At twenty-three, Lewis was the youngest civil rights leader in the movement. The conflict in the biography was a real-life conflict of person versus society. John Lewis’ country rejected him because he was black. Society rejected him as did many others because of their race. But he has never surrendered his fight for equality. In recent years, John Lewis has fought for many people and their equal rights. The biography conveys to readers that life was not easy for John Lewis but he worked hard and fought for people all around the globe.

The co-authors are credible because the authors both researched the events and lived through the time when most of the events occurred.  The biography includes references and if readers want more information, they have credible resources to examine. The book also offers a glossary.  Students are able to obtain definitions of words they may not be familiar with. Finally, the book has a timeline. The timeline shows students events that John Lewis was part of and in what years they occurred.  This information portrays the massive amount of work John Lewis engaged in for himself and others. (KRK)


The Boy Who Went Magic

Winter, A. P. 2018. The Boy Who Went Magic. Scholastic Inc. (Chicken House). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-91-065509-2.

The exhilarating plot of the book takes the reader on a journey unlike any other. Bert, left at a boarding school long before he could remember, goes on a field trip with his class when something strange happens. He travels through a mirror and a mark is left on his hand. The mark begins to cause problems for Bert and he does not know how to stop the problems from happening. Bert is befriended by a pirate and his daughter. Together they try to figure out how to help the town from the evil Prince Voss and control Bert’s hand. They travel great distances to discover that Bert has a spirit inside of him and Voss wants the spirit for himself. With the spirit now gone from Bert’s body he must get his friend, the spirit Norton, back or risk them both being destroyed. The theme encourages readers to be brave and follow one’s beliefs just as Bert did to rescue his friend Norton. Readers may recognize this is modern fantasy of mythical quests and conflicts, strange and curious worlds, and spirits friendly and frightening. The journey the reader takes throughout the book leaves the reader curious about where Bert and Norton will go next. (KLK)


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Durst, Sarah, Beth. 2018. The Stone Girl’s Story. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). Pp. 340. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-32-872945-3.

This plot takes the reader to the top of the highest mountain far away from the valley and the town of Skye. On this mountain, in a stone house lives stones creatures made by Father and one stone girl. Unfortunately Father dies and the creatures are left to slowly fade and freeze. There is no longer a stonemason to receive their marks. Turtle has already stopped moving and soon as will all the creatures and Mayka, the stone girl. She decides to leave home in search of a stonemason to help them recarve their marks. She travel with the two stone birds Jacklo and Risa. On their way they meet many new friends to help them to the city and once they are there they meet an apprentice named Garit who works for a stonemason. The stonemason is happy to help, however he insists it after the festival. He is about to unveil his obedient craving to heave any stone creation obey their master. Mayka does not agree with this and all the creatures agree to stop him. First they must create a new mark to help the already enslaved creatures. After each creature is free they make a fool of the stonemason at the festival. He became enraged and brings out his obedient giant to destroy the town and the stone creatures must find a way to help before returning home. Mayka creates a new mark for the giant and the town is saved. She then realizes that the stone creatures back home don’t need a stonemason, they will have Mayka. The stone creatures and Mayka return home, encouraging their new friends to visit soon. Once home Mayka practices and recarves her family’s marks and brings turtle back to life. Throughout the years, they welcome their friends and continue to keep going as Mayka recarves everyone’s marks and even gives them new ones. The themes found in this story are perseverance, believing in yourself, and bravery. Mayka takes on the world as she journeys from the safety of her home to find a stonemason and finds out more about her friends and herself, wonderful things that would not have been discovered if Mayka had not left. Journeying with Mayka, Risa, and Jacklo is exciting and thrilling and often the reader becomes surprised with the trouble Jacklo gets into that always makes Risa and Mayka shake their head. (KLK)


The Fall for friendship

Atwood, Megan. 2018. A Fall For Friendship. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Aladdin). 240pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149051-1. Illustrator Natalie Andrewson.

The plot begins with four friends planning their haunted barn and zombie hayride. They are all ecstatic for the event. Izzie, Sarah, Olive, and Peter talk excitedly at dinner and thank everyone who is helping plan the event over the next few weeks. When they meet at the barn, strange things keep happening and there are multiple accidents, including one where someone goes to the hospital. Izzie, Sarah and Peter believe the barn is haunted but Olive thinks they are all being children and figures there must be a logical explanation. The four begin to investigate the story that Sarah’s sister, Gloria, told them of a woman who was killed due to being pushed from a hay loft many years ago. As they are investigating, things don’t add up and even Olive begins to wonder if the barn is truly haunted. Olive feels left out by not believing in ghosts, zombies, and hauntings. However, she does not share this with her friends and tension begins to build among them. Finally, the three ask Olive what is wrong and they resolve the problem. The  book shares the importance of honesty, sharing, and how it is okay to be friends even if others do not think the same way. It can be hard sometimes, but true friends respect ideas and each other. Each chapter starts with an illustration foreshadowing an event that will occur in the upcoming chapter. If readers pays attention, they may be able to figure out what might happen later. Throughout the book readers gets to decide who they side with as they investigate with Izzie, Sarah, Olice, and Peter, to find out if ghosts are real or imaginary. (KLK)


The Goodnight Train Rolls On!

Sobel, June. 2018. The Goodnight Train Rolls On! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-38-250019-9. Illustrator Laura Huliska-Beith.

Rhyming verses take the sleepy dreamer on a ride through the stages before falling asleep. The sleepy passengers on the train begin off well, and hit trouble throughout the ride. Once asleep they dream and wake when the stars and moon disappear and the sun returns for another day. The colors are cool and darker as the story takes place and the children begin to fall asleep. Because of smooth textures, the reader can see the puffy wool of the sheep and bumpiness of the tracks as the sleepers bounce around. The light in the story comes from the moon, some light on the train and occasionally the light of a house or building the train passes by. Despite the obstacles, the conductor finds a way to help his passengers sleep and reaches the destination with confidence. The train goes through the valley, hills, and farms lulling children to sleep as it whispers, “Chugga! Chugga! Shhhhhh! Shhhhhh!”. (KLK)


Scarlet Ibis

Lewis, Gill. 2018. Scarlet Ibis. Simon and Schuster (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books). 289pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-144914-0. Illustrated by Susan Meyer.

The Scarlet Ibis is a magnificent, fire red bird. Red dreams of seeing this bird in the wild with his sister Scarlet. This London family lives in an apartment. Red and Scarlet’s mom is sick and struggles to care for them. When their apartment is burned down, they go in different directions. Scarlet is moved out of the city, given a new family, and now has a new school. She does not want to be in this new house. All she wants is Red, and her mom. Scarlet does her best to adjust to these new arrangements but she is kept in the dark and feels disconnected from everyone. Scarlet cannot take it anymore and decides to help Red with his dream. If only she knew his location. A theme is overcoming the obstacles of life, and pushing more of what is wanted. Scarlet stands up for herself in her new school, defending herself, her family (and foster family). 

Within each chapter, there is a sketch depicting what is happening in the chapter. These images give the reader a visual of what the characters are doing and how they might be feeling. These images help the reader see what might happen along with what is currently happening. This book was written for pleasure and explores the values of family and hobbies in this plotline. Red loves birds and collects feathers, He knows all the birds at the zoo and the ones that fly by his window. Birds are what calms Red down and brings him back to the world with Scarlet. The foster family Scarlet lives with takes her in and treats her exactly like a sister and daughter. The book shows the good in the world when bad things happen. Scarlet discovers more about herself and her family in this story and learns how to be a child and be happy.  (KLK)


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Jamieson, Victoria. All’s Faire in Middle School. Penguin Random House LLC.  (Dial Books for young readers). 248pp. $20.99. ISBN: 978-0-525-42998-2. Illustrated by: David Lasky.

    When school becomes difficult, Imogene enjoys escaping to the renaissance faire where her parents work. This has been her second home her whole life. She loves helping in the shoppe her mom runs and jousting with her dad. Imogene has been homeschooled by her parents her whole life but in two days she is going to attend a public middle school, her first experience with formal schooling. Imogene is excited and nervous, she has never gone to school before but is excited to see what it is like. On her first day, Imogene sees how hard the real world can be and how cruel kids can be. Throughout the trials of middle school Imogene escapes from the issues at the faire with her family and friends until things at school start to get increasingly worse. When her family finds out she doesn’t know what to say, all she does is decide to hide in her room and become a hermit at the fair. Will Imogene make it through the year or will she go back to homeschool? 

    The themes shown through Imogene are standing up to bullies and the power of kindness. Imogene’s friend from the faire Cussie explains to her how in the stories the princess is the bravest and most heroic, because she risks her life without a second thought to save her people. The artwork in the story at first glance seems simplistic, however there are hidden details that give more about the details and background of the characters. For example the popular girl is wearing a flower on her headband, seems like just an accessory but it shows her as the leader. It’s almost like the headband is meant to be a modern day crown. The book is simple in content, but enjoyable as it sends good messages about standing up to bullies and how to get through the perils of middle school. (KLK)


Lifeboat 12

Hood, Susan. 2018. Lifeboat 12.  Simon & Schuster (Simon and SchusterBooks for Young Readers). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-146883-1.

World War II (WWII), was a frightening time for many families. Everyone in danger wanted to protect their families. The desire for protection is no different in Ken’s family. Ken and many other children from England were sent on a journey to live in the sanctuary of Canada. Ken did not want to go, but his family explained he would be safer in Canada than in Great Britain. Ken knew no matter how hard he fought he would be going to Canada. He began to pack his bags and prepare for the adventure ahead. Once the bombing began, he wished and prayed the trip would begin immediately. When the day finally came, there was misery yet hope on the train platform as Ken and other children said farewell to their homes, family, and friends, Once the trip was underway, it would only be a few days until the group of children and escorts would set sail to Canada. Once they had set sail on the SS City of Benares, the hardest days had past. By day five of the voyage, the crew and passengers began to relax as the ship was in the clear of torpedos, or so the crew thought. The next night a torpedo hit and the passengers were evacuated in the lifeboats. Ken and his roommates frantically ran to find their lifeboat. Ken ended up in Lifeboat 12 with 45 other passengers. His life went from a dream of comfortable beds and an endless amount of food to shivering in the cold and limited rations of food. The people on the boat helped each other survive as they waited for help which they knew may never arrive. The question they continued to ask was, will someone come to help?

    This plot is based on a true story and real people who were on Lifeboat 12. They struggled each day to help themselves and others as they waited for someone to find them. Ken acts as a big brother to his friends and roommates by helping keep everyone calm. Ken puts everyone else first. He is courageous, brave, a role model for the younger boys on board. This historical fiction tale is written in the style of journal entries. The parts of the book are separated into the days before, during, and after the journey along with new information that Ken receives from family, friends, crew members, and others during the journey to Canada. (KLK)


The Two Mutch Sisters

Brendler, Carol. 2018. The Two Mutch Sisters. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-443074-7. Illustrator: Lisa Brown.

Siblings can be amusing; however they can also cause mischief and trouble. The Mutch sisters, Ruby and Violet, collected many objects and always received presents in twos. One day as they were drinking tea, the sisters realized there was not enough room on the table for their tea cups. Violet decides to move out and find her own place. Ruby is sad to see her sister go, and tries to stop her; however, Ruby is determined to leave. Once she is all moved in, Ruby recognizes something is missing, but has trouble deciphering what it is. Violet continues to persuade Ruby to stay. Will the sisters be together again or live separate from each other?

The watercolor images are bright and colorful upon a white background. When the sisters receive a gift, it comes in their style and color of either Ruby or Violet. The cool colors complement the warm and bright colors. The lines showing the hair of the characters are swirly and sketched in disarray to convey the disorder of the sisters splitting and moving around finding a home for all their things. However, the lines are soft and show the welcoming of the house and the people inside it. It seems as though Violet is more family oriented than Ruby, and Ruby is the problem solver. Ruby is the one who finally decides to clear out some space and find her own way as their collection continues to grow. Ruby struggles with person vs self as she tried to figure out what the problem is in her new home and Violet struggles with person vs person as she tries to persuade Ruby to stay in their home. The bright colors and friendly, loving sisters creates a bright and happy story as the two begin to solve the problem of what is missing in Ruby’s new home. (KLK)


One True Way

Hitchcock, Shannon. 2018. One True Way. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 224pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-818172-2.

Middle School is a place where many students struggle with their studies, activities, friends, and themselves. Allie has just moved to Virginia with her mom and will be attending Daniel Boone (DB) Middle School. The first friend she finds is Sam and from the moment they shook hands Allie knew the friendship with Sam would be strange, exciting, and blissful. Allie begins to find her way through DB and figures out what to do at school with the help of her new friend Sam. While Sam and Allie become closer, Allie ponders on why she feels jealous when other girls talk to Sam sweetly and are friendly to her. The plot takes the reader through Allie’s self-discovery and her relationship with Sam. The two become closer than ever, however they are afraid about what will happen if they are caught. Sam’s mom who does not tolerate anything against the Bible would pull them apart forever if she knew. The reader is invested in the relationship for the two girls and craves to see how the plot will end in regards to their friendship. Allie faces a lot of conflicts in the plot through person versus person, person versus society and person versus self.  Allie struggle to figure out whom she is deep down in her soul and what will give her the delight in life again. Allie fights her mom and Sam’s mother over the way she feels and how it is something out of her control. It seems that Sam’s mom will never understand but Allie refuses to compromise her feelings. Allie and Sam both struggle with person v society as they ponder the uncertainty of how everyone at school and in town would react to their relationship. The two caring girls want to be treated as everyone else, and have their own chance, happiness, and romance. They are both tough, friendly and care about others around them. The themes in the plotline show the readers life can be confusing and sometimes difficult. When people can be themselves everything is a little less complicated. (KLK)


When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana

Mahin, Michael. 2018. When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana. Simon and Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 48pp.  $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-440413-7. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez.

Carlos's dream was to hear the angels sing when he played like his father could. Carlos played instrument after instrument trying to hear the angel’s voices during the songs. He was not going to give up. One day as Carlos and his mother listened to music, he saw the trumpets, violins, and a guitar. He fervently practiced, but unfortunately the angels still did not sing. When Carlos went to America, he started a band and even though no one knew who they were, they played in many places. The band was invited to Woodstock in New York, far from their home in San Francisco but they were ready to show their talents. Carlos gave everything to himself,  the crowd, the beat, and the music. Finally he heard the angels sing.

This plot line shares the biography story of Carlos Santana. The highs and lows of his life Carlos wanted to bring joy and beauty through his music just like his father. However, in trying to be his father he was not being himself, which kept the angels from singing. This is the main theme of the plot. Readers need to be themselves and follow their dreams. When the reader do what they choose and is true to themselves anything is possible. Carols has conflict through person v self as he tries to find his calling and musical style. He wants to be like his father, however Carlos  is not supposed to be like his father. He needs to be himself. The illustrations spark the story and help it flow in music and beauty. The bright colors and Hispanic design show how proud Carlos and his family is of their heritage. The illustrations truly capture the style of the story, the realism of how and where they live and what may have been going on. The colors are bright during the day with yellow, orange and the warmth of red and purple. The vibrant colors of the story connect with Carlos hard work and determination to hear the angels sing. The colors get brighter as he gets closer to his dream. The illustrations often include year dates as well. The dates often appear when there has been a time leap or an important event is happening the plot.This  addition is important as it allows the reader read the pictures along with the words. The book incorporates some Spanish words into the story as well which invites the reader connect with Carlos’s Hispanic background while letting Hispanic children read in Spanish and English and teaching Spanish to English readers. The book is a wonderful and captivating story that lets the readers learn about an amazing musician and letting the think about how they can make the angels sing. (KLK)


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Thimmesh, Catherine. 2018. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 64pg (paperback). $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-328-77253-4. Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet.

The plot of this book lists and explains the technology women have created over the years and the background behind the inventions, it is categorized in 609 in the Dewey decimal system placing it in technology history. Each chapter shares information about a woman or pair of women and their inventions, including the information on what was created and how it was created. The book shares an inspiring message about how many women had to hide their identity or patent their invention in their husband’s name to sell the product to the public. All of the inventions and women are from different time periods. Using the different time periods and sharing the inventions in different helps young girls and current women inventors know that even though it may not be easy for anyone, especially women, can invent and create new and helpful technology tools for the world. The themes of the book are to believe in the power of self and to work hard through hard times. 

There are blurbs in speech bubbles about the women and what they went through to patent their invention and share the invention with the world. The women in this book experienced many struggles; in technology and building, to themselves and their ideas. Many of the women struggled with people v. self, and/or with society, person v society, often men telling them they can’t or shouldn’t invent. The short stories share images of the inventions, pictures of blueprints, and illustrations representing the drafts of the recipes or blueprints. It does not include actual copies of historical documents. The author wants to share with girls and women that they are hardworking and powerful and can do whatever a man can do, and even better. (KLK)


Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story.

Nobleman, Marc. 2018. Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-54-443076-1. Illustrated by: Melissa Iwai.

Nobuo Fujita, a man of honor with a job to do for his country, flew over Oregon to drop two bombs in the forest during WWII. The only people who knew that he was on a mission that dropped the bomb were himself and other men on the mission Nobou did this once more before returning to Japan. After Japan surrendered, Nobou did not speak of the event and lived his life as normally as he could. When Brookings, Oregon wanted to expand the tourists' sites and invited Nobou and his family to the United States. Nobou accepted and what had started as threats and attempts of destroying other countries in war became friendship and the bonding of two countries. Over the rest of Nobuo’s life, he hosted students from America in Tokyo and returned to Oregon many times to visit friends and make amends for his actions. The plot of the story shares a WWII event, however, the interesting part is it shares history from Japan along with how America was affected. In the end the two sides become friends and when Nobuo died an American friend was there at his bedside. 

In the Dewey decimal system 792 is for books in stage entertainment, within this category is tragedy, comedy, mime, operas, musicals and other forms of entertainment on the stage. Even though the events are factual, it involves humor, tragedy and could be made into a brief stage production based on Nobuo’s life and the lives that were affected by the bombs he deployed in the Oregon forest. The illustrations in the book are impeccably realistic. On the first page during the prologue the illustration portrays the devastation of Pearl Harbor after the bombing by the Japanese. During the early morning and late night images the warm and cool colors mix to create a ravishing image of the sky behind the boat in the sea. When there is a solemn event or anxiety in the story for a character the colors and expressions from the character portray the emotion wonderfully. The book’s writing and glorious illustrations bring the story together and create a thrilling and captivating story.  (KLK)


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Cumyn, Alan. 2018. North to Benjamin. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 304 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-149752-7. Illustrated by Dan Burgess.

Starting fresh in a new place can be difficult, especially for Edgar. As he struggles to fit in to his new home in Dawson, Yukon, he creates strong bonds as he overcomes the obstacles in his path. Edgar can feel the trouble his mother will cause as she falls head over heels for their neighbor, Ceese, who is already in a committed relationship. Edgar is constantly put on display, although he tries to be invisible. As he gets settled into this town, he befriends the dog he is caring for, Benjamin. Quickly, Edgar loses his ability to speak English; he is only able to communicate with dogs. This alienates him more at home, school, and the community, which builds the rising action. 

As Edgar’s mother becomes dangerously close with Ceese, Edgar takes it upon himself to trek across the breaking ice of the Yukon River in the middle of the night to get help from Ceese’s girlfriend. Many components of the river and nature around him build conflict towards Edgar ability to complete his personal mission. Having Benjamin to save him, Edgar avoids an icy death from the Yukon River ice. Edgar and Benjamin must beat the odds of below zero temperatures, lost paths, and unknown futures to stay alive. (DLK)


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Singer, Marilyn. Tallulah’s Ice Skates. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-459692-4. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger.

Learning a new skill can be difficult for anyone. Tallulah is quick to learn this as she makes the transition from ballet to ice skating. The warm colors of pink and brown that are used to illustrate the dance studio in the exposition convey a friendly environment, as suggested by Norton (2011). The use of these colors also show Tallulah’s high energy which relates to her skill in ballet. As the characters transition outside to the ice rink for the rising action, the cool colors of blue and white are used to illustrate the extreme cold outside. However, Tallulah is dressed in a red skirt and hat which conveys that she is excited to skate. This also shows the high energy she brings with her out onto the rink. While skating with her friend, Kacie, lines indicate that Tallulah is skating smoothly. This conveys that Tallulah is more confident and has better balance while skating. On the other hand, Kacie is often portrayed through diagonal angles, showing her uncontrolled motion and lack of balance on skates. 

Tallulah desires to prove she is a Super Skater; however, she is not as skilled at turns or jumps as the older boy who tries to help her. This conflict against herself discourages Tallulah from enjoying ice skating. Darker colors are used to illustrate how discouraged she feels towards skating. Once she sees her mom and brother having an enjoyable time without having to worry about being great skaters, Tallulah is inspired to get back on the ice. The textures used throughout the story illustrate a soft, happy time. Snow is falling throughout Tallulah’s time outside and is conveyed through the use of soft shading and textures. (DLK)


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Prahin, Andrew. Elbert: The Curious Clock Tower Bear. Penguin Random House (G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551398-8. Illustrated by Andrew Prahin.

Fitting in is difficult for anyone who is unique. Elbert, who is curious, is quick to learn this. After disturbing the other clock tower bears during their normal rounds in the exposition, Elbert is forced to leave the clock tower to relinquish his curiosity. The other bears will not tolerate his curiosity, driving the rising action with a conflict versus society. This quickly becomes a conflict versus self as Elbert sees his curiosity as harmful. Through the rising action, he wanders through a dark forest, hoping to satisfy his curiosity in a variety of ways. As he realizes his attempts are ineffective, Elbert embraces his curiosity and shares it with his fellow clock tower bears. The theme of finding oneself is woven throughout the story as Elbert trudges far and wide to be rid of his curiosity. In the denouement, he instills curiosity onto the other bears. 

Dark, ominous colors such as blues, blacks, and greens convey the unaccepting mood of the story. Elbert is searching through this dark forest to get rid of his curiosity, only to be followed by the non-acceptance of his curiosity by himself and others. In the denouement, the colors change to vibrant pinks, whites, and purples to signify the friendliness and high energy which occurs as the bears begin their own journey. As the time counts down until Elbert must be rid of his curiosity, a clock is used to convey the artificial shape contrasting Elbert’s own organic shape. This still clock also conveys the lack of progress Elbert has made to get rid of his curiosity. The texture within the forest pulls the reader along to Elbert’s next destination as well as illustrates if he will accomplish his mission set upon him by the other clock tower bears. Elbert invites the reader to develop their hypothesizing, observing, and summarizing skills. (DLK)


Benji, the Bad Day, and Me

Pla, Sally J. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me. Lee & Low Books Inc. 32 pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014345-2. Illustrated by Ken Min. 

Some days are worse than others, something Sammy knows quite well. After things have constantly taken wrong turns throughout the day at school, he comes home to a busy mother and equally upset brother, Benji. Creating a conflict of Sammy versus self, Sammy knows his mother is more focused on Benji as well as her own work causing Sammy’s day to become worse. By focusing on the negative instead of the positive, Sammy’s problems worsen as the climax occurs when Sammy overflows his cereal with milk, releasing all his emotions from the day. Benji embodies brotherly love as he offers his special blanket and rolls his brother in it like a burrito. From this, all of Sammy’s worries float away as he focuses on this special moment. This concept storybook leads the readers along a development of character, hypothesizing, and applying skills to learn more about their personal emotions as well as how to handle them.

The contrast of delightful and upsetting memories is highlighted by the use of color. Bright colors of yellow, green, purple, and pink illustrate the happy moments from Sammy’s memories as well as when his brother helps cheer him up. These colors illustrate friendliness throughout the story, in addition to happiness. However, when Sammy refers to the upsetting parts of his day, they are illustrated in dark tones of blue to convey his sadness. Benji is also having a rough day, causing him to stay in his special box, which is comprised of horizontal and vertical lines. These lines showcase the security he finds in the box and demonstrates that Sammy know his brother feels safe inside. The top of his box comes to a triangular point, reinforcing Benji’s concept of the box being his security. Benji’s blanket, which he shares with his brother to help brighten his day, is a deep blue, illustrating the tranquility it brings to both brothers. As the story ends, the two are surrounded by yellow toys and the soft green wall to convey they are happy and calm as they end their day as a family. (DLK)


Mary Poppins

Travers, P. L. Mary Poppins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 32 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-891677-8. Illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. 

Follow Mary Poppins as the wind blows her off to her whimsical adventure. Upon arriving at the Banks household, Mary Poppins opens the eyes of Jane, Michael, the twins, and the reader to a world of possibilities. From floating in the air to seeing the stars placed in the sky to learning valuable lessons of equality at a midnight circus, readers are invited to expand the horizons of their imagination. Throughout the adventures, person versus society conflict drives the story; the Banks children are constantly thinking the experiences Mary Poppins takes them on are not possible. However, they begin to embrace the excitement with little question. As the wind shifts, marking the dénouement, Mary Poppins must leave the children. As she blows off, she leaves the children with hope for another encounter and knowledge of a French word. This story encourages the development of comparing and contrasting, hypothesizing, and criticizing skills for the reader. 

When featuring the adventures of Mary Poppins, light colors of white, pink, and blue are used to illustrate the friendly, inviting mood she brings with her. While on their magical adventures, Mary Poppins is displayed on diagonal lines to reinforce the whimsical nature. To contrast this role, while she is carrying out her duties as a nanny, she is depicted on strong vertical lines. Illustrating her strength and being in control, Mary Poppins helps the children grow in both their imagination and in their responsibilities. During each adventure, organic shapes are used to depict the lightness and imagination that follows Mary Poppins. This story of Mary Poppins plays an easy introduction to the well-known stories for younger readers. (DLK)


Forgotten City

Ford, Michael. Forgotten City. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 272 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-269696-0

Kobi has spent all 13 years of life believing the only survivors in the world were his dad and him. The world is in an apocalyptic state where biologically engineered Waste has changed to composition of all flora and fauna acting as the antagonist throughout all of Kobi’s journeys outside. Kobi was born immune to Waste and works with his dad to find a cure. The rising action commences as his dad fails to return by his original deadline, thus compelling Kobi to set out through the Wasteland. Along the way, he must battle mutated plants and animals as well as find other survivors who were born with the same mutations as him. Kobi showcases his persistence to find the ones he cares for throughout the journey. Kobi showcases his hospitality as he struggles to understand the reality of other survivors. After venturing back into the Wasteland with the other survivors, Fionn and Asha, they befriend a mutated wolf. The climax occurs as Kobi and his friends learn the truth about everything: the Waste, the millions of other people who live without Waste contamination, and the true identity of  Kobi’s father. Flying off in the stolen transporter, Kobi must sacrifice his love for his father to save the future. 

Ford works to suspend disbelief by relating the setting of Seattle that the reader can identify as a city that has mutated. The friendship that develops between Kobi, Fionn, and Asha illustrates the theme of survival as well as trust. All of them believed the lies of propaganda for years, and after learning the truth, they must lean on each other for support and save the world they did not know exists. (DLK) 


The Panda Problem

Underwood, Deborah. 2019. The Panda Problem. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers Group). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-73-522850-4. Illustrated by Hannah Marks.

    Imagination for one person can be a source of agony to another. Panda showcases this as he struggles to give the narrator a problem to build a story. Swinging from the diagonal bamboo trees, Panda conveys the whimsical imagination which young readers can relate to. However, the narrator becomes annoyed with Panda, creating a conflict between the two. Panda begins to think of jelly beans, singing, and aliens, creating a problem for the narrator to report. The narrator does not find these things to be problematic enough, allowing Panda to stretch his imagination to Antarctica. Here the conflict grows as the narrator is immensely annoyed with Panda, but Panda is more focused on having an enjoyable time. Thinking of a new problem, Panda imagines another Panda to join him. Both pandas become hungry and wish to return to the bamboo forests, signifying the climax. In the denouement, the pandas try their hand at storytelling, but the narrator is not receptive. This picture story book invites young readers to develop their skills in hypothesizing, critiquing, and summarizing. 

    Panda is displayed on bamboo shoots at diagonal angles to convey the whimsical, unproblematic life he lives. The bamboo is green, signifying safety while he hangs from it; Panda is displayed as black and white to fit the realistic expectation a reader has from prior knowledge. By using black and white, Panda is seen as a blank slate to help establish the problem the narrator attempts to find in the story. As Panda’s imagination takes over the story, purple, pink, blue, and yellow illustrate the lightheartedness of the situation. As the pandas become hungry in Antarctica, they are surrounded by darker blue water, which signifies the shift in the mood from joyful to upset. (DLK)


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Singer, Marilyn. 2018. Every Month is a New Year: Celebrations Around the World. Lee and Low Books Inc. 56 pp. $20.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014162-5. Illustrated by Susan L. Roth.

Every culture has unique celebrations for a new year. Throughout the calendar year, each month represents a cultural celebration from around the world. These celebrations are conveyed through poetry ranging from couplets to Haikus. Poems engage the reader and highlight important aspects of different cultures. Many poems outline celebrations focusing on the importance of family in each culture as well as going into the New Year by leaving sins and sadness behind. These poems from the United States, Scotland, Russia, China, Iran, Thailand, Jordan, New Zealand, Chile, Egypt, India, Ethiopia, India, Ecuador, and Spain allow the young reader to receive an understanding of cultures outside of their own. 

The poems throughout the book are depicted by collages. The texture shown in the artwork allows the reader to see the images as more realistic. This helps to relate the understanding of the cultures which are portrayed through the artwork. The poems are based on a calendar to help the reader grasp when New Year celebrations occurs throughout the year. Each calendar corresponds with the typical color associated with each month. For example, April has various shades of blue throughout the calendar because it is typically associated with rain, while August has dark shades of orange and yellow to illustrate familiar warm summer months. The horizontal and vertical lines create the calendar helping the reader to understand that the celebrations which are different from their culture are just as important as their own celebrations. (DLK)



Gratz, Alan. 2018. Grenade. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-824569-1.

Set in Okinawa during World War II, a young American marine, Ray, and a young Okinawan boy, Hideki, feel the weight of war. In the exposition, Hideki is given two grenades and is told to kill Americans in the name of Japan, the country controlling the island of Okinawa. Concurrently, Ray is launched on “Love Day” to gain control of the island for America. Throughout the rising action, both boys face conflicts of person versus person as they fight against the enemy while also arguing with those on their side of the battle field over conflicting viewpoints. The boys also face the conflict of person versus society as they both question the reason they are fighting, and person versus self as they attempt to understand how to handle living surrounded by death. Throughout part one, chapters switch from Hideki’s point of view to Ray’s, giving the reader more understanding of what occurs during wartime from different, opposing perspectives. Unknowing they are destined to meet, Ray is killed by Hideki’s bomb which he throws out of fear. The rest of the plot shifts to Hideki’s point of view. Hideki then travels alone through enemy territory in order to fulfill his father’s dying wish for him to reunite with his sister. Rain pours day and night while he is constantly under fire. When he finds his sister, Kimiko, they escape towards their home village. Along with eight young children, Kimiko and Hideki surrender to the Marine legion Ray was originally a part of, causing the youngest boy to be shot by an American and marking the climax of the sequence of events. In the dénouement, Hideki and Kimiko make a decision to take back their island and rebuild it to its former glory once the war is over.

    Native Okinawa words and Japanese phrases are integrated throughout, adding to the authenticity of Hideki’s view of the war. Themes of guilt, survival, love, and hope are illustrated throughout Hideki’s journey, inviting the reader to learn and grow with Hideki. (DLK)


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Carter, Caela. One Speck of Truth. HarperCollinsPublishers 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-267266-7. 

    A conventional family consists of a mom, dad, and children. However, Alma does not have this typical family structure. Told from a third person omniscient point of view, the readers gets a glimpse surrounding the struggles of growing up without a dad in addition to having a mom withholding the truth. In the exposition, Alma showcases the conflict of person versus person as her mom refuses to answer her questions about her allegedly deceased father. Throughout the rising action, Alma and Julia, Alma’s best friend, enjoy the summer with typical activities in addition to searching for Alma’s father’s gravestone. However, Alma sees a change in her mother throughout the summer as she plans a surprise, causing her to become disorganized and forgetful. After an embarrassing interaction at the bus stop on the first day of school, Alma receives news they are moving to Portugal to be closer to her father’s family. Portugal is used as a symbol of answers which Alma has longed for her whole life. Upon arriving in Portugal, Alma struggles with a person versus self-conflict while she hopes to find her father’s grave. With the help of her new found cousin, Leonor, Alma is connected with her father, who does not live up to her hopes. The climax occurs when Julia and Adam surprise Alma in Portugal, showing they love and support her regardless of the situation. In the denouement, Alma learns it is more important to be surrounded by love than to search for an unattainable dream. Outlining single parent families, learning about death, and figuring out how to genuinely love a person, a young reader is able to connect to the themes from the beginning to the end. (DLK)



 Floca, Brain. 2019. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 56pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-53-444030-2. 

Few people have had the chance to walk on the moon. Outlining the events which occurred to send a man to the moon. The reader’s curiosity is piqued as the events of preparing for takeoff, taking off, landing on the moon, and the final descent to earth are described. The information used is from credible sources. The writing style challenges readers to expand their understanding of space vocabulary as well as picture what it would be like to participate in history. Readers are given an accurate representation of the information about the expedition. Readers are also encouraged to become involved in problem solving. The plot is arranged in logical order and explains the importance of the first expedition to the moon. 

Bright whites and vivid blacks give readers an insight to what it would look like to be floating through space. Vibrant yellows illustrate the intensity of standing on the launch pad at takeoff. Before takeoff, the spaceship and launch pad are highlighted with strong, vertical lines to convey the lack of movement before takeoff. Once in space, curved lines are used to showcase the fluidity of space, highlighting the limited control humans have once they leave the earth’s atmosphere. Geometric shapes are used to illustrate the mechanical origins of the spacecraft and the assertion of mankind into space. On the moon, texture shows accurate portrayals of the rocky surface. This allows readers to understand the surface astronauts must navigate. (DLK)


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Diaz, Alexandra. 2018. The Crossroads. Simon & Schuster Books. (Paula Wiseman Books). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441455-6.

    At some point in life, individuals may experience being the new, unfamiliar person in a group. However, many who experience this feeling do not feel it to the extreme that twelve year old Jaime Rivera does. Jaime is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, he has just entered the United States with his sister, Angela, and they are living with their brother, Tomás in New Mexico. Jaime is thrown into a new setting when he is sent to school; Jaime doesn’t speak English and this makes for several frustrating obstacles on only the first day. Jaime feels helpless and alone, and this is exacerbated when he gets the news that his Abuela is one of the latest victims of gang violence back in Guatemala. Jaime is battling feelings of helplessness and homesickness, and does not feel right going home or staying in his new “home.” But Jaime finds solace in drawing, and in his music teacher, and things seem to look up once he finds his bearings. The Crossroads evokes strong themes of family and identity and creates a realistic experience of being a stranger to the norms of both the American setting and language. Jaime must learn to embrace the differences between the old and new home if he wishes to flourish, and flourish he does.  (ACL)


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Fox, Mem. 2017. I’m an Immigrant Too! Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-443602-2. Illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh.

People in Australia come from everywhere! Readers get engaged with the endless possibilities for countries of origin of the people around them. The plot itself is rich with themes of community and understanding differences. The illustrations are diverse in color depending on which Australian city is being displayed. For example, the city of Adelaide is portrayed with a dark blue, tranquil night sky filled with exciting bursts of red, yellow, and orange fireworks. The deep blue of the sky communicates the peacefulness that the family watching the fireworks is feeling in their decision to live in Adelaide. There is a constant presence of straight, horizontal lines, giving the sense of calm and stability. There are only a few instances where the horizontal line is not present, but when it is not there, it is replaced by a curved lines, which are often associated with feelings of security and coziness. The illustrations demonstrate the feelings the characters feel in their new found home of Australia.  (ACL).


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Engle, Margarita. 2018. Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum books for Young readers). 192pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-53-440943-9.  Illustrated by: Rudy Gutierrez

In Los Angeles, life for many Mexican American girls consists of working all day at the cannery, and then going to dance all night. It is a good life, full of rhythm, freedom, and expression. This joyous time stopped abruptly when the navy sailors start attacking their brothers and boyfriends because of the color of their skin. Marisela and Lorena are two sisters living in fear for their younger brother Ray, as he fits the description of the boys and men that navy sailors are attacking; he wears a loose zoot suit, and he has the complexion of a Mexican American. Marisela, Lorena, and Ray all tell their stories through poetry. With their evocative language and succinct anecdotes told through the expressive medium of poetry, the reader feels everything the characters feel in vivid detail, from the lively twirls of the jitterbug, to the absolute terror of learning the news of the attack of a loved one. There are strong themes of identity and justice represented by the commentary of the characters on their life turned struggle in unforgiving World War II era Los Angeles. (ACL)


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Saeed, Aisha. 2018. Amal Unbound: A Novel. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 240pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-39-954468-2.

Amal has two loves: her teacher and her family. She is the eldest sister out of four, which comes with a lot of responsibility. She forgets her responsibility when she is at school. Amal has a dream of being a teacher, and her schoolteacher, Miss Sadia, is where she draws her inspiration. But Amal’s life is suddenly thrown into disarray. Her mother has another baby much earlier than it was due, and Amal’s father declares that she must stay home from school to help around the house until her mother recovers. Amal is devastated but recognizes her duty as the oldest. Just when things are getting easy, life hits Amal with something quite suddenly, a car in fact. She scolds the car’s owner and runs away, not knowing that she has just disrespected Jawad Sahib, the richest and most feared man in their area of Pakistan. The man has an ego bigger than an ocean, so he forces Amal’s family to hand her over to him as a servant to pay off what she has done. Just like that, Amal’s life is turned upside down once more, as she is whisked away from her family, her school friends, and everything else that held familiarity. Amal is a strong willed character who is not afraid to speak her mind, especially when it comes to injustice. Her determination in seeking out what is right adds to the strong theme of perseverance that the book holds. Her undying dedication to her family keeps her going through the perils she faces when working for Sahib, she is unstoppable. (ACL)


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Cheng, Andrea. 2018. Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved, Potter, and Poet. Lee & Low Books Inc. 142pp. $12.95. ISBN: 978-1-62-014807-5.

The pain and trials a slave in the United States faced would be difficult to accurately express. Dave’s life unfolds through poetry. Through the multiple perspectives of Dave’s wife, his master, and Dave himself, a life unfolds. Dave learns the art of pottery soon after Master Drake purchases him as a slave. Not long after, Dave finds his voice when he learns to read and write, and in doing so, he overcame many odds for the abilities of a slave at the time. He begins to etch his thoughts, through his writings and drawings, into the clay pottery he creates. His beautiful words paint a tale of lessons learned, devastating loss, and small triumphs. The illustrations are the drawings he etched on the pottery he made, giving further authenticity to his life. The story of Dave’s life is appealing as it is told in a way that readers don’t typically encounter when reading material on slavery in the United States. With its intense themes of self-preservation, and self-discovery, Dave’s life is compelling and tragic, and it consistently reminds the reader of the horrors that humans tragically experienced the slave trade. (ACL)


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Keenan, Sheila. 2018. Ben Franklin Thinks Big. HarperCollins Publishing. 32pp. $4.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-243264-3. Illustrated by Gustavo Mazali.

Benjamin Franklin’s life was long, and his list of accomplishments was even longer. He had many occupations, from writer, to politicians, to inventor; he was a productive man, and he was busy trying to make life better for the people who lived in the 13 colonies. Franklin’s life is shared in a pleasing manner for young readers. It is historically accurate, and informational, as well as entertaining.. Ben Franklin, as a child, had wide, curious eyes, alluding to his constant thirst for knowledge. In his adult life, Franklin wears minty green overcoat, giving a visual to his new, fresh perspectives on aspects of life, as well as his serene presence in the United States government. Franklin’s life is one that young readers will enjoy, as the author has made him a likeable character that everyone can admire. (ACL)


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Settel, Joanne. 2018. Your Amazing Skin from Outside In. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 96pp. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1-48-142205-5. Illustrated by Bonnie Timmons.

There is a lot to know about human skin, and the amazing things that it can do. Colorful illustrations and poetry are used in order to explain the properties of human skin to young readers. This book explains all about skin: its abilities, and the various conditions that skin goes through. The concepts are in the form of rhyming couplets and with language that helps young readers understand the various concepts. The illustrations are brightly colored and the various conditions the book explores are illustrated using primary colors. Various conditions in the book, such as bruises, insect bites, and burns are illustrated literally, (i.e. bruises are illustrated with bright blues and purples, and bites and burns are illustrated with bright reds) for the purpose of exaggeration and keeping the reader interested. The rhyming aspect of the book makes reading aloud entertaining and keeps students engaged when they’re learning about the concepts introduced in the text, as well as making the material age-appropriate. The information is presented in an authentic way and is factual, so the book offers an authentic learning experience for young readers. (ACL)


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Jenkins, Steve. 2018. Speediest! 19 Very Fast Animals. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers) 40pp. $5.99. ISBN: 978-1-328-84196-4.

There is a whole world of speed that people don’t often get to see. This book opens up an educational exploration of the world of speed. There are nineteen total animals introduced and each is represented with realistic illustrations and many other intriguing features. Each animal has a small diagram that shows the reader how big (or small), the animal is compared to the average human. Each page also contains a small map of the world and the region where the animal resides is marked off in red to display the animal’s home in the world. At the end, there is a chart at the end that contains a list of the animals rated by speed. A glossary can be found at the end of the book as well.  The information in the book is organized in a way that makes readers excited to learn all the facts associated with the given animal. (ACL)


Confessions From The Principal’s Kid

Mellom, Robin. 2017. Confessions From The Principal’s Kid. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272pp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-54-481379-3. 

    Allie is in the fifth grade and her mom is the principal of the school. She has a lot of connections at school; she’s on a nickname basis with the custodians, she knows how to finesse a can of Sprite out of the gym teacher, and she knows all the secret hiding spots in the building because she stays after school every day. While all of this is “awesomesauce”, as Allie would put it, she longs for something more than anything, and that is acceptance from her peers. Everyone at school avoids Allie because she is the principal’s daughter; they’re afraid to say or do anything around her for fear that she will report back to her mom. Due to her mom’s position Allie’s friends are limited. Her only friends are The Afters (aka the other students whose parents teach at the school, giving them all a reason to spend time together every afternoon). Allie’s reputation as a tattletale was based off of only one event. Unfortunately, that event cost Allie her best friend, Chloe, and Allie has been trying to mend things ever since. But as luck would have it, Allie gets partnered with Chloe for a school project. Allie must work to fix things with her friend.    

Robin Mellom creates a unique and realistic viewpoint of what it’s like to be made into an outsider. Allie’s attitude towards her loneliness is sure to strike a chord with people who have ever felt as though they do not belong. Her quirky personality, kindness for others, and her resolve to fix the mistakes she has made makes her quite a lovable character. Allie’s opinionated voice hooks the reader in right from the start with her confessions on what it’s like to be the principal’s kid. (ACL)


A Round of Robin

Hesterman, Katie. 2018. A Round of Robins. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulson Books). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-39-95477-8. Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier.

Mr. and Mrs. Robin are preparing to be parents! They go through the motions of making the nest, making the area a safe space, and sitting on the eggs before… Crack! Crack! Crack! The babies are hatched. The babies grow to fledglings and beyond with many adventures; flying lessons, worm snacks and more. When the babies grow up, Mom and Dad are ready to start all over again. 

“A Round of Robins” is an introduction for young readers to poetry. Each portion of the robins’ story is told in the form of a poem, comprised of rhyming couplets. The simple organization of the poetry keeps the plot moving smoothly, but still at a pace a young reader can follow. The illustrations keep the reader engaged as well. The illustrations are chock-full of warm, pastel colors that decorate everything from sunsets, to the nearby mountains, to the birds themselves. The warm colors communicate the feeling of love and tenderness, both things that the story portrays between the parents and the babies. The illustrations correlate well with the plot, making it an engaging read for young readers. (ACL)


Barnett, Mac. 2018. Mac Undercover (Mac B., Kid Spy #1). Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 160pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-33-814359-1. Illustrated by Mike Lowery. 
Mac Undercover (Mac B., Kid Spy #1)

Mac B. is a kid spy who goes to work with the Queen of England to complete a secret mission. This secret mission has Mac B. searching for the stolen Crown Jewels. The Queen was missing her special “coordination spoon” and it was Mac B.’s job to find it. On Mac’s flight to England someone steals his GameBoy, and later he gets a mysterious phone call telling him to abandon the mission if he ever wants it back. Mac and the Queen believe the President of France has stolen both the spoon and the GameBoy so he plans on stealing (borrowing as he says) something special belonging to France. Through his work he meets several important people including the Queen of England, the President of France, and a man working for the KGB. After his encounters with these people he finds out who the true culprit was and the reason behind the stealing of the spoon, the GameBoy, and the Mona Lisa. Mac Undercover is told from the point of view of Mac himself. It is written through Mac is talking directly to the reader in the form of a letter. Mac Barnett incorporates numerous true facts into the story, which gives mini lessons on geography and geography, and other educational facts. (MKML)


Possum and the Summer Storm

Hunter, Anne. 2018. Possum and the Summer Storm.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99 ISBN 987-0-54-489891-2.

Visual elements create setting as a mood. The plot begins as  a dark cloud loomed over the possums’ brush pile home. The dark cloud created a mood of fear as their home as rising water swept away their homes. As the possums were swept down the river. The water is depicted by curved blue and green lines showing movement. Along with the moving water, the grasses are conveyed through diagonal lines, which Norton (2011) says suggest loss of balance and uncontrolled motion. As the plot progresses, the mood changes and becomes calmer and safer. The water is depicted through horizontal lines which depicting tranquility, and the grasses are curved and relaxed. Once the storm passes, the use of color also affects the mood. The bright yellow sun in the sky represents friendliness when the animals all come together to help the possum family. Also, the cool blues and greens represent tranquility. The themes of this book are teamwork and adaptability. This book also shows different types of animals who live in this environment, their homes and how they are built.  (MKML)


Grow Up, David

Shannon, David. 2018. Grow Up, David. Scholastic Inc. (Blue Sky Press). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-25097-1. Illustrated by David Shannon.

David is a mischievous youngster, always getting in trouble with his older brother by eating his Halloween candy, making a bathroom mess, and following him up the tree house. Each drawing shows David trying to play with his brother, but ending up a bother  The visual elements dominate each page with vibrant blues, oranges, and yellows represent the high energy of David at this stage in his life, with large words written in black overlaying them. Each illustration depicts common conflicts among siblings. In the resolution of the book, David gets invited to play football with his older brother and his friends, which shows even though David and his brother may get in fights or not like each other at times, there is still love between them. A theme throughout the book is the affection brothers share. (MKML)


Primavera, Elise. 2019. I’m a Baked Potato! Chronicle Books. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-45-215592-0. Illustrated by Juana Medina.
I'm a Baked Potato!: (Funny Children s Book About a Pet Dog, Puppy Story)

In the exposition of the book, the reader is introduced to a lady who cherished baked potatoes and dogs. She cherished both so much she decided to get a dog and she named him Baked Potato because of how much he reminded her of her favorite food. One day the lady left the house and Baked Potato decided to go too. The plot follows Baked Potato on a journey to find his owner as well as a journey to find himself. Baked Potato struggles to find who he really is when he is asked by a dog, fox, and owl. It is not until he meets the wise owl that he learns he is actually a dog, and learns he is not what everyone else thinks he is, he said “I’m just like me.” The colors in the illustration create a distinct mood. For example, while Baked Potato is lost, the sky gets dark and gloomy, creating a sense of nervousness. Later, when Baked Potato returns home, the light from the open door is bright and yellow and depicts the warmth and safety in the home and the arms of the lady. When Baked Potato realizes he is sitting in front of a warm fire surrounded by happy colors of yellow, blue, and orange. The plot helps develop Baked Potato’s identity. After getting told he is a baked potato, a groundhog, a bunny, and a dog, he realizes he will always be himself. (MKML)

Rabbit Moon

Kim, Jean. 2018. Rabbit Moon. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books.)  40pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-33-803639-8. Illustrated by Jean Kim.

Inspired by Korean folklore, Rabbit’s journey explores the benefits of hard work and the importance of compromise Each night before bed, animals on Earth send their wishes toward the sky on paper airplanes. Up in the night sky is Rabbit Moon where Rabbit receives all the wishes and turns them into stars in order for the night sky to be lit up. Below the wishful children and their families watch as their wishes fill the sky with their faces lit up by the bright yellow stars. After some time Rabbit realizes he too has a wish and takes flight into the night, riding on a star. As he lands on Earth, a new friend is there to help him up. Rabbit enjoys the time he is spending on Earth with his friends so much he decides to stay for a while, not realizing the effect this might have on the world. Soon all the stars in the sky have disappeared and Rabbit realizes he must go back to Rabbit Moon to put the stars back in the sky. Rabbit and all of his friends are heartbroken because he has to leave, but they make a compromise. When Rabbit gets back home he sees all the work he needs to catch up on and then he sees an airplane coming his way with a box tied to it. Inside the box is a telescope allowing Rabbit and his friends to see each other while Rabbit can keep turning wishes into stars.

The illustrations depict the setting and mood. The sky was dark, but the bright stars and the moon lit up the world and the animals on it. While wishes were flying to Rabbit Moon they were glowing yellow against the dark night sky representing magic and their future as stars. The color yellow on Earth represents the lights inside the houses shine, representing a safe and welcoming home. As Rabbit starts to land on Earth, the texture of the organic materials becomes more detailed as he gets closer to the ground. The use of lines shows direction, especially the direction of the wishes. Kim uses triangles to show their direction of flight toward Rabbit Moon.  (MKML)


The Splintered Light

Johnson, Ginger. 2018. The Splintered Light. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 416pp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-68-119623-7. 

Imagine living in a world where color does not exist. Ishmael, a young boy, is responsible for keeping his family afloat in their bland world after his brother Luc disappeared and his father passed away. Ishmael learns of a special unique ability, he can see color. In the rising action, Ishmael learns the location of his brother and sets out to find him. When he finds his brother, Ishmael learns Luc can also see color. Luc had left his home to study color in the Commons. Not only did people see in color, but they also had the ability to create and move color. There were also people who could create shape, motion, sound, tastes, scents, and manufacture. As stated in Norton (2011), color has meaning or represents something other than itself. The color green represents peace. Red represents energy, heat, courage, and anger. Indigo represents wishes, and depicts a complex nature. Finally, blue represents calmness and kindness. Ishmael faces many conflicts including person versus person, person versus society, and person versus self. The Person v person conflict occurs between Ishmael and Luc when Ishmael finds Luc and tries to bring him back home, but Luc insists on staying in the Commons. Person v society occurs when Ishmael is in conflict with the people in the Commons who want him to continue to learn in the commons and excel in his gift. This is where the person v self comes into play, Ishmael promised his Mam he would return with Luc to help the family on their farm, but after seeing the Commons, he struggles with deciding whether he should stay or keep his promise to his Mam. Because of these conflicts, one major theme throughout is choice. Another important theme present is one of of creation. Since this theme is present, The Splintered Light could be considered as a religious allegory. The reader is brought through the steps taken to create the world out of nothing and helps the reader see the intentionality in each object or being created. Each of the senses present in the Commons, gestation, scent, and sound play a large role in the creation process, but more importantly, one can not create anything if the four elements of beauty, shape, manufactury, movement, and hue, are not present. (MKML)


The Little Green Girl

Anchin, Lisa. 2019. The Little Green Girl. Penguin Random House LLC. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-73-523073-6. Illustrated by Lisa Anchin.

Even in a world surrounded by beauty, a person may want to see more. That is exactly what the little green girl wanted. Her life began when her seed blew into Mr. Aster’s garden and he took great care of her. Life was perfect in the garden, and the little green girl made new friends. These new friends had experienced and seen thing she had not, which peaked her curiosity. Mr. Aster believed the garden was their home and the two of them needed nothing more. Each time the girl tried to convince him to travel, he responded by saying the world is wide, but the garden was there home. Each day she tried again, until one day she decided she wanted to see the wide world and put herself in a pot so she could travel. When Mr. Aster saw her in the pot he said she may need the wide world to grow. The two traveled around the world seeing sights they never saw in the garden. Mr. Aster even brought some of the outside world into his own garden. Together, Mr. Aster and the little green girl would continue to expand their horizons. “The world is wide. Where would you like to go this time?”

Line, color, shape, and texture are used in many different ways to depict different emotions and actions. The different lines suggest motion and direction. When the little green girl wants to go travel she is looking away from the garden and her leaves are showing the direction she wanted to go. When the birds are in flight their feathers and the shape of their wings do the same thing. The pages are colored in vivid greens and yellows, showing life, beauty, and the friendliness of the garden and Mr. Aster. When the girl first learns about the wide world and Mr. Aster says that the garden is all they need, the mood changes, and the colors in the images reflect that change. On each page, the background is white, but during this time, the sky turns blue depicting sadness. Since this takes place in a garden, the shapes are almost all organic, except for the tools and the fence which are geometric and represent the stability of the garden.  (MKML)



Hutchens, Verlie. 2019. Trees. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-144707-2. Illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong.

Trees are beautiful and distinct in many ways. This collection of poems conveys their individual beauties through lyrical personifications. There are a wide variety of trees mentioned in these poems including maple, aspen, oak, palm, pussy willow, apple, redbud, spruce, dogwood, sycamore, white pine, willow, birch, and sequoia. Each of the two page spreads are dedicated to a single species of tree. The poems themselves are only a few sentences long, but they capture each tree’s beauty and uniqueness. 

The illustrations are collages where the illustrator layers each piece of the image; the tree, ground, and sky. The images are full of texture, but rather than the texture being realistic, the lines on each of the subjects make the image have movement. The lines may also represent the rings, found within the trees themselves. These same lines are illustrated throughout the entire book. Along with the trees and the background, there are important additions to each of the trees. For example, the maple includes the buckets used to collect sap hanging from each tree and a small cabin in the background. In some of the illustrations there are also other living creatures including people, birds, deer, squirrels, dogs and cats. Another important addition to the collection of poems is the way they are written; the short trees are created in a longer manner with more landscape and are written and illustrated horizontally, whereas the taller trees, like the oak, spruce, and sequoia, are turned vertical, revealing  the beauty. (MKML)


The Line Tender

Allen, Kate. 2019. The Line Tender. Penguin Random House LLC (Dutton Children’s Books).  384pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-73-523160-3

In Rockport, Massachusetts, a Great White Shark is captured close to shore. Twelve year-old Lucy, and her best friend Fred, question why the shark was so close to people. The new work with the sharks reminds Lucy of her late mother who was a marine biologist and shark expert. Lucy and Fred were working on a field guide for a summer extra-credit project, but Lucy wanted to enjoy the summer while it lasted. While still in grief from her mother’s death five years earlier, Fred died at the quarry which sent Lucy into a deeper state of grief. Without her best friend by her side, Lucy finds peace working on the field guide finishing her mother’s work. After Fred’s death, Lucy becomes the “line tender” as she strings together all of the important people in her life; her dad, Mr. Patterson, Sookie, and Vern. Through the book, the sharks not only act as a piece of evidence for Lucy’s mother’s work, but they are symbolic; representing Fred and Lucy’s mother. Each time they are spotted it is almost as if Lucy’s loved ones are letting her know they are doing well.

Using the first-person voice of Lucy, the sequence of events in the small chapters broken up by images of sharks as if they were the drawings in the field books. Allen incorporates many themes including grief, coping with loss, friendship, and mysteries about the world around us. Although it is set in the late 1990s, readers are still able to connect with the readers emotions through the actions of the characters as well as their feelings and emotions. The setting is also realistic and detailed. In the small coast town, Allen describes many senses a person. would notice while there; the smell of the wharf, the heat of the summer, and even the look of the murky ocean waves. (MKML)


The Tornado Scientist

Carson, Mary Kay. 2019. The Tornado Scientist. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers).  80pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-54-496582-9. Illustrated by Tom Uhlman.

Storm chasers devote their lives to following dangerous storms in order to learn more about them. This informational book follows Robin Tanamachi, a storm chaser, who focuses on tornadogenesis, the way tornadoes form, and what environmental impacts causes them to get stronger or get weaker. She and her meteorologist husband, Dan Johnson, work together to collect and study data to help learn how, when, and where many of the violent storms happen. Information is received from reliable sources including various news stations and reports about numerous storms. 

The images in this book help connect the reader to the text on the pages. Each image is a photograph taken by either Tom Uhlam or from Robin’s own collection of images. These images are large and detailed. The photographs are of the storms themselves, equipment used, graphics used to explain the storms, and pictures of the weather scientists themselves. Alongside each of the images is a small caption with explains what the image is.

    The text itself is lengthy, but outside of the scientific language, it uses words that are simple and easy to follow. When there is a scientific word most people would not know, there is a short definition that follows. The book is written in chapter form and each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the storm including the southern twist, storm chasers, twister science, scanning the skies, a tragic year, setting a tornado net, and future forecasts. There are other important features located at the end of the book including sources to learn more about twisters and tornadoes, tornado safety, vortex southeast, and the tornatrix, and an index which lists scientific words and important people in alphabetic order and where to locate them within the text. (MKML)


The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

Biebow, Natascha. 2019. The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-32-886684-4. Illustrated by Steven Salerno.

Craie Ola. A man named Edwin Binney saw color everywhere he went except at work where everything was black, and he wanted it to change. He was an inventor and worked with his cousin, Harold, together they made Binney & Smith. Edwin enjoyed listening to people and making them happy by inventing. He invented many useful writing utensils including gray chalk, non-dusty white chalk, and black wax crayons. Since all of his products had been so great, people convinced him to make better, cheaper crayons for children, so like he always did, he listened and invented. He tried using different rocks and minerals, melting at different temperatures, and even mixing the different pigments together to see if it were possible to produce the desired colors. Finally, Binney & Smith made a variety of different shades. Once the “top-secret formula” was created, the workers at the mill molded the wax into small crayon shapes which were just the right size for children’s hands. He even made sure the wax was nontoxic in case children decided to eat the crayons! He named it Crayola after a suggestion made by his wife to use the French words craie and ola. Binney & Smith sent out a shipment of their first Crayola Crayons in the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, and black. Edwin wondered if children would like them, and they did, everyone did. As the company grew they decided to make more colors based on the colors they saw in flowers. Rather than naming the colors basic colors they decided to let children name them which is why the are colors “wild watermelon”, “timberwolf”, ‘macaroni and cheese”, and “tickle me pink” exist . 

When there is a potentially unknown word, for example: pigment, a definition is included along with other helpful information. Throughout the biography there are text blocks with an informational fact enhancing comprehension. The author also talked about different things Edwin would see in the world using specific colors. Each of these things was also illustrated using a vivid shade of the listed color. For example, the cardinal was colored using a bright scarlet-red color and the sea was illustrated using a deep blue-green. When the color was mentioned in the text, it was typed in boldface font so it would stand out to the reader and it was a name a child would see on one of their own crayons which would help them connect to the story more. The illustrations are colorful and realistically textured. The most pronounced texture is that of the crayons and the way they are shown on the page. If readers have used a crayon before, this is exactly what it looks like in the book; bumpy, imperfect, and waxy. 

Included is a section called “How Crayola Crayons Are Made Today” which is an explanation on how the manufacturing process is different now than it was in 1903, as well as the steps it takes to make a box of crayons along with images to depict the process for each step. The end of the book also included a more detailed section on Edwin Binney as well as a section of all the sources used to help Natascha Biebow share the joy of Crayola. (MKML)


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Barr, Catherine. 2018. Red Alert! Endangered Animals Around the World. Charlesbridge. 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089839-3. Illustrated by Anne Wilson.

There are many endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list. This text educates young readers about some of these endangered animals and provides them with action steps they can take to protect these endangered species. Choose your own adventure books are an engaging and popular style in fiction books. The author adapted this style for an informational text by having readers choose a place and an animal. Instructions lead you to a page with a narrative about the daily life, interesting facts, and why the chosen animal is endangered. It is an enjoyable and unique style of informational text which engages young readers. The exposition of the text explains what the IUCN red list is and the different classifications animals can have, such as; endangered, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, or vulnerable. While these terms are used and bolded, there is no definition or explanation of these terms in the text, which may make it difficult if a young reader did not know the meaning of these words. 

This text has a person versus society conflict. All the animals in the text are on the IUCN red list and in danger of going extinct. Humans and modern-day society cause threats to animals. Overfishing threatens the blue whale, depriving them of their food source. Deforestation by humans threatens the habitat where some of the animals reside. Illegal collecting of eggs or hunting is another threat. Animals get caught in fishing gear, accidentally hit by boats, live in polluted rivers, and poisoned. Society causes all the threats to the species in the text. The setting acts as an antagonist in this book because these species can only survive in a specific habitat. Habitat destruction by humans is a threat to the survival of many species. The setting also acts as a context. In the choose your own adventure style of the text, the first choice you make is the setting. The information is authentic and accurate, provided by Catherine Bart, an ecologist. She has written other books that spark questions and conversations about conservation. 

This text seeks to educate young readers about endangered species and inspire them to take action and learn more about conservation efforts. Every adventure ends on a page with several URLs to conservation websites and action steps. Each page of URLs includes a footnote addressing the accuracy of the URLs at the time of publication and mentions it could change. The page also includes other action steps not associated with the internet, such as asking other people to join conservation efforts, spreading the word, learning more, and caring. The theme of this text is danger and conservation of endangered species. The theme of danger is evident in the danger box on most pages, listing threats to each species in the text. The page with the URLs to conservation websites and clubs demonstrates the theme of conservation. This text also promotes further learning about animals. The text is classified as 591 in the Dewey Decimal system, which falls under the sciences, animals/zoology and relates to a specific issue in the natural history of animals. The classification is accurate as threats to animals exist at a particular time in history and are variable to change.  

The realistic illustrations bring the habitats of species to life. Bright, bold colors outline a box that says danger in bold letters and lists the many threats towards the species, which draws readers’ attention to the threats. (CRM)


Bravelands Blood and Bone

Hunter, Erin. 2018. Bravelands Blood and Bone. HarperCollins. 304 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-264210-3. 

Bravelands has lost their Great Parent, a god-like monarch, and becomes a broken society. Sky carries the Great Spirit, a god-like force, within her until the new Great Parent is found, and she can pass on the Great Spirit. With the help of the other animals of Bravelands, Sky works to bring order back to the Bravelands and overthrow Stringer, a falsely named Great Parent who broke the code of the Bravelands multiple times. The primary conflict is person versus society as Sky works to restore order to the broken society of Bravelands. At first, Sky is alone in her quest, but she gains allies and eventually succeeds in restoring order. Within this conflict, there are many individual conflicts, such as fighting between Sky and Stinger. There is also Internal conflict within individual characters Fearless, and Thorn struggle to find the truth and know who to trust.

The setting, Africa, where the animals live in an area called the Bravelands, acts as symbolism. The Bravelands society has many features of society recognizable to readers. Each pride or group of animals act as a tribe would function in Africa. The tribes all agree to follow a code of behavior with consequences for breaking the code decided by the Great Parent. The Great Parent is a ruler who carries the Great Spirit and acts similarly to a monarch. This system allows the animals of Bravelands to coexist peacefully, but occasionally conflict does arise. The features of the Bravelands society represents a society of which may have existed in Africa’s history of tribal culture and pagan religion. It also includes elements of today’s society familiar to readers to suspend belief.

The characterization suspends disbelief as animal characters have complex human-like qualities. Character development is also prevalent throughout. Fearless blindly follows Stringer’s orders at the beginning of the narrative, not thinking for himself becoming manipulated by Stringer. Overtime, fearless learns to trust himself and his instincts, realizing Stinger had been manipulating him all his life and lied about being the Great Parent. Fearless changes sides at the last minute become a true leader and help restore order to Bravelands. Thorn navigates misinformation, manipulation, and a near-death experience, emerging as a leader who plays an essential role in bringing Stinger to justice. Sky experiences great internal conflict and guilt, not knowing what the Great Spirit wants or what the right thing to do is. She begins to trust herself more and leads the successful charge against Stringer and restores order to Bravelands. With a heavy amount of death, anger, rage, and grief loom over Sky as well as many other characters. The emotion suspends disbelief, making the characters seem human.

One theme is standing for what one believes regardless of others. This is demonstrated when Sky goes to the gathering to spread the word about her search for the Great Parent, and Stinger tries to discredit her. Animals of many varieties heckle her and laugh at her, but she continues spreading her message. From beginning to end Sky does not falter persevering even when she wants to give up, demonstrating another theme, perseverance. A third theme is truth versus misinformation, demonstrated through Fearless’ struggle to find the truth and his susceptibility to Stinger’s manipulation. Sky, Fearless, and Thorn all become great leaders, showing a theme of leadership.

The narrator is omnipotent, showing the reader what the characters are thinking and demonstrating the interconnection between the different plots the characters follow. The point of view shifts between Sky, Fearless, and Thorn between each chapter, as does the setting because each character operates in a different part of the forest. During the climax, however, all the characters come together, allowing the readers to follow three perspectives of the battle. (CRM)


Star Wars Jedi Academy The Principal Strikes Back

Krosoczka, J. 2018. Star Wars Jedi Academy The Principal Strikes Back. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 176pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-33-818824-0. Illustrated by Jarrett Krosoczaka.

Victor returns to the Jedi Academy for his last year of school, but due to events in the previous year, many changes were implemented for security reasons. Victor and his friends take a risk by breaking school rules but end up saving the school. There are a lot of conflicts, including person versus person, person against society, and internal. In a person versus person conflict, Victor stands up to commander ZC-04 during the climax in a massive battle between the whole Jedi academy and the security droids led by the commander. Person against society conflict becomes clear as Victor has to decide what the right thing to do for the school, a micro-society, even though he will break the rules, a conflict against the society. Victor also faces a lot of internal conflict about his decision to break the rules and do what is right.

Through the course of this sequence of events, Victor becomes more confident in his abilities. During the school year, Victor does not value his education and does not get along with Mr. Zefyr, disagreeing with his teaching methods. When Commander ZC-04 fires Mr. Zefyr, Victor realizes that Mr. Zefry is what the school needed, teaching him to value his education and teacher. This discovery demonstrates personal development and characterization. While the setting of this novel is within the fictional Star Wars world, disbelief is suspended by having realistic characters. The characters act mirror mannerisms and feelings of real middle schoolers. Several situations the characters face are similar to what middle schoolers face in our society, such as; putting on a school play, navigating feelings for the opposite sex, and thinking about the future. The characters are complex lifelike, which suspends disbelief.

As a high fantasy, the setting acts as the context in the Star Wars world, including multiple planets and a whole galaxy. Setting the narrative mostly in a boarding school, makes the setting more realistic and suspends disbelief. The setting also acts as mood urgency and adventure. There is an urgency to save the school and by extension, the universe from evil. George Lucas created the Star Wars world. While the author Krosoczka, sets his plot within this extended world, he narrows the setting so that readers not familiar with Star Wars can still understand and enjoy the plot. There are also elements in the text, such as a unique dialect for a specific character that fans of the Star Wars world would recognize. 

There are multiple themes in this book. One is doing what is right, even if it proves difficult and means taking a risk. Victor’s internal struggle over what to do about Commander ZC-04 and how he can best save the school demonstrates this theme. Yoda has a line of dialogue that echoes this theme, as well. Another theme is bravery, demonstrated when Victor and his friends leave the Jedi academy to bring back Mr. Zefyr and face unknown and dangerous situations. Bravery is also required to stand up to authority and challenge society. Determination and hard work are also themes, evident through the classes, a play performed by the students, and in the effort required to save the school. Another theme is friendship, realized as Victor maintains his friendships and navigates complex relationships. Victor’s friends are important to him, despite fearing he would not have friends at the beginning of the school year.

The style is primarily a diary, but the format switches between a diary, a graphic novel with newspaper articles, and a social media stream worked into the structure. The varied formats accompany changes is perspective. The sequence of events from Victor’s perspective is set in diary and graphic novel format, while intermittent newspaper articles and advice columns provide a temporary change in view. Stargram pages where each character posts a picture on a social media site provide the point of view of multiple characters at once. In general, Commander ZC-04 or a Jedi Academy student at large write the newspaper articles. The advice column showcases the point of view of many characters. 

As a graphic novel, the illustrations work with the text to reveal the conflicts, settings, characterization, and themes. The battle scenes at the climax are borne solely through the illustrations. Vertical and horizontal lines are used both during the battle scenes to show the movement of the lightsabers and to provide structure to the classrooms and make the academy feel safe. When Victor and his friends leave the academy, a curved line is used to convey the motion of a great distance as the students leave the school on a spaceship. The illustrations are black and white to convey the dichotomy of good versus evil and make the diary of Victor seem more realistic, suspending disbelief. (CRM)


Ducks Away!

Fox, Mem. 2016. Ducks Away! Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-818566-9. Illustrated by Judy Horacek. 

A mother duck is waddling across a bridge leading five ducklings. One by one, the ducklings fall into the river below, and the mother duck joins them, and they all swim away. There is an internal conflict in this book as the mother duck struggles to decide if she should stay with the ducklings on the bridge or join the ducklings in the river. As a concept book, it counts to five as each duckling joins the mother duck on the bridge, and down from five as they fall into the river. Addressed when the number of ducklings in the river compared to on the bridge is stated, the concept of addition becomes clear. Repetition is used when the mother duck says, “Oh No!... What should I do? Where should I go? With…on the bridge and…below,” each time a duck falls into the river. The plot of ducklings following a mother duck and falling into the river is a familiar experience for young readers in the United States who might see this happen during a walk in a park or even in their neighborhood. The song-like nature of the book created by rhyme and repetition would be enjoyable for young readers. 

Lines convey motion. A curved line shows the unpredictable wind which sweeps the first duckling into the river, and vertical lines show the ducklings falling into the river. The bridge is in the shape of an arch, which conveys strength and stability as arches are structurally the strongest shape. Rectangles are used within the bridge and also convey structure, stability, and safety. Few colors are used, including white, blue, orange, black and yellow, and gray, which conveys reality and gives the book a realistic feeling. (CRM)


Kuipers, A. 2018. Polly Diamond and the Magic Book. Chronicle Books. 160pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-45-215232-5. Illustrated by Diana Toledano. 
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book: Book 1 (Book Series for Elementary School Kids, Children's Chapter Book for Bookworms)

Polly receives a magic book in the mail, and whatever she writes becomes a reality. While her father and mother are at the hospital having her baby brother and she is under the supervision of a babysitter, Polly writes a lot in her magic book. Person versus self-conflict is evident as Polly creates a new perfect house but realizes her original house was better. The realization leads to several attempts Polly must make to return her home to normal by improving what she writes in her book to be more specific. The setting acts as an antagonist. Polly believes her house is too small because she will have to share a room with her younger sister Anna to make room for her baby brother. Her belief leads to her attempt to create the perfect house she later struggles to return to normal. During the rising action of the story, Polly is focused on changing everything and exploring what her magic book is capable of, and at the climax, she creates the perfect house. While exploring the perfect house during the falling action, Polly realizes it was already perfect before her renovations. At the denouement, Polly is happy with the name chosen for her baby brother despite it not being her first choice. The acceptance Polly shows demonstrates character development in Polly and the theme of the book, appreciate present reality rather than wish for more. While this is a novel, it is also a concept book about descriptive and detailed writing shown through the magic of the book requiring Polly to be specific when describing her house. It also demonstrates the concept of writing by defining and showing examples of hyperbole and other figurative language. 

The illustrations bring the narrative to life. The illustrations are black and white and drawn in a style similar to doodles of an elementary student with an active imagination. There are horizontal lines to convey the safety of Polly’s home and curved lines to conveyPolly’s imagination. (CRM)


Fletcher, Susan. 2018. Journey of the Pale Bear. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442077-9. 
Journey of the Pale Bear

In the past, powerful kings sent each other exotic animals as a gift. In 1251 or 1252, King Haakon IV of Norway gifted King Henry III of England an ice bear, which serves as the core of this novel in conjunction with fictional additions. In the exposition, Arthur runs away from his stepfather and stepbrothers. Starving, he steals some dinner and is punished by being put in a cage with an ice bear. In the rising action, readers find the punishment is a blessing. After escaping the cage, a doctor notices Arthur has a connection with the bear and thinks Arthur could keep the bear calm on the passage from Norway to England. Arthur is seeking his kin in Wales and agrees to help. The climax occurs during a storm, where the ship is attacked by pirates and becomes in danger of sinking. Arthur sets the bear free in the chaos to save its life, and the bear carries Arthur to land. In the falling action, Arthur and the bear enjoyed a brief period of freedom before being led into a trap and placed back on the ship. In the denouement, the bear belongs to King Henry III but does not adapt well to captivity. Arthur suggests letting the bear swim in the Thames River daily, and after much debate, King Henry agrees. 

There are many conflicts in the novel. Person versus society is seen through the change in Arthur’s status after his father dies. His stepfather mistreats him, but because of the way society works, there is little he can do to improve his situation. The motivation of the Doctor and Captain in the way they treat Arthur also shows person versus society. The Doctor protects Arthur in order to serve the king successfully, and the Captain only grants Arthur passage out of necessity to serve the king. Person versus self-conflict is also evident when Arthur doubts his ability to care for animals and as he navigates the message in a letter from his mother and pursues his land in Wales. Person versus nature conflict is evident during the shipwreck when Arthur is freezing in the waters of the North Sea, struggling to hang on to the bear as it swims them both to land. Conflict with nature also becomes apparent when Arthur and the bear survive the lower counties after the shipwreck and struggle to find food. Person versus person conflict is evident in Hauk and Arthur’s relationship. Arthur stole Hauk’s rabbit haunch when he was starving, and Hauk put him in the cage with the bear, takes Arthur’s letter, dinners, and calls him “dung boy.” The Doctor and Captain are often in conflict and fighting over the best way to deliver the bear, providing another example of person versus person conflict. 

The setting acts as a historical context set in 13th century Europe. The authenticity of the historical setting, helping readers engage with the past. The setting also serves as antagonist such as when the North Sea’s frigid waters make survival difficult for Arther and the bear and when the duo struggles to find food in the lower countries. Away from home and on a ship for the first time, Arthur finds himself in a new setting and struggles to adapt.

The characters are complex and well developed to feel like authentic 13th-century characters. Arthur, for example, starts as scared, shy, and hungry but becomes confident and forms a friendship with the bear he once feared. The Doctor is also a complex character; his motivations often questioned by both readers and Arthur, changing overtime from selfish abuse of Arthur to wanting to care and protect Arthur as if he was a son. 

The themes of freedom, friendship, loyalty, and power in this novel are just as relevant, if not more, today as they were in the 13th century. Freedom is shown through Arthur and the bear, their happiest moments being the short time they were free in the low countries. The daily swims in the resolution also give them this feeling of freedom. The theme is addressed further when the bear almost dies because of complications in adapting to captivity, and Arthur has to come to terms that the bear will never truly be free. The relationships developed between the bear and Arthur, as well as Arthur and the Doctor, show friendship. The theme of loyalty is explored during the rising action when Arthur has to decide whether to help the Doctor deliver the bear to England. Arthur, who is Welsh, did not know where his loyalty should lie and had to choose between Wales, who was in constant war with England, or to help the king of Norway. Arthur and the bear's friendship, as well as the betrayal Arthur faces at the bear's recapture, also explores the theme of loyalty. The Kings in the novel, and the power dynamics between the Captain, Doctor, Arthur, Hauk, and the crew demonstrate the theme power. Power is also seen in the friendship between Hauk and Ottar, Hauk taking charge of Ottar and in Arthur's relationships with his stepfather and stepbrothers. These themes are all present in our society today and familiar to young readers.

The point of view of this novel is Arthur’s. Arthur is a first-person narrator, a unique point of view for a historical fiction novel as most historical novels are written in third person omniscient or limited omniscient narrators. (CRM)


Builder Brothers Big Plans

Scott, Drew and Jonathan Scott. 2018. Builder Brothers Big Plans. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-284662-4. Illustrated by Kim Smith. 

Brothers Scott and Drew have a dream; they make plans and build a house. A realistic fiction picture book, the setting is modern-day with a plot containing experiences young readers may find familiar. The main conflict is person versus self-conflict. After lots of planning to build a treehouse, Scott and Drew find it turns out smaller than they expected. Persevering through their mistake, they think of creative solutions such as turning it first into a dog house and later a birdhouse. When Drew and Scott have their original dream of making a treehouse, they face person versus society conflict as the adults around them laugh and do not think they are capable. Despite the disbelief of the adults, they make plans anyway. Another theme is dreaming big. Scott and Drew dreamed big, and though they faced adversity, persevered to make their dream a reality, though the result turned out different than initially imagined. 

Horizontal and vertical lines convey the structure of Drew and Scott's plans. Green and brown convey the outdoor setting and the color of the materials used to build the house. Red and blue in the clothes draw attention to Drew and Scott. During the planning stages, diagonal lines are used to convey chaos, and Drew and Scott's feelings when things are not going well. Line is also used to convey excitement and movement through lines created by the arms of the brothers when they get a new idea. (CRM)


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Burgos, Hilda. 2018. Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle.  Lee and Low Books (Tu Books). 304pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014362-9. 

Ana Maria lives in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. She is smart and focused on winning a full scholarship to a prestigious private school and the chance to play in a piano recital while dealing with family difficulties. The themes mirror the values of the Reyes family: generosity, community, hard work, family, and helping others. The theme of generosity is seen in the Reyes family's willingness to babysit or offer legal advice for members of their community often for free. Tia Nona also pays for the Reyes family to come to her wedding in the Dominican Republic when Ana Maria raises money for Tia Nona's maid Clarissa. The Reyes are generous to their community, and their community is like family to them. When Ana Maria and her family are supposed to tour the private school, Sarita called and said her sister was in labor. The Reyes family dropped everything to babysit Sarita's brothers to ensure Sarita's sister got to the hospital. Ana Maria is very hardworking, she dedicates an hour a day to practice piano, and studies diligently to earn a scholarship and admission to a private school. Mr. Reyes is a lawyer, and Mrs. Reyes is a stay-at-home mom, cleaning the house, cooking, and raising children.

The setting, a small apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, creates a mood of fast-paced, crowded, and hard working. People are always coming in and out of the apartment and the Reyes’ lives. The setting also acts as an antagonist. The Reyes family lives in this neighborhood and apartment because of their socioeconomic status, and all the children share one room in the crowded apartment. A respectable education is hard to come by because admission to an acceptable public school is difficult, and private school is expensive. When the setting moves to the Dominican Republic, it is a transformative experience for Ana Maria. Being in a new environment and seeing a different conflict between class and society than New York City teaches Ana Maria compassion and generosity. The setting also acts as symbolism, the Washington Heights community symbolizing a large family.

The characters and dialogue are in a modern-day setting. There is a positive character development of Ana Maria. In the exposition, Ana Maria feels crowded and cramped in the apartment her family calls home, she prefers time by herself and is a little bit selfish, not wanting to help others and craving attention from her parents. In the denouement, however, Ana Maria Reyes voluntarily gives Sarita a dress to wear to play in a prestigious piano recital. Ana Maria learns to love and appreciate family after her sister gets hit by a car and when Gracie and her mother work tirelessly to make her a dress for the recital. After Tia Nona’s wedding, Ana Maria felt empathy for Clarissa and used her birthday money and raises money through a bake sale to help Clarissa’s family. Tio Lao is a complex character. He says he loves his family, but he does not attend Tia Nona’s wedding, drives drunk and hits his niece with his car, and does not show up to dinners when invited. Eventually, Tio Lao does go to rehab and get sober and shows up with presents for all of his nieces and his sister when the new baby arrives

There is a lot of conflict in this narrative, including person versus person, person versus society, and person versus self-conflict. Person versus person conflict comes up in fights initiated in the sibling rivalry between Gracie and Ana Maria. One of these fights occurs when Ana Maria and Gracie babysit their two younger sisters, and Gracie leaves to see a boy. There are a few times in the novel where Gracie and Ana Maria do not speak because of fights they get into, but the arguments always get resolved. In the generation older than them, sibling rivalry also exists. Tia Nona's sisters do not approve of the way she treats the people who work for her, specifically Clarissa, causing conflict. Person versus society conflict is more central to the novel than the person versus person conflict. Person versus society conflict is explored in the class system in both American and the Dominican Republic. The conflict is seen again in the way Ana Maria has to work to ensure she gets a good education. Person versus self-conflict is also prevalent, leading to character development. Ana Maria often struggles to know what to do in situations, struggling to know what is right and acceptable, for example, when Ana Maria sees Tia Nona mistreating Claudia, she struggles to find a solution. The person versus person conflict. Ana Maria's experiences between her family and friends are authentic and relatable for young readers. (CRM)


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Mather, Janice. 2018. Learning to Breathe. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 336pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-53-440601-8.

Idrina (Indy) learns to breathe as a way to cope with the trauma and pain she has experienced and prepare herself to be a mother. Indy left her home, an island, to move to Nassau to live with her Aunt and Uncle for the opportunity to receive an education and because her grandmother, who raised her, believed she would be safer there. In the exposition, Indy experiences a series of problems at school and drops out. During the rising action, Indy struggles to find a place where she feels safe and where she can breathe, a yoga retreat. Indy is timid and untrustworthy, but through flashbacks, the reader learns more about what happened to her. Gary, her cousin, had raped her, causing a pregnancy. Person versus self-conflict is evident when Indy makes decisions about where to go and who to talk to or trust. She does her best to survive and stay at her Aunt’s house even though she does not feel safe there because she has nowhere else to go. Person versus person conflict is shown through flashbacks with Gary and through Indy required to please her Aunt. There is also conflict with students bullying Indy at school for her pregnancy, and a for a reputation caused by a backlash of her mother’s sinful reputation. Indy begins to work for Joe at the Yoga retreat when classes start being offered at locations on Indy’s home island. The climax comes when Gary and Indy are alone in the kitchen, and he tries to rape her again, and she runs away to the yoga retreat. During the falling action, Indy begins to tell the truth to Joe, the owner of the retreat, and as the truth comes out, Indy gets the help she needs. In the denouement, Indy finds a home at the retreat and accepts her role as a mother.

The primary conflict is person versus society. The class structure and gender structure making Indy a victim of her circumstance. Born to a mother who had experienced a trauma, her grandmother raised her. Indy was sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle and did not have much of her own. Indy did not have any money, and her Aunt took the money her mom sent to her. She also lacks independence and has no way to help herself, dependent on her Aunt for her survival. Her Aunt would only let her stay as long as she was in school, and she did not get pregnant. Indy was raped, causing pregnancy and feared her Aunt’s reaction she found out. Indy did not think her Aunt Patrice would believe her if she told her what her son, Gary, had done to her. When she was at her Aunt’s house, she feared what her cousin Gary would do to her. Patriarchy and rape culture allowed Gary to think Indy was his to have and to control. Gary thinks Indy likes what he does to her is his excuse causing person versus person conflict between Indy and Gary. There is also conflict between Indy and Joe when they first meet, and between Churchy and Indy when she tells him, she is not romantically interested in him. Indy and her mom have conflict because Indy resents her mom for the way she left their house, not being there for her as a child. There is person versus self-conflict as Indy decides what she wants to do with the baby and whether she wants to keep it or terminate the pregnancy, also seen when Indy decides whether to tell the truth about what happened to her. Indy is scared and seems to experience stress associated with the trauma of her rapes. She overcomes her fear and anxiety by learning yoga and learning how to breathe through meditation. 

The setting acts as an antagonist. Indy is away from home, in a place where she has experienced trauma and does not feel safe. She wanders around Nassau and finds the yoga retreat, a place where she learns to feel safe and call home. The setting also acts as mood, Indy wants to stay in her setting because she is dependent on it for survival, but she does not feel safe. When Indy is back on the island she is from, she knows more people, but the reputation of her mother follows her everywhere, however, at home, she is known, and people are willing to help her. The setting is authentic to modern-day.

The characters and dialogue are authentic modern-day characters. Characterization is seen in Indy’s journey to learn to breathe and center herself. By learning to breathe, Indy learns to become independent, brave, and strong, allowing her to tell her the truth and become ready to be a mother. Smiley is innocent and naive until the falling action when her brother tries to rape her, taking her innocence. Granny and Indy’s mom are complex characters. Indy resents her mom because she was not a good mother, but readers learn Indy’s mom was also raped before turning into a mess.

The themes are breathing, perseverance, and destiny. The yoga and meditation that Indy learns to help cope with her situation demonstrate the theme of breathing. Perseverance is seen in Indy’s will to survive and the ability to find a way out of her unsafe living situation. Indy’s reputation from her mom represents destiny. The style of flashbacks is effective in creating a mood of post-traumatic stress. The first-person point of view narrative is effective in conveying the person versus self-conflict. (CRM)


Long, Jessica. 2018. Unsinkable: From Russian Orphan to Paralympic Swimming World Champion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 112pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-870725-3. 
Unsinkable: From Russian Orphan to Paralympic Swimming World Champion

Jessica Long shares her inspirational story about winning Paralympic Gold medals, meeting her birth parents, and many other life-defining experiences. In the exposition, Jessica shares the moment she won her first gold medal. The rising action takes us back to her early years, including the touching story of her adoption, as well as her strength and determination when it came to facing surgeries and a double amputation. Jessica falls in love with swimming during this time and earns the chance to compete at the para Olympic level. Jessica has great success at the Athens and Beijing Paralympic Games, winning numerous gold medals. The climax of this memoir is the London Paralympic games, when Jessica does not meet her goal. In the falling action, Jessica returns to Russia to meet her birth parents, trains alongside able-bodied Olympians such as Michael Phelps, and wins a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. The conflict in this memoir is primarily person versus self-conflict. Jessica pushes herself to get through tough training workouts and overcomes surgeries, determined not to let a disability prevent her from achieving her goals. In the dénouement, Jessica overcomes self-doubt and learns to accept herself for who she is. There is also person versus person conflict in the sense of competition. Person versus nature conflict appears as Jessica was born with a congenital disability leading to a double amputation. 

In this memoir, Jessica is on a journey of self-acceptance. Jessica is strong, brave, and competitive with authentic characterization. The themes are determination, perseverance, family, and competition. The theme determination is evident in the grueling training workouts that Jessica endures, in her quick recoveries after surgeries, and her ability to walk seconds after fitted with prosthetics. Perseverance is observed in Jessica’s strength and drive to continue pursuing her goals even when she doubts herself or feels she has experienced failure. Jessica always has a family member with her for moral support, exemplifying the theme of family. The theme develops further when Jessica goes to Russia to meet her birth parents. The nature of the Paralympic games shows the theme of competition Competition is what drives Jessica and empowers her to overcome obstacles in her life. 

As a memoir, the setting is a historical context of modern-day and is authentic as these events occurred in this time period. The setting also acts as mood, the Paralympic Games creating a sense of excitement, achievement, pride, and competition. The settings of Jessica’s home conveys a mood of safety and love. When Jessica moves to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, the setting conveys a mood of the unknown and anticipation. The settings create moods and symbolize the themes. The style of this memoir is not chronological. Critical moments in Jessica’s life that have defined her are described. The first moment is when she won her first gold medal; the second jumps to when Jessica was adopted. From that moment, the story is mostly chronological. As a memoir, the point of view is from Jessica’s point of view, making it an accurate representation. Jessica’s story is inspirational, teaching readers to persevere and work hard to achieve their goals.

The text is accompanied by photographs depicting the events of the memoir, conveying authenticity and emotion. Some photographs convey the mood of achievement, others a mood of love. A few photographs are of Jessica and her family embracing, conveying a feeling of safety. Colors express mood. The gold, silver, and bronze of the medals, conveys competition, excitement, and pride. The red white and blue, express a patriotic mood. The expression on the faces of the photographs also convey feelings. Jessica is often pictured smiling showing her enthusiasm and joy for her sport. Line is used in these photographs to convey motion; the line is seen in the lanes created in the pool and in the liner Jessica’s body makes when she swims. These pictures show the fast motion of Jessica swimming. The pictures add to the text and help readers feel they are experiencing the moments of Jessica’s life alongside her. (CRM)


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Holt, Hannah. 2018. The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamond & The Life of H. Tracy Hall. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-265903-3. Illustrated by Jay Fleck.

In this dual-narrative biography, the life of H. Tracy Hall parallels the transformation of graphite into a diamond. Tracy Hall engineered a machine that produces diamonds. He refined his machine over the years, and today, synthetic diamonds make up 99 percent of the industrial diamond supply and 1 percent of the diamond gem market. The reliance on artificial diamonds would not have been possible without the engineering of Tracy and his success in creating the first machine that could produce diamonds. The exposition presents readers with graphite and a boy; both are small and meager. During the rising action, the graphite goes through some changes, including heat and pressure, and the boy Tracy finishes high school. During the climax, an eruption causes a diamond that was once graphite to be pushed up just below the surface. In the falling action, the diamond sits below the surface, waiting to be found while Tracy goes to college and gets a job in a lab. Tracy has an idea and starts gathering parts for his machine. Miners mine searching for diamonds. Tracy tests his diamond making machine and refines it. The denouement is a diamond. 

Many types of conflict are present in this biography. Person versus nature conflict is present in the process that results in graphite becoming a diamond. The graphite goes through heat, pressure, molten lava and then transformed into a diamond. Person versus society conflict is prevalent in Tracy’s class status. He is penniless and often hungry, the class system and poverty cycle corrupt. When Tracy has an idea, and his work will not pay for the parts, the theme is shown again. Person versus self-conflict is present as Tracy questions himself, and his design, and when he searches for a job. The setting acts as a historical context, antagonist, and mood. The historical context is the mid-20th century during the recovery of the Great Depression. Many people were poor and the representation if the time period is accurate. The setting acts as an antagonist as nature changes graphite into a diamond. The setting acts as mood, changing as the settings change. During the exposition, the mood is lonely and dark. By the denouement, the mood has changed to exciting and innovative. 

Tracy started as a poor curious boy, but through perseverance and hard work became an engineer demonstrating character development. The characterization of Tracy as curious, diligent, and hardworking is accurate. Tracy’s journey is mirrored in a diamond’s, and the pairing of the narratives was a unique style. The timeline of important events related to diamonds and Tracy’s life was an effective synthesis of both narratives. The themes of both of these narratives are perseverance, patience, and hard work. When the diamond and Tracy are under pressure, persistence is demonstrated, and both let the pressure make them stronger. The time it takes for a diamond to form and for Tracy to put himself through school and obtain the materials for his idea shows the theme of patience.

The illustrations work with the text to tell the narratives. Bright orange, yellow, and red colors convey the heat and lava that work to transform graphite into a diamond. Black, brown, and neutral colors used during the exposition convey the bleak existence of the boy Tracy. Cool blue colors convey a mood of peacefulness and wisdom as Tracy takes the test that enables him to go to college. Line is used to demonstrate motion. A diagonal line shows the motion of a kite that Tracy used during an experiment. Jagged lines are used to show the depth of diamonds and how far beneath the surface they are. Geometric shapes like rectangles and triangles demonstrate order and a system. The illustrations are engaging and help sew continuity between the dual narratives. (CRM)


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Brown, Don. 2018. Up & Down: The Adventures of John Jefferies, the First American to Fly. Charlesbridge. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089812-6. Illustrated by Don Brown.

John Jefferies, a curious man, was studying weather who caused a balloon craze of which swept Europe after two Frenchmen became the first two humans to fly. When French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard visited Jefferies’ home in London, he wanted the opportunity to study weather from the sky and paid Blanchard to make a balloon and take him flying. After a successful flight, the two men decide they would try to fly over the English Channel from England to France. The flight over the channel was both successful and inspirational. The flight over the channel contained multiple conflicts. Before the balloon lifted off the ground, Blanchard tried to convince Jefferies there was only room for one in the balloon as he wanted all the fame and glory from this innovation and engineering feat to himself, an example of person versus person conflict. Jefferies could sense Blanchard’s manipulation and in the end, was able to accompany him on the flight. During the two-hour trip over the channel, the men experienced person versus nature conflict in multiple ways. There was always a looming threat of drowning should the flight be unsuccessful. The balloon would often start lowering for no apparent reason, and Blanchard and Jefferies and had to battle nature to keep the balloon flying. To accomplish this, the men stripped themselves of their clothes, forcing them to endure the cold. Person versus society conflict is evident in the innovative nature of the flight and how the balloon’s flight changed society. The setting acts as a historical context and antagonist. The narrative of the first flight takes place in the 18th century. The person versus nature conflict during the flight over the English Channel shows how the setting acts as an antagonist. The plot, conflicts, and settings are authentic and accurate. 

The book engagingly informs readers of scientific innovation through a narrative. It fosters curiosity and innovation, as these are themes in the book. Jefferies’s curiosity about the weather and the pursuit of science leads him to take a balloon flight with Blanchard, which inspired their flight over the channel. Jefferies and Blanchard bring a lot of new gadgets with them to help them on their flight over the channel, but during their trip, they are forced to get rid of everything they thought they might need to keep the balloon flying. Enough information and definitions are provided in the narrative for young readers to be able to understand the narrative. The integration of quotes from Jefferies in the narrative makes the text more authentic, adding to the narrative. The narrative is told in chronological order. The endnote provides readers with more information on villagers’ perceptions of Jefferies and Blanchard when their balloon landed in a clearing and of flights across the channel occuring after the historic first flight. The bibliography after the denouement provides credibility to the text. This text classifies as 620 in the Dewey Decimal system, which is for engineering and allied operations. This classification accurately reflects the content.

The illustrations bring the story to life. Line shows motion, creating an illusion of flying. It also conveys distance and how far from the ground Blanchard and Jeffries flew. Gray colors are used to convey a storm, creating an ominous and foreboding mood. When the balloon is sinking line conveys danger. When Jefferies and Blanchard are in the air, blue colors are used to convey the silence, calm, and serene mood they described feeling when flying. Bright purples, oranges, and blues are used as the design of balloons, portraying extravagance and beauty. The illustrator notes historical drawings of balloons show the baskets as ship-shaped, but chose to draw square baskets as we see on balloons today. It is unknown, which is an accurate representation. (CRM)


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Johnson, Maureen. 2019. The Vanishing Stair. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegan Books). 369pp. $17.99. ISBN ISBN 978-0-06-233808-2.

A murder and kidnapping case has been left unsolved since 1936, and now another murder has occurred in Ellingham Academy, a boarding school in Vermont. Stevie Bell uses her time at Ellingham Academy to try and figure out what happened in 1936, as well as what is going on now. Although this book is the second in the series called Truly Devious, the story itself is relatively stand-alone. The reader has a chance to dive into Stevie’s head in an attempt to solve the case. The other main characters, Stevie’s friends, are all very unique and relatable to teens today. Family backgrounds and personal lives all come together and create fictional events with very real emotions. There are also multiple life lessons throughout the book, such as the importance of staying true to one’s self, and the importance of honesty. The story as a whole is riveting, and the reader will not want to put the book down until they have finished. (AGM)


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Ohi, Debbie Ridpath. 2015. Where are my books?. Simon & Schuster. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-44-246741-5. Illustrated by D. R. Ohi.

Ohi’s Where Are My Books? takes 4-8-year-old readers on a squirrelly adventure in search of young Spencer’s most prized possessions. Spencer awakens in utter confusion and dismay each morning as books go missing from his bedside collection, only to find nuts and flower petals in their place. Ohi’s bold illustrations and varying text size broaden readers’ emotional intelligence by exposing them to the boy’s reactive personality. Spencer’s shock and horror when his books disappear promotes the  value of literature and reading. (SDP)


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Henkes, Kevin. 2015. Waiting. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-236843-0. Illustrated by K. Henkes.

Gentle, wise, and simplistic, Henkes’ Waiting invites readers on an imaginative journey alongside five friends sitting on a windowsill. An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig wait for extraordinary things to happen in the world beyond the glass as a child sets the stage and determines the animals’ fate. With delicate colored pencil illustrations set against a soft, white backdrop, Henkes has early childhood readers reflecting on patience in their own lives. Readers spend time examining their own emotions as they observe grief, anxiety, wonder, happiness, and friendship splayed across the expressive toys’ faces. This is well suited as a bedtime story or a book to share during quiet time. (SDP)


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Wilson, Karma. 2015. Bear counts. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-44-248092-6. Illustrated by J. Chapman. 

Wilson invites early childhood readers into a lively forest where animals classify their natural surroundings in Bear Counts. With its steady rhythm and ear-pleasing rhyme, children ages 3-7 are encouraged to fine-tune their cognitive skills as they count up to 5 alongside Bear. From one page to the next, illustrator Chapman masterfully presents different perspectives of the whole forest scene by zooming in to reveal each small grouping of forest critters. This helps young minds focus on the specific number of specimens to be counted. The gentle brushstrokes of Chapman’s painted illustrations provide a comfortable, vibrant environment in which children feel welcome and safe to practice their mathematical skills. (SDP)


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Krosoczka, Jarret. 2018. Hey Kiddo. Scholastic. 320pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-54-590248-9.

Every now and then, you’ll read a book so good, so raw and real and painfully relevant, that it feels like you’ve been punched in the stomach with words. That’s exactly how reading Hey, Kiddo feels. This book is an autobiographical graphic novel which follows the early life of Jarett Krosoczka. It starts with a brief introduction of the characters: Jarret’s grandparents and their five children, one of which is Jarret's mother– a troubled young woman in the midwest who becomes pregnant with Jarret at a young age and lives on her own with him a few blocks from the rest of his family until one day she simply doesn’t. Being a child, Jarret is hit hard by his mother’s impromptu disappearance, and he is sent to live with his grandparents. Hey, Kiddo is a very vivid book. Krosoczka’s descriptions permanently embed even the most forgettable of characters in your mind, illustrating them in a very earthy gray and brown tones– which evoke a unique sense of midwestern small town nostalgia. And the story is equally as vivid as the drawings. Readers follow Jarret in his quest to find his father and understand why Jarret's mother continually leaves him, and watch Jarret grapple with his personal life and the knowledge that his family truly isn’t like any of his classmates’. Anyone who has grown up in a non-traditional family with one or both parents absent will relate to some part of Jarret’s struggle to overcome the obstacles in life and live well despite them. (JMR)


Bryant, Howard. 2018. Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams. Penguin Young Readers Group (Philomel Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-39-916906-9. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper.
Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams

Venus and Serena Williams are two of the greatest tennis players in history. The powerful sisters have won countless titles, championships, and have had consecutive top rankings in the tennis world. But before they were world famous tennis champions, Venus and Serena were just two sisters with a father who believed they could succeed. In this picture-book formatted biography, readers will learn the history of Venus and Serena Williams from when they were young girls, to when they became world-renowned tennis champions. The exposition begins with two young sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, in their home town of Compton, California. Their father, Richard Williams, constantly encouraged them to be the best they could be, and decided to buy the girls tennis rackets. Richard started telling everyone that Venus and Serena were both going to be champions. The rising action is set off when everyone in Compton laughs and scoffs at Richard, and does not believe Richard’s dream for his girls could ever become a reality. Everyone doubted the girls because they were so young, black, and different. Venus and Serena moved to Florida with their family, where they could focus more on their tennis training. As they grew older, the two started entering competitions, and started winning championships from the young ages of 16 and 18 years old. The factual accuracy in this biography is evident through the girls’ history of moving to further their tennis training, timeline of events in Venus and Serena’s life, and the specific titles and champions they have won. The character development of Venus and Serena Williams began from the exposition when they were young girls, continued through the rising action with the history they made as two African American sisters, and carried out until the resolution, with the impact that they have made as adult athletes. There are themes of dreams, strength, and perseverance throughout the entire biography, as the two girls faced doubt and conflicts from the world around them. There is also a theme of person vs. society conflict, as society viewed the two girls as different because they were young, African American girls. In the exposition, nobody thought the girls would ever be as successful as they are today, but Venus and Serena’s perseverance proved the world wrong. The illustrations in this biography add to the thickening plot of Venus and Serena’s rise to the top. The illustrations use an extremely soft colors and lines to add simplicity to the story. In the exposition, the illustrations are light beige, tan, brown, and as the biography progresses, the background colors of the illustrations become bright blues and greens. But, in the resolution as the girls point out that family comes first, the background color of the illustration is beige again, signaling the girls will always be grounded in their roots. The writing style appeals to readers of all ages due to its simplicity of text and the direct accurate facts. Although society viewed Venus and Serena Williams as “different” from a young age, the two made history, and will forever teach readers the positive results of dreaming and constant perseverance. (MNR)


Sanchez, Mary Louise. 2018. The Wind Called My Name. Lee & Low Books Inc. (Tu Books). 256pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014780-1.
The Wind Called My Name

Due to the Great Depression, Margarita and her family move from New Mexico to a Small Town in Wyoming in the year of 1934. In this historical-fiction novel, readers will learn the story of Margarita and her family, as they face troubles of moving to another state during the great depression. During the exposition, Margarita and her family work tirelessly selling eggs and tortilla shells at a local store to pay for land for their grandmother back in New Mexico, and to support the living of their family in Wyoming. During the rising action, Margarita is forced to take up a job at a local general store when she accidentally breaks a lamp in the store. She does not let this bother her, instead it motivates her more to work and make money for her family. It also pushes Margarita closer to achieving her two goals she set upon her move to Wyoming: making money, and making a new best friend. As the rising action continues, Margarita meets a young girl named Caroline, who Americanizes Margarita’s name by calling her “Maggie,” and is convinced she is actually from Mexico, not New Mexico. This results in the whole town thinking that their “Mexican” family needs to go back to Mexico. Townspeople start discussing that Margarita and her family are taking away jobs for Americans that they believe are rightfully theirs. There is a consistent theme of perseverance and strength as Margarita refuses to let the strong opinionated white men tell her what she is worthy of doing. Margarita attends school and does well while also making a steady income to contribute to the livelihood of the rest of her family.  This theme also ties into Margarita constantly dealing with microaggressions, such as Caroline acting surprised as soon as Margarita pulls out a quarter, thinking that she would never be able to make money because she is “from Mexico.” The character development between Caroline and Margarita is extremely evident, as the two are young girls experiencing a special kind of friendship for the first time. Throughout the narrative, Caroline starts realizing what other people are saying about Margarita and her family are things that are not true. As Caroline realizes Margarita is a proud New Mexican just as she is a proud Wyomingite, she start to correct her behavior. With the help and guidance of Margarita, Caroline realizes it is wrong to call Spanish people racist names, and she should not make assumptions based on appearances. Caroline even beings to attend the traditional Spanish celebrations observed by Margarita and her family. At the denouement, before Christmas break, Margarita’s entire class at school exchanges gifts, and as Margarita passes gifts out to her two closest friends, they make sure to point out to the class they all need to work on geography. Margarita is a girl from New Mexico, with ancestors from the United States who fought in wars for the country. Margarita is a strong girl who does not let racist comments weigh her down. Instead, she and her family work harder to prove who their strength of will. Readers will learn that all members of a community need each other. (MNR)


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Grabill, Rebecca. 2018. Violet and the Woof. HarperCollins. 40pp. (hardcover). $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-244110-2. Illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova.

Violet and her younger brother, Peter, venture off into the deep woods of their apartment building to bring warm soup and cookies to Papa Jean-Louis, their friendly neighbor.  While strolling through the apartment, Peter begins to fear that their are wolves in this forest, but Violet reassures him there cannot be any wolves in the apartment building! In this modern day tale of Little Red Riding Hood, there are themes of imagination and storytelling, a setting of person vs. self conflict, and distinct characterization of Peter, the younger brother.

In the exposition, Violet begins her story with “Once upon a time…” the crucial set up to any fairy tale story. Through the rising action, Violet continues to use her imagination and tell the “Big Bad Wolf” type story to Peter. Both seem to start feeling frightened, and have a harder time convincing themselves they are just in an apartment building, and not a spooky forest. This gives the story a sense of person vs. self conflict, as Violet is making up a story that is actually frightening her and Peter.

Through the rising action, Peter, the younger brother, beings to take on the role of “the boy who cried wolf.” Any time Peter spots a dog in the apartment building, he cries out “woof!” Violet thinks Peter is crying wolf, so throughout the rising action, she reassures him that there are no wolves in the apartment building.

Throughout the narrative, there are consistent themes of imagination and storytelling. Violet takes on the role of the narrator, but also the character of Little Red Riding Hood. During the climax, Violet and Peter arrive at Papa Jean-Louis’ apartment, the two find a small animal wrapped up like Papa-Jean Louis, and repeat the same narrative as in the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Violet’s imaginative story becomes reality to her as soon as they arrive.This imagination and wonder carries the story through the falling action, and will leave readers feeling fulfilled like storytellers. (MNR)


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Yang, Kelly. 2018. Front Desk. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-338-15779-6.

While immigrating to America in 1993, 10-year old, Mia Tang stays optimistic, despite the hardships her and her family had to overcome. In China, Mia’s family was extremely successful. Her parents were engineers, and Mia was able to participate in things she loved, such as piano. When Mia and her family immigrated to America, they lost all success  they had ever felt. They quickly were viewed as people who were not white, and people who could not speak good English. Mia’s family took up a job working at a motel in California, which resulted in constant labor of cleaning rooms and satisfying guests. Mr. Yao, the owner who hired them, consistently found ways to shorten the pay of Mia and her family. Throughout the narrative, Mia shows readers what the life of an immigrant is like when arriving to America through social issues, themes of success and failure, and perseverance.

In the exposition, when Mia first arrives to America, she was under the impression that her family was going to buy a house, get a dog, and live a picture perfect life. Instead she is greeted with unstable jobs and unstable living. It is not until Mia’s new friend Lupe tells her the keys to success and failure in America. Lupe explains the key to success, is having money. If a family has money, they can send their children to a great school, and find better jobs which leads to them making more money. If a family faces poverty, parents cannot get their children into great schools, and a well paying job may be hard to find, so the cycle of poverty continues. These are common themes in America. The underlying foundation of life and making money is made attainable only for those who can afford it. When Mia hears this, she decides she is not going to take the second option. During the rising action, Mia becomes fluent in English with the help of her experience of working at the front desk of the motel, and also receives outstanding grades on her writings in school. Her perseverance shines when she comes to believe sometimes she has to be a little more creative to get what she wants. In this narrative based on the author, Kelly Yang’s, life, readers will diverge into the mind of a 10-year old immigrant, trying to make a life of her own in America. (MNR)


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Strange, Lucy. 2017. The Secret of Nightingale Wood. Scholastic Inc. (Chicken House). 304pp. (hardcover). $16.99. ISBN 978-1-338-15747-5.

12 year old Henrietta (Henry) arrives with her family at the Hope House in the year of 1919. Her father has to leave for his job across the country, and her mother has fallen extremely ill after the death of a child. When Henry’s mom collapses in the Hope House, the doctor sedates her and locks her in a room, leaving Henry and her little sister alone with a nanny. Henry spends her days wandering off into the setting of the mystical Nightingale Woods, when she discovers a woman called “Moth,” who holds secrets about the magic woods and the Hope House. When Henry’s mother wakes up, the doctor in the Hope House puts her in an asylum and refuses to let her out. Moth and Henry attempt to rescue her. Throughout the plot, the conflicts are person vs. nature, and person vs. person. Henry is constantly battling the doctor in the Hope House over the care of her mother, and Moth in the mystical woods keeps uncovering secrets about the nature of the Nightingale woods. Based on the time period of this novel, it could be classified as historical fiction, but due to the contemporary setting and mystical creatures in the woods, it leaves the readers with a mysterious time setting. Henry’s characterization is shown when she forms an immediate independence when her mother and father are no longer present, which leads to self discovery.  The theme of this novel has an underlying sense of modern activity, and readers are able to relate to Henry’s adventure and perseverance. (MNR)


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Johnson, Varian. 2018. The Parker Inheritance. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 352pp. (hardcover). $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-94617-9.

When 12-year old Candice’s parents unfortunately split, she spends the summer in Lambert, South Carolina. There, she and her mother settled into her grandmother’s house, who had passed away. Candice finds a letter in a drawer in her grandmother’s house, describing series of unjust events from decades ago, and a series of clues that could unveil a fortune of over a million dollars for the person who solves the mystery. Candice teams up with her neighbor, Brandon Jones, to solve the mystery. The setting alternates between the 1950’s, during the height of Jim Crow South, and the present day. The points of view are shared by both Candice and Siobhan Washington, the young women  the letter describes. Both Candice and Brandon get a glimpse into what it was like to be young African American children during the 1950’s. During the scenes that are set in the 1950’s, the history of racial injustice is authentic to the time period, and develops the characters sense of motivation to solve the puzzle. Readers also discover there is still racial injustice in the 21st century world. The style of vivid descriptions of historical events during the 1950’s, helps readers relate to Candice, as she is in modern day. This book will encourage readers to follow along and try to solve the puzzle in the letter Candice finds. (MNR)


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Cuevas, Michelle. 2017. The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole. Penguin Random House LLC (Puffin Books). 208 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-39-953913-8.

    When eleven year old, Stella Rodriguez, arrives at NASA wanting to speak with Carl Sagan, she is denied entrance at the front door. Upon arriving home, Stella recognizes something followed her home. To her disbelief, a black hole followed her home from NASA, and this is when she begins her journey as the owner of a pet black hole named Larry (short for singularity). Stella finds the black hole is convenient for several instances in her life such as, brussel sprouts at dinner, her brother Cosmo’s loud toys, but also the black hole can consume reminders in Stella’s life that made her sad. Many emotions are shown through Stella and gives her distinct character traits. While she is originally a sad girl who wore all black, and has a hole in her heart, the black hole fills the void that was left in Stella’s heart after the death of her father. Eventually, the black hole eats Stella’s dog and one of its toys. Stella and her brother Cosmo venture into the black hole to find their pup, but instead find all of the items the black hole sucked up, now different and peculiar. Many of the items belonged to Stella’s father. These items make Stella remember how amazing of a person her father was, and she suddenly doesn't feel sad anymore. Remembering the life of her father assists with Stella’s character development. Once Cosmo and Stella find their dog, they stumble upon an open door, which takes them back to reality. At the very end, Stella is described as a girl who has grown from her experiences. The central theme in this story is coming to terms with things in your past, and loving your experiences, good or bad. Stella brings Larry back to NASA to be launched into space, but reassures him that he will always have a spot in her heart, just like Stella’s father has a place in her heart. (MNR)


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Grimly, Gris. 2017. Old Macdonald Had a Farm. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 40pp. (hardcover). $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-811243-6.

Children are invited to sing along as Old Macdonald goes through his morning routine and greets each animal on his farm. Although this rhythmic story is not categorized as poetry, it has elements that are particularly similar, such as use of, onomatopoeia and repetitive phrases. As Old Macdonald greets his animals, and the animals reply with their corresponding animal noises such as, oink-oink, moo-moo, quack-quack, and so many more. Before Old Macdonald greets the animals, readers will hear the phrase, “Old Macdonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.” The setting of the book takes course through one day. During the exposition, the illustrations depict the beginning of a new day, and the sunrise is conveyed by warm oranges, yellows, and various shades of tan. As the sun continues to rise, and Old Macdonald greets his animals, the sky becomes blue, and the grass is green. The colors are much more vibrant and lively. The sun begins to fall, and the colors turn to grays, tans, and oranges again. As Old Macdonald makes his way to his final barn, he opens the door and an unexpected bear greets him! The colors instantly turn dark as the bear chases them into the night. This nursery rhyme will leave readers singing along to this catchy tune, and substituting their favorite animal into Old Macdonald’s farm. (MNR)


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Silvera, Adam, and Albertalli, Becky. 2018. What If It’s Us? HarperTeen 448pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-279525-0.

Even with a fairytale level meet-cute, relationships are never perfect. What If It’s Us is the story of two high school boys, Ben and Arthur, who are in New York for the summer trying to find their way back to each other– after meeting once at a post office and then navigating their resulting, adorably awkward relationship. Not only is this story a cute romantic comedy, it also explores themes of family relationships, letting people go, and holding on to those who really matter to you. This author pairing of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera is a match made in literary heaven. Becky’s quirky and engaging humor, mixed with Adam’s thought-provoking and detailed style, makes for a readable, realistic, and entertaining story that is easy to fly through, while still completely immersing the reader in the story. As high schoolers, Broadway lovers, and Harry Potter nerds, Ben and Arthur are easy characters for readers to connect with. (RL)


Monstrous Devices

Love, Damien. 2018. Monstrous Devices. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-45-147858-0.

Alex’s world is turned upside down after his grandfather sends him a mysterious toy robot. The robot contains an ancient tablet with the power to raise an army. The idea for the plot comes from the classic Jewish folklore, the Golem of Prague. In the tale, a rabbi creates an animated clay being, which can be controlled by those who are worthy. The antagonist of the novel, who is simply referred to as the tall man, is obsessed with legends and eternal life, and wishes to abuse the tablet’s power to reawaken the golem. The tall man is one of many characters with an unknown and secret past, and curiosity will prevent the reader from putting the book down. Person v. person conflicts propel the plot forward as villains chase Alex and his grandfather across European cities such as Paris and Prague. Alex also struggles with himself as he questions the reality of legends, as well as his own family history. Young readers will relate to Alex’s lack of confidence in himself. He grows throughout the plot after he learns to trust himself and others around him. Because Monstrous Devices uses familiar legends, cities, and familial relationships, the reader easily believes in this fantasy. Even though there are many unanswered questions, readers will be enthralled by the high action plot and mysterious characters. (MLS)


Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy

Sutherland, Tui T. 2018. Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy. Scholastic Publishers (Graphix). 224pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-54-594215-7. Illustrated by Mike Holmes.

Readers will fall in love with this high fantasy graphic novel about dragons and prophecies. The first of many books in the series, the story takes place in one of several kingdoms, the Sky Kingdom. The five dragonets are destined to end a war between three dragon princesses. However, constant conflicts between the dragonets, their guardians, and other dragons slow down the heroes from completing the prophecy. Even though this is the first of many in the series, character development has already begun to take place. For example, Clay begins the story with a lack of confidence in his intelligence and fighting ability, but the final illustration shows Clay surrounded by text, which praises his best qualities. Because of its high fantasy characteristics, readers will not relate to the novel through a familiar setting, but they will rather connect to the emotions and thoughts of the young dragonets. The dragonets have many similarities to pre-teens and teenagers such as their questioning of the world, the need to find a purpose in life, their lack of confidence, and their need for a strong support system of friends. Young readers will recognize these attributes in themselves. The illustrations, which support the text, are sharp and clear. Each dragon’s scales are a different color to match their tribe and a natural element associated with the tribe. For example, Clay is a Mudwing and is orange and brown, Tsunami is a Seawing and is various shades of blue, and Starflight is a Nightwing and is dark black to reflect the night sky. Natural colors such as brown, blue, and green are a main feature of the illustrations and highlight the nature of the kingdom. Readers of all ages will be intrigued by the plot, characters, and illustrations. (MLS) 


My Father's Words

MacLachlan, Patricia. 2018. My Father’s Words. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 144pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-268769-2.

Fiona and Finn struggle to find themselves after the sudden death of their father. Their family tries to move forward, but grief has changed their personalities and mindsets. Thomas, one of their father’s therapy patients, calls every Monday to talk with Fiona about her grief and her father. Through these conversations, Fiona hears her father’s words and advice he had given Thomas during their sessions. Meanwhile, Finn takes on the challenge of helping a shelter dog whose owner passed away. Finn uses their father’s favorite song, Dona Nobis Pacem, “Grant Us Peace,” to help the shelter dog recover from her owner’s death. The plot is propelled by Fiona and Finn’s growth through their grief. After their father’s death, both siblings are distant and struggle to find happiness. Fiona and Finn experience an unconventional type of therapy through talking with Thomas and volunteering at the shelter. Because she is the oldest sibling, Fiona also grows in her responsibilities and maturity. For example, her mother attends post-graduate classes on most nights, and Fiona cooks dinner and takes care of Finn. Themes of family, mental health and grief are prevalent throughout the plot. Readers who have experienced death will relate to the family’s emotions and thoughts. Additionally, the falling action shows how words and memories can have a powerful effect on the grieving process. For example, Finn, Fiona, and the shelter dog, Emma, all find peace and a sense of healing in Dona Nobis Pacem. The characters learn their father will always be with them through his words and their memories. (MLS)


Elya, Susan Middleton. 2018. Our Celebración!. Lee & Low Books Inc. 32pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-62-014271-4. Illustrated by Ana Aranda.
Our Celebración!

Rhythm and rhyme guide the reader through the town’s parade and celebration. Each page adds an element to the grand festival such as balloons and meriendas, trompetas, scooters and monociclos. The illustrations show the vast and diverse crowd of people joining in the celebration. The crowd consists of people from all backgrounds who are diverse in age, abilities, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, size, and more. Everyone is encouraged to join the celebration, and the illustrations reflect this invitation. The bright and vibrant colors, such as yellow, red, pink, purple, and blue, show the liveliness and joy of the crowd. Even when a rainstorm comes, purple dominates the sky and the celebration continues. Rain or shine, the crowd finds happiness by being together. Community is the dominant theme. The style reflects a combination of English and Spanish vocabulary, but English is the predominant language. A glossary of the Spanish words is included, so all readers can enjoy the book. The Spanish words are also bolded within the text, drawing the reader’s attention to the vocabulary. Cultures and backgrounds are blended together for one big celebration. (MLS)


Profiri, Charline. 2018. He’s Your Daddy! Ducklings, Joeys, Kits, and More. Dawn Publications. 32pp. $8.95 (paperback). ISBN 978-1-58-469626-1. Illustrated by Andrea Gabriel.
He's Your Daddy: Ducklings, Joeys, Kits, and More

Young readers and their fathers will enjoy reading this rhythmic story about various animals and their daddies. The rhyme and flow of the text smoothly move the plot along. Each baby animal name connects to an adult animal name. For example, the duckling’s daddy is a drake. Young readers will learn to connect the names of baby and adult animals. To emphasize the names, the author bolds the words and uses a different color of font. Readers will begin to understand the basic structures of animal families, as this book is a zoology text. In addition, the illustrations accurately portray each type of animal. The natural colors of blue, green, and brown show the habitat of each animal and their various physical characteristics. For example, many different shades of brown portray both the beaver’s fur and its lodge, which is made of sticks and branches. Texture also influences the visual elements of the book. The layered curved lines show the spines of the seahorse, the short straight lines show the softness of the cygnets, and the shaded circles show the bumpiness of the dinosaur. The last pages include more information about the animals such as how to pronounce their names and other animal babies, which have the same names. The author also includes suggestions for reading aloud to children, and how to use science and math to connect to the text. (MLS)


Scott, Elaine. 2018. To Pluto & Beyond: The Amazing Voyage of New Horizons. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 64pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-10-199701-7.
To Pluto and Beyond

Intermediate readers will be enthralled by the unique and detailed story of New Horizons, the fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth. Only the size of a grand piano, New Horizons currently flies through space to the farthest places, including the planet Pluto. The text recounts all of the stages of New Horizons creation and journey, including information and history of Pluto. The text uses complex ideas and concepts about engineering and space, but presents them in a format appropriate for 8-12 year olds. Tier two and tier three vocabulary words are defined within the text, so readers can comprehend the plot. Additionally, the text connects other time periods and events in science to the story of New Horizons. For example, the author mentions Sir Isaac Newton’s realization of the laws of gravity. By including events such as this, the author helps to access the reader’s background knowledge and promote further learning. Readers can also utilize and practice their expository text skills with various structures such as the table of contents, headings, diagrams, and captions. The final pages include additional resources, websites, and an index. The diagrams and photographs are vivid and mesmerizing. The photographs of space will convey the massive expanse and wonders of the universe. The author also includes photographs of the teams of people who worked on New Horizons. One photograph shows the women scientists who worked on the project, allowing young girls to see possibilities of a future in STEM careers. Overall, this text conveys accurate and detailed information about New Horizons and the people who helped create the fastest spacecraft. (MLS)


Sotomayor, Sonia. 2018. Turning Pages: My Life Story. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551408-4. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre.
Turning Pages: My Life Story

A young girl finds the power of words within countless books. Sonia Sotomayor, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, reflects on her love of books and how they shaped her life. Growing up in a Spanish-speaking household, Sonia Sotomayor struggled with learning English. She found refuge within books because they made learning an enjoyable experience. Throughout the course of her life, Sonia Sotomayor discovers the various roles of books: a candle to light the way, a boat to escape the sadness, a lense to focus on the truth, and a key to unlock the wisdom of yesterday. Readers will begin to understand the power of books and how they can be used for many different purposes. Throughout the plot, Sonia Sotomayor learns and grows by using books to guide her. In the exposition, she compares the events in her life to puzzle pieces. By the dénouement, illustrations show all of the puzzle pieces are placed together to create an image of Sonia Sotomayor. The illustrations are unique to the theme of books and words. Book pages are incorporated throughout the drawings. For example, book pages are steps as Sonia Sotomayor walks towards the Supreme Court building. The color blue symbolizes the wisdom and trust Sonia Sotomayor felt from her books. Finally, the illustrations accurately reflect the various time periods and Sonia Sotomayor at different points in her life. The inside book covers show actual photographs from her life including pictures as a baby, child, and young adult. The drawings are reflective of the photographs and add authenticity to the illustrations. Written both in English and Spanish, readers will learn about the powerful influence of books. (MLS)


Acevedo, Sylvia. 2018. Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-880956-8.

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist

Sylvia Acevedo grew up in an era when girls were expected to become homemakers. Sylvia, however, had other dreams for her life: studying science and attending Stanford University. Being a Mexican-American woman, Sylvia experienced many hardships while she was growing up in New Mexico. Her father had different expectations for Sylvia and her brother. For example, Sylvia had to save her money and pay for her own library card, while her brother was given one for free by their father. Sylvia eventually joined the Girl Scouts and was enamored by the organization. Growing in responsibility, problem solving skills, and resourcefulness, Sylvia became a young woman ready and willing to work towards her dreams. Readers experience how Sylvia managed to make her dreams a reality through hard work and perseverance. Sylvia is a role model to many young girls hoping to pursue a career in STEM. Because of her persistence and determination, Sylvia Acevedo was able to succeed in a field outside of the social norms. Throughout the pages, there are photographs of Sylvia and her family. The photographs help the reader visualize Sylvia’s life through her childhood and young adult years. Additionally, Sylvia’s narration creates an authentic voice for her childhood self. Written both in English and Spanish, young girls of many backgrounds will be able to access Sylvia’s story of going from Girl Scouts to a rocket scientist. (MLS)


The Lotterys More or Less

Donoghue, Emma. 2018. The Lotterys More or Less. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 304 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-820753-8. Illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono.

One society can have a variety of people with differing religions, values, races, and families, and accepting these differences is crucial. The reader sees this acceptance in the Canadian neighborhood where the Lotterys live. The four Lottery parents accept all seven of their children, three of which are adopted. All seven children have different personalities and religious beliefs, but all are loved equally. The story of the Lotterys is told in a limited omniscient perspective, focusing on Sumac’s thoughts and experiences. Sumac Lottery is a responsible and determined nine-year-old girl who wants to celebrate the best holiday traditions with her family. The first conflict Sumac faces is against a snow storm canceling all flights going in and out of Canada, which leaves PapaDum (one Lottery dad) and Sic (oldest Lottery child) in India. Sumac is discouraged by this storm but continues trying to make it the best holiday yet.

Sumac’s holiday plans continue to be disrupted or not happen at all, which makes Sumac irritated and hesitant to new celebrations. Despite Sumac’s disappointment about her family’s celebrations, she is learning more about her neighbors and their various traditions. The Lotterys were invited over to two neighbors’ dinners. One dinner was with the Roses who are Jewish; during this meal the reader learns more about traditional Hanukkah celebrations. The next dinner is with the Marikkars who are Muslims; at this meal Sumac experiences men and women eating in separate rooms, and is introduced to the different food they eat. When the Lotterys were leaving for the Marikkars’ dinner, PopCorn was going to take pudding before remembering that it had brandy in it, meaning the Marikkars could not eat it. Emma Donoghue uses the snow storm to illustrate the importance of learning and therefore having knowledge of other religions and traditions. Donoghue gives young readers a chance to discover more about various religions, differing family types, and much more. Sumac is hesitant to accept the nontraditional holiday celebrations, but she is accepting to every person she meets. Sumac shows readers accepting unplanned events is difficult, but it is easy to accept people for who they are. Donoghue creates a neighborhood full of different people where all are accepting and accepted. (LRS)


Winter Is Here

Henkes, Kevin. 2018. Winter Is Here. HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-274718-1. Illustrated by Laura Dronzek.

The exposition begins with the declaration “Winter is here. It’s everywhere,” (Henkes, 2018, p. 6-34, unnumbered). This declaration is supported by the illustrations with snowy blankets and children playing in them. The texture of the snow seems like the first snowfall, one being fluffy and soft, the perfect snow for playing in. The texture of the hats and coats are soft, portraying warmth and softness. These textures help build the credibility of the winter that is the dominant focus in the plot. The colors also help give the winter more credibility. The snow, ponds, and sky are full of whites, greys, and blues; cool colors representing the frigid nature of winter. The children and adults outside are all wearing coats and hats, all of which are brightly colored: reds, pinks, yellows, purples, greens, and blues. These colors symbolize their happiness to be playing with one another, also how the coats and hats keep them warm from the bitter cold.

The story continues to show warmly colored houses with yellow and red, which symbolizes the warmth and comfort of the homes. The houses were created with straight vertical and horizontal lines which provides a sense of unmoving and calmness while the stormy winds blow around outside; the people within know they are safe. The main boy of this story faces a conflict of person v. nature, the snowstorm. When he is lying in his bed one night he hears the wind howling outside his window and he is afraid. The room and window are a gradation of blues and greys, giving the room a more cold, scary feeling, but the blanket on the bed is red which gives a sense of warmth and protection. Although the room is dark, and the wind is blowing outside, the boy is safe under his warm blanket. The wind is illustrated by having wavy lines—showing the unpredictable movement—softly brushed, but the illustrations seem realistic. The snowstorm is scary, but by the denouement of the story it is springtime with illustrations of bright colors of pinks, greens, yellows, and blues. Henkes tells a story of the differences between a snowy winter and a cheerful spring accompanied by Dronzek’s illustrations with attention to lines, colors, and textures. (LRS)


Reynolds, Peter H. 2018. The Word Collector. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-586502-9. Illustrated by Reynolds Studio.
The Word Collector

The exposition describes some objects commonly collected, such as: stamps, rocks, coins, art, bugs, baseball, and comic books. Jerome’s collection does not fall into these popular collections, instead he collects words. Through his collection readers are introduced to new words and the significance of some simple vocabulary. The introduction of words allows readers to develop their vocabulary: Jerome is a young boy who is relatable to the fact he collects things for fun but is still learning from the words he gathers. Readers follow Jerome on his journey for new words and his discovery of the significance of these words. Jerome categorizes and organizes his words based on lengths, meanings, and significance. According to Norton, the action of Jerome organizing and categorizing his words invite readers to develop their cognitive abilities. 

In the conflict of the story, Jerome spills his organized collection of words, which engages the reader’s emotional development. Readers are empathic towards Jerome and his hard work of organizing all his words. Throughout the rising action, the illustrations are of the characters and the words describing the characters’ actions, while the rest of the page is colorless. Once the conflict occurs, the whole page is filled with yellow. Throughout the climax, falling action, and denouement of the story, most of the pages are full of color (yellows, greens, and purples), edge-to-edge, to show Jerome’s character development and how he sees the world and his collection. Jerome faces the conflict of his words being spilled, which is followed by a conflict of person v. self. He must figure out the order of his word collection but discovers there are a variety of ways to categorize his words. 

During the falling action, readers have an opportunity to compare and classify the words with Jerome as he ties together new categories, then turns them into poems and songs. In the climax Jerome puts all his words in a bag and pulls them up a hill. The line of the hill represents the direction of Jerome’s movement, but there is a curve at the top of the hill to symbolize a sense of uncertainty. The sky is completely purple—representing the sunset—when Jerome reaches the top, he throws his words off and watches the children below catch them. The denouement depicts Jerome’s growth as a character because he learned by sharing his words he felt a sense of joy, and at the end he has no words for his happiness. (LRS)



Newman, Jeff. 2018. Found. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441006-0. Illustrated by Larry Day.

Children bond with their pets, and when a pet gets lost, the child takes a long time to recover from the heartbreak. In this wordless picture book, the exposition shows a young child looking out a bedroom window during a rainstorm. The rain sets the mood of sadness and loneliness, but the rain also is an antagonist, because the child looks longingly out the window, but knows to stay inside because of the storm. Regardless, the main character goes into the rain and brings a soaking golden dog—his color representing cheerfulness—into a room which lacks any color beside closest possessions: clothes, shoes, a corkboard, and a dog bed. The readers are encouraged to develop their cognitive abilities by observing these items with pop of colors (reds, yellows, purples, and blues) and the photos differing from the rest of the sheets of paper. 

The lines of the corkboard are vertical and horizontal representing nonmovement and solidity. Readers notice the missing dog sign on a board and a photo on the bedside table which invites readers to hypothesize about the child’s willingness to take in a new dog because the family dog Prudence, has been missing for a long time. Through the rising action readers observe the child’s happiness bonding with the new dog and compare how the facial features were before finding this dog. When going to the pet store, the only pop of color outside (besides the dog) is a light post, which is green, and on it is a missing dog sign for Roscoe. The main character is presented with a conflict of person v. self when presented with the difficult choice of being delighted with a new dog or returning him to the owner. Through this time of self-reflection, readers feel emotionally attached to the main character and the strain felt when forced to make a hard decision. The child’s time of self-reflection is all blue resembling the night and the consuming sadness; the only bright thing in the room is Roscoe’s golden fur.

The illustrations rely on color and lack of color in order to make this story more impactful. One instance of this is when the main character takes Roscoe back to his owner. The streets are full of white and the only color is the child—in a red coat, green boats, and blue pants—and the gold dog. Inside the red jacket the child feels warm, but the lack of color of the street conveys despair. Upon walking back, readers observe a bulldog in the Humane Shelter’s window, which encourages emotions such as hope and joy for the character to eventually bond with this dog. The denouement of the story shows the backside of the golden and white bulldog running in the character’s white house bringing the color of happiness (yellow/gold0) back to the child. (LRS)


The Hotel Between

Easley, Sean. 2018. The Hotel Between. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 352 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441697-0.

Spending hours traveling from place-to-place makes several people wish they could arrive to their destination in a blink of an eye. This mythical quest in a realistic setting (suspending disbelief) provides readers the opportunity to know what this magical skill is like. The exposition begins with the main character, Cam, locked in his own locker by himself. Following Cam, the readers are enveloped in his mind including his worries and fears. The setting creates an anxious mood as Cam wonders if anyone will ever find him; this allows readers to see his character develop throughout the story. This quest has a variety of conflicts, the first being person v. self when Cam admits to the reader that he does not believe in magic before he sees magic for the first time. Cam then must overcome his anxious thoughts to go on a quest to find his dad.

In the rising action of the plot, Cam becomes blood brothers with Nico, who Cam has been warned not to trust, but he does. By becoming blood brothers their traits are shared: Cam receives some of Nico’s boldness while Nico feels Cam’s concerns. Throughout the plot, there is a theme of family: Cam’s search for answers about his parents, Cass (his sister) and Oma (his grandma) who he leaves at home, and his new brother who chooses to be bound to Cam. The climax is Cam’s discovery of Nico and Mr. Stripe, the Competitions, whom he had been working for this entire time, are the antagonists. Cam finds out that everything he believed was a lie. This creates a new conflict of person v. person, Cam v. Nico and Mr. Stripe. Cam blames himself for all the negative events that happen because he was used as a pawn. By the dénouement, the reader sees how Cam develops from being anxious and questioning all of his actions to being bold and making decisions on a whim to help those he loves. Cam grows as a character and shows readers how worries can be pushed to the side, but they cannot do it alone; like Cam, they need the support of their friends and family to overcome their anxieties. (LRS)


The Bear, the Piano, the Dog, and the Fiddle

Litchfield, David. 2018. The Bear, the Piano, the Dog, and the Fiddle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-859589-8.

Animals fascinate children, especially when they showcase human tasks and skills, such as playing a piano or a fiddle. The exposition opens with Hector playing his fiddle and Hugo, his dog and best friend, watching. The first illustration provides a sense of setting, location, and mood. Outside in a busy city full of people, none of whom are paying attention to Hector and his fiddle. The rain creates an uneasy and sad mood because this weather is not ideal for a fiddle, and distresses Hector due to his lack of an audience. Despite this darkness and rain, the hazy light surrounding Hector and Hugo conveys the joy of playing and listening to music. Colors evoke the chaotic and busy nature of the city. The only characters who have a hazy light surrounding them are Hector and Hugo. 

Through the rising action, conflict provides opportunities for emotional development. Readers empathize with Hector’s disappointment over not making enough money from playing his instrument. Then they feel joy because they see Hugo trying his hardest to play and continue both his and Hector’s love of the fiddle. Once Hector discovers Hugo can play the fiddle well, his happiness is evident in his red cheeks symbolizing the pride in his heart for his friend. This emotion changes when Bear asks Hugo to join his band, which creates a conflict of person v. person/animal, specifically Hector v. Hugo. While Hugo is packs everything up, the page is darker and does not contain any vibrant colors; the illustrations within the home are very dull. This dullness signifies to readers how Hector is feeling, but then his posture and face changes after he says some of the things for which he feels ashamed. Their time away from each other has Hector living in a dull, dark world while Hugo is living on stage with bright yellows, greens, and reds. Readers may notice the differences between the worlds through the text to understand how they feel without one another. This running plot is relatable to readers because no matter how young or old, most people have a friend who they do not want to spend time without. (LRS)


Soaring Earth: A companion memoir to Enchanted Air

Engle, Margarita. 2019. Soaring Earth: A companion memoir to Enchanted Air. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Atheneum). 192 pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442953-6.

Incorporating nonfiction books and memoirs into a classroom can be challenging, because students may see reality as boring or just another history lesson.

This narrative poetry takes readers back to 1966-1973, in the life of Margarita Engle who is Cuban-American and how the two ethnicities influence her life. In the exposition the reader discovers Margarita lives in California during the Cold War, which drastically affected Cuban and American relations. She writes how she would spend summers in Cuba, but no longer could because of the ban of Americans traveling to Cuba. The first poem is about these summer visits to Cuba, but it goes beyond and explains her desire to travel to tropical areas of the world. The setting shifts locations, from a place from her memory to a place in reality. This memoir uses imagery, talking about the air filled with smog, giving readers a visual of what Margarita lived in and how vastly different it was from her dream locations. There are various examples of conflict throughout this collection of poems, such as Margarita versus school, but the conflict most prevalent throughout the story is person versus self (Margarita versus self). Margarita is constantly trying to find herself and her ambitions, whether it be through dating guys who are bound to leave her, or going on a whim and following a stranger across the country.

This narrative poetry has a new title for each poem, some of which say exactly what type of poems they are: “Homesick Haiku on a Foggy Bay Area Day” (p. 61) and “A Tanka Poem Made of Stolen Hope” (p. 85). By identifying the type of poems these are, she is encouraging readers to develop their cognitive abilities in regard to forms of poetry. Another development Margarita encourages is language; she writes some Spanish phrases or words which are then followed by the English translation. Having Spanish and English within the narrative properly illustrates her Cuban-American ethnicity and enhances the readers’ language abilities. The collection promotes cognitive development through the identification of poems, however, readers also learn about the Cold War from the perspective of a college student. Learning about the Cold War from the “hippie” perspective is different from what most students learn in school, which helps them see a different perspective regarding this war. Although the poems are not illustrated, the shape and manner in which these poems are written relate to the overall meaning of each one (Norton 2011). For instance, her poem “Walking Trees” there is one word on each line in the middle of the page, more tabbed over than the last to resemble a staircase; then the next paragraph of this poem she discusses the aftermath of Martin Luther King Junior’s death and the war—with this her words become bigger, bolder, and more spaced out (p. 36-37). Having a memoir written through poetry can be challenging, but this narrative effectively and poetically applies imagery, shape, and her experiences of her life. (LRS)


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Venkatraman, Padma. 2019. The Bridge Home. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 208 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-52-473811-2.

The bond between siblings can be unbreakable. This contemporary realistic fiction novel is written in the form of a letter addressed to Rukku. Rukku is the older sister of Viji, who is the author of the letter/the narrator. The exposition begins with Viji writing her letter, which consists of her and Rukku’s adventures. Viji describes her twelfth birthday and the beating her Appa (father) gives to her Amma (mother). This conflict of person v. person continues to the next day, when he slaps Viji and then gives Rukku a bloody lip. The pattern of violence and abuse pushes Viji to run away with Rukku. Rukku and Viji embark on an adventure to the city of Chennai, India, and hope for better lives. In the rising action they are greeted with fear and the conflict of person v. society: grown men trying to take Rukku and Viji or a child asking for some money and stealing it all. Another conflict Viji faces is person v. person which is Rukku v. Viji, because Rukku has a mental disability which causes Viji to be overprotective and not give Rukku as much freedom. Through the rising action and climax other characters remind Viji how she needs to let Rukku do what she wants to do; once allowing Rukku to take control over herself, Viji sees a new kind of sparkle in Rukku’s eyes.

    A theme in this novel is homeless children in populated cities such as Chennai. Within the rising action Viji and Rukku meet two homeless boys, Arul and Muthu, who help them and eventually the four become a family. The themes of family and acceptance create an emotional connection between readers and the characters. Norton (2011) states this connection helps children develop emotionally. Within one scene, readers are developing their emotional abilities as they witness these homeless children bonding. Language awareness is supported by a glossary at the front and while Viji is writing the letter, she will use the non-English word then give the English meaning. One instance of this is when Muthu calls Viji “akka,” which means elder sister. This is followed by an introduction to a word in a different language. One major development is the change in teh behavior and conversations of the children from annoyance to love. Through the themes of abuse, violence, homelessness in children, and in the climax: death of a child; the hardships thousands of young children face every day are revealed. (LRS)


Someday We Will Fly

DeWotskin, Rachel. 2019. Someday We Will Fly. Penguin Random House LLC (VIKING). 368 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-67-001496-5.

The discussion of World War II typically focuses around the events of the war or life in concentration camps. Learning about refugees’ lives and journeys is less common, but this novel focuses specifically on a Jewish family from Poland and their journey to safety. The exposition begins with Lillia watching her parents do their circus routine, which is illegal since Jews are not allowed to work. Suddenly her family’s life turns upside down when the first conflict of person v. society (Lillia’s family v. the Nazis) occurs: soldiers barge into their small room and seize anyone they could, which causes Lillia’s father to grab her and her younger sister, Naomi, but not their mother. Readers quickly develop an emotional connection with Lillia when they learn how her father plans on leaving for Shanghai without her mother. The journey to a land full of promises of safety and jobs is filled with fear, anxiety, and unknowingness, all of which are relatable to readers due to the first-person point-of-view.

Once in Shanghai, China, Lillia’s father struggles to find work, but Lillia begins to attend school again. While she is going to school she learns English, and she befriends a Chinese boy who teaches her Chinese. Lillia uses English, Chinese, and Polish throughout the story, explaining what each word means. The chapters all begin with a word in all three languages, which signifies the importance and value of the languages in her life. Lillia faces a variety of conflicts which invites readers to predict what will happen next. Lillia goes through a range of character development: being bold and exuberant in Poland, she becomes shy and fearful in China. Her mindset also develops: instead of looking at what she is missing, she begins to focus on what she has. The themes also develop throughout the novel, but the dominant themes are: education, work, family, racism, Anti-Semitism, and poverty. Having these themes play such a prominent role illustrates one example of what Jewish refugees had to go through during the war. (LRS)


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Sorell, Traci. 2018. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga. Charlesbridge. 32 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089772-3. Illustrated by Frané Lessac.

The Cherokee people were one of the countless tribes who were driven from their homes by European settlers. The true history of westward expansion in the United States is distorted in textbooks, which means there is a high need for informational texts about Native Americans. Traci Sorell provides an accurate text about the Cherokee Nation, which she is qualified to discuss because she currently lives in the Cherokee Nation. The author admits that she does not speak Cherokee fluently, but she encourages language development by using some Cherokee words on every few pages; the main one being, ostaliheliga (we are grateful). In spite of the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee people are grateful in every season, hardship, and joyous event. Celebrations include the specific season, such as: the Great New Moon Ceremony in the fall; traditions done in the winter; farming/gardening in the spring; and the Green Corn Ceremony to celebrate the first harvest in summer.

The illustrations on each page are reflective of the season and are realistic as far as the style of the homes, the differing skintones, and the types of clothes Native Americans wear today. The text does not explicitly discuss stereotypes, but by illustrating accurate clothing, the stereotypes about Native Americans’ clothing is confronted. By challenging this stereotype, readers will be able to avoid categorizing Native Americans into such a small group based off societal stereotypes. The display of specific Cherokee events and celebrations also broadens the readers’ perspectives, given that all of these celebrations are listed in the back of the book with definitions and details of each event, celebration, or name, which informs readers of the traditions of the Cherokee people. (LRS)


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Bernstrom, Daniel. 2018. Gator, Gator, Gator! HarperCollinsPublishers (HARPER). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-246330-2. Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon.

Down in the bayou, in dark murky water lurks alligators. True to its title, the main characteristics of the style are rhyme, assonance, and repetition. Some examples are “Oh, one more…. Don’t jump in! Don’t you dare go for a swim! Or I promise—see you later. You with Mr. Alligator!” (Bernstrom, 2018, p. unnumbered). The focus on rhyming and repetition help children stay interested in the adventure of finding an alligator. Another interesting aspect of the plot is how the main character talks directly to readers and directly invites them on this quest. This can promote children’s social development because they are involved in problem solving along with the character. The main character develops in the exposition and rising action, as she is excited to find a gator, but when readers reach the climax she feels the boat shake and finally sees the gator, yet she is terrified. She illustrates being excited about something does not mean it will be good overall, it may be quite frightening. 

While looking for the gator in the exposition and rising action, readers are encouraged to observe the illustrations and decide if the shadows matched an alligator’s shape. This encourages cognition. Another substantive element is language. The language the main character uses is considered Southern “slang” which consists of shortening words (gator, ‘neath) and words/phrases used in the south (“I’d sure,” “Over yonder”). Some of the words are used to help describe the setting of the bayou which may be unfamiliar to readers. The setting begins as mood, thrilling adventures await the girl and readers. The climax changes the setting to an antagonist because the alligator is chasing the boat. 

The setting becomes more surreal with the illustrations. They contain blues, greens, and brown to help accurately depict the bayou where a variety of animals live. The shape of all the animals are organic which shows the unknowing actions or movements these animals may have. The alligator is asymmetrical to show how the girl and the readers do not know what the gator will do. The character talks directly to the readers and tells them how she felt the boat budge. The reader hypothesizes this bumping is from the alligator because it could not be from them, the audience. During the falling action there is a conflict of person v. nature (the alligator). Since she only saw the gator’s shadow, the young girl wants to go back and find the gator again. The resolution has the girl and a figure (representing the reader) back in the boat to repeat the whole adventure. (LRS)


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Markel, Michelle. 2019. Out of This World. The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-244109-6. Illustrated by Amanda Hall.

Going against societal and parental expectations is challenging for many reasons, but the result may be rewarding. Leonora Carrington was raised to become a respectable English woman who would eventually marry a wealthy man and live as a wife and mother; but she did not want this life. The conflict throughout the exposition and rising action in this biography is person v. society, because Leonora desires a life outside of societal expectation to be  a mother, she wants to be an artist. Both society and family disapproved of her choice. However, she fought for her passion and eventually had the opportunity to study art and be surrounded by artists. This group of artists were Surrealists, which was the style of art Leonora admired and created since she was young. Her European art journey was interrupted when World War II caused these artists to flee from Mexico.

The illustrations complement the biography of  Leonora Carrington and her discovery of art. Of significance are the colors. When the setting is in Europe, the colors used are  dull and natural, signifying the societal standards which went against Leonora’s desires. In contrast, when the setting is in Mexico, the colors are bright and vibrant, exemplifying the change of feelings and societal expectations, which complemented Leonora. All the shapes used are organic and represent what Leonora’s paintings are in reality. In fact, each page has a Surrealist illustration on it, whether it be on a small piece of paper or the whole page. The colors, shapes, and text accurately portray Leonora Carrington’s life and imagination. (LRS)


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Jenkins, Steve. 2018. A House in the Sky and Other Uncommon Animal Homes. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089780-8. Illustrated by Robbin Gourley.

Animals have comfortable homes too! Readers learn about the habitats of different animals and how they have  safe and warm spaces to live. There is both text and illustration supporting the plot as it drives onto the next dwelling. There are smaller sections of text with  higher level academic language notifying readers of how the animal makes its abode. These smaller sections of text contain accurate and interesting information. presented clearly, so the audience can easily understand the content. By organizing the text in this way, readers are able to follow the repeated pattern of plot then further information. The illustrations use bright colors to depict animals such as sea urchins and octopi while earthy colors like browns and greens are used in the nests and caves. Textures are dominant in the fine fur of beavers and badgers as well as in the spikes of a sea urchin. This allows readers to experience how these animals would look in real life. All of the animals’ homes are made up of organic shapes in the outdoors while the last image of a human’s house is geometric showing the difference in how animals make their homes and how fabricated objects are constructed. Additionally, there is a reference aid in the back of the text that gives more information on each of the animals and where they live. This extra information is easy to navigate and enjoyable to learn about. Overall, readers gain a better understanding of how animals make their homes and can relate to how they feel in their dwellings through the colors and textures. (EMS)


Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild

Thimmesh, Catherine. 2018. Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 64pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-481891-0.

Pandas have been endangered for the past decade… but are slowly becoming more populous. This exciting case study about the reintroduction of pandas in China grabs attention and educates readers on how humans can make a difference in endangered species lives. In the exposition, readers are introduced to a giant panda teddy bear. This bipedal bear is not quite the panda you would see in China but rather a human inside of a costume. The style engages readers by sharing interesting facts about these amazing animals. Not only is this information current, there is a clear distinction between facts and current, on-going research. There are small, bolded text sections at the bottoms of pages giving the reader more factual material on these pandas. Although there is a substantial amount of text, readers can easily follow the plot and remain engaged throughout. Additionally, photographs are present on every page. These show real-life depictions of the animals. Expressive photographs drive the plot forward as they follow the case study and the researchers’ journeys working with the panda cub in captivity. In the falling action of Tao Tao, the cub’s adventure, he is released into the wild. In the denouement, readers are shown what actions can be made in order to educate others about the endangerment of pandas. By sharing helpful tips with peers, young readers strive to learn more about this species and develop a sense of inquiry to keep researching this topic. Pandas in China are making a slow recovery with the help of interested citizens. (EMS)


Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School

Falatko, Julie. 2018. Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School. Scholastic Inc. 192 pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-33-818951-3. Illustrated by Colin Jack.

Two dogs Sassy and Waldo, are determined to rescue their owner, Stewart, from a terrible place called ‘school.’ Stewart comes home every day from school and says it was boring and he did not do anything the whole day.  Sassy and Waldo make up their minds they are somehow going to infiltrate the local elementary school and save their human boy from boredom and horrifying bolognese sandwiches. The dogs talk like humans but are still house pets. They are preoccupied with squirrel intruders and food at all times. Every food-type word in the text is bolded throughout the book to show how dogs would selectively hear the conversation. The next day, Sassy and Waldo follow Stewart to school and discover the front door is locked! They come up with a clever disguise; the two dogs stand on top of each other and put on a large trench coat  in order to resemble a student named Salty. After they enter the school with their smart costume, they are brought to their new classroom with Ms. Twohey. Stewart immediately recognizes his dogs and is surprised, but ultimately happy they came to school to see him. Sassy and Waldo are loyal to their human and have a need to protect him from any danger he faces, just like loyal companions. Throughout their first school day, Sassy and Waldo realize school is actually enjoyable. They want to come back every day! Although Ms. Twohey gives her students many tasks to do, she is a great teacher. She tells her students every day to remember to work on their presentations and to fill out the super important information sheet. Without this information sheet students will fail automatically. Sassy and Waldo can sense something off about Stewart every time Ms. Twohey brings up their big project. Later, they find out that Stewart lost his information sheet and has not even started his project due the next day. The reason why Stewart was so unhappy in school the whole year was because he was dreading this project. In order to make their owner happy, they help work on Stewart’s project all night before he has to present. They come up with an informational project about squirrels, because Sassy and Waldo are serious squirrel experts. When they go to school the next day, Stewart is nervous to present because he does not have his important information sheet. One of his classmates, Bax, is second to last to present and can tell that Stewart is nervous to go, so he takes up the rest of the class talking about velocity and Stewart has another day to prepare for the presentation. Sassy and Waldo are so grateful they save Stewart from having to present without an information sheet. They go up and ask Ms. Twohey if they can have an information sheet because they were jealous that they did not get to do a project that year. Ms. Twohey gave Salty two information sheets thinking that they were excited learners who really loved schoolwork. That night Stewart and his dogs filled out the information sheet and were ready to present to class tomorrow. Fortunately, or unfortunately, during Stewart’s presentation, a real live squirrel jumped into their classroom and bounced around causing chaos. Stewart went with the flow and continued talking while the squirrel was leaping around, telling his classmates about the aerodynamics of squirrels and other fun facts. In the end, Sassy and Waldo got their wish. They saved Stewart from being bored in school by making it enjoyable again and teaching him to make the most of any situation. One of the themes is the value of friendship, Sassy and Waldo both love Stewart, and went out of their way to help him. (EMS)


Beatty, Melinda. 2018. Heartseeker. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam's Sons). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-52-474000-9.

In a society where glamorous and cunning is frowned upon, Only Fallow has a special gift which could be her downfall. Only Fallow lives on an orchard with her family of Mam, Papa, Non, Ether, and Jon. She was born with the power of seeing lies. When someone tells a mistruth, it lights them up with colors like a firework. Green is for exaggerations, black is for wrongdoings, white is for protection, etc. The disadvantage of her gift is that she cannot tell fibs without hurting herself. She keeps her secret to herself for eleven years because she knows it is dangerous to have powers. Her time in Presston, Orstral is measured by harvests rather than months. The family business of making Scrump, a type of ale, had blossomed when the king’s palace had come to like it and orders many barrels every year. However, in the poor town of Presston, being in favor of the king was not a luxury. Only Fallow was bullied and excluded by kids her age because they thought she was uptight and rich when that was far from the case. However, Only finally made friends with two Ordish kids named Lark and Rowan. The Ordish people sail in every harvest on the river and help bring in the fruits of the field, but have a stereotype of being dangerous and magical. Disregarding these messages, Only goes to a bonfire at the Ordish camp with her new friends and her brothers Ether and Jon. While she is at the bonfire, a man named Toly with a strange black outline takes Rowan, Lark, and Only to come see his newly finished boat. Only realizes too late that the black outline surrounding the man means no good. Toly kidnaps Lark and Rowan to bring to the castle, so that the Ordish have to pay a ransom to get them back. The next day, the grieving Ordish folk leave to travel further down the river and Only’s brother, Jon, goes with them. 

The Fallow house is quieter without Jon there anymore, and gets even quieter when a master comes knocking on their door. Master Iordan has heard of Only’s talent and has come to claim her so that King Alphonse can use her to his advantage in council. Only is unwillingly whisked away from her family and taken to the palace in Bellskeep. Along the way, a group of Ordish folk attacked her carriage unsuccessfully. Surprisingly, her brother Jon is among the attackers and gets arrested. She needs to set them free before they are tried in front of the king, otherwise they will be hanged. When she gets to the palace, the king requires her to prove herself and her gift of seeing lies. She goes through a test of picking out the liar in a crowd, and the king makes her tell her own lies. It tortures her and she ends up passing out in the process. After Only proves her worth, one of the members of the council, Lady Folque, proposes a plan to dethrone the king. Only does not like that the king steals Ordish children as slaves, and she wants to go back home to her family on the orchard. Lady Folque reveals that she has her own magic -- she has a silver tongue and can convince people to do things. Working together, Only and Lady Folque scheme on taking down the king. But before the this eventful day ends, Only drugs eight guards outside the castle prison. They sneak into the underground passage and free the Ordish people that attacked her carriage, including her brother Jon, before their hearing the next morning. Only Fallow goes to bed satisfied with herself and scheming the downfall of the king. (EMS)


Small Spaces

Arden, Katherine. 2018. Small Spaces. Penguin Random House LLC (Puffin Books). 224pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551502-9. 

Ollie is far too smart to be in sixth grade. Although she is a bright kid, she is closed off and sometimes hostile towards her peers due to her mother passing away a few months earlier. When the bell rings at school, Ollie rushes out of the doors and hops onto her bike to retreat to her safe space by the creek. However, when she gets there she finds a woman clutching a small, black book crying. Ollie startles her by asking if she is okay. The woman tells her the book must be dropped in the river and destroyed so that the bargain is complete. Of course, this is absurd to Ollie because a person should never waste a good book. So Ollie jumps and grabs the book before the woman can throw it in the river, and then races back to her house. The next day, Ollie’s class goes on a field trip to Misty Valley Farm. Misty Valley Farm is the best example in Vermont of successful small-scale farming with a strange history of creepy activity. When the bus arrives at the farm, Ollie sees the woman she saw by the creek yesterday is actually the owner of Misty Valley. Shocked, she gives Ollie one last warning: stay away from large places at night, keep to small. Everything seems normal heading back to school until the bus suddenly breaks down. Nobody has service on their phones but Ollie checks her mom’s broken watch and it says RUN along with a countdown. Her mom’s watch has been broken for a long time; it must mean she needs to take action. The action starts to rise when she walks right off of the bus with her backpack and heads toward the cornfield on the side of the road. 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, two annoying kids named Coco and Brian decide to tag along. As Ollie’s watch counts down closer and closer to zero, the sun is quickly setting and a hazy mist forms on the cornfield. The setting becomes the antagonist as the three kids race against time to find a safe space before nightfall. Avoid big spaces, stick to small places. When Ollie’s watch hits zero, the field begins to move. Scarecrows start coming after them in all directions in an attempt to capture the kids. Throughout the next couple of days Ollie, Coco, and Brian evade the evil scarecrows and follow the directions the broken watch gives them. They find out that they are in an alternate universe and need to escape the mist world. They also need save their friends from the Smiling Man, who has captured their peers on the broken bus. He has turned them all into scarecrows as part of his army. In the end, Ollie saves her class by throwing her water bottle full of water from the creek onto the scarecrows. This water runs through both the real world and the mist world and brings them back to life. At the peak of action, she meets the Smiling Man in the center of the corn maze and says no to his deal to bring her dead mom back to life. He is known for his tempting promises and bargains. When Ollie decided not to take the alluring deal, everyone returned  to the real world and became reunited with their families. No one ever knew the truth about the Smiling Man or the scarecrows except the brave three who went on a mission to find small spaces. 

Readers learn the ideas of unlikely friendship, bravery, and teamwork. Ollie, Coco, and Brian had never talked outside of school before this incident happened. Slowly, they become extremely good friends and accept each other’s flaws. Although Coco can be annoying, Brian is a know-it-all, and Ollie may seem emotionless, they really do care for each other. These three also had to work together to evade all of the barriers they faced. Whether it was scarecrows, ghosts, or clever ways to find food, they were always a cohesive group that worked as a team. (EMS)


Amazing Places

Hopkins, Lee B. 2015. Amazing Places. Lee & Low Books Inc. 40pp. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-805-1. Illustrated by Chris Soentpiet & Christy Hale.

Amazing Places includes a large collection of poems ranging from concrete to narrative. Each poem is about an amazing places around the world such as Niagara Falls or Fenway Park. In the poem “Niagara,” by Prince Redcloud, the author places the words in a shape almost like the words are falling. This shape supplements the words’ meanings and creates a greater visual impact with its word division. In contrast, the poem “Runaway,” by Jane Medina is a narrative that has many examples of assonance. The last word in the first and last line of each verse rhyme. The sound ‘i’ comes in words like fly and sky, and ‘a’ comes in words such as dance, pants, laugh, and riff raff. The concrete poem, “Sandy Hook Lighthouse,” by Joan Graham is in the shape of a lighthouse and gives readers a clearer understanding of the poem. Overall, the configuration of the lines and the rhyming sound patterns give each poem a unique feeling. 

To supplement every poem, an illustration is provided on each page. Places that are outdoors typically utilize earthy tones like browns, greens, and grays. There are more organic shapes outside for the plants and tree limbs, and the lazy rivers depicted. The lines made by the waterfall suggest downward movement and lines made by horizons are usually horizontal making the outside world seem a little bit more stable. Places that are inside have more geometric shapes and lines connecting to form right angles. This provides a sense of structure for the readers and a feel of safety. (EMS)


Another Quest for Celeste: A Story About Abe Lincoln, Honesty, and the Power of Friendship

Cole, Henry. 2018. Another Quest for Celeste: A Story About Abe Lincoln, Honesty, and the Power of Friendship. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-265812-8.

In this entertaining account of young Abe Lincoln’s experience of learning how to read and write, an unusual friend keeps him company. Celeste is a brown mouse with white feet and whiskers who grew up in a large house in Oakley, Mississippi. She has not had many hardships in life and is reliant on her human, Joseph, to take care of her. This is all until she falls asleep outside in a cotton ball and gets dragged all the way to the Mississippi River. In 1822, the steamboat was a key part in the industrial revolution helping to transport a large amount of goods. This detail is authentic to the time period in this account of historical fiction. Unfortunately for Celeste, cotton was one of these goods. On board, Celeste meets a kind dog named Rosebud who helps her find food and get comfortable on the boat. One tragic night, the steamboat crashes into a mangled mass of trees blocking the river. Rosebud puts Celeste on a floating crate of flour but cannot save himself because his old legs give out. Sad, alone, and damp, Celeste wanders the forest she lands in to find a place to sleep. Stumbling upon a squirrel den, she makes friends with some of the squirrels, beavers, and birds that live in the area. One day after Celeste had been living with her woodland friends for a while, a young boy comes by with an ax and chops down the tree Celeste is in. Chopping wood is a common chore to do in the early 1800s because houses did not have heating systems, especially approaching winter. The young boy picks Celeste up and brings her back home with him to his family’s little cottage. Over the course of winter, Celeste and the young boy named Abe grow close. Celeste helps Abe with learning his alphabet and eventually with writing too. She also keeps him company while to does his chore of chopping trees. In the end, Celeste realizes that Abe’s little house and the forest surrounding it is her new home because it is where all of the people she loves are. This idea of loving friendships is relevant in today’s society as well as throughout every time period.

To further add to the historical setting, illustrations are scattered throughout the pages in black and white. These black and white pictures help set the mood back in the 1820s and drive the plot. The penciled texture gives an abundance of detail to the variety of animals in this tale. Texture can also be seen on the wooden planks of the steamboat and on the bark of the trees. Because of the extremely realistic textures, it helps readers be transported back in time and actually experience this account of Abe Lincoln’s childhood themselves. (EMS)


Night Train, Night Train

Burleigh, Robert & Minor, Wendell. 2018. Night Train, Night Train. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089717-4.

A child hops aboard a historic Dreyfuss Hudson locomotive at nightfall. People recognized this steam engine train of the 1930s and 1940s because of its elegantly modern design. The lone boy and his teddy bear companion are penciled in black and white, capturing their texture. As the train chugs along to its next destination, the boy encounters colors in the fantastic nightly view. First is gray in the dim sky, then black on the roads, then red on the warning lights. After encountering each color, the world of black and white starts to fade away into vibrant colors one after the other. Furthermore, after each color there is a repetitive phrase, “night train, night train”. This gives the words rhythm as well as drives the plot forward to the next color. There is also rhyming in the introduction of colors. The last words of lines 2 and 4 rhyme when the little boy spots colors passing by. The horizontal lines of the train track serve as a way to drive the plot forward as well. These lines show the racing of the train on the tracks and propel the readers along with it. Finally the little boy falls asleep after he spots all of the colors. Through the window a stunning view of green, red, orange, yellow, and blue signal the approach of morning and the rising of the sun. As all of the colors of the world are restored, the boy gets off at the station and finds his mother waiting for him. (EMS)


Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Federle, Tim. 2014. Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 304pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-44-244693-9.

    In the exposition, readers are introduced to a pair of lively and unique teens who know everything there is to know about theater. Nate, and his best friend Libby, are 14-year-old self-proclaimed musical experts and Broadway historians. Nate has recently received  his ‘big break’ on Broadway as an understudy’s understudy in the thrilling show E.T.: The Musical. However when Nate shows up to his first rehearsal in New York, he know he is a long way from his home in Pennsylvania. This theme of stepping outside of comfort zones is relatable and can be seen across everyone in society. Throughout the rising action, Nate faces conflicts with himself and with his fellow actors. He feels that he is not talented enough at tap dancing to star in the show. Nate also thinks he is to fat to make the cut on Broadway. No matter how enthusiastic his performance of alien number seven is, he cannot possibly move up in the ranks to star in the show. This inner struggle is highly relatable to readers and makes Nate’s point of view believable. Nate also has issues with his peers as the lead of the musical, Jordan, is out to get him! Humiliating Nate at every turn and talking down to him like he is nobody. Nevertheless, along the way Nate makes a friend in the actress Asella. Asella is the understudy of E.T. too and notices how hard working Nate is every rehearsal. She helps him practice lines every day and builds up his confidence. 

At the climax, Jordan, the lead actor playing Elliot, becomes sick and loses his voice. The producers are about to cancel the first show preview when Asella offers up Nate to take the part. Despite everyone’s doubts, the understudy’s understudy takes the lead. After a misstep in the waltz and knocking over a stagehand, Nate has made it through his first Broadway performance with flying colors. He knows he has made it big when he was handed a brand new sharpie to sign autographs. In the mass of people surrounding the theater, Jordan is standing in the front waiting for Nate. In a surprising resolution, Jordan congratulates Nate on a fantastic performance as the star of the show. There is no longer a need to resent the lead of the show. Jordan is a regular kid just like him trying to make his big break on Broadway too. (EMS)


The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair

Makechnie, Amy. 2018. The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441446-4. 

A sequence of events begins with Guinevere St. Clair moving to Crow, Iowa with her family. Her mother, Vienna, has experienced a traumatic brain injury and forgot everything since she was thirteen years old. Gwyn has been living with this tragedy for most of her life but has persevered with the loving support of her dad, nana, and little sister Bitty. In hopes of reigniting past memories, the family moves back to their hometown and puts Vienna in an intensive care facility in town. When Gwyn and Bitty arrive in Crow, they immediately find partners in crime down the street. Jimmy and Micah are the sons of a notoriously steel-hearted woman named Gaysie Cutter, and are just as energetic and outgoing as the St. Clairs. These characters are believable and seem like typical kids wanting to have an exciting childhood.

As part of the rising action, a farmhand named Wilbur strangely disappeared. Because Gwyn wants to be a lawyer/forensic scientist in her future, she feels the need to investigate this odd event herself. Roping her sister and the boys along with her, the young adults start plotting as to what could have happened. Throughout this conflict, Gwyn is struggling with who she is and her identity. She does not know if she loves her forgetful mother, or if she wants to be completely independent from her family. This internal conflict gives the audience something to relate to because it is a common battle among young adults. However, this internal struggle does not interfere with her sneaky investigation skills. Gwyn suspects the mean Gaysie Cutter has something to do with this disappearance. After getting haphazard fingerprints and sneaking into the Cutter’s house, Gwyn cannot determine  Gaysie is the murderer… at least until the kids go to the river.

Reaching the climax of events, Jimmy thinks a good way to get across the river would be use pieces of styrofoam to sail across. Gwyn, Bitty, Micah, and Jimmy all hop on to their makeshift boat and sail off. However once the current gets too strong the kids are thrown into the raging river. Lucky for them, Gaysie drags them out of the water. All except Jimmy. The last image Gwyn sees is Jimmy’s body floating farther down the river. As the action falls, Gwyn goes to the hospital with shock at her friend’s death. After days of recovery, the hospital discharges her. Miraculously as she sits outside, beaten up Jimmy walks toward the house with tattered clothes on. Everyone celebrates the miracle of his survival. The denouement ends with the recovery of Wilbur’s body in the river. It was not Gaysie Cutter who murdered him after all, just a natural cause of old age. Gwyn learns miracles do happen and friends and family should never be taken for granted. (EMS)


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Barton, Chris. 2018. What Would You Do with a Voice Like That? Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-146561-8. Illustrated by Ekua Holmes.

A powerful voice inspiring change deserves to be heard. Readers are introduced to Barbara Jordan in the exposition who, even at a young age, had an outstanding voice. In this historically accurate retelling of her life, alliteration is used in words such as big, bold, and booming to emphasize the truly stunning qualities of Barbara’s voice. She traveled to Chicago in 1952 to study law and become an inspiration for others. Vibrant oranges and pinks cover the pages as her new adventure down south unfolds. These colors reflect how motivated Barbara was to share her voice and her determination to achieve her dreams. In 1950, she became involved in politics and public speaking. Collages made up of red, white, and blue are sprawled across the pages showing the political debates and mimicking propaganda in the 1960s reflecting the time period. Barbara ran for office three times in the rising action. The third attempt was a success and she was promoted to state senator. As she transitions from a public speaker to a politician, her hand gestures become smaller and more horizontal showing stability and confidence. This is a stark contrast from her wide-open and diagonal arms earlier in life. She eventually moved up the political ladder to the United States Congress. Her powerful voice still shined through like a light in the battles of Congress while people were in a dark place. She spoke for those who did not have loud voices; she spoke for those who did not want to appear weak. In the falling action, Barbara develops multiple sclerosis. She moves back to Texas to become a teacher where she could still use her voice to empower students. The denouement of this biography displays Barbara Jordan’s monument behind red rope barriers with a young girl observing. Barbara’s life story is worth sharing so she may remain a role model for those who want to make their voices heard. (EMS)


Fantastic Failures

Reynolds, Luke. 2018. Fantastic Failures. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Aladdin). 304pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-58-270664-1.

Failures can open new opportunities to grow and spark creativity. In this collection of biographies filled with fantastic failures, readers learn about how making mistakes is not only natural, but an essential part of life. Life stories of people such as Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, and Jane Goodall are included to allow the readers to see the stories of these important figure’s lives including their failures. Each chapter has references at the end of the section giving readers the option to explore into information they find interesting further. It is important to note that everyone, even the most famous and influential people, comes across barriers in life. One chapter about Albert Einstein reveals his severe anger issues as a child due to his teachers telling him he would never amount to anything significant in the world. The obstacle Einstein had to overcome as a child serves as a lesson for young readers. He persevered with his academic studies and became one of the greatest physicists to this date. This accurate telling of Einstein’s childhood appeals to readers because it is relatable to have struggles growing up. Another example of an eye opening biography is Temple Grandin and her journey of cattle farming with autism spectrum disorder. Grandin revolutionized the cattle industry by inventing equipment for a more humane treatment and process for animals. Readers learn about the stereotypes, criticism, and rejection that Grandin faced and can apply the lessons to their own lives. In sum, failures are good - great even. Overcoming adversity can contribute to positive growth and development. (EMS)


Lennon, John and McCartney, Paul. 2019. All You Need is Love. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442981-9. Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal.
All You Need Is Love

The hit song, “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles is the origin of this engaging book for young children.  A bear starts the story alone, later finding children who appear lonely to accompany him in a parade through the city. As they walk through the city streets, the children and bear spread love to all the people around them. The lyrics and the illustrations portray a theme of loving and caring for one another. The reader sees the progression of the children from being lonely and sad, to feeling loved and happy. The illustrations show flowers representing the means of spreading of love. As the children spread more love, there is a larger trail of flowers behind them. When the bear finds the children, the colors are darker representing their loneliness, but as the children join the bear and feel his love, the colors turn to brighter greens and colorful flowers surround them. The colorful flowers given to represent love being spread around and are in contrast to the rest of the setting. There are vibrant colors of yellow, red, blue, and green depicted at the resolution of the story in a large drawing in sidewalk chalk, and on the last page as the bear looks out on the world and all the love he has spread. All You Need is Love would be good to use along with the song. This interaction with music and literature is beneficial for student engagement and a useful way to integrate literature with music. (RLT)


Matula, Christina. The Shadow in The Moon: A Tale of The Mid-Autumn Festival. Charlsbridge Publishing Inc. 332 pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089746-4. Illustrated by Pearl Law.
The Shadow in the Moon

A young girl and her sister are excited to see their family and feast together with delicious food for the Mid-Autumn Festival. As they are eating, the girl asks her Ah-ma, or grandma, to tell her the story of the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. She is on the moon cakes the family is eating. Ah-ma tells them the story of how long ago there were ten suns that decided to all come out every day. This made the earth too hot for people and animals causing crops to fail and rivers to dry up. Finally, Hou Yi, an archer, approached the suns and asked them to take turns shining each day. When they refused, he shot down nine of the suns leaving only one. He told this sun it must share the sky with the moon. The news of Hou Yi’s courage spread and the immortals gave him a gift: a potion that would grant him eternal life. He and his wife, Chang’e, hid this potion so it would not get into the wrong hands, but one night a thief broke into their home and demanded Chang’e to bring him the potion. Chang’e knew it would be very dangerous for a thief to become immortal, so she quickly drank the potion and became the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. Hou Yi missed Chang’e after she went to live in the sky, but he made mooncakes for his wife every year to celebrate the day she became the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. The young girls enjoyed this story told by their Ah-ma, and when they go out later that night to gather paper lanterns in the park, the young girl wishes, “This year, I wish to be kind of heart and wise of mind.” Themes of family and culture are present throughout the traditional tale as the young girls cherish the time they have with their family. The celebration and the telling of the folktale present their culture. The folktale takes place in the distant past with action and conflict arise quickly. The characters are easily identifiable as good and bad. The thief is an antagonist, as are the suns. Hou Yi and Chang’e are the protagonists. The themes revolve around family, and culture. The importance of being with family for this celebration is prevalent and the folktale is specific to this cultural celebration. The illustrations use many colors portraying the mood. On the page where Hou Yi shoots down the suns, warm colors such as red, orange, and yellow are used to portray the heat the suns are providing and represent the conflict between the people and the suns. On the page where Chang’e becomes the Spirit and Lady in the Moon, there is blue in the sky and Chang’e is wearing red. This lets the reader know it is night time, and these colors let the reader know that Chang’e is feeling calm about this transition; she is not anxious about what is to come. She is standing at an angle helping the reader understand that she is no longer standing on the ground, but flying in the sky. It would be appropriate to use this book in a folklore unit, or to discuss celebrations in which different cultures participate. Children will enjoy the colorful pages and the intriguing story. (RLT)


The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship

Pullman, Philip. 2017. The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship. Scholastic Inc (Graphix). 160pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-33-814912-8. Illustrated by Fred Fordham.

John Blake and the rest of his crew mates on the ship, The Mary Alice, have been trapped in a time travel cycle. The time travel begins when John Blake joins the crew, but he does know why, and he is unable to fix it. John needs to figure out how to get everyone back to their time zones before Carlos Dahlberg finds and kills them in order to keep a secret only John knows. The colors used help portray time, setting, and mood. On pages where a character is reflecting on the past, the pictures are a gray tone to show the event happening is from the past. When a fight breaks out or characters are in danger the colors turn to either a deep red orange, and black, or a dark blue. These dark and deep colors portray the mood of danger and risk. The colors also show the passage of time as multiple days and nights pass by. Bright yellows and blues represent daylight and dark blues and grays, nighttime, allowing the reader to comprehend how multiple days have passed. This fantasy graphic novel includes elements of sci-fi and time warps through time travel the characters encounter, and the use of advanced technology such as the “apparator”, a device used to play music, contact people, track people, and record. This device may be analogous to a smartphone. Although time travel is not possible, the plot is believable and therefore suspends disbelief. The setting is in the real world allowing readers to connect to the places.There is a constant battle between good and evil represented in the conflict between the crew of the Mary Alice and Carlos Dahlberg. This book is for students who enjoy graphic novels and adventures. It would be effective in teaching plot or discussing the stages of a character's journey. (RLT)


What Momma Left Me.

Watson, Renée. 2019. What Momma Left Me. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 240pp. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-68-119949-8. 

Eighth grade can be a challenging year, and Serenity faces obstacles most eighth graders do not. Her mother has just passed away and her father has left Serenity and her brother, Danny.  The siblings are now living with their grandparents and preparing to start the school year at a new building. Through the plot, themes of perseverance, friendship, and love are evident. As Serenity navigates her new reality, she finds a reliable friend. Her friend relies on her in return, and they create an effective and important support system for each other. Despite Serenity’s challenges, both at school and at home, she perseveres through them all and becomes more mature as she grows. For example, her development as a character is prevalent as she goes from someone convinced keeping secrets is appropriate, to a person who is willing to open up and share what is on her mind. The theme of love is present as Serenity adjusts to living without her mother and with her grandparents. Their family is full of love, support, and hope. This helps them all persevere through the challenging and heartbreaking days. The characters, themes, conflicts, settings are relevant to young adult readers. The credible and realistic elements will appeal to middle and early high school readers. (RLT)


Mostly the Honest Truth

Little, Jody. 2018. Mostly the Honest Truth. HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-285249-6.

Jane needs her Pop, and her Pop needs her. They only have each other, so they need to stick together. But sometimes Pop drinks too much alcohol and he has to go to rehab. When Pop goes to rehab, Jane stays with a foster family for twelve days until she and her father can be reunited. This time, Jane is going with Officer Dashell to live in Three Boulders. When Jane arrives in Three Boulders, she does not know what to think: it has some weird rules, and it is very rural. But Jane quickly becomes good friends with Gertie, a girl who loves Three Boulders and has lived there her whole life. As the days go by, Jane becomes fonder of Three Boulders. She begins to see the people as family. When the 12 days are over, she tells Pop she wants to stay in Three Boulders. Pop is upset she does not want to go back to their home, but he admits he needs to truly get better before he can take care of her. Jane stays in Three Boulders with her newly found family, and her Pop visits every Sunday. The theme of family is prominent. Jane initially believes only blood relatives can be family, but by the end she realizes anyone who cares for her can be considered family. She expands her understanding of what family means, and realizes she needs more support than her Pop can give her by himself. The setting of Three Boulders starts out as an antagonist because it is separating Jane from her Pop, but as Jane grows as a person, Three Boulders becomes a safe haven where she feels at home and comfortable. The conflict between Jane and herself, Jane and her Pop, and Pop and his addiction are all engaging and relevant for young readers. Readers may connect with the conflicts which in turn provide insight about the realities of parents with addictions. Readers will appreciate Jane and her complicated emotions and be intrigued by the mysteries surrounding Three Boulders. (RLT)


Lin, Grace and McKneally, Ranida T. 2016. Our Food: A Healthy Serving of Science and Poems. Charlesbridge Publishing Inc. 40pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58-089590-3. Illustrated by Grace Zong.
Our Food: A Healthy Serving of Science and Poems

Eating healthy is an important part of life. Ranida McKneally helps make eating healthy exciting and interesting as a science content editor. She works with authors like Grace Lin to ensure the content in stories is accurate and engaging. The characters learn about eating healthy through their visit to a farm. Lin and McKneally discuss the food groups along with the importance of eating a balance of all the food groups: grains, protein, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Included on every page is a poem about a food group. This poem helps to engage readers and keep their interest. The descriptions of the food groups are thorough, but do not include too much information. Children would be able to understand some of the more challenging concepts because they are not being overloaded with information. There is a glossary at the end of the book to help children understand some of the more challenging words. This is a useful tool for a child reading alone, and for teachers to use with the content of a book. The illustrations use vibrant and happy colors such as green, orange, yellow, and red. These colors convey that eating healthy is exciting and it helps one stay happy along with healthy. These colors help keep the mood light so the reader does not feel ashamed if they do not always eat healthy. All races are represented in the characters allowing all children to see themselves as healthy eaters.The texture helps the reader see how the plants and foods would feel in real life and the illustrations are realistic, aiding the reader to transfer what is being taught into real life. This book provides a lighthearted way to discuss eating healthy with children. It discusses challenging topics in simple ways to help children truly understand nutrition (RLT)


Friendship List #2: 12 before 13

Greenwald, Lisa. 2018. Friendship List #2: 12 before 13. Harper Collins. 368pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-241177-8.

Arianna, or Ari, is a 12 year old girl spending her summer away from her best friend, Kaylan, at Camp Silver, a Jewish summer camp. When Arianna returns home from camp, she realizes not everything stayed the same and she has adjustments to make before school starts. 12 before 13 deals with the ups and downs of life and friendship. The themes of perseverance and friendship are present throughout the entire novel. Greenwald taps into what it feels like to be 12 and unsure about life. She presents the reader with multiple conflicts which may be relatable for girls the same age. Arianna deals with conflicts between herself, her best friend Kaylan, the popular “lunch table girls”, and her parents. She struggles to understand what it means to become a woman in the eyes of her church as her bat mitzvah looms near. Arianna also struggles with how to keep her friendship strong with Kaylan as they seem to be drifting apart. She feels the rejection of the “lunch table girls” as they hang out without her and do not always seem welcoming. Arianna also deals with the pressure of trying to stay calm and positive after she finds out her father has lost his job and her bat mitzvah will not be as grand as she was expecting. Young readers of this book will learn that friendships are not always perfect and sometimes they require hard work. Readers will also learn how to maintain a positive attitude despite life’s challenges by communicating with those around them and expressing their emotions. Although I would not recommend this book for whole class instruction, it would be an appropriate recommendation for young readers aged 8-12 to read on their own. (RLT)


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Korman, Gordon. 2019. The Unteachables. Harper Collins. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-256388-0.

Students who struggle in school are often given names by others.  In Greenwich Middle School, the label given to struggling students is “the unteachables”. In the exposition, the reader meets several key characters, including Kiana, a girl who is “a short-timer” and thinks she will only be at Greenwich for a few months. She is the main protagonist through much of the exhilarating plot. The other six students of room 117 are also introduced, along with their burnt out teacher, Mr. Kermit. Mr.Kermit is simply waiting for his early retirement eligibility, and is assigned to room 117 by the cruel superintendent, who is trying to convince him to quit. However, Mr. Kermit was not always like that. One of his students was involved in a cheating scandal a long time ago, and Mr. Kermit  lost his passion for teaching because he was blamed for the unfortunate event. Everything changes when a major breakthrough happens with his students. 

In the rising action, his students discover he hates vuvuzelas, an instrument that is widely popular during spirit week. In an attempt to please their teacher, the students steal over 1,000 of them, and dump them in the river next to school. Unfortunately, all the students are suspended, giving Mr. Kermit the chance to redecorate room 117 to look more like an inviting classroom. His students begin to succeed. However, their test scores are not high enough to keep Mr. Kermit from being fired. In the climax, the students rally together to create the most amazing science fair project, all in an effort to save Mr. Kermit’s job. This is surprising considering his students are faced with a severe person versus society conflict. The students are told by everyone in the school (society) they are not worthwhile, but Mr. Kermit sees them differently. In the satisfying denouement, Mr. Kermit saves his job, and he decides to not take early retirement, instead opting to continuing teaching other “unteachable” students. This story will resonate with any student who has struggled in school, whether it be because of behavior or learning problems. They will connect with the plot, conflicts, and themes; and will learn they are indeed worth teaching, and can have a wonderful and meaningful time in school. (SMW)


The Unteachables

Kotb, Hoda. 2019. You Are My Happy. Harper Collins. 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-288789-4. Illustrated by Suzie Mason.

Bedtime is often difficult for young children, but rhyming bedtime stories are sure to help any child drift to sleep. The enchanting picture story book tells the story of mama bear recounting what made her happy throughout the day with her cub. The rhythmic style reinforces the idea of bedtime, and is quite soothing for young readers and listeners. Mama bear thinks through her day and recounts all the things which made her happy, including baby birds, finding honey, learning from mistakes, friends, and shade. However, the mom is most thankful for her baby. This brings the main theme of thankfulness to the forefront. This is demonstrated through the mama bear noticing the baby birds hatching from their eggs, and being thankful for the shade they were able to rest in. The repetition of the line “that’s what made me happy” shows readers how little things can make a person (or bear) happy.

The illustrations are full of muted browns, pinks, blues, and greens, reinforcing the calm mood. The bears’ fur show the warm, cuddly texture associated with a soft teddy bear. The leaves on many pages show remarkable texture, showing the rough quality associated with running through the grass on a warm day. The use of line demonstrates safety and stillness with horizontal base lines on the majority of the pages. Organic shapes show the nature elements of the story, including flowers, trees, and the bears themselves. The familiarity of these nature items are sure to entice young readers to enjoy this bedtime story. (SMW)


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Bond, Michael. 2018. Paddington at St. Paul’s. Harper Collins. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-288785-6. Illustrated by R.W. Alley.

Over many years, Paddington Bear has gone on several adventures, and this time is no different when he takes a trip to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As usual, Paddington gets lost, and finds himself in the midst of the choir boys. Luckily, Mr. Gruber has given him a whistle so he can always be found. However, the choir is not very impressed when he plays it while they are practicing. Despite this, Paddington gets the opportunity to sit with the choir boys as they sing, and gets a whole packet of postcards so he can write about his adventure to Aunt Lucy. The theme of adventure is extremely present when Paddington abandons his regular routine to go to a new place. Friendship is also an important theme, because Mr. Gruber is there for Paddington, especially when he is afraid he will get lost. The setting acts as antagonist when Paddington gets swept away with the choir boys, confirming his fear of getting lost.

The illustrations reinforce how Paddington is always safe with the use of horizontal lines, as suggested by Norton (2015). The muted yellows, grays, golds, greens, and tans of the cathedral depict the cathedral as a calm and inviting place, which is in great contrast to the bright blue and red of Paddington’s coat and hat. Texture is shown in every page with Paddington’s fur and the intricate details of the cathedral.  The realistic cartoon images help suspend disbelief, showing readers the story is not real, but has a real setting. Paddington allows readers to experience a far away place through his eyes, and helps them to see the joy of adventure and learning new things. (SMW)


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Bell, Alex. 2018. The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. Simon & Schuster (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-53-440646-9. Illustrated by Tomislav Tomic.

Many children often want to explore exciting places filled with the unknown, and Stella Starflake Pearl is no exception. However, there is one major problem: her dad’s explorer club only allows boys to join. After pleading with him, Stella gets permission to go on the next expedition. On the ship there, Stella meets Shay, a wolf whisperer who is also a junior explorer, Ethan, a junior explorer and magician from another club, and reunites with her best friend Beanie, a peculiar junior medic who is working on honing his healing skills. All goes awry when they finally reach the Icelands, and are immediately chased by a herd of yaks, and the junior explorers find themselves  stranded from the rest of the expedition. In a true test of their explorer skills, they decide to continue on their mission to find the coldest part of the Icelands.

Bell suspends disbelief by integrating parts of the strange world with things the reader will understand, such as the love between a parent and child, even if the child is an orphaned ice princess. Stella also cares for her pets just as one would care for a dog, cat, or fish, although they are pigmy dinosaurs and a polar bear. Readers will also relate to the sense of adventure that Stella and her fellow explorers share. They will also relate to the main theme of the book, caring for friends. This theme is prominent  in the climax of the novel, when Stella finds out she is an ice princess and is locked in a castle by rock trolls. However, her friends come to the rescue and try to save her, while she is trying to save them from the castle dungeon. In an epic escape, the team makes it back home safely. Through the engaging plot, magic creatures, and an exciting setting, readers will enjoy every adventure they embark on with the junior explorers. (SMW)


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Burach, Ross. 2018. Truck Full of Ducks. Scholastic Inc.(Scholastic Press). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-812936-6. 

Young readers will be delighted and amused as they are whisked away on the adventures of this truck full of ducks. The exposition entails a duck truck company getting a call for a truck full of ducks to be delivered, but all goes awry when one of the ducks eats the directions. The driver finds many people who called for other types of trucks, such as a duck removal truck, a tow truck, and an ice cream truck. In the climax of the story, the ducks make it to the destination just in time, only to be met by a scary looking fox. However, the fox ordered the ducks for bath time, and all ends well. The bright yellows, reds, and oranges will excite readers, and encourage them to keep reading this picture story book. The rhythm is also enchanting for readers, and entices them to learn more about the many types of trucks. The whimsical nature of the illustrations and the limited vocabulary make it an enchanting quick read fit for beginning readers. (SMW)



Miller, Kayla. 2019. Click. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 192pp. $16.50. ISBN 978-1-32-891112-4. Illustrated by Kayla Miller.

Fitting in during middle school is not an unusual struggle for most people, including Olive. This becomes a major problem when the annual school variety show is announced, and all of her friends have already decided what they will do, but none of their plans include her. However, Aunt Molly comes to the rescue and teaches Olive to march to the beat of her own drum. Olive struggles against societal norms and decides to be the host of the show, a solo act! This graphic novel reminds young readers of the importance of friendship, even when everyone seems to be forming cliques. Readers learn the value of perseverance as they watch Olive discover what she wants to do, even though in her eyes, it takes forever. The illustrations help readers to interpret how Olive is feeling throughout the story, and show her obvious development from confused and disappointed to ecstatic and confident. Olive shows an exemplary example of how to navigate changing social dynamics and the uncertain times of young adolescence. (SMW)


Sleepy Bird

Tankard, Jeremy. 2018. Sleepy Bird. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $15.75 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-33-815785-7. Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard.

Falling asleep is a common source of conflict for young children, and Bird is no exception. Bird runs around the forest, exclaiming to all his friends that he is not tired, and nothing will help him fall asleep. The colors help to emphasize the person versus person conflict. Each of the conflicting characters is a warm color, while Bird is blue. These contrasts, showing how Bird is not tired, and all the other characters are. When Bird finally goes to sleep with the help of his friends, all of the background colors are cool and calm. However, to show that the plot has moved to falling action, when Bird wakes up, there are streaks of red, yellow, and orange in the background. The cartoon nature of the illustrations helps young readers to feel the whimsical nature of the plot. Sleepy Bird will help children to find strategies to fall asleep, with the help of many forest friends. (SMW)


Fisher, Valorie. 2018. Now You Know How It Works. Scholastic Inc. (Orchard Books). 40 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-821545-8.
Now You Know How It Works

Young children are often extremely curious about a large variety of different things. They ask so many questions, and many of them never get answered. There are many books which explain one or two items, but those are seldom enough for a curious mind. These readers are in luck, as this book will demonstrate how a vast variety of items function. There are many photographs and diagrams which explain how different common items work, such as kites, shadows, lightbulbs, and toasters. The first page explains the scientific arrows and symbols the book uses, so readers will be able to identify them and reference the page when they do not remember what a particular symbol means. There are also circles at the bottom of some pages depicting images of items which work similarly to the thing on the current page. The back page also features a glossary of sorts, with photos for further explanation of words which will help readers understand the book better, such as conductor, elastic, and opaque. Several experimental activities are also featured, so readers will be able to see how the item works on their own, one such activity is making a paper boat to understand how boats float and water displacement. Valorie Fisher writes a variety of books for young children, many of which are informational. She covers a large range of topics, so this book is certainly in her realm. There are also acknowledgements, noting she reached out to an expert for the information involved. Curious readers will appreciate the accurate information, and learn about many common items in their everyday lives. (SMW)


Guglielmo, Amy and Jacqueline Tourville. 2018. How to Build a Hug, Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine. Simon & Schuster (Antheum Books for Young Readers). 48 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441097-8. Illustrated by Giselle Potter.
How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine

Temple Grandin is recognizable name within many industries including agriculture and education. She speaks often and openly about her journey with the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and how uses her autism to her advantage. This all began in her childhood. She created many things to solve various problems. However, she often struggled with sensory overload. She hated scratchy socks and loud noises, but most of all, she hated hugs. She saw many people and animals enjoying hugs. This made her constantly wonder what a hug would feel like, and why she did not like them. She noticed hugs calmed people, and animals, down. She saw a calf enter a cattle chute, where it immediately calmed down because it was being held tightly. She then decided to make one for herself so she could feel safe like the calf. This machine made her realize hugs are not bad, and she grew to enjoy them. Grandin often speaks about how she “thinks in pictures”, and this is how she is able to create things to help people and animals, just like the hug machine. 

The illustrations will help the reader to envision Grandin’s points of views, and how she created her many inventions. They are realistic cartoons, which are intriguing to look at, but also remind the reader this is a true story. The bright reds of Grandin’s clothing immediately draws attention to her. The realistic earth tones and organic shapes also reinforce this is a biography. Students who can relate to Grandin will enjoy her story, as they will see a part of themselves in a successful adult. Learning about Grandin will also help typical students, because they will be able to expand their views of what a successful person looks like. (SMW)