Significant Others I: Professional Reviews

Secrets of the Casa Rosada

Temblador, Alex. 2018. Secrets of the Casa Rosada. Arte Público (Piñata Books). 160pp. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-55-885870-1. 

In this young adult novel, sixteen-year-old Martha is abandoned by her mother at her grandmother’s house in Laredo, Texas. Unable to speak Spanish, Martha experiences culture shock suddenly being in a community with a strong Mexican culture. She is also overwhelmed by the family she never knew she had. Although welcomed, Martha quickly notices no one will talk about her mother or why she left Laredo. Martha becomes determined to learn about her mother’s history, even if no one will answer her questions. Meanwhile, Martha’s grandmother begins to train her as a curandera - a healer. Martha also tries to avoid confrontation with a girl at school jealous of her curandera apprenticeship. The mystery of Martha’s mother’s departure from Laredo keeps the reader engaged in the story. The growth of the character of Martha is not as intriguing - she just seems to soak up new experiences and go along with things and be frustrated when people are secretive. Questions and secrets remain at the end of the book, which may irk some readers who want more closure or greater development of Martha, but the major secret is mostly revealed. Having familiarity with the Spanish language helps catch little comments in the book, but it is certainly not necessary for understanding and connecting with the story. Martha herself is learning Spanish as the story goes along. Important Spanish dialogue is restated in English for readers. A typical young adult novel where the main character learns about herself - in this case, by Martha seeking to learn more about her mother’s history. (HHA)


Lizzie Borden

Burgan, Michael. 2018 Lizzie Borden (History’s Worst).Simon & Schuster Inc. (Aladdin). 224pp. $11.91. ISBN  978-1-48-149652-0.

This book is a work of non-fiction describing the true story of the murders of Abby and Andrew Borden in Fall River, Massachusetts, during the morning of August 4th, 1892. These were gruesome murders with the heads of the victims being bludgeoned by dozens of blows with an ax or hatchet type weapon. The prime suspect turned out to be Lizzie Borden, the younger daughter of Andrew Borden (Abby was Lizzie’s stepmother). Lizzie Borden was charged, tried, and acquitted of the murders. This book is an account of events leading up to the murders, the discovery of the bodies, the investigation, the charging and trial of Lizzie Borden, and the aftermath.

Again, these were gruesome murders. However, since the book is written for ages 8-12, the author does describe the condition of the bodies as found. He doesn’t dwell on the obvious; an ax murder is messy. He makes the salient points and descriptions and moves on. That is not to say that some in the age group may not be disturbed by the related facts of the case and the medical examiner’s actions in working through his investigation of the bodies.

The book opens with a description of the events of August 4th, including; the beginning of the day, routines of individuals in their homes, and the discovery of bodies leading to the investigation. This will be the first of several narrations of those events provided in this book, each with a seemingly slightly different slant as more facts are provided. This may seem confusing to some readers, but perhaps it is one way of describing an unresolved crime. No one truly knows what happened.

Since these murders did not occur in a vacuum on any random day, the author takes us through a brief, yet concise history of the Borden family and the city of Fall River. He describes the family as being of old New England puritan stock. Andrew Borden was quite wealthy, yet the family lived fairly modestly. He describes relationships within the Borden family. He tells us of the status of women in the late 19th century. He also describes the relationships between the Protestant New Englanders and the mostly Roman Catholic Irish and Portuguese immigrant population of Fall River. These are all factors in the lead up to the murders, investigation, trial, and aftermath of the acquittal.

Throughout the book, there are numerous explanations of various points of law, cultural issues of the 19th century, and pertinent historical disclosures. These are very valuable as some references in the book need an explanation for 21stcentury readers. For a book of just over 200 pages, it presents a good deal of information very well. 

The book also has a section presenting titles and resources for recommended further reading and a bibliography for those with interest who would like to pursue the case. During the various narrations of the events of August 4th, having a visual aid would have been very helpful had it been provided. (JAB)


Unpunished Murder

Goldstone, Lawerence. 2018. Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Nonfiction). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-823945-4.

This is not just the story of the massacre of freed slaves in 1873 at Colfax, Grant Parish, Louisiana. This is the story of how and  why such an event could occur and why, after a successful criminal prosecution in federal court, no one was ultimately held to account. The author provides a good deal of information and begins with a discussion of the nation’s founding and the references to slavery, property rights, and relative human worth found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The book discusses the legislative debate and court decisions regarding enslaved Africans as property prior to the Civil War. It goes on to discuss the debates and decisions made during and after the war in regards to making freed enslaved people citizens and voters via the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments. To enforce federal law concerning the rights of freed slaves, Union forces occupied much of the South. This was called “Reconstruction,” a period in the nation’s history where the South was rebuilt following the devastation of the Civil War. The truly fascinating part of this book is the nuanced legal argument and reason why no one was held accountable for the murders. Those accused that could be found and arrested were tried in federal court, and three defendants were found guilty of violations of Federal Civil Rights law based on the 14th and 15th amendments. Louisiana would not prosecute for murder under state law. The guilty verdicts were set aside by a Supreme Court Justice who heard the case with the local District Court Judge. Ultimately, the entire Supreme Court ruled and convictions were set aside. The book concludes with a discussion of the end of the Reconstruction period and the withdrawal of Union troops after the 1876 election. A glossary, bibliography, source notes for each chapter, and index are available for readers to learn more about this dark period of the nation’s history. (JAB)


Disasters Strikes

Kluger, Jeffrey. 2019. Disaster Strikes!: The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books).  224pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-98-481275-9.

These twelve stories are well-researched accounts of the serious and often dangerous endeavor of human space travel. In each of these accounts, a small error had huge consequences; the failure of what appears to be a minor component or an overlooked detail can be disastrous. A seemingly innocuous lapse in thought can overturn careful meticulous thought, planning, implementation, and execution. The majority of the stories include firsthand accounts of those involved. The stories are presented as concise chapters with a background to provide context, a narration of the event, the cause of the accident, and a solution. Readers are provided with an index, a glossary of terms, and an author’s note, which details the references used in researching the book. The target age group will learn how neglecting small details can have grave consequences and how to avoid repeating these mistakes in the future. (JAB)



Hopkinson, Deborah. 2019. D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Nonfiction). 400pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54-568248-0.

The Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day, was a major event of World War II. Though the book does a good job relating many of the salient facts in regards to the conception, planning, and execution of the Normandy invasion, its cursory view of the operations of British, Canadian, and other troops at Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches is lacking. The majority of the information provided is in regard to the beach landings at Utah, Omaha, and Pointe du Hoc and the airborne assault by the US 82nd and 101st divisions. There is only one chapter detailing the British airborne assault on the Orne River and Caen Canal bridges. Most American readers would be satisfied, while other readers may see it as a slight.  There are numerous confusing errors in this text, which are distracting, such as referring to Lieutenant General Omar Bradley as a “brigadier” or simply as “general.” Regardless of these flaws, the text provides a concise narration of events, seems well-researched, and has an extensive bibliography. Additionally, there are numerous firsthand accounts of events by those directly involved and additional information provided for more context. Another feature of this book is the section labeled “Quartermaster’s Department,” which provides a WWII timeline of events, a glossary, and a list of references for additional reading. In spite of its shortcomings, this text is a satisfactory place to start for those interested in learning more about this piece of WWII history. (JAB)


Space Dogs

Hollingham, Richard and Parr, Martin. 2019.  Space Dogs: The Story of the Celebrated Canine Cosmonauts Laurence King  Publishing. 128pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-7-8627411-3. Photographed by Martin Parr. 

In designing and testing vehicles for space flight, the Soviet Union  used stray dogs from the streets of Moscow as test animals.  Hundreds of dogs were used in these experiments and most died, a fact many dog lovers may find difficult to process as they read. The text is also interested  Soviet government, people, and reactions to the successes and failures of the program.Because the book has two authors, there are some noticeable inconsistencies in some of the accounts, especially in regard to the story of the space dog Laika. The forward describes the canine as having “perished” on reentry after being in orbit, but the text describes a failure of the capsule to maintain temperature, thus causing it to overheat. Laika apparently died within hours after launch and the capsule remained in orbit for several months until the orbit decayed and it burned up in the atmosphere. Elsewhere in the text is says there was never a plan to bring her back after launch. 

The text was also originally conceived as a picture book of Russian space dog memorabilia, and the added text seems to have gotten the better of the images. Although the photos are interesting, the text and historical photographs of the scientists and labs provide the necessary context and behind the memorabilia photos. Unfortunately, the book does not have a bibliography or list of references, which would be beneficial to include for readers interested in learning more about the trials and tribulations of dogs used in the early days of space travel. (JAB)


Old MacDonald Had a Truck

Goetz, Steve. 2019. Old MacDonald had a Truck. Chronicle Books. 30pp. $8.99. ISBN  978-1-4521-8176-9. Illustrated by Eda Kaban.

Old MacDonald may have a farm, but in this storyline, trucks are the main characters. The farmer has a front loader, a bulldozer, a dump truck, a steamroller, a cement mixer, and a truck with very large wheels. Old MacDonald’s wife is a key character, and the animals participate in the storyline as drivers, mechanics, construction workers, spectators, and guests at the MacDonalds’ picnic. The lyrics are different than the original song, but readers between the ages of six months to four years and their caregivers will enjoy singing with these new, delightful lyrics. (JAB)


Mr. Bear's Colors

Aracil, Virginie. 2019. Mr. Bear’s Colors. Bayard Group (Twirl). 46pp. $19.99. ISBN  979-1-02760-707-5. Originally published in 2018. 

With the help of Mr. Bear, youngsters will learn to appreciate vibrant colors like yellow, orange, gold, green, olive, red, pink, and many more. Children between the age of six months and three years will learn how to differentiate the colors from one another with the help of their caregivers. They will also expand their vocabulary through learning synonyms for colors, such as mimosa for yellow, pomegranate for maroon, and cornflower for blue. The last two pages celebrate the colors of the rainbow, including stained glass, watercolors, and references Holi, a Hindu festival and celebration of color. The sequence of colors in this text is fascinating, as are the pages adjacent to the identification of colors and their objects. Caregivers can help prompt their youngsters to discover these color relationships. (JAB)


A Thousand Sisters

Wein, Elizabeth. 2019. A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II. HarperCollins (Balzer+Bray). 400pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0062-45301-3.

This is a fascinating history. It is a well written, very readable, story of the women aviators in the air forces of the Soviet Union during World  War II, or as the Soviets called it “The Great Patriotic War." Few outside Russia today would know the extent to which women participated as fighting aviators during the war. This book is a history of those Russian women flying combat missions against the Nazis. They flew in fighters, low level biplane bombers, and more powerful high altitude dive bombers. The book primarily focuses on the three air regiments formed from all women volunteers. By the end of the end of the war men were integrated into two of these groups as ground crews and gunners. However, women continued to serve as pilots and navigators. 

The book also contrasts the Soviet Union’s deployment and use of women aviators with that of the United States and the United Kingdom during the war. In the Soviet Union women were fully integrated into the air forces, doing the same jobs as men. Where as in the US and UK, women aviators were only allowed to ferry aircraft from factory fields to bases and from base to base. The US women were not paid at the same scale as their male civilian counterparts.

The book also describes the discrimination and harassment of all women aviators during the war. The difference being that Soviet women aviators could take to the skies and prove they were at least as good as the men and perhaps even better.

The book appears to be well researched, including endnotes, bibliography, and index. There is one error though which is somewhat disconcerting. While providing some background information regarding the evolution of the women serving in the Soviet air forces, the author writes that the Czar, his wife, and “4” children were executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Nicholas II had 5 children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei. For the most part, this was a great read and a fascinating story. (JAB)


Fountains of Silence

Sepetys, Ruth. 2019. The Fountains of Silence. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 512pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0399-16031-8

This book is a great read. It is a story set in Madrid, Spain in 1957, 18 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War. The fascist forces under Francisco Franco and supported by Hitler and Mussolini won and the Franco Dictatorship is firmly in charge.  Elements of the republican movement are being routed out. Survival of the defeated is dependent on remaining anonymous, silent, and invisible; that is, don't draw attention.

In the midst of this repression, the author develops a story of evolving love between two characters. These are the son of a Texas oil tycoon staying at the Hilton in Madrid and a maid at the hotel who is the daughter of republican parents who were killed by the fascists at the end of the war. This is not a simple story of upstairs/downstairs romance. Woven into the plot are the issues of the day. Spain’s isolated status in Europe and its internally repressive nature is a major influence. Also, with the Cold War in full swing, the United States is establishing military and commercial relationships with this strategically located country.  

The family of the oil tycoon is in Spain for the summer while the tycoon negotiates an oil deal with the Franco government. His wife, who was born in Spain, has other interests. The son is just being curious and inquisitive. 

The maid’s family is just trying to survive in a very difficult world.

The book is well researched and written. Few historical novels have an author’s note describing their research and provide a bibliography. This novel does. Also, throughout the book the author inserts direct quotations from sources as lead-ins to chapters or as direct documentation. I recommend this book, for both its history and its story. (JAB)


The Hardest Lot of Men

Fitzharris, Joseph. 2019. The Hardest Lot of Men: The Third Minnesota Infantry in the Civil War. University of Oklahoma Press. 338pp. $34.95. ISBN 978-0806-16401-4. 

Straight off the top, this book has some serious issues. Within the first few minutes of reviewing the context and list of illustrations, errors become starkly apparent. The most glaring of these is in the list of illustrations. The captions given for two maps wrongly date the US Dakota War as occurring in 1863; it occurred in the summer and fall of 1862. Also, editing errors occur throughout the text. The language and sentence structure used by the author makes The Hardest Lot of Men a difficult book to read. Editorial errors make it even more difficult.

With that being said, this is a fascinating story which seems to be well documented and researched. It is the story of the 3rd Minnesota Infantry Regiment, 1861 to 1865. Much of the information given is directly quoted from letters, articles, and other documents from the time. This information provides a first-hand account of the attitudes, thoughts, and biases of the principle characters, members of the regiment, politicians, media, and civilians. Therefore, it is not surprising that the regiment’s activities in the South during the civil war and in the Minnesota River Valley during the US Dakota War are characterized in vastly different ways. In regards to the former, it was a fight between two civilized and trained armies; in regards to the latter, it is a punitive action against bands of murderous savages. 

If I were to find fault with the author’s historical narrative, it would be with regard to this last point. He doesn’t say much about why bands of Dakota decided to go to war. The US Dakota War of 1862 is an interesting and complex historical event that was decades in the making. The events related to the activities of the 3rd Minnesota Infantry are the focus of this book.  

The author also addresses the internal divisions among the men of the regiment based on immigrant and native-born status.   The regiment recruited a number of Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. The mistrust and animus between the two groups in 1861 affected the way companies were formed and officers chosen. Native-born soldiers were concerned about serving under immigrant officers and vice versa. By the end of the Civil War, these issues seemed to have evaporated.

The Hardest Lot of Men is a difficult book to read and I would not recommend to anyone as a casual read or to anyone without some knowledge of the history of the period and place. It is a detailed telling of the story of the 3rd Minnesota Infantry.  It is well documented; having a detailed set of endnotes, bibliography, and index. (JAB)


Harbor Me

Woodson, Jacqueline. 2018. Harbor Me. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 192pp. $17.99. ISBN978-0-399-25252-5

“Back then, we still all believed in happy endings. None of us knew how many endings and beginnings one story would have.” Six fifth/ sixth-grade special education students share an hour together every Friday to tell their stories. They dubbed it the ARTT-“A Room To Talk.” Slowly over the weeks, their stories began to emerge; a father in prison, a father gone missing, a mother who died too young, fears of deportation, incidents of racial injustice, and the isolation felt by students who have behavioral or learning differences. With the openness and encouragement of their loving teacher, Ms. Laverne, these students learn what it means to be a “safe harbor” for each other. This is not just a story about the blossoming of unlikely adolescent friendships; it is also a confrontation of the injustices of immigration/deportation policies, racial profiling, and the difficulties of finding your way forward in a world of poverty and inequality. Award winner of the 2018-2019 National Ambassadorship for Young People’s Literature, author Jacqueline Woodson brings life, humor, and love to these characters. She understands their world and conveys the conflicting emotions and search for meaning so deeply felt by adolescents. Harbor Me is a touching, beautiful exploration of adolescence and societal challenge and is highly recommended. (OJB)


Dread Nation

Ireland, Justina. 2018. Dread Nation. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 451pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-257060-4.

Reconstructionist America gets reimagined in this racially-charged story about the walking dead. The undead, or "shamblers," started attacking people during the American Civil War, and despite resorted peace, shamblers still walk the lands, and racial inequality thrives. The Native and Negro Re-education Act forces Native and African American children to be trained to learn how to kill shamblers and protect the white population. Jane is enrolled at the prestigious Miss Preston's Academy, where black young women are trained to become protectors of white aristocratic young women. Jane and her friend, Katherine, are both mixed race, but Katherine is white-passing, and they both struggle with how differently they're treated based on the shade of their skin. After shamblers show up in Baltimore, Jane and Katherine are shipped off to the pioneer town of Summerland, Kansas, and face a harsher life while uncovering bigger secrets about the shamblers. The novel sprinkles in action scenes, but they are not excessively gory. The story uses its reimagined history to look at Reconstruction, the re-education of Native Americans, and the continued oppression of African-Americans in an interesting and harrowing way. Recommended for teen readers. First in a series. (MCC)


Monsters Unleashed

Kloepfer, John. 2018. Monsters Unleashed: Bugging Out. HarperCollins. 167pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-242753-3. Illustrated by Mark Oliver.

This sequel to Monsters Unleashed follows Freddie and his friends, who, now accompanied by the monsters they took on as pets in the first book, form the "monster club." Bugs are infesting Freddie's town, all made from his classmate's 3D printer. It's up to the monster club to find a way to stop them before they take over everything! This action-filled middle-grade story is chock full of bugs, monsters, and illustrations sprinkled throughout. The book doesn't feature much thematic content but makes for a quick, fun read for middle-grade readers who enjoyed the first book. (MCC)


Game Change

Monninger, Joseph. 2017. Game Change. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 225pp. $17.99. ISBN 9780544531222-2. 

Zeb plays quarterback on his high school football team, but he spends most of his time deer hunting and working in his uncle's auto shop. Everything changes when the star quarterback, T.T., is injured and Zeb is called to play for him. The story only spans a week, in which the readers get a taste of Zeb's world in his football-obsessed New Hampshire town, including Zeb's funny best friend, his mom and her boyfriend, his uncle, and his love interest, Ferron. As Zeb is thrust into the leadership role on the team, he sees new possibilities for his future. While this young adult novel will be better appreciated by those who enjoy football and are comfortable with the terminology, the story is more focused on character development and less with action-packed play-by-plays of the games. (MCC)


After the Shot Drops

Ribay, Randy. 2018. After the Shot Drops. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 325pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-1-328-70227-2.

Bunny and Nasir used to be close friends, but after Bunny transfers to an upscale private school across town to play for their prestigious basketball team, Nasir feels disconnected from him. Nasir, who still goes to school in the inner city, begins reaching out to his troubled cousin Wallace, who often lashes out. As Nasir's classmates begin to turn on Bunny, wondering if he's abandoning his community, Bunny's girlfriend Keyona tries to rekindle Bunny and Nasir's friendship. The book has a lot of tension that will keep readers turning the pages. Many young adult stories feature alternating perspective chapters, but this book uses them to a better effect than most. Bunny and Nasir are both complex characters, as is the world they inhabit. While readers who enjoy basketball may be hooked into this story, readers do not need to be in the sport to find enjoyment. Recommended for teens looking for a realistic story set in the inner city with diverse characters. (MCC)


Brightly Burning

Donne, Alexa. 2018. Brightly Burning. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 394pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-328-94893-9.

Brightly Burning is an inventive, somewhat clumsy science fiction retelling of Jane Eyre. Stella works hard as a mechanic and sometimes-tutor on the Stalwart, one of several large ships carrying Earth's population after a supervolcano made the planet unlivable. After applying for many governess jobs, Stella finally finds one on a smaller, private ship, the Rochester, manned by the prickly Captain Hugo. Life on the ship feels luxurious compared to Stella's life in poverty, but mysterious accidents keep happening. Stella begins falling for Hugo, and things become far more complicated. Those who have read Jane Eyre will still be surprised by the plot, which veers in a different direction from the original story, but will still pick up on lines of dialogue, names, and plot developments from the original. Teens who aren't familiar with the source material can still find this science fiction romance accessible and may be inspired to give the original a try. (MCC)


Here so Far Away

Dyer, Hadley. 2018. Here So Far Away. HarperCollins (HarperTeen ). 358pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-247317-2.

George's friends call her "the Enforcer" because she's tough, unsentimental, and stands up for her friends. It's 1992, and her senior year of high school in Vancouver. George's life starts to spiral when she loses her best friend, Lisa, after a big argument. At 17, George is still trying to figure herself out and has not felt a serious romantic connection with anyone. This changes when she meets Francis, who is 12 years older than George and is filling in for George's father at the police station. Francis is well-traveled and intellectual, and he and George begin a romance, even though they worry about what will happen if George's father finds out. The novel builds slowly with flowing writing and comes to a shocking, emotional end. In the end, George grows a lot and shapes her life together. Some readers may be uncomfortable by the romance of a 17-year-old and a 29-year-old, but those who do not mind books with flawed protagonists who sometimes make poor decisions may get swept up and emotionally affected by this story. (MCC)


River of Fire

Hunter, Erin. 2018. Warriors: A Vision of Shadows: River of Fire. HarperCollins. 281pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238653-3.

The fifth installment of A Vision of Shadows, one of many series in the more extensive Warriors series, continues the epic story of warrior cat clans. The long-lost SkyClan's return meant an end to ShadowClan, and now there is a time of change and upheaval. This story follows three cats – Alderpaw, who falls in love with a human-owned cat named Velvet; Twigpaw, who leaves SkyClan to join ThunderClan and grows from apprentice to warrior; and Violetshine, a warrior in SkyClan. The cats are warned of a storm coming that will threaten all five of their clans. With its many preceding books and a four-page list of characters, middle-grade readers who are interested in a saga-length fantasy featuring animals should start this series from the very beginning. Continuing readers are sure to pick up this latest volume. (MCC)


Power Forward

Khan, Hena. 2018. Power Forward: Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream.  Simon & Schuster (Salaam Reads). 126pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-1198-2.

4th grader Zayd is obsessed with becoming a basketball pro, but he has to find a way to balance violin lessons, homework, and time with his Pakistani-American family. When violin lessons conflict with basketball practice, Zayd begins skipping lessons and doesn't tell his mother, while also being focused on trying to eat enough to gain weight on his skinny frame. In the end, Zayd shows his parents how much he cares about basketball, and he learns that he needs to be honest with them. This chapter book is recommended for 3rd and 4th graders who enjoy realistic sports stories. Zayd's struggles to balance what he loves and his other responsibilities are relatable for elementary school students and includes a portrayal of his Pakistani heritage, natural inclusions of Urdu words, Pakistani food, and customs, which come together naturally and authentically. First in a series. (MCC)


Ascent Edit

Smith, Roland. 2018. Ascent. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 228pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-86759-8.

The third book in the Peak series finds teenage mountain climber Peak Marcello, his friend Alessia, and his bodyguard Ethan in Myanmar after the disastrous adventures in Afghanistan in the previous book. Peak is interested in climbing Hkakabo Razi, one of the highest mountains in Asia. There are plenty of hazards along the trek,  not including Myanmar's dangerous political climate and Peak's scheming father, who turns up yet again. This adventure series features an international cast and will take readers along for the daring climbs. Middle school and high school readers who enjoy adventure or travel stories may want to try the Peak series. (MCC)


Stick Dog

Watson, Tom. 2018. Stick Dog Crashes a Party. HarperCollins. 233pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-241096-2. Illustrated by Tom Watson.

The eighth adventure of Stick Dog and his friends begins with a mysterious ketchup packet. Their food adventures continue as Stick Dog leads his friends, Mutt, Poo-Poo, Stripes, and Karen, to a pizza parlor, where they run into Stick Cat! Stick Cat's humans are in town for a wedding, and Stick Dog is determined to get them all invited. This accessible story works as a standalone, or as a continuing adventure for readers who have read the previous Stick Dog books. The large-print writing is supported by hilarious stick-drawing illustrations of the animals' adventures, made to look like it was drawn on notebook paper. The Stick Dog series is formatted like other hybrid novel series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the many other series that have popped up in the genre. Kids in grades 2-4 who enjoy that format will love Stick Dog's adventures. (MCC)


Thief of Happiness

Chandler, Kristen. 2018. Thief of Happy Endings. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking). 404pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-425-29047-7.

Cassidy is terrified of riding horses because she was bucked off once years ago. Regardless, after her parents' separation, Cassidy's grades at school to plummet, and she ends up at a summer camp on a mustang ranch in Wyoming. As Cassidy tries to face her fear of riding, she also has to grapple with a difficult tentmate, and a ranch hand, Justin, who seems to hate her. When Justin's mustang catches Cassidy's interest, their relationship changes from hatred to friendship. Although the romantic relationship that slowly develops between Cassidy and Justin is the focal point of the novel, Cassidy's relationships with her parents, siblings, and fellow campers also develop and deepen, as does her self-confidence as she begins to ride once more. Recommended for teen readers looking for a summer read with romance, horses, and realistic characters. (MCC)


Beast of Stone

Park, Linda Sue. 2018. Wing & Claw: Beast of stone. HarperCollins. 357pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-232744-4. Illustrated by  Jim Madsen.

Linda Sue Park concludes her Wing & Claw trilogy with Beast of Stone, which continues weaving themes about morality into the plot without becoming preachy.  Apothecary Raffa rallies his human and animal allies against the Chancellor's army of creatures. The adventure and magic will keep middle-grade readers engaged, and the characters' dilemmas and choices open plenty of opportunities for adults and children to talk about greed, prejudice, and what it means to stand up for what you believe in. (MCC)


Neri, G. 2017. Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-328-68598

Tru and Nelle

This middle-grade story is a follow-up to Tru and Nelle, a fictionalized account of Truman Capote and Harper Lee's childhood friendship. Tru and Nelle eventually became prolific authors, but in the 1930s, Monroeville, Alabama, were just two kids trying to figure out their world, including the challenging times of the Great Depression, unfair segregation, and Jim Crow laws around them. When Tru runs away from a military boarding school in New York and returns to Monroeville just before Christmas, things seem to start going wrong for him right away. The story takes place over three Christmases, as Tru and Nelle grow from children into the beginning of young adulthood, and try to figure out what their friendship is supposed to look like now that they're growing a bit older. Young readers may not be familiar with Truman Capote and Harper Lee as authors, but those in late elementary school looking for realistic fiction will still enjoy the follow up to these characters and their friendship. (MCC)


The Train of Lost Things

Paquette, Ammi-Joan. 2018. The Train of Lost Things. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 191pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-5247-3939-3.

Marty learns his father is running out of time to live due to his cancer, just after Marty loses his favorite jean jacket covered in pins his dad had given him over the years. Marty is determined to find the jacket that carries so many of his favorite memories and sets off to find something his dad used to tell him stories about: The Train of Lost Things. When Marty finds the train, he's not alone – Dina is looking for a locket from her long-lost mother. The two of them discover that the train is disorganized and missing its conductor and official driver. A young homeless girl named Star is filling in, but she worries about what might happen when the train gets too full of peoples' lost items. This magical journey is bookended by a realistic and difficult situation. The ending is sad but also tinged with hope. This book is suitable for late elementary school students to read, and would also make an excellent book to read aloud to 3rd graders and older, to introduce to magical realism, and to discuss themes of loss and memory. (MCC)



Reynolds, Jason. 2018. Sunny. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 159pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-5021-8.

Each book in the Track series centers around one of the four middle school kids on a track team with the potential to compete in the Junior Olympics. This third installment centers around Sunny, who is easygoing and friendly, but confides to his diary that he feels like a murderer, since his mother died giving birth to him, and his father is distant. Even though Sunny is an incredible runner and he loves his teammates, what he wants to do is dance. Since he doesn't want to quit the track team, he discovers a track event that almost feels like dancing to him – discus throwing. Sunny narrates the story through his diary entries and is a relatable, goofy, and heartfelt character. Recommended for middle-grade readers. (MCC)


Neverending Pillow Fort

Taylor, Will. 2018. Maggie and Abby's Neverending Pillow Fort. HarperCollins. 291pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-264431-2.

While Maggie's best friend Abby has been away at summer camp, Maggie has been stuck at home, bored  and lonely. When Abby returns after six weeks, she's obsessed with camp and isn't as interested in the codes and spy games she and Maggie used to play. While Abby was at camp, Maggie built an enormous pillow fort, and she soon learns that she can travel from her pillow fort to the fort Abby built in her house – and beyond, to an enormous network of forts run by the North American Founding and Allied Forts Alliance (NAFAFA), an esteemed, historical organization with many famous historical members. Maggie and Abby use the forts to get to Alaska, where Maggie's uncle is studying whales. When Maggie's uncle is severely injured, Maggie realizes she may have to bring more people in on the secret of the fort, even as the Alliance threatens to cut Maggie and Abby out of the fort network entirely. This novel takes a silly premise and builds a surprisingly in-depth world. NAFAFA is cleverly thought out, with historical lore, rules, and organized structure. At the core of the story is Maggie and Abby's friendship. Middle-grade readers, particularly 5th and 6th grade readers who enjoy magical realism or adventure stories, may want to pick this one up. (MCC)



Brewer, Zac. 2017. Madness. HarperCollins (Harper Teen). 282pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-00-6245785-1.

Brooke had it all, or did she? Popular, pretty, cross-country captain, good student, yet she wanted to die. Cutting herself didn’t work, so she jumped off a bridge, and was rescued by a homeless man who had been sitting nearby. The book begins six weeks after her hospital treatment as she arrives at home. Readers are with her through her adoption of odd and quirky behaviors, sessions of therapy, and her return to school and social activities. Difficult as it is, she continues to work her way back into life while plotting her next attempt at suicide until she discovers she no longer wants to die. But now there is someone in her life who won’t accept that change in her. Readers will learn about themselves while also learning about mental illness and the ups and downs of recovery. Ages 12 to 16. (LWD)



Geiger, J.C. 2017. Wildman. Disney Publishing Worldwide (Disney-Hyperion). 327pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-148474957-9.

A life change is an excellent plot, particularly for other young adults reaching crossroads in their own lives. William Lance Hendrick is a graduating high school senior who thinks he has his whole life figured out (as do many adults who surround him). Fate steps in and introduces him to a new world and alternatives, leaving readers wondering, “What shapes Destiny?” Will character and the deepest of values help Williman make the right choices or not? And what are “the right choices?” (LWD)


One Shadow on the Wall

Henderson, Leah. 2017. One Shadow on the Wall. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 429pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-6295-2.

An eleven-year-old boy and his younger sisters are alone after their parents die.  Alone except for one aunt, who wants to send the boy to religious school and the girls to servitude. Even in Senegal Africa, in a world controlled by adults, how does this boy keep his promise to his father—to keep the family together? Does he succeed? If he needs help, where will he find it? A story of courage, compassion, family, community, and coming-of-age to which all of us can relate, regardless of culture or continent. For ages 8 – 12. (LWD)


A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Lee, Mackenzi. 2017. A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 501pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-238280-1.

A frivolous, slow-moving start leads to a delightful, rollicking adventure for gentlemen, ladies, and would-be roués as well.  With historically correct references to the Grand Tour, the rivalry between the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs, the Barbary pirates, and cultural insights into the period including those of gender identity and family relationships, this is an excellent read for anyone ages 16 and up. (LWD)


Chasing Space

Melvin, Leland. 2017. Chasing Space. HarperCollins (Amistad). 218pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-266592-8.

Mr. Melvin takes readers from his upbringing in Lynchburg Virginia, through his days in college at the University of Virginia, then   to his time spent as a professional football player with the Detroit Lions, back to school, to NASA and his work both on the ground and at the International Space Station. This is the story of how a normal kid, through perseverance, can overcome seemingly impossible obstacles to reach his or her goal. He writes in short, simple, energetic sentences to convey his story, provides color photos to help make it relatable, and provides a terrific set of experiments at the end of the book for reader-scientists. Recommended for ages 8 to 12. (LWD)


Ness, Patrick. 2017. Release. HarperCollins ( Harper Teen). 277pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-240319-3.

A tale of two tales, Release features two stories in tandem, touching only briefly. Both are about truth, courage, and the unknowable value of a simple act of selflessness. Adam is coming into his senior year of high school. From a deeply religious family and with an oh-so-perfect older brother, he handles his conflicts and problems with the help of best friend, Angela. The primary issue being his father’s inability to accept that Adam is actively gay and no less a person because of it, not in family, school, work, church, or extra-curricular activities. How does one find one’s way back to balance? An utterly engaging read. For ages 16 and up. (LWD)


The Year we Fell Apart

Martin, Emily. 2017. The Year We Fell Apart. Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse ). 314pp. $17.99. ISBN =978-1-4814-3841-4.

The summer before senior year of high school marks the beginning of a transition for many people. For Harper and Declan, the transition is complicated by family circumstances and life-long friendships. The reader will pull for both of them as they learn the importance of truth and courage in all relationships. Ages 14 +. (LWD)


Things that Surprise You

Maschari, Jennifer. 2017. Things That Surprise You HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 276pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-243892-8.

Who knew a sixth grader’s life could be so hard? Starting middle school and the shift in classwork and social networks involved in the transition is plenty. Add your parents’ divorce, your sister’s eating disorder, your best forever friend cutting you out of her life, and you might think you need a therapist! Emily Murphy takes it all in and handles it in a sensible, practical, and a bit unusual way, learning and growing all the time. You will be surprised. Written for ages 8 – 12. (LWD)


Ghosts of GreenGlass House

Milford, Kate. 2017. Ghosts of Greenglass House. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 452pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-544-99146-0.

Just when Christmas vacation begins for Milo, mystery and intrigue take over his home when a group of carolers arrives — and stays. Ghosts, thieves, smugglers, and imposters appear, but which are which? Solve the mystery within the mystery within the mystery with Milo. For ages 10-16. (LWD)



Portes, Andrea. 2017. Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me. HarperCollins (Harper Teen). 388pp.] $17.99. ISBN: 978-10-06-2425199-9.

Paige, an extraordinary young adult, takes an extraordinary turn in Liberty. Together with her, readers encounter parental loss and redemption against seemingly impossible odds. Intercultural friendship, trust, physical and mental conditioning, culture, nature, global politics, and derring-do come together in this book blissfully. Broken into short chapters, it can be set aside, although you will not want to put it down. Recommended for ages 16+. (LWD)


York: The Shadow Cipher

Ruby, Laura. 2017. York: The Shadow Cipher. HarperCollins (Walden Pond Press). 476pp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-230693-7.

The Shadow Ciphers cannot come out too soon. A fascinating tale with three smart young teen protagonists, York is a story about the city of New York, not New York state. A work of fiction with allusions to history and literature both accurate and just a shade off. A story of adventure and independence, of immediate and extended families immediate and of fealty and treachery. A work of imagination grounded in what is most true. A most excellent read from start to the next beginning. For ages 8 to 12. (LWD)


Clarke, Ginjer L. 2018. Penguin Young Readers Level 4: Life in the Gobi Desert. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Young Readers). 48pp. $14.99 (hardcover). Multiple photo credits. Adapted from What’s Up in the Gobi Desert (2016).

Gobi Desert

According to the letter to parents and educators from the publisher, Level 4 books are for fluent readers who can comprehend the text efficiently, effectively, and fluently; and can apply self-correction strategies. The information about the Gobi Desert includes the description of the place, explanation of the five regions, and identification of several animals living in the regions. Animals include the Bactrian camel, gray wolf, gazelles, Palla’s pika, snow leopard, ibex, Mongolian grayling, eagle, long-eared Hedgehog, Gobi pit viper, Chinese scorpions, Gobi geko, polecat, dwarf hamster, corsac fox, khulan, saiga, Gobi bear, argali sheep vulture, Eurasian eagle-owl, and jergoa. The information about the characteristics of each animal is comprehensible for early readers, as is the description of the natural resources in the Gobi Desert. A glossary of terms defines a handful of concepts, and readers are encouraged to study science to understand the reasons why the Gobi Desert is “in trouble” (p. 45). (DLN)



Tinari, Leah. 2018. Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 56pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-1855-4. Illustrated by Leah Tinari.

The 24 diverse women profiled include, Sojourner Truth, Louisa May Alcott, Lozen, Annie Oakley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Rachel Carson, Julia Child, Ray Eames, Yuri Kochiyama, Shirley Chisholm, Dian Fossey, Carol Kaye, Shirley Muldowney, Aretha Franklin, Betsey Johnson, Dolly Parton, Gilda Radner, Tracey Norman, Eve Ensler, Liz Lambert, Carrie Fisher, Ellen DeGeneres, Kimberly Pierce, and Abby Wambach. Each page profiles one of the exemplary women with a notable quote from each person, e.g., Gilda Radner, and American comedian states, “I would rather be funny than gorgeous, absolutely. Because it’s too hard to be gorgeous, you know. I could make a stab at gorgeous as long as I had something funny to say to get out of it.” Endnotes provide brief descriptions of the accomplishments of the women and information about their dates of birth, and if applicable, their deaths. (DLN)


Johnny Treeman

Forbes, Esther. 2018, 1971, 1943. Johnny Tremain: 75th Anniversary Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-328-48916-6. Introduction and historic characters gallery by Nathan Hale. 

Every person in the United States of America, fifth grade, and beyond should read Johnny Tremain at least once. Set in Boston in 1773, the onset of the Revolutionary War is told through the eyes of a young boy, an apprentice, not a revolutionary. Although first published in 1943, readers can comprehend the vivid language of the text. Readers will also gain insight into the nature of apprenticeship, the actions leading up to the war, and the bravery, determination, and honesty of Johnny Tremain. (DLN)


How Tickles Saved Pickles Edit

Johnson, Maddie. 2018. How Tickles Saved Pickles: A True Story. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-3662-6.

It is refreshing to read real accounts of strangers saving a life and then, in turn, being rescued from imminent death. Pickles is an amazing small pet pig who can surf, jump, and paint. He loves life, his family, and his friends. When he ate something that made him deathly sick, he needed blood transfusions. Fortunately, his owners found a blood donor, a 650-pound sow on the verge of being butchered, named Tickles. Pickles recovered, and his owners found a permanent home in an animal sanctuary for Tickles. Readers will recognize the heroism of Tickles and the happy conclusions for both pigs, large and small. Youngsters will discover the something Pickles ate, making him very sick was rat poison if they read the endnotes explaining more details of the true story. (DLN)


Caps for Sale

Slobodkina, Esphyr & Sayer Marie Mulhearn. 2017. Caps for Sale and the Mindful Monkeys. HarperCollins Publishers. 48pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-0-06-249988-2. Illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina.

Although Esphyr Slobodkina died in 2002, Pezzo, the cap peddler, and the monkeys live on to delight young readers. Pezzo begins with his usual disdain of the monkeys but changes his mind and his behavior when the monkeys stitch the caps for sale while the peddler is visiting a sick friend in a town nearby. In fact, Pezzo finally admits the monkeys are his friends. Even if youngsters have not read Caps for Sale (1940) or More Caps for Sale: Another Tale of Mischievous Monkeys (2015), they will appreciate the attentive, helpful monkeys and recognize the change in Pezzo’s feelings and behavior towards his friends. (DLN)


The Snowy Nap

Brett, Jan. 2018. The Snowy Nap. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 32pp.  $18.99. ISBN 978-0-399-17-73-7. Illustrated by Jan Brett.

Hedgie, the hedgehog, is sleepy and knows he should hibernate, but at the same time, he does not want to miss the exciting winter sights and activities, e.g., the henhouse covered with ice, the geese slipping and sliding on the icy pond, Lisa’s snowmen, blue colors of the farm, snowflakes, and sleigh bells ringing. Thanks to Lisa, Hedgie experiences all the delightful sights and events before sleeping through the winter in his burrow. Watercolor and gouache are the mediums to convey the anticipation of winter among the farm animals, and eventually, the first effects of snow. Border snapshots of the next page, allow readers to predict the next sequence of activity and wonder. When snow and ice finally fall, the objects and the environments are various shades of blue, conveying the intense cold and the delightful winter activities. (DLN)


The Story of a Little Engine who Ran Away: Choo Choo

Burton, Virginia Lee. 1937. The Story of a Little Engine who Ran Away: Choo Choo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books  for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-74984-9. Copyright renewed in 1964. Color added to original illustrations by Lauren Pettapiece.

Readers, ages 3 – 7, will enjoy the wild adventure of Choo Choo as much today as in 1937. Burton (1909 – 1968) wrote the book for her four-year-old son, Aristides, when trains were more prevalent in the United States, used to haul goods, large cargo, baggage, and people. Themes of adventure, chaos, and acceptance of one’s responsibilities may not be obvious to youngsters, but caregivers can intentionally share themes throughout the sequence of events leading to Choo Choo’s conclusion, “I am not going to run away anymore. It isn’t much fun. I am going to pull all the coaches full of people and the baggage car from the little town to the big city and back again” (p. 46 unnumbered). (DLN)


Bear Can't Sleep

Wilson, Karma. 2018. Bear Can’t Sleep. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books). 40pp. $17.99.  ISBN 978-1-4814-5973-0. Illustrated by Jane Chapman.

Friends gather around Bear to help him hibernate because it is winter, and Bear cannot sleep. Mouse, Badger, Hare, Gopher, Mole, Wren, Owl, and Raven do not succeed in helping Bear fall asleep. Caregivers will appreciate the one activity causing Bear to sleep – a bedtime story Bear shares with his friends. The large shape of the brown Bear conveys he is the center of attention and concern because he needs to sleep through the winter. The shades of blue and white also indicate the onset of a cold and wet winter. Readers, ages 2 – 5, may also enjoy other books in The Bear Books Series, including Bear Says Thanks, Bear’s Loose Tooth, Bear’s New Friend, Bear Feels Scared, Bear Feels Sick, Bear Stays Up, and Bear Wants More. (DLN)


Five Flying Penguins

McGrath, Barbara Barbier. 2018. Five Flying Penguins. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-58089-805-8. Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman.

Rhyming verses, such as “Five little penguins, sitting on the ice… The first one said TODAY Feels very nice!” will captivate young readers curious about penguins, ice, snow, and swimming. The conclusion is delightfully surprising, but perhaps predictable for observant readers familiar with the game of tag. Since the focus is on five penguins, the concept of the numbers 1 – 5 is reinforced. The illustrations convey the frigid environment: white and blue ice, light blue snow, plump black and white penguins, a lurking gray seal, aqua blue seawater, and then darker blue-green water suggesting a deeper, more foreboding sea. (DLN)


Farm Friends

Deneux, Xavier. 2019. Farm Animals. Bayard Group (Twirl). 12pp. $12.99 (Board Book). ISBN  979-1-02760-604-7. Originally published in France by Éditions Tourbillon, Paris, 2018.

A rabbit, duck, worm, goose, turkey, pig, donkey, sheep, goat, chicks, hen, and worm are introduced using three colors: white, black, and orange. With the exception of the worm, one animal is on each page. The unique feature of a pull-tab on each page encourages readers to move the tab and observe the effects, e.g., the black rabbit with a white nose, one white spot on an ear, and white sclera around a black pupil transforms into a black rabbit. The orange background accentuates the transformation. Because of the limited number of colors, readers may easily identify each of the farm animals, and even though the worm does not have a pull tab, readers may recognize the contrast in size between the duck and the worm, and the hen and the worm. A question caregivers may ask young readers is “what farm animals eat worms?” (DLN)


Zoe and Zack: Colors

Duquennoy, Jacques. 2019. Zoe and Zack: Colors.  Bayard Group (Twirl). 32pp. $12.99 (Board Book). ISBN 979-1-0363-0426-2. First published in France by Bayard Éditions Tourbillon, Paris, 2015.

Blue, yellow, red, green, orange, purple, black, and white are profiled using a unique format. For example, Zoe paints several blue shapes in different hues, and when readers turn the adjacent page, Zack adds more shapes in blue shades to create a seal on ice. The effect is enchanting and may inspire children to paint or draw their own shapes of different hues of various colors to create multiple concepts, as did Zoe and Zack: a yellow sun, a red fish, a green frog, an orange fox, a purple turtle, a black wolf, and white snow. (DLN)



Krasinski, Géralkine. All about Cars. 2019.  Bayard Group (Twirl). 22pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-2-40800-790-4. Illustrated by Olivier Latyk. Originally published in France by Éditions Milan, 2018. 

Concepts related to cars are dominant: from past to present, designing and building, leaving the factory, buying, the exterior, the interior, towing, the junkyard, the repair shop, the service station, the car wash, the road, and the racetrack. Readers will appreciate the flaps, pull-tabs, and other interactive pieces complementing the multiple facets of a car. The vocabulary is refreshing because it relates to specific functions, e.g., mini cooper, assembly line, car dealer, gasoline, recycled, stockroom, jet spray, tollbooth, and pit crew. Illustrations complement the text and the manipulatives contributing to an appealing and informative book for young readers. However, caregivers should remember to error on the side of caution when sharing books with moving, and potentially removable pieces, such as pull-tabs with youngsters under the age of 4. (DLN)


Who Lives Where

Babin, Stéphanie. 2019. Who Lives Where? Bayard Group (Twirl). 14pp. $12.99 (Board Book). ISBN 978-2-40800-796-6. Illustrated boy Kiko. Originally published in France by Éditions Milan, 2017.

Sliding panels complement statements about the habitats and identities of animals -- a  unique style for young readers, ages 10 months to 3 years, with inquisitive minds. Animals and habits are divided into categories, In the House, In the Garden, On the Farm, In the Mountains, On the Savanna, and In the Sea. For example, an illustration of a yellow bird in a cage on page 2, complements a statement on the first page, “Tweet, tweet! I live in a home that hangs from the ceiling.” Readers then move to the second page to locate a panel with a yellow bird and a birdcage. The panels are sliding tabs, and when readers move the cardboard square, they discover the habitat of the animal or vice versa. Interesting facts of the animals enhance their identities and habitats, e.g., “Scrape, scrape! I dig tunnels to get to my home underground.” (DLN)


Chicken in Charge

Lehrhaupt, Adam. 2019. I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Chicken in Charge. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN   978-0-06-236425-8. Pictures by Shahar Kober.

According to the publisher, characteristics of Beginning 1 Reading books include “short sentences, familiar words, and simple concepts for children eager to read on their own.” This is an accurate description of the syntax, vocabulary, sentence length, and concepts, with Zoey, the chicken, caring for the lambs when the farmer is away. Zoey, as readers discover, knows little about the care of lambs, but she can read bedtime stories to not-so-sleepy lambs. (DLN)


Amelia Bedelia Under the Weather

Parish, Herman. 2019. I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Amelia Bedelia Under the Weather.  HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-265892-0. Pictures by Lynne Avril.

The short sentences and words and the simple concepts are appropriate for children ages 4 – 8; the guided reading level is a “K.” Amelia Bedelia is true to her character and literally interprets language. For example, when her father expresses his concern about Amelia’s illness, he says, “I am sorry that you are under the weather” (p. 7). Amelia, however, says, “I am under my (bed) covers” (p.8). The plot is straightforward. Amelia is ill, misses her friends, watches television about the weather, and eventually recovers, but not without multiple misunderstandings about phrases, such as “Do you have a stomach bug?” (p. 27). Amelia pictures her stomach filled with insects! (DLN)


I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Pinkalicious and the Flower Garden Fairy

Kann, Victoria. 2019. I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Pinkalicious and the Flower Garden Fairy. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-26767-5.

Short sentences, recognizable vocabulary, and uncomplicated concepts are the hallmark of Beginning 1 Reading. The plot and conflicts are easily recognizable to readers ages 4 – 8. Pinkalicious wants a flower fairy to visit her garden, and Peter wants a worm to dig in his. In spite of Pinkalicious’ efforts, she does not observe her flowers growing, but they flourish in Peter’s garden. Eventually, Pinkalicious realizes flowers are not visible because of the weeds. When she pulls the weeds, the flowers appear, as does her coveted fairy. (DLN)


I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Ranger Rick, I Wish I was a Wolf.

Bové, Jennifer. 2019. I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Ranger Rick, I Wish I was a Wolf.  HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-243220-9.  

Photographs and intermittent questions posed by Ranger Rick complement the facts and characteristics of young and adult wolves.  Readers, ages 4 – 8, may marvel about the information, especially the fact of pups beginning to hunt at six months and completely grown by the age of three (3). Youngsters know they grow at a much slower pace and do not reach adulthood until their late teens or early twenties! (DLN)


I want to be a Vetrinarian

Driscoll, Laura. 2018. I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: I want to be a Veterinarian. HarperCollins (Harper).  32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-243247-6. Illustrated by Catalina Echeverri.

Gus is allergic to cats, but loves animals and aspires to be a veterinarian. Several types of veterinarians are introduced through the plot: small-animal, large-animal, aquatic, wildlife, laboratory, and a professor of veterinary medicine. Gus is pleased with the choices, but readers, ages 4 – 8, will deduce he does not need to decide his path until he is much older. (DLN)


I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Mighty Truck Zip and Beep

Barton, Chris. 2018. I Can Read! Beginning 1 Reading: Mighty Truck Zip and Beep. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-234473-1. Illustrated by Troy Cummings.

Zip and Beep, two young, small trucks, challenge Clarence’s stamina on his day off. Clarence is a large adult truck, but no match for the speed and agility of Zip and Beep. The conclusion Clarence, and perhaps adult readers draw, is “days off (caring for active children), are too much work” (p. 32). Young readers, ages 4 – 8, may compare their level of activity and enthusiasm to those of Zip and Beep, and caregivers may compare theirs with Clarence. (DLN)


Clark the Shark

Hale, Bruce. 2019. I Can Read! Beginner 1 Reading: Clark the Shark, Too Many Treats. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227917-0. Illustrated by Guy Francis.

Readers may recognize the theme of the consequences of eating too many snacks, brownies in this case. Moreover, as stated by Clark’s mother, “when you’ve had your snack, just hold back” (p. 24). Clark shares his mother’s wisdom when he distributes a new batch of brownies to his classmates and teacher, an octopus. Readers, ages 4 - 8, may question whether the teacher honestly believes the expression because of her behavior. Facts, listed in endnotes, may clarify misconceptions about sharks, like Clark. For example, “Sharks only eat when they are hungry. Sometimes days or weeks go by between meals for large sharks” (p. 32). (DLN)


Duck Duck Dinosaur

George, Kallie. 2019. I Can Read! Shared My First Reading: Duck, Duck, Dinosaur Spring Smiles.   HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-235322-1. Illustrated by Oriol Vidal.

According to the publisher, shared reading books include “basic language, word repetition, and whimsical illustrations.” The level precedes beginning reading (1), reading with help (2), reading alone (3), and finally, advanced reading (4). It is spring. Ducks, Feather and Flap with their dinosaur brother, Spike, explore a garden, flowers, leaves converted to hats, and seeds. The ducks enjoy everything, but the vegetation causes Spike to sneeze. Fortunately, rain settles the pollen,and Spike is able to breathe without sneezing. The repetitive words include flowers, smiles, hats, wish, drip, sneeze, and puddles. The quirky illustrations reflect happy yellow ducks, and a large green dinosaur, a bright smiling yellow sun; pink, orange, purple and green flowers of various sizes, and the effects of a sneezing Spike. (DLN)


Biscuit Loves the Park

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin. 2019. I Can Read! Shared My First Reading: Biscuit Loves the Park. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp.  $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-243618-4. Illustrated by Pat Schories.

The attributes of My First Shared Reading books include “basic language, word repetition, and whimsical illustrations.” Biscuit, a small yellow-orange puppy, is one word reappearing throughout the plot. Other repetitive vocabulary includes park, play, woof, ball, and puppy. Illustrations convey a playful, mischievous puppy and a concerned, loving, and active young owner. The owner and Biscuit explore the park. The dénouement is endearing as the owner and Biscuit find each other and develop new friends, canine and human. (DLN)


Pete the Kitty Hiccups

Dean, James. 2019. I Can Read! Shared My First Reading: Pete, the Kitty and the Case of the Hiccups. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-286827-5.

The basic, frequent vocabulary includes hiccup, stand, fast, deep, and breath. Repetitive sentences throughout the plot include “How do you stop the hiccups?” and “I know.” Readers, ages 4 – 8, can follow Pete, the cat as he tries multiple cures for the hiccups. Eventually, Pete asks the individual with the solution, his mother. Bold colors of blue, green, red, yellow, orange, and brown augment Pete’s frustration and quest to find a cure for his case of the hiccups. (DLN)


Exploring the Great Outdoors

Mayer, Mercer. 2019. I Can Read! Shared My First Reading: Exploring the Great Outdoors. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-243145-5.

The vocabulary and comical illustrations conform to the criteria of My First Shared Reading “Basic language word repetition and whimsical illustrations, ideal for sharing with your emergent reader.” Young readers, ages 4 – 8, will enjoy following the sequence of Little Critter and his classmates on a hike at Critterville State Park. The bright, colorful, and comical illustrations are appealing; yellow, green, blue, red, pink, gray, and white accentuate the characters and settings. The adventure of the class will pique the interests of readers, and they may understand the exasperations of the forest ranger leading the hike. (DLN)


Harriet Tubman

Hohn, Nakia L. 2019. I Can Read! Reading 2 with Help: Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighter. HarperCollins (Harper). 32pp.  $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-243285-8. Pictures by Gustavo Mazali.

The biography of Harriet Tubman meets the description of level 2 reading with help books. The biography is interesting, with more complicated sentences and vocabulary. For example, “As a woman and a slave, she had no rights and was not taught how to read or write” (p.5). The plot is captivating because it has multiple conflicts, primarily of person v. society as Harriet leads slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad. Endnotes with a timeline, pictures, wanted notice newspaper clipping, maps, and facts, complement the sequence of events in the biography. (DLN)


How a City Works

Ward, D.J. 2018. Science Let’s Read and Find Out Level 2: How a City Works. HarperCollins (Harper). 40pp.  $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-247031-7. Illustrated by Violet Lemay.

Readers are exposed to multiple aspects of city life; this book features a water treatment plant, a power plant, a sewage treatment plant, garbage collection (recycling and a sanitary landfill), storm water pipes, and traffic control. Each feature is related to the daily living and survival of urban dwellers. Young readers, ages 4 – 8, can follow the directions in the end-pages to “clean up dirty water” (p. 34, 35). A glossary, list of websites about cities, and a map of a city are a handful of its features to complement and clarify the information in this non-fiction text. Colorful illustrations also augment and highlight the information. (DLN)


The Chicken Squad: Bear Country: Bearly a Misadventure

Cronin, Doreen. 2018. The Chicken Squad: Bear Country: Bearly a Misadventure. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book). 112pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-0574-5. Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.

Chickens Dirt, Sweetie, Sugar, and Poppy are searching for their Barbara, whom they refer to as “Our Barbara.” Barbara’s neighbor forgot to feed the chickens their morning breakfast, and they are hungry. Their adventures include multiple challenges, and the resolution is humorous. Repetitive vocabulary and phrases, along with the misadventures of the chickens and their friends contribute to a delightful chapter book for readers ages 6 – 8. (DLN)


Meyers, Susan. 2019. Hooray for Babies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-328-52847-6. Illustrated by Sue Cornelison.

Hooray for Babies

Let the celebration of babies begin. Babies from multiple ethnic backgrounds share common features and experiences, like eyes, ears, mouth, nose, toes, fingers, belly buttons, exercising, swinging, playing, painting, scooting, crawling, standing, clapping, dancing, sharing, snacking, napping, and drinking. Babies are the focus; except for one grandma in the park, adults are missing from the activities. The illustrations are colorful with babies wearing a variety of clothes, including onesies of different designs and colors, stripes, solids, polka dots, cars, flowers. Unfortunately, the double page spread with a yellow puppy licking a baby’s face is concerning. According to canine experts, children babies should never be left alone with dogs of any age, breed, or size. (DLN)


Ghosh, Ronojoy. 2019. No Place Like Home. Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-5522-0. First published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd. 2016.

No Place like Home

George, a polar bear, is unhappy because he cannot find his home. His little house is too small, the city is too crowded, and the jungle is not a good fit, neither is the mountain or desert. However, he finds the sea is better because he likes the water; still, it was not home. Finally, George rows a boat for days and lands at a strange white place, covered with ice and snow – home. Young readers, ages 4 – 8, will connect with George’s quest to find home because they, too, are most comfortable in their special places. George would agree with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” (DLN)


Allegra, Mike. 2019. Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist. Dawn Publications. 32pp. $8.95. ISBN  978-1-58469-643-8. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel. 

Scampers Thinks like a Scientist

With the help of the endnotes, “Thinking Like a Scientist”, “More About …. (The owl and mice)”, “Read Aloud Suggestions”, “Science and Engineering Practices”, and “STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)” readers can understand Scampers application of the scientific process. Scampers, a field mouse, applies the methodical processes used by scientists as they investigate and solve problems. Scampers is curious about the owl in the garden and is curious when it does not move. She asks questions, investigates, constructs explanations, communicates the information, and accepts the rejection of the information by the other mice because she knows “sometimes a new discovery is so amazing that others need a little time to accept it.” (DLN)


Sheff, David & Sheff, Nic. 2019. High: Everything You Want to Know about Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0544644342.


The appendices are extensive and complement the four (4) parts of the text; Part One: One Hit, One Drink, Part Two: Just Say Know, Part Three: Addiction, and Part Four: Afterward (a conversation between father and son).  Appendix 1 is an addictionary of terms; alcohol, cannabinoids, stimulants, dissociative drugs, club drugs, opioids, hallucinogens and psychedelics, and other, such as synthetic pot, inhalants, bath salts, anabolic steroids; prescription medications – opioids, sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants. Appendix 2 lists resources, emergency phone numbers such as the 911 hotline for overdose and life-threatening emergencies, 12-STEP meetings for teenagers, organizations, peer counseling, treatment, websites for support, and self-tests. The third appendix lists helpful books on a variety of topics, such as abuse, addiction, anxiety, bullying, depression, eating disorders, mental illness, et al. Following the Index is a unique feature, a page for “notes” readers may write before, during, or after reading the informative text about drugs, alcohol, and addiction. The perspectives are current, personalized (although not necessarily by name), and honest, reflecting the causes and effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Young adults, ages 14 and older, caregivers, teachers, medical personnel, and social workers should include the Sheffs’ book into conversations about the causes and effects of addiction. (DLN)


Blooming Beneath the Sun

Rossetti, Christina. 2019. Blooming Beneath the Sun. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers: A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1534440920. Art by Ashley Bryan.

The poems by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) included is this collection are Kookoorookoo! Kookoorookoo!, Color, Pussy Has a   Whiskered Face, Who Has Seen the Wind?, If I Were a Queen, Mother Shake the Cherry-Tree, Wrens and Robins in the Hedge, The Wind Has Such a Rainy Sound, The Peacock Has a Score of Eyes, I Dreamt I Caught a Little Owl, Lie-a-Bed, Where Innocent Bright-Eyed Daisies Are, and If a Pig Wore a Wig. The poems selected for children, 4 – 8, are familiar to fans of Christina Rossetti, but readers unfamiliar with her word may question the inclusion of If I Were a Queen. While appropriate for the 1800s, the verses are less suitable for the 21st century.

If I were a Queen,

What would I do?

I’d make you King,

And I’d wait on you.       


If I were a King,

What would I do?

I’d make you Queen,

For I’d marry you.

The collages, created with brightly colored construction paper, cut with the scissors Ashley Bryan’s mother used when sewing and embroidering, may inspire children to make their own illustrations to complement their original poetry. (DLN)


Peeping Beauty

Maier, Brenda. 2019. Peeping Beauty. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-1-4814-7272-2. Illustrated by Zoe Waring. 

A family of chicks is waiting for three eggs to hatch. The plot thickens when only two of the three eggs hatch. The entire barnyard of animals sings the familiar “with a cluck-cluck here, and a cluck-cluck there…,”  to encourage the third egg to crack. After trying humor, heat, and comfort, the family decides it needs to be patient. While waiting, mama chick reads titles that are variations, or pastiches, of fairy tales such as The Princess and the Peacock, Beauty and the Beak, and Peeping Beauty.  Eventually, with a little extra love, the hatches and everyone is surprised when twin chicks emerge. Themes of love, support, patience, and the importance of reading, dominate this colorful picture storybook for children ages 3 – 7. (DLN)

Frazee, Marla. 2018. Little Brown. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-25223.  

Little Brown

Beginning with “Little Brown was cranky,” should prepare readers for the somber tale of a dog who  is lonely because the other dogs in the fenced-in yard do not play with him. However, maybe they do not play with Little Brown because he is cranky, or perhaps he is crabby because no one plays with him. Regardless, Little Brown eventually grabs all of the toys and refuses to give the items back to the other dogs. It is a standoff with a dilemma. One unique aspect of the book is the pictures on the end pages; the dogs have names with distinguishable faces. Little Brown, with his back to the camera, has a picture with a question mark, not his name. The open-ended conclusion is an opportunity for children and their caregivers to discuss bullying, loneliness, and depression among youngsters, ages 3 – 10. The dominance of browns, tans, rust, and gray highlight the frustration, loneliness, and confusion of the dogs. Only the dogs’ toys have color; blue, pink, orange, yellow, green, and red. (DLN)


Dear Boy

Rosenthal, Paris, & Rosenthal, Jason. 2019. Dear Boy. HarperCollins  (Harper). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-242251-4. Illustrated by Holly Hatam.

The publishers note this is “a companion to Dear Girl” by Paris Rosenthal and her late mother, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. The general theme of each page is to reinforce self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem in young boys. The themes also encourage sportsmanship, friendship with all sexes, questioning, thinking, sadness, diversity, playing a musical instrument, honesty, following one’s dreams, magic, imagination, and love. From the exposition to the dénouement, the themes encourage boys to celebrate the totality of life. (DLN)


Horst, Marc. 2019. Hey There, Earth Dweller! Dive Into This World We Call Earth. Simon & Schuster (This Beyond Words/Aladdin). 176pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-58270-656-6. Illustrated by Wendy Panders. Translated by Laura Watkinson. First published in the Netherlands in Dutch (2014).

Hey There, Earth Dweller

According to the Simon & Schuster website, “Marc ter Horst is a Dutch writer of nonfiction children’s books. Growing up upstairs from his parents’ bicycle shop, he read many books and comics. Marc studied literature, but soon found himself more interested in geology, astronomy, and evolution. Working at the National Institute for Curriculum Development, he discovered his real talent was explaining things in little words. Eventually, he found the courage to become an independent copywriter and wrote for websites, museums of (natural) history, and educational publishers. He is the author of several nonfiction books for kids, and his books have been translated into several languages.”

The translations by Laura Watkinson reflects ter Horst’s talent for explaining concepts using vocabulary and analogies children will understand. “The Earth is not entirely round, though... Just like clothes in a washing machine, even the stuff in the Earth’s middle wants to move away from the middle” (p. 35). The vocabulary and syntax in all six chapters; In a Corner of the Universe, To the Rhythm of the Solar System, On a Sea of Boiling Magma, Water, Water Everywhere, Under a Thins Layer of Air, and Where the Earth Dwellers Live follow this readable format. The illustrations complement the information, except one, reinforces stereotypes of Native Americans in the desert Southwest (USA). A native, dressed in black, with long hair and a headband, riding a black horse, is tossing a black lasso in the air. The background is a picture of one of The Mittens in Monument Valley. Although the sun is a dominant feature in the illustration, primarily because it introduced the second chapter on the solar system, the Native American on horseback reinforces and even promotes a negative stereotype of Indigenous people from the United States of America. Substantive endnotes qualify information from each of the chapters. (DLN)


I Love Space

Wortche, Allison. 2019. I Love Space. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 14pp. $8.99 (Board Book). ISBN 978-1-328-52936-7. Illustrated by Steve Mack.

The interactive features: lift – the flaps, foil, a spinning wheel, glitter, and gatefolds, complement the colorful illustrations accompanying information about the planets, stars, sun, and asteroids of the solar system in the Milky Way galaxy. Readers follow two children in a spacecraft as they navigate the solar system, and explore characteristics of the eight planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Earth, including the Earth’s moon. (DLN)


Sanchez, Anita. 2019. Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-328-84165-0. Illustrated by Gilbert Ford.


Eight chapters explore this rotten world: Dung Beetles Rolling Rotten, Scavengers Eating Rotten, Fungus Slurping Rotten, Welcome to the Rotten Log Hotel, The Mighty Earthworm Moving Rotten, What’s Rotten at Your House? A Tale of Two Sandwich Crusts, and Rotten People. An exemplary glossary, notes, bibliography, and index support the information in each chapter. Except for the picture of a pile of diesel-contaminated soil (p. 27), the illustrations are colorful and bright, conveying the vitality of decomposition and the decomposers. The dark colors in the picture of the diesel-contaminated soil reflect the severity and despair of an oil spill. Yet, the illustrations on pages 28 and 29, reflect life after death when scientists treated a section of the spill with fungus. The treated pile revealed oysters mushrooms which fed insects, attracting birds, which carried seeds. The lime green, pink, lavender, dark green, yellow, and brownish-red colors convey this rebirth. The text is informative, and readers in grades 2 + will appreciate the engaging style and connections to their lives. (DLN)


I Love Science

Wortche, Allison. 2019. I Love Science. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 14pp. $8.99 (Board Book). ISBN 978-1-328-52937-4. Illustrated by Steve Mack.

The interactive features: lift – the flaps, a spinning wheel, glitter, and gatefolds, complement the colorful illustrations accompanying the text of questions. After stating “scientists are curious,” questions invite readers to speculate about caterpillars becoming butterflies, green leaves turning red, orange, and gold; floating ships, flying birds, swimming dolphins, and exploring scientists. (DLN)


Lacera, Megan & Lacera, Jorge. 2019. Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!  Lee & Low Books Inc. (Children’s Book Press). 40pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-62014-794-8. Illustrated by Jorge Lacera.

Zombies Don't Eat Veggies!

Zombie, Mo Romero, loves vegetables, but his parents insist Zombies do not eat vegetables. Thus, Mo eats his fill of veggies in the secrecy of his shack. But he also plots to disguise a tomato vegetable soup as Blood Bile Bisque and feed it to his parents. Their reaction is predictable; zombies do not eat or drink vegetables. Eventually, Mo and his parents reach a compromise, but only after Mo exclaims he is different than other zombies. Although he is different, he is their son, and they are a family. Spanish words are intermingled with the predominantly English vocabulary, such as mijo (son), gracias (thank you), arroz (rice), and cinco (five). Recipes, Mo’s Garden Gazpacho or Blood Bile Bisque, Zombie Finger Foods, and the Romero Family’s Famous Shockamole, are included with the statement to readers about the need for adult supervision. (DLN)


Poliquin, Rachel. 2018. The Superpower Field Guide: Beavers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-544-94987-4. Illustrated by Nicholas John Frith. 


An unnamed female narrator shares amazing behaviors, habits, and facts about beavers. She shares information through two beavers she identifies as Elmer and Irma. The illustrations, some in black and white cartoon-like sketches and other realistic drawings with authentic colors – primarily brown – complement the information. One of the first interesting facts is beavers, along with rats, hamsters, mice, gophers, squirrels, gerbils, muskrats, porcupines, chipmunks, chinchillas, and capybara, are rodents. Another intriguing fact is beavers must chew, or they die. Quizzes are interspersed throughout the sequence of events, primarily to encourage readers to focus on the information. Surprisingly, and disappointedly, there is no Table of Contents even though there is an introduction and ten (10) distinctive chapters: Chainsaw Teeth, Unstoppable Fur, Ever-Toiling Tail, The Incredible Scuba Head, Hydropowered Building Brilliance, Paws of Power, Subaquatic Winter Siege Survival Skills, Turbocharged Superstink, Indubitable Deluge Domination, and Unbeatable Bogmaker. The narrator concludes by introducing Elmer as a wetland warrior and states, “When Elmer puts all his superpowered parts together, he might just save the planet” (p. 90)! In fact, the narrator suggests beavers might save the world (p. 92). End pages include a glossary of terms, and finally, and sources for additional reading material on beavers. (DLN)


The Clue in the Trees

Preus, Margi. 2019. An Enchantment Lake Mystery:The Clue in the Trees. University of Minnesota Press. 192pp. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-5179-0220-9. Originally published in 2017. 

Readers first meet Francie, a teenage sleuth living in Northern Minnesota, in Enchantment Lake (2015). Starting her senior year in a small Northern Minnesota school is drastically different from her days in a private academy in New York City. Francie’s numerous adventures, including solving a murder, also include social issues of Native American rights, global warming, the Northern Minnesota crude oil pipeline, and preservation. Young adult readers, ages 12 – 17, will easily identify with the themes of friendship, bravery, curiosity, peer rivalry, and family. The dénouement will leave readers hoping for another Enchanted Lake mystery when Francie hopefully discovers more about her secretive brother and long-lost mother. (DLN)


Sign Off

Savage, Stephen. 2019. Sign Off. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 56pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-1210-1.

The signs are created by a number of graphic artists, especially Roger Cook of Cook and Shanosky Associates, who developed the round-headed sign characters in the 1970s. From dusk to dawn, darkness to light, the signs fly off their homes and embark on a journey throughout the night. Dark colors complement the nighttime hours and brighten only when a new day begins. The sequence of events is cumulative, following the sign characters, as they walk to a stop sign, cooperate with each other, remove the amber/yellow light and catapult it into the sky for another day. Readers will predict the characters eventually return to their respective homes, or signs when they observe the sign on the last page, a deer, one of the characters, is back on its sign. (DLN)


Look What I See

Barrett, Judi. 2019. Look What I See. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 32pp. $8.99 (board book). ISBN 978-1-5344-3073-0.  Pictures by Ron Barrett.

Viewing the world from different perspectives can be enjoyable. Readers may want to copy the character as it views the ceiling from a bed, a bedroom from inside a shirt, the area at the bottom of stairs, reflection in a spoon, upside down, a plant while crouching on the ground, a mirror image from a water puddle, a bug from a magnifying glass, a bird’s nest through a telescope,  a neighborhood from a treehouse, the landscape from a bike path, raindrops, a living room while spinning around, objects in a bathtub, and evening before sleeping. Muted colors emphasize the perspective v. the character or the objects. Readers, ages 15 months to 3, will appreciate and more than likely, copy each perspective, especially viewing the world upside down and spinning. (DLN)


My Little Ocean

Wiehle, Katrin. 2019. My Little Ocean. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 16pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-328-53525-2.

Different animals, plants, items, and concepts common to oceans are the focus of this board book for young readers. Animals such as seals, eels, whales, and many more are discussed in this text. The concept of high and low tide. A seal propels the plot by appearing in several illustrations. As with My Little Pond, the illustrations are created with muted, earthy colors conveying the mood of reading print and viewing pictures generated by using recycled materials. (DLN)


Finnegan, Delphine. 2019. Crayola: I Dream in Color. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division (Simon Spotlight). 26pp. Illustrated by Tony Neal.

I Dream in Color

Young readers, ages 1 – 4 years, will appreciate the focus on color: blue for a midnight sky, green seawater, plum pastries, a red tractor, a yellow classroom, a silver spacecraft, a chestnut cat, and an orange sunset. Complementing the colors are possibilities or dreams of becoming a marine biologist, a chef with a cooking show, a farmer, a teacher, an astronaut, a veterinarian, and an artist. The sequence of events is ideal for identifying colors, objects, and potential careers. (DLN)


Travis, Lauri. 2019. Arrowheads, Spears, and Buffalo Jumps: Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers of the Great Plains.  Mountain Press Publishing Company. 92pp. $15.00. Illustrated by Eric S. Carlson.Readers explore the prehistory of the Great Plains through the eyes of archaeologists. Illustrations complementing the archaeological journey uncover the life and cultures of the prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the Great Plains. The text includes a timeline, a map, sketches of the people and their tools, photographs of archaeological sites, artifacts, animals, and field equipment. The content is divided into five chapters and provides a glossary, and index to conclude this exceptionally accurate book about prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the Great Plains. (DLN)


Back from the Brink

Castaldo, Nancy F. 2018. Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for  Young Readers). 176pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-544-95343-7. 

Stellar photographs augment discussions about saving animals from extinction, such as whooping cranes, wolves, bald eagles and many more. The narratives are more than informative; they are a call to action, urging readers to join scientists and others in preserving habitats and endangered animals. Fascinating facts augment the information, such as the note about the mass bison slaughter of 2017 when Yellowstone National Park, with the approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Montana, allowed 1,300 of the 5,500 bison in the park to be killed. Readers have numerous resources, additional books, movies, web sites, organizations, et al to investigate more information about the species included in the text. (DLN)



Davies, Bridget. 2019. Ink: Do More Art. Laurence King Publishing. 128pp. $19.99. ISBN: 978-1-786-27427-4.

Readers are introduced to techniques of ink and wash painting through straight-forward, comprehensible steps and explanations. A variety of inks, such as acrylic and liquid watercolor, are discussed. Additionally, different types of brushes and paper are listed according to which materials work best with certain forms of ink. Novice ink and wash artists will value the contributions of professional artists and can find more information of each contributor’s website, which is listed in the appendix. A glossary, index, picture credits, acknowledgements and information about the author concludes this spellbinding list of techniques, mediums, and examples of ink art. (DLN)


We Are Not Yet Equal

Anderson, Carol and Bolden, Tonya. 2018. We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc (Bloomsbury YA). 288pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-5476-0076-2. Forward by Nic Stone.

Young adult readers will learn about tragic moments of the history of African Americans after the Civil War in this adaptation of  White Rage. Black and white photographs enhance the content of each chapter. For example, a picture of the crowd gathering for President Lincoln’s second inauguration in March of 1865 precedes “Original Sin,” a phrase fourth president of the United States, James Madison, used to describe the slave trade in North America. This text is especially readable for young adults who need to understand the violence and systemic racism experienced by African Americans since the Civil War and Reconstruction. A guide with ten sets of questions prompts and encourages discussion among young adults. The authors also suggest additional titles about racism and provide a table of contents, index, and a number of shadow boxes with essential information about this period of history. (DLN)


Zen Happiness

Muth, Jon J. 2019. Zen Happiness. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 32pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-338-34602-2.

Zen, or meditation, attempts to understand the meaning of life directly with mindful awareness and compassion for all. According to the introduction, the twelve meditations styles in this collection may help individuals “discover and intuitive path to one’s own happiness.” The watercolor artworks are sourced from different books by the author readers may recognize, such as  Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, Zen Ghosts, Hi, Koo!:A Year of Seasons, and Zen Socks. Readers may also recognize Stillwater, the panda often featured in Muth’s watercolors, as the bear leads them through the various meditation techniques. (DLN)


McIntyre, Sarah. 2019. The New Neighbors. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Workshop). 32 pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5247-8996-1. First published by David Fickling Books in 2018.

The New Neighbors

The bunnies are thrilled as rats moved into their apartment building! Their excitement is conveyed through bright colors like yellows, greens, and oranges. The bunnies share the news with their sister, their neighbor Vern the lamb, then Walter and Malilta, pigs living on the fifth floor, then polar bears Lars and Astrid on the fourth floor, followed by yaks Norbu and Pemu on the third floor, and finally Granny Goat on the second floor. The news becomes warped as it passes from neighbor to neighbor and feelings of  anxiety and fear begin to emerge. These negative feelings are conveyed through the illustrations with progressively darker, muted colors. When the neighbors finally reach the first floor and meet their new neighbors, Bertram and Natasha, they discover welcoming, polite, and neat rats who invite everyone in for carrot cake and lemonade. The neighbors are embarrassed because of their unfounded fear, but eventually leave welcome gifts in front of the door of the rats. The sequence of events, the diversity of neighbors, and their misguided thoughts and fears can prompt discussions among children ages 3 – 8 about stereotypes and misguided assumptions about others. (DLN)


My Little Pond

Wiehle, Katrin. 2019. My Little Pond. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 16pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-328-54485-8.

Different birds, insects, amphibians, fish, mammals, gastropods, molluscs, crustaceans, reptiles, and plants living in ponds are the focus of this board book for young readers. A frog guides readers through the plot, and observant children and parents can locate the frog’s location on each page. Illustrations are composed of muted earthy colors, such as browns, blues, and greens to convey the calm atmosphere of a pond while reading this text. (DLN)


Gates, Henry Louis Jr. with Bolden, Tonya. 2019. Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Nonfiction). 240pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-338-26204-9.

Dark Sky Rising

Covering the tragic and extensive history of racism in the United States between 1861 and 1915 for a young adult audience is a challenging feat. However, young adults will find this narrative engaging and informative, even though the facts reveal an exceptionally horrific era of North American history for African Americans. Black and white photographs of significant events and people, with occasional quotations, descriptions of notable figures, newspaper announcements, and posters contribute to this substantive story. The text is suitable for adolescents in 4th –6th grade, but it can also be a useful resource for older middle school and high school readers struggling with printed material or learning English as another language. Reference materials, endnotes, and an index are available for readers interested in learning more. (DLN)


Grant, Jacob. 2019. Bear Out There. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-1-68119-745-6.

Bear out There

Bear does not like the outdoors and prefers to complete activities in the house followed by a cup of tea sitting in his comfortable   chair. His friend Spider prefers to be outside, flying his kite, enjoying the sun, the breeze, plants, and even bugs. One day, Spider’s kite flies away and he asks Bear for help finding it. Bear does not like the forest, the filthy ground, itchy plants, or pesky bugs. While Spider continues to enjoy the outdoors, as evident by the light pastel colors, Bear’s misery is conveyed by darker colors. Just when Bear is ready to head home because they cannot find the kite, he observes the despondent look in his friend’s face and says, “Maybe we could look just a little farther.” Young readers will recognize Bear’s act of friendship, and rejoice in the satisfying conclusion as Bear and Spider sip tea and fly kites outside Bear’s home. (DLN)


Will Giraffe Laugh

Leung, Hilary. 2019. Will Giraffe Laugh? Scholastic Inc. (Cartwheel Books). 38pp. $7.99. ISBN  978-1-338-21561-8.

Giraffe is in a sour mood and his friends want to make him happy. Bear, Crocodile, Frog, Sheep, and Ladybug try without success to make Giraffe laugh. His friends become sad when their efforts to transform Giraffe’s mood fail. Only when Giraffe falls in a pond does he laugh – at himself. His friends also laugh at themselves as they follow suit and fall into the water as well.  Everyone, however, becomes grumpy again when they are literally tied up with string. Colorful illustrations with bright colors like yellow, orange, and red will appeal to young readers. They may also recognize the significance of the double rainbow, a sign of the end of the rainstorm and the grumpy moods of the animals. (DLN)


Curious George Goes Swimming

Preziosi, Alessandra. 2019. Curious George Goes Swimming. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 24pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-328-97311-5. Illustrated in the style of H. A. Rey by Mary O’Keefe Young.

George and the man wearing the yellow hat spend the day at the community pool. George grabs the lifeguard float to use as a floatation device in the pool, and when chastised by the guard, George runs on the deck, hence breaking another rule. Eventually, George meets a friend, Lucy, and helps her overcome her fear of submerging herself in water. Both George and his new friend have a pleasurable day at the pool. Readers familiar with the original Curious George illustrations will recognize the artist’s style and appreciate the title’s newfound diversity; Lucy and her father are African American and many of the other swimmers are of diverse races and ethnicities. (DLN)


On the Origin of Species

Stefoff, Rebecca, adapter. 2018. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition. Simon & Schuster  (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 176pp. $25.99. ISBN  978-1-4814-6249-5. Illustrations by Teagan White.

Original narratives by Charles Darwin propel this version of his famous work on the origin of species. The text includes an introduction, table of contents, a portrait of a young Charles Darwin, photographs, sketches, a glossary, books and pertinent websites for further reading, and an index. Young adults will appreciate the accessibility of the information, from Darwin’s great discovery presented in the introduction to the rise and fall of species. (DLN)


Pete the Cat's Giant Book

Dean, James. 2019. I Can Read! Pete the Cat’s Giant Groovy Book: 9 Books in One. HarperCollins. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-286830-5.

With the exception of the last three books, Pete the Cat Goes Camping, Pet the Cat and the Cool Caterpillar, and Pet the Cat’s Funky Family Tree, all of the stories comply with the My First Shared Reading level which employs “basic language, word repetition, and whimsical illustrations” appropriate for young children developing their reading skills. The last three titles are at the Beginning Reading level and include “short sentences, familiar words, and simple concepts” for children interested in reading independently. Watercolor illustrations complement the plot and assist young readers in word recognition. (DLN)


Tales to Finish

Disney Book Group. 2017. Disney Princess: Tales to Finish. Disney Publishing Worldwide (Disney Press). 128pp. $10.99. ISBN  978-148478957-5. Illustrations by the Disney Storybook Art Team.

The tales to finish in this collection are also stories to color. Different authors composed each chapter about beloved Disney characters readers ages 3 and older will recognize, like Snow White, Rapunzel, Merida, Tiana, Ariel, Belle, and Cinderella. As children and their caregivers read these tales, they may also color the illustrations. Each tale ends with statement which invites readers to write their own conclusions. (DLN)


The Girl Who Sailed the Stars

Woods, Matilda. 2018. The Girl Who Sailed the Stars. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-51524-1.

This is a charming fantasy filled with a variety of characters, amazing sea creatures, and a bold and brave ten-year-old heroine. Born the seventh and unwanted daughter to an unkind sea captain and his selfish wife, Oona must make her way in a life devoid of friends, love, or affection. As a stowaway on her father’s ship, Oona finally finds adventure and so many of the things that have been lacking in her life. Although the text has a young protagonist, events in this book that may be disturbing for young readers, perhaps making it more suitable for middle school students. Children who like to see people “get what they deserve,” both good and bad, will find this a particularly engaging story. Illustrated in a nostalgic blue-tone style with nautical margin decorations, the text is also aesthetically pleasing. (RCT)


Tell me Everything

Enni, Sarah. 2019. Tell Me Everything. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 288pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-13915-0.

Brimming with pop culture references, current topics, and centered on social media, this well-written book is likely to appeal to young teenagers. Sophomore Ivy is the likable narrator of this sometimes-awkward walk through high school, negotiating insecurity, fierce friendship, her first brush with love, and confusing emotions. A talented photographer, Ivy doubts her talent as she delves into an art-related anonymous app and becomes more involved than is probably healthy. She makes some assumptions that prove rather disastrous for her, and the reader is along for the ride as she works to right her world. (RCT)


Dream Within a Dream

MacLachlan, Patricia. 2019. Dream Within a Dream. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K.McElderry Books). 128pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-2959-8.

This short, sweet book with a diversity of characters will appeal to readers between the ages of eight and  twelve-years-old. Louisa and her brother Theo spend the summer visiting their grandparents on Deer Island, as they do every year. However, things are changing this year. Louisa has her first brush with young love, and sensitive Theo doesn’t want to leave. The siblings have a healthy relationship with each other, their grandparents, and many island residents. While some of the topics are mature, they are handled appropriately and in an easy to understand manner. (RCT)