Significant Others II: Luther Student Reviews

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Brown, India. 2019. The Forgotten Girl. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 256pp. $16.99 ISBN 978-1-33-831724-4.

Blizzards, ghosts, and stressful school projects are all normal parts of life, but the combination can be chaotic. Told by an outside narrator, Iris and her best friend Daniel have the daring task of attacking blizzards, ghosts, and stressful school projects all at once. The snow presents a person v. nature conflict from the beginning when Iris and Daniel are making snow angels and they come across the abandoned grave of Avery Moore. After leaving the grave, Iris sees the ghost of Avery in a nightmare. In school the following day Daniel and Iris are assigned a project in which they must research something historical in their town. They chose to look into abandoned graves, similar to the one they found earlier. As Daniel and Iris continue their project, Avery becomes more a part of Iris’s live. She is constantly showing up in Iris’s dreams and even taking her out of the house at night. Daniel starts to worry about how much time Iris is spending with Avery, and he even gets a little jealous, but he did not want to tell her to stop. Daniel did not let this get to him, and instead of staying quiet, he spoke out against Avery and saved Iris. This personal growth in Daniel is critical to the plot. The personal growth in Daniel also strengthened the already strong bond between Iris and himself. Without this friendship, Avery could have seriously hurt Iris. While working on this project, Iris is ridiculed by some fellow classmates because they believe their ideas are superior. This conflict continues throughout the story. The struggles of school and life is evident throughout the sequence of events within the plot. Readers, ages 8-12 can easily relate to the characters because of the struggles of school and life. (CEB)


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Raschka, Christ 2019. The Magic Flute. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books). 48pp.  $17.99 ISBN 978-1-48-144902-1.

Based on the opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In this retelling of the beloved opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the treacherous journey of Tamino to find his love Pamina is told The journey is filled with multiple roadblocks. This complex journey is similar to the complicated images. Each image has an object, such as a person who is filled with shapes. A great representation of this is on the page where Tamino is fighting the snake. The snake is filled with various sizes of circles that are red and black. The colors of other characters in the story ddemonstrate their mood. An example of this is with the Queen of the Night. She is colored with blues, purples, and blacks which is a representation of her somber mood. A major theme throughout the story is good versus evil. The illustrations demonstrate and emphasize this with images of the characters fighting. In addition to the narrative text, there is text on the illustration that make the story easier to follow. The illustration creates a bit of chaos due to the lack of distinct lines. The lack of texture makes the images seem two dimensional. This story is meant for children ages 4-8 (CEB) 


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Walrath, Dana. 2018. I Am a Bird. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.37. ISBN 978-1-48-148002-4. Illustrated by Jamie Kim.

Dreaming of flying is something that everyone does as a kid. This story explores this idea when a kid imagines himself as a bird. Even though the story does not have a plot, there is a clear flow. For example, one page says ‘I’m a fly, I land.” The next page says “I am land. I stretch to the sea.” Page by page the words will all connect. The illustrations contain many details such as the intricate blanket used for a picnic or the splashing water lashing on the shore. The dominant colors are orange, yellow, and red which gives the book a warm and welcoming feeling. The setting also gives the enjoyable feeling because it is set at a beach, and the beach is usually associated with happiness. The importance of the bird to the story is clear because there is a bird on every page. (CEB) 


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Coville, Katherine. 2019. Briar and Rose and Jack. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 368pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-895005-5.

The third person narrator combines the tales of Jack and the Beanstalk and Sleeping Beauty. The collaboration of Jack, Briar, and Rose, to defeat the giant, demonstrates true friendship. They work together through obstacles and watch out for each other. They create a pact at age nine agreeing to one day kill the giant who is constantly demanding the people of the kingdom to give him their goods. The king of the empire imposes a “Giant Tax,” demanding the people in the kingdom give up fifty percent of their crops and money to the kingdom. These goods are saved until the giant comes down from the clouds demanding food and gold. This act of tyranny demonstrates the hierarchy which was common in similar empires during this time period. Briar, twin of Rose, shows the most growth. In the exposition, she is very self -conscious and does not believe she deserves anyone’s love. During the rising action, she gains more confidence and is willing to try and make friends. Once the climax occurs, she is confident of herself. She demonstrates this when she finally accepts Jack’s love during both the climax and the conclusion readers may appreciate specific mention of additional themes, especially regarding the tyrannical giant and behavior of the king. (CEB)


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Laney, Matt. 2019. Pride Wars: The Four Guardians. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 368pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-870738-3.

The honorable Prince Leo struggles with the conflict between family and power when his older cousin Tamir takes Leo’s rightful spot on the throne. He is forced to seek out help wherever possible, including crossing into enemy lines. The journey of these humanlike felines is filled with other elements of both fantasy and folklore, including the use of magical demon dust and the stopping of time. Friendship is also crucial during this treacherous journey. Prince Leo has the companionship of Zoya, Anjali, and Stick as well as many others to help him achieve his goal of obtaining the throne as well as arrive home safely. There is also a clear sense of suspending belief because the struggle within the plot seems as if it could happen in any patriarchal society. Additionally, the contrasts with wisdom versus imperceptions is demonstrated near the conclusion. Amara, daughter of Tamir and leader of the enemy clan, proves her wisdom when instead of being selfish and having her soldiers killed, she decides it is best to remove her own armies’ powers and force them to live without powers. This simple act demonstrates her wisdom. (CEB) 


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John, Jory. 2019. The Good Egg. HarperCollins. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-286600-4. Illustrated by Pete Oswald. 

The Good Egg is one of a dozen who lives in the same recyclable carton. The Good Egg, told from first person point of view, is furious because everyone in his carton misbehaves all the time. He takes on the pressures of cleaning up after them and attempting to fix their behavior which leads Good Egg to crack his shell. Eventually, the Good Egg decides to leave in order to heal himself. By the Good Egg doing this he is promoting self-care, a theme throughout the book. The original setting creates a tense mood because of the unacceptable behaviors of others. The eggs are fighting, breaking their belongings, and even eating sugary cereal which makes the setting appear chaotic. This chaos leaves the reader feeling anxious. The different colors also provide the reader with different moods. One page has trees, houses, and buildings which are all grey. This color choice creates a depressing and somber mood which is also similar to how Good Egg is feeling. The pages which contain colors have vibrant blues for the tile floor and a rich hughs of green for cucumbers. The bright colors used in these illustrations are used to show the Good Egg at his happiest. The eggs themselves have the most texture, and they are filled with various spots and blemishes. Having the eggs have the most texture keeps the focus on them instead of the surroundings. (CEB) 


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Fraser, Mary Ann. 2019. Milton & Odie and the Bigger-than-Bigmouth Bass. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-62-354098-2.

Milton and Odie are strangers who are both fishing in the same lake. The two have very different views of this fishing trip, with Milton the pessimist and Odie the optimist. Odie’s positive outlook is demonstrated when he is content not getting a fish immediately. His mood is also represented in the colors he is wearing. The bright yellow and red, visible on the front jacket, gives a feeling of excitement and warmth which is exactly how Odie is feeling. Whereas, Milton is seen in dull green and black. These colors create a somber and depressing mood. The differences in mood are evident in the illustrations with the two different colors of the waters beneath the ice. Odie’s side is brighter, and the fish look happy. Conversely, the fish on Milton’s side are frowning and unhappy. Both Odie and Milton are competing with nature while they are fishing. This conflict is eventually what brings them together and leads them to catch a large bigmouth bass.  After they catch the first fish, Odie’s positive attitude has worn off on Milton and he becomes an optimist. The underwater illustrations are realistic and contain an abundance of texture. The fish in these images have defined scales and stripes which makes them come to life. (CEB)


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Sorell, Traci. 2019. At the Mountain’s Base. Penguin Random House LLC (Kokila). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-73-523060-6. Illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre.

This is a narrative poem uses rhyme to explain the story of a Native American family. The family has a daughter is in the armed forces, and relatives are anxiously awaiting her return. The family is angry because their daughter is in a different place. This creates a person versus setting conflict. The elder of the family weaves, putting all of her worries into the blanket she is creating. Her fingers are shown to be intricately moving the strings left and right then left again. The illustrations are all outlined in the string which is later woven into the blanket, and the string is varying shades of black, green, red, and yellow. The choice of the blanket weaving gives the allusion that everything is woven into the blanket. The strong love this family has for each other is a characteristic among Native American cultures. The use of watercolor and ink give the trees and mountains a realistic texture. The setting in a cabin in the woods the woods creates a calm mood because it is secluded and safe. (CEB)


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Bajaj, Varsha. 2019. Count Me In. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 192pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551724-5.

Karina and her neighbor Chris were enemies during the exposition. Once Karina’s grandfather beings to tutor Chris, Karina realizes they have more in common than they originally thought. Now friends, Chris and Karina are spending more time with each other. By alternating between Karina’s and Chris’s perspective, it is easy to see how they feel about the situation, but also how they reacted different to events. In the climax, the two are walking with Karina’s grandfather and they are attacked by a random person because of Grandfather’s and Karina’s dark skin color. Standing up for what one believes becomes the main theme after this person versus society conflict. There is a constant battle which Karina faces when deciding to speak up and face consequences or staying quiet and living with the reality that no one will hear her story. After deciding to post about the incident, Katrina grew as an individual because of the mixed responses. (CEB) 


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Lee, Stacey. 2019. The Downstairs Girl. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers). 384pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-52-474095-5.

Jo Kuan has a difficult life. She is a seventeen-year-old Chinese girl living in hiding with her grandfather. She is a maid for Caroline Paynes, the daughter of the wealthiest family in Atlanta. Jo and Caroline argue often, and the arguments often end with Jo’s feelings being hurt. Making money is a priority in Jo’s life because, similar to many other immigrants, she is not paid well and struggles to make ends meet. Many Chinese immigrants during this time period, the 1890’s, were also not welcomed warmly in the south. The Bell’s own the house where Jo and her grandfather are hiding. The Bell’s own a local newspaper which is beginning to fail, so Jo decides to start a women’s advice column with the hopes of helping the newspaper thrive. Her column becomes very popular and it saves the newspaper. The theme of persistence is evident with Jo dealing with constant discrimination and hatred because of her skin color. In addition to everything else, she also grows up quickly and takes care of her grandfather because he could not take care of himself. (CEB) 


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Sosna-Spear, Quinn. 2019. The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson. Simon & Schuster. 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-54-342080-9.

Written in third person and with alternating perspectives, the narrative describes how Walter Mortinson is tired of his mother suppressing his inventions and creativity. When she asks him to join the family’s mortician business, he immediately declines and leaves his hometown of Moormouth. He is seeking the famous inventor Flasterborn, who taught his father before he died. His neighbor, Cordelia, accompanies him on his journey because she is looking for a doctor to cure her hemophilia. While on his journey Walter discovers he is following the same path his parents took as they fell in love. This text is informational because Walter has to confront his grief from his father’s death. It gives specific examples of the contrasting emotions one experiences with the death of a family member. Once Walter returns home, he tries to change his mother’s traditional funeral services. He believes death should be a celebration of life instead of sadness and grief. This demonstrates Walters new positive perspective on life; knowing his celebratory approach to death will lead to a brighter future. (CEB)


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Davis, Meredith. Uwitonze, Rebeka. 2019. Her Own Two Feet. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Nonfiction). 208pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-835637-3.

Rebeka Uwitonze is not the average nine-year-old. She was born in Rwanda with curled and twisted feet which means she cannot walk on them properly. This works at first, but she knows once she gets older it will not work. When she was diagnosed worries filled her brain. She received an offer from a surgeon in the United States who may be able to fix her feet and pay for it as well. Rebeka just has to make the difficult decision of whether or not to leave her family in order to possibly walk again. She stayed with a host family in Dallas, Texas who cared for her while she had numerous surgeries and casts until she was finally able to walk again. Throughout the plot, there were many instances of perseverance and sacrifice. Rebeka had to persist through all of the painful surgeries and rehabilitation while sacrificing precious time with her family. After Rebeka headed back home, her host family wanted to share her admirable story. Meredith, Rebeka’s host mother, flew to Rwanda, and together, Meredith and Rebekah wrote about Rebeka’s journey to straight, functioning feet. (CEB)


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Park, Linda Sue. 2019. Nyas Long Walk: A Step at a Time.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 32pp. $17.99 ISBN 978-1-32-878133-8. Illustrated By Brian Pinkney.

Nya’s and her sister’s trip to get drinking water for their family takes a difficult turn when her sister falls ill from some contaminated water. The setting proves as an antagonist because the sisters have to travel very far to get water, and the water itself is not clean anyways. Nya had to make the choice to carry her either the water or her sister. She chooses her sister, and dumps out some of the water. This action of love is the central theme is this book. Not only does Nya carry her sister back, but she then has to come with her mother on the treacherous journey to the nearest clinic. The illustrations are filled with many bright colors such as orange, yellow, and red. These colors give the story a warm feeling and it also helps to set the setting in a place that has warm temperatures. These warm colors also represent the climate which is in scorching Sudan. Each illustration also has a lack of straight horizontal and vertical lines. The lines that do occur draw colored circles around Nya and Ameer making the focus of the illustration on them. Other than the colored circles around Nya and Ameer, there are black wavy lines which outlines the path that they are taking to get their water. (CEB)


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Dilloway, Margaret. 2019. Summer of a Thousand Pies. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 384pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-280346-7.

Twelve-year-old Cady Bennett has gone through her fair share of trials. Cady lost her mother at a young age and has grown up homeless alongside her father, who faces health issues. When her father shows up to her elementary school intoxicated, social workers become involved, and Cady knows she is headed for another homeless shelter. What she does not expect is to be taken in by her maternal aunt, Shell, and her partner Suzanne, both whom her father cut connections with long ago. Cady tries not to get attached to Shell, or her hometown, Julian, but she cannot help but fall in love with the mountain air, animals, and the culinary lifestyle of Shell and Suzanne. Having never had access to fresh fruits and vegetables, or home-cooked meals, Cady immerses herself in Shell’s life and work, happily helping out in her pie shop downtown. The book grapples with difficult topics: life for a homeless child, everyday dangers faced by undocumented immigrants, having a parent incarcerated, losing a loved one at a young age, facing the threat of foreclosure and homelessness. Despite the intensity of the obstacles Cady and her aunts tackle, Dilloway manages to keep the plot alive with love and laughter. The heartwarming story encapsulates concepts of family, community, and perseverance, as the new family learns and grows together. (NKB)


Something Rotten

Montgomery, Heather L. 2018. Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill. Bloomsbury (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 176pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-68-119900-9. Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley.

An informal chronicle of findings and research on roadkill, the target age is nine to eleven. The primary focus is the science behind the dead animals, such as the parasites found in native snakes, or the reason for a rare black coyote’s fur color. The language used is academic but accessible as most pages contain footnotes with additional scientific information for curious readers, a likely case due to the suspense built by each scientific inquiry. In each chapter, Montgomery conferred with scientists from corresponding fields to best explain the phenomena pertaining to each species addressed, giving authenticity and authority to the theories and methods used to prove or disprove them. The first-person perspective provides a personal and engaging style as readers will desire to discover the answers to all of Montgomery’s scientific queries. The simple line illustrations add to the odd humor of the narrative. The chronicle would be an effective avenue for getting readers interested in STEM subjects at any age. (NKB)



Wiles, Deborah. 2019. Anthem. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 480pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-54-510609-5.

A stirring novel written in a changing first-person perspective; it features several points of view. The year is 1969, in the midst of the Vietnam war. Molly’s older brother, Barry, has run away from home after a fight with their father over the war. When Barry’s draft letter arrives, Molly is sent with her cousin Norm to look for her brother to sort out his draft obligation. During unrest with a person against society conflict and anti-war movement of the youth, Molly and Norm must travel from their home in South Carolina to California. The narrative trek across America comes alive with the music of the 1960s and the historical context given in pieces throughout the plot. Throughout, themes of teamwork, rebellion, and morality emerge. Molly, a stubborn fourteen-year-old girl, living in a divided America, and Norman, a drummer with a passion for live music, makes both protagonists relatable to both young and older readers. (NKB) 


Tree of Dreams

Resau, Laura. 2019. Tree of Dreams. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-0-54-580088-4

Twelve-year-old Coco lives with her mother in a tourist town in Colorado. Coco is intelligent, excitable, competitive, and a slightly awkward, making for the perfect, relatable protagonist for a pre-teen reader. Her hard-working single mother is a realistic and kind but firm woman with a strong passion for her work and the world. Together they manage a small bean-to-bar chocolate factory and shop, importing sustainable cacao beans from rainforests around the world. Coco and her mother both adore the place, the process of making chocolate, including adding flavors and textures and describing the creations to customers. So, when the chocolate shop begins to go into debt, Coco has to do something to save it. Then come the strange dreams, pleads from a tree somewhere promising Coco a treasure to save the shop, and, hopefully, the rainforests which are being so carelessly destroyed by humans. Coco waits for a sign, some opportunity to visit the tree, and to save her mother’s shop, soon enough, one appears. A dessert contest held in town promises the winner a trip to the Amazon rainforest with a guest of their choice. Coco has to win, so she creates a delicious and beautiful chocolate tree to impress the judges. Unfortunately, Coco’s competition, and former friend, Leo, also enters the competition, and they tie. Both win the trip to the Amazon and are again in competition for the mysterious treasure beneath the tree. Along the way, Coco learns about the rainforest, the cacao harvesting process, the indigenous people of the Amazon, herself, and the people close to her. Themes of friendship, compassion, and dedication run through the novel like caramel ripples through a chocolate truffle; simile and metaphor are abundant in its rich text. An enchanting and provocative piece, the book dares readers to change the world. (NKB)


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Serra, Adolfo. 2017. A Different Story. Wm. B Eerdmans (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). (Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-80-285527-5.

Uniquely illustrated, the book points out the similarities between two animals despite their differences. The rhinoceros is a large mammal, and the rhinoceros beetle is a small insect, but they share the distinctive horn, and the earth. Simple language and illustrations are used to convey a deeper theme than the length of the story may suggest. Humans are all different but have more commonalities than differences. The contrast in language and visual contact is prevalent; for example, black text is found on white backgrounds such as the moon, while white text is used on the red end page for the author’s note. The illustrations are all multimedia collages and use drawings, newspaper, and painting to create striking landscape and nature settings. The book is well-suited for children aged three and up and could be used to start a conversation about ethnicity, ability, and other traits individuals might not share with others. (NKB) 


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Wenzel, Brendan. 2019. A Stone Sat Still. Chronicle Books. 56pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-45-217318-4.

This simple picture book for young readers follows the daily life of a humble stone through the lenses of the local wildlife. To a snail, for instance, the stone is rough and takes a significant amount of effort to maneuver around it, but from the porcupine’s perspective, the stone is smooth. To a small beetle, the stone is massive, but tiny in the eyes of a moose. While perceived differently by each creature, the stone remains a comforting constant. The language used is accessible for young readers, paired with illustrations that complement the rhyming phrases. The illustrations are immaculate, using multiple media to show depth, shadow, texture, line, and shape. Included in the pictures are cut paper, simple hand-drawn illustration, and watercolor, all of which are incredibly detailed. The muted cool tones used for color add to the calm nature of the plot, themes, and setting. The end pages look like the texture of the stone itself, and if readers remove the dust jacket from the book, they will find a continuation of the stone’s texture with a glossy layer on top mimicking the slime trail of the snail. It is no surprise that Wenzel’s earlier work has won the prestigious Caldecott award. Down to the smallest of details of design, his work his charming. (NKB)


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Lyon, Benn and George Lyon. 2019. Trains Run! Simon & Schuster (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-148202-8. Illustrated by Mick Wiggins.

This concept picture book is an introduction to locomotives for children, ages three to eight. Simple language and detailed illustrations teach the reader about different types of trains, the terrain they travel, and their jobs. Rhyming words such as vroom and zoom, on each page, add style and dimension to the text. The illustrations feature mountains, jungles, cities, train stations, and several types of trains, from passenger to cargo, subway to circus train. The usage of soft blues and greens sets a calm tone, and bright yellows bring excitement to the scene of strong, fast trains hauling heavy loads all around the world. The trains and their environment are depicted using simple geometric shapes, making the figures easily recognizable to children and older readers alike. Line is used for the track paths of the trains, leading readers to page after page of enjoyable, train-centric rhyming verse. (NKB)


The Superlative A. Lincoln

Meyer, Eileen R. 2020. The Superlative A. Lincoln Poems About Our 16th President. Charlesbridge. 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089937-6. Illustrated by Dave Szalay.

This collection of poems combines witty linguistic tricks with educational information and simple illustrations. Each of the eighteen poems utilizes different rhyme schemes and formats to present a different part of Abraham Lincoln’s life and work. One poem features an ABB form with five stanzas, and the next an ABCB rhyme scheme piece with four lines in each of its five stanzas. Many of the poems also employ slant rhyme, which features similar sounds rather than those identical. Along with each poem is a paragraph with more information on the topic; this could be Abe’s stovepipe, hat, or his propensity for wrestling at a young age. The illustrations add to the text without distracting the reader. Texture is shown by paint splatters, as in Frederick Douglass’s beard, and small detailed line work in the clothing of characters. The colors are mostly earthy browns and greens, providing a sense of calm, alongside rich black and navy tones and bright whites, which remind readers of the formality of Lincoln’s job and the importance of his work. This collection is a good read for any age or audience and offers keen insights on our sixteenth president. (NKB)


A Year with Mama Earth

Grabill, Rebecca. 2019. A Year with Mama Earth. Wm. B Eerdmans (Eerdmans books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-0-80-285505-3. Illustrated by Rebecca Green.

Through thoughtful illustrations and text, nature becomes personified and explains seasonal phenomena. Metaphors are used, such as the December snow becoming a winter coat for mother earth, or the melting of the last ice in April caused her smile. Each month has a page with unique characteristics, following the adventures of three children throughout the year. In the winter, they decorate evergreens with strings of cranberries, and in August, they play with the garden hose in the yard. Every scene is outdoors, with nature in the spotlight. Thousands of strokes show the texture of grass, the depth of hair by dozens of lines in varying tones, and the glow of fireflies by concentric circles in increasingly dull shades of yellow. The color palette is comforting, without overly saturated bold colors. Deep blues, earthy greens, browns, and pastel pinks contribute to the setting for each month of the year. The lines are natural; none are entirely straight, and they never come together to create perfect angles. Basic shapes such as rectangles, circles, and triangles form objects and creatures. The visual and literary elements complement each other, conveying themes of youth, lightheartedness, and an appreciation of nature’s gifts. (NKB)



Amato, Max. 2019. Perfect. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54-582931-1.

Everyone has a unique point of view, their own lens through which they see everything. For an eraser, a clean, pristine sheet of paper is perfect. For a pencil, however, every piece of paper is a canvas calling to be filled. The setting of a blank page demands action on the part of the sly pencil, who cannot stand to leave the page blank. The stubborn eraser wants the paper to be clean. When the pencil meets paper and begins to doodle, the eraser gets flustered, evident by the facial expressions of each character. In the eraser’s opinion, the drawings must be removed, but the eraser cannot keep up with the pencil as it tries to rid the page of every line and shape drawn. A solution arises after the pencil covers the entire page with dark gray shading, and the eraser discovers a new artform with negative space drawing. Finally, the eraser can create a picture. The strongest theme in this picture storybook is compromise. There is more than one way to do something, especially when it comes to art. The lines carry readers from one page to the next, and the bright yellow of the pencil and vivid pink of the eraser amid the black and white background propel the plot and conflicts among the pencil and eraser. Simple geometric shapes such as rectangles, triangles, and circles promote creativity, as the basic shapes are easy to draw and become exciting when combined. Texture is evident in the pencil drawings on most pages, as well as the little pink bits from the eraser’s efforts to clear the page. The conflict and resolution between the eraser and pencil provide a visually and cognitively stimulating adventure for young readers. (NKB)


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Lanier, Sidney. 2018. King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory’s History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round  Table. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 288pp. $29.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442841-6. Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth.

Seven tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are shared in a language between modern English and Brythonic, the language of King Arthur. The themes addressed in the tales include responsibility, kindness, and equality. The characters are printed in black and white and have few characteristics. The knights and the king are shown to be purely good, rather than multifaceted human beings. Arthur is shown as both responsible and kind in the first tale when he rode to take the famed sword from the stone to bring to his defenseless brother. Also demonstrated in the tales is equality, the round table a symbol of the theme. As no one can sit at the head of a circular table, all have an equal part in discussions and decision-making, a radical idea considering the year and setting. The knights and their king are equal. The setting is medieval England, evident through the text and illustrations. The text includes language from the time, for example, “wist,” but always includes a modern translation following in brackets “[knew].” The use of both languages is beneficial as young readers, ages ten and older can understand what they are reading without a dictionary and expand their vocabulary. The illustrations go along with the tales and are both beautiful works of art and compelling elements of the book. Line is used to express dimension. The shapes are round, often irregular, and natural-looking, adding a realistic aspect. The muted colors include muddy blues, greens, and browns to show the nature of Medieval England, while black and deeper reds and golds are used to indicate the dress of the upper class. The texture is realistic in the paintings. Knights’ armor is stippled to look like authentic metalwork of the time period, clothing is painted with wrinkles and made to flow realistically, and outdoor settings are made up of hundreds of brushstrokes to mimic the thousands of blades of grass, leaves, and grooves in bark. (NKB)


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Cajoleas, Jimmy. 2019. The Rambling. HarperCollins. 304pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-249878-6.

Buddy Pennington is a boy living with his mom in a run-down, boring town. Unlucky, he is sick and tired of making mistakes. When he accidentally half burns down his mother’s bakery, Buddy decides he has had enough and decides to leave and find his father, a famous card player, in the swamp. It takes days to reach the stilted house in the marshland, and once he does, his father is snatched by two henchmen and taken downriver. Buddy cannot help but find his father and treks into the swamp. The journey begins, and Buddy learns more about the world of the swamp, the reasons his father and mother separated, and the famed game of parsnip. Buddy meets friends and foes along the way, trying to find his kidnapped father, defending himself along the way. Themes of friendship, bravery, and love are prominent in the swamp adventure. The setting is a non-descript area with elements of the southern United States Bayou in Louisiana and an unclear time period. Each character in the story belongs in the magical swamp culture, hustling, and using their southern dialect. (NKB)



Noel, Kaela. 2020. Coo. HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 407pp. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-0-06-295597-5. Illustrated by Celia Krampien.

Coo is abandoned in an alley as a baby and found by a flock of pigeons who take her in. She grows up feeling like she does not fit in with this group. Coo is able to express more than the pigeons and she can’t fly. One day when her pigeon best friend, Burr, breaks his wing, she ventures to the ground for the first time so she can find the woman who helps her flock. Tully is stunned when she discovers this young girl and decides to take her back to her apartment and care for her. Coo spends the next few weeks learning to speak English and having typical human experiences for the first time, like sleeping in a bed or watching TV. Soon pigeons all across the city start getting sick and Coo goes on a mission to find a way to stop the illness. Meanwhile, the city government wants to kill the pigeons to clean up the city. 

Throughout the story the reader gets to hear from Coo herself about her new experiences with things and discover what is important. She discovers the value of friendship both within the flock and with her new human friend. Tully provides her with the family she’s never had that she now never wants to live without. Her life with Tully inside her apartment is a vast change to the harsh life she was used to having on the roof with the flock. Now she experiences more comfort and learns pigeons and humans need different things. The use of pigeon speak contrasts the typical English one would normally hear. Overall, Coo’s adventures are well suited for young audiences, ages 8  - 12,  and emphasizes a message of personal growth. (IMD)


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Kang, Anna. 2018. Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? HarperCollins. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-239685-3.

Speaking from his own perspective, Monty, a frog, is having trouble falling asleep the night before the boat races. All of the illustrations are outlined in a heavy black line. The lines clearly define shapes and objects within the illustrations. Smaller lines around Monty’s body demonstrate his restlessness. Pages with short, sharp lines, represent anxiety, one reason Monty cannot sleep. Monty decides counting sheep might help him fall asleep, but all the sheep make a lot of noise, making him more anxious. His anxiety is conveyed by large fonts and jumping sheep. Monty’s bed is yellow with red lines criss crossing over it creating a pattern. Behind Monty, there is a blue wall that varies from light blue to dark blue conveying the transition from early to late evening. In addition to yellow and blue, Monty is a green frog. These colors convey a feeling of calmness and tranquility which is expected at nighttime. Vibrant colors, textures, and the absence of hard edges produces a feeling of serenity, similar to what children, ages 3-6, hope to experience before falling asleep. (KAF) 


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Vaught, Susan. 2019. Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442501-9.

Jesse Broadview is not the typical middle schooler. Not just because she is on the autism spectrum, but also because her dad was recently arrested for stealing money from the library fund. Told from Jesse’s point of view, readers experience what middle school is like for a high functioning autistic girl. She has three mortal enemies who have been bullying her for years: Ryker Morton, Chris Sedon, and Trisha Parks. When a new boy, Springer Regal, moves to town Jesse has someone outside of her family that she can talk to. Before Springer, Jesse relied mostly on her dog Sam-Sam to diffuse her anger. Springer is there for Jesse throughout the plot. Each chapter is a different event starting a week before the tornado through the aftermath. Throughout the story, Jesse and Springer are trying to figure out who stole the money from the library fund. Even in the midst of the tornado, Jesse could not stop thinking about the identity of the thief. The tornado tears through her town and when she runs home, she finds her house completely crushed. This represents the lack of control and helplessness Jesse feels about her life. The tornado rips apart everything she loves, even trapping her aunt and Sam-Sam inside. Luckily, Springer and Jesse were able to get them both out with minor injuries. After the tornado, Jesse was finally able to connect the dots and accuses a teacher, Mr. Sedon, of stealing the money. Unfortunately, it turned out to be Trisha, stealing the money to help Chris. Chris needed the money to help his dad, Mr. Sedon, with his gambling debts. None of this would have been discovered without the detective work of Jesse and Springer. Springer and Jesse's relationship hardly wavers, which shows the strength their friendship is during tough times. They had different ways of handling difficult situations because Jesse used tactics that worked best for her and Springer used tactics that worked best for him. (KAF) 


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Marino, Gianna. Just like my Brother. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $12.75. ISBN 978-0-42-529060-6.

The Little Giraffe is playing a game of hide-and-seek with his older brother. The illustrations depicting this game are full of vibrant colors such as yellow and blue. Yellow is the grass in which Little Giraffe runs through and the blue is the clear sky behind him. These colors make the setting joyful. Joyfulness continues into the other animals Little Giraffe talks too. The happy pink flamingos and the black and white zebras contribute to an amiable setting with their bright colors. The only distinct lines and shapes are within the animals themselves cheetahs, zebras, and giraffes have their spots and lines respectively. While Little Giraffe is trying to find his brother, he constantly explains his brother is very tall and very brave. In the end, Little Giraffe realizes that he is also a “tall, fast, brave giraffe” just like his brother (Marino p. 27). (KAF)


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Pinkney, Brian. Puppy Truck. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $11.79. ISBN 978-1-53-442687-0.

Carter is an African American boy who yearns for a puppy, but instead, he receives a toy truck. He then decided to treat it as if it were his own puppy. He ties a leash on it and brings it to the park. The toy truck then develops the characteristics of a puppy such as barking, moving on its own, running away from Carter, and eating and sleeping, just like a dog. The illustrations are filled with bright colors such as red, yellow, blue, brown, green, and purple. The toy truck is bright yellow and red, conveying a sense of excitement and joy. Everything is partially outlined in heavy black lines. The colors do not completely fill the outline and the lines are not always completely connected. The light-yellow paper (background) suggests the moods of happiness and calm. The quick brushstrokes and bright colors give a sense of movement and urgency. The curved paint strokes outlined by the sharp black lines create a feeling that a lot is happening on the page even if it is just the boy and his truck. Vocabulary is presented in a large black font, but words are not on every page.  A repeating phrase is “vroom beep bark” which is the sound of the puppy truck. Readers, ages 2-5, will appreciate the imagination of the boy as he transforms a truck into a puppy. (KAF) 


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Glaser, Karina Yan. 2019. The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 364pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-32-857757-3.

The third-person narrator follows around the five Vanderbeeker siblings as they try to save their mother’s dream of owning her bakery. The five children are different from each other. Isa puts all her effort into mastering the violin. Jessie, Isa’s twin sister, is obsessed with science and focuses all her free time on reading science books she finds at garage sales. Oliver enjoys architecture, but really, he just wants to build his dream treehouse. Hyacinth’s positivity unites the group even when they want to give up. Laney is an average six-year-old who cherishes animals and has already decided she wants to be a veterinarian when she is older. Conflict arises as an inspector, Mr. West, revokes Mrs. Vanderbeeker’s licenses to operate a bakery out of their house. The license is revoked because they have too many animals in the house and the kitchen space is not separated from the house. Mr. West revoked the license while Mrs. Vanderbeeker was not home, so the kids hatched a plan to fix everything before a big photoshoot for the bakery. They had many setbacks while they were trying to help, from animals everywhere to bright pink walls, they never gave up in their attempt to help their mother. Ultimately, the kids found a storefront that their mom could rent and create a cat cafe. This idea solved their two main issues of how to keep their mom’s dream alive and how to incorporate the random animals showing up at their back door. There are a handful of illustrations throughout the book. There is an ongoing calendar between chapters allowing the reader to keep track of when things are happening and what events are soon to come. In addition to the calendar, there is a map of their house, a “to do” list, a map of Oliver’s ideal treehouse, their suspect list of who is dropping the animals on their doorstep, and a map of the subway line, along with a few other drawings. All illustrations are done in a simple black pen. (KAF)


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Prineas, Sarah. 2019. Dragonfell. HarperCollins. 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-266555-3.

Dragonfell is a place high up on the mountains, overlooking a village. The Dragonfell dragon, the protector of the village, used to have his lair there but had disappeared years ago. Rafi, a boy from the village, has always been an outsider. People view Rafi as different which they associate with being evil. The people in town fear him because Rafi looks different. He has vibrant red hair and enjoys spending an enormous amount of time on Dragonfell. However, these are just small reasons when compared to his appearance being  “dragon-touched.” Rafi feels a deep connection to dragons and is able to produce fire which scares the village people. He is deeply disconnected from everyone around in the village and himself. Rafi feels unsure of who he is because he questions why he never gets cold or where the fire comes from during the complication action of the plot. On his adventure to find the dragon and return it to Dragonfell, he befriends a girl named Maud, a scientist who is particularly interested in dragons. Maud is the first person who is not afraid of him, even though she notices the differences that others make others fear him. Together they set out to find where the dragons have gone and why they left in the first place. (KAF) 


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Rinker, Sherri. 2019. Three Cheers for Kid McGear! Chronicle Books. 40pp. $17.99 ISBN 978-1-45-215582-1. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

Kid McGear, a skid steer, is excited to work on a new construction site. Kid offers to help in any way she can, but the other five trucks do not like how she helps. This causes tension between the trucks and Kid as they are worried, she is too small and too weak to help. Ready to give up and come back another day, they hear a faint cry for help from far away. Since Kid is smaller and faster than the other trucks, she arrives at the accident first and is able to assess the situation. Using multiple different tools such as a jackhammer, a grappling hook, and power shears, Kid is able to help Excavator and Bulldozer escape from the slippery landslide. Kid proves she could be useful on the construction site and the other trucks ask her to stay and work with them. This resolves the conflict between them and leads to the theme friendship of the six construction trucks.  The illustrations help place the setting of a construction site as well as create a sense of mood. Colors such as tan, yellow, and red create a dry warm environment. When the trucks are leaving Kid behind, dark reds and browns convey a somber mood. The colors become more vibrant as the call for help comes, resulting in bright yellow and blues signifying the shift in mood from sad to frantic. Colored pencil lines leave a texture in the dirt and machinery giving a sense of a rough, dry surface. Black lines outline the objects in the illustrations and short black lines surrounding an object conveys the movement of the object. (KAF)


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Timbaland. 2019. Nighttime Symphony. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $23.99. ISBN 978-1-44-241208-8. Illustrated by Christopher Myers and Kaa.

With rhymes and rhythm to follow, the poem creates a lullaby that will rock any child to sleep. Written in the second person, this single poem incorporates many different styles of poetry including limerick, lyrical, narrative, and imagery. It includes many metaphors and the illustrations bring the words to life. The umbrellas are transformed into turntables, and thunder becomes musical angels. Dark blues, blacks, grays, and browns dominate creating a somber mood. However, vibrant yellows, reds, pinks, and greens also convey happiness. The purpose of the book is to take something dark and scary, such as thunderstorms at night, and turn it into something beautiful and soothing. The illustrations help convey this message by using both dark and light colors to show happiness in the darkness. (KAF)


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Hunt, Lynda. 2019. Shouting at the Rain. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-39-917515-2.

Delsie’s summer is not going as planned. Her childhood best friend, Brandy, is no longer interested in their usual summer activities. Conflict arises between the two after Brandy leaves her for a new friend, Tressa. Shortly after, Delsie befriends a boy named Ronan. Ronan is known for being a thief and a liar, but he is actually a caring friend who is more interested in protecting nature than destroying it. Through their adventures and friendship, Delsie learns to accept the things making her feel different. Delsie does not have a “regular” family like others which makes her feel different from the rest of her peers. She and her grandmother live alone, and her friends constantly remind her of this. This causes a person versus self because she is struggling with accepting, she does not have a stereotypical family. This is not only an internal struggle, but it is also an external struggle as she wants her family to look like the rest of her peers. Themes of friendship and family dominate. The themes come together and demonstrate how all friendships and families are different from each other. (KAF) 


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Strange, Lucy. 2019. Our Castle by the Sea. Scholastic Inc. Chicken House. 336pp. $17.99 ISBN 978-1-33-835385-3.

Pet loves living in a lighthouse. Her childhood was filled with storms and stories of sea monsters. Slowly, her family is being torn apart due to the ongoing war around them. Set in World War II, Pet’s German mother has been sent away to an internment camp which leaves her father in despair. Her sister, Mags, keeps disappearing for long periods of time without telling anyone where she is going. With everyone preoccupied with their own lives, Pet is left to face her fears by herself. Terrified of the warplanes flying overhead, Pet prefers to lay low and go unnoticed. Despite her timid beginning, Pet m, changing from a frightened girl to an independent, courageous, and confident individual throughout the story. Even with the war splitting the family apart, the unconditional bond among the family members is a continuous theme. However, even with this hopeful theme of family, the story displays the effects of internment camps, removal of children during wartime, and how the war affected everyone even if they were not in the war themselves.  (KAF)


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Brinkley, Douglas. 2019. American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race. HarperCollins. 576pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-265506-6.

Written in the third person, the narrator guides the reader through the most exciting time in space exploration. Focusing on the 1960s, the plot follows the progression from the desire to explore space to landing on the moon. Using a combination of facts, interviews, and images, the reader is able to follow the events leading up to the moon landing. Images contain important figures such as John F. Kennedy and different rockets. By following the order of events, the reader is able to understand how one occurrence leads to another and the penultimate conclusion of the moon landing. This narrative gives the background of why John F. Kennedy chose to engage in the space race. It highlights the success and the failures of different rockets, including the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Additionally, it focuses on the race to the moon, and emphasizes the importance at the time. It also explains the backdrop of the Cold War and why it was crucial for the United States to win. (KAF)


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Ortiz, Victoria. 2019. Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 208pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-54-497364-0.

When Joan Ruth Bader was seven years old and living in Brooklyn NY, her sister passed away. Growing up practically an only child, Joan was close to her cousin, Richard. Mr. and Mrs. Bader eventually had Joan Ruth changed to Ruth Joan because she had two other classmates with the same name. Switching between court cases and Ruth’s life, the narration remains in the third person. Some of the court cases mentioned are Safford Unified School District v. Redding, United States v. Windsor, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, and a few others. As expected, the book touches on “on the basis of sex” which is one of the rulings Ruth is well known for doing. Integrating legal terminology as well as explaining how cases progress through the different levels of the court system informs the reader while keeping an engaging storyline. There are many images throughout the biography to show, Ruth, at different stages of her life or to show the environment around her, such as the college she attended or the house where she grew up. (KAF)


That's What Friends Do

Barnhart, Cathleen. 2020. That’s What Friends Do. HarperCollins. 352pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-288893-8.

Readers encounter one of the themes, friendship shown between Samantha (Sammie) Goldstein and David Fisher, as the plot unfolds. Since meeting each other on their little league team, Sammie and David’s friendship has only grown stronger. Now in the second half of their seventh-grade year, David is finally ready to tell Sammie his true feelings for her. However, when a new kid arrives at their school, Luke, things start to change. As Luke starts spending more and more time with them, Sammie begins to feel uncomfortable with how Luke talks to her. Simultaneously, David becomes jealous of how easily Luke flirts with her. The exposition shows the struggles of growing up and finding the courage to speak up. One of the main themes is the difficulties women face in today’s society, which is shown through the way the male characters treat Sammie. The deep, soul-stirring climax will resonate among readers ages 10-14. (KEF)



Bruchac, Joseph. 2019. The Story of All-Star Athlete Jim Thorpe. Lee & Low Books 96pp. $8.95 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-64-379010-7. Illustrated by S. D. Nelson.

Jim Thorpe was a Native American student who grew up to become an all-star athlete. Growing up, Jim Thorpe was always outside running and playing. However, when he was transferred to a boarding school on a reservation, his athletic abilities were seen as a nuisance rather than a talent. While everyone around him told him to give up, he continued to work at sports, specifically running. Eventually, his hard work paid off, and he became one of the most talented track runners in the world.The vocabulary in this biography is perfect for ages eight to twelve. The accessible language will make reading about Jim Thorpe easy and enjoyable for students. The author includes sidebars, a glossary, and a timeline at the end of the book. By doing this, he makes the biography even more accessible for any level of reader. Joseph Bruchac, a Nulhega Abenaki Citizen, includes facts rather than opinions. Therefore, this biography creates an accurate representation of the events of Jim Thorpe without including bias. Because of the vocabulary and the use of scholarly works and historical materials, this biography can be trusted to be factually accurate. Color and line emphasize the historical aspects of the life of Jim Thorpe. The black and white photos help bring students to the past rather than suggesting the events are currently taking place. The blur in these illustrations further emphasizes this is a retelling of Jim Thorpe’s life rather than a fictional tale. The use of these two effects reminds readers these events really did happen. This story can help a lot of students with personal development. Even though people were telling him to give up on sports, Jim Thorpe continued to pursue his passion. He did things his own way and became successful.  Through reading about the life of Jim Thorpe, students can surmise even if the world seems against them, they can still achieve anything they set their minds to. (KEF)


Yoo, Paula. 2014.


The Story of Banker of the People Muhammad Yunus. Lee & Low Books 96pp. $8.95 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-64-379006-0. Illustrated by Jamel Akib.

Muhammad Yunus is a professor of economics who changed the way banks and loaning agencies operate. Growing up poor, Yunus saw a lot of people struggle to find enough money to purchase food. After watching a young craftswoman get turned down after asking to borrow the equivalent of twenty-two cents for work supplies, Yunus decided to take this problem upon himself. Determined to find a solution, he founded his own bank, gave more than ten billion dollars in micro-credit, and earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.The language in this biography is perfect for ages eight to twelve. Using simple, easy-to-understand vocabulary, Paula Yoo makes the story of Muhammad Yunus comprehensible she even includes sidebars, a glossary, and a timeline to help students understand the plot and Yunus’s life. Furthermore, Yoo includes little to no bias in the text. Therefore, this biography creates a well-rounded portrayal of Muhammad Yunus and his social activism.  Moreover, teachers and parents can be sure the information included is factual because of the extensive use of scholarly works and historical materials used to complete the biography. Line and color emphasize the historical aspects of the text. By using only black and white photos, the reader is reminded of the events that occurred years ago. This is also shown by the lack of clear lines. Instead of clearly outlining everything in the photos, the illustrator blurs them together. Together, the two elements make the illustrations seem like memories rather than current events. While Muhammad Yunus was no ordinary person, he was able to help millions of people. He was determined to help those around him, and he made a positive impact in the lives of others. This biography reflects the life of a man, born with nothing, who still helped others. Yunus demonstrated a positive attitude, determination, and skill sets, anything was possible. (KEF)



Armand, Glenda. 2019. The Story of Trailblazing Actor Ira Aldridge. Lee & Low Books 64pp. $8.95 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-64-379008-4. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper.

In a time where only white men were allowed to perform on stage, Ira Aldridge had a dream to perform Shakespeare in front of a live audience. Since he was African American, people told him achieving success as an actor was impossible. Despite the discouragement from everyone, Aldridge pursued his dream. After years of hard work and determination, Aldridge became one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors to perform on stage. After achieving success, he started an abolitionist movement which would change the lives of thousands of people. This biography should be used in a classroom with students ages eight to twelve. It clearly explains the events in Ira Aldridge’s life. Features contributing to the reliability and credibility of the events Some of the textual elements helping to make his story understandable are the sidebars, a glossary, and a timeline at the end of the book. Because of the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, the biography is comprehensible to all young readers. Furthermore, multiple scholarly works and historical materials to ensure the biography is factually correct. Therefore, parents and teachers can be confident their young readers are reading an accurate representation of the events of Ira Aldridge’s life. Black and white lines emphasize the historical settings and events. Furthermore, the illustrations are blurred. In using these blurred images rather than using clear lines, the images seem distant. By using these two elements in this way, the illustrator helps portray the historical aspects of the biography. While the odds were against Ira Aldridge, he never abandoned his dreams. When his father and closest friends told him he would never succeed, he did not let their negativity affect him. Instead, he used those words as motivation to continue pursuing his dreams. In the end, he helped more people than just himself. Through his determination and strong will, he was able to help others achieve their aspirations. (KEF)


Cezanne's Parrot

Guglielmo, Amy. 2020. Cezanne’s Parrot. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551508-1. Illustrated by Brett Helquist.

Follow Cézanne on his quest to become a successful painter with a unique style. While everyone else copies each other, Cézanne has his own style. It seems like no one thinks he is talented- not even his pet parrot. Through a realization of individualism, Cézanne begins to realize being different is not always undesirable. Another theme evident in this historical retelling is the value of hard work. While some painters take only hours to create something new, Cézanne has to work for weeks or months before he is satisfied. However, he never lets this stop him and continues to persevere. Bright colors and intense heavy black lines reflect Cézanne’s artistic style. The rough paint marks and lack of details in the illustrations celebrate Cézanne despite the criticism the style faced. Repetition of image and style are used to prove a point throughout this story. Every painter depicted in the images are replicas of each other. The only way to tell them apart is by the color of their clothes. This represents their identical painting styles. The only person who is depicted differently is Cézanne. He is completely different, just like his artistic style. Bright colors included in the illustrations indicate a target age of 4-8. The strong plot will show children difference is acceptable. Simultaneously, it will spark an appreciation for art in young readers. (KEF)


Freedom Bird

Nolen, Jerdine. 2020. Freedom Bird.  Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-68-987167-2. Illustrated by James E. Ransome.

Set in the southern United States immediately before the Civil War, two enslaved children, John and Millicent Wheeler dream of being free. One day, the siblings watch as a bird flies over the field as they work. Their overseer, the cruel antagonist, shoots down the bird and tells the slaves not to help it. However, later in the evening, John and Millicent sneak back and nurse the bird back to health. Once it is healthy enough to fly away, it takes off soaring west, and the children run after it towards freedom. Symbolism, through illustrations, is used to represent different themes. A photograph of people soaring through a yellow sky complements the phrase, “fly away to freedom.” While the slaves are not literally flying to freedom, the images of the bird provide a representation of slavery escape. Yellow also represents the feelings of hope and happiness the children felt when hearing these stories. This is not the only form of symbolism. Later, the bird is also pictured behind Millicent, with its wings spread out. This indicates Millicent is developing the courage to spread her wings and attempt to escape to the North with her brother. These illustrations, paired with a strong plot, will help students develop both cognitive and social development. It will share an episode of the past and the importance of empathy towards others. Recommended for ages 4-9. (KEF)



Rex, Adam. 2019. Why?. Chronicle Books. 60pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-45-216863-0. Illustrated by Claire Keane.

An intense and dynamic storyline cleverly depicts society’s habit of reasoning one’s actions. The main character, a supervillain, has to explain his actions to a young child. While he starts by answering each “Why?” with excuses, he starts to realize there is more behind his actions than he originally thought. The use of line and color show the movement and emotion of the characters. The movement of the characters is shown through simple, thin lines across the page from the character. Moreover, the color on some of these lines show the emotions of the moving characters. When the little girl is moving, her movement lines are highlighted with bright colors signifying her contentment and innocence. In contrast, the supervillain has grey, dull lines to show his unhappiness with his life. Personal development is promoted as the supervillain realizes he was wrong to become a scoundrel. The internal conflict he faces teaches children it is acceptable to be incorrect and make mistakes. It can also help with social development. The storyline proves even if an individual is different it does not mean they should be treated poorly. Even though the supervillain wanted a different profession than his dad and the other children, he did not deserve to be bullied. The bullying theme is one children, 4-8, will recognize. (KEF)


When The Babies Came to Stay

McDonnell, Christine. 2020. When the Babies Came to Stay. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young).  36pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-98-483545-1. Illustrated by Jeanette Bradley.

Follow the journey of four babies who have no place to call home. They are found separately on the pier of a small island with tags asking for someone to raise them. While debating who would raise them, the town librarian decides she can, and the town members help her redecorate her library to accommodate the babies. As they grow up, the babies are treated like family by many townsfolk. Each person teaches the babies something new and treats the babies like their own. However, not every person understands why their family looks different than most, and the babies are faced with adversity. The themes and conflicts promote social and personal development in children ages 2-7. Towards the end of the book, the babies experience a person versus person conflict. Many of the other children in the town approach them asking questions about why they look different from each other and where they are really from. When they get home that night, they ask the librarian those questions. She explains to them it does not matter they do not look alike, because they are a family. This theme of family reinforces the fact; families come in all different shapes and sizes, but those characteristics should not define what constitutes a family. This promotes a more thorough understanding of the concept and composition of family. Because of the emphasis on diversity within families, readers, toddlers, and older, from all backgrounds, will appreciate the themes and conflicts. The illustrations further the tone of the plot through color and shape. Pastel colors exemplify the innocence of the children, and shapes create a sense of lifelike realism. By using geometric shapes, the plot is more genuine. Every aspect is drawn to a realistic size and shape, making the plot more realistic (KEF).


An Ordinary Day

Arnold, Elana. 2018. An Ordinary Day. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-147262-3. Illustrated by Elizabet Vuković.

When two doctors arrive on a suburban street, each enters a different house. While the day is nothing special for everyone outside the houses, it is monumental for all those inside. As the plot progresses, the reader soon discovers one doctor is there to put down a family pet, while the other is there to welcome a new child into the world, exploring how change can affect a person’s life. The illustrations effortlessly convey difficult themes. Color and line keep the tone simple and easy to understand. The muted, warm colors, and soft lines act as a reassurance. The blues, oranges, reds, and yellows are engaging without containing sensory overload. Similarly, the lines are soft and calming. Through these two artistic elements, the storyline is presented in a non-threatening manner. This presentation of change is recommended for ages 0-8 because of the honest and accessible theme. Students will gain personal and social development from the inspiring plot. For younger children, change is difficult to understand. The main ideas convey change is a part of life. Socially, young readers are taught one can never know what happens behind closed doors. The people on the street did not know what was occurring in the two houses. A must have for any lower elementary school classroom, the scope and sequence invites readers to be conscious of what another person is going through (KEF).



Beatty, Melinda. 2019. Riverbound. Penguin Random House LLC (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). 281pp. $16.99. ISBN  978-1-52-474003-0.

Only Fallow, the protagonist living in a mystical land of enchantment, has the unusual ability to see when people are lying. Like others in her kingdom, only is brought to the palace and forced to work for the king. One day, she is told about a plan to move the king off the throne and put his daughter in his place. Since the king is a cruel man, this seems like a perfect plan, but not everything is as it seems. Using their “cunnings” (powers), Only and her friends find themselves in the middle of a quest to save their kingdom, Orstral, from those desperate for power. In this tale of heroism versus evil, Beatty successfully creates a new world for young readers to explore. Through the perspective of Only, one of the few cunning people. Likewise, by using distinct languages for the different kingdoms, makes the setting and relationships between characters realistic. Through the use of these elements, the author successfully suspends all disbelief. The reality of the sequence of events, however, makes the concepts in this book difficult to fully comprehend. The overarching theme presented in the text is equality, something readers 8 – 14 will recognize. Almost all of the servants in the palace are treated horribly because of their status. Within the kingdom, discrimination is even worse. The conflicts and themes could promote social development among readers. This theme can effortlessly be connected to today’s society. It could easily be used as a conversation starter on the topic of equality. This daring book is sure to push the boundaries of every young reader’s imagination. (KEF)


Beginners Welcome

Baldwin, Cindy. 2020. Beginners Welcome. HarperCollins. 336pp. $16.99. ISBN  978-0-06-266589-8.

Annie Lee’s life fell apart eighty-three days ago when her dad died. Since then, her best friends have stopped talking to her, she has been forced to move houses, and her mother has been working nonstop just to make ends meet. On top of it all, her dad’s ghost seems to be haunting her new apartment. To keep from being hurt, Annie Lee decides to become invisible. Then, Annie Lee meets two people who will change her life: a cool, skater girl named Mitch, and Ray, an elderly pianist. However, one day Ray disappears, and Annie Lee is forced to decide between helping Ray and lying to Mitch. Annie Lee soon learns sometimes one has to risk being hurt to help those they care about. Two prominent themes are loneliness and poverty. After her father died, Annie Lee’s mother must work full-time to support the family. This means Annie Lee sees her motherless and spends a lot of her time after school, alone. They also had to sell their furniture and move to a small apartment, so her entire lifestyle changes. The town surrounding the apartment is dingy, dangerous, and decaying. These small details emphasize the reality of multiple readers. The relevant setting makes the story more believable and relatable, which allows for suspended belief. The characterization reflects the personal and social development of young readers, ages eight to twelve. Annie Lee struggles with the fear of being hurt after experiencing trauma. For readers who are experiencing those same feelings, they will be able to connect with her. While hurting, she is hesitant to express her emotion to others, but by allowing herself to do so, everything can work out in the end. For readers who have not gone through these emotions, conflicts and character development demonstrate empathy. One cannot truly know all the experiences and emotions of others. Therefore, this story is perfect for any classroom. (KEF)


The Magnolia Sword

Thomas, Sherry. 2019. The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan. Lee & Low Books Inc (Tu Books). 319pp. $19.95.  ISBN 978-1-62-014804-4.

In this version of the ballad of Mulan, her family is told one man from their family must join the army and fight against the Rouran invaders. Since her father is bound to a wheelchair and her brother is too young, Mulan disguises herself as a man and joins the fight. Thanks to her martial arts training, Mulan is placed on an elite team under the command of the royal duke’s son, the princeling. Soon, the complications of war and the secrets of the princeling pose unexpected challenges for Mulan. To survive, she must find the courage to take a stand. Since the plot includes difficult topics surrounding war and politics, an appropriate audience would be grades 7-12. The plot encourages social and personal development through its portrayal of disability, the LGBTQ+ community, and feministic ideals. Each character identifying with one or more of these features is bullied and treated poorly. The plot shows the effect of disapproval of the negative actions and stereotyping. This can help students develop empathy for others and gain courage and inspiration for themselves. The other aspect of this storyline can help students develop academically. Since this text is set in China in 484 A.D., the experiences, conflicts, and resolutions reflect the time period. The setting, language, and themes presented in this text can teach students what it would have been like to live in China during that time period. The sexism, racial slurs, and homophobia described in the text clearly represent the attitudes of the time toward problems we are still facing today. This gives readers the rare ability to compare the differences and similarities between the setting of the book and today. Therefore, this text would be a smart addition to any classroom library. (KEF)


Little, Jody. 2020. Worse Than Weird. HarperCollins. 265pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-285258-8.


Mac, finishing her 6th grade year wants more than anything to attend a summer coding camp. Unfortunately, her parents who are hippies would much rather spend time doing goat yoga and creating good energy than looking at a computer screen. Mac is faced with the task of coming up with five hundred dollars to go to the camp and escape another summer of her parents’ weirdness. When Mac is presented with an opportunity to gain two thousand dollars by winning a Portland food cart contest, she is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Mac with her two friends by her side realizes that if she actually wants to win the money she is going to need to take the hunt seriously. Challenges soon arise and Mac learns the lesson of perseverance and not letting little bumps such as her parents' goat yoga or her lack of money get in the way of what she wants. After finding a few clues though, a bigger lesson starts to be present in Mac’s life. When Mac learns that her friends' parents are getting a divorce when she thought they were a perfect family, she learns the lesson that one cannot judge a book by its cover. This is further brought to light when she teams up with the phantom boy at school, Joey, and she learns about the hard truths he faces that no one knows about.  Told from Mac’s youthful perspective, readers, ages 8-12 will be exposed to how perseverance and never judging by appearance,  is a skill that not many just have, but gain from experiences over time. (AEG)  


Markovits, Benjamin. 2020. Home Games. HarperCollins. 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-274230-8.

Home Games

Follow Ben as he embarks on a new journey; not an ordinary one, but one where he is searching for himself. Just as Ben starts to believe life is going significantly better, he is told his father will be moving to London and his mother will moving to Texas, which forces Ben to make a decision as to where he wants to live. Ben, a twelve-year-old boy from New York City has to face challenges twelve year old boys should not have to face. While in Texas, Ben is exposed to bullying, loneliness, and the game of basketball. The school bully and antagonist, Pete Miller, is the star of the basketball team and makes Ben feel worthless. Despite the obstacles Ben faces at school, he still makes an effort to be the man his mother needs ever since his parents’ separation. To overcome the bullying, Ben takes a leap of faith and becomes the basketball team manager and eventually makes his way to play in the section game as a player on the court. This book shows the struggles of being the “new kid” in schools, and the struggle of having divorced parents. Home Games, recommended for ages 8-12 years old, allows the audience to understand the difficulties some have when their parents become divorced. The independence, persistence, and resilience that Ben shows while facing these challenges will inspire readers to take chances, talk about their feelings, and try new hobbies. (CLG)  


Here and Now

Denos, Julia. (2019). Here and Now. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-846564-1.

It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of life rather than taking a moment to stop and think about what is happening in the present. Readers can follow Julia Denos as she ventures on a journey involving learning about how to be aware of the present moment by traveling through space in the spaceship, underground with the earthworms and fossils, in the air with the airplane and birds, and right where you are. The outdoors are portrayed through light colors  such as green, blue, yellow, and white which symbolize warmth and happiness. While traveling through space and the earth the soft textures allow readers to feel and become part of Julia’s journey. The flowers, trees, and fossils make up the organic shapes within the pictures and they inspire readers to look closely at the beauty of nature around them. Recommended for ages 4-7, this book sparks curiosity, connection, and finding identity in your life now. (CLG)


Fix That Clock

Cyrus, Kurt. 2019. Fix That Clock. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-890408-9.

“Tock… Tick… Clunk!! The clock’s a pile of junk!” In a world of imagination and adventure, language development is portrayed through the use of rhyming and poetry, such as, “Once it was a splendid sight. All the corners angled right!” The outside of the clock is used to represent junk, but the inside represents life. Animals of all kinds have their own homes inside this clock, which is an important reason why the workers rebuild. Personal development is evident throughout the rebuilding process. Readers, ages 4-7, may be able to understand beauty and dream are no immediate qualities but take time. Opportunities to become familiar with shapes and numbers are offered through the interaction and details of each page of the book. Concepts such as compassion, cooperation, and hard work inspire all ages. (CLG)  


The Legend of King Arthuratops

O’Hara, Mo. 2020. The Legend of King Arthur-a-tops. HarperCollins. 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-265275-1.

In a land far, far away lived three dino squires. Lancelot-o-saur was strong and brave, Guinevere-raptor was fearless and fast, and Arthur-a-tops had no unique traits, but like his friends, was training to become a knight. The protagonist, Arthur-a-tops, set forth on a journey to the Festival of Stones in hopes of pulling the golden-ringed dinosaur horn from the magical stone to become the king! Personification is used throughout to portray each character and uses humor to catch the reader’s attention. Bold colors such as green, orange, and red specifically, emphasize the dinosaurs and the different objects Arthur-a-tops encounters at the Festival of Stones. The organic shapes on every page are different sized trees to show the proximity of the dinosaurs to the castle, the unique clouds in the horizon, and the different sized rocks at the festival and in the distance. In the beginning, Arthur-a-tops, a young and talentless dinosaur, discovers deep within himself lies courage and confidence. He soon acknowledges he must use courage and confidence to find a way to pull the golden-ringed dinosaur horn from the stone and become king. As the plot develops, Arthur-a-tops finds himself pulling the golden-ringed dinosaur horn from the stone and becomes king! Readers, ages 4-8, can travel back in time and learn about King Arthur through a humorous, witty, and smart dinosaur, Arthur-a-tops. The large, detailed images complement Arthur-atop’s quest and capture the reader’s attention from their realistic traits. Readers will connect with Arthur-a-tops as he learns he does not need to be strong, fearless, and mighty to be a leader; rather confidence, and courage within one’s self is what is important. (CLG)


The Trouble with Shooting Stars

Cannistra, Meg. 2019. The Trouble With Shooting Stars. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 336pp. $17.99. (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-53-442896-6.

Luna, a shy twelve-year-old girl, loves the nighttime more than anything else in the world. Since the terrifying and scarring car accident of she and her father, Luna Ever catches herself escaping and hiding from the world with her sketch pad outside. When Luna catches a glimpse of her new neighbors moving in next door, she realizes there is something different about them. Following two children, Alessandro and Chiara into the woods, she notices both of them caring for baby stars and suddenly becomes a part of their world. Using similar language, the fantasy world is connected with reality. Staten Island, the setting, is combined with the fantasy world as soon as nighttime strikes, and Luna rides in the zeppelin up to the stars. Using the first-person point of view, readers, ages 8-12, are able to explore and go on adventures as if they were Luna, making the fantasy world more realistic. As Luna polishes the sky, she catches a shooting star and is confronted with two choices. Will she use the magic to make herself uninjured and back to normal? Or, will she realize that the magic was within her all this time? Readers will be encouraged to acknowledge and understand the struggles some kids may face every day, explaining why they may seem different from their peers. This novel allows readers to use imagination along with creativity while joining Luna, Alessandro, and Chiara on adventures into the sky. Luna soon realizes no wish can erase her past struggles. Throughout this journey, she is confronted with the reality that inner beauty is indeed more radiant and important than outer appearances. (CLG)  


Dictionary for a Better World

Latham, Irene, and Waters, Charles. 2020. Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from  A to Z. Lerner Publishing Groups (Carolrhoda Books). 120pp. $19.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-54-155775-8.

Organized in alphabetical order, rhythm, imagery, and shape are clearly displayed throughout this collection of poetry. Rhythm is used to emphasize specific words falling under each category and used to suggest the mood of each anecdote. Metaphors and similes provide imagery allowing children to make personal connections. To create greater visual impacts, the authors use shapes to enable readers to follow the words and pictures at the same time. Limericks emphasize visual imagery and beats, concrete poems, which through the use of language, create realistic pictures, and narrative poems share accounts of different aspects of life. The personal stories relate to the different poems, and they allow children to connect the poem with human experience. The use of structure clarifies the meanings of the poems and illustrations to help create moods. The large, colorful, and texture-like illustrations let readers visualize the different quotes, poems, and anecdotes. This unique dictionary will inspire and challenge readers to make a change in the world. All you need is a spark to light a fire for the soul. (CLG)  


Things You Can't Say

Bishop, Jenn. 2020. Things You Can’t Say. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 336pp. $17.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-53-444097-5.

People handle loss differently. Twelve-year-old Drew finds himself speechless. He has so many questions as to why his father decided to take his life three years ago. He constantly wonders what he could have done to change things. To take his mind off of everything, he decides to spend most of his days volunteering at the public library, helping the children’s librarian. While he works, Drew reflects on the disorder in his life. As time passes, Drew debates confiding in the new library helper, Audrey, about his life. When Drew meets Phil, who is potentially a new father, he decides to talk to Audrey to find answers about Phil’s identity. Drew’s struggles of understanding why his father took his own life, and Phil, his mom’s boyfriend staying at their house are examples of person-against-self conflicts. To help portray the vulnerability of Drew as he is discovering the truth about himself and his family, the author uses complex characterization through Audrey and Phil. In the beginning, Drew is hurt, sad, and angry but eventually develops into a more independent, compassionate, and understanding young adult. The main theme is family life. Drew discovers in order to feel secure and safe; he and his mother must work together to create loyalty while overcoming the grief and sadness of the loss of Drew’s father. Recommended for ages 8-12, readers will find guidance, especially those who have lost a loved one due to suicide. It provides examples of different experiences people experience and demonstrates how to cope with life’s conflicts. Readers are inspired by Drew’s strong dedication, commitment, and vulnerability as he sets forth on an adventure leading him into discovering the truth about himself. (CLG)  


Rhymes with Claire

Thompson, Chad. 2019. Rhymes with Claire. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 40pp. $17.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-48-147097-1.

Claire wonders what to do with the unique box she finds on her driveway. Of course, she picks it up and brings it to school with her! Her curiosity intensifies when something inside the box speaks. Eventually, she discovers Otto, a talking parrot within. Claire, the protagonist, and her friend, Doug, embark on a wild, adventurous journey led by Otto’s humorous and sarcastic rhymes. Otto creates rhymes with Claire’s name, and once the parrot talks, the plot starts to change drastically. Color is explicitly used in regard to mood. Vibrant colors such as green, yellow, orange, and red portray the characters and events. Once the plot intensifies, colors such as dark red and black portray the uncertainty of the events. Organic shapes, such as flowers and animals, contribute to realistic events. Within the school and at the fair, geometric shapes such as circles, rectangles, and squares. Portraying uncertainty, curvy lines convey the rides at the fair. The reader also notices vertical lines used with the balloons, whereas within the school, there are vertical and horizontal lines that are used for stability and calm. Readers ages 4-8 years old, will appreciate the rhyming schemes of which start easy and become more complex. The large, detailed illustrations used in this concept book help explain the story while grabbing the reader’s attention from their realistic traits, inspiring readers to use their creativity to create their own rhymes! (CLG)  


All the Days Past, All the days to come

Taylor, Mildred D. 2020. All the Days Past, All the Days to Come. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 496pp. $19.99. (Hardcover). ISBN: 978-0-39-925730-8.

Follow the protagonist, Cassie Logan, as she embarks on multiple journeys in search of finding her place in a harsh world. Starting off in Toledo, then moving to California, then going to law school in Boston, and finally, moving back home to Mississippi in the 1960s, Cassie finds herself in a conflict against society, more specifically, segregation and racism. Cassie, an African American woman, shares the truthful, sad, and heartless treatment she experienced not just in the deep south, but in Ohio, California, and Boston because of her race. Taylor uses a person against society to help readers visually see and feel how Cassie and her family were treated during the ’60s and the struggles of falling in love with someone who is of a different race. The characterization is crucial for allowing readers to believe Cassie and her family are human beings. In the beginning, Cassie is shy and introverted, but eventually, she changes into an independent, strong woman who fights for her rights, especially voting. She is witness to the Great Migration North, the Civil Rights Movement, and racism. The moods portrayed are cold, sad, and determined. Recommended for ages 15 and up, readers will come to understand the harsh treatment that African Americans received all over the United States from WW2 to the 1960s. Readers are inspired by Cassie’s determination to make a change and the independence she showed as she fights for what it is. (CLG).  


Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People

Hegedus, Bethany. 2019. Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou. Lee & Low Books 48pp. $20.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-62-014587-6. Illustrator: Tonya Engel.

Follow Maya Angelou, a writer, activist, and humanitarian as she makes her contributions to the world. During her early years, Maya and her older brother Bailey found themselves constantly moving to and from different family members as a result of racial issues. Symbolism is used quite frequently throughout this picture book. One of the main symbols is the cage, which symbolizes her life as a young girl, trapped and not free. This symbol connects well with the setting of the biography. The settings include St. Louis, Missouri, and Stamps, Arkansas, where racism played a large role in social life. Using lyrics to trace Maya’s life from her early years in Stamps, Arkansas, to the last years of her life as a freedom fighter, adolescent readers will appreciate the explanations of the social and personal obstacles Maya encountered throughout her life. Maya Angelou was an ordinary girl who showed courage and perseverance to help make a difference in this world. After the death of important figures such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, Maya decided to use her words to change the world. A dominant theme is one person can make a difference and can inspire readers to make their own contributions to the world. The detailed illustrations help engage readers through the various colors used to show different emotions. Recommended for ages 7-10 years old, this inspiring biography helps readers understand and acknowledge the obstacles Maya Angelou encountered, inspiring her to become the activist she was. It only takes a spark to light a flame within; use it to change the world. A timeline in the end of the book contributes to the validity and reliability about the life of Maya Angelou. (CLG)  


Fly High, John Glenn

Krull, Kathleen. 2020. Fly High John Glenn: The Story of an American Hero. HarperCollins. 48pp. $18.99. (Hardcover). ISBN: 978-0-06-274714-3. Illustrated by Maurizio A.C. Quarello. 

John Glenn is a family man, soldier, senator, and a national hero. Ever since he was a young boy, John had a passion for flying, not with others but piloting his own plane. Throughout his life, he has always had a spark to help others in some shape or form. The themes of the story, patriotism, and law/legislation is portrayed through the explanation of John’s life. He wanted to serve his country, whether it was in war or becoming a part of history. Accurate facts engage the readers’ minds and to help spark an interest in wanting to learn more about John Glenn and his impact on the world. The vibrant, detailed illustrations complement the information. Along with the theme of patriotism, most of the pictures include red, white, and blue. Recommended for ages 4-8 years old, the inspiring story of John Glenn is told as he became the first American to orbit the Earth three times. Readers are inspired by John’s courage, passion, and patriotism throughout this picture book and are actively engaged as they learn more about the history of the United States. Glenn was a pilot until he was ninety years old. One is never too young to follow one’s passions. A timeline in the back of the book allows readers to understand the historical events occurring before and after John Glenn made his mark on the world. (CLG)  


Ruth Objects

Rappaport, Doreen. 2020. Ruth Objects. The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Disney Publishing Worldwide (Disney- Hyperion). 48pp. $18.99. (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-48-474717-9. Illustrator: Eric Velasquez.

Read about Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she makes her voice heard throughout the world. As a young girl, she faced discrimination. Obstacles such as racial minorities, restricted housing, restricted jobs, and curfews stood in Ruth's way to becoming a lawyer; nevertheless, she persevered. Ruth's courage and bravery helped end gender inequities. Readers find inspiration through the different colors, and the large text quotes on each page because they are quotes from Ruth herself, revealing her determination and knowledge. The realistic oil paintings portray fairness, demonstrating the loss of her mother before high school graduation and her years fighting for justice in the courtroom. The interior illustrations focus on Ruth in every phase of her life and perfectly match the text. The theme of justice is shown through the characterization and the events playing a role in Ruth's growth as a person. Recommended for ages 4-8 years old, Ruth Bader Ginsburg's story helps explain to readers their need to stand up for what they believe in because so one else will. Ruth's strength and determination inspire readers as she fights to get her voice heard for justice. A timeline with author notes is found at the end of this picture book to help readers learn and acknowledge important dates. (CLG)  


The Unstoppable Garrett Hero

Dicicco, Joan. 2019. The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan. Inventor, Entrepreneur, Hero. Lee & Low Books 40pp. $19.95. (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-62-014564-7. Illustrator: Ebony Glenn.

Garrett Morgan is known as the inventor of the Safety Hood. Born of freed slaves in Claysville, Kentucky, Garrett was eager and curious about the world outside of his family’s farm. Segregation was the norm in the south during this time and played a crucial part in his decision to move north at the age of fourteen to Cleveland, Ohio, in hopes of finding manufacturing opportunities. All throughout his life, Garrett was faced with challenging obstacles, and in response to those impediments he states, “If a man puts something to block your way, the first time you go around it, the second time you go over it, and the third time you go through it.” Dicicco uses accurate facts to explain the life of Morgan and the impact he made on the world. The themes of the story, heroism, and courage are portrayed through the characterization and events describing Garrett Morgan. The detailed illustrations, which include darker colors outlining the figures and objects and lighter colors used during happy times, help readers make the connection of the facts they are reading with an image. The illustrations allow readers to feel the emotions portrayed by the characters through the use of colors. Recommended for ages 7-10 years old, this inspiring story tells of Garrett, who uses his knowledge and tenacity to overcome the racial barriers and start a career as a successful businessman and inventor. Readers are inspired by Garrett’s courage, perseverance, and selflessness as he saves people with the use of his new inventions. This is a powerful biography of an ordinary man, who decided to dedicate his life to improve the life of not just his own, but the life of others. There is a timeline in the back of the book, which highlights Morgan’s life and legacy. (CLG)  


From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Marks, Janae. 2020. From the Desk of Zoe Washington. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 304pp.  $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-287585-3

Reader’s attention is captured from the beginning with a realistic and relatable plot. Zoe is a sixth grader living a semi-normal life, until her twelfth birthday. Like others her age, Zoe’s father sent her a birthday card. Zoe, however, did not have communication with her father prior to receiving the letter. Although she knows her mother disapproves of contact with her father, Zoe follows her instinct as she searches for answers and closure. Zoe consistently demonstrates persistence and loyalty, even when she encounters a number of obstacles; facing intense decisions for a sixth grader. To determine her next move, she weighs the pros and cons. Through the incorporation of deep and heavy subjects, such as a parent in jail, the harsh realities in the lives of many children is accredited. A child may have an impact on someone or something, such as the judicial system, when they are given hope. The importance of perseverance is highlighted as Zoe continues to fight for her beliefs and stands up for unresolved issues. Recommended for ages 8-14 (EJH).   



Raczka, Bob. 2019. Beware. Charlesbridge. 32pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089683-2. Illustrated by Larry Day.

The dominant theme of not judging others is evident throughout the plot. Abe, a bear, and Bree, a bee, are told to be careful of one another. A conflict arises when Bree and Abe have an encounter, resulting in some discomfort for both. Instead of holding a grudge, they become friends, realizing they did not have to avoid each other in the first place. Color, line, and texture contribute to the reader's understanding of the plot. It is evident Abe has long brown hair because of the thin lines covering the bear's body. Bree has similar lines covering her body, indicating bees also have hair. Instead of having a straight line, there is a dotted line showing the bees' flight pattern. In the background, there are light watercolors showing the sky as the background to help identify the setting. The characters, Abe and Bree, are enhanced with colors such as brown, black, and yellow to grasp the reader's attention. While the book is suggested for children ages five and older, the themes and plot line will also appeal to older readers. (EJH)   


Ruby Finds a Worry

Percival, Tom. 2018. Ruby Finds A Worry. Bloomsbury (Bloomsbury Children's Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-54-760237-7.

Featuring a female main character with a relatable issue to all children, worry, every elementary would benefit from adding this story into their curriculum. Ruby's mood is demonstrated throughout with various colors. Before Ruby finds a worry, her world is colorful and bright, signifying happiness. The bright colors; yellow, green, and blue, eventually fade however into black and gray, indicating a depressed and lonely mood. In addition to color, the texture supports readers' understanding of the setting using different lines and patterns. Items such as flowers and Ruby's hair are outlined to create more definition and emphasis on specific images. As the conflict increases, Ruby starts to become consumed with the internal battle of person versus self. Later, she runs into a friend whom she recognizes to have a similar behavior as herself. Being empathetic to other's feelings and understanding worry is normal is an evident theme Ruby eventually discovers. Due to the increase in mental illness in the United States, all students, four and older, would benefit from coping strategies and gaining a better understanding of the internal battle others face. (EJH)  



Tan, Shaun. 2019. Cicada. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 32pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-33-829839-0. 

Discrimination and bullying are conflicts youngers may encounter as they interact with others. Although Cicada is one of the most efficient and hard-working employees, he is never recognized for his work. Unlike other employees, Cicada goes above and beyond expectations, leaving work after hours and completing more than the requirements. The realistic setting of the workplace is represented in geometric shapes such as squares and rectangles. Cicada’s despondent feelings are represented by harsh colors such as black and various shades of gray. Cicada is bright green, indicating he is different from everyone else in the workplace. As Cicada encounters many different conflicts, including himself versus the company, himself versus reality (money or housing), he continues to live the same lifestyle. Eventually, Cicada retires from the company to be with other insects. The theme of freedom becomes apparent when Cicada reflects on his past life and the hardships he continuously encountered at the company. This book is suggested for children ages four and older due to the themes of bullying and discrimination. (EJH)  


Lilah Tov Goodnight

Gundersheimer, Ben. Lilah Tov Good Night. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-52-474066-5. Illustrated by Noar Lee Naggan. 

A refugee family’s journey across seas begins once the moon rises as they escape to freedom. Colors to support the setting and the mood of the situation. For example, black and dark blue are often the background of each scene. These dark colors indicate power and strength, but also give information about when the family escapes. The moon is white, shining brightly, signifying a hope and direction for the refugee family. In addition to colors, geometric shapes demonstrate the reality of the setting; many people can visualize the family's trip across the sea. A consistent theme is resilience. As the family encounters many different barriers, such as animals and fear of the unknown, it also admires the beauty of the world, instead of the challenges. Suggested for children four years and older because of content. (EJH)   


Dog Driven

Johnson, Terry. 2019. Dog Driven. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 123pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-855159-7. 

A suspense-filled adventure through Canada follows fourteen-year-old Makenna Barney, a musher with a great amount of pressure riding on the dog race. Not only is she competing for her sister, who is diagnosed with a disease-causing her vision to deteriorate, but her own failing eyesight as well. If Makenna can win the race, she will be able to raise awareness for her sister's disease. However, while racing, Makenna runs into a variety of conflicts. She has to make some complicated decisions; she can win the race or support another competitor. As the race ends, Makenna's true character shines. She sacrifices her own sled for another competitor because if he does not finish the race, he will lose his dogs. At the awards ceremony, Makenna is recognized for her selfless actions. Readers, ages 12 and up, will recognize good-natured actions do not go unnoticed. (EJH)   


Get Up, Stand Up

Marley, Cedella. Get Up, Stand Up. Chronicle Books. 2019. 44pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-45-217172-2. Illustrated by John Jay Cabuay.

There is a clear and consistent theme in the adaptation of the song by Bob Marley, standing up for one’s rights. Instead of taking an easy route, respectfully confront issues. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness. Children will recognize the settings of a school and park. Children have experienced conflicts with others or had their feelings hurt by words others have spoken. One of the techniques used to draw attention to the theme is color. Some words are emphasized in a different color, such as blue, green, and red; blue represents confidence, green represents freedom, and red represents strength. The colors correlate with the messages. Geometric shapes are used to create a realistic setting where readers can connect. Various textures demonstrate the distinction of characteristics from person to person, for example, the individual hair types, or clothing individuals are wearing. Although suggested for children three years and older, the themes will resonate with everyone, regardless of age. (EJH)  


Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon!

Marr, Melissa. 2019. Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon! Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulson Books). 32pp.  $17.99. ISBN 978-0-39-917525-1. Illustrated by Lena Podesta.  

A little girl and a young dragon are on a day long adventure through a kingdom. Although the dragon and the girl are very different, they have created a strong bond, emphasizing the theme of friendship. The pair demonstrates energy and excitement while climbing up the castle, soaring through the sky, playing in the forest, and feasting with others. However, a person vs. self-conflict arises when the young girl and dragon start to become tired. Different features, such as colors, lines, and textures, support the setting and plot. Colors such as green, yellow, blue, and red show energy, happiness, and excitement as the dragon and the girl experience their adventure. Specific characters or objects are emphasized with more color, compared to the washed background. Many different lines are exhibited in the pictures to describe the movement of the dragon and girl. If they are flying, a smooth and curved line is used, when they are running, it's a short and skinny line. In addition to lines, different textures are incorporated to convey the setting. Some patterns are small, while others are thick, enhancing the realistic nature of the setting. The adventures of the young girl and dragon will delight young readers, ages 3-5. (EJH)   


Red Menace

Ruby, Lois. 20202. Red Menace. Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books). 225pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-54-155749-9.

It is 1953, and Marty, a 13-year-old baseball fanatic and Yankee fan, is constantly being affected by the choices of people around him. His parents, both professors at the local college, have drawn the attention of community members and the FBI. Family friends, the Rosenbergs’, are awaiting execution; they and many others, including Marty’s parents, are being accused of having communistic beliefs. Many conflicts arise because of the accusation he is associated with the communists. Conflicts include losing his best friend, being kicked off his baseball team, his mother facing deportation, the FBI’s constant spying on the family, and many more. As the conflicts progress and come to a climax, Marty’s character begins to shine. He is no longer timid; instead, he is innovative, outgoing, and fearless. Marty has to weigh his options and determine which route he must take for the sake of himself and his family. He has to determine how his actions will affect himself and others in the short term and long term. Recommended for ages 12 and older. (EJH)   


Over the Moon

Lloyd, Natalie. 2019. Over the Moon. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 304pp. $16.99.  ISBN 978-1-33-811849-0.

Mallie, living in an alternative world filled with joy and sorrow, overcomes many different obstacles, providing hope for many others in her community. The setting is staged in a fantasy world, on top of a mountain and within a mystical forest. The sky is covered in dust, causing a depressing mood within the community. People on the mountain are struggling, mentally, emotionally, and physically because of all the dust. However, it has not always been this way. Mallie feels responsible for providing a sense of hope to others on the mountain. Many of the village people, including Mallie and her family, travel below the mountain every day. The villagers work in labor intensive jobs mining or cleaning houses to support their families. When Mallie has the opportunity to provide for her family, she travels into the forest. A conflict arises when Mallie is faced with deciding to play it safe or to take a risk. Although Mallie’s whole community is cheering her on, she remains humble and levelheaded. The theme of perseverance and loyalty is apparent as Mallie continuously approaches challenges but remains focused on supporting her family. Recommended for children 8-13 because of their connection to the protagonist, Mallie will be strongest. (EJH)  


Wangari Maathai

Johnson, Jen Cullerton. 2020. The Story of Environmentalist Wangari Maathai. Lee & Low Books. 64pp. $9.29 (paper). ISBN 978-1-64-379012-1. Illustrated by Sonia Lynn.

Wangari Maathai is introduced as a young child living in a Kenyan Village. Similar to other children, Wangari looks to her mother for knowledge and direction. At this time in history, many females in Kenya did not attend school. A brief description of the schools in Kenya is given using dates and historic photographs to give readers a better understanding of the circumstances during Wangari’s youth. Throughout her childhood and the remainder of Wangari’s life, the environment, specifically trees, played an essential role. A tree was a symbolic feature reminding Wangari of her roots and purpose in the world. To explain the significance of deforestation, information regarding the process and the outcomes are included. Organic shapes aid the understanding of nature and the unpredictability present throughout Wangari’s life. Similar to the shapes, lines are used to represent the adventurous and positive emotion and mood present throughout the biography. As she defeated the odds and created her own path, Wangari became a mentor and advocate for educating others on the environment. Due to the impact of her actions, Wangari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an award recognizing her hard work and determination to make a change. Within the biography, different tools, such as pictures, photographs, diagrams, timelines, and glossaries, are available to support readers' understanding of Wangari’s life and the significant events in her life. This book is suggested for readers seven years and older. (EJH)


Sammy Lee

Yoo, Paula. 2020. The Story of Olympic Diver Sammy Lee. Lee & Low Books. 80pp. $9.95 (paper). ISBN 978-1-64-379014-5. Illustrated by Dom Lee.

Sammy Lee, an Olympian diver, created a long-lasting legacy providing motivation for many athletes of color. Growing up, Sammy was at a disadvantage because he was a minority. He did not have the same resources as white children. The biography provides insight and statistics to help readers understand the various reasons many Asians immigrated to the United States. The black and white photographs display the harsh realities, such as war, poor work environments, and financial crises. In addition to photographs, a timeline organizes the events in chronological order to provide cause and effect for readers to recognize. The pictures are focused on a key element, using white and black contrast to enhance the illustration's main idea. Sammy’s biography is told from a third-person perspective, including some of Sammy’s quotes and ideas to explain internal thoughts. To better understand Sammy Lee’s story, statistics, photographs, drawings, diagrams, and quotes are used to inform readers of the time in history and Sammy’s life events. This biography is suggested for readers seven years and older. (EJH)


Robert Smalls

Halfmann, Janet. 2020. The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls. Lee & Low Books. 80pp. $9.95 (paper).  ISBN 978-1-64-379016-9. Illustrated by Duane Smith.

The biography of Robert Smalls includes many events contributing to readers' understanding of the significant role he played in the Civil War. In 1839, Robert was born a slave in a plantation in South Carolina. Background information about slavery is presented with facts and diagrams to present Robert's lifestyle. Illustrations, drawn in black and white, are also included to emphasize the white and African American races and their extreme differences. Various lines paint the images of people, focusing less on detail and more on the overall event or scenario taking place. There is less of a focus on the images and more emphasis on the words. However, the illustrations aid readers' understanding of the setting and the conditions Robert endured. Similar stories of slaves are included in the biography to give readers more perspective on African Americans' lives during Robert's time. Robert played an essential role in the Civil War, leading African Americans to freedom and starting a movement to end slavery. This book is suggested for children seven years and older. (EJH)  


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Balcarcel, Rebecca. 2019. The Other Half of Happy. Chronicle Books. 332pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-45-216998-9. Illustrated by Alice Seiler.

It was just like any other day in the life of Quijana, starting a new school year and a new life. Yet has the same father talking to her in a language that she has no clue about. Quijana is a girl who has always struggled with fitting in, not just with her school but also with her family. She is half Guatemalan and half American. This brings the classic stereotype that her, being half Guatemalan, can speak perfect Spanish. This is far from the truth. She is in constant battle wondering if she is enough for her own family. She feels as if the only person that she can go to in her family is her grandmother. Quijana skypes her and talks to her almost every day. However, skype calls and messaging become less frequent after her grandmother has been diagnosed with cancer. After hearing this news, Quijana can barely stand straight. She is now weak. Quijana has also recently been told that her father has booked a family trip to Guatemala for around Christmas time. Quijana refuses to go because she believes that the moment, she gets their everyone will be speaking fluent Spanish. She can already envision her family being disappointed in her because all she knows is English. After hearing that the trip has been booked for Guatemala Quijana takes matters into her own hands and buys a bus ticket to her favorite grandmother's house in Florida for that same day without telling anyone in her family. This illustration makes the reader constantly be on their toes. It is compelling literature in which many readers of 12-14 can relate to. Middle School is a crucial time for students to figure out who they are and to find what makes them important. Rebecca Balcarcel is an engaging author who's chapters flow together so that the reader does not want to put the book down. From battling between family disputes, friendship conflict, and gaining a person's trust and love back. (MAH)   


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Cronin b.b. 2019. The Lost Cousins. Penguin Random House LLC 40pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-45-147908-2. 

Adventure runs in the family for Esme, Tate, and their grandad. While the three were at the park, grandad decided he wanted to reminisce about the good old days in his photo album. The grandkids leaned over his shoulder and asked, “Who’s that?” and the grandad politely replied, “That’s Yuki, Jada, Awan, and Luis, They’re your long-lost cousins.” The grandchildren came up with a marvelous idea to go and find the four cousins who were lost. The grandad believed this was a wonderful idea and immediately agreed.  To go on this adventure, they had to hop onto a boat in the arctic, a train in the middle of the country, a plane in the city and even a camel form the desert, just to find the four lost cousins. The bright and vibrant colors of pink, orange, blue, green, and yellow give off a sense of excitement and adventure. These colors are used on every single page from the bottom to the top and radiate joy and happiness. The lines also convey the excitement of the adventure. The straight lines show the path and direction of Esme, Tate, and their grandad’s journey. This path leads them to find all four of their long-lost cousins. This incredible read is a seek and find book, in which the reader has to find items grandad lost on their adventures, such as goggles, compass, whistle, sailors' hat, and a telescope. This is perfect for children ages 3 to 7. It maintains their attention and will be a wonderful opportunity to refine observation skills as they seek and find objects. When Esme, Tare and their grandad find all of the cousins, they feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness, which is exactly how the readers will feel when they find all the missing items. Esme, Tate, and their grandad also show that no matter the distance traveled, or challenges faced, family is worth the effort. The themes of family and familial love are dominant throughout the sequence of events. (MAH)  


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Angela Cervantes. 2019. Lety Out Loud. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-815934-9. Illustrated by Nina Goffi.

The sound of dogs barking and cats meowing fills Lety's ears and heart with pure joy, especially when the bark comes from her dream dog Spike. Spike is a black- and- white terrier living at the Furry Friends Animal shelter where Lety works during the summer. Lety enjoys working at the animal shelter because when she is with the animals, she does not feel the constant pressures of society. Lety’s first language is Spanish and she struggles at times to put the correct English words together. Although she is never afraid to improve her English, even if this means putting herself in uncomfortable situations. When the shelter is in need of a volunteer to write all of the animal profiles, she is one of the first people to volunteer, but she is not the only one who wants to do be the shelter scribe, her selfish classmate Hunter wants to take this opportunity also. So, to decide who gets this amazing moment they have a writing competition, the person who writes the best animal profile and has the most animals sold to a family gets to be the official shelter scribe. The loser of this competition has to spend their time scooping up dog food. Lety, of course, agrees to this competition but is very skeptical that the program that she is doing her summer job through will find out about this and kick her out of the shelter. This would make bringing Spike home nearly impossible. Although through this competition Hunter and Lety begin to realize that working together is far better than working apart. They also came to the realization that at the end of the day the only thing that truly matters is if each of the homeless animals gets a safe and loving place to call home. It took Hunter a long time to admit it to Lety but with wet eyes after receiving his dog Gunner, he said “Its true. You never give up.” (191). Lety did not stop fighting for Spike until he was snuggled up in her arms, her heart was whole again. This reading is recommended for ages 8-12. (MAH)  


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Andrea Portes. 2019. Henry and Eva and the Famous People Ghosts. HarperCollins. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-256004-9. Illustrated by Andrea Portes.

It was supposed to be one of the happiest days for Zed’s father and his fiancé, Binky. It was the day of their wedding. They were about to throw the grandest celebration, which held at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. This landmark is filled with priceless artwork and more gold than anyone has ever seen. People in attendance believe this wedding was going be history for being absolutely perfect. As it turned out, however, it was a perfect place for burglary. Zed is the best friend of Henry and Eva. These two are brother and sister who have a supernatural instinct of talking to ghosts. They only use this instinct when absolutely necessary. The last time they talked to ghosts was when their parents died tragically a couple of years prior. At the wedding, these two have been reconnected with their great-great-great-great grand relations to solve the mystery of who has been stealing the gold out from the Hearst Castle. None of the other wedding goers know that this stealing is happening, therefore Henry, Eva, and Zed are the only ones who can save this historical landmark from getting completely wiped out. Through much investigation and several conversations with famous ghosts, they have found it to be true that Binky, Zed’s father’s bride, is the mastermind behind stealing all of the treasures. Norton (2011) states a universal theme for modern fantasy focuses on the use of friendly spirits and historical figures. Authors who typically use ghost figures try to develop elements of the historical past. This same idea is reflected in this reading. There were many famous people, such as Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx and his brother Harpo involved in helping discover this mystery. This lets the reader engage in historical characters and landmarks while also enjoying an energetic and exciting read. There are three major parts to it. In each part, there are different illustrations about the main points in the story. The first section is dedicated to the wedding scene, in which the main illustration of each chapter is a wedding bouquet. The second section of this story is about the statues coming alive with ghosts meaning the main illustration consists of a statue. Finally, the last chapters consist of a castle illustration because it is where the rest of the plot takes place. Each of these illustrations is a big detail in the discovery of the thief. The final illustration is Henry and Eva comforting each other while they watch Binky being taken into a police car. This lets the reader know that justice was found. This exhilarating reading is perfect for ages 8-12. (MAH)   


Patricia MacLachlan. 2019. The Hundred-Year Barn. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-268773-9. Illustrated by Kenard Pak.

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It was the last day in summer when over a hundred people gathered to celebrate their hard and intense work of creating the “hundred-year barn”. This barn was built to last for a hundred years and then a hundred more. This barn was not like the typical farmhouse but rather it was a place of love. The lavish red exterior brought a sense of love and friendship to the town. Here thousands of memories were made, from birthdays to Fourth of Julys, weddings, and even some births along the way (humans and animals). At the age of five, Jack watched as his father and his community build a massive barn from the ground up. Throughout the book, the hard work from Jack’s father and the rest of the townspeople stayed consistently strong. Jack’s love for the hundred-year barn only grew stronger with age. While building this hundred-years barn Jack’s father lost his plain gold wedding ring in the yellow burnt grass. The barn was built in a meadow filled with the colors of brown, yellow, reds, and burnt orange. The only part of the landscape that was not one of these colors was the bright blue stream that was used for jumping and laughing in. This mellow landscape suggests warmth, contentment, and happiness. The community searched for days for the ring but began to lose hope on finding this priceless jewelry. After days had passed, he just smiled and looked at his wife and said: “Now I’m married to the barn, too.” (p. 11, unnumbered) On the last day of summer, the entire community gathered together to see their work of art. The vibrant red of the barn radiated through the yellow and brown grass. As an adult, Jack came back to the barn and began to run it himself, as his father could no longer take care of it. While back at “home” he began reminiscing about the cows and sheep which used to live there that he took care of. When he was looking through the empty stalls, he saw an object that was glistening in the bright sunlight. He picked it up to realize it was his father’s wedding ring. With an instant smile, Jack put the ring on a loose hook hanging on the barn. Jack did this to show that his father will always be a part of the hundred-year barn. (MAH)   


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Megan Wagner Lloyd. 2019. Paper Mice. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-148166-3. Illustrated by Phoebe Wahl.

Della and Ralph are two paper mice created by a grandmother and her granddaughter in the midst of the night. These two mice were created with dots, swirls, jagged lines and a blue checkered pattern. The walls and floors are filled with jagged lines to represent the wild adventure of the two mice. The mice are decorated with “bright eyes, tiny noses, and elegant whiskers (p. 9, unnumbered).” Before going to bed, the girl put the mice into a book on her nightstand and on the same evening they were created. She shuts off the lights and fills the house with darkness. Throughout the entire sequence of events, the atmosphere is completely black. This can be seen by using rich blues and purples. The only colors that stood out in the darkness were vibrant reds and oranges. This conveys high energy and friendliness. While everyone else is asleep, the mice wake up to begin their adventure. The paper mice are willing to take on this adventure on their own.  Della ran off first, followed by Ralph. They both believed they are the only paper mice in the entire house. While in the complete darkness of the house, the mice feel small because everything else is so enormous. Through every twist and turns of the dark house, the paper mice discover extraordinary objects they had never seen before. Ralph slowly moves to the kitchen while Della runs off to a playroom. Inside the playroom stands a dollhouse similar to her size. She dances the night away in one of the doll’s bright red dresses. While she is dressing, Ralph is occupied in the kitchen, trying to reach the last piece of bread. While he is tugging he begins to slip off of the counter into a cat bowl filled with water. Della heard this commotion and began to go venture out to hear who made such a ruckus. After she had approached Ralph, there was an instant sense of comfort brought to both of them. Together they laughed and danced and had a spectacular time. As their friendship transitioned from strangers to friends the illustrations changed from dark blues to bright oranges and pinks that radiated friendship and happiness. The cold bitter night turned into a warm and glistening morning. As the two mice returned to their original books by the nightstand, they fall asleep knowing that their adventure-created lifelong memories and a lifelong friend. This book is for ages (4-8). (MAH)  


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Kelly Starling Lyons. 2019. Sing a Song. Penguin Random House. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551609-5. Illustrated by Keith Mallett.

From generation to generation the legacy of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has been carried on throughout African Americans. The powerful lyrics have been passed down from great grandparents to grandparents, to parents, to even their young children. Throughout the century, music has brought thousands of people together to rejoice in the celebration of freedom and love. The lyrics reflect the adversity African American families had to go through. Making this literature not only lyric poetry but also narrative poetry. There was also repetition throughout the literature, this is as the characters sing “back straight, head high, heart and mouth open (p 12, unnumbered).”  “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was what helped several families get through the terrible time of Martin Luther King’s death and during protests which ended many civilians in jail. The illustrations matched the lyrics, of the song, powerful. The realistic illustrations made the reader feel like they were a part of the reading. The texture of each of the character’s hair was realistic. Blues are prominent; each day the sky seemed to be a bright blue mixed with silky white clouds. The vibrant blue conveys a sense of calming and tranquility. Although, during some of the happiest times, the sky transformed into a masterpiece of oranges, pinks, and yellows, suggesting warmth and happiness. Additionally, it is seen when each character was singing the powerful lyrics they would close their eyes and glow. The soft yellows reflected on the face convey a sense of peace. When times were tough for each of the characters, the illustrations consisted of dark purples and blues which produced a sense of sorrow for the reader. From the absolute beginning of the reading all the way to the end, the love and passion inside of the characters did not change. This exhilarating literature shows readers that they should sing even when it seems as though nobody is listening. This lets readers know when times are tough and it’s hard to see the light they should, “Keep singing, keep pushing, keep passing it on. Keep on keeping on. (page 30 unnumbered)” Recommended for ages 5 to 8. (MAH)  


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Lisa Moore Ramee. 2019. A Good Kind Of Trouble. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 368pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-283668-7. 

12-year-old Shay has stayed in her comfort zone throughout middle school. She has been hiding her true self when it comes to her friends, family, and classmates. This characteristic is one of the ways she is completely different than her sister Hana. Her sister is involved and supports Black Lives Matter and strives to make a difference in the lives of others. Shay does not take part in this organization; she would much rather sit back and observe.  However, Shay's opinion changed after witnessing a powerful protest. She takes the initiative to step out of her comfort zone and break some rules. She does this by wearing a black armband to school to support Black Lives Matter. Classmates, teachers and even the principal make hurtful comments about the band. Yet she still wears it every day to school. This shows person v. society conflict in the community. This brings out the theme of standing up for what is right, even if it means doing something you never thought you would. Her older sister supports this decision and reassures her that “Change is hard, but that doesn’t mean we stop. (357)” Middle schoolers will be able to relate to this reading because many young adults at this age are struggling with the idea of not fitting in and being too scared to stand up for themselves. Shay constantly battles with the idea of not being accepted in her community, yet she did not let these thoughts consume her. Instead, she was inspired to make a change.  Shay transforms from a timid 12-year-old to an unstoppable force. This realistic fiction gives young readers a glimpse of the adversity people deal with when it comes to their ethnicity and beliefs. Also, young readers may be encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and inspire others, just like Shay. (MAH)  


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Ann Schoenbohm. 2019. Rising Above Shepherdsville. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-145283-0.

After a traumatic experience dealing with the suicide of her mother, Dulce Louise Dixion moves to Shepherdsville, Ohio to live with her aunt. All she had with her was her spelling bee trophy, a box of ashes, and no voice. It was the summer of 1977 when her life changed. After the death of her mother, Dulce was no longer able to speak; she turned completely mute from depression. While at Shepherdsville she felt like an outcast, the people at her church group bullied her constantly because was speechless. This brought the conflict of person versus society. Dulce did not seem to fit in with what seemed to be the rest of the world. Although Dulce found hope and love in unexpected people and places. While living with her aunt she was able to find comfort in a family of swans living on a pond around a church. On her difficult journey, a community was built around her and she did not even realize it. Dulce is helped by a runaway, preacher, an aunt, dog, friend, and a family of swans. Through all her pain, her broken world was beginning to rebuild. The conflict of person versus self is evident throughout the plot.  Dulce battles with her mental health every day. Depression brings an entirely different outlook on her life. Of comfort to readers, ages 8-12, are two moods, safety, and warmth. This is shown through the hope and love radiating through the kind actions given to Dulce during her journey. Regardless of her multiple challenges of mental health and grief over the death of her mother, a theme of hope prevails. There are many people that suffer from the loss of a loved one and or depression, this literature provides comfort to those who relate. Readers 8 to 12 will be able to picture themselves as the characters and realize that life is not always easy, but loving people is. (MAH)   


Bascomb, Neal. 2018. The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 288pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-33-814034-7. Illustrated by Neal Bascomb.

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A group of prisoners in Germany during World War I made a “grand escape” This informational book provides insight on the “greatest prison breakout of the 20th century”. These men made it out of enemy territory and inspired hundreds around them. This journey was filled with shenanigans which were like an escape game for the men. These consisted of stealing tools and also used molasses which resulted in solitary confinement. The prisoners would also spend much of their time learning new languages so that they could talk to people that would help them. The stakes were very high for these men because if caught while escaping they would then be sent off to a different camp in which the officers were much stricter.  The information in this book is based on first-hand experiences of the battles the men had to do to survive. This text also provides real pictures of telegrams, airplanes used in the war, maps of World War I, tunnels the prisoners had to go through, and many more insightful illustrations. These illustrations bring a realistic element of factual events and information. The author made it easy to understand the actual lives of military men kept as prisoners during wartime. This allows young middle schoolers and high schoolers to grasp a true understanding of historical reading. (MAH)  


No Map, Great Trip

Fleischman, Paul. 2019. No Map, Great Trip. HarperCollins Greenwillow Books. 160pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-285745-3. Illustrated by Paul Fleischman.

It was no easy journey for Paul Fleischman to write his first novel. In fact, it was far from easy. His drive to succeed consisted of biking across the country, difficult challenges, and several moments of failure. Paul’s path to publishing not easy. Just like his extremely long bike rides, his path to writing was filled with a lot of bumps, turns, and sometimes detours. Each day Paul was turning life into an incredible story. From growing up with a father who was an award-winning author to biking across the country, to write his very first novel, he admits that he has “a yearning to see new places- and urge that never leaves (42)”  Paul will always have a notebook and pen in his pocket, just in case a spontaneous adventure awaits him.  This first-person biography gives the journey of Paul’s life through his own words. He also includes pictures of his family, friends, favorite places, and sentimental items which have brought him to where he is now. These pictures add a realistic feature to his writing and make the reader feel as if they are by his side during these experiences. Paul’s writing will inspire young readers and writers to live and embrace their own stories. He also provides “writing know-hows” throughout the literature, giving young readers writing tips. This literature encourages young writers to not be scared to fail or to try new things, but instead embrace what lies ahead. (MAH)


Gibbs, Stuart. 2019. Spy School: British Invasion. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers).  352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442470-8. Jacket Design and Principal Illustration by Lucy Ruth Cummins.

Ben Ripley, a child spy for the CIA works with an eclectic team on a rogue mission to take down the evil group, SPYDER in Britain. Despite almost being caught by the enemy on several occasions, the team navigates through Europe eventually taking down Mr. E, the brains behind the SPYDER operation. Throughout the mission, members have moments where they are not on their A-game. For example, when trying to escape a museum, Ben is not able to think fast enough on his feet, but through the help of his friends, they are able to set a plan into action and escape. Alexander, one of the adult spies on the mission, teaches Ben and the other spy school students that they can do anything if they put their mind to it. Readers, ages 8-12, will be able to relate to Ben and his classmates as they tackle larger than life problems and are exposed to the importance of teamwork, a positive self-esteem, and problem solving. (AHJ) 

  The Peacock Detectives

Nugent, Carly. 2018. The Peacock Detectives. HarperCollins. 288pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-289670-4.

Cassie Anderson is a twelve-year-old looking for her neighbor’s missing peacocks. As Cassie is on an adventure to find the missing peacocks (William Shakespeare and Virginia), children ages 8-14 can follow Cassie on her search as she learns more about herself and develops as a person. Cassie and her relationships with those around her become the main focus throughout. An important relationship is one with Jonas, a friend who is in Cassie’s sixth-grade class at school. He is interested in facts about sharks and various other random things that educate him. Cassie has a person vs. person conflict with her sister Diana. Diana is a fifteen-year-old girl and is annoyed with the presence of a younger sister. The style is a very informal first-person point-of-view from Cassie. Another conflict Cassie has to deal with is person vs. society where she has to deal with the divorce of her parents, and her mother’s new partner in her life. In Cassie’s journey of locating the peacocks, she learns more about her family. She struggles with finding out her grandpa has cancer and is dying, her parents getting a divorce, and watching her father battle depression. These were difficult things for an 11-year-old to process and understand, but with the help of her close friends, she can persevere. Cassie perseveres all challenges and obstacles and eventually locates William Shakespeare, Virginia, and their peacocks. (MJK)  



Baier, Brett and Catherine Whitney. 2019. Three Days in January. HarperCollins (William Morrow). 386pp. $28.99 ISBN 978-0-06-256903-5.

Readers, ages 8-12, will gain knowledge about the historical events during the three days after Eisenhower’s last day as President and the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. The biography is divided into three parts, the setting, the speech, and the final mission. The three sections encompass all of the events leading up to President Eisenhower’s farewell address. The common theme of leadership, shared through a third person point-of-view, shows young readers the dedication and hard work essential to become a strong leader. Readers are able to see real images provided by the Eisenhower Library in the middle of the book. The historical information provides readers with a more in-depth idea of what happened and how it can relate to Americans' current lives. (MJK)  


Hernández, José. 2019. From Farmworker to Astronaut. Arte Público Press (Piñata Books). 384pp. $10.95. ISBN 978-1-55-885868-8.


José Hernández's bilingual autobiography shares his personal journey of being a farmworker to becoming an astronaut with readers ages 10 - 15. As a young 10-year-old boy (1972), he watched Apollo 17 with his family. Becoming an astronaut soon became his dream. The Hernández family were farmers growing up, so José understood all of the hard work required for a successful life. His family became his support while going through school. As readers are introduced to the struggles and triumphs of a personal story, they vicariously experience what is necessary to reach one's dreams. The two different languages are separated by real images of the Hernández family and José's experiences of becoming an astronaut. The primary theme is perseverance, demonstrated through the difficult challenges involved with becoming an astronaut. (MJK)   


Snider, Grant. 2019. What Color is Night? Chronicle Books. 44pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-45-217992-6.

What Color is Night?

The first-person point of view is a unique technique to share the colors visible at night. The use of lines and color are visually appealing for young readers, ages 3 - 8. The use of dark colors as the background creates a calming mood of the setting. Towards the end, readers are introduced to new red colors, creating an energized environment along through the city at night with all of the neon signs. Multiple circles and undefined lines are accompanying the mood of calmness. The backgrounds vary, creating an intriguing visual for young readers. The incorporations of the yellow lights create a sense of safety and friendliness. There are few words on each page, many of which are sight words ideal for young readers, ages 3-8. Follow along in the text as the reader discovers the many different colors associated with the night time. (MJK)  


Hurley, Jorey. 2019. Skyscraper. Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 987-1-48-147001-8.


Young readers ages 3-7 can easily follow along with the building process of a skyscraper. The single words per page make it easy for young readers. Simple sight words in a large font create a welcoming environment for younger readers. The words are also supported by images of the object or action being described. The words in the book are all related, which keeps the focus on one specific topic for the reader. The words are all placed in different places on the page, making it appealing for the readers to look at, keeping them engaged in the book. The use of color, line, and shapes provide intriguing visuals. Lines are used to provide realistic outlines of the images described by the word presented on the page. Lines are fluid, and thin providing a sense of no uniformity. The colors are calming and light while still being realistic to the object. Shapes are extremely realistic, adding to the images' appeal. The colors used in the book are bright, therefore making it more appealing to a younger audience. Young readers, ages 3-8, will be intrigued by the building process of a skyscraper. (MJK)  


Cole, Henry. 2020. Nesting. HarperCollins (Katherine Tegen Books). 40pp. $17.99 ISBN 978-0-06-288592-0.


Two robin birds are building a nest to prepare for their babies. They nest in a tree by collecting twigs, leaves, and grass and create the perfect spot for the mother robin to lay her eggs. The plot follows the robins and their journey of raising baby robins. The mother and father robins provide food for the babies as they are too young to go search for their food. One day, a snake climbs up the tree when the mother and father robins are away from the nest, but the parents rush back to the nest to fight off the snake and save their babies. Using black and white lines, nonuniformity is applied to the realistic images. The light lines provide a calming mood. The only color is light blue. The light shade of blue adds to the calming mood while also reflecting the realistic color of the robins’ eggs. Young readers ages 4-8 will be intrigued in reading the realistic reflection of the life of robins and their offspring. Given the location of the readers, they may be able to observe the behavior of robins as they lay and hatch their distinctively blue eggs. (MJK)  


The Revenge of Magic

Riley, James. 2019. The Revenge of Magic. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 417pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-148577-7.

Forsyth, a young boy, is on a quest to discover magic. Fort begins his journey when he is with his father in Washington, D.C., and a mysterious creature comes up from the ground taking his father. Learning how to live his life without his father is a difficult task for a twelve-year-old; however, things change when a representative from the Oppenheimer School asks Fort to join the magic military school. While Fort is attending the school, he creates relationships with many people. The first task he is faced with when arriving at the school is convincing the other teachers at the school to allow Fort to stay enrolled. All odds are against him as he is not like the other children attending the school. He must demonstrate his abilities despite the differences between him and his peers around him; he is able to use his magic for the better. The setting throughout the story keeps readers engaged as they follow Fort and his journey discovering how he can help those around him by using his magic powers. The point of view comes from a third person perspective as an outsider looking into Fort’s life and journey. The suspending disbelief throughout the entire storyline is intriguing for readers ages 8-12. (MJK)  


Thank You Garden

Scanlon, Liz Garton. 2020. Thank You, Garden. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-140350-4. Illustrated by Simone Shin. 

Young readers ages 3 through 7 can explore many components of a garden through the third person omniscient view of the different parts of the garden. Short, often rhyming sentences are lyrical and easy to read. Sight words are utilized throughout encouraging children with easily recognizable words they might know. Growing a garden requires attention, a positive work ethic, and inspiration. Young readers can follow the steps in the process of developing a garden. Many of the gardeners are of different races showing the acceptance of working with others who share a common goal of creating a beautiful garden. The images are very vibrant and filled with color. Shades of all colors in watercolor are evident. The visual appeal to young readers will assist in keeping them engaged with the sequence of events, and hopefully, children will be motivated to develop a garden of their own. (MJK)  


Jimena Pérez Can Fly

Argueta, Jorge. 2019. Jimena Pérez Can Fly. Arte Público Press (Piñata Books). 96pp. $10.95. ISBN 978-1-55-885889-3. Illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck.

As a young girl, Jimena and her mother are told they must leave their country of El Salvador to travel to the United States US and live with her aunt and cousins. Through poetry in the first-person point-of-view, readers can join her in the journey as she is faced with hardships. While on their way to the US, Jimena is separated from her mother by the police. Being separated from her mother, Jimena understands this is her time to show how strong she is, and she can make a good life for herself by “learning how to fly” on her own. Through the character development, we see a timid, shy girl at the beginning of the text and a strong independent girl at the end. The illustrations are in black and white but small and unassuming. Not every page features an illustration, only those with happy moods. Young readers ages 10-14 will be intrigued by reading the different poetry styles included in the text. (MJK)  


Just Like a Mama

Duncan, Alicia. 2020. Just Like a Mama. Simon & Schuster (Denene Millner Books ). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-446183-3. Illustrated by Charnelle Barlow. 

Carol Olivia Clementine wishes her parents did not live so far away, but Mama Rose provides a home, loves her, and cares for her just like a mother. While recommended for ages 4-8, any reader will find the themes relatable. Mama Rose did not have to choose to take Carol in, but she saw a little girl who needed someone to care for her. The relationship provides Carol with someone to help her get ready for school, cook with her, a best friend, and someone to love her unconditionally. Older readers can gain an understanding of how, despite not having biological parents, Carol still has someone in her life who fills the role. Young readers will be interested in the illustrations as they are vivid and bright, providing an energetic environment. The use of yellow throughout the entire book shows the sense of energy as their relationship is filled with energy. Shades of red show compassion, love, warmth, cheerfulness, excitement, and determination in their relationship. The lines provide a calming sense. (MJK)


The Wonder of Wildflowers

Staniszewski, Anna. 2020. The Wonder of Wildflowers. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 192pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-444278-8.

Readers ages 8-12 follow Mira and her journey of finding acceptance. After a recent transition from her home in Poland, she now lives in a magic-using country, Amberland. Disbelief is suspended within the fantasy world because of the realistic elements of a child adjusting to a new school. When Amber is ingested, people become a stronger and smarter version of themselves. The opinions of her classmates cause Mira to struggle with feeling accepted at her new school. Natives to Amberland already have magic within them, while immigrants must learn how magic may benefit them.  Once citizenship is gained, however, they too can use magic. Mira thinks this will make her just like everyone else, and she will have the chance to fit in with her classmates, finally not be seen as an outsider. Mira continues to be challenged with fitting in, but she can grow and develop into an independent young girl. (MJK)  


Catherine's War

Billet, Julia. 2020. Catherine’s War. HarperCollins (HarperAlley). 176pp. $21.99. ISBN  978-0-06-291560-3. Illustrated by Claire Fauvel. Translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger.

This coming of age story features Rachel’s experiences she had during World War II as she travels from one location to another, hiding from the Nazis. Leaving her hometown of Paris while also being separated from her parents is difficult. Moving multiple times to stay safe in hiding provides opportunities to create relationships with others. After leaving her school, she was told she had to take on a different identity with a new name, to ensure her safety. Becoming Catherine created many new relationships for Rachel. She was able to create a new identity for herself, which aided in her coming of age story throughout the text. Illustrations are in a photo strip format following Rachel’s passion for photography. Images are watercolor, creating a soft and welcoming environment. End pages show photos with a bright golden yellow background creating a sense of happiness. Colors are dominantly yellowish-brown, mixed with red and blue-tinted images. Mixed within are images with red and blue tints. Red conveying the emotion of love while Catherine develops a relationship, and blue showing the sadness as she misses her parents, her home, and past. (MJK)  


Here in the Real World

Pennypacker, Sara. 2020. Here in the Real World. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 308pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-0-06-269895-7.

Ware, the eleven and a half-year-old protagonist dreams of becoming a knight. Ware decides to explore outside on his own, instead of going to his typical daycare. While adventuring on his own, Ware stumbles upon an abandoned church and this discovery changes his life. He had a vision for the old church: to make it into a real-life castle. The old church becomes the main setting of the story. At the lot, Ware meets a girl his age, Jolene. They work together each day to maintain Jolene’s garden and fix the church up so it can become Ware’s dream castle. Even though Ware and Jolene start by disliking each other, they grow to become quality friends and even better coworkers. Not only do they work on improving the castle and their garden, but Ware also filmed their work and made a movie out of it. Person versus person conflict is evident when a company buys the abandoned church with plans to demolish it. Children ages 8-12 would enjoy being on the journey with Ware and Jolene. Being told in the third-person point of view allows the reader to watch everything unfold. (AEL)  


Bruce's Big Storm

Higgens, Ryan. 2019. Bruce’s BIG Storm. Disney Publishing Worldwide (Disney-Hyperion). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-36-802622-2. 

While all ages will enjoy the depiction of a grumpy look bear, children ages 3-5 will have the most interest, drawn in by the exciting colors and texture, creating new dimensions. Bruce, the main character in the book, is a dark blue color. Dark blue symbolizes gloominess, which perfectly describes Bruce. The other animals are different tones of brown, making blue Bruce stand out against them. Bruce has vertical lines all over him, which resembles the fur of a live bear. Vertical lines are also present on the woodwork in the house, making the wood more life-like. Readers meet Bruce’s neighbors because of an approaching storm. The storm later ruins Bruce’s house. Because it ruins the house, the storm is the antagonist. It is also an example of a person versus nature conflict. During the storm, the diagonal lines represented rain falling from the sky. The rain is exceptionally heavy, as conveyed by the high frequency of lines. After the storm, there was damage requiring clean-up. All of the neighborhood worked together to fix Bruce’s house, and the neighbors displayed teamwork. (AEL)  


In a Jar

Marcero, Deborah. 2020. In A Jar. Penguin Random House LLC (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN   978-0-52-551459-6.

Llewellyn, the protagonist, spends his time collecting memories in jars. With many, many jars, readers can compare the contents in each. The colors draw the readers in and add detail to the story without words. When Llewellyn finds a friend, Evelyn, he can collect memories with her help. They fill jars to remember their days together. When Evelyn moves away, Llewellyn struggles with feeling empty without her there. He comes up with an idea: to send Evelyn a jar to share his experiences with her. They are able to send jars back and forth to communicate and still feel connected. Children, especially children 3-7, can learn to express their emotions appropriately and experience empathy towards others. This acceptance of emotions helps promote personal development. The journey between Llewellyn and Evelyn helps children pay attention to detail and make predictions as to what else they may gather in their jars. (AEL)  


Hair Love

Cherry, Matthew A. 2019. Hair Love. Penguin Random House LLC (Kokila). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-52-555336-6. Illustrated by Vashti Harrison.

Based on the short-animated film and recent recipient of an Oscar, the variety of types of hair are demonstrated. Written by a person of color, the reader will read about the authentic experience of having typical African American hair. The protagonist, Zuri, is a young girl who recognizes how her hair type is different from others. Textures highlight each curl in Zuri’s hair. The plot is realistic, and readers will be able to relate to Zuri. Zuri and her dad struggle to find a style compatible with her hair (a person v. person conflict). Often children think it is the mother’s job to work on their children’s hair, but Zur’s dad defies this stereotype. The themes and plot around finding the perfect hairstyle can introduce children to the challenges of managing one’s hair. The nonwhite characters are accurately portrayed, which is critical in multicultural literature. Children ages 3-8 can relate to Zuri, but youngsters of all ages will be able to learn more about the differences between people. (AEL)  


I Believe I Can

Byers, Grace. 2020. I Believe I Can. HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray). 32pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-266713-7. Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo.

Children are often discouraged when it comes to having confidence in themselves; however, affirmations are important for children at any age, but especially for children ages 4-8. Both males and females are pictured reciting affirmations the reader can relate to and incorporate in their personal life. To help ensure all readers feel empowered, a wide variety of children are pictured, whether they are different races or disabilities. Each child is accurately represented when it comes to their identity. Readers are exposed to a diversity of children, enhancing their awareness of others. The theme of learning from one’s mistakes is one children can recognize. Children are reminded no one is alone, and bravery allows a feeling of empowerment. (AEL)  



Durst, Sarah Beth. 2019. Spark. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-897342-9.

Imagine if your pet had superpowers, which opened up a whole new world. Readers follow the journey of Mina and her storm beast, Pixit. Belief is suspended within the plot as Mina has a “normal” family. Mina has the duty of caring for an egg for multiple years until it hatches. When it hatches, her life changes completely. Out of the egg comes a yellow dragon named Pixit. Pixit is a storm beast, meaning he helps control the weather. Pixit is in charge of the lightning and electricity in the mystical world, hence his yellow color. Holding a lightning beast is a difficult task, and Mina’s family worries she is not up for the challenging training involved with having such a beast. This is an example of person versus person conflict. Mina feels prepared and ready for the challenge while her family, especially her father, disagrees and thinks she is ill-prepared. The setting is a world called Alloria, and with the help of the storm beasts, the weather is always perfect and adjusts to the needs of the citizens. The beasts can communicate with their owners. The voices are evident in who is talking, whether it is the owner of the beast. Within the plot, an example of person versus society is when Mina sees a problem and wants to create change. While the weather may be perfect for those who live in Alloria, it is less than perfect for those outside Alloria. Mina, Pixit, and their friends decide to speak up, even when the rest of the town disagrees and struggles to believe them. The overarching theme throughout is it takes little to initiate change, and even shy, quiet people can change the world. Just when the reader thinks the journey of Mina and Pixit is over, another event happens. These unexpected events keep readers in grades 4-7 engaged and excited to follow the journey of Mina and Pixit. Readers are able to imagine life as if they had their own storm beast. (AEL)  


Follow the Recipe

Singer, Marilyn. 2020. Follow the Recipe: Poems About Imagination, Celebration & Cake. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 48pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-73-522790-3. Illustrated by Majorie Priceman.

Poetry comes in different shapes, sizes, and forms. Poems in this collection resemble different cooking recipes, supported by watercolor painted imagery. The pictures on the pages correspond to the poem also on the page. For example, the sun is next to a poem about summer. Each picture also includes an element often found in a kitchen, keeping true with the recipe theme. The contemporary poems reflect familiar experiences, making the poems more appealing for children. While the poems are written in recipe form, they are about many different topics. The poems range from recipes for patience to recipes for memories. Each poem holds different rhythms, keeping readers engaged. A majority of the poems are lyrical poetry, but haikus are also present. Readers ages 4-8 will enjoy the pictures and find joy within the different poems. (AEL)  


Some Places More Than Others

Watson, Renee. 2019. Some Places More Than Others. Bloomsbury (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 208pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-68-119108-9.

Amara, the protagonist, is an eleven-year-old girl from Oregon. She lives with her parents, while her grandma, aunt, and cousins live in New York. She wants to travel to New York for her birthday to learn more about her father’s family and history. The problem is her parents believe she is too young to travel to the city. After convincing her parents, Amara travels with her father to spend a week in the city and is finally able to meet her family. But while in New York, Amara learns quickly why her mother was worried about the trip. She decides to travel independently through the subway system, but she ends up getting lost. Amara is the primary conflict. Amara decides to venture on her own because her cousin believes she acts much like a baby. To prove her wrong, Amara tries to show her independence. This is an example of a person-versus-self conflict in the story. After finding her way home, she realizes while she is growing older, she is not able to navigate the city by herself. This realization is another key component of realistic fiction. While in New York, she is able to connect with her grandfather, aunt, and cousins. During the time in New York, she learns more about her family than she could from a phone call. The information she learns, she puts into a school project to present to her classmates when she returns home. Amara’s journey is written for young readers, ages 8-14, who are in the process of growing into their adulthood. Readers will become interested in their family histories, and when they take time to ask their family members about their history and traditions, they may learn a lot. Amara is a perfect example of this. (AEL)  


The Bear in My Family

Tatsukawa, Maya. 2020. The Bear In My Family. Penguin Random House LLC (Dial Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.23. ISBN 978-0-52-555582-7.  

Children have the ability of using their imagination when it is most needed in their lives. A young boy has a big, blue bear in his family, and he is not pleased with it. The color of the bear, dark blue, represents the sadness it brings the young boy. The boy and the bear do not get along. The relationship between the boy and bear is an example of person versus person conflict. The one thing the young boy does not understand is how his parents do not see the bear, even when it is constantly present in his life. The parents do not believe there is a bear in the house. The soft lines used in the book give it a sense of innocence. The different fonts used allow for an easier time deciphering between the story text and speech spoken from the characters. While the bear is annoying, it comes to save the day. While being bullied by a group of boys, the scary bear comes and frightens them away. After spending the day doing fun activities, the boy reveals to the reader the bear is actually his sister. An apparent theme is help can come even from those who annoy them. Readers ages 4-8 will relate to the young boy, especially if they have siblings. (AEL)  


Pixie Pushes On

Bundy, Tamara. 2020. Pixie Pushes On. Penguin Random House LLC (Nancy Paulsen Books). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN  978-0-52-551516-6.

Taking place during World War II, readers can follow Prudence, the protagonist, during her daily life as she learns a new normal. During the war, Prudence’s sister, Charlotte, develops polio. Because of this diagnosis, her sister must live in a hospital, away from Prudence. Prudence lives on her grandparent’s farm with her father. The setting is authentic for the World War II era. Readers can travel back in time where the fear of contracting polio is prevalent. Prudence also experienced the war ration system, meaning her family was limited as to what they could buy. Readers are able to see back into this gruesome time period by reading about Prudence’s experience with using war rations. A theme in this story is not to judge people by first glance. Prudence believes all of the people around her hate her, but when she takes a step back, she can see her thoughts are not reality. She learns those who she did not like in the beginning, end up being her closest friends. This theme is worthwhile for readers ages eight and older. (AEL)  



Newman, Magdalena and Nathaniel. 2020. Normal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers).  336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-32-863183-1. Illustrated by Neil Swaab.

When people encounter someone who is different, they often struggle with how to react. Nathaniel Newman was born with a facial deformity. His diagnosis is called “Treacher Collins.” Excited to be first-time parents, Magdalena and Russel were not prepared for the challenges they would encounter in their day-to-day life. Russel, Magdalena, and Nathaniel accepted the new normal, while those around them struggled. People would stare at Nathaniel, and Nathaniel’s parents explain Treacher Collins whenever able. When Nathaniel became a young teen, his family heard about a book being written where the main character had Treacher Collins. The book, Wonder by R. J. Palacio (2012), a world-wide seller, changed the way those with facial deformities and disabilities, in general, were treated. The illustrations, appearing hand drawn, are minimal, but preface and establish the context of each chapter. Nathaniel is pictured differently than everyone else, but in a tasteful manner and to reflect his life. Readers, especially those ages ten and older, learn about Nathaniel’s journey through his voice along with his mother’s. While Nathaniel appears different, he is just like any other child his age. He loves video games, hanging out with friends, and he especially loves his dogs. Being the face of Wonder helped Nathaniel share his story and give people a deeper insight than Wonder. (AEL)  


Games of Deception

Maraniss, Andrew. 2019. Games of Deception. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 238pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-52-551463-3.

Sports often play an important role in the lives of children. It is difficult to imagine a world without sports, but this was once reality. James Naismith had the important task in 1891 to create a new game which could be played indoors in the winter. After countless nights thinking of a possible pass-time, he thought up the concept which involved two teams, a ball, and a goal: to throw the ball in a bucket. He later called the game “basketball,” without knowing the game would be passed down from one generation to another. Little did Naismith know his game would make its debut in the 1936 Olympics, which took place in Berlin, Germany. During this time in Germany, Adolf Hitler was in power. While the Jews have been the victims of mistreatment, the worst was yet to come. The Olympic athletes who sailed across the ocean on the S. S. Manhattan from the United States would have a hard time believing this maltreatment was happening in Berlin. The appearance of Berlin was spectacular and seemed to be the perfect city. Readers are introduced to a wide variety of topics. There are also pictures throughout the chapters from different events in the past related to the plot. Whether the reader is a sports fan or a history buff, they will find themselves engaged and excited to turn to the next page. (AEL)



 Milford, Kate. The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 454pp. $17.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-32-846689-1. Illustrations by Jaime Zollars.

Marzana and Nialla are bored. Nothing ever happens in their town. Nagspeake is a town offering refuge to those who have committed crimes. Nothing interesting ever happens here, because this is a town where everyone has secrets, and residents keep to themselves in order to live quietly. Some readers may be able to relate to the struggle the children have in this town.  Readers, ages 8 – 12, may not want to discuss their home lives, and it can create divides within the school. The town also represents the divides in society, because not much is known, or even supposed to be known about life outside this town. This is a representation of the greater theme, where nothing and no one is quite what they seem.But, right at the height of Marzana's disappointment, she and her parents learn about a girl who has been kidnapped. They need to figure out who kidnapped her, and where she might be. Her parents refuse to let Marzana help with the case because, as most parents do, they want to keep their daughter safe. This means that Marzana and Nialla must take things into their own hands. With the help of three other students and a ghost, they must try and solve this mystery. Everyone has their own set of talents, using these talents,  aid in finding the lost girl. However, Marzana has a struggle of her own. She is an introverted person, and doubts her ability to lead. Through her eyes, readers can see she has many doubts, but in the end, is able to power persevere and overcome her fears about herself. This group must race the clock to solve this mystery. (GJM) 



Teagan, Erin. 2019. Survivor Girl. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 336pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-54-463621-7. Interior Illustrations by Celeste Knudsen.

Ali Kensington wants to be like her father, known to the world as Survivor Guy from his reality show by the same name. When she gets the chance to star in an episode taking place in the swamp, she is nervous her survival skills will not be up to par. Ali is surprised and upset when she finds out her father’s show is staged.  She thought he endured the wilderness and foraged resources for survival, but instead there is a crew, props, script, and a personal chef. She feels betrayed by her father’s lies and angry with her mother for getting a divorce and splitting up their family. However, when she becomes stranded in a deadly forest fire, Ali must muster the courage to save her friends, family, and self.  Throughout her journey, Ali realizes the meaning of family and forgiveness when her survival skills are put to the test. Ali’s perspective shows how a child may deal with familial issues, as well as her potential to do more than she thought possible.  The main setting takes place in a swamp where the show is being filmed. There are many dangerous animals, insects, and forces of nature which frighten Ali, but she learns to overcome them in her time of crisis. The setting represents her broken relationships with her family, but later how she overcomes her fears to find forgiveness. (CEM)


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Aponte, Carlos. 2019. Across the Bay. Penguin Random House (Penguin Workshop). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-52-478662-5. Illustrated by Carlos Aponte. 

Carlitos lives in Cantãno, a welcoming city with vibrant red flowers and bright green mango trees. As Carlitos observes other families, he is reminded how his own family is unlike others; Carlitos lives with his mother and his abuela (grandmother). Carlitos is conflicted with his personal definition of family, and what is meant by his father’s absence. The use of colors and the absence of color illustrates Carlitos’ conflicts. The bright yellows, reds and greens as well as the curvy rounded lines within Carlitos’ home sets the mood by giving it a warm, cozy, and secure feeling. Yet, Carlitos decides to go on a journey across the bay to find his father in an attempt to reunite his family. As Carlitos travels to Old San Juan to find his father, the vibrant kites, buildings, and flowers of every color create excitement and anticipation. The brightly lit town adds to the excitement and helps to emphasize the excitement Carlitos experiences. The hectic city is portrayed by jagged lines in the buildings and people, reflecting the anxiety, confusion and desperation Carlitos experiences in his search for his father. When Carlitos comes to terms with his reckless and potentially hazardous decision to sneak out of his home and travel to the capital city alone; the lighting becomes dim, and dark greys become present for the first time. This use of light and color emphasize the conflict and reflects Carlitos’ disappointment. As soon as Carlitos begins to feel positive, the lighting becomes bright and the city is filled with bright yellow, orange and blue buildings once again. Once Carlitos realizes the true meaning of family and the importance of home, the bright, warm yellow, orange and purple sunset draws Carlitos back home. (AKM)   


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Strong, Karen. 2019. Just South of Home. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441938-4.

Warrenville is a small, family-centered southern country town in Georgia. Sarah and her younger brother, Ellis, are finally allowed to stay home alone for the summer. Sarah has summer plans to immerse herself in science, her favorite subject. However, when family arrives from Chicago for the summer, Sarah is forced to leave her science books in order to spend the summer as a host for her rude cousin, Janie. Though Sarah promised her mom she would be responsible, Janie loved trouble and was always looking for something. Sarah, Ellis, and Janie find themselves in a dangerous situation when they discovered the secrets about Warrenville and their family’s past. The group may be the only ones who can save their family and heal the wounds of the town’s previous events. The novel provides a suspenseful, yet approachable narrative of Sarah and Janie’s journey towards friendship and self-discovery. Consequences of racism and hate crimes are given in an approachable and relatable way for children ages eight to twelve. By working through the consequences of a history filled with racist hate crimes and violence, readers are left with a deep sense of the importance of family, as well as the importance of a person’s roots and sense of home. (AKM)  


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Gravett, Emily. 2019. Cyril and Pat. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-443950-4. Illustrated by Emily Gravett.

Cyril is the only squirrel in Lake park. Fortunately, a rat named Pat befriends Cyril, who mistakes him for a squirrel. Nevertheless, Cyril and Pat become best friends, and have grand adventures. The brightly lit park full of vibrant greens, yellows and pinks add to the excitement and joy of Cyril and Pat’s friendship. The use of jagged, free lines and organic shapes within the illustrations evokes a light and bright energy, adding to the adventure and excitement of Cyril and Pat’s time together. The absence of color in the distant city keeps the attention on the park and suggests the park is inviting and friendly. The texture of the animals and trees bring the characters to life and make them seem interesting and approachable. This use of texture may promote cognitive development by helping children visualize animals and objects in detail omit. Although Cyril is convinced his friend Pat is just like him, the rest of the animals in the park know otherwise. Pat struggles with society’s negative perception of him because he is a rat. Bullying and judgement is brought to question when the other animals call him dirty and claim he’s a thief. When Cyril decides not to be friends with Pat, the dark scene full of greys reflect the despair and loneliness Cyril feels without his friend. The mention of bullying and judgement of Pat promotes emotional development by showing the rat deserves friends, despite the stereotype imposed by others. Cyril learns it is okay to make one’s own choices and judgements, despite what others think. The relationship between Cyril and Pat, and the emphasis on friendship beyond judgement promotes personality development. This action-packed adventure promotes the importance of tolerance, while keeping the reader hypothesizing about what will happen next. (AKM)  


Lanan, Jessica. 2019. The Fisherman and the Whale. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Book for Young Readers). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441574-4. Illustrated by Jessica Lanan.

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The ocean primarily is a place of tranquility and peace. However, for a whale near a fisherman’s boat, the ocean becomes a place full of unnatural danger. The whale becomes trapped in fishing material and is unable to move. The loosely structured and jagged lines of the whale and the ocean portray the danger the whale faces and reflect the fear the whale experiences. The dark grey sky and dark blue sea reflect the danger and despair of the whale. When the fisherman’s son notices the distressed whale, he assumes responsibility and encourages his father to do something to help the trapped creature. Although the father is reluctant to stop working at first, he quickly realizes he has a responsibility to help the creature of the ocean, and to create harmony between humans and ocean life. The line entangling the whale is dark and gloomy, reflecting the perilous situation. The textured water makes the ocean appear to be choppy, adding to the anxiety and danger of the scene. Without any words, the dark greys and jagged lines create the threatening and concerning situation for the whale and the fisherman in the ocean. As soon as the fisherman frees the whale, the sky erupts in a light, warm yellow, showing the freedom and joy all the characters experience. The warm, inviting sky creates a safe feeling, and the sky transitions to a vibrant pink and purple sunset reflected on the waves, representing the harmony between the land and sea. The organic shape of the ship and waves creates a tranquil scene. Children ages 4-8 will be engrossed in the captivating images, which encourage readers to consider the impact of human fishing techniques on wildlife in the ocean. (AKM)  


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Underwood, Deborah. 2019. Reading Beauty. Chronicle Books. 44pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-45-217129-6. Illustrated by Meg Hunt. 

Princess Lex and her dog, Prince, live in a distant planetoid where reading is everybody’s favorite hobby. The texture of the images of Prince and the world Lex lives in brings an otherwise imaginary universe to life. The curvy lines and loosely structured shapes reflect Lex’s curiosity and high-energy, making it an enjoyable and engaging read for children 4 – 8. On Lex’s fifteenth birthday, her parents order the removal of all books in order to protect her from an enchantment which was cast on her by an evil fairy when Lex was a baby. The dark blues and greens reflect Lex’s depressed mood in a world without books. The young princess and her extraordinary dog embark on an adventure together in order to break the enchantment. Dark blues and greens portray the dangerous trip to find the evil fairy who enchanted the princess. Upon the arrival of Lex and Prince at the fairy’s house with bright yellows, pinks, purples and blues that bring additional energy and excitement into Lex’s already action-packed adventure. Upon learning, the fairy was simply upset with herself for her illiteracy, Lex shows kindness and generosity by teaching the evil fairy to read, despite the fairy’s evil nature. The princess and her dog break the enchantment and create harmony in her world once again by showing bravery and kindness through sharing their intelligence. Loosely based on the folktale Sleeping Beauty, Lex’s adventure reflects the traditional French tale of an unselfish girl who breaks an evil enchantment. (AKM)  


Gratz, Alan. 2019. Allies. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-824572-1.


D-Day was meant to be a day of hope and victory during World War II. However, the reality of D-Day was gruesome and fearful. Four young characters from different backgrounds live out the horrors of D-Day. A young U.S. soldier named Dee meets Samira, a French spy who tries to sabotage the Germans. Meanwhile, a paratrooper named James jumps from his plane to join a raid, and Henry, a medic search for people to be saved. All four characters experience the horrors that happened on D-Day. France has become a place of despair, fear where the Nazis ruled over making it a war zone. Germany was associated with hatred and bias towards anybody who did not fit the profile of German heritage. Dee, Samira, James, and Henry face these biases, racism, and violence that occur red during World War II. Each character overcomes individual fears for the common good. The idea of compassion and love prevails despite the horrors of the war being described in raw detail. These raw details reflect the grim reality of the violence which occurs in war, adding to the power of the message of connectivity and compassion. Dee, Samira, James, and Henry all grow to understand people are stronger and better when they are together. The shifting narrative adds suspense and creates a deeper understanding of the connectedness prevailing in the characters’ lives. Dee, Samira, James, and Henry’s experiences emphasize the effects of war and promote ideas of compassion and teamwork. (AKM)  



Townley, Alvin. 2019. Captured. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Focus). 456pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-33-825566-9.

Jeremiah Denton was a military aviator during the Vietnam war. When his plane was shot down, he found himself locked in a prison in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war. Jeremiah’s experiences resisting the war from the small cells throughout North Vietnam is told through an engaging narrative. The narrative tells the true experiences of the prisoners of war in Vietnam, emphasizing the horrible effects they had endured. The terrible conditions of Vietnam’s prisons are described in detail and described as an environment of torture, agony, and anxiety. Jeremiah Denton’s letters, poems, and diagrams of the prisons provided an accurate portrayal of the horrible experiences of prisoners of war in Vietnam while giving insight into the hope, which motivated the prisoners of war to continue to resist and remain loyal to the United States. The real photos of the prisoners and camps bring the realization of the truth of Jeremiah's experiences. The innermost fears and regrets of American soldiers in Vietnam prisons were presented and only to be saved by the thought of safety and freedom on United States soil. Adam Townley’s interviews with Jeremiah Denton ensured that the feelings and concerns were accurate. The factual accounts of the prisoners of war in Vietnam provided an accurate and detailed explanation of the horrendous experiences of prisoners of war. The hope of freedom and the importance of connectivity is emphasized. The bibliography, endnotes, and index present the opportunities to find additional information about the American war prisoners in Vietnam. (AKM)  


Book Covers

Seiple, Samantha. 2019. Nazi Saboteurs: Hitler’s Secret Attack on America. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Focus).  224pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-825914-8.

In 1942, a group of German men crept onto the shore of the United States, intending to sabotage the country through terror and destruction. Each man had their motivations, but each was unaware of his eventual grim fate. For these men, the United States was a place that held opportunity and victory, along with destruction, soiled plans, and the ultimate sacrifice. Each sabotager’s history is told through an engaging and informative narrative. The concerns of each man are documented, highlighting the internal fears of Hitler’s wrath and for their own family amidst World War II. The action-packed storyline creates excitement and suspense in the unraveling of the fate of the Nazi saboteurs. The narrative clearly shows the men’s interests shifting from serving their home country to simply surviving the mission with minimal threat to their own families, as the plans begin to disintegrate. These saboteurs become suspicious of one another, with good reason. Ultimately, one man’s decision to turn on them all forces each man to pay the price of their crimes: spying and planning to terrorize the citizens of the United States. The narrative explains the motivations which led the saboteurs to consider risking their safety amidst World War II and advance Nazi purposes. Mugshots and photos of crucial landmarks and influential people provide a helpful reference to these histories. The men’s experiences are presented in an engaging narrative, shedding light on the secret horrors and threats of World War II. (AKM)  


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Graff, Lisa. 2019. Far Away. Penguin Books (Philomel Books). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-52-473859-4.

CJ and her Aunt Nic have been touring for as long as she can remember. CJ’s aunt has “the gift” of being able to talk to people’s deceased loved ones. This is how CJ talks to her mother who passed away when she was a baby. CJ struggles to understand what it means to not have a mother and is able to cope with these concerns by talking to her mother through her aunt. However, when her mom goes to the faraway place, the only way for CJ to be able to speak to her mother again is to find an object which had significant meaning to her mother. Determined to be able to continue to communicate with her mother again, CJ recruits her friend and coworker, Jax. The two drive to Bakersfield, in order to find the object which will finally bring her mother back into the realm of communication, relying on the Spirits to help her on her journey. CJ relies completely on her mother’s hometown, holding Bakersfield as her last resort in order to hold on to the minimal amount of communication she is able to have with her mother, and overcome her grief.  The addition of occasional images creates suspense and promotes and understanding of CJ’s fear in her situation. Jax and CJ rides in a truck reflects the excitement they experience because of the spirits leading CJ to her mother. However, the path that CJ and Jax are led on by spirits ultimately leads to harsh awakenings. CJ discovers her aunt has been lying to her for her entire life, and her mother is really alive. Forced to face the harsh truth of her aunt’s lies, CJ must work through her confusion and discover the true meaning of family. CJ and Jax learn the importance of honesty, friendship and forgiveness in a humorous and relatable manner. CJ is forced to find herself and her true values in a situation where the line between good and evil is blurred. The true meaning of family is explored in a realistic, yet magical way, making CJ’s situation believable in a familiar world. CJ and Jax overcome anxiety and grief, making many self-discoveries as they attempt to uncover the secrets of CJ’s past. (AKM)   


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Walker, Anna. 2019. Lottie and Walter. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-847038-6. Illustrated by Anna Walker. 

Lottie is a small girl who is taking swimming lessons. Although this may be exciting and enjoyable, there is a problem: Lottie is convinced there is a shark in the pool who wants to eat her. The shadows in the pool create a looming image of a shark which sparks fear. The swimming pool becomes a place of danger for Lottie. Lottie sits on the side of the pool during every lesson, never able to build up the courage to get in the water. The dark blue in the pool reflects the fear and anxiety Lottie feels because of the shark’s looming presence. The unstructured lines in the water emphasize the unpredictability of the shark and reflect Lottie’s anxiety. One day, Walter appears by the pool. The texture in Walter’s skin and whiskers make him seem friendly and trustworthy. Lottie puts her trust in Walter, and the two friends go on adventures together. The loosely structured shapes add energy to Walter and Lottie’s adventures. Bright greens, yellows, pinks and blues show the excitement and joy which comes from Lottie and Walter’s new friendship. When it comes time to go back to the pool, Walter helps Lottie realize her fear was self-induced. The support from Lottie’s new friend enables her to finally find the courage to get into the pool, in spite of the idea of the shark. Walter’s friendship encourages Lottie to show courage and overcome her fear of the pool. Lottie learns the power of friendship and courage through her relationship with Walter, and she is finally able to swim in the pool with her friends, including Walter. (AKM)   


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Alzial, Sylvain. 2019. PAN THERA tigris. Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Book for Young Readers). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-80-285529-9. Illustrated by Hélène Rajcak Translated by Vincent Lal and Sarah Ardizzone.

Scholars are generally passionate about knowledge and learning details about their subject matter. The detailed, precise lines and texture emphasize the immense knowledge of this scholar. When he realizes he does not know everything about tigers, he sets off to the jungle and asks a local hunter to give him more information. The jungle is bursting with wonder, reflected by colors such as greens and yellows not visible in the images of the encyclopedia. The hunter continues to try to warn the scholar about the danger of the tigers in the jungle. However, the scholar finds himself talking and not listening, in turn the hunter never speaks. The darkly shaded jungle and jagged lines reflect the looming danger of the tiger. The loosely structured shapes of the plants show the jungle is not as structured as the encyclopedias of the scholar. When the tiger finally appears, the scholar has no helpful knowledge for surviving a tiger attack. The bright orange of the tiger and the lack of color in the surroundings draws attention to the tiger and its importance. The scholar is forced to face how his unwillingness to learn from others resulted in his own unfortunate situation. The scholar learns the importance of listening to others and learning from them, despite how smart he thought he was, himself. The scholar’s unfortunate situation teaches about the importance of knowing more than just facts and encourages learning from others. (AKM)  


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Salazar, Aida. 2019. The Moon Within. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 240pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-828337-2.

Celi is a budding teenager from Oakland, California. Every night, the moonlight shines into her bedroom. Celi thinks the moon is a dancer who creeps into her bedroom at night to bring joy, but her mom insists the moon is a part of Celi’s journey to becoming a woman. Her mom insists Celi should embrace her coming of age by having a moon ceremony. Among the pressures from Celi’s mom and peers, there is one thing which allows her to be free - dance. Through dance, Celi and her friends begin to find themselves, mending their relationships and working through the difficulties of growing up. The narrative poetry follows Celi’s journey through the commons struggles of becoming a teenager. Celi and her best friend share their worries, fears and struggles which results from the pressures from their peers and parents. Celi experiences an internal battle of the embarrassment she feels in the midst of going through puberty. She learns the value of friendship and loyalty through her relationship with her genderfluid friend and gains an acceptance of others. Celi’s narrative provides an authentic and relatable account of the very real difficulties of becoming a teenager. The use of shape in the poetry creates interest and adds to the impact of Celi’s emotion and conflict. Celi and her friends’ experiences, mistakes and embarrassments reflect the reality of coming of age. The friends share their experiences along an inspiring journey to self-discovery and acceptance as they enter a new stage of their lives. (AKM)   


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Tucker, Laura. 2019. All the Greys on Greene Street. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-45-147953-2. Illustrations by Kelly Murphy.

Olympia lives with her mother and father in an artist loft in SoHo. She and her parents are artists and are always working on something. However, when Olympia’s father disappears to France for a mysterious reason and her mother decides to stay in bed for weeks, the loft seems anything but ordinary. Olympia’s home turns into a source of stress and anxiety. As a twelve-year-old, Olympia is forced to face responsibilities and conflicts beyond her age. Ashamed of her mother’s battle with depression, Olympia hopes for the best and takes care of herself. The first-person narrative provides a relatable and raw account of Olympia’s fears. She hides her pain from her friends, avoiding her uncertainty of the future if her mother never wakes up, and her father never returns from France. Olympia spends weeks waiting for her mother to bounce back from her depression. Her mother is only able to get the help she needs when Olympia’s friend, Alex, volunteers to help her. Through the love of Olympia’s friends, she learns asking for help is not a weakness, but a necessity, and gains an understanding of her mother’s illness. Olympia and her friends show the importance of friendship and love. Olympia is vulnerable and realistic, shedding light on depression without sugarcoating it. The occasional illustrations spark interest and help to make connections. Olympia’s experiences bring forth important conversations about mental health and the importance of reaching out to others for help. (AKM)  


O’Hara, Mo. 2018.

Book Covers

Romeosaurus and Juliet Rex. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-265274-4.

Children who are familiar with Romeo and Juliet may connect with the concepts of courtship (dating and romance); however, they may not know the actual story. Using dinosaurs, the theatrical production is recreated to be more accessible. Young children will be intrigued by the characters, presented as kind and comical dinosaurs. While still staying true to the themes of violence, disobedience, and young love present in the original, this recreation revolves around a child’s understanding of friendship, bullying, and dinosaurs. The soft curves of the dinosaurs and the light pastel colors make it clear that this is a light-hearted story. At the same time, Juliet’s carnivorous habits represent the depth of conflict between the Montague and Capulet families. The mixed modes of collage and pencil also contribute to the amusing appearances of these conflicted dinosaurs. This juggling of mature themes and comedy for a child audience is embodied by the last page where the two families are finally united but are soon to be killed by a meteor. Children ages 4-8 are introduced to Shakespeare and English literature in an abridged manner, though they may still struggle with the Italian names. (EMM)  


Book Covers

Park, Linda Sue. 2019. Gondra’s Treasure. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-454669-1.

With quirky illustrations and jokes about breathing mist versus fire, a comforting atmosphere is created to express the experiences of someone who is of mixed race. Gondra’s mother is a western dragon, and her father is an eastern dragon. Throughout the exposition and rising action, Gondra asks her parents questions about their heritages and wonders how she should live as a contemporary dragon. In the denouément, she learns to celebrate the powers, appearances, and beliefs she carries. The backgrounds of these conversations are light watercolor paintings of traditional English castles and Chinese mountains and pagodas. The family dynamics, paired with the soft blue and grey watercolors, display the beauty and charm of blending cultures. A child or adult looking for affirmation of their mixed identity will exactly that through this dragon tale. Children of adults, ages 4 and up, who want to affirm and celebrate their blended identities will appreciate reading about Gondra’s blended family. (EMM)  


Because of the Rabbit

Lord, Cynthia. 2019. Because of the Rabbit. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 192pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-54-591424-6.

When Emma, a homeschooled child, begins public school in fifth grade, she is worried the other students will think she is weird and will not be able to make friends. Her older brother, her closest friend, starts high school and becomes occupied with his new friends and makes Emma feel even more isolated. However, when her father, a game warden, lets her keep a rescued rabbit, she gains confidence in her ability to support the rabbit and finds herself able to reach out to other students. With her rabbit, Lupi’s help, Emma makes a new friend, Jack, and tells the truth about who she is to her entire class. Recommended for middle-schoolers, this book is an excellent choice for people who need a reminder to be themselves and be friends with whoever they want, even if they are in a new and intimidating setting. (EMM)  


A Place to Belong

Kadohata, Cynthia. 2019. A Place to Belong. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books). 416pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-144664-8.

After Hanako experiences the internment camps and moves to Japan, she tries to repair the cracks in her life with gold lacquer. This is the lesson Hanako learns from her grandfather after moving to Hiroshima. Not only is Japan completely new to Hanako, but poverty and starvation are evident throughout the city and countryside. Hanako, however, learns from those around her how communities can restore people’s lives, making them more beautiful than before. Like using gold lacquer to fix a broken pot, Hanako can improve other people’s lives and her own by supporting them and receiving support herself. Children 10-14 interested in Japanese Americans during World War II will be satisfied with the content. (EMM)  


Love and the Rocking Chair

Dillon, Diane. 2019. Love and the Rocking Chair. The Blue Sky Press. 40pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-33-833265-0.

The gift of reading with a loved one can transcend generations. The sequence of events follows the life of a young child as his family reading to him in a rocking chair, he grows up, experiences loss, and ends up reading to his own child in the same chair. Demonstrating the power of family and imagination, children ages 4-8 are exposed to concepts of family, loss, diversity, and love in general (EMM).  


Bierregaard, Rob. 2018. Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight. Carlesbridge Publishing, Inc. 112pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-58-089792-1. Illustrated by Kate Garchinsky.

Belle's Journey

An osprey’s journey from Massachusetts to Brazil involves flying for two days at a time, fishing, dodging hurricanes,  and taking the occasional rest break. The dramatization of a real osprey’s migration tracked by scientists is exciting, charming, and informational. Late elementary and middle school readers will relate to Belle as she learns fishing and all the other skills she needs to travel across new terrain on her own. The light crayon, pencil, and watercolors on every page are scientifically accurate and contribute to the optimistic mood of traveling to a better place. The sketches give readers a picture of the mechanics of an osprey’s movements. The blended colors in the blue and green drawings of the ocean both calm and excite the reader as they learn more about Belle and her ambitious journey. (EMM)  


Book Covers

Jeffers, Oliver. 2019. The Fate of Fausto. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 96pp. $24.99 ISBN 978-0-59-311501-5.

Everyone can use a reminder to be less greedy and domineering. The dark though beautiful fable provides a soft- spoken lesson about what can happen if one never has enough and bosses everyone else around. The main character, Fausto, believes he owns everything and tells everyone so throughout the book. Fausto claims build until he is stopped by a gentle refusal by the sea. The climax is a reminder to those readers who take and encourages those who stand up for themselves. Using simple yet intriguing paintings featuring little besides the characters, Jeffers makes the reader focus on the power dynamic between Fausto and each item he claims. The dark colors and lack of definition in the images encourage readers to compare Fausto with character in traditional European fables. The focus on smooth and curved lines lull the reader into a sense of relaxation despite themes of domination and retribution. Recommended for ages 6 and up (EMM).   


Book Covers

Tan, Shaun. 2018. Tales from the Inner City. Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine Books). 224pp. $24.99. ISBN 978-1-33-829840-6.

Once again, Tan has challenged and soothed his audience with his allegorical stories and luminous paintings. In this companion to Tales from Outer Suburbia, Tan’s short writings feature poignant and amusing commentary on urban life through describing animals in social, political, and business environments. Crocodiles in the skyrise bears in the court and orcas in the air make the reader consider human life in the city in new ways. These critical stories, alongside detailed paintings with light and dark contrasts, put the reader in a reflective mood. Each expansive painting includes sharp angles of the city with dark calming hues. True to his style of realistic paintings of cities with fantastical events happening in them, Tan’s metaphors strike the reader without being heavy-handed. Children and adults 12 and up may find a new favorite short story writer and artist in Tan. (EMM)  


Book Covers

Eliot, David. 2019. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 208pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-898759-4.

Young readers, ages 12 and up, are introduced to the exceptional life of Joan of Arc through poems voiced by her and other significant people and objects in her life. Starting with Joan on the pyre, this collection will show readers what she may have felt and believed as she struggled through medieval France as a woman fighting for her beliefs. Using poetic forms from the fifteenth century, the narrative is informed by historical documents and what is known about Joan, but also takes liberties in her thoughts and speech to make the poems emotional and easy to follow. By including poems from accusers, supporters, and inanimate objects, a balanced narrative encapsulates the conflicts of gender, class, and religion evident in Joan’s life and produces a collection of poems rich in imagery and other devices. (EMM)  


The Boy

Jeffers, Oliver. 2019. The Boy, His Stories and How They Came to Be. Penguin Random House LLC (Philomel Books). 168pp. $40.00. ISBN 978-0-59-311474-4.

Originally published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia in 2018.A collection of stories and sketches explores the adventures of a boy. The newest edition offers early drawings of the stories as well. This quadrilogy invites readers to imagine themselves among the stars, sailing to the south pole, and making friends with penguins as they get lost in the flowing watercolors on each page. Using pen and brush, Jeffers creates simple and charming paintings to prompt the reader to imagine even more possibilities for the boy. Recommended for ages 4-8, this encouraging story for anyone who thinks about friendship and adventure would serve as a comforting bedtime read (EMM).  


Book Covers

Simler, Isabelle. 2019.My Wild Cat. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Books for Young Readers). 64pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-80-285525-1.

The simple drawings charm the reader by embodying the mischievous nature of pet cats. Each colored pencil stroke visible, fur looks like it can be touched, and invites the reader to imagine what it would be like to cuddle with a cat. With a one-sentence fact about a cat on each page, allowing the drawings to be the focus. The light colors and soft shapes enable the reader to feel at home watching the sly cat move from one scene to another. This is essential reading for anyone who appreciated pencil drawings and cats. Recommended for ages 5 and up (EMM).  



Sayre, Justin. 2019. Mean. Penguin Random House LLC (Penguin Workshop). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-52-478795-0.

Ellen is a young woman in middle school about to have her bat mitzvah, and learning how to navigate school and the adult world. This journey is difficult for her because people often blindly chase popularity and attention from boys. Ellen prefers not to play along with superficial people and does not tolerate anything but honesty from her friends. For this, she is called mean. With this critical but idealistic narrator, Mean offers a nuanced perspective on how young people can be supportive, direct, and less self-conscious. Ellen and her loved one's struggle with issues such as disability, sexual orientation, religion, loss, and parenting. At the conclusion of the novel, readers are encouraged to reconsider their values and expression of love towards those in their lives. Ellen wants to have authentic relationships with people and to lift others up and invites the reader to do the same. Recommended for ages ten and up (EMM).


Keating, Jess. 2019. Elements of Genius: Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press).  274pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-829521-4. Illustrated by Lissy Marlin.  

Nikki Tesla is an extraordinary young girl with an inventive mind and an instrument of global destruction on hand. Right off the bat, Nikki’s pet ferret sets off her fully operational death ray. Although they survive, her reality of a normal life diminishes when she is shipped to a secret school, The Genius Academy. Nikki joins forces with six other skilled children to work to retrieve her death ray invention that is mysteriously stolen almost immediately upon her arrival. It all comes down to the abundance of teamwork and trust in order to come out on top of the thief. In the midst of it all, she needs to protect her mother and decide what matters most. A dominant theme of teamwork while remaining true to oneself and thinking differently than others are expressed throughout the plot. The seven individualized main characters are based on historically exceptional figures. After sharing similar experiences of being bullied in school, they prosper together as they each bring a divergent asset to the team. The storyline is crammed with the number of conflicts that arise, but provides readers with an exhilarating adventure. Elements of Genius’ is a book that should be introduced to discuss and explore the dilemma about fitting in and what makes a person special. Children can use this book as a learning guide to problem solving and confidence. (HBM) 



The Size of the Truth

Smith, Andrew. 2019. The Size of the Truth. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 272pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-441955-1.

At age four, Sam Abernathy spent three days stuck in the bottom of a well, which forced him to deal with fear, truth, consequences, and honesty. The setting takes place in a modern small town called Blue Creek, Texas where everyone knows about Sam and his life. Sam is an intelligent young man and skipped two grades. As an 11-year-old eighth grade student, he sticks out compared to the other eighth grade students. Ever since Sam had been “The boy at the bottom of the well,” a phrase commonly used to describe him, his parents decided to be in charge of his every move and planned for him to go to MIT. Sam has other expectations of himself and hopes to attend culinary school. However, the challenge of facing his parents with the truth was tough. Andrew Smith goes back and forth between periods, so half of the story is told when Sam is at the bottom of the well with his imaginary friend Bartelbe and the other half is during 8th grade. This style of writing leads to the theme of Sam trying to overcome his claustrophobia and PTSD from the well when he was four years old and understand the nature of the truth. The truth of not only what happened to him 7 years ago, but also what happens to those around him. Sam knows how to be an outcast, but as he grows, so do his friendships with others. With repetition and quirky comedy, the recommended age of readers is 8-12 to go on the journey with, “the boy at the bottom of the well”. (KRP)



Lowry, Lois. 2019.The Giver (Graphic Novel).  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 192pp. $22.99. ISBN 978-0-54-415788-0. Illustrated by P. Craig Russell.

Written from the point of view of the protagonist, Jonas, the eleven-year-old boy, lives in a futuristic society where all pain, fear, war, and hatred has been eliminated. Although Jonas is a well-behaved citizen and a good student, he is different. Jonas is given the Assignment of Receiver of Memory. Jonas receives the memories of the past, good and bad, from the current Receiver, a wise old man who tells Jonas to call him the Giver. As Jonas receives memories from the Giver—memories of pleasure and pain, of bright colors and extreme cold and warm sun, excitement, and terror and hunger and love—he realizes how bland and empty life in his community is. Jonas grows more and more frustrated with the members of his community, and the Giver, who has felt the same way for many years, encourages him. The Giver and Jonas plan for Jonas to escape the community and to enter Elsewhere. Once he has escaped, his larger supply of memories will disperse, and the Giver will help the community to come to terms with the new feelings and thoughts, changing the society forever. He grows, and his character becomes wise, all shown in the illustrations, of which becomes more colorful throughout the book because he is introduced to more color the more life he experiences. This graphic novel is good for readers ages 9-11. (KRP)


The Hunter and His Dog

Bruyn, Sassafras de. 2020. The Hunter and His Dog: A Fantastical Journey through the World of Bruegel. Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-80-285534-3.

Readers, ages 4 - 9 can use their imaginations and creativity relate to all the creatures the Hunter encounters because there are no words, only illustrations to convey the plots, themes, settings, and characterizations. The imagery introduces how the hunter becomes hunted and follows the blackbird throughout his journey along with his dog. Shading and shadows are giving the impression of an intense, as the hunter is chased in every new page. The shape and texture of the paintings are organic, except for the hoops he jumps through and the spears or weapons. The color highlights the hunter because he is always brown and everyone else is colorful. In conclusion, readers observe more context and explanations of the identities of some of the other people and images. Themes include companionship, friendship, and loyalty because regardless of the challenges of the journey the dog did not leave the hunter’s side. (KRP)  


Spot & Dot

Cole, Henry. 2019. Spot & Dot. Simon & Schuster (Little Simon). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442555-2.

Told from the first-person point of view of the man character, the car, this picture book is perfect for children ages 3-7. The cat, along with a lost dog, is owned by a boy and girl. As the animals go through the town, a recurring theme of leashes on all other dogs and cats emerges. The cat begins to lead the dog back to their house. There is no character development or lesson for children to gain from the book but demonstrates the value of freedom and exploring the world (KRP).  



Smith, Kim. Boxitects. 2020. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). $17.99. 40pp. ISBN 978-1-32-847720-0.

Meg, the protagonist, who refers to herself and a boxitect is inventive and puts boxes together to build things. Because her parents thought she was innovative, they sent her to a school where individuals can make things. However, this is where she met the antagonist, Simone. Simone arrived at the school after Meg and was also a boxitect, which sparked competition. Maker Match, a school wide competition to make the most creative invention, presented the biggest conflict. The students had to partner up to build something, and Simone and Meg became a team. They could not cooperate, resulting in a ruined project. For their benefit, they decided to begin working together to fix the project, and a friendship is established. The use of thick lines, organic shapes, and vibrant colors encourages readers ages 4-8 to be creative and colorful, just like Meg and Simone. The themes of friendship and perseverance are evident through Meg and her journey of building with boxes. At the end of the book, there are boxitect directions for readers to make their own structures (KRP).  


When You need Wings

Judge, Lita. When You Need Wings. 2020. Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). 40pp. $17.99.  ISBN 978-1-53-443755-5.

Uplifting and informative about overcoming fears, this illustrated story is perfect for children 4-8. The main character is a young girl anxious about her school’s playground. She walks the reader through her steps to decrease her anxiety, teaching readers how to cope in a healthy way. Many blues and whites, amongst other vibrant colors, create a calming atmosphere. There is also symbolism as the girl imagines animals that share similar characteristics or outfits as the children revealed at the end. Lita Judge demonstrates the power of imagination to conquer one’s anxiety or fear (KRP).  


Almost American Girl

Ha, Robin. 2020. Almost American girl. HarperCollinsPublishing (Balzer + Bray). 240pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-268509-4.

As 14-year-old Chuna sets out on a mother daughter trip to Huntsville, Alabama, she soon realizes she is moving to the United States permanently. Transitioning from life in Korea to life in America is quite challenging for young Chuna, and she struggles to figure out where she belongs. This historical fiction graphic novel is using real life experiences from immigrants, including the author's through the eyes of Chuna. The illustrations are similar to ones you would see in a comic book, relating to Chuna's love for comic drawings. There are many thick lines to show what character or object on the page is important. During Chuna and her mother's transition to America, Chuna's mother marries Mr. Kim. This turns her life upside-down, and the students in her new school attend anything but accepting of her. Facing bullying, a new language, a new family, and a new country with no friends is challenging. Still, when Chuna's mother decides to enroll her in a comic drawing class, she is reminded she enjoys drawing and began to thrive from there. With suffering, growth, and love as the main themes, ages 10-15 will resonate most as they learn about finding hope in art and creating a new identity as an immigrant, however, adult readers who have sacrificed for their child may also find interest. (KRP)  



Philbrick, Rodman. 2019. Wildfire. Scholastic (Blue Sky Press). 208 pp. $17.99 (Hardcover). ISBN 978-1-33-826690-0.

High intensity, this realistic fiction combines high states with themes of true friendship made from going through hardships together. Fast-paced, readers ages 8-12 will stay engaged with an intense plot. 12-year-old protagonist, Sam Castine, is caught in the wildfire when he goes to search for his phone while waiting for the bus. Soon, he realizes he is struggling to remember the survival skills he learned from his father. His father was a soldier who died in Afghanistan, and his mother is in rehab. Sam is fighting to survive so he can reconnect with his mother. Just when readers begin to lose faith in Sam, he runs into a 14-year-old girl, Delphy, and they join forces to survive. A sequence of events filled with immediate and tangible descriptions, powerfully convey the destructive and terrifying reality of an uncontrollable wildfire. Readers are also provided with safety and survival tips along with United States wildfire statistics after the story. (KRP)  


Race to the Sun

Roanhorse, Rebecca, and Rick Riordan. 2020. Race to the Sun. Disney Publishing Worldwide  (Disney-Hyperion). 320pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-36-802466-2.

Themes of adventure, family, and Navajo heritage are embedded in the fantastical plot. Nizhoni Begay discovers she can see monsters and might be a part of the Navajo prophecy of the Hero Twins. There are elements of disbelief when Nizhoni’s dad is meeting with the antagonist monster, Mr. Charles. Mr. Charles is Mr. Begay’s new boss, and he is inclined to make a good impression while the young adults want answers. Then their dad abducted, so Nizhoni, her brother Mac and their friend Davery go on an adventure to find their dad and stop Mr. Charles. The friends end up meeting some helpful people such as the Spider Woman, but then, she sends them to go through many trials to prove Nizhoni is the Monster Slayer. Nizhoni finally gets to the house of the sun and battles the monsters with her liquid lightning. The family and friends give an honest sense of reality, contributing to the intrigue for readers ages 8 – 12. (KRP)  



Sater, Steven. 2020. Alice by Heart. Penguin Random House LLC (Razorbill). 287pp. $17.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-45-147813-9.

A modern take on the classic Alice in Wonderland, young adult fiction readers will be intrigued to dive back into the magical Wonderland. In 1940s war zone London, Alice blends two worlds: her war-ravaged homeland held together by nurses, soldiers and Winston Churchill, and her beloved Wonderland, a welcome distraction from the bombs and the death, but a place where one rule always applies: the pages must keep turning. But the lines between these two worlds begin to blur, and Alice struggles to determine what is real and what is in her imagination. This book's style has two moods, the reality and the fantasy Alice experiences during this time in her life. There is also a playlist of music readers can listen to while reading, originally written for an off-Broadway musical. As Alice develops, she must decide to either grow up and face the world or stay in her Wonderland forever. Themes of love, war, and personal development set in London during WWII create an engaging take for fans of of historical fiction and Alice in Wonderland. (KRP)   


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Choi, Susan. 2019. Camp Tiger. Penguin Random House (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN  978-0-39-917329-5. Illustrated by John Rocco.

As a young boy finishes off his summer on a camping trip with his father, mother, and brother, he prepares to grow into his new responsibility as a first-grade student. The thoughtful, meandering voice of the narrator allows the reader to take in every element on the page. This developing self-reliance is evident through the exquisite illustrations artistically matched with the storyline. The calm colors of green and blue found in and around the campsite contrast with the bright orange of the tiger’s fur, making the tiger the focal point. The tiger serves as a metaphor for the young boy’s increasing maturity. As the reader follows the boy doing simple things such as zipping the tent on his own, to more advanced skills like steering the canoe by himself and catching his first fish, the tiger serves as the role of an inner guide. The soft lines of the illustrations add to the peaceful nature of the boy’s emerging independence. The use of light and shadows add to the semi-realistic nature of the illustrations and add immense depth and texture to the book. The illustrations always portray the boy in the foreground, another symbol of self-sufficiency. As the boy returns home, he draws a picture of a tiger to share with his teacher, this detail is a heartwarming end as it shows the full circle of character development of a boy scared to start first-grade to an eager student ready to show something to his new teacher. This novel can be used to confront the often-scary topic of coping with new situations for young readers 4-6 years old. (LIS)   


Gibbs, Stuart. 2019. Lion Down. Simon & Schuster (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 352pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442473-9.

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In the newest addition of the Fun Jungle mystery series, Teddy Fitzroy finds himself caught up in yet another zoo mystery where he can use his detective skills. Teddy enlists the help of his friend, Summer McCracken, and other accomplices including Lily, an animal activist often referred to as “extreme” and Tommy, an employee for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Teddy lives near the Fun Jungle Zoo, where both of his parents are employed, this close proximity places him right in the middle of fielding one animal mishap after another. When a local mountain lion is framed for killing the famed Lincoln Stone’s dog, King, Mr. Stone begins a rampage to punish the lion, by any means necessary. Through deep character development and captivating writing, creates the ability to address the critically important topics of endangered animals as well as the need for conservation. Lion Down can be used as a springboard for discussions on poaching, conservation and other relevant issues dealing with animal welfare. The reader gets the opportunity to follow Teddy as he grows from tentative and contemplative to bold and eager to help his community and animals. Lion Down will keep readers on the edge of their seat and looking forward to solving the mystery right alongside Teddy and his band of crime solvers. Recommended for readers aged 8-12 years old. (LIS)   


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Guidroz, Rukhsanna. 2019. Leila in Saffron. Simon & Schuster (Salaam Reads). 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-442564-4. Illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova.

Young Leila travels to her Naani’s house for their regularly scheduled Friday family dinners. When she arrives, her grandmother compliments her on the saffron buttons on her dress, stating how well the deep yellow color pairs with her dark eyes. Leila uses this compliment to find other things she likes about herself; she discovers she enjoys being Pakistani, she is glad to have the same smile as her aunt, and she adores being able to cook curry to satiate her family during their meal together. After the family is finished eating, Leila goes to look at her grandmother’s silk scarves. Amongst the numerous scarves, the saffron scarf particularly stands out to Leila and she tries it on. As she looks in the mirror, Leila decides to appreciate everything about herself. The truly brilliant illustrations include red, teal, yellow, purple, grey, white, and black making it stand out against the stark white backdrop of the pages. Although the pages are flat, the colors make the sequence of events come alive and allow the readers to invite themselves into Leila’s surroundings. As Leila explores her cultural heritage through food, family, and fabric it allows children to explore their own heritage. The use of traditional Arabic and Urdu phrases also appeal to readers with diverse languages spoken in their homes. Leila in Saffron is recommended for readers from 4-8 years old but can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and cultural backgrounds. (LIS)   


One Dark Bird

Garton Scanlon, Liz. 2019. One Dark Bird. Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-53-440443-4. Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon.

As a single bird is perched on a tree, it is soon met by another until there is an entire flock of starlings flying high above the town. From one to 10, then 10 to one the reader can enjoy the brilliant illustrations, rhyming words and counting the birds on the page. The illustrations primarily stick to a blue, green, yellow and orange color palate. These deep colors convey a sense of warmth through the sunrise and calm through the sunset, both are pictured throughout the counting sequences. Additionally, the colors portray the nature scenes of the setting with astonishing detail and will certainly invite the young reader to fly alongside the birds above the town. Counting combined with rhyme engages the reader to anticipate the last word to complete the rhyme as well as learning how to count to 10. The illustrations pair well with the words and encourage the reader to count the number of birds on the page. On the title page, there is a note included about starlings and their various attributes, this detail can help to inform the readers, ages 1 - 8, on starlings and hunting hawks. (LIS)   


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Burton, Jessie. 2018. The Restless Girls. Bloomsbury Children’s Books. 160pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-54-760072-4. Illustrated by Angela Barrett.

In the country of Kalia there lived 12 princesses, each of them had their special talents nurtured by their mother, until she passed away in a tragic accident. The king, Alberto, reacted to the tragedy by taking away the princesses’ school lessons, hobbies, and freedom by locking them in one room. One night, when the princesses were almost at their breaking point of boredom, they stumbled upon a door in their room behind a portrait of their mother. Much to their surprise the door revealed a magical world awaiting them. The peacock greeter, lioness hostess, and toucan waiters created a thrilling party atmosphere for the princesses. The dancing wore out the soles of their shoes and this was a troubling discovery for their father. The king decided he could not get to the bottom of this issue without assistance, so he enlisted the help of any willing suitor. The declaration was announced, any male able to solve the mystery could pick the princess of his choice to marry and become the king of Kalia. This was troubling for the sisters, but none of the men were able to solve the dilemma until one final suitor arrived. This person happened to be the eldest daughter whom the king had previously banished in a moment of rage, disguised as a suitor. She told the king where his daughters went dancing and he immediately crowned “him” “king”. After she was officially the ruler of Kalia, she revealed her true identity and saved the day for her sisters. Based on the traditional German folktale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this retelling adds a unique modern twist to the ending. The princesses save themselves and do not have their fate left in the hands of an unknown man. The exquisite detailing in the semi-realistic illustrations contribute to the whimsical nature of the tale. The deep, jewel-toned colors of emerald green, purple, blue, and burnt orange reflect the powerful nature of the sisters, even when their dignity is stripped away from them by their father. While the illustrations do not have paramount importance, the tale is enhanced by their addition as they allow the reader to visualize the magical place the princesses travel to each night. Children of any age will be able to enjoy the sentiments of the plot whether they read it themselves or have it read to them. The story of the 12 princesses is a phenomenal feminist interpretation of a traditionally male-centered folktale, perfect for empowering anyone of any age. (LIS) 

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Davis, Jacky. 2019. Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks. HarperCollins (HarperCollins Children’s Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-257310-0. Illustrated by Giselle Potter.

Olive and Pekoe become unlikely friends through their daily walks together. The two dogs could not be any more different from each other. Pekoe is a large, young dog who oftentimes run fast to chase chipmunks. Olive on the other hand is old, small, and certainly does not want to chase anything, especially chipmunks. Even though the two dogs are opposite in nearly every way, they are best friends. The storyline pairs exquisitely well with the artwork and neither would be complete without the other. Stylistically the story and art are placed on opposite pages until the last page where they are joined together, representing the closeness of Olive and Pekoe. The soft, Earth-toned colors like green, blue and light brown throughout the brilliant watercolor and colored pencil art evokes a sense of happiness and tranquility. Texture is evident in Olive and Pekoe’s fur as well as in the grass, tree trunks, and bushes providing depth to the characters and their environment. The lines and shapes are fluid with soft edges which conjure up a sense of peace while still maintaining excitement about the dogs and their adventures. Olive and Pekoe represent the ways in which friends can be different from each other in their looks and interests but still have a strong bond with each other. Young readers, ages 4 – 8 years old, will be able to pull themes of friendship, kindness and companionship from Olive and Pekoe.  (LIS)  


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Schrefer, Eliot. 2018. Orphaned. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 336pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-54-565505-7.

Set in what will eventually be called Africa 600,000 years ago, a young gorilla found herself caught up in the midst of a natural disaster and separated from her family. Her family used to consist of her Mother, Brother, baby brother, Wrinkled, Teased, and Silverback. She must find a way to survive the new surroundings. A volcanic eruption ripped her away from her family except for her small baby brother who is helpless without her. The pair eventually encounters a human child. While the volcano might seem to be the major concern for Snub and Breath, they soon find out the humans are a much bigger threat. Snub named her brother Breath and the female child is given the name Orphan. The three work their way through the struggles of their new terrain and eventually find their way back to Snub and Breath’s mother. The poetic style of verse was used to apply academic language versus just to tell Snub’s story and eloquently expresses the terrified feelings of all involved. The sequence of events was well researched and provides factual information about gorillas while still maintaining the whimsy and imagination of free verse. The information can open the door to questions of how people could help to protect gorillas. While there are no full-color illustrations, the small images at the top of the page provide insight of who is present in the scene. Recommended for readers 12-16. (LIS)  


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Hahn, Mary Downing. 2019. Guest, A Changeling Tale. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (Clarion Books). 224pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-03-5-806731-3.  

Young Mollie Cloverall spent her days weeding in the garden, milking the cow, hauling water from the well, feeding the chickens, and taking care of her baby brother, Thomas. Her little brother happened to be the perfect infant, but one would not know about his sweet nature from the conversations surrounding him. In the small village of Lower Hexham, the people do not dare to speak a single kind word about a baby boy, for fearing the Kinde Folk would steal away their perfect baby and replace it with one of their insufferable babies, called a changeling. After Mollie was mean to her brother, she apologized and made a tragic mistake, she praised Thomas and complimented his sweet disposition. Within moments, Thomas started to scream and cry with no sign of stopping, and then, the most devastating thing had happened, Thomas was gone and replaced with a changeling from the Kinde Folk realm. Mollie’s mom was told to treat the changeling with kindness and hope for the return of her sweet baby boy. Mollie and her mother nurtured the changeling they called Guest, for over a year with no sign of Thomas’ return. Mollie did not accept it and decided to bring Guest back to the Dark Lands and trade him for her brother. With a small amount of food and water and Guest strapped to her back, Mollie began the long and unknown journey to the Dark Lands. After what felt like an eternity of walking, Mollie and Guest met a man by the name of Maddog, he helped them on their journey and showed Mollie how to understand Guest and his strange nature. With Maddog’s help, Mollie transitioned from despising Guest to loving him. Eventually, Mollie cannot imagine leaving Guest behind after they find Thomas. With multiple trials and tribulations behind them, Mollie and Guest found the queen of the Kinde Folk and asked for Thomas back. The queen refused to return Thomas because he was supposed to be a sacrifice to the god of the Dark Lands. With the help of a sympathetic Kinde Folk girl, Mollie was able to steal Thomas away and begin the hard journey home to Lower Hexham. Mollie returned with Thomas and Guest and was able to make their family complete once more. Mollie is the epitome of a courageous protagonist and also a remarkable example of a strong female, she will surely ignite a fire of independence and determination in any child who reads her tale. The reader is able to suspend disbelief while reading of Mollie’s journey to and from the Dark Lands allowing the novel to have realistic characteristics. The plot eloquently intertwines fantasy and traditional Irish folktale to create an experience able to transport readers, ages 10 – 12, into Mollie’s world of high fantasy. (LIS)   


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Nesquens, Daniel. A Good Day. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-80-285530-5. Illustrated by Miren Asiain Lora.

The captive tiger at the zoo and the free cat have an unlikely relationship; they are best friends. The little cat is able to sneak into the tiger’s cage at the zoo and visit his friend every day. The two talk about their secrets, hopes, and what they miss. The cat wants to be large and strong like the tiger, but he does not want to be locked in a cage for the rest of his life. The tiger wants to be like the cat because even though he would have to be weak and tiny, he could be free. The cat promises to help the tiger leave the zoo so he will return to his original habitat. The cat is caught stealing the key to the tiger cage, but the guard decides to help the cat free the tiger. The tiger travels back home and writes letters to the cat and guard about the multitude of stars he has counted while being free. The cat and the guard become friends doing similar things the cat once did with the tiger. The dark navy blue of the water and sky make the burnt orange tiger, the cat’s red sweater, and the bright white stars, all crucial elements, illuminate amongst the background. Readers, ages 4 - 8 will connect with the themes of friendship and helping others are artfully displayed through the cat and tiger’s relationship. The imagery depicts soft, well-blended colors with few harsh lines or shapes. The only solid lines are in the cages of the animals at the zoo, this emphasizes the tiger’s transition from captivity to freedom. The textures create depth, mirroring the significance of the plot line. Together, the visual elements and plot line connect with each other which makes the novel unique. (LIS)   


Mackler, Carolyn. 2019. Not If I Can Help It. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 240pp. $16.39. ISBN 978-0-54-570948-4.

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Willa is a bright 11-year-old girl in the 5th grade, but she is not free of problems. From her Sensory Processing Disorder, her dad’s new girlfriend, and mean girl Avery Tanaka there is an abundance Willa has to handle. Initially, Willa and her best friend Ruby meet at the ice cream shop in their area. The two bond over their shared love of gummy bears on ice cream and become fast friends. When the two find themselves at the ice cream shop again, Willa does not leave quite as happy as she was after the first time. Willa’s dad and Ruby’s mom share they have been dating for over a year and are in love. This news seems to shatter Willa’s already fragile balance of life and send her into conflicts with her parents, brother, and Ruby. Willa has a capacious plan, which is the exciting promise of a dog coming at the beginning of summer. Willa’s general life, as well as her problems, can be relatable for the reader of 8-12 years old. Sensory Processing Disorder might not be familiar to young adults, but Willa and her family exquisitely illustrate the situations someone might deal with on a daily basis and giving the opportunity to develop empathy for Willa’s situation. While the characters and storyline are fictional, the problems Willa face are fathomable and realistic. Through deep character development and captivating language, the storyline can give insight to the challenges of being different, making friends, and dealing with divorce. (LIS)   


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Nielsen, Jennifer. 2019. Words on Fire. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 336pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-827547-6.

Danger was a foreign concept to Audra until the appalling day when her parents were taken, and her house was burnt to the ground by the Cossack soldiers. Everyday life in Lithuania was disrupted for numerous people, but Audra’s parents had shielded her from the very apparent terror other people had to struggle through. When her parents could no longer protect her innocence, they had to trust her with the most important thing they had -- a book. Most people might not think much of a book, but in occupied Lithuania, a book could mean death, torture, or prison at the hands of the Russian soldiers. The novel is placed in the 1890’s where everyone is conforming to being Russian; meaning giving up their books, religion, and their culture. After running for what seemed like days with the precious book, Audra meets Lukas, a boy about her age who agrees to help her find the woman her mother told her to find. When the two find Milda, who is also involved in illegal book smuggling, she agrees to help and house Audra. When Audra finds out about the book smuggling she has a feeling deep within her to be part of it, regardless of the opinions of others. The adventures of Audra and her associates are thrilling and would keep the reader of 8-12 years old enthralled for the duration of the narrative. The first-person narration helps to further the plot of this historical fiction and adds the unique perspective of a young girl living in the midst of political turmoil. While the characters and plot are fictional, the problems Audra and Lukas face are fathomable and realistic. Through deep character development and captivating writing style, the plot, conflicts, and setting convey problems of authority, independence, and political struggles. Audra transforms from a scared and weak child to a strong and confident female leader who is able to express her opinion without hesitation. (LIS)  


Anteater Adventure

Einhorn, Kama. 2019. True Tales of Rescue: Anteater Adventure. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (HMH Books for Young Readers). 144pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-32-876704-2.

Photographs by Ella Baron. Ella Baron and Ian Anderson started rescuing anteaters after numerous floods and hurricanes left the animals suffering and unable to get to safety. The couple was granted a license to legally rehabilitate the anteaters even though they had no formal training. Baron took over most of the care while Anderson managed their business. Through the voice of Gabi the anteater, readers between 7-10 years old can discover how anteaters are nursed back to health and eventually released back into their natural habitats. Gabi dominates the narrative and expresses what her life is like while she is healing her broken leg and wounded eye. The inclusion of photographs, detailed diagrams, journal excerpts, and a glossary add to the information and credibility of the text. Reading the information on anteaters through Gabi’s voice will engage and give excitement to the readers while learning more about the animals. The author has written numerous books with the same concept but for different animals. This engaging informational book can act as motivation for young animal lovers to learn more about wild animals they otherwise might never have the opportunity to examine. The resources in the back provide opportunities for the reader to go deeper into sustainable tourism, ethical animal rescue, and how to help preserve anteater habitats. (LIS)    


Born Just Right

Reeves, Jordan & Reeves, Jen Lee. 2019. Born Just Right. Simon & Schuster (Aladdin). 160pp. $17.99. ISBN 987-1-53-442838-6.

Jordan Reeves is just like most children, she wants to tie her shoelaces, make friends at the playground, and participate in sports. These tasks are not always easy for her because she was born with only half of her left arm. Jordan has used her creativity and confidence to become an advocate for people with limb differences and those interested in STEAM. From attending multiple camps for children with limb differences and connecting with people through the internet, Jordan has been able to find a community of people who understand her, and she wants to help the rest of the world understand people who have limb differences. She has done numerous talks and presentations to bring awareness to people with limb differences and to inform people about her “Project Unicorn” design for the prosthesis. Project Unicorn all began when Jordan was asked to fly to San Francisco to attend a design camp called Superhero Cyborgs. While at the camp, she had the task of creating prostheses to make her feel like a superhero. This sparked her desire to design and eventually led to a prosthetic unicorn horn with the ability to shoot glitter. Jordan has not always been confident in how she looks, because of the constant stares she receives in dance classes and school. These stares made Jordan upset and uncomfortable, so she worked with her mom to design a shirt to display the message, “don’t stare, just ask” to increase her self-image and encourage others to ask her questions about her arm. This autobiography is a touching glimpse into a young girl's life, dreams, struggles, and triumphs. The reader between 9-13 years of age will be able to relate to Jordan’s stories of friendship and family while having the opportunity to learn about people with limb differences. There are answers to common questions about disabilities and resources for children interested in STEAM, and design in the back to further expand on topics in Jordan’s autobiography. The autobiography also includes questions built into the storyline to encourage readers to find their passions. (LIS)    


Zenobia July

Bunker, Lisa. 2019. Zenobia July. Penguin Random House LLC (Viking Books for Young Readers). 320pp. $17.99.  ISBN 978-0-45-147940-2.

Zenobia has a chance at a brand-new life. Between living with her aunts, struggling with her identity, and having to make new friends, life at Monarch Middle School will be challenging. With the help of her new friends, Zenobia is determined to be who she truly is. There is a multitude of events in which adolescents may face daily. Bunker brings issues of bullying, gender identity, discrimination, and the hardships of homelife. The different styles and short chapters keep the reader fascinated and focused. Readers will recognize text messages, video game lingo, and alternating between speakers. Readers, ages 10 and older, will connect with the events taking place, as well as bring up some topics that adolescents might not be comfortable enough talking about at home. (AFV)    


Book Covers

Jackson, Richard. 2019. Puddle. HarperCollins (Greenwillow Books). 40pp. $17.99. 978-0-06-265195-2. Illustrated by Chris Raschka.

As the rain falls outside, puddles develop. Some of the puddles are big, small, or barely visible. However, one puddle is very large. The puddle spends most of its time wishing it was smaller, so children will not stomp through it, seagulls will not fly over it, and poodles will not use it as a toilet. The colorful text depicts the different events that happen to the puddle. “Rain” is colored in blue to demonstrate the weather and the emotion surrounding it. While the blues, greys, blacks, and whites represent nature. Readers find themselves gazing into the puddle from above-allowing readers to see what exactly is happening with the sequence of events. The style is appealing and may help students identify colors. The development of color represents the puddles' characterization. The brief text is suitable for beginning readers, ages 4 - 8. (AFV)  


Book Covers

Oliver, Alison. 2019. Sun. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-32-878162-8.

Soccer is Sun’s favorite past time. He loves the cheers and the game in general. However, something is missing. Sun’s brother loves art and it makes him happy. Sun decides he wants this happiness as well. So, Sun walks to the beach thinking of all the things that make him happy. The colors used in this novel represent things that make people happy. For example, there are oranges, pinks, yellows, and reds. The short sentences make this an easy read for young readers, ages 4-7.  The fox is a vessel to show the reader that doing many things until you find what is right for you is okay. This discovery leads Sun into doing art with his younger brother Pablo. (AFV)  



Book Covers

Books, Chronicle. 2019. Nordic Tales. Chronicle Books LLC. 168pp. $22.95. 978-1-45-217447-1. Illustrated by Ulla  Thynell.

Tales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark include a variety of themes; transformations, wit, and journeys. Within each theme, there are different lessons such as “do not be greedy”, “do not be selfish”, or “always have a backup plan”. Illustrations preface each tale which readers will see warm colors with pink to add to a mystical feel. Magic, deities, and witches are all throughout these tales. (AFV)    


Ford, Michael. 2019. Lost Horizon. HarperCollins. 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-269699-1.  Interior Art by Michelle Taormina.

Book Covers

In a world ravaged by flesh-eating plants and animals, and a contagious infection; Kobi has to face his greatest fear; going out into the world nearly killing himself. In his struggle to fight what people call CLAWS, Kobi learns more about himself. He learns that he is special, and anyone would do what they could to get him. With the help of his friends, Kobi finishes what everyone else had failed to do: find a cure. The text of this particular novel is for ages 8-12. The drawings used vines and leaves at the beginning of each chapter, enforces the imagery of the state of the world around the characters. Although there is no color, the detail in the imagery is enough to get a clear picture. Along with, the intricately detailed characters and the settings allow for a vivid picture of the novel as a whole. Students can follow along with what is happening because of the detail in the story. (AFV)  


All Right Already!

John, Jory. 2018. All Right Already! A Snowy Story. HarperCollins. 32pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237099-0. Illustrated by Benji Davies. Duck just wants to play in the snow. Bear just wants to stay inside and be left alone. Readers ages 4 - 8 will discover life in a snowy neighborhood, where Duck and Bear live next door to each other. Duck, noticing the snow, goes to tell Bear about it. Because Duck is so anxious to play outside, Bear has no time to dry off. Playing in the snow, wet, Bear gets a cold. Duck does everything he can to make Bear feel better, but when Duck gets sick, Bear does not come to his aide. Duck wants Bear to take care of him, so he leaves a message in the snow for Bear to see. The use of color demonstrates each character’s personality. Duck’s house is yellow, red, and orange to show rambunctiousness, whereas Bear’s house is mostly blues and greys to show tranquility and silence. The style includes bold text for the Bear’s responses, which is beneficial for students following the sequence of events. The texture in Bear’s fur shows his hair and its thickness, and each strand is visible. The line conveys direction in the snow when Duck drags Bear outside. The use of realism is also present in the houses to show the siding and windows. The shapes and sizes of the houses are distinct enough for young readers to know Duck’s house from Bear’s house. (AFV)  


Book Covers

Dedieu, Thierry. 2019. Snowmen Live Forever. Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Books for Young Readers). 40pp.  $17.99. ISBN-978-0-80-285526-8.

The snowman has many friends: a squirrel, hedgehog, rabbit, and an owl. They all enjoy hearing snowman’s stories and tales of his dreams. His friends could see Snowman growing weaker when spring started to come around. One day, Snowman was unrecognizable and then disappeared. His friends set out on an adventure to find Snowman. They looked in the ocean but found no trace of him. When they were about to give up, they saw Snowman in the clouds. He tells them he will see them again soon. Snowman’s character is described as an outgoing individual. He has stories to tell. For some, this could be seen as a sick person. The plot is relatable to many people who have dealt with loss. The illustrations are reflective of a forest. The texture in the squirrel’s fur, the owl’s hair, and the pine trees show depth and make the characters look life-like. Young readers, ages 4 - 8, will be able to imagine what a real squirrel or owl will look like. Lifelike images provide readers with the ability to feel as though they have been to the places in the book. The natural colors in trees, water, and animals make for a realistic image. The line indicates depth and direction in the dock. Also utilizing this when the squirrel is showing where to look for Snowman. The use of shape is evident in the snowman and his carrot nose. (AFV)  


Book Covers

Singer, Marilyn. 2019. Who Named Their Pony Macaroni?  Disney Publishing WorldWide (Disney-Hyperion). 48pp.  $17.99. ISBN 978-1-48-478999-5. Illustrated by Ryan McAmis.

Many pets have lived in the White House, including dogs, cats, birds, horses, and cows. This collection of poems gives a story to some of the pets who previously lived there. The title of the collection is the name of a popular children’s song, Yankee Doodle. Within the collections of poems, there are poems used like villanelles, lyrical, and free verse poems. Rhyme and rhythm dominate these poems for readers to internalize. The cut paper and paint included a three dimensional and realistic texture. Readers, ages 4 - 8, can imagine what these places and animals looked like when they were in the white house. This shows a way to learn some history about the presidents and enjoy reading about their favorite animals. (AFV)    


Lasky, Kathryn. 2019. Tangled in Time: The Portal. HarperCollins. 384pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-269325-9.

Book Covers

Rose knows a lot about fashion. She knows enough to have a fashion blog and a Youtube channel with thousands of followers. Unfortunately, this is not enough for her to avoid the bullies at her new school. After the death of her mother, Rose is sent to live with her grandma in a very large house. After going to the new school, she realized her fashion is not on-trend and got her into some scuffles. But the greenhouse at her grandmother’s is her favorite place to escape. When she learns it is a portal to the Elizabethan era, it is the only escape she has from her unfortunate present. In this shifting narrative for adolescence ages 8-12, the reader is transported to the years of the Elizabethan era, where women wore fancy dresses. Rose has to learn to fit in in both the past and present, which proves to be a harrowing task. The vocabulary in the text changes with each period that is traveled, making for a near authentic feel. The reader will be transported through time and space with Rose as she goes on her adventures. (AFV)  


Extraordinary Birds

Stark-McGinnis, Sandy. 2019. Extraordinary Birds. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 224pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-54-760100-4.

December wants to fly away. She knows one day her wings will sprout from the scars on her back and she will be able to live like a bird. She adores birds and carries a bird guidebook, something her mother left behind when she left December at an early age. It is not until she meets Eleanor, her new foster mom, and starts volunteering at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. December realizes her dreams can change, but the old dreams will still be there. The plot follows young December who is a child in foster care. She has been to many foster homes who could not understand her dreams of flying. The switching from December’s book to what she thinks about each quote she shares develops an understanding that the reader should follow what they believe. The short dialogue manages to tackle the issues a child in foster care may experience like living in one foster care to the next, the abuse, lack of stability, and bullying one may endure. The story never gets too graphic, which makes it accessible to all. (AFV)  


Child of Dreams

Robinson, Sharon. 2019. Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Press). 240pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-33-828280-1.

Thirteen-year-old Sharon just wants to plan her birthday party. She wants a cake with yellow and purple frosting and everyone to sing the birthday song. Instead of the birthday song she wanted, she would hear “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” come across the radio. Sharon had questions and the only person she knew to ask was her father, Jackie Robinson. The biography follows young Sharon in her quest to discover herself, her people, and what she is capable of doing to support the Civil Rights Movement. Her father held fundraisers for Martin Luther King Jr., but she struggled with what she could do. The biography for readers, ages 8 - 12, introduces new vocabulary and explores what it would be like at the moment this was happening. The style stays true to what a thirteen-year-old would sound like, giving it an authentic voice. The plot challenges views of segregation and racism in a way the younger generations can relate to. The biography serves as a reminder that racism is still happening in today’s society even coming from a different era. (AFV)  



Perkins Lynne Rae. 2019. Wintercake. HarperCollinsPublishers (Greenwillow Books). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-289487-8.

On a cold winter day, Thomas noticed his dried fruit for his wintercake is missing. Thomas’s friend, Lucy, takes it upon herself to help him find the dried fruit to make the wintercake. Unfortunately, Lucy can't find who has the fruit, but she assumes someone stole the fruit. After following the potential thief, Lucy sees the suspect going to return the dried fruit to Thomas and then decide to make the suspect a wintercake. Once they finish, they decide to deliver the cake personally, but they end up getting lost still, they persevere. Finally, they arrived at their destination, but find out their new friend is spending the holidays alone. In the end, Thomas and Lucy made a new friend, Tobin. The bright reds, oranges, and yellows from things like Thomas’s home give the book a welcoming feel. The dark blues in the night add suspense to whether Thomas and Lucy will make it to Tobin or not. This novel is recommended for children between the ages of 6 and 10 because it teaches children not to make assumptions about people. It also shares information, concepts, and ideas on how to make new friends. (KALV)  


Driftwood Days

Miniver, William. Driftwood Days. Wm. B Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).   48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-80-285370-7. Illustrated by Charles Vess.

It all starts on a fall day when a boy sees a beaver collecting wood for his lodge when suddenly, one of the branches breaks away, never to be seen again. By winter, it serves as a place for a bird to rest. In the spring, it momentarily becomes a place for turtles to sit before floating in the water once more. By the summer, it returns to near its original destination where it is found by the same young boy. To him, the piece of driftwood becomes everything he needs to be happy and he decides to keep it as a souvenir. By the time fall rolls back around, a new piece is broken from the beavers’ lodge, ready for a new adventure. From the soft blues, yellows, and whites shown throughout the book, there is a calm mood. In addition to the soft colors, multiple curved lines are adding to the mood of the novel. This is a good read for children, ages 4 - 7 because it takes them on an adventure of the different seasons which makes it interesting. Another hidden theme is playing on technology is not the only thing you can do to have fun. (KALV)  


When You Ask Me Where I'm Going

Kuar, Jasmin. When You Ask Me Where I’m Going. HarperCollins. 256pp. $18.99. ISBN  978-0-06-291261-9.

In this collection of poems, the truth behind dark topics are explored. Ranging from love to self-identity, this collection of poems is nothing short of inspiring. There is a certain connection made with those who have been subject to unjust treatment because of their skin color. Or a sense of hope in finding love again after going through a toxic relationship. From beginning to end, the reader can get a sense of the inspiration the poet is trying to give her readers. In this collection of poems, there are a variety of features which contribute to the empowering moods. In some but not all of the poems there seems to be repetition which can emphasize the importance of the phrase. Shape is another characteristic of some of the poems, versus prose or stanzas. Additionally, there are different drawings which can at times give depth and help the reader visualize the themes. Although at times difficult to read, the different shades of blue add to the calm and tranquil mood of the poems. This is an excellent collection for teens and older readers, especially women of all ages. (KALV)  


Girl Under a Red Moon

Chen, Da. 2019. Girl Under a Red Moon: Growing Up During China’s Cultural Revolution. Scholastic Inc. (Scholastic Focus). 208pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-33-826386-2.

This novel starts in a small village in Yellow Stone, China. Although only thirteen years old, Sisi has multiple adult responsibilities. With her grandfather sick and her mother always at work, Sisi assumes the responsibilities of caretaker and mother. Up to this point, Sisi is the perfect daughter, until she was shamefully not chosen for the Red Guard. Sisi takes desperate measures to the constant rejections in her family's past. With things not getting any better at home, Sisi must continue to provide for her and her family; she does what she has to do and takes Da, her younger brother, with her. During the time that Da and his family were living, there was a great deal of communism going on in China. Additional to communism, the families in China were dealing with the Cultural Revolution set in the 1940s. This is recommended for children, ages 8 - 12 because it not only is a compelling story, but it also has some of the struggles China went through. (KALV)  


Racoon Rescue

Einhorn Kama. 2019. Racoon Rescue (True Tales of Rescue). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers). 160pp. $9.59. ISBN 978-1-32-876705-9. Photographs by Shelly Ross.

In San Rafael, California, the animals rescued range anywhere from skunks, squirrels, and birds. This informative novel follows four rescue raccoons and their journey to recovery. There are different steps taken to ensure the animals are well taken care of and have a full recovery back to their natural habitat. This informative novel gives insight into the hard work and dedication it takes to care for these animals. Throughout the book, the different sounds they make can help rescuers tell the raccoons from one another. For example, the photographs help to give the reader a better understanding of all the work it takes to help the raccoons. Readers, ages 8 - 12 can discover different techniques to ensure the release of the raccoons to their natural habitats is successful. Readers discover the process of rescuing a raccoon and helping to make a successful recovery back into the wild. (KALV)  


Anya and the Dragon

Pasternack, Sofiya. 2019. Anya and the Dragon. Houghton Harcourt Publishing Company. 416pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-35-800607-7.

At age 11, Anya is not concerned about what a typical kid her age is worried about. With her father being away at war, she is constantly worried about him and whether or not he will return home. Anya and her family are Jewish which makes them feel like outcasts in the village creating a person vs. society conflict. Then she meets a fool and his family who change her life forever. Anaya always knew she was different, but others might see it as rebellious because it always seemed like she was doing the opposite of what she was told. Her grandmother told her to not stand out and she gets noticed. She is told not to use magic and she is almost caught using magic to save her life. Everything changes when the fool’s father asks her to help them catch the dragon even though she knows nothing about dragons. Despite this, she decided to help them since it might be the only way her family can keep their home. Although a bit ordinary in the beginning, dragons, magic and quest, Anya goes on keeps the reader interested from the beginning to the resolution This also means it has both high and low suspending disbelief. These factors also make it a good read for children ages 10-12 to get them more interested in fantasy. (KALV)

  Book Covers

King, Amy Sarig. 2019. The Year We Fell From Space. Scholastic Inc. (Arther A. Levine Books). 272pp. $16.99.  ISBN 978-1-33-823636-1.

Liberty Johansen always knew she was different from her unique ability to speak with the skies to not conforming to others. All her classmates are into getting married at recess which she finds very strange for 5th graders and furthermore, she is dealing with her parents’ divorce. Coming to terms with the idea of now being a family of three is one an adjustment Liberty needs to make overtime. While everyone else is changing in drastic ways, Liberty is trying to do everything in her power to make sure everyone is happy. As the plot progresses, Liberty is left to fight the personal battle of not having to constantly fix everything and also coming to terms with not caring what others think. As much as she tries to help fix things, her parents continue to treat her like a child even though she is old enough to handle the truth. From her dad getting a new girlfriend to her sister Jilly finally talking and sharing ideas again, Liberty is left feeling like she is the one that is not changing fast enough. When all hope is lost, she turns to her trusty stars and most importantly what seems to be her only friend, her meteorite. (KALV)   


The Scarecrow

Ferry, Beth. 2019. The Scarecrow. HarperCollins. 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-247576-3 Illustrated by Fan Brother

It starts on an autumn day with Scarecrow doing his job. He is all alone on an open field since all the animals around him fear him, leaving Scarecrow lonely. Soon enough, winter rolls around and it still seems to be the same for poor Scarecrow but then springs appears, and his luck seems to change. A helpless, baby crow falls from his nest and Scarecrow is quick to help the crow after he breads the pole keeping him upright. Scarecrow cares for the baby crow until he needs to fly away in the summer, leaving Scarecrow all alone once again. Since the departure of the crow, Scarecrow hangs with his head down until one day his noble friend comes back with more friends and even fixes the broken pole. By the end, the crow is raising a family and none of the other animals are afraid of him. The love the Scarecrow has for the crow and vice versa, makes Scarecrow appear less frightening and more friendly. The light color scheme gives the book a very welcoming feeling along with the soft, curved lines. Even with the page showing a dark night, the words continue to convey the friendship between Scarecrow and the crow. Readers, ages 4-8, will appreciate the change of seasons, and the themes of love and friendship. (KALV)  


Mulan the Legend of the Woman Warrior

Wu, Faye-Lynn, translator. 2019. Mulan: The Legend of the Women Warrior. HarperCollins. 32pp. $16.19. ISBN 978-0-06-280341-7. Illustrated by Joy Ang.

Mulan and her family are just like every other family living in China until her father gets a letter saying he has to fight in a war. Trying to be a good daughter, Mulan says she can take his place since he is sick and her brother is too young to fight. The only obstacle is her sex, as she is a girl which makes it apparent there is a person vs. society conflict. Nevertheless, she sets off to fight in place of her father causing her to change her whole appearance. Once she arrives to the campground, Mulan is so exhausted she falls asleep and dreams of her family calling her name, but she knew what she was doing was for them. This can symbolize how important bringing honor to one’s family is in Chinese culture. Despite having to go through 12 years of hardship, Mulan is still able to rise to the occasion and lead her troops to victory. Upon her arrival back in the emperor’s palace, she is recognized for her noble efforts and is asked what it is she desires to which Mulan answers is to go home to see her family. Mulan finally arrives home and not only are they waiting for her, but some of her troops are too. When Mulan finally comes out, her troops are surprised when they see Mulan is a woman. Bright reds to convey the fierceness of war. When Mulan returns home, she is covered in white conveying tranquility and peace since Mulan is finally home. There are also some curved and straight lines like in the sword used to convey intensity. When Mulan is home, there are curved lines. There are also some curved lines with all the white to help add to the calm setting. The themes of not judging people based on appearances and the value of family, makes this folktale from China a good fit for children between the ages of 4-8. (KALV)