Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Illustrated by Ellen Forney. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. 288 pages. pap. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-316-01369-7.
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Narrated by Sherman Alexie. Recorded Books, LLC, 2008. CD. 5 hours. $46.75. ISBN 978-1-428-18297-4.
Annotation: A teenage boy wants to develop the courage to leave his Spokane Indian Reservation so he has a chance at pursuing his dreams.
Summary: Arnold Spirit, better known as Junior, is a teenager on a Spokane Indian Reservation. He is intellectually gifted but physically impaired due to being a hydrocephalic. He is a cartoonist who can more easily communicate with art than with words. He knows that in order for him to pursue his dreams he will need to leave the Indian Reservation because of the poverty and hopelessness on the “rez.” With the encouragement of a teacher, Junior decides to attend Reardan, an all-white high school twenty-two miles away. At Reardan, he experiences prejudice for being an Indian and on the reservations, his friends turn their backs on him and view him as a traitor to the tribe, including his best friend, Rowdy. He is seen as an apple, red on the outside and white on the inside. Despite his trials including many family alcohol-related deaths, Junior is able to get on Reardan’s basketball team, get a girlfriend, and become well regarded at school. He makes amends with Rowdy and sees hope for his future.
Evaluation: The cartoon artwork spread throughout the novel complements and re-enforces the text. The pencil illustrations look like they could have been drawn by a high school student. The crude language, mature subject matter, and physical and alcohol abuse paint a realistic portrait of life on an Indian Reservation. Alexie Sherman draws from his own life experience to write this revelatory and often humorous novel exposing the challenges of life on an Indian Reservation. Recommended for ages 14 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Semi-Autobiographical, Realistic Fiction, American Indians, Racism, Identity, Friendship, Family, Persistence, Abuse, Aspirations, Sports, Hope, Alcoholism
Awards: 2009 Odyssey Award Winner for Excellence in Audiobook Production, 2009 ALA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Award, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 American Booksellers Children’s Literature Honor Award, 2007 L.A. Times Award Honor Book, 2007 National Book Award Winner – Young People’s Literature,
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. Penguin Group, Incorporated. 224 pages. pap. $10.00. ISBN 978-0-14-240732-5.
Annotation: This is a year in the life of an outcast freshman girl who gets drunk at a party and ends up getting raped. The story is how she struggles for recovery.
Summary: Melinda Sordino, a freshman high school student, goes to a party at the end of summer. She drinks alcohol for the first time and gets drunk and she ends up getting raped. She calls the police to get help, but never tells them what happened. Instead, her friends get busted for underage drinking. Melinda becomes a school outcast; she retreats into herself and suffers depression. A helpful art teacher encourages her to express herself. Step by step she slowly develops the courage to face what has happened to her and can reclaim pieces of her life.
Evaluation: This is a well-written and surprisingly funny book, despite the serious subject matter. Through Laurie Halse Anderson’s use of humor, Melinda becomes a multi-dimensional character that readers are able relate to and sympathize with. Reading about Melinda’s transformation from being a victim unable to talk to starting to heal and express herself would be helpful to other teens going through touch challenges. Recommended for ages 14 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Identity, Friendship, Family, Rape, Abuse, Depression, Self-Worth, Schools
Awards: 2000 Michael L. Printz Award – Honor Book, 1999 National Book Award Honor Book – Young People’s Literature, 1999 L.A. Times Book Award Honor Book – Young Adult Fiction, 2000 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2000 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Stork, Francisco X. Marcelo in the Real World. Scholastic, Incorporated, 2009. 312 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-05474-4.
Annotation: Marcelo, a sheltered autistic teenager, is asked by his father to spend the summer working at his law firm in the mailroom to help Marcelo experience life in the “real world.” While there Marcelo learns about a romantic relationship with the female coworker, rivalry, anger, and deception.
Summary: A sheltered autistic teenager, Marcelo Sandoval, is expected to work in the mailroom of his father’s law firm for the summer instead of his usual summer work tending the ponies at a special needs school. Marcelo’s dad wants Marcelo to experience life in the “real world.” His father also wants him to attend regular high school during his senior year but Marcelo wants to attend Paterson, his usual special needs school. While at the law firm, Marcelo enters an unknown world where he must compete with the son of his father’s law partner, develops a crush on the female mailroom supervisor, and gets involved with a case involving a young woman in a disfiguring windshield accident. Marcelo is tested morally, socially, and ethically by all his experiences. He exercises his coping skills to figure out how to deal with the conflicting questions of friendship, trust, and loyalty. Marcelo’s strength of character allows for a satisfying conclusion with Marcelo rising above his environment and remaining true to his convictions.
Evaluation: This beautifully written book has an extremely believable autistic character full of the idiosyncrasies of a person with an Aspergers-like condition. Marcelo’s character is dynamic, sensitive, and morally astute. Despite his disability, he is able to grow in a competitive environment ironically succeeding in the “real world” where his father has placed him. He is a good influence on others around him. Marcelo learns and teaches that there is an ugliness about all of us from which we can learn and grow. Recommended for ages 9 to 14.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Identity, Friendship, Family, Autism, Ethics, Special Needs, Ethical Behavior, Compassion, Music
Awards: 2010 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Schneider Family Book Award Winner – Teen Book,
Madigan, L. K. Flash Burnout. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2010. 336 pages. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-547-40493-6.
Annotation: Witty sophomore Blake Hewson has a beautiful girlfriend named Shannon and a really good photography friend named Marissa. The problem is one of them loves him and one of them needs him and he cannot please both.
Summary: In Madigan’s debut novel, humorous sophomore Blake Hewson has just gotten a first time girlfriend. Shannon is beautiful, funny, and a little possessive. Blake also has a very good friend named Marissa who is his cool photography buddy. Always ready to make people laugh, Blake divides his time between both girls. He is in love with Shannon but Marissa needs his help dealing with her meth-addicted mom. Tensions increase as both girls need more of his time and attention. After an emotional incident with Marissa, Blake ends up having sex with her. Shannon finds out and is so hurt that she dumps Blake. Marissa ends up leaving for Seattle. Blake is left to contemplate his decisions and realizes he has failed both girls.
Evaluation: This is a compelling novel that analyzes the conflicts between being a boyfriend and a friend. Questions concerning love and loyalty, actions and consequences, and life and death are explored. The book’s diverse primary and secondary characters, compellingly realistic teen problems, and humorous relief make this a novel of substance. Because there was no neatly wrapped ending, this novel mirrors life; we all have some loose threads to trim because of the consequences of our actions. Recommended for ages 14 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Dating, Photography, Identity, Romance, Family, Friendship, Choices, Abuse
Awards: 2010 William C. Morris Award, 2010 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Hale, Shannon and Dean Hale. Rapunzel’s Revenge. Illustrated by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008. 144 pages. pap. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-59990-288-3.
Annotation: A classic twist on the fairy-tale Rapunzel, Shannon and Dean Hale set long-haired Rapunzel in a wild western landscape. She along with her friend Jack (of bean-stalk fame) battle monsters, coyotes, and henchmen in an effort to free her mother and cripple her step-mother’s cruel reign over the local inhabitants.
Summary: A high-action retelling of the fairy-tale classic, Rapunzel is set in the Wild West. Little Rapunzel has been raised by a wicked stepmother, Mother Gothel, inside a walled castle. One day Rapunzel views the wasteland surrounding the castle and ends up meeting her real mother, a peasant forced to work the mines. Mother Gothel then imprisons Rapunzel inside a magical tree for five years. Rapunzel’s beautiful and strong red hair grows over twenty feet long and she is able to escape. Spunky and smart Rapunzel learns that she does not need a prince to save her, she can do it herself. She befriends a young man named Jack (of bean-stalk fame) and together they free Rapunzel’s mother and bring down the reign of terror caused by Mother Gothel. At the very end, Rapunzel and Jack realize that they have fallen in love over the courses of their adventures.
Evaluation: This high energy fairy-tale is well suited to the colorful graphic novel format. The expressive art with many panels of action scenes matches the witty dialogue and exciting plot twists of the story. The cast of villains along with the deepening friendship and blooming romance between Rapunzel and Jack add extra interest to the full color story. Recommended for ages 9 to 14.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Adventure, Hair, Revenge, Identity, Friendship, Family, Persistence
Awards: 2009 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2009 ALA Graphic Novels for Teens, 2009 ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. The Dairy Queen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2006. 288 pages. Tr. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-618-68307-9.
Annotation: Fifteen-year-old D. J Schwenk has a lot of responsibility running the family’s dairy farm and keeping up in school, but her life really gets busy when she is also asked to train a rival team’s handsome football quarterback.
Summary: D.J Schwenk has a lot of responsibility running the family dairy farm after her dad injures his hip. She probably should be spending more time keeping up in school since she is flunking English. But over the summer, a family friend asks D. J. to train a rival team’s football quarterback. Brian Nelson is spoiled, lazy, and handsome and she is definitely attracted to him. D. J. is naturally reticent and is skilled at ignoring major issues, but so many problems are coming to a head that she learns to speak up for herself and to address important issues.
Evaluation: This is a humorous sports novel with a touch of romance. The evolution of the character is D.J. is exciting to read. She goes from being what everyone wants to being herself. With self-deprecating humor, quiet D. J. struggles with expressing her feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and love. Readers will empathize with the flawed but lovable D. J.. Recommended for ages 12 to 17.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Football, Sports, Farm Life, Family, Friendship, Romance, Identity, Aspirations
Awards: 2007 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Scholastic, Incorporated, 2007. 128 pages. Tr. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-439-89529-3.
Annotation: In a wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his wife and child to embark on a journey to a foreign country. The lonely experience of the immigrant is portrayed as a new and, hopefully, better life is created.
Summary: In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his wife and child and the familiarity of his homeland and embarks on a journey to find a better life in a foreign country. He boards a steamship filled with other refugees and arrives in a weird yet wonderful country. The country has different architecture, alphabet and symbols, technologies, foods, culture, and animals. The novelty of the city and the distance from home creates much sadness and anxiety. Slowly he assimilates as he gains friends, employment, and confidence. The end is happy when he reunites with his family in the new country.
Evaluation: In this sepia-toned graphic novel, the immigrant experience is sensitively portrayed. The pencil illustrations capture the anxiety, confusion, loneliness, and wonder as an immigrant slowly assimilates into a new and strange culture. The complexity of feelings and issues for immigrants is expertly depicted with the detailed artwork. Readers will empathize with the difficulty of starting something new. Recommended for ages 12 to 17.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Stories Without Words, Immigration, Identity, Loneliness, Persistence,Aspirations
Awards: 2008 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner, 2008 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2008 ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2008 American Booksellers Award – Children’s Literature Honor Book
Cushman, Karen. Catherine, Called Birdy. HarperCollins Publishers, 1995. 224 pages. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-06-440584-3.
Annotation: In the year 1290, fourteen-year-old Catherine is the only daughter of a country knight growing up in a medieval English manor. Her father is determined to see her married and she will do everything she can to avoid her unwanted suitors.
Summary: This book, written in diary format during the year 1290, records the events of fourteen-year-old Catherine, the only daughter of a minor country knight. Life on the English medieval manor is limiting for a young woman; there is cooking, cleaning, sewing, and treating illnesses. Her father is determined to marry Catherine off to the richest suitor he can find. Catherine, on the other hand, is resolved to thwart any such attempts. She spends her time worrying about her ill mother, tending to her birds, avoiding chores, learning the curse words of the day, and wishing for adventure. There is a happy resolution when she ends up marrying the sensitive son of an ugly shaggy bearded man to whom she was engaged before his untimely death.
Evaluation: This book is a witty historical treat; through Catherine’s journal entries readers are able to get an accurate glance at what life was like for young women during the Middle Ages. The diary describes such information as dress, foods, customs, health, manners, religious beliefs, medical practices, and sanitary habits. Catherine’s character is honest, believable, strong-willed, and completely engaging. Readers will root for her success in avoiding unwelcome suitors. Recommended for ages 12 to 17.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Historical, Medieval Life, Middle Ages, England, Diaries, Identity, Family, Friendship, Aspirations
Awards: 1994 Golden Kite Award, 1995 Newbery Medal Award Winner, 1996 American Booksellers Book of the Year Honor Award, 1995 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1995 ALA Notable Children’s Book, 1995 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. Roaring Brook Press, 2006. 240 pages. pap. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59643-152-2.
Annotation: Three stories are blended together in words and pictures. One is the fable of a monkey king; another is an elementary school age boy’s attempt to fit in at a white school, and the last is a popular teenage boy’s struggle in dealing with his stereotypical Chinese cousin.
Summary: In graphic novel form, three stories are told and become intermingled in the end. The first involves a monkey king who is shut out by the gods and tries to shed his monkey form. The second involves elementary school student, Jin Wang, who wanting to be Caucasian, tries to change his appearance so he can find acceptance. The third is about a popular teenager named Danny who endures embarrassing visits from his stereotypical Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee. When Danny beats up Chin-Kee he discovers that his cousin was the monkey king in disguise. The monkey king talks to Danny about love and acceptance of others. Jin accepts his Chinese identity and becomes friends again with a Chinese immigrant whom he hurt but who is really the monkey king’s son who is passing a test of virtue.
Evaluation: The blending of the three stories (although it initially seemed random) works extremely well in this medium. Yang was able to pull the three together to form a coherent and complex whole. The vibrant artwork is easy to follow and captures the spirit of the stories. The story raises important questions about identity, friendship, racism, and acceptance. Recommended for ages 12 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Chinese Americans, Schools, Prejudice, Identity, Racism, Acceptance, Friendship, Family, Aspirations
Awards: 2006 National Book Honor Award, 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Winner, 2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2007 ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Escape from Memory. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2005. 288 pages. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-0338-0.
Annotation: After a teenage girl named Kira is hypnotized, her mother is abducted and a woman claiming to be her Aunt Memory appears. Kira embarks on a journey to save the woman she thinks is her mother but discovers she has other unexplained memories.
Summary: At a party, 15-year-old Kira is hypnotized and reveals a forgotten secret of fleeing a foreign country with her mother and speaking a strange language. Soon after, her mother is kidnapped and a woman posing as her Aunt Memory takes Kira to the unfamiliar country of Crythe on a ruse to rescue her mom. While in Crythe, Kira realizes the importance of memory and how the memories locked inside her mind can either harm her or save her. Once she unlocks her distant memories, she is able to save her mother, best friend, and herself.
Evaluation: This suspense novel has plot twists throughout the book and keeps the reader interested. The general story is a little far-fetched but readers are able to connect with Kira’s likable but naïve character. The aspect of dreams being as important as memories is an intriguing concept to consider. Recommended for ages 12 to 17.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Suspense, Computers, Memory, Kidnapping, Dreams, Family, Survival
Awards: 2006 New York Public Library Book for the Teenage
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2004. pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-689-87102-3.
Annotation: An abused and neglected young girl named Tish writes a series of truthful journal entries for an English class assignment. She shares her thoughts and feelings as she works, goes to school, takes care of her younger brother, deals with a depressed mother and an abusive father.
Summary: This book is written in a compelling first person narrative about an abused and neglected young girl named Tish who writes a series of journal entries for a year-long sophomore English class assignment. Tish shares her thoughts and feelings as she works at a burger joint with a boss who makes sexual advances, goes to school and sufferers the effects of being an underachiever, takes care of her sensitive and innocent younger brother, deals with a depressed and later absent mother and an emotionally and physically abusive father who has abandoned the family . Besides her own courage, Tish has another saving grace- a caring and sensitive English teacher who assists her in getting help.
Evaluation: This is a short, gritty novel that deals honestly with the problems of emotional and physical abuse. By touching on realistic contemporary themes and authentic problems, Haddix draws in teen readers and keeps them involved. The book sends a positive message about how to deal with difficult social problems. Recommended for ages 14 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Abuse, Family, School, Identity, Survival
Awards: 1997 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1997 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2003 ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adults
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Just Ella. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2001. 240 pages. pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-689-83128-7.
Annotation: The well-known fairy tale of Cinderella is revisited with a 15 year old Cinderella realizing that life in the castle with a handsome but uninteresting Prince Charming is not what she expected. Ella relates what really happened when she almost married the prince and what she learned about life and happiness by using her own intelligence and determination.
Summary: In Just Ella, Haddix revisits the famous fairy tale with a 15 year old Cinderella realizing that life in the castle with Prince Charming is not what she expected. In first person, Ella relates what really happened when she nearly married the good looking, but boring prince. Cleverness and fortitude, not a magic wand, clarify the stories behind Ella's ball gown, coach, and glass slippers. Ella clearly describes the changes with her new found royal status, the stifling and lackluster castle life, and her surprising imprisonment once she broke off the royal engagement. Because this is a fairy tale, she does fall in love with her palace tutor, the kindhearted and loyal Jed.
Evaluation: Ella is a strong female character that young girls will find refreshing. Once Ella realizes the difference between the fantasy and the reality of true love, her evolution into a competent, compassionate, and sensible young woman begins. The creative plot twists and witty prose make this coming of age story a delightful read. Recommended for ages 10 to 15.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Fantasy, Royalty, Romance, Identity, Fairy Tale
Awards: 2000 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2000 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1999 American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, 2005 Popular Paperback for Young Adults, 2000 New York Public Library Book for the Teenage
Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Random House Children’s Books, 2010. 336 pages. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73682-4.
Annotation: Teenage Mary lives in a small village run by a religious Sisterhood and surrounded by multitudes of the undead, known as the Unconsecrated. The fence that surrounds the village is breached and Mary barely escapes with a few friends as the undead attack. She is on a flight of survival with Travis, a boy whom she loves and his brother, Harry, a boy to whom she is betrothed.
Summary: This is the first book in the series; the second book is called The Dead-Tossed Waves. Mary dreams of seeing the ocean while living in a secluded post-apocalyptic community run by the religious Sisterhood. A strange disease has infected most of the world’s human population and transformed them into flesh-carving zombies. A fence that surrounds her village keeps out the flesh-eating undead known as the Unconsecrated. But when the fence is breached, Mary barely escapes with Travis, a boy whom she loves and his brother, Harry, a boy to whom she is engaged to be married. Their flight of survival is riveting as the zombie-like undead limit their chances of escape.
Evaluation: This is a zombie thriller with depth; it is an engrossing read as the elements of horror, suspense, and romance intermingle. Mary is a very likeable and strong character that is learning to create her own destiny through her bravery against the relentless undead. Although a very bleak novel, it does offer a ray of hope for human survival. Recommended for ages 13 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Horror, Dystopia, Orphans, Romance, Survival, Friendship
Awards: 2010 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Westerfeld, Scott. Peeps. Penguin Group, 2005. 320 pages. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59514-031-9.
Annotation: Cal comes to New York City to start college but gets infected with the parasite that causes vampirism. Fortunately, he is partially immune to its effects and does not become an insane bloodthirsty cannibal but instead starts to track down other parasite positives, or peeps who are roaming the city looking for other victims.
Summary: Cal heads to New York City to start college but during a one-night stand gets infected with the parasite that causes vampirism. Fortunately, he is partially immune to its effects and does not become an insane cannibal but, instead, is given superhuman strength and night vision. In his attempt to track down the woman who infected him, he starts working for an organization that captures the maniacal parasite positives or “peeps” roaming the city that are spreading the disease. During his search, Cal falls in love with Lace, a fellow student and discovers there is something even more deadly than peeps inside the city.
Evaluation: This horror novel without the gore gives an inventive twist on the typical vampire novel. It is full of action, adventure, romance and science. There are alternating chapters that provide interesting essays on the disgusting nature of parasites. Cal’s narratives on the scientific reasoning behind vampires add body to the compelling novel. Recommended for ages 13 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Horror, Vampires, Parasites, Science, Romance, Survival
Awards: 2006 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, Incorporated, 2008. 384 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439—02348-1.
Annotation: In order to save her younger sister, sixteen-year-old Katniss has volunteered to be a participant in a ruthless kill or be killed competition. This nationally televised lethal sporting event is part of a dystopian society that enjoys survival contests.
Summary: This is the first book of a trilogy that includes Catching Fire and the soon to be released Mockingjay. Sixteen-year-old Katniss lives in the district of Panem, a dystopian society that includes part of what used to be the United States. Her sister was selected in a lottery to be part of a brutal kill or be killed competition called the Hunger Games, but Katniss volunteered to take her place. Peeta, a boy in the district who has a crush on Katniss, is also selected to be in the Games. This is a story of Katniss’s physical, emotional, and mental struggle to survive the Games; only one of twenty-four teens will survive.
Evaluation: This book has something to satisfy every kind of reader- suspense, adventure, action, mystery, and even a little romance. Katniss is an intelligent, honest, brave, and compassionate character who must also fight to the death in order to survive. Her journey in the Hunger Games is complex and engrossing due to the well written first person narrative. Recommended for ages 10 to 17.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Survival, Contests, Romance
Awards: 2009 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2010 American Booksellers Association’s Indies Choice Book Award – Young Adult, 2009 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Krull, Kathleen. Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman. Illustrated by David Diaz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2000. 44 pages. pap. $7.00. ISBN 978-0-15- 202098-9.
Annotation: Despite contracting polio as a child and becoming partially paralyzed, Wilma persevered and became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single Olympics.
Summary: This book is a tribute to the amazing story of Wilma’s Rudolph’s life. Contracting polio by age five and not expected to walk, Wilma showed all around her how determined she was to walk again. By age twelve, she no longer needed leg braces and by age twenty she was competing in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. She became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single Olympics. With the power of family, God and a firm belief in herself, Wilma was able to prove that miracles can happen with individual effort.
Evaluation: The straight-forward text melds nicely with the watercolor and acrylic illustrations. The story of Wilma’s life is retold in a simple style that matches the cubist feel of the artwork. The book has a crisp and dynamic appeal due to the richly colored illustrations. Recommended for ages 5 to 12.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, Biography, African American, Sports, Persistence,Aspirations
Awards: 1997 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 1997 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Willard, Nancy. A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 1982. 48 pages. pap. $7.00. ISBN 978-0-15-293823-9.
Annotation: A collection of poems describing the unusual guests visiting an imaginary inn run by the poet William Blake.
Summary: A menagerie of guests visits the imaginary inn run by the well-beloved poet William Blake. Nancy Willard, inspired by Blake’s work, created a cast of characters that would feel right at home in the inn. Among the whimsical guests is the Man in the Marmalade Hat, the King of Cats, two sunflowers, a wise Cow, and a Tiger. They all have an excellent time participating in and telling of their adventures.
Evaluation: The fanciful verse and the London-inspired illustrations complement each other. The artwork is drawn with detail in shades of yellow, gray, and brown. It is a short but pleasant read. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, Poetry, William Blake, Imagination
Awards: 1981 Golden Kite Honors Award - Fiction, 1982 Newbery Medal Award Winner, 1982 Boston Globe-Horn Award Winner, 1982 Caldecott Honor Award
Schlitz, Laura Amy. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village. Illustrated by Robert Byrd. Candlewick Press, 2008. 96 pages. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4332-4.
Annotation: A collection of monologues from a variety of children living in and around an English manor in 1255.
Summary: In this collection of twenty-two monologues, English medieval children from all classes and backgrounds, describe their daily life. From a plowboy to a shepherdess and from a knight’s son to a half-wit, children accurately and realistically portray their life style and culture. The portrait of life in the Middle Ages is revealed as each child describes his or her vocation, class, attitude, family life, religion, and social practices. Relevant essays are scattered throughout the monologues to give extra background information.
Evaluation: The text is in both prose and verse. The interconnected monologues are written in varying poetic styles from a medieval child’s perspective and the essays in prose contain interesting historical background information. The ink drawings fused with watercolors works well with the text and give a sense of medieval art. Historical notes are added in the vertical margins. Recommended for ages 6 to 13.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, History, Plays, Poetry, Medieval England, Middle Ages
Awards: 2008 Newbery Medal Award Winner, 2008 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Lord, Cynthia. Rules. Scholastic, Incorporated, 2008. 224 pages. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-439-44383-8.
Annotation: Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life but that is impossible with David, an autistic younger brother.
Summary: Catherine, a middle school student, is concerned about appearing normal. Although she loves her autistic brother, David, she is embarrassed by his odd behavior. Catherine really wants to impress Kristi, the new popular girl next door and she does not want her flaky family to mess things up for her. In an attempt to cope, Catherine creates “rules” for David to help him understand how the world works. But when she befriends Jason, a nonverbal paraplegic who uses a book of pictures to communicate, she begins to understand that normal is not so easy to define or be. Catherine learns that it is more important to accept others than to follow normal rules of behavior. ,
Evaluation: Cynthia Lord realistically shows that life with an autistic family member can be both rewarding and exasperating. Her commitment to showing an accurate view of how an older sibling, who is concerned with fitting in among peers, is spot-on. This well-written story has a positive and enlightening resolution. Recommended for ages 9 to 14.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Autism, Family, Friendship
Awards: 2007 Newbery Award Honor Book, 2007 Schneider Family Book Award – Middle School, 2007 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Scholastic, Incorporated, 2007. 544 pages. Tr. $24.99. ISBN 978-0-439-81378-5.
Annotation: Hugo, an orphan boy, who lives within the walls of a busy train station in Paris secretly works as a clock keeper while trying to fix a robot invention found by his father.
Summary: Twelve year old Hugo lost his father in a fire and is forced to secretly live and work as a clock keeper within the walls of a Paris train station. He finds an automaton that his father was fixing and decides to work on it himself. Using his father’s diagrams and stolen supplies from an old toymaker Hugo starts to repair it. Hugo befriends Isabelle, a spirited girl who is the adopted daughter of the toymaker. She inadvertently supplies Hugo with the key to start the automaton. Hugo and Isabelle discover that the toymaker is the famous French movie pioneer, George Melies, who was thought to have died. Hugo renews George’s interest in films and becomes a part of his family.
Evaluation: Brian Selznick successfully combines a telling narrative, detailed black-and-white charcoal drawings, and expert cinematic technique to form a captivating tale of mystery set in Paris in the 1930’s. His ability to tell this story equally well in both pictures and words is amazing. Inventions, secrets, dreams are slowly revealed in first-rate storytelling. Recommended for ages 7 to 14.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Historical, Clocks, Robots, George Melies, Film-Making, Persistence, Orphans
Awards: 2007 National Book Award Honor Book – Young People’s Literature, 2008 Caldecott Medal Winner, 2008 ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2008 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Creech, Sharon. Love That Dog. HarperCollins Publishers, 2003. 112 pages. pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-06-440959-9.
Annotation: A boy learns to find his own voice while writing a poetry journal with the help of his caring teacher, Ms. Stretchberry.
Summary: A little boy named Jack hates writing poetry. With gentle encouragement from his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, Jack slowly opens up and sees the enjoyment in reading, understanding, and then writing his own poems. With a little understanding and some subjects that spark his creativity like his pet dog, Jack starts to find his voice. Jack gets really excited about poetry when a wonderful and famous poet, Walter Dean Myers visits his classroom.
Evaluation: The extremely simple prose and easy free verse style make it an excellent combination for children who do not like to read. When Jack finally starts making personal connections with the poems his teacher has him study, he starts to understand the power of poetry. The theme of love and loss of a pet will resonate with young readers. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Poetry, Dogs, Teachers
Awards: 2002 Christopher Award- Ages 8-10, 2002 American Booksellers Award – Children’s Literature Honor Book, 2002 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Hoose, Phillip. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009. 144 pages. Tr. $19.95 ISBN 978-0-374-31322-7.
Annotation: Before Rosa Parks became famous for refusing to give up her bus seat, Claudette Colvin, a black teenager, initiated the protest that led to the Montgomery Bus boycott and the desegregation of public areas by first refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person. This is the story that history missed.
Summary: Fed up with the injustice that accompanied Jim Crow segregation, Claudette Colvin was an early civil rights pioneer. Only fifteen years old, she was the first person to refuse to give up a bus seat to a white person. Rosa Parks did a similar thing about nine months later and was hailed as a hero. Unfortunately, for Claudette, after she was arrested, she was spurned classmates and ignored by community leaders. Later Claudette championed for equal rights when she was a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, a landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery. But Claudette was again largely disregarded for her heroic efforts, probably as a result of her unplanned pregnancy and expulsion from school.
Evaluation: The author has done excellent research for this book taking an in-depth look at Claudette’s life; he conducted many personal interviews with Claudette. Phillip Hoose wove together a gripping story with Claudette rightfully playing a central role in Montgomery’s civil rights drama. This informative book is replete with black-and-white period photographs and reprints of newspaper articles and other documents making it a visual historic treat. Recommended for ages 9 to 16.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, Racism, African Americans, Biography, History, Civil Rights Movement
Awards: 2009 National Book Award Winner - Young People’s Literature, 2010 Newbery Medal Honor Book, 2010 Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book Award, 2010 ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2010 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 ALA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Honor Book
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. Illustrated by Dave McKean. HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. 312 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-0605-3092-1.
Annotation: A young boy marked for murder by an assassin is saved and raised by a variety of ghostly characters in a graveyard.
Summary: A toddler’s family is murdered by the man Jack and the boy is spared due to the kindness of ghostly residents of a nearby graveyard. Spiritual denizens name the boy Nobody Owens (Bod, for short), and raise him to be a teenager. Bod has the freedom of the graveyard and is given special powers of Fading and Haunting. When the man Jack and his wicked organization find Bod and come back to finish him off, the graveyard residents rally together to save Bod.
Evaluation: This is a wonderfully complex story that combines horror, mystery, and suspense with a bit of wit and adventure. There are occasional pages of gray and black artwork that add a bit of a surreal atmosphere to the clever prose. The character of Nobody Owen and the graveyard family that raises him will delight readers despite the slightly macabre theme of the book. The darkness of the man Jack and his ancient league of assassins enhance the captivating tale. This book is all-around great storytelling. Recommended for ages 8 to 16.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Horror, Ghosts, Supernatural, Family, Graveyards,
Awards: 2009 Newbery Medal Winner, 2009 ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Honor Book Award, 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize- Young Adult Literature, 2009 ALA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2009 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 American Booksellers Indies Choice Book Award - Best Young Adult Book
Nelson, Kadir. We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League Baseball. Disney Press, 2008. 96 pages. Tr. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-7868-0832-8.
Nelson, Kadir. We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League Baseball. Narrated by Dion Graham. Brilliance Audio, 2009. CD, 120 minutes. $19.99 ISBN 978-1-4233-7536-4.
Annotation: The history, life style, challenges, discrimination, and popularity of Negro League Baseball from the 1920’s until 1947 is explored through text and paintings.
Summary: This is a fitting tribute to Negro League Baseball. It describes the beginning and history of the leagues, the players, the style of play and the league’s ultimate collapse when Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. An elderly fictional baseball player gives an insider account of what is was like to experience segregated baseball. Since blacks were banned from playing in the major leagues, Rube Foster organized the Leagues and offered African Americans the chance to earn a living playing baseball. The accounts of great players like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige are detailed. The impact of racism is discussed as well as how the League ultimately enabled black players to be given the chance to play in the major leagues.
Evaluation: This history book reads like a compelling story. Nine chapters (or innings) are chronologically presented with beautifully vivid muscular oil paintings spread throughout. The conservational text and the larger-than-life illustrations complement each other. The history of the Negro leagues and the discrimination that the players endured are brought to life. Recommended for ages 6 to 16.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, Sports, Baseball, African Americans, History, Racism, Discrimination
Awards: 2009 Coretta Scott King Award Winner – Author, 2009 Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book – Illustrator, Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Winner- Children’s Book, 2009 ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2010 Odyssey Honor Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production, 2010 ALA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Award
Peck, Richard. A Year Down Yonder. Penguin Group, Inc., 2002. 144 pages. pap. $6.99 ISBN 978-0-14-230070-1.
Annotation: A fifteen year old girl named Mary Alice is sent to live with her feisty Grandma Dowdel in rural Illinois during the Depression. Both women learn and grow during a hilarious, surprising, and heartwarming year.
Summary: This is a sequel to A Long Way From Chicago, a Newbery Honor book. It is set during the recession of 1937 in rural Illinois. A fifteen year old girl named Mary Alice is sent to live with her rough and feisty Grandma Dowdel in a sleepy farm town until her parents can afford to bring her back to Chicago. During her stay, Mary Alice gets to know the townsfolk and discovers a fiercely independent and eccentric yet surprisingly compassionate and devoted grandma. She learns how to cook, be a partner in crime, help friends, take revenge on enemies, fall in love, and be independent. The unspoken fondness between the two women grows with each chapter.
Evaluation: This is a superbly crafted glimpse into the life of an eccentric, but kind grandma and her intelligent and perceptive granddaughter. With wit and charm, Richard Peck reveals the growth and drama in an adolescent life’s while staying true to the attitudes and lifestyle of the times. It is an amusing, down-home adventure involving memorably strong characters. Recommended for ages 8 to 14.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Historical, Family, Friendship, Grandmother, Country Life
Awards: 2001 Newbery Award Winner, 2001 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2001 ALA Notable Children’s Book,
Taylor, Mildred D. The Friendship. Penguin Group, Inc., 1987. 56 pages. Tr. $16.99. ISBN
Annotation: In 1933 in the state of Mississippi, some black children witness a violent confrontation between an elderly black man, Mr. Tom Bee and a white storeowner. Mr. Tom Bee learns the hard way that kindness and friendship do not always have power over racism in the South.
Summary: The year is 1933 and the setting is rural Mississippi. Cassie Logan and her brothers go to the store for some medicine. While there they see a confrontation between Mr. Tom Bee, an elderly black man and a white store owner, John Wallace. The friendship between the men is put to the test against a background of racism and civil rights. Mr. Bee addresses the store owner, John, by his first name, which is forbidden to do by blacks. Mr. Bee had saved John’s life on a number of occasions and had even cared for him like a son in his own home. John had given Tom Bee previous permission to call him by his first name. But under pressure and taunting from other white men in his store, John reneges on his promise and shoots Tom in the leg as punishment for such unacceptable behavior.
Evaluation: This book is based on an actual event. Mildred Taylor wrote this story based on family stories that were handed down to her from her father. The simply written but powerful story of paints a clear picture of the tragedy of prejudice and racism in the United States in the 21st century. Children will marvel at the courage it takes to stand up for what you believe despite the social norms of the time. Recommended for ages 7 to 14.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Historical, Racism, African Americans, Violence, Friendship
Awards: 1988 Coretta Scott King Award Winner, 1988 Boston Globe-Horn Award Winner- Fiction
Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go To Birmingham- 1963. Random House Children’s Books, 1997. 224 pages. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-440-41412-4.
Annotation: A black family from Michigan decides to spend the summer in Alabama during 1963 when racism and civil rights tensions are high. Their grandmother’s church is bombed and the impact of violence will prove to strengthen their family’s love and endurance.
Summary: A middle class black family from Flint Michigan decides to spend the summer in Birmingham, Alabama during the year 1963. Kenny’s older brother, Byron, is getting into too much trouble with city life and gangs and needs to be straightened out by his strong grandma. Kenny, the narrator, tells of his family’s experiences, both humorous and tragic as they deal with both northern and southern racism. Curtis writes thoughtfully about family relations, civil rights, and the impact of violence. When a local church is bombed and the whereabouts of Kenny’s sister, Joetta, is uncertain, the strength of family love and endurance is revealed. The story is especially compelling because it is a fictional account of an actual event- the September 15th, 1963 bombing of the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham which killed four teenage girls.
Evaluation: This well-written book is both funny and serious. The reader gets to know what a wonderfully wacky family the Watson’s are and share in their sorrow when violence erupts upon this undeserving family. The family comedy turns into a national tragedy with hope for a future filled with equality and acceptance. Recommended for ages 10 to 16.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Historical, Family, Racism, African Americans, Violence
Awards: 1995 Golden Kite Award Winner- Fiction, 1996 Newbery Award Honor Book, 1996 Coretta Scott King Honor Book Award, 1996 Jane Addams Children’s Honor Book Award, 1996 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1996 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Running Out of Time. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 1997. 192 pages. pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-689-81236-1.
Annotation: Teenager Jessie Keyser lives in a restored historic village during the 1990’s but she and the other children in the village believe they are actually living in the 1840’s. This “scientific experiment” agreed upon by the children’s parents goes horribly wrong when diphtheria is released on the helpless villagers and it is up to Jessie to save them.
Summary: Jessie Keyser, a 13 year old girl, lives with her family in a restored historic village set in Indiana in the 1840’s. The children of the village actually believe that it is the year 1840; their parents have agreed to participate in an elaborate scientific experiment. The ruse is successful because the tourists from the present day (the 1990’s) are hidden from view. But things go horribly wrong when diphtheria is unleashed on the village because the corrupt researchers connected with the village want to see what would happen to patients without modern medical care. Brave, backward, and bewildered Jessie is sent by her mother into the modern world to find help for the “imprisoned” villagers.
Evaluation: Written in captivating manner, this book is an interesting take on “historical” events for those who love time-travel. A strong teen heroine uses her intelligence and courage to overcome her culture fears and physical threats in order to save the village children from dying. Each chapter is so gripping that it is difficult to put down. Recommended for ages 8-14.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Suspense, Family, Diseases, Historic Villages, Adventure,Survival
Awards: 1997 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1996 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1995 American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Among the Hidden. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2000. 160 pages. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-689-82475-3.
Annotation: Twelve year old Luke Garner lives under a totalitarian regime that limits the number of children in a family to two. Unfortunately, Luke is the third child in family and must deal with the consequences of having to remain hidden in order to survive.
Summary: This book is the first of seven in the Shadow Children Series. It begins with Luke Garner, 12 year old boy who lives in a futuristic dystopia where the totalitarian regime observes a very strict two-children-only policy for families. Luke is, unfortunately, the third child of a poor farming family who has been forced to hide since birth. The government takes the land away from the family farm and builds expensive houses. Among the houses, Luke spots another third child named Jen. As their friendship secretly develops, Luke learns of an entire subculture of third children. Jen organizes a rally protesting the government’s treatment of third children but it ends with the Population Police murdering her. Luke is forced to determine how far he will go to resist the government in order to have a life that is worth living.
Evaluation: Written with suspense, this thought-provoking novel addresses the important issue of what it means to be free. Haddix is able to write a gripping novel with elements of family devotion, friendship, rebellion, and the controlling use of technology. Readers will be thinking about the courage it takes to stand up for what is right in society. Recommended for ages 8-14.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Suspense, Computers, Dystopia, Totalitarianism, Friendship, Family, Identity, Survival
Awards: 1999 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1999 ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 2000 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2000 ALA Top 10 Quick Pick for Young Adults, 2003 ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adults
Engle, Margarita. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Henry Holt & Company, 2008. 176 pages. Tr. $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-8674-4.
Annotation: This book, written in free verse prose, sheds a personal light on Cuba’s three wars for independence from Spain between the years 1850-1899. The story in verse follows alternating voices including Rosa, a healer, Jose, a freed slave, Silvia, a refugee child, and Lieutenant Death, a slave hunter and soldier.
Summary: This novel in verse alternately follows four central characters as they are involved in various struggles with Cuba’s three wars for independence from Spain between the years 1850-1899. The most prominent voice is Rosa, a traditional healer, who nurses all people- blacks, whites, Cuban, and Spanish back to health during the fifty year struggle. Despite living her life on the lam, she uses herbal medicine she makes from the native plants and sets up hospitals in caves and other hidden places. The second voice is Rosa’s husband, Jose, who is a freed slave that assists Rosa in tending to the sick and dying. The third voice is that of Silvia, a refugee child who Rosa teaches the art of healing. The final voice is that of Lieutenant Death, a slave hunter and callous soldier who is obsessed with hunting down slaves and trying to kill the heroine Rosa. The story follows the struggle of slavery and the sadness involved with the concentration camps that bring starvation, disease, and death. But the story also shows the hope in Cuba’s quest for freedom. The healing kindness that Rose, Jose, and Silvia show to others touches people and changes lives.
Evaluation: With simple, short lines of prose the story is easy to follow and well-written. There is a Cuban flavor to the language with a sprinkling of Spanish words. The free verse poems vary in length and style and together construct a compelling narrative that offers an authentic-feeling glance into the Cuban history. Recommended for ages 10-17.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, Poetry, Cuba, History, Independence, Racism, Survival
Awards: 2009 Pura Belpre Award Winner, 2009 Newbery Medal Honor Book, 2009 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2009 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Winner – Books for Older Children, 2009 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. One Boy. Roaring Brook Press, 2008. 48 pages. Tr. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-59643-274-1.
Annotation: A young boy draws artwork in this clever counting book that plays with words within words.
Summary: Part counting book and part word concept book, Laura Vaccaro Seeger plays with words within words. Using die-cuts, new words are revealed or covered that relate to a word on the previous page. One young boy paints pictures using objects that increase by one with each painting. Numbers from one to ten appear on every other page. The paintings at first seem unrelated, but the end of the book reveals a connection when it shows that the pictures are all the artwork of the young boy.
Evaluation: With creative wordplay and precisely positioned die-cuts, this simple picture book is transformed into an artistic treat with the bright, eye-catching colors. Youngsters learning to count will benefit as will beginning readers who are learning new vocabulary words. Recommended for ages 2 to 7.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Counting, Imagination, Die-Cut, Art
Awards: 2009 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award, 2009 ALA Notable Books for Children
Willems, Mo. Are You Ready to Play Outside? Hyperion Press, 2008. 64 pages. Tr. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-1347-8.
Annotation: Just when Piggie is excited to play outside all day, it starts to rain. Elephant saves the day by first sheltering Piggie from the raindrops and then suggesting that the two friends should go ahead and play in the rain anyway.
Summary: Part of the Elephant and Piggie Beginning Reader Book Series, Elephant and Piggie are once again together. Piggie is so excited to play outside for the day, but is quickly frustrated when raindrops start to fall. Gerald the Elephant uses his ear as an umbrella to shelter the sad Piggie. However, both notice two worms having a jolly time playing in the rain. Gerald suggests that they give it a try as well. Piggie and Gerald soon are having so much fun running, jumping, and skipping that they are saddened when it stops raining. Gerald uses his trunk to douse the delighted Piggie with more water.
Evaluation: With a soft color palette and uncomplicated, yet lively illustrations the adventures of Elephant and Piggie continue. The simple and repetitious text is appropriate for beginning readers. This is an excellent book about being a true friend. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Beginning Reader, Friendship, Animals, Elephant, Pigs, Weather
Awards: 2009 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner, 2009 ALA Notable Books for Children
Kajikawa, Kimiko. Close to You: How Animals Bond. Henry Holt & Company, 2008. 32 pages. Tr. $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-8123-7.
Annotation: Just like people, animals have unique ways of bonding. The parent-child relationship between different animals is explored.
Summary: The bond between parent and child is strong, even in the animal kingdom. Just like people, animals form strong attachments to each other. Crisp, charming photographs include an adult giraffe licking its baby and an adult alligator gently holding its baby in its mouth. The book ends with the special relationship between people. Additional descriptive and behavioral information on each animal is included in the end matter.
Evaluation: With large, colorful photographs the animal world is investigated. The sweet bonding that occurs between baby and adult animals is tenderly portrayed. The simple rhyming text complements the close-up photos of the animals in their natural habitats. Recommended for ages 3 to 8.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, Animals, Bonding, Family
Awards: 2009 Christopher Award – Preschool Books for Young People
Myers, Walter Dean. Jazz. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. Holiday House, 2006. 44 pages. Tr. $18.95. ISBN 978-0-82-341545-8.
Myers, Walter Dean. Jazz. Narrated by James “D-Train” Williams and Vaneese Thomas. Live Oak Media, 2007. Cd with Hardback book, 43 minutes. $28.95. ISBN 978-1-43-010022-5.
Annotation: The history and feel of jazz music is presented beautifully in both poetry and picture.
Summary: An introduction to American jazz music is given through both pictures and words. Through varied poetic forms, the history, technical background, major musicians, styles, and influences are presented. The pulsating acrylic illustrations compliment the upbeat text. A jazz glossary and historical timeline add to the exploration of this important musical style.
Evaluation: Word and picture combine wonderfully to give the feeling and rhythm of American jazz music. The deeply rich and expressionistic illustrations flow like melodic music over the pages. The poems read like jazz music is played. Recommended for ages 4 to 9.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Non-Fiction, Music, Jazz, Musicians, Stories in Verse, Poetry
Awards: 2007 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2007 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award, 2007 Golden Kite Award Winner – Picture Book Text, 2008 Odyssey Award Winner for Excellence in Audiobook Production
Patricelli, Leslie. Higher! Higher! Candlewick Press, 2009. 32 pages. Tr. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-76-363241-0.
Annotation: A little girl soars higher and higher into a world of fun as her father pushes her in a playground swing.
Summary: A little girl and her father are enjoying a day at the park on the swings. With each push, the girl tells her dad that she wants to go even higher. The girl swings past a giraffe, a high-rise building, a mountain climber, and an airplane. At her apex, she meets an alien child in outer space whom she high-fives. She safely descends back to her father and wishes to be pushed again.
Evaluation: The brightly colored acrylic paintings add cheerfulness and whimsy to the day at the playground. The repetitive and very simple text (only six words are used) will appeal to the youngest listeners. This is a good book to spur the imagination. Recommended for ages 2 to 5.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Imagination, Recreation, Family
Awards: 2010 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Award- Honor Picture Book
McMullan, Kate. I Stink! Illustrated by Jim McMullan. HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. 40 pages. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-06-443836-0.
Annotation: A garbage truck with personality galore and a really big appetite for refuse from A to Z collects trash at night while people are sleeping.
Summary: A garbage truck who loves his job collects trash at night in a big city. While most people are asleep, he ravenously devours people’s discard from A (apple cores) to Z (ziti with zucchini). His rounds are described complete with noises, smells, and operating instructions. He mentions that without a garbage truck’s essential services, people would be living on a pile of trash. In the early morning, he unloads his last haul onto a barge and heads back to the garage for some well–deserved rest.
Evaluation: This boldly illustrated book using exaggeration and dark colors to achieve its desired effect. The brazen garbage truck narrates the story with commanding, lively text. Sound effects and humor add to the brash tone. The story of a day in the life of sanitation truck is great for truck lovers. Recommended for ages 3 to 9.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Alphabet, Trucks, Trash, Refuse Disposal
Awards: 2003 Charlotte Zolotow Award - Highly Commended Titles, 2003 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2002 Boston Globe-Horn Award- Honor Picture Book
Morales, Yuyi. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book. Chronicle Books, 2003. 36 pages. Tr. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-3758-3.
Annotation: A clever Grandma stalls Senor Calavera (Mr. Skull) from taking her away while she busily prepares for her own birthday party with her grandchildren. Part trickster tale/part counting book, readers will enjoy the glimpse into Mexican culture.
Summary: In this bilingual English-Spanish counting book, Grandma Beetle has an unwanted visitor, Senor Calavera (Mr. Skull), who wants to take her away permanently. Grandma cleverly stalls him by finding chore after chore to complete as she prepares for her own birthday party. Each task is linked to a number from one to ten. She politely asks Senor Calavera to wait just a minute during each chore. In the end, Grandma’s nine grandchildren join her at at the party and Senor Calavera is honored as a guest as well. Senor Calavera has such a good time that he leaves with a note explaining that he will be back in the future.
Evaluation: The textured acrylic and mixed-media illustrations create a warm and inviting palette as Grandma Beetle scurries about the house readying it for her birthday party celebration. The Spanish and English text is seamlessly written. Senor Calavera is not too scary as the skeleton. The vibrant illustrations show a glimpse of Mexican culture. Recommended for ages 4 to 9.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Counting, Folklore, Mexican Culture, Skeleton, Grandmothers, Family, Bilingual
Awards: 2004 Pura Belpre Award Winner – For Illustration, 2004 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2003 Golden Kite Honor Book – For Picture Book Illustration
Henkes, Kevin. Birds. Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. 32 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06136304-7.
Annotation: Birds are all around us; they come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. A young girl wonders at the movement and mysteries of birds.
Summary: This book is a good introduction to birds for the younger set. Birds come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. Their movements and singing are magical. A young girl is fascinated with bird watching and studying these beautiful winged creatures.
Evaluation: The vibrant acrylic paintings show the beauty of birds. The simple yet reflective text combines well with the bright colorful illustrations. Children will take a more active interest in observing our featured friends after reading this wonderful book. Recommended for ages 2 to 7.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Animals, Birds
Awards: 2010 Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award, 2010 ALA Notable Books for Children
Becker, Bonny. A Visitor for Bear. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Candlewick Press, 2008. 56 pages. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-2807-9.
Annotation: Bear is quite content being alone, so when persistent and friendly Mouse repeatedly pops up in Bear’s house wanting company, Bear gets frustrated. While Bear locks down his house against the menacing mouse, Bear slowly realizes that he would like a friend.
Summary: Bear does not want any friends; in fact, he has a “No Visitors” sign posted on his front door. So when friendly and persistent Mouse pesters Bear for a spot of tea and a seat by the fire, Bear becomes undone. Bear boards the windows, stops up the chimney and plugs the drain in a futile effort to stop Mouse from entering his home. Exasperated, Bear finally relents to Mouse’s requests. But after some conversation, Bears heart softens and he realizes that he does need a friend.
Evaluation: The energetic mouse and inhospitable bear are expressively portrayed in softly hued watercolors. The lively interaction between Bear and Mouse is comical. The slightly repetitive text and wonderful pacing allow for a storytelling treat. Recommended for ages 4 to 10.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Animals, Bears, Mice, Friendship, Persistence
Awards: 2009 Golden Kite Award Winner- Picture Book Text, 2009 ALA Notable Books for Children,
DiCamillo, Kate. Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. 56 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-075554-6.
DiCamillo, Kate. Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Live Oak Media, 2009. CD with Hardback book, 19 minutes. $ 28.95. ISBN 978-1-430-10688-3.
Annotation: A daring hen tires of her henhouse and goes in search of adventure. She is captured by pirates, nearly eaten by a lion, and is kidnapped at a bazaar but successfully escapes each time. Although she loves adventure, she always returns to the comforts and friendship awaiting her at home.
Summary: Louise, the brave French chicken, longs for adventure. She sets off to discover the world and is not disappointed. She is captured by hungry pirates, joins a circus and is nearly eaten by a lion, and is kidnapped at a foreign bazaar but escapes. After each short bout of adventure, she always returns to her henhouse to enjoy the company and comforts of home. After her last adventure, she finally shares the tales of her adventures with her sister chickens who are mesmerized. Louise realizes her adventures can continue with the transporting power of storytelling.
Evaluation: In this picture book divided into four short chapters, the line and watercolor illustrations detail the action scenes as Louise goes in search of and finds real adventure. The slightly repetitive narrative and the excellent pacing deepen the interest in the story. The main message is not about seeking your own adventure, but instead about the fulfillment found in sharing stories with friends and family. Recommended for ages 4 to 10.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Adventure, Animals, Chickens, Storytellling
Awards: 2010 Odyssey Award Winner for Excellence in Audiobook Production
Henkes, Kevin. Kitten’s First Full Moon. HarperCollins Publishers, 2004. 40 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-058828-1.
Annotation: A hungry kitten spies what she thinks is a bowl of milk in the sky and in a moonlit pond. After several ill-fated attempts to lick up the milk, she returns home sad and tired but soon discovers a bowl of milk waiting for her.
Summary: In the evening, a little kitten spies what she thinks is a bowl of milk in the sky. As she closes her eyes and tries to lick the moon, she gets a mouthful of bugs. Repeated attempts at trying to drink the milk from the sky and a nearby moonlit pond, results in a wet and tired kitty. Upon the return from her adventures, the kitten is excited to have a precious bowl of milk waiting for her on the porch. Persistence pays off.
Evaluation: In gouache and colored pencil, the hues of black and white illustrate the poor kitten’s milk misadventures. The rhythmic text coupled with the charming, expressive artwork add to the warm and comical story. The message of determination will be enjoyed by children. Recommended for ages 3 to 8.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Animals, Cats, Moon, Milk, Persistence
Awards: 2005 Caldecott Award Winner, 2005 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2005 Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner, 2005 American Booksellers Award - Children's Illustrated Honor Book
Johansen, Hanna. Henrietta and the Golden Eggs. Illustrated by Kathi Bhend-Zaugg. Translated by John S. Barrett. David R. Godine Publisher, 2002. 64 pages. Tr. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-56792-210-3.
Annotation: In a hen house with 3,333 other chickens, Henrietta, an ambitious pullet, decides to pursue her dreams of laying golden eggs. As she does so, she betters life on the farm for all chickens.
Summary: Originally published in German, this tale of farm life in the hen house centers upon Henrietta, a little chicken with big dreams. Clever Henrietta escapes the confining hen house three times to learn to sing, swim, and fly. In the process she creates utter chaos on the farm but ultimately improves the living conditions for her 3,333 fellow chickens. As she escapes for a fourth time, there is the question of whether or not this brave and resourceful chicken can, indeed, lay golden eggs.
Evaluation: The lively pen-and-ink illustrations printed in black and white reveal the silly antics on the farm. The expressive artwork is superbly matched to the straightforward text. The details add a touch of humor to the hearty story of being brave enough to pursue one’s dreams despite obstacles. Recommended for ages 4 to 9.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Fable, Animals, Chickens, Farms, Aspirations
Awards: 2003 Mildred L. Batchelder Award Honor Book, 2003 ALA Notable Books for Children
Brun-Cosme, Nadine. Big Wolf and Little Wolf. Illustrated by Olivier Tallec. Translated by Claudia Bedrick. Enchanted Lion Books. 2009. 32 pages. Tr. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-59270-084-4.
Annotation: Big Wolf, a solitary animal, slowly lets a stranger, Little Wolf, join him in his daily activities. All is well until Little Wolf unexpectedly leaves and there is a big hole in Big Wolf’s heart as he misses his new companion. Happily Little Wolf returns and both bask in the newly formed friendship.
Summary: Originally published in French, this children’s tale tells of Big Wolf who is large and black and lives alone under his tree in the forest. One day small, blue and adventurous Little Wolf decides to visit Big Wolf’s domain. Little by little, Big Wolf accepts Little Wolf as a friend and includes him in his daily activities. Then one day, Little Wolf disappears and Big Wolf is decidedly sad. The reunion is sweet as Little Wolf returns to stay permanently with his new-found friend.
Evaluation: The sensitive text and colorful illustrations emphasize the touching relationship between wary Big Wolf and adventurous Little Wolf. The character’s emotions are accurately portrayed as Big Wolf learns to open his heart to another. Recommended for ages 3 to 8.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Animals, Wolves, Friendship
Awards: 2010 Mildred L. Batchelder Award Honor Book, 2010 ALA Notable Books for Children
Pinkney, Jerry. The Lion and the Mouse. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2009. 40 pages. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-01356-7.
Annotation: In this wordless adaptation of Aesop’s classic fable of the lion and the mouse, the king of the beasts and a little mouse learn about the true meaning of friendship.
Summary: In this wordless picture book set in the African Serengeti, the classic fable of the lion and the mouse is beautifully portrayed in watercolor and colored pencil. A tiny mouse escapes from an attacking owl, only to find herself at the mercy of a lion. The lion ponders the situation and decides to free the mouse. Later the lion finds himself caught in a poacher’s snare and it is the little mouse that returns the favor and sets the lion free by gnawing the rope. Because of the acts of kindness, both animals are free to enjoy their respective families once more.
Evaluation: The detailed and expressive artwork conveys the classic fable so well that words are unnecessary. Through the telling expressions of the realistically drawn animals, all relevant emotions are convincingly communicated. Recommended for ages 3 to 8.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Fables, Folktale, Animals, Lions, Mice
Awards: 2010 Caldecott Medal Winner, 2010 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2010 American Booksellers Indies Choice Book Award - Best New Picture Book
Mora, Pat. Book Fiesta! : Celebrate Children’s Day/ Book Day/ Celebremos El Dia de Los Ninos/ El Dia de Los Libros. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Harper Collins Publishers. 2009. 40 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-128877-7.
Annotation: Joyful children invite other children from many cultures to join them in a book fiesta to celebrate the wonders and imagination of reading.
Summary: This bilingual book in English and Spanish has children excited about celebrating the joys of reading. Started in 1996, Children’s Day/Book Day is officially honored each April 30th but every day can be a book day. Multicultural children are seen reading their favorite books with friends and family in a variety of settings including in a hot air balloon and on a submarine. Kids are encouraged to think of ways they can enjoy reading.
Evaluation: The vibrantly colorful acrylic paintings complement the simple text. The positive message about the joy of reading and the multicultural nature of the children is inviting for all. Recommended for ages 3 to 10.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Holidays & Celebrations, Books & Libraries, Imagination
Awards: 2010 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2010 Pura Belpre Illustrator Award Winner
Feiffer, Jules. Bark, George. Harper Collins Publishers, 1999. 32 pages. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-205185-1.
Annotation: A mother dog is distraught when her pup tries to bark correctly but all that comes out of his throat are other animals’ sounds. She takes her pup to the veterinarian who gets to the bottom of the hilarious problem.
Summary: A mother dog is distressed because her pup cannot bark normally. When the poor puppy tries, other animal’s sounds emerge like a “Moo” or a “Meow”. When the mother has a vet examine the pup, the vet with rubber gloves extracts a number of other animals from the pup’s stomach. The mother is momentarily relieved when the pup produces a satisfying bark. However, on the way back home from the vet, the mother encourages the pup to bark once more and it manages to say, “Hello.”
Evaluation: This plain but expressive picture book with witty text expertly captures the comedy of the puppy’s animal “extractions” by the vet. The simple line drawings set against a pastel background will entertain children and adults alike. Recommended for children aged 2 to 8.
Genre / Subject: Juvenile Fiction, Animals, Dogs, Humor
Awards: 2000 ALA Notable Books for Children, 2000 Charlotte Zolotow Award nominee