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The Horn Book editor's rants and raves. Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996
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1. Week in Review, September 15th-19th

banner weekinreview 550x100 Week in Review, September 15th 19th

This week on hbook.com…

Marla Frazee Talks with Roger about The Farmer and the Clown (outtake — “Marla Frazee, wipe that smile off your face!”)

If I Stay movie review

Reviews of the Week:

Read Roger: Does one size fit all?” How well do board books and picture books really adapt to digital?

Out of the Box:

Calling Caldecott:

Lolly’s Classroom:

September children’s literature events

See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!

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2. If I Stay movie review

if i stay movie poster If I Stay movie reviewSo, I saw that movie based on a YA novel about teens in love who are faced with questions of life and death. No, not that one, at least not most recently. I’m talking about the New Line Cinema/MGM adaptation of Gayle Forman’s 2009 novel If I Stay, directed by R. J. Cutler and released August 22, 2014. (Warning: If you stay with this post, you’ll find some major spoilers.)

When I went looking for a viewing companion, the premise produced shudders from more than one friend. For the uninitiated, the title refers to seventeen-year-old Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)’s wrenching decision to go on living — or not — as she observes her comatose body after a car accident that left her critically injured and the rest of her family even worse.

In case you haven’t noticed, YA movies are hot these days, and studios seem to get that the books are hot, too. Like The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, and other recent movies based on YA novels, this one keeps its story very close to the original text. Mia’s cello playing is important in the book, and so it’s important in the movie, too, even though it’s not as “Hollywood” as her boyfriend Adam’s (Jamie Blackley) rock band.

If I Stay is a cinematically paced book, which helps. Forman alternates between scenes of Mia’s pre-accident life and the post-accident drama. This structure saves both the book and the movie from long strings of hospital scenes and breaks up the emotional intensity with happier moments that increase our emotional investment in these characters. Mia’s rocker parents, affably performed by Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard, and little brother Teddy, played by a sincere Jakob Davies, are simply fun and lovable characters; we want to spend time with them and understand why Mia does, too.

Though the movie mostly adopts the book’s pacing, it does make a few significant tweaks. In the book, Mia and the reader find out very quickly (and slightly more graphically) that both parents have died. The movie ratchets up tension by revealing her mother’s death later and having her father live long enough to arrive at the hospital. The change creates more reasons to keep watching the hospital scenes: Mia has hope for her family early on, and viewers who haven’t read the book (or, well, seen the trailer) might be on the edge of their seats. Teddy’s death comes later in both the book and the movie — but as movie-Mia stays in the same hospital instead of being helicoptered out, she finds out much more directly and it’s more of a defining moment.

If you thought Mia and Adam’s undying-unless-she-goes-to-Julliard love was a little cheesy in the book, you’ll find the same goops of cheddar in the movie. But neither book nor movie pretends their relationship is perfect, and the movie makes their conflict harsher but bases it on the same issues. Although the ending is essentially the same, Adam’s promises leading up to it manage to make the love story more sentimental. (These changes in Mia and Adam’s relationship also make it seem less likely that the studio plans to film the 2011 book sequel, Where She Went.)

Just like that other tear-jerking YA movie about love and mortality, this one emphasizes the choices its characters get to make. Even before Mia must decide whether to live, she’s deciding what to do with her life. Maybe that’s what so many teens like about these kinds of stories. Teens are at a time in their lives when even ordinary decisions start to have higher stakes. There’s something validating about stories that acknowledge that, in some cases, a teenage life is an entire life, and maybe something reassuring about seeing teens confronted with questions so big that choices about school and relationships seem lighter.

Yes, these tragic tales show that some things are beyond teens’ control, but they also make it clear that some things aren’t.

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3. Books mentioned in the September 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book

All about animals

Did You Know? series

DiSiena, Laura Lyn and Eliot, Hannah Chickens Don’t Fly: And Other Fun Facts
Illustrated by Pete Oswald
Gr. K–3
     32 pp.      Little Simon      2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-9353-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4424-9326-1
E-book ISBN 978-1-4424-9327-8

DiSiena, Laura Lyn and Eliot, Hannah Hippos Can’t Swim: And Other Fun Facts
Illustrated by Pete Oswald
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Little Simon     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-9352-0
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4424-9324-7
E-book ISBN 978-1-4424-9325-4

Jenkins, Steve The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising — Animals on Earth
Gr. 4–6      208 pp.      Houghton      2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-55799-1

Johnson, Jinny Animal Planet Atlas of Animals
Gr. 46      128 pp.      Millbrook      2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-1327-6

Johnson, Jinny Animal Planet Wild World: An Encyclopedia of Animals
Gr. 46      132 pp.      Millbrook      2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-1597-3

American Museum of Natural History Easy Readers series

Roop, Connie, and Roop, Peter Extreme Survivors
Gr. K-3
     32 pp.      Sterling      2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4549-0631-5
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4027-7791-2

Stewart, Melissa World’s Fastest Animals
Gr. K-3
     32 pp.      Sterling      2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4549-0633-9
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4027-7793-6

Think About series

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Bear Wear Boots?
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Blue Apple     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-60905-424-3

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Beaver Sleep in a Bed?
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
Gr. K–3     
32 pp.     Blue Apple     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-60905-423-6

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Camel Cook Spaghetti?
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
Gr. K–3     
32 pp.     Blue Apple     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-60905-422-9

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Panda Go to School?
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Blue Apple     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-60905-421-2

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Woodpecker Use a Hammer?
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
Gr. K–3     
32 pp.     Blue Apple     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-60905-428-1

 

Disasters

Goldsmith, Connie Bombs over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster
Middle school, high school     88 pp.     Twenty-First Century     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-1612-3

Hopkinson, Deborah Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
Gr. 4–6     290 pp.      Scholastic      2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-11674-9

Rusch, Elizabeth Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives [Scientists in the Field series]
Photographs by Tom Uhlman
Gr. 4–6     76 pp.      Houghton      2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-50350-9

Rustad, Martha E. H. Hurricanes [Smithsonian Little Explorer series]
Gr. K-3     32 pp.      Capstone      2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4765-3932-4
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4765-5180-7

Sheinkin, Steve The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
Middle school, high school     190 pp.     Roaring Brook     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-796-8

 

Performing artists

Cardillo, Margaret Just Being Audrey
Illustrated by Julia Denos
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-185283-1

Cline-Ransome, Lesa Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black-and-White Jazz Band in History
Illustrated by James E. Ransome
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Holiday     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-2362-0

Ko, Alex Alex Ko: From Iowa to Broadway, My Billy Elliot Story
Gr. 4–6     328 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-223601-2

Powell, Patricia Hruby Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Gr.  4–6      104 pp.      Chronicle      2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4521-0314-3

Robertson, Robbie, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson, and Jared Levine Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World
Middle school, high school      128 pp.      Tundra         2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-77049-571-5

 

Careers and community helpers

Inside the Industry series

Buckley, A. M. The Arts
Middle school, high school     112 pp.     ABDO     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61714-797-5

Freese, Susan M. Fashion
Middle school, high school     112 pp.     ABDO     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61714-800-2

Hamen, Susan E. Engineering
Middle school, high school     112 pp.      ABDO     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61714-798-2

Lusted, Marcia Amidon Entertainment
Middle school, high school       112 pp.     ABDO     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61714-799-9

Curtis, Jennifer Keats Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators
Gr. K–3      32 pp.      Sylvan Dell     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-60718-671-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-60718-672-4

Work of Heroes: First Responders in Action series

Goldish, Meish Doctors to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6     32 pp.     Bearport     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61772-285-1

Goldish, Meish Firefighters to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6     32 pp.     Bearport     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61772-284-4

White, Nancy Paramedics to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6     32 pp.     Bearport     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61772-282-0

White, Nancy Police Officers to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6      32 pp.     Bearport     2011
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61772-283-7

Oxlade, Chris, and Thea Feldman [Kingfisher Readers series]
Gr. K–3     32 pp.      Kingfisher/Macmillan      2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7534-7122-7
Paperback ISBN 978-0-7534-7123-4

Rhatigan, Joe People You Gotta Meet Before You Grow Up: Get to Know the Movers and Shakers, Heroes and Hot Shots in Your Hometown
Gr. 4–6      128 pp.      Charlesbridge/Imagine      2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-62354-004-3

 

After–school activities

Edge Books: Magic Manuals series

Barnhart, Norm Dazzling Card Tricks
Gr. 4–6      32 pp.      Capstone      2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4765-0133-8

Barnhart, Norm Marvelous Money Tricks
Gr. 4–6        32 pp.      Capstone      2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4765-0134-5

Snap Books: Paint It series

Bolte, Mari Oil Paints
Gr. 4–6      32 pp.      Capstone      2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4765-3110-6

Bolte, Mari Watercolors
Gr. 4–6      32 pp.      Capstone      2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4765-3108-3

Brown, Peggy The Little Golden Book of Jokes and Riddles
Illustrated by David Sheldon
Gr. K–3      24 pp.      Golden      2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-307-97916-2

Essential Critiques series

Hamen, Susan E. How to Analyze the Films of the Coen Brothers
Middle school, high school      112 pp.      ABDO    2012
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61783-454-7

Hermansson, Casie How to Analyze the Films of Clint Eastwood
Middle school, high school      112 pp.      ABDO      2012
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61783-453-0

Kidd, Chip Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design
Middle school, high school      160 pp.      Workman      2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-7611-7219-2

These titles were featured in the September 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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4. After-school activities

barnhart dazzling card tricks After school activitiesBarnhart, Norm Dazzling Card Tricks
Gr. 4–6   32 pp.  Capstone

Barnhart, Norm Marvelous Money Tricks
Gr. 4–6   32 pp.  Capstone

Edge Books: Magic Manuals series. Accessible step-by-step instructions, clear demonstrative photographs, and “what you need” sidebars teach readers to master simple but impressive magic tricks with cards or money. Tips for performing the tricks effectively and smoothly in front of an audience are worked into the narrative. These books will be appealing and useful for anyone interested in magic.  
Subjects: Games, magic, and riddles

bolte oil paints After school activitiesBolte, Mari Oil Paints
Gr. 4–6   32 pp.  Capstone

Bolte, Mari Watercolors
Gr. 4–6   32 pp.  Capstone

Snap Books: Paint It series. These useful books familiarize readers with two types of artists’ paints. There’s a bit of history (oil paints were first used in the 1300s), a little chemistry (watercolors contain pigments mixed with gum Arabic), information on surfaces and brushes, and much about techniques and effects. Step-by-step projects that are not overly complex will nevertheless challenge and satisfy dedicated art students. Reading list.
Subjects: Visual arts; Painting

brown little golden book sof jokes and riddles After school activitiesBrown, Peggy The Little Golden Book of Jokes and Riddles
Gr. K–3   24 pp.  Golden

Illustrated by David Sheldon. “Why did the girl throw the clock out the window? To see time fly!” These mostly familiar standards may be new to beginning readers, who will enjoy learning and sharing them. Humorous color illustrations fit the mood and match the subject.
Subjects: Games, magic, and riddles; Jokes

 

hamen how to analyze the films of the coen brothers After school activitiesHamen, Susan E. How to Analyze the Films of the Coen Brothers
Middle school, high school   112 pp.  ABDO

Hermansson, Casie How to Analyze the Films of Clint Eastwood
Middle school, high school   112 pp.  ABDO

Essential Critiques series. These volumes introduce cinematic criticism, provide summaries of the filmmakers’ famous works, and offer lightly annotated essays modeling the application of criticism through different approaches. Each book leads readers through key steps of analysis and encourages readers’ own critiques. Featuring the work of currently popular directors enlivens these suitable overviews of film interpretation and essay construction. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Visual arts; Coen, Joel; Coen, Ethan; Eastwood, Clint; Writing; Motion pictures

kidd go After school activitiesKidd, Chip Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design
Middle school, high school   160 pp.  Workman

Kidd makes graphic design immediate and accessible to middle schoolers and up by posing questions and answering them in engaging ways. The first four chapters — “Form,” “Typography,” “Content,” “Concept” — tackle design essentials and some advanced ideas. The final chapter presents “10 Design Projects.” The book’s inside back cover provides resources including websites, museums, and design organizations.
Subjects: Visual arts

From the September 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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5. Careers and community helpers

buckley the arts Careers and community helpersBuckley, A. M. The Arts
Middle school, high school   112 pp.  ABDO

Freese, Susan M. Fashion
Middle school, high school   112 pp.  ABDO

Hamen, Susan E. Engineering
Middle school, high school   112 pp.  ABDO

Lusted, Marcia Amidon Entertainment
Middle school, high school   112 pp.  ABDO

Inside the Industry series. Each book describes four careers; for example, Arts covers artist, dancer, photographer, and curator. Readers learn what each job entails (e.g., “What Is an Artist?”) and what they can do to prepare for these competitive professions (“Would You Make a Good Artist?”). The somewhat bland texts, accompanied by young-person-heavy stock photos, could be useful as general introductions to the title careers. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Occupations and Careers; Artists; Dance; Photography; Museums; Fashion; Clothing; Engineering; Performing arts

curtis animal helpers Careers and community helpersCurtis, Jennifer Keats Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators
Gr. K–3   32 pp.  Sylvan Dell

Appealing close-up photos of wild animal orphans being fed and cared for by specially trained people show how injured or abandoned creatures can thrive with extra intervention. The goal is to reintroduce them into the wild once they are physically fit. Large photos without busy backgrounds and limited text target younger audiences. Appended activities include more detailed information about caring for injured wildlife.
Subjects: Occupations and careers; Wildlife rescue; Animals

goldish doctors to the rescue Careers and community helpersGoldish, Meish Doctors to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6   32 pp.  Bearport

Goldish, Meish Firefighters to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6   32 pp.  Bearport

White, Nancy Paramedics to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6   32 pp.  Bearport

White, Nancy Police Officers to the Rescue
Gr. 4–6    32 pp.  Bearport

Work of Heroes: First Responders in Action series. This well-organized series explores the education, specialized training, and daily responsibilities of the featured first responders. Photographs capture the action and enhance the accessible texts, which include details about routine as well as extraordinary incidents, notable rescues, and firsthand accounts. Rescue fans will find much to pore over in these engaging and age-appropriate volumes. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Occupations and careers; Police officers; Doctors; Hospitals; Medicine; Firefighters

oxlade firefighters Careers and community helpersOxlade, Chris, and Thea Feldman Firefighters
Gr. K–3   32 pp.  Kingfisher/Macmillan

Kingfisher Readers series. Thirteen two-page chapters introduce newly independent readers to components of firefighters’ jobs, addressing procedural variations and lesser-known aspects such as service at airports and on “fire engines at sea.” Bright, action-filled stock photos are strategically positioned to illustrate new information and support in-text explanations of subject-specific terms (breathing apparatus, hydrants, nozzle). Fact boxes appear throughout. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Occupations and careers; Firefighters; Fire

rhatigan people you gotta meet before you grow up Careers and community helpersRhatigan, Joe People You Gotta Meet Before You Grow Up: Get to Know the Movers and Shakers, Heroes and Hot Shots in Your Hometown
Gr. 4–6
   128 pp.  Charlesbridge/Imagine

Each section in this guide introduces an everyday “difference-maker” and offers strategies for how to meet one locally along with questions to ask and websites to visit; interviews and mini profiles conclude some chapters. The subjects (judge, crafter, “someone from a different religion”) are a random assortment and the design is rather busy, but the energetic tone sets this title apart from other community-helper books. Ind.
Subjects: Occupations and careers; City and town life; Community helpers; Work

From the September 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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6. Performing artists

cardillo just being audrey Performing artistsCardillo, Margaret Just Being Audrey
Gr. K–3   32 pp.  HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray

Illustrated by Julia Denos. From Audrey Hepburn’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Europe, to a film career, motherhood, and role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, this picture book biography encapsulates Hepburn’s “certain something.” Cardillo’s prose is focused and elegant; Denos’s paintings perfectly depict the delicate beauty and iconic style of her subject. Author and illustrator notes detail the lasting influence of Hepburn’s achievements and charisma. Timeline. Bib.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Women—Biographies; Hepburn, Audrey; Women—Actors; Actors

cline ransome benny goodman and teddy wilson Performing artistsCline-Ransome, Lesa Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black-and-White Jazz Band in History
Gr. K–3   32 pp.  Holiday

Illustrated by James E. Ransome. Goodman grew up in Chicago, a working-class Jewish boy; Wilson lived in Tuskegee, Alabama, a middle-class African American boy. The story of how the two jazz musicians met and formed the Benny Goodman Trio (the “first interracial band to perform publicly”) is recounted in short bursts of text, almost like jazz riffs, accompanied by pencil and watercolor illustrations that capture distinctive moments. Timeline.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Wilson, Teddy; Goodman, Benny; Bands; Musicians; Music—Jazz; Race relations; Jews; African Americans

ko from iowa to broadway Performing artistsKo, Alex Alex Ko: From Iowa to Broadway, My Billy Elliot Story
Gr. 4–6   328 pp.  HarperCollins/Harper

Iowa native Alex Ko trained in gymnastics and competitive dance before focusing on ballet at his dying father’s insistence. Eventually, overcoming injury and financial struggle, Ko went on to star as Billy in Broadway’s Billy Elliot at the age of thirteen. Readers will find this look at the demanding process of making it onstage (and backstage) both insightful and inspiring.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Sports—Gymnastics; Iowa; Performing arts; Plays; Autobiographies; Theater; Dance

powell josephine Performing artistsPowell, Patricia Hruby Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
Gr.  4–6   104 pp.  Chronicle

Illustrated by Christian Robinson. This distinguished biography conveys dancer Josephine Baker’s passion, exuberance, dignity, and eccentricity through words and pictures that nearly jump off the page. Powell doesn’t shy away from the challenges (including racism) Baker faced but emphasizes that Baker never let them overwhelm her joy in performing. Robinson’s highly stylized, boldly colored illustrations are at once sophisticated and inviting to young readers. Reading list.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Race relations; France; Women—Biographies; African Americans; Women—African Americans; Baker, Josephine; Dance; Women—Dancers; Entertainers; Women—Entertainers

robertson legends icons and rebels Performing artistsRobertson, Robbie, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson, and Jared Levine Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World
Middle school, high school   128 pp.  Tundra

In this oversize, weighty volume, music-industry-veteran authors offer collected anecdotal sketches, including personal memories, of twenty-seven music “risk-takers” such as Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan. Their meteoric careers, many touched by tragedy, are justly celebrated. A timeline of these artists’ first recordings (1925–1968) ends the book, which includes two CDs of sparkling audio quality with one iconic song by each artist.
Subjects: Collective biographies; Musicians; Music

From the September 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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7. Disasters

goldsmith bombs over bikini DisastersGoldsmith, Connie Bombs over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster
Middle school, high school   88 pp.  Twenty-First Century

This book offers a riveting tale of the aftermath of U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. The tests themselves and the lives of the Marshall Islanders directly affected by the resulting radiation contamination are described in engrossing detail. Sidebars, quotes from primary sources, and period photographs supplement the informative and thought-provoking narrative. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Modern history; Disasters; Marshall Islands; Atomic bomb; Nuclear weapons; Pacific

hopkinson titanic DisastersHopkinson, Deborah Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
Gr. 4–6   290 pp.  Scholastic

Hopkinson provides young readers with a basic introduction to the event without overdramatizing, drawing unwarranted conclusions, or prolonging the ordeal. Her “characters,” real survivors whose voices relate many of the subsequent events, include crew members as well as travelers in first, second, and third class. Appended material includes chapter notes, sources, archival photos, and short biographies of those mentioned. Timeline. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Modern history; Titanic (Steamship); Disasters; Shipwrecks

rusch eruption DisastersRusch, Elizabeth Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives
Gr. 4–6   76 pp.  Houghton

Scientists in the Field series. Photographs by Tom Uhlman. This terrific series installment features the dedicated geologists of the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, which provides technical expertise in eruption prediction. The portrayal of scientific investigation is exceptional: scientists build and monitor equipment, interview residents, and collect ash and rock samples. Photographs not only feature awe-inspiring shots of volcanoes but also depict human vulnerability to these natural disasters. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Earth science; Natural disasters—volcanoes; Scientists

rustad hurricanes DisastersRustad, Martha E. H. Hurricanes
Gr. K–3   32 pp.  Capstone

Smithsonian Little Explorer series. Lots of photographs, diagrams, and charts support a brief, accessible text to introduce hurricanes, their behavior and characteristics, and the destruction they cause. A world map covers different hurricane seasons, and “famous” storms are briefly profiled. The back matter includes “Critical thinking” questions designed (“using the Common Core”) to encourage further exploration of the topic. Reading list. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Earth science; Natural disasters—hurricanes

sheinkin port chicago 50 DisastersSheinkin, Steve The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
Middle school, high school   190 pp.  Roaring Brook

The Port Chicago 50 was a group of black navy recruits assigned the dangerous job of loading bombs onto battleships. When an (inevitable) explosion left hundreds dead, fifty men refused to go back to work, occasioning a trial for mutiny. An unusual entry point for the study of WWII and the nascent civil rights movement. Photographs are helpful, and documentation is thorough. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Modern history; United States Navy; Trials; Mutiny; California; African Americans; History, Modern—World War II; Sailors; Prejudices; Race relations; Civil rights

From the September 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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8. All about animals

disiena chickens dont fly All about animalsDiSiena, Laura Lyn and Eliot, Hannah Chickens Don’t Fly: And Other Fun Facts
Gr. K–3
   32 pp.  Little Simon

DiSiena, Laura Lyn and Eliot, Hannah Hippos Can’t Swim: And Other Fun Facts
Gr. K–3
   32 pp.  Little Simon

Did You Know? series. Illustrated by Pete Oswald. Each volume presents select trivia about a variety of creatures. For example, the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth, diving at two-hundred miles per hour (from Chickens); and ants take about 250 one-minute naps a day (from Hippos). While the cartoon illustrations make no attempt to be accurate, they add even more humor to these jocular, enjoyable collections.
Subjects: Animal behavior; Humorous stories

jenkins animal book All about animalsJenkins, Steve The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising — Animals on Earth
Gr. 4–6   208 pp.  Houghton

This thoughtful and coherent book begins with a survey of the animal kingdom, then covers “Family,” “Senses,” “Predators,” and “Defenses.” A section on “Animal Extremes” provides Guinness Book–type facts kids love, and the concluding section, “The Story of Life,” explores evolution. The paper-collage art throughout is taken from Jenkins’s many previous books; each image is recontextualized to serve the book’s purpose. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Natural history; Animals

johnson Animal Planet Atlas of Animals All about animalsJohnson, Jinny Animal Planet Atlas of Animals
Gr. 4–6   128 pp.  Millbrook

Johnson, Jinny Animal Planet Wild World: An Encyclopedia of Animals
Gr. 4–6   132 pp.  Millbrook

These two different ways of organizing animals worldwide both begin with overviews of the animal kingdom; Atlas groups animals by continents and regions, Wild by five major types. Both books are lavish with photos, illustrations, and descriptive captions, and colored borders and headers keep things organized. Overlap is inevitable, but the writing is clear, intelligent, and unsensational. Atlas contains a glossary. Ind.
Subjects: Natural history; Encyclopedias; Animals

roop extreme survivors All about animalsRoop, Connie, and Roop, Peter Extreme Survivors
Gr. K–3
   32 pp.  Sterling

Stewart, Melissa World’s Fastest Animals
Gr. K–3
   32 pp.  Sterling

American Museum of Natural History Easy Readers series. From fastest runners and swimmers to deep-water and desert dwellers, these volumes present some extreme traits and habitats of animals ranging from the familiar (cheetahs, polar bears) to the unusual (giant tubeworms, microscopic water bears). The striking color photographs and astounding facts delivered via engaging prose (“It can grab an insect faster than you can blink your eyes”) will captivate beginning readers.
Subjects: Animals; Habitats; Animal behavior

ziefert does a bear wear boots All about animalsZiefert, Harriet Does a Bear Wear Boots?
Gr. K–3  
32 pp.  Blue Apple

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Beaver Sleep in a Bed?
Gr. K–3  
32 pp.  Blue Apple

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Camel Cook Spaghetti?
Gr. K–3  
32 pp.  Blue Apple

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Panda Go to School?
Gr. K–3  
32 pp.  Blue Apple

Ziefert, Harriet Does a Woodpecker Use a Hammer?
Gr. K–3  
32 pp.  Blue Apple

Think About series. Illustrated by Emily Bolam. These animal behavior/social studies hybrids follow a similar pattern. Silly animal questions (“Does a squirrel cook?”) and informative answers (“A polar bear sleeps on the snowy ground inside a den”) are followed by simple discussions of human customs. Bolam’s inviting illustrations make the most of the premise and reflect the text’s informal tone. Prompts for further investigation are appended.
Subjects: Clothing; Customs; Animals; Animal Behavior; Sleep; Cookery; Food; Schools; Tools

From the September 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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9. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame app review

breathe think do menu Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame app reviewSimple app Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (Sesame Workshop, December 2013), starring a blue, horned Sesame Street monster, models the “Breathe, Think, Do” problem-solving strategy for the very youngest (ages 2-5): “First…breathe to calm down after facing a challenge; next, think of plans to solve the problem; and then choose one of the plans.” (From the “About This App” note in the “For Parents” section; useful “Tips and Strategies” are also offered).

The opening screen shows the smiley monster looking up at five easy-to-identify icons (sneaker, backpack, block, slide, bed). The eager narration — in English or Spanish — urges: “Go ahead, tap on ones of these.” Each icon then takes us to a kid-centric scenario; selecting the backpack, for example, brings us to school. The narrator calls attention to visual cues about the monster’s state of mind: “Oh, no. The monster is frowning and it looks like he might cry. He feels sad because he’s not happy that it’s time to say goodbye to his mommy.” (The “sneaker” scenario models frustration at not being able to put on his own shoes; the “block” scenario models disappointment when the monster’s block tower topples over.)

Step 1: Breathe

The next screen shows the still-frowning monster against a red background. “Tap on the monster’s belly to help him put his hands on it. / Tap slowly on his belly.” The monster breathes in and out, and the background color lightens as the monster’s face relaxes (“Look! The monster is calming down. He needs to take another breath. Tap on his belly again”). After three slow breaths: “Yes! He looks much calmer.”

Step 2: Think

On the next screen we “help” the monster think of a plan. Bubbles appear over his head, and kids tap to pop them (the popping sound effects, along with monster-thinking noises, make this extra-fun) while the narrator says: “Think think think…Aha!” In the “Personalize This App” section (in the parents area) you an record your or your child’s voice to encourage the monster: “Think of a plan! Keep thinking! You’ve almost got a plan!”

 Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame app review

The app then presents three problem-solving ideas; in the case of school: 1. find a friend to play with; 2. draw a picture of someone he loves to look at during the day; 3. ask a grownup, like his teacher, for a hug.

breathe think do school plan Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame app review

Kids pick one of the choices, which brings us to:

Step 3: Do

The monster successfully implements the chosen plan. The narrator does a quick recap (“remember: breathe, think, do; you can always ask a grownup for help”), then the monster celebrates with confetti (which kids can tap).

Learning life skills and having silly fun — this is a child-friendly, research-based app that could be very useful for a variety of settings.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 6.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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10. Blasting the canon

As a new English department chair, I’ve already been faced with decisions about book orders. Our high school opened in 2007, but our middle school just opened with a sixth grade class last year. This means it was time for us to create a seventh grade curriculum.

I believe in leadership through structured freedom, so I decided that I would create a list of texts and let the seventh grade English teacher select the books she wanted to use for her class. My instinct, like usual, was to turn to Google. I searched terms such as “books all middle schoolers should read,” “classic literature for middle school,” and “best seventh grade texts.” I scoured random syllabi and reading lists from all over the country.

Though there was variation, by and large the books I kept coming across could be considered part of the literary canon. You could probably guess several of them, and chances are you read many of them if you attended middle school in this country over the last century.

I know I have a habit of blogging about old questions, but here I am with another: how important is it that our students read canonical works?

Do our West Philly middle and high schoolers really need to study Red Badge of Courage or Call of the Wild? Why not The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, or Copper Sun by Sharon Draper?

crane redbadgecourage2 225x300 120x160 Blasting the canon     london callofwild 197x300 105x160 Blasting the canon

graveyard book 107x160 Blasting the canon     yang americanbornchinese 204x300 108x160 Blasting the canon     draper coppersun 198x300 105x160 Blasting the canon

I’m not saying that the newer texts are better. Some are. Some aren’t. However, I do think that many of us—especially those of us in the position to put books in front of kids—need to question our unquestioning allegiance to the “classics.”

I suppose there are two arguments in their defense: 1. These books represent the very best writing in the English language; 2. Students will gain cultural capital from familiarity with these stories.

Yet, neither of these sway me.

I think it’s more accurate to say the canonical works used to represent some the best writing, but times change. Great books are published every year, whether or not they end up on some school’s curriculum or a bestseller list.

As for the cultural capital argument, that seems to me just a straight fallacy. The true value of a book comes not from the power to impress others but from whatever that book impresses upon its reader.

So instead of automatically turning to the canon because of faulty assumptions, let’s trust ourselves to find stories that will speak to our children.

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11. Marla Frazee, wipe that smile off your face!

The story below is one reason we love Marla Frazee. Find out many more by reading her Talks with Roger interview.

I was once a clown, in high school. A bunch of us were nominated to be on the homecoming court — twenty-five or thirty people — and I did not want to be one of those. Not interested in that at all. There was this assembly — we were supposed to appear before the entire student body — so I wore this head-to-toe clown costume. Full-on, with the ruffle and the big shoes and the red nose. I worked on the makeup for a really long time. I drove to school in my ’67 Mustang, smoking a cigarette, and then I had to hide before the assembly because we weren’t allowed to wear costumes to school. So the curtains opened and we were all there, introduced to the students, and then as I was walking off the stage in the dark, I felt this hand grip my upper arm. It was the girls’ vice principal, who hauled me outside, walking me to her office. I’m slapping in my clown shoes, you know. She’s saying to me, as we’re walking side by side, “How dare you disrespect the school this way? How dare you disrespect” the whole homecoming-whatever-it-was. And then she wheels me around and stares at me and goes, “Wipe that smile off your face.” I’m laughing behind this smile. It took me about forty years — I don’t know if there’s something in this book [The Farmer and the Clown] about that, the “Wipe that smile off your face” line, but it definitely has stayed with me my whole life.

Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.

talkswithroger header Marla Frazee, wipe that smile off your face!

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12. Review of Neighborhood Sharks

roy neigborhood sharks Review of Neighborhood Sharksstar2 Review of Neighborhood SharksNeighborhood Sharks:
Hunting with the Great Whites
of California’s Farallon Islands

by Katherine Roy; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Macaulay/Roaring Brook    
48 pp.
9/14    978-1-59643-874-3    $17.99    g

Look closely at the cover of this impressive account of great white sharks off the Northern California coast: that bright red in the illustration is blood trailing from a chunk of freshly killed immature elephant seal — and a signal that Roy’s book will fully examine the sometimes chilling, always fascinating details of what makes this animal a predator. The dramatic main narrative describes a shark swimming and hunting, while well-integrated information-rich sections tell more about the biology and ecology of these sharks and about the scientists who study their role in the Farallon Island ecosystem. The explanations are thorough, even, and informative and benefit from excellent analogies (in both text and illustration) to elucidate such topics as sharks’ streamlined bodies and visual acuity. Roy’s illustrations masterfully employ color and perspective: blood-reds flow through the blues and grays of the sometimes calm, sometimes roiling ocean. Don’t skip the endnotes, which include behind-the-scenes information on Roy and the research she conducted for the book.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. #we need diverse (picture) books

little melba 300x248 #we need diverse (picture) booksOf course we do. Last year’s amazing crop of picture books included those illustrated by artists of color such as Yuyi Morales, Brian Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Angela Dominguez, Bryan Collier, Don Tate, and Kadir Nelson. This year we will see picture books illustrated by Christian Robinson (two of ‘em), Yuyi Morales, Raul Colon, Duncan Tonatiuh, Jason Chin, Susan Guevara, E.B. Lewis, Kadir Nelson, John Holyfield, Pat Cummings, James Ransome….and Christopher Myers and Frank Morrison….and more? I’m not even counting the many international artists who aren’t eligible for the Caldecott. (And my off-the-cuff list also doesn’t take into consideration books like Grandfather Gandhi, not illustrated by a person of color, but featuring diverse characters.)

I don’t know if it’s the raised awareness surrounding last spring’s #weneeddiversebooks campaign or whether in truth the numbers are growing, but it feels like there is a tiny bit more representation this year, at least among the books I’ve seen, and certainly among the ones that are currently rising toward the top of my admire-it pile: Josephine; Draw!; Viva Frida; Separate Is Never Equal; Little Roja Riding Hood. More women, more illustrators of color — although the numbers for that particular overlap are still insupportably low. And although, of course, we still have a lonnnng way to go.

It somehow feels too tentative to make any pronouncements. I think Sam Bloom summed up my cautious optimism in his comment on Robin’s Monday post:

“Of course, this brings me to the single biggest issue I see in the picture book world, which has definitely been publicized well of late: the need for more diverse characters. Of course, there are comparatively few authors/illustrators of color to begin with, another well-known fact. It seems to be getting a bit better – I’ve noticed quite a few REALLY strong books by or about people of color this year – but I wonder if it truly IS better, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m paying close attention to the situation so it seems like more.”

What are you seeing? Are you sensing some movement toward more diversity in this year’s picture books? Does anyone have any numbers to back up (or refute) my admittedly highly anecdotal experience? Equally crucially — is the actual Caldecott committee noticing the strength and award-worthiness of these titles?

 

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14. Does one size fit all?

Stephenson t CA0 popup1 Does one size fit all?

illus. by André da Loba from the New York Times

Leonard Marcus gave a swell talk about Robert McCloskey last night, but what’s really sticking with me is a response he gave to a question at the end about ebooks. Size matters, he essentially said, when it comes to picture books and other books for young children. Of course, we all know this, but I hadn’t thought about the point in the context where Leonard was placing it, that the size and shape of whatever ebook you’re reading is subsumed by the size and shape of whatever screen you’re reading it on. The difference between the board book, picture book and big book editions of Goodnight, Gorilla disappears in your e-reader edition (which–I just tried it–is a disappointing experience indeed). I’m thinking I may need to gin up a jeremiad for our Cleveland presentation on Friday.

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15. Jason Segel, we love you, man

segel nightmares Jason Segel, we love you, manOn Friday Cindy and I went to see actor Jason Segel discuss his new middle-grade novel (cowritten with Kirsten Miller) Nightmares! The sold-out event was sponsored by the Harvard Book Store and the nonprofit writing organization 826 Boston (program coordinator Karen Sama led the conversation with Segel). Cindy loves How I Met Your Mother (even the ending!), I love Freaks & Geeks, and we both love The Muppets. Segel is also the guy you may have seen naked in the very funny Saving Sarah Marshall (which he also wrote), and he was one of the bromantic leads in I Love You, Man.

segel kids Jason Segel, we love you, man

Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter

Nightmares! is his first children’s book, and he kicked off the event by asking everyone in the audience under age fourteen to raise their hands (there were a few). Later on he asked for kid volunteers to come up and read aloud from the book, instead of reading himself, which could have backfired but was awesome. “I’m like the Pied Piper,” Segel quipped as a girl named Tessa, two boys named Sam, and a cutie little one named Lucas came up onstage to read. Afterward he told them, appreciatively, “You’re so much braver than I would have been at that age.”

segel Jason Segel, we love you, man

Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter

The audience participation didn’t stop there. He asked people to share their nightmares; his as a kid involved a witch nibbling his toes (“because I have delectable toes”) and being chased around Dracula’s castle (“it was more Rococo than I would have thought”) which happened so frequently that he discovered a secret room where he could hang out and play video games. (Side note, and there were a lot of those: as a kid, Segel wore a Superman cape under his clothes “just in case” and carried the MYST game book around with him. Also? He’s been 6’4” since age 12 and the other kids used to jump on his back and chant “Ride the oaf!”)

And then there was the singing. During the Q&A a woman nervously asked: “What’s your favorite show tune?” “It’s gotta be the confrontation from Les Miz. Do you know it?” “Um, yes (giggle giggle).” “Ok, do you want to do it? Which part are you going to sing?” She chose Javert, and Jason sang his heart out as Jean Valjean (here’s how he did it with Neil Patrick Harris). The evening ended on an amazing note for fans with Segel at the piano doing the Dracula song (“‘Die… die… die…’ ‘I cahhn’t'”).

segel critter Jason Segel, we love you, man

Cindy in the signing line

If this guy isn’t the nicest, most genuine-seeming Everydude in Hollywood, well, he must be a truly great actor (slash-master-manipulator), because he seemed really thrilled (“This is so much fun! Seeing those kids read up there, that’s the coolest thing ever”) and humbled to be there — even after a two-hour-plus signing line that Cindy waited on. Any “grown man” (he was in his late twenties at the time) who “burst into tears” upon seeing Kermit the Frog “in person” and who also cried while sitting in “kind of a rough pub in London” after finishing Winnie-the-Pooh is a-ok in my book. I’ll even forgive his publicist for ignoring my Five Questions request *cough cough.* Jason Segel, we love you, man.

Quotable dude

Nightmares! was originally a screenplay I wrote at age 21, after Freaks & Geeks ended and I was unemployed and thinking, “I’m going to have to live with my parents forever.”

When I was a kid, movies like Labyrinth and The Goonies and Roald Dahl’s books made me believe I might find buried treasure. There’s still magic out there. You can catch a kid at the right age to say: don’t forget there’s magic…Kids’ imaginations are so much better than what you can put onscreen.

My mentor Judd Apatow said to me, “You’re kind of a weird dude.” Also [after Segel played him the Dracula song] he said: “Don’t ever play that for anyone else ever again.”

I’m willing to sit through the fear of doing something badly to get to passable. I tell myself: “I’m bad at this… right now”…The only thing I’m afraid of is being unprepared.

Coraline really scared me, and I’m a grown man!

Audience question: Who was your favorite actor growing up? Answer: Kermit. When you’re a kid, Kermit is Tom Hanks, Jimmy Stewart.

I wrote The Muppets when I was in London. With all those double-decker buses and furry hats, it’s a very Muppet-y place…The Muppets are Monty Python to a kid.

I did a Muppets screening at the White House and got to meet Barack Obama. He shook my hand and said, “I love you, man,” and I said, “I love you too, Mr. President!” It gets worse. Then I said, “You should come to the screening. There will be free snacks,” and he said, “Yeah, that’s what I’m missing. Not being able to get free snacks.”

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16. Review of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

berry scandalous sisterhood of prickwillow place Review of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow PlaceThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
by Julie Berry
Middle School    Roaring Brook    354 pp.
9/14    978-1-59634-956-6    $15.99    g

This airy confection could not be more different from Berry’s most recent (and pitch-black) novel All the Truth That’s in Me (rev. 11/13). Part murder mystery, part girls’-school story, part dark drawing-room comedy (think Edwin Drood, Arsenic and Old Lace, or the 1980s movie Clue), the novel opens in 1890 England at Saint Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies. The seven students — our heroines — are known throughout the book as Dear Roberta, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Dull Martha, Stout Alice, Smooth Kitty, Pocked Louise, and Dour Elinor. Their headmistress is Mrs. Plackett, but she’s dispatched in the second paragraph (by poison), followed soon afterward by her ne’er-do-well brother, Aldous. The young ladies spend the rest of the book trying to figure out whodunit while also concealing the deaths (burying the bodies in the vegetable garden; having Stout Alice impersonate Mrs. Plackett; bilking their parents for tuition) in order to remain together at the school. Berry takes her madcap seriously, never breaking character when it comes to the old-timey setting or details (a Strawberry Social is the unlikely occasion of a late-in-the-story death). The young ladies, too, are products of their time: each one’s burgeoning independence and coming-into-her-own — largely gained through the murder investigation and/or cover-up, some also through snagging a beau — is satisfying without being too anachronistic. An immensely entertaining, smart, and frothy diversion.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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17. Books that inspire community

Lately — and by accident — I’ve been reading Spanish versions of many French-authored children’s picture books. For some reason, most of the books I’ve recently bought from bookstores in Lima and Buenos Aires to use for storytelling in Spanish were translated from French authors. I didn’t realize it at the time, but once I started to read them together I realized that they shared a strong message about the “we” instead of the “me.”

pedro y la luna Books that inspire communityThis prompted an informal search for other books that would have the same underlining message. For example, Pedro y la Luna by Alice Brière-Hacquet and Célia Chauffrey is about a boy who wants to bring the moon to his mom. To do so, he has to involve his entire community and beyond. Then there is the Portuguese story O Grande Rabanete by Tatiana Belinky. In it, a grandfather decides to plant radishes and progressively needs help with the harvest because of the radishes’ large size.

 Books that inspire communityI then tried to think about other books that send the message of doing things together for a common cause and couldn’t think of many other than the classic stories “The Pied piper of Hamelin” and “The Little Red Hen.” In the 1990s there was The Rainbow Fish by Swiss author-illustrator Marcus Pfister. A fish with the shiniest scales in the sea refuses to share his wealth and then becomes lonely. He rediscovers community only once he shares his scales. And of course, there is also The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, a book published in 1971 that depicts what happens to a verdant land when the “Once-ler” chops down all the truffula trees and drives the (Seussian) animals away. The last hope to rebuild the environment — and the community — is for a boy to plant the last remaining truffula tree seed.

shannon nodavid 224x300 Books that inspire communitySo much of children’s literature, especially today, is about common things that happen to kids, such as the boy a lost his bear and found it swapped in the forest in Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough, or the boy who misbehaves with his mom in No, David! by David Shannon, or the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, no Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. The list is endless.

All this made me think about the often repeated phrase, “literature is life.” So, are these books a reflection of our society? Are children’s books in other societies a reflection of a more “communal” (we) society instead of a more self-centered (me) society? Or is it that younger children relate better to stories that have more of a personal narrative tone? Can anybody think about books that transmit this message in their original languages?

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18. Review of Poisoned Apples

hepperman poisoned apples Review of Poisoned Applesstar2 Review of Poisoned Apples Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
by Christine Heppermann; 
photos by various artists
High School    Greenwillow    106 pp.
10/14    978-0-06-228957-5    $17.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-06-228959-9    $9.99

For this poet, there is no dividing line between fairy tales and reality: “You can lose your way anywhere,” claims the poem with which she begins this collection of fifty pieces on the devastating conjunction of girls’ vulnerability, the rapacious beauty industry, and fairy tales. Caustic, witty, sad, and angry, Heppermann (a former Horn Book reviewer) articulates what some of her readers will no doubt perceive already but what may be news to others: the false promises, seductions, and deathly morass of popular culture’s imagery of girls’ bodies. What makes Heppermann’s poetry exceptional, however, is not the messages it carries but the intense, expressive drive that fuels it. In “The Anorexic Eats a Salad”: “Mountains rise, fall, rise again. / Stars complete their slow trek into oblivion. / A snail tours the length of China’s Great Wall / twice. / All those pesky cancers — cured…She has almost made it through / her first bite.” Or, in “The Wicked Queen’s Legacy”: “It used to be just the one, / but now all mirrors chatter. / In fact, every reflective surface has opinions / on the shape of my nose, the size / of my chest…” These poems dwell fiercely and angrily within the visual and verbal cacophony heard and seen by girls, offering an acerbic critique, mourning, and compassionate, unrelenting honesty.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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19. Week in Review, September 1st-5th

banner weekinreview 550x100 Week in Review, September 1st 5th

This week on hbook.com…

Calling Caldecott returns! Come champion your favorite picture books of the year.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Reviews of the Week:

Read Roger:

Out of the Box:

Calling Caldecott: Dusting off the blog

Lolly’s Classroom:

See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!

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20. More matchy-matchy

Apparently Katie’s not the only one with a matchy-matchy problem. Thanks to Lolly for noticing the similarities between the color palette of my dress (and for taking the picture)

lin dress More matchy matchy

and of Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (reviewed by, well, me, in the September/October 2009 Horn Book Magazine).
where the mountain More matchy matchy

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21. Middle-grade BFFs

The friends you make in childhood can be the best ones of your life. The following books highlight unlikely friendships that are made to last.

curtis madman of piney woods Middle grade BFFs   Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Madman of Piney Woods (companion to Newbery Honor Book Elijah of Buxton) takes place in 1901, with the American Civil War a not-so-distant memory for Buxton’s elders. For thirteen-year-old black Canadian Benji Alston, though, daily life involves coping with two irritatingly gifted younger siblings and dreaming of becoming a newspaper reporter. Benji befriends Alvin “Red” Stockard, an Irish Canadian boy who lives in nearby Chatham, and the two uncover the mystery and tragedy surrounding the supposedly mythical Madman of Piney Woods. A profoundly moving yet also at times very funny novel about family, friendship, community, and the power of words. (Scholastic, 9–13 years)

hahn where i belong Middle grade BFFs“How come some kids are lucky and others aren’t?” asks Brendan, the (unlucky) protagonist of Where I Belong by Mary Downing Hahn. Abandoned at birth by his mother and now, on the verge of failing sixth grade, living with an apparently unloving foster mom, Brendan finds refuge in a secret tree house he builds in the woods, and in tentative friendships with a girl named Shea and with an old man in the woods, whom Brendan initially believes is the “Green Man.” This is quintessential middle-grade realistic fiction, with an unvarnished depiction of the miseries that can be visited upon a quiet sixth grader and the succor that can be found in the hard-won friendship of peers and the attention of understanding elders. (Clarion, 8–11 years)

french my cousins keeper Middle grade BFFsWhen his cousin Bon comes to live at his house, eleven-year-old Kieran is mad: Bon is “weird.” He has a long braid and tattered clothing; smells of sweat and pee; and talks in an unnaturally precise manner, all of which make Bon a target of the cool-kid bullies at school (and ruining Kieran’s chance of hanging out with the cool kids himself). Bon’s only friend is another newcomer, Julia, and Kieran is jealous of their friendship: he wants to be friends with Julia. Bon keeps a notebook filled with fantastical drawings and tales of Bon the Crusader, Kieran the Brave, and Julia the Fair; as the protagonists grow into Bon’s roles for them, My Cousin’s Keeper by Simon French becomes a story of kids who dare to imagine worlds and become who they need to be. (Candlewick, 8–11 years)

turner circa now Middle grade BFFsIn Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner, main character Circa’s father is killed by a tornado while delivering an old photo he’s restored. Then Miles shows up on her family’s doorstep, a boy with amnesia whose only clue to his past is the photograph he’s holding — the very one Circa’s father was delivering when he died. As Circa and her mother care for Miles they uncover a strange series of coincidences, and Circa begins to think the digital changes she and her father made to photographs have come to exist in real life. Does this mean she can bring her father back? Gentle quirkiness and light humor appear throughout Turner’s tale of grief, healing, and friendship. (Disney-Hyperion, 9–13 years)

From the September 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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22. Nature lovers

Back-to-school blues? Give kids these engaging science books — which introduce primary readers to intriguing animals, habitats, natural processes, and conservation causes — to pique scientific curiosity and fuel imagination.

roy neigborhood sharks Nature loversKatherine Roy’s Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands examines the sometimes chilling, always fascinating details of what makes the great white shark an effective predator. The dramatic main narrative describes a shark swimming and hunting; well-integrated, information-rich sections tell more about the biology and ecology of these sharks and about the scientists who study their role in the Farallon Island ecosystem. The explanations are thorough and even, incorporating excellent analogies (in both text and images) to elucidate such topics as sharks’ streamlined bodies and visual acuity. Roy’s illustrations masterfully employ perspective and color: blood-reds flow through the ocean’s blues and grays. (Roaring Brook/Macaulay, 5–8 years)

bang buried Nature loversMolly Bang and Penny Chisholm have previously coauthored two excellent books (Living Sunlight, Ocean Sunlight) on the role of the sun’s energy in powering life processes on Earth. In Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth, Bang and Chisholm explore the production and consumption of fossil fuels, as well as the sobering evidence for the consequences of all that energy use: climate change. The sun itself narrates the “Cycle of Life” — the relationship among photosynthesis (plants), respiration (animals), and energy that results in the fossil fuels so dear to modern civilization. Bang’s illustrations brilliantly represent the chemistry with bright yellow dots of energy and tiny black-and-white molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide. (Scholastic/Blue Sky, 5–8 years)

davies tiny creatures Nature loversIn Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, author Nicola Davies introduces an intriguing concept: that there are vast quantities of living things (microbes) that are smaller than the eye can see. She does it through creative, relatable analogies and itchy-but-cool facts about the microbes that live on and in us (“Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth”). The tone is light and inquisitive yet also scientifically precise, covering topics such as the shape and variety of microbes, their function, and their reproduction. Emily Sutton’s colorful, friendly illustrations accurately render the microorganisms’ shapes. (Candlewick, 4–7 years)

duke in the rainforest Nature loversKate Duke’s In the Rainforest, a Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series entry, welcomes readers to a unique habitat as two youngsters pack for, travel to, and walk through a tropical rainforest. The main text and the children’s tour guide (in conversational speech balloons) cover the rainforest’s physical features and its abundant diversity of plants and animals. Cheerful mixed-media illustrations show the children enjoying climbing trees, journaling, and learning. When leaving, the visitors encounter a vast wasteland where trees and wildlife have been destroyed, which prompts a matter-of-fact discussion of the repercussions of such destruction. Rather than end on a negative note, however, the guide and the children return to the rainforest — as the guide says, there’s “lots more to show you.” (HarperCollins/Harper, 4–7 years)

From the September 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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23. From the Editor – September 2014

roger right2 From the Editor   September 2014I hope you will join us for the fifth annual Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, “Mind the Gaps,” on October 11th at Simmons College in Boston. This year’s program will examine the various diversity gaps in children’s book publishing, whether they be underrepresentation of nonwhite perspectives or the decreasing proportion of nonfiction titles. The colloquium takes place the day after the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards (for which a ticket will be provided to all HBAS attendees), and speakers will include all three winners as well as librarian and 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, who will give the keynote address. For more information about the colloquium and to register, please visit http://www.hbook.com/bghb-hbas/.

roger signature From the Editor   September 2014

Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

From the September 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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24. Abhorsen read-alikes

nix sabriel Abhorsen read alikesLike me, my friend Marie (hi Marie!) is a huge fan of Garth Nix’s Abhorsen YA fantasy trilogy. And like me, she’s been patiently(ish) anticipating Clariel, the prequel publishing in October, for years.

A lot of them.

Unlike me, however, she doesn’t have an ARC…so I’m mailing her my reviewer copy. Here are some Abhorsen read-alikes — featuring badass heroines, restless dead, adventure, and a hint of romance, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide — in case you can’t wait until October either!

armstrong sea of shadows Abhorsen read alikesEvery year, the Seeker, currently teen Ashyn, enters the Forest of the Dead to quiet damned spirits. The Keeper, Ashyn’s twin Moria, remains in the village as protector. But things go terribly awry, and the sisters are forced to travel across the Wastes to save their kingdom from the undead. Author Kelley Armstrong’s elaborate world is populated with complex characters in Age of Legends series-opener Sea of Shadows. (HarperCollins, 2014)

bick ashes Abhorsen read alikesAn electromagnetic pulse kills most of the country’s population instantly at the beginning of Ilsa J. Bick’s trilogy opener Ashes; many of those left become zombielike, “brain-zapped” cannibals. Survivor Alex teams up with eight-year-old Ellie and soldier Tom to search for other people. The trio’s deepening bond adds to the already high tension. This horror/survival story (with graphic violence) presents an intriguing take on zombie fiction. Look for sequels Shadows and Monsters. (Egmont, 2011)

bow sorrows knot Abhorsen read alikesAfter Otter’s mother, a binder of the dead, commits suicide rather than allow herself to be possessed by a ghostly White Hand, Otter and her friends venture beyond the bounds of their forest settlement to find the White Hands’ origin. The spirit-filled fantasy world of Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot gives a hair-raising sensation of being surrounded by unknown dangers and evokes Native American cultures without caricaturing them. (Scholastic/Levine, 2013)

burtenshaw jenna Abhorsen read alikesIn Shadowcry, the first volume in the Secrets of Wintercraft series, fifteen-year-old Kate discovers she’s a Skilled, able to see and manipulate the “veil” between life and death. Moreover, she learns her ancestors wrote the coveted tome Wintercraft, which explains the veil’s secrets. Author Jenna Burtenshaw’s elegant, complex prose sweeps readers along to a dark world teeming with creepy underground passageways, abandoned buildings, and graveyards. Kate is a bright spot, facing each obstacle with defiance and determination. The series continues with Blackwatch and Winterveil. (Greenwillow, 2011)

moore texas gothic Abhorsen read alikesStriving for normality in her magic-practicing family, Amy is happy for a summer of hard work at her aunt’s Texas ranch. But the deathly cold apparition in Amy’s bedroom pulls her into a dangerous mystery. Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Texas Gothic mixes suspense, humor, and lots of local flavor in this lively teen ghost story — with sex appeal — that’s one part Texas history and one part CSI. (Delacorte, 2011)

lafevers grave mercy Abhorsen read alikesRunning from an arranged marriage, seventeen-year-old Ismae lands up at St. Mortain’s convent, discovers she has special gifts (and that her true father is Mortain, the god of Death), and trains to become an assassin — the true vocation of a daughter of Death. Robin LaFevers’s Grave Mercy is a romantic fantasy, set in an alternate, fictional, quasi-late medieval Brittany. The His Fair Assassin series continues with Dark Triumph; volume three, Mortal Heart, will be published this November.

ryan forest of hands and teeth Abhorsen read alikesOnly a fence separates Mary’s village from the Unconsecrated — zombielike creatures that must be kept at bay in order for her primitive post-apocalyptic community, governed by a religious sisterhood, to survive. Carrie Ryan’s inventive horror story The Forest of Hands and Teeth combines mystery, romance, and suspense as it records Mary’s quest to search beyond the barrier for alternatives to the life she has always known. Also look for companion books The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places. (Delacorte, 2009)

archived Abhorsen read alikesIn The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Mackenzie’s job is to return the wakeful dead to the Archive, a repository of all human memory. Persuading the dead to return to their rightful resting place often involves kick-ass combat, but this is no common policing-the-supernatural romantic thriller: Schwab writes of death, sorrow, and family love with a light, intelligent touch and inventive vigor. The story continues in sequel The Unbound. (Hyperion, 2013)

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25. Here we go again!

backtoschool 300x296 Here we go again!By now, I’m guessing all the teachers out there are fully back in school — not just in meetings, but standing in a classroom in front of new students. Those of you in southern US states have been back for nearly a month while here in Boston students had their first day last week.

I’d like to thank our diligent bloggers who kept writing all summer, as well as everyone who is reading and sharing this blog. The way I see it, commenting is what breathes life into a blog and allows it to live up to its full potential. In the same way that we want picture books to make full use of their medium — trim size, dust jackets, page turns — blog posts ought to start an online conversation. Since we started in February, we have accumulated 90+ posts and 400+ comments. Excelsior!

I’ll keep putting up posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few more weeks, but if Calling Caldecott changes to a T-Th schedule, I might move us over to M-W-F.

Lauren Adams, my colleague at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will be using this blog for her adolescent lit class book discussions just as I did for my children’s lit class last spring. We hope you will stick with us during that time (Oct. 20 to Dec. 1) adding your opinions in the comments and making our class discussions that much richer.

I’d like to ask all of you to spread the word about the Lolly’s Classroom blog to all your teacher friends. And when you use the blog, be sure to explore the “tags” found at the bottom of each post. Clicking on one of the tags will take you to more posts covering the same ages — e.g. middle school, grade 2 — or topics — common core, ELLs, picture books. (Actually, this post won’t have any tags because it’s not about anything useful. But trust me, all the other posts have them!)

Finally, all of us here wish all teachers everywhere a successful year full of exciting connections between books and children.

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