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Results 1 - 25 of 66
1. Review of The Madman of Piney Woods

MadmanPineyWoods Review of The Madman of Piney Woodsstar2 Review of The Madman of Piney Woods The Madman of Piney Woods
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Intermediate, Middle School   Scholastic    370 pp.
9/14    978-0-545-15664-6    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-545-63376-5    $16.99

In this companion to Newbery Honor Book Elijah of Buxton (rev. 11/07), it is now 1901, and for thirteen-year-old Benji Alston of Buxton, Ontario, the American Civil War is ancient history — great material for war games, but tedious when the Buxton elders harp on it. Life for this African Canadian nature lover involves coping with two irritatingly gifted younger siblings, spending time with his best friend Spence, and dreaming of becoming a newspaper reporter. In nearby Chatham lives Alvin “Red” Stockard, a scientifically inclined Irish Canadian boy whose borderline-abusive grandmother tells horrific stories of the Potato Famine and coffin ships on the St. Lawrence River, tales that, in her mind, justify her inflexible hatred of Canadians and “anyone whose skin is darker than [hers].” The two boys eventually meet and become friends, discovering unexpected similarities in each other and their family histories. And then there is that supposedly mythical woodland monster — called the Madman of Piney Woods by Buxton residents and the South Woods Lion Man by Chatham folk — who tragically and irrevocably brings the past into the present for both boys. Curtis takes his young protagonists — and his readers — on a journey of revelation and insight. Woven throughout this profoundly moving yet also at times very funny novel are themes of family, friendship, community, compassion, and, fittingly, the power of words.

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

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2. Review of Gaston

dipucchio gaston Review of Gastonstar2 Review of Gaston Gaston
by Kelly DiPucchio; 
illus. by Christian Robinson
Preschool, Primary    Atheneum    40 pp.
6/14    978-1-4424-5102-5    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-5103-2    $12.99

Bumptious Gaston looms over his elegant poodle sisters Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La; they’re “no bigger than teacups,” but he’s “the size of a teapot.” Like a good twenty-first-century parent, Mrs. Poodle praises her well-mannered daughters (“Good.” Well done.” “Very nice”), while Gaston gets an encouraging “Nice try” for his sloppy slurping. Out in the park, they meet a family like theirs but in reverse: bulldogs Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno and their petite sister Antoinette. Were Gaston and Antoinette switched at birth? Should they trade families? It seems like the right thing to do until they try it, only to discover that what looks right doesn’t always feel right. So they trade back, to general contentment. DiPucchio’s lively, occasionally direct-address text was made to be read aloud (“And they were taught to walk with grace. Never race! Tip. Toe. Tippy-toe. WHOA!”). In Robinson’s elegant illustrations, the dogs’ basic white forms — on saturated acrylic painted backgrounds of cheery sky blues and grass greens — have minimal yet wonderfully expressive facial details; with the simplest of settings, all eyes will be on the action. Excellent messages about family, differences, and friendship are implicit. But first, just share and enjoy.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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3. Review of Dust of Eden

nagai dust of eden Review of Dust of EdenDust of Eden
by Mariko Nagai
Intermediate, Middle School    Whitman    122 pp.
3/14    978-0-8075-1739-0    $16.99

In this verse novel, we first meet Mina Tagawa and her Seattle-based family just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Shortly after, her father is imprisoned, and the rest of the family — Mina, her mother, grandfather, and older brother Nick — are sent to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, where they live in poor conditions for three years. Over the course of that time, Mina’s beloved grandfather dies, and Nick enlists and is sent to the European front. Interspersed throughout the main text are letters Mina writes to her father, to her best friend from home, and to Nick; Mina’s school assignments; and, most poignantly, honest letters about the war that Nick writes from Europe but can never send. The sheer volume of issues raised in the slim novel (racism, tensions between immigrant generations, the nature of American identity and patriotism, the liberation of Dachau, the Hiroshima bombing) can overwhelm the personal story, leaving readers somewhat disconnected from Mina. However, Nagai’s writing is spare and rhythmic — it’s real poetry.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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4. Review of Mysterious Patterns

campbell mysterious patterns Review of Mysterious PatternsMysterious Patterns:
Finding Fractals in Nature

by Sarah C. Campbell; photos 
by Sarah C. Campbell and 
Richard P. Campbell
Primary    Boyds Mills    32 pp.
4/14    978-1-62091-627-8    $16.95

Bring up the math term fractals in a roomful of adults, and it’s likely quite a few eyes will glaze over. Yet wife-and-husband team Sarah and Richard Campbell (Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, rev. 5/10) succeeds in making fractals accessible and engaging to — get this — the elementary-school crowd. Sarah Campbell’s writing is clear, fluid, and concise, effortlessly so. She starts off with familiar examples of man-made shapes, such as spheres, cones, and cylinders, as well as items in nature that approximate these perfect shapes (spherical tomatoes, conical icicles, cylindrical cucumbers). She then moves on to nature’s “rough, bristly, and bumpy” shapes — complex shapes ignored by scientists until Benoit Mandelbrot arrived on the scene, coining the word fractals in 1975. Mandelbrot noticed that the shapes of trees, broccoli, and ferns all share a common pattern: each has “smaller parts that look like the whole shape.” Take broccoli, for example: as parts of a head of broccoli are lopped off, the smaller pieces look like the original whole head. Glossy, well-designed pages feature crisp, up-close photographs, which pair perfectly with the text — making this the go-to choice for introducing fractals to children (and grownups). Included are a brief glossary, a “Make Your Own Fractal” activity, and an afterword by a Mandelbrot colleague.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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5. Review of Rules of Summer

Rules of Summer
by Shaun Tan; illus. by the author
Primary     Levine/Scholastic     56 pp.
5/14     978-0-545-63912-5     $18.99     g

“This is what I learned last summer: Never leave a red sock on the clothesline. Never eat the last olive at a party. Never drop your jar.” The narrator enumerates a dozen other rules, which are printed on left-hand pages that are marked by stains and wrinkles, smudged fingerprints, and streaks of colored-pencil scribbles. The right-hand pages depict, in thickly textured paintings, a young boy (presumably the narrator) and an older boy (perhaps his brother) in a variety of enigmatically surreal situations. The frenemy quality that characterizes many sibling relationships gradually reveals itself here, as the rules seem to be dictated by the older boy, and the younger one never seems to do anything right. They fight, and the younger boy finds himself confined to a prison-like train moving through a dreary subterranean gray landscape for several wordless spreads before the older boy rescues him, restoring peace and harmony. Rules of Summer delivers what Tan’s fans have come to expect: superb artwork that elicits both a cerebral and emotional response and that, when coupled with the text, invites readers to plumb the mysterious depths of the human experience.

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6. Review of The Pilot and the Little Prince

sis pilot and the little prince Review of The Pilot and the Little PrinceThe Pilot and the Little Prince:
The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

by Peter Sís; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Foster/Farrar    48 pp.
5/14    978-0-374-38069-4    $18.99    g

On glorious blue endpapers, an airplane loops across a map of the world, its contrail made of words that seem to dissolve on the page. The pointillist style of the map’s outline suggests both stargazing and looking through a microscope. So Sís foreshadows the scope of this picture book biography, simultaneously grand and intimate, and its tone: subtle, playful, and mysterious. The narrative includes a history of airplanes and pilots, the beginnings of air mail, two world wars, scenes on four continents, and an extraordinary number of plane crashes, all augmenting the central story of Antoine, the golden-haired boy who never stopped exploring and adventuring, in the air and on the page. The main text, a fairly clear line through Saint-Exupéry’s life, is supplemented with myriad facts about his world, arranged in delicate circles around the edges of Sís’s signature illustrated medallions. Here you can find information on Saint-Exupéry’s family tree or the perfume inspired by his book Night Flight or pithy anecdotes about his writing life. Visually stunning, this impressive accumulation of words, pictures, and design takes you to The Little Prince (rev. 5/43), or back to it, with fresh understanding and admiration.

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7. Review of Here Comes the Easter Cat

underwood here comes the easter cat Review of Here Comes the Easter CatHere Comes the Easter Cat
by Deborah Underwood; 
illus. by Claudia Rueda
Preschool    Dial    80 pp.
1/14    978-0-8037-3939-0    $16.99    g

Cat discovers an advertisement for the Easter Bunny’s arrival on the front endpapers of this witty offering, and from the very first page he is unhappy about it. The text addresses Cat directly throughout the book, and he responds using placards, humorous expressions, and body language to convey his emotions to great effect. When asked what’s wrong, Cat explains that he doesn’t understand why everyone loves the Easter Bunny. To assuage Cat’s jealousy, the text suggests that he become the Easter Cat and “bring the children something nice too.” Intrigued, Cat plans his gift idea (chocolate bunnies with no heads), transportation method (a motorcycle faster than that hopping bunny), and a sparkly outfit (complete with top hat). But multiple naps are an important part of Cat’s daily routine. When he discovers that the Easter Bunny doesn’t take any naps while delivering all his eggs, a forlorn Cat devises an unselfish way he can instead assist the hard-working rabbit. Rueda expertly uses white space, movement, and page turns to focus attention on Cat and the repartee. The combination of Underwood’s knowledgeable authorial voice and Rueda’s loosely sketched, textured ink and colored-pencil illustrations make this an entertaining, well-paced tale for interactive story hours. And if he isn’t going to usurp the Easter Bunny, then clever Cat will just have to take over another ho-ho-holiday.

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8. Review of From There to Here

croza from there to here Review of From There to HereFrom There to Here
by Laurel Croza; illus. by Matt James
Primary, Intermediate    Groundwood    32 pp.
5/14    978-1-55498-365-0    $18.95
e-book ed.  978-1-55498-366-7    $16.95

In the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award-winning I Know Here (rev. 5/10), the young narrator knows she and her family will soon be leaving their home in the glorious wilderness of Saskatchewan, and in this sequel, so they do. The Toronto of the book’s era (early 1960s) might look positively quaint to us, but to the girl it is completely exotic. “There” she lived on a gravel road without a name; “Here” she lives on the well-paved Birch Street. “There”: the aurora borealis; “Here”: “street lamps in a straight row.” But just when you think the book is a paean to the forest primeval, in comes new neighbor Anne, “eight, almost nine” just like the girl, who back in the bush had no friend her own age. The palette of the Toronto scenes is predominately blue-sky sunny, reflecting the story’s ultimate optimism, although the wild dark colors of the forest continue their hold on the girl’s memories and in James’s paintings, where images of moose and pine trees rest matter-of-factly within the confines of the girl’s new house on Birch Street (birchless, by the way). While the bike helmets on Anne and our girl are more than a touch anachronistic, we know that the ride begun at the close of the book promises both amity and adventure.

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9. Review of We Were Liars

lockhart we were liars Review of We Were Liarsstar2 Review of We Were Liars We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
High School    Delacorte    228 pp.
5/14    978-0-385-74126-2    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-375-98994-0    $20.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-375-98440-2    $10.99

Cadence Sinclair Eastman, eldest grandchild in a Kennedy-esque clan, narrates this story about her wealthy family, one that’s rife with secrets and is broken under the hood. Cady begins the book by divulging an unspecified accident that happened during her fifteenth summer on the family’s private island — where the heart of this novel takes place — that left her with debilitating migraines and memory loss. Although her mother demands perpetual stoicism (“Be normal…Right now…Because you are. Because you can be”), Cady takes comfort from her close relationships with her cousins Johnny and Mirren and from her sweet, tentative romance with family friend Gat. As the intriguing, atmospheric story goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that the protagonist, beautiful and emotionally fragile, is also an unreliable narrator, and what follows is a taut psychological mystery marked by an air of uneasy disorientation. And this angst snowballs, even (especially) as pieces of that fifteenth summer begin to fit together. The ultimate reveal is shocking both for its tragedy and for the how-could-I-have-not-suspected-that? feeling it leaves us with. But we didn’t, which is Lockhart’s commendable triumph.

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10. Review of Josephine

powell josephine Review of Josephinestar2 Review of Josephine Josephine:
The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

by Patricia Hruby Powell; 
illus. by Christian Robinson
Intermediate, Middle School    Chronicle    104 pp.
2/14    978-1-4521-0314-3    $17.99

To describe Josephine Baker’s life as “dazzling” is not an exaggeration. In this incomparable biography both Powell and Robinson convey the passion, exuberance, dignity, and eccentricity of their subject through words and pictures that nearly jump off the page. There is a surprise at every turn as we learn how Baker, at fifteen, hid inside a costume trunk to stow away with a dance troupe. We see how she managed to stand out in a chorus line by crossing her eyes and acting goofy to win over audiences. We find her walking down the Champs-Élysées with her pet leopard, Chiquita, who wore a diamond choker. You think her life couldn’t get any more interesting? Wait until you hear about her years as a spy for the French Resistance. Or about the twelve children she adopted from all over the world (her “rainbow tribe”), to prove that people of different races could live together. Matter-of-factly introducing the racism her subject encountered throughout her life, Powell doesn’t shy away from the challenges Baker faced, but she makes clear that Baker never let them overwhelm the joy she got from performing and living life to its fullest. Robinson’s highly stylized illustrations, using bold colors and a flat perspective, are at once sophisticated and inviting to young readers. Even the few pages without pictures are made visually interesting by the broad strokes of acrylic paint in the background and by the clean typeface that judiciously uses uppercase to accentuate important words or lines in the text. Direct quotes from Baker — translated from the French, of course — are interspersed throughout. C’est magnifique!

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11. Review of West of the Moon

preus west of the moon Review of West of the Moonstar2 Review of West of the Moon West of the Moon
by Margi Preus
Intermediate, Middle School    Amulet/Abrams    216 pp.
4/14    978-1-4197-0896-1    $16.95

Preus, whose Shadow on the Mountain (rev. 11/12) was set in Nazi-occupied Norway, here takes readers to mid-nineteenth-century Norway in a tale strongly infused with myth. Fourteen-year-old Astri is determined to go to America to find her widowed father. But first she must escape the brutish goat herder to whom her greedy aunt and uncle have sold her, free the other young captive he’s been hiding, and rescue her little sister Greta from their aunt and uncle. Astri tells her story in three parts: her time slaving away for smelly Svaalberd the goatman, her discovery of the mysterious girl hidden in the storehouse, and her daring retrieval of Greta; the girls’ frantic flight through the countryside; and, finally, the ocean voyage to America, which ends on a heartbreaking yet hopeful note. Several Norwegian folktales are seamlessly integrated into the fast-paced, lyrically narrated story, which features a protagonist as stalwart and fearless as any fairy-tale hero. A glossary and select bibliography are appended along with an author’s note listing the folktales referenced and quoting the 1851 diary entry (by Preus’s great-great-grandmother) that inspired the novel.

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12. Review of Sugar Hill

weatherford sugar hill Review of Sugar HillSugar Hill:
Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood

by Carole Boston Weatherford; 
illus. by R. Gregory Christie
Primary    Whitman    32 pp.
2/14    978-0-8075-7650-2    $16.99

“Sugar Hill, Sugar Hill where life is sweet” repeats throughout this rhymed tribute to Harlem’s storied neighborhood, the home of many well-to-do African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. Although we are told about the “doctors and lawyers [who] live next door / to the owners of a corner store,” most of the book focuses on some of Sugar Hill’s most famous residents, particularly those who lived there during the Harlem Renaissance, such as Paul Robeson, Aaron Douglas, Lena Horne, Thurgood Marshall, and W. E. B. Du Bois. We also see Faith Ringgold as a child, with a visual reference to Tar Beach that many children will recognize. Some of Christie’s pastel-hued illustrations show us street views of the neighborhood and, through windows, offer glimpses into people’s lives (e.g., one picture shows Count Basie and Duke Ellington making music together while across the street we see Zora Neale Hurston working at her typewriter). The paintings and Weatherford’s poetry give a strong sense of vibrant simultaneous action, and neither slides into nostalgia. An author’s note provides some additional background on Sugar Hill, as well as a few lines about each of the famous people mentioned in the book.

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13. Review of Treasury of Egyptian 
Mythology

napoli treasury of egyptian mythology Review of Treasury of Egyptian 
MythologyTreasury of Egyptian Mythology:
Classic Stories of Gods,
Goddesses, Monsters & Mortals

by Donna Jo Napoli; 
illus. by Christina Balit
Intermediate, Middle School    National Geographic    192 pp.    10/13    978-1-4263-1380-6    $24.95
Library ed.  978-1-4263-1381-3    $33.90

As she did for her Treasury of Greek Mythology (rev. 1/12), Napoli brings a storyteller’s art and a scholar’s diligence to the myriad “slippery, entangled” deities of ancient Egypt, a pantheon generated over millennia, its gods multiplying or merging in response to an evolving civilization. Skillfully structuring her narrative from early creation stories to the Third Dynasty scholar Imhotep (deified two thousand years after his death), she weaves a well-chosen sample of myths into a disarmingly informal narrative spiced with plausible dynamics (“Set wasn’t in his right mind. The maiden was luscious; he was hot-blooded. Blind to the trap”). A scrupulous care for words, for language, and for the ideas they reflect all shine here. Illustrator Balit gathers ancient Egyptian forms and motifs into dynamic compositions, animating postures and perspectives for double-page-spread portraits and action-filled vignettes and enriching her illustrations with the colors of river and desert, pots and stones — carnelian, turquoise, topaz, lapis lazuli. Excellent front and back matter includes annotated lists of gods, bibliographies of sources and recommended reading, an index, sources for photos of artifacts, and — best of all — Napoli’s cogent rationale for her narrative choices, including using Egyptian names (Aset, Usir) rather than the more familiar Greek (Isis, Osiris). Beautiful and indispensable.

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14. Review of The Tree House that Jack Built

verburg tree house that jack built Review of The Tree House that Jack BuiltThe Tree House that Jack Built
by Bonnie Verburg; 
illus. by Mark Teague
Primary    Orchard/Scholastic    32 pp.
5/14    978-0-439-85338-5    $17.99    g

This version of the old cumulative rhyme “The House that Jack Built” grabs kids right from the start: the cover shows a small boy waving from one of many balconies in a multilevel structure built in a colossal tree. The book begins with “the fly / that buzzes by / the tree house / that Jack built”; on the next page, a sleepy lizard “snaps at the fly / that buzzes by.” Children will be on the lookout for the next animal, as they each appear in the previous picture, and they will also want a chance to pore over the acrylic paintings that fill every page. Jack has indeed created “marvelous things” in his tree house, from a rabbit-powered fan for the hammock, where a monkey lounges, to an ingenious Rube Goldberg device with pulleys and a waterwheel. The animals stop chasing and pecking and swatting at one another when Jack rings the bell signaling the beginning of storytime, at which he reads them…The Tree House that Jack Built. Both text and pictures expand out beyond the tree to the whales in the sea before Jack and his cat settle down to sleep in a peaceful ending. A great storytime book with its bouncy rhymes and big pages, it is also a good book to share one-on-one, rewarding repeated porings-over of the pictures.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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15. Review of Beyond Magenta

Beyond Magenta:kuklin beyond magenta Review of Beyond Magenta
Transgender Teens Speak Out
by Susan Kuklin
High School    Candlewick    182 pp.
2/14    978-0-7636-5611-9    $22.99
e-book ed.  978-0-7636-7035-1    $22.99

Rather than attempting to convey the spectrum of transgender experience through a multitude of voices, Kuklin tries something different here, focusing on just six young people whose gender identity is something other than what it was labeled at birth. All six take gender-altering hormones; four were birth-designated male and two female, but in all cases there is no confusion about who they are now. Christina, born Matthew, looks forward to a complete transition (“It would be so great if I could get an operation, if I could get my vagina”), while Cameron says, “I like to be recognized as not a boy and not a girl. I’m gender queer, gender fluid, and gender other.” In her edited transcriptions of the interviews, Kuklin lets her subjects speak wholly for themselves, and while their bravery is heartening, their bravado can be heartbreaking. But who expects teenagers to be tentative? Photographs (of most of the subjects) are candid and winning; and appended material, including Kuklin’s explanation of her interview process, a Q&A with the director of a clinic for transgendered teens, and a great resource list, is valuable.

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16. Review of Ballad

blexbolex ballad Review of BalladBallad
by Blexbolex; trans. from the 
French by Claudia Z. Bedrick; 
illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Enchanted Lion    280 pp.
11/13    978-1-59270-137-7    $22.95

The French illustrator (Seasons, rev. 7/10; People, rev. 9/11) is as provocative as ever in this graphic celebration — and parody — of the very idea of story. Like Dr. Seuss’s And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), Ballad compounds the fantastical — literally, here: each chapter has twice the pages, less two, of its predecessor (4, 6, 10, 18…); at 130 pages, the seventh and last chapter is half the book — just one instance of Blexbolex’s intricate crafting. Meanwhile, the story expands from chapter one’s uneventful walk (“The school, the road, home”) to closer observation of the real world before entering an imagined world and its characters (“the stranger” — storyteller, musician, hero; “bandits” resembling Pinocchio’s Cat and Fox; “the witch”). Each chapter begins with a précis, but it is Blexbolex’s square illustrations, captioned with just a couple of nouns, that convey the action and accumulate references—a queen, a kidnapping, a dragon, a volcano, mountains, a waterfall, a castle, a captive elf, night, storm, rescue, escape. Ultimately, at dawn, the stranger and queen arrive “home.” Blexbolex’s simple forms range in colors from gentle blues and greens to the arresting yellow of the stranger’s raincoat and his trouser’s fluorescent pink; coarse grids of halftone dots add modeling and subtlety to the elegantly composed scenes. An intriguing book — one to unravel, decode, and ponder in successive re-readings.

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17. Review of The Children of the King

hartnett children of the king Review of The Children of the Kingstar2 Review of The Children of the King The Children of the King
by Sonya Hartnett
Intermediate, Middle School    Candlewick    266 pp.
3/14    978-0-7636-6735-1    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-7636-7042-9    $16.99

Continuing her string of novels exploring the effects of war on innocents (The Silver Donkey, rev. 9/06; The Midnight Zoo, rev. 9/11), Hartnett’s latest book tackles the home front. In the early days of World War II, twelve-year-old Cecily Lockwood, her older brother Jeremy, and their mother flee London for the safety of Uncle Peregrine’s country manor. Jeremy chafes at being packed off to the country, since he desperately wants to contribute to the war effort, and tensions escalate between mother and son. Meanwhile, Cecily and an evacuee named May discover two boys dressed in fifteenth-century clothing hiding in the nearby ruins of Snow Castle, as Uncle Peregrine begins to recount the legend of Richard III and the young “Princes in the Tower.” As always, Hartnett’s gift for language deftly conveys both the sublime and the mundane in life. “[The sun’s] heatless light reached over miles of marsh…and finally crawled, with a daddy-longlegs’s fragility, up the walls of Heron Hall to Cecily’s window.” Hartnett grounds the relatively minor fantasy presence in the book with a heartfelt examination of the pain and hardships, endured by civilians in wartime. Cecily is a naive, spoiled, but well-intentioned heroine, effectively contrasted by the quietly independent and mature May and impetuous, brave Jeremy. Over the course of the story, Hartnett’s characters waver between feelings of helplessness, anger, and fear; ultimately, they find the necessary resolve to carry on.

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18. Review of Pure Grit

farrell pure grit Review of Pure GritPure Grit:
How American World War II
Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific

by Mary Cronk Farrell
Middle School, High School    Abrams    160 pp.
2/14    978-1-4197-1028-5    $24.95

There are many books written about young people enlisting in the military, being unprepared for the horrors of battle or tortures of capture, serving bravely, and coming home. But women? In direct fire? In POW camps? During World War II? Not so many, a void Farrell admirably fills with this account of the more than one hundred army and navy nurses who served in the Philippines during the bombing and evacuation of Manila, the Battle of Bataan, and the evacuation and surrender of Corregidor. During every battle and every retreat, and even within the walls of the POW camps (where many were incarcerated from 1942 to 1945), these nurses cared for the injured under the most primitive of conditions. Using information taken mainly from historical interviews and modern correspondence with the subjects’ relatives, Farrell directly confronts the horrors of war and the years of inhumane treatment in the POW camps. These women — malnourished, ill with diseases such as malaria, dysentery, and beriberi —
 established multiple hospital sites and often shouldered doctors’ medical duties. Many returned home with disabilities and lifelong medical problems; though many suffered from PTSD, no mental health services were available to them. The book design is double-columned utilitarianism; archival photographs vary in effectiveness: many are posed group shots while others are (understandably) grainy, offering context over clarity. The account concludes with a timeline, glossary, list of nurses, documentation, bibliography, suggested websites, and an index.

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19. Review of Sophie Sleeps Over

russo sophie sleeps over Review of Sophie Sleeps OverSophie Sleeps Over
by Marisabina Russo; 
illus. by the author
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    32 pp.
3/14    978-1-59643-933-7    $16.99    g

Sophie and Olive are BBFFs (best bunny friends forever). When Olive announces a sleepover birthday party, Sophie is excited to go (“‘Sleepover parties are my favorite kind,’ said Sophie, even though she had never been to one”). She packs her overnight bag, puts on her tiara, and heads over to Olive’s. She gets a rude awakening, though, when she knocks on Olive’s front door and it’s opened by Penelope, who purports to be “‘Olive’s best friend.’ ‘No, I’m her best friend,’ said Sophie, but all of a sudden she wasn’t so sure.” During the party Penelope undercuts her at every turn (“You could just keep score,” Penelope suggests during ping-pong), and things come to a head over Sophie’s best-friend birthday gift to Olive. After lights-out, though, the competing bunny girls reach détente over their inability to sleep and missing their favorite dolls, paving the way for a new three-way best-friendship. Russo knows her way around drawing rabbit-children (The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds; A Very Big Bunny, rev. 1/10), and in her tidy gouache illustrations these three bunnies, dressed in their birthday party best, display clear emotions that will be immediately recognizable to young readers and listeners. Friendship bliss, anticipation, hurt feelings, homesickness — all are familiar to (human) kids and are all conveyed with respect and sensitivity.

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20. Review of Caminar

brown caminar Review of Caminarstar2 Review of Caminar Caminar
by Skila Brown
Middle School    Candlewick    197 pp.
3/14    978-0-7636-6516-6    $15.99    g

“Forest sounds / all around / but on the ground / the sound / of Me / grew. Echoed. / I heard a path I could not see.” Exquisitely crafted poems are the basis of an unusually fine verse novel set in 1981, in the middle of the Guatemalan civil war. When the government helicopters appear in the air over the small village of Chopán, young Carlos obeys his mother when she tells him to go into the forest to hide. When all is quiet, he climbs down from his tree and soon comes across a group of four guerrilla rebel soldiers, lost in the forest. They confirm his greatest fears — that Chopán was burned to the ground, and that the people there were massacred by the government soldiers. Wracked with survivor’s guilt, Carlos begins to walk — caminar — on a mission to reach his grandmother’s village at the top of the mountain, to warn them about the helicopters. The poems, all written from Carlos’s point of view, are emotional, visceral, and lyrical. Layered and varied, some are shape poems; some can be read in more than one way, as if written from two perspectives; and all are accessible to young readers. When Carlos first encounters Paco, the rebel soldier his own age, their meeting is described in a poignant mirror poem. All combine to give us a chillingly memorable portrait of one child surviving violence and loss in a time of war.

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21. Review of You Can’t Have Too Many Friends!

gerstein you cant have too many friends Review of You Cant Have Too Many Friends!You Can’t Have Too Many Friends!
by Mordicai Gerstein; 
illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Holiday    32 pp.
4/14    978-0-8234-2393-4    $16.95    g
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-3101-4    $16.95

This retold French folktale (“Drakestail”) stars a farmer duck who, in this absurdist version, is wealthy in the jelly beans he has grown. When the little-boy king “borrows” his jelly beans and doesn’t return them, Duck sets off on a quest to get them back. Along the way, he meets a large, friendly, shaggy green dog who “shrinks and hops into Duck’s pocket”; “Lady Ladder” who does the same; a burbling brook that Duck carries in his gullet; and some wasps transported in Duck’s ear. These new friends all come in handy when the king declines to give back the candy. Listening children will anticipate the role of each of Duck’s pals and will enjoy seeing the king’s nasty acts rightfully rewarded, especially when he’s chased naked out of his bathtub by the wasps. This is anything but a heavy-handed moral treatment, though — Gerstein’s pen-and-ink, acrylic, and colored-pencil illustrations employ a cheerful palette, with scribbly lines and dialogue bubbles. Each picture includes humorous details such as the web-footed claw bathtub and the queen’s fuzzy slippers. And in the end, the king makes reparations, sitting down to a jelly-bean feast with Duck and his odd group of friends.

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22. Review of More of Monkey & Robot

catalanotto more of monkey robot Review of More of Monkey & RobotMore of Monkey & Robot
by Peter Catalanotto; illus. by the author
Primary    Jackson/Atheneum    58 pp.
3/14    978-1-4424-5251-0    $14.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-5253-4    $9.99

Monkey and Robot are back (Monkey & Robot, rev. 1/13) in four stories for new readers. Monkey continues to make a mess, and Robot patiently helps him fix things. First Monkey worries about what to be for Halloween. No one wants a repeat of last year when he went as a dentist and stuck his fingers into people’s mouths. He ends up putting a pot on his head, pretending to be Robot (he wants to dress up as “something that everybody likes”). In the second chapter, Monkey and Robot are at the beach, but Robot can’t go into the water, and Monkey won’t go swimming without his friend. In the third, the two figure out the best use for a tire Monkey finds in the front yard. In the final story, Monkey is confused by the clock and unsure whether it is morning or nighttime. Catalanotto weaves humor into each easy-to-read story, inviting the reader to help Monkey with his confusion…and to feel a little superior at the same time. It’s unusual to see such clear personalities in a book for the very young, but Catalanotto has created two distinct and likable characters — unlikely pals who understand each other. Black-and-white pencil illustrations that provide helpful visual cues and lots of easy-to-decode text fill each page, making this the perfect bridge to chapter books for new readers looking for the next book.

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23. Review of Eye to Eye

jenkins eye to eye Review of Eye to EyeEye to Eye:
How Animals See the World

by Steve Jenkins; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Houghton    32 pp.
4/14    978-0-547-95907-8    $17.99    g

The origins of the eye lie in the need for animals to detect light, as Jenkins explains in the opening to this excellent presentation of the structures animals use to see. After a brief description of the four major types of eyes that have evolved in animal species (eyespots, pinholes, compounds, and cameras), we get to the eyes themselves, prominently featured in well-designed layouts that serve both as study guide and display for the beautifully rendered and reproduced cut-paper artwork. Each page features a single organism in two images: a main close-up of the animal’s eye area(s), carefully framed to illustrate position and function relationships; and a smaller, full-body image of the animal itself. The juxtaposition is very useful — readers can use both images to make sense of the text, filled with fascinating information about eyes that are large (colossal squid), odd (stalk-eyed fly), all over the head (jumping spider), and extremely mobile (ghost crab). Additional field guide–like facts about the twenty-two featured animals are listed at the end of the book.

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24. Review of He Has Shot the President!

brown he has shot the president Review of He Has Shot the President!star2 Review of He Has Shot the President!He Has Shot the President!:
April 14, 1865: The Day John
Wilkes Booth Killed President Lincoln [Actual Times]
by Don Brown; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Roaring Brook    64 pp.
4/14    978-1-59643-224-6    $17.99    g

This fifth entry in Brown’s Actual Times series (including All Stations Distress, rev. 9/08) begins on April 14, 1865, the day Lincoln was assassinated. Brown introduces both major actors, Lincoln and Booth, and then begins the tricky task of chronologically following each man to his death. He does so successfully, switching back and forth between the actions of both men with impeccable transitions. The text is matter-of-fact and detailed. “At about 10:00 PM, Booth reentered Ford’s through the front entrance and made his way to the second floor and the president’s box.” The illustrations, in Brown’s slightly impressionistic style and rendered in somber shades of brown, blue, and gray, create drama. There’s the despair on Dr. Charles Leale’s face as he attends Lincoln and sadness in the posture of mourners watching Lincoln’s funeral train moving slowly through America’s farmlands toward its final destination. But there’s also menace in Lewis Powell as he attempts to kill Secretary of State William Seward and in the stance of a soldier questioning eleven-year-old Appolina Dean, an innocent boarder at Mary Surratt’s house. A bibliography completes this fine book.

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25. Review of Feral Curse

smith feral curse Review of Feral CurseFeral Curse [Feral]
by Cynthia Leitich Smith
High School    Candlewick    259 pp.
2/14    978-0-7636-5910-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-7636-7040-5    $17.99

Secret werecat Kayla chooses Valentine’s Day to reveal her true nature to her boyfriend, Ben. He reacts badly, to put it mildly: he runs away from Kayla, is hit by lightning on the antique carousel in Town Park while staging a ritual to “cure” her, and dies. Her small town of Pine Ridge, Texas, decides to dismantle the carousel and sell off its wooden animal figures. Soon after, Yoshi, the hottie Cat from Feral Nights (rev. 3/13), touches the hand-carved cougar for sale in his Grams’s antiques store in Austin and is instantly transported to Pine Ridge. He’s not the only shifter to suddenly appear there. Darby, a Deer; Peter, a Coyote; and Evan, an Otter, show up within a few days—each having touched the carousel animal corresponding to his shifter form—and they’re all inexplicably drawn to Kayla. This second entry in the Feral series (a spin-off of Smith’s Tantalize quartet) features as kooky a cast of supernatural characters as ever (including a juvenile yeti in addition to the various werepeople and the occasional human), but they’re all relatable in various ways and easy to root for. Debut character Kayla — level-headed, religious, but also quietly proud of her shifter nature — holds her own, nicely complementing Yoshi’s swagger, Wild Card shifter Clyde’s newfound confidence, and human Aimee’s resourcefulness. Witty banter peppered with pop-culture references keeps the tone light even as the stakes ramp up.

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