Thursday, March 23, 2017

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung – OPTIONAL

Jung, Mike Unidentified Suburban Object 272 pgs. Scholastic, 2016. $16.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
Chloe is just a normal girl starting 7th grade. Lately she has become more interested in her Korean heritage, something her parents don’t seem to be very supportive of, which upsets her to no end. When a teacher at school assigns her to find out a family story, her dad finally caves and tells her a detailed story about a great uncle. But when the teachers brings her in and tells her that she plagiarized, that her story was from a book, Chloe confronts her father. Turns out her heritage is much more complicated than she could imagine.
Spoiler Alert: This is like realistic fiction with a dash of sci-fi. I think many students will relate to feeling like an outsider, like Chloe feels being the only Korean, as well as her feelings of wanting to connect with her heritage. I must say, that the big secret was a shock and also kind of boring at the same time. I think readers will be slightly disappointed, if you are going to go Sci-fi, this is just dipping your toes in the water. The cover is really unappealing, I thought it was going to a book for 3rd grade reluctant readers about zombie goldfish.

EL –OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins - ESSENTIAL

Atkins, Jeannine Finding Wonders, 195 pgs. Atheneum Books For Young Readers, 2016 $16.99. Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

Most people, when they think of women scientists of the past, can’t come up with many names. Well, there are a lot more influential women scientists than most people think. Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell are women who changed the world’s perspective on science, each in their own particular way.  Information that is now common in our minds, was discovered by these women that we need to honor for their amazing work.

This book, told in beautiful poetry, really gave me knowledge of these three women in science that I had never known.  I think that the author told the story of these women beautifully with a lot of respect for them.  It inspired me to believe that I can accomplish anything.  Nothing kept these women from their accomplishments, even though everything seemed to be against them.  This is a book that I could read over and over as many times as I wanted and still learn just a little more.

EL, MS - ESSENTIAL. Student Reviewer: ASJ

Ready, Set...Baby! by Elizabeth Rusch - ESSENTIAL

Rusch, Elizabeth Ready, Set...Baby! illustrated by Qin Leng. PICTURE BOOK. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $17.99. Content: G. 

Anna and Oliver are siblings and experts on new babies, because their mom just had one! This handy 'how-to' book is aimed at helping other kids out when they are getting a new baby in their home. They go over the waiting for baby to arrive, diapering, holding the baby, and all sorts of other great stuff. By the end, they explain that eventually the baby won't seem new at all--just another member of the family! 

This is a fantastic book in its approach to a new baby. The narrators and illustrations are incredibly personable and approachable. The text is written in a way that kids will really connect with, and the topics covered seem to hit all the bases that older kids would want to know about. I think this book will be a big hit with parents and kids who are trying to prepare for the changes that come with a new baby.

Pre-K, EL (K-3), EL--ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: TC

"The Kids Aren't Just All Right - They're Better Than Us" - Article

Thanks to one of my reviewers for spotting this article on The Literary Hub website.  "If Fiction Changes the World, It's Going To Be YA" by Emily Temple.

Emily talks about the immediacy of issues in YA Fiction vs the delicate exploration of modern times, issues, and technology in literary fiction written for adults.  Having been a school librarian for 19 years and the founder of this blog, I have always loved YA books - fiction and non-fiction.  I always feel like they get to the point without trying to be mysterious or coy or heavy on details and subplots that can quickly add confusion to a narrative (don't yell at me - I like SOME details, just not EVERY detail).
Last week in my Young Adult Literature class we were talking about trends.  Even though the adults who read and blog about YA love to talk about Fantasy and Science Fiction and dystopian (have you noticed that most of them also have a heavy level of romance), the real trend we see is on Realistic Fiction.  That week's list was much longer than any of the others.  My students (7th, 8th, and 9th graders) want to see themselves reflected in what they read - or at least someone who is going through the same things they are, or that they might have to confront.  The large amount of realistic fiction available and its popularity with the students seems to point in that direction.
Enough from me.  Just go read the article already!  ---Cindy

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaele Frier –OPTIONAL

Frier, Raphaele Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education.  PICTURE BOOK.  Charlesbridge, 2017.  $17.99.  Content: G.

This is the picture book biography of Malala Yousafzai. Readers learn about her childhood and the changes in her country as the Taliban influence and threats spread. Next readers discover that even as a young girl she began her activism for women’s education, and how the Taliban reacted towards that. Finally readers discover that Malala has not given up and is stronger and more vocal than ever. The pages are brightly colored and fully illustrated.

We need a picture book biography of Malala, but this is not the one. Its definitely for upper elementary or middle school, with tons of content and current event context needed beforehand. It skips a ton of things that I think are important, for example; it describes that her father runs a school for girls, but doesn’t mention if she goes to the school or not, then completely leaving out how powerful her education must have been (I am assuming) for her and how it influenced her strong views. It also brings up the Qur’an with zero context, so if students hadn’t learned about the Islamic religion, they would be very confused. The illustrations are bright but not my favorite, with off-putting odd angles and a lack of detail. I think better illustrations would have brought home the fact that this is a true story and given it more of a real life (rather than a fictional) feel.

EL – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel – ESSENTIAL

Markel, Michelle Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books PICTURE BOOK.  Chronicle Books, 2017.  $17.99.  Content: G.

A picture book biography of John Newbery is just what the library ordered! The concept is no children’s book is introduced, then the childhood of John and his career in printing, followed by his word to publish books and magazines just for children. The text is fairly simple and could work as a read-aloud for first grade and up. The cream colored pages are filled with subdued illustrations.

This is a fantastic book and could be read to almost any grade as introduction to the history of childrens books and/or the Newbery award. It’s an interesting look into history and will probably surprise many young listeners. Every school librarian should have this book! The illustrations are creative and even funny. Maybe if we all read it enough, the word Balderdash will come back into fashion.

EL(K-3), EL –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Noah Webster’s Fighting Words by Tracy Nelson Maurer –ADVISABLE

Maurer, Tracy Noah Webster’s Fighting Words.  PICTURE BOOK.  Millbrook, 2017.  $19.99.  Content: G.

This is a picture book biography of Noah Webster’s life, with a focus on his contributions to the American English dictionary. We learn a bit about his childhood and his part in the revolutionary way, his strong opinions on the teaching and acceptance of American English over British English, and his passion for how language should evolve. As a fun addition, Noah “himself” makes mark-ups and comments, that are often funny and interesting. Feature collage style illustrations.

I am not sure if the author/publisher realized there was already a great picture book out about Noah Webster called W is for Webster : Noah Webster and his American dictionary. I honestly think they are both great, so either one would be perfect for a school library collection. This one is fun because of what feels to be little blurbs and odd spelling from his journals and the little mark-ups that Noah “himself” adds, which make it feel like he is reading along with you. The collage style art is a bit busy at times, but the pages are large enough that a group would still enjoy this as a read-aloud and could see the images. Great for a lesson on dictionaries or biographies of early Americans.Could work for 2 grade and up fairly well.

EL(K-3), EL – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Hero Military Dogs by Jon Fishman –ADVISABLE

Fishman, Jon Hero Military Dogs.  NONFICTION.  Lerner, 2017.  $24.99.  Content: G.

This book is a simple and easy explanation of the training, duties, and facts about military dogs. Its divided up by Guard Dogs, Scout, Dogs, Detecting Dogs, and Combat tracker Dogs. It features lots of bright pages with tons of photographs and fun facts bubbles.

This is a fascinating book, especially the history portion and the hero dog example, which brought tears to my eyes. At my library there is a big demand for dog books and for military books, so this will be a great combo. Perfect for K-2 graders, with fairly simple text presentation and short chapters.

EL(K-3) – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Hero Therapy Dogs by Jon Fishman –ADVISABLE

Fishman, Jon Hero Therapy Dogs.  NONFICTION.  32 pgs. Lerner, 2017.  $24.99.  Content: G.

This book is a very simple and easy to read explanation of what a therapy dog does, who it helps, and how it is different from a service dog. Its divided up by Hospital Dogs, School Dogs, Support Dogs, and Disaster Dogs. It features lots of bright pages with tons of photographs.
K-2 grade will love this book, and many will be able to read it on their own. It appealing and interesting. The history of therapy dogs is included near the end of the book, even a photograph of the dog! The only strange part was a whole page about a surfing therapy dog, but not a picture of that dog. Dogs books are SO popular in my library, this one will be sure to be a hit, and maybe students will even learn something about how important dogs are rather than just looking for which kind they would like for a pet.

EL(K-3) – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Forget Me Always by Sara Wolf - NO

Wolf, Sara Forget Me Always, 280 pages. Entangled Teen (Entangled Publishing), 2016. $9.99 Language — R (166 swears, 33 “f”), Mature Content – PG13; Violence – PG13; 

Isis has forgotten Jack—not on purpose, but as a result of her head injury. As if she didn’t already have enough problems to deal with—her mom’s depression, college decisions, and the scars Nameless left—now she must figure out what her life was like last week! But just because her mind has forgotten doesn’t mean that her heart has.

There is a mystery to be solved over the course of these books, which was intriguing at some points, but, throughout my reading, I was mostly distracted by how unrealistic the characters and the situation were. It is a fiction book, but realistic fiction should feel at least somewhat plausible; Isis’s story is not. This is not a book that can be read without the context of the first book and the language and sexual references are very distracting.  

HS—NO. Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Carrot & Pea: An Unlikely Friendship by Morag Hood - ADVISABLE

Hood, Morag Carrot & Pea: An Unlikely Friendship. PICTURE BOOK. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $16.99. Content: G. 

Lee is pea and Colin is a carrot. They are nothing alike and so many of the things Lee and his friends can do--like roll or bounce--Colin cannot do. He is nothing like Lee and all his other pea friends, but that does not matter. Lee and Colin like each other not in spite of, but because of, their differences. 

There is so much heart to this simple picture book. The message of appreciating our differences and being friends with those who are not exactly like us is wonderful and easily applicable in a variety of classroom settings. I liked that the author did not muddy the waters of her message and story with anything fancy; its literally just a bunch of peas and a carrot and some simple text. And yet its a beautiful book I think should be in every school library and read often. The book will appeal most to younger elementary students, but I think it would be a good book for use in classrooms all the way up to high school.