Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fault Lines in the Constitution

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today
by Cynthia and Sanford Levinson
Peachtree, 2017. Informational. 235 p.
This is an informational book that is getting a lot of attention this fall.  In it the authors talk about some of the provisions of the Constitution that have made it difficult for the government to run smoothly.  There are chapters on the Electoral College, the uneven representation in Congress, the difficulty in making amendments and others.  In each chapter they discuss how the provision started and specific troubles is has caused in modern times. They end each chapter, and the whole book, with ideas of how the Constitution could be improved.

In all honesty, I can't really see kids picking this off the shelf. What kid wants to read a 235 page book about the Constitution? When my kids were younger I used to bribe then to read certain books. This one just may be bribe worthy.  If I sixth grader read this it would help them ace all their government classes later. It is written well enough, they might even enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Survivors: Extraordinary Tales from the Wild and Beyond

Survivors: Extraordinary Tales from the Wild and Beyond
Written by David Long
Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman
Faber and Faber, 2017. Informational.

There is something about survival stories that really appeals to readers of all ages. After all, stories like Island of the Blue Dolphins and Hatchet are perennial favorites for a reason. This new, beautifully illustrated informational book is filled with twenty-three incredible stories of survival - and they're all true! I was first drawn to this book because it features some familiar stories (Aron Ralston, Ernest Shackleton, and Hugh Glass) and because one of my co-workers had spotted this book on our new cart and recommended it. Then I was reading this book at the Children's Reference Desk and two people asked if they could check it out - clearly this book is exciting for all ages.

Each story is well-written, vivid, and engaging and filled with excitement and peril.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The War I Finally Won

The War I Finally Won 
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 385 p.

I loved The War that Saved My Life! (It was the Odyssey Award Winner for the year that I was on the Odyssey Award Committee. So I got to know that book very well.) So I was excited, yet a little apprehensive when I heard that this next book was coming out. Would I like it as much? Would it live up to the expectations and glory of the first book? How would it fair?

In this sequel, Ada’s clubfoot has been fixed. She is living with Miss Smith and her brother—yet the war is still going strong. Lady Thorton allows the family to move into a cottage on her estate, though Lady Thorton moves in with them when the government needs to use her house for the war effort. And not only that, but a German Jewish girl named Ruth has come to stay with them, which causes Ada to have to sort through feelings of if she trusts Ruth or not (she is a German…and Germans are who they are fighting—though Ruth had to flee Germany since she is Jewish).

There is so much in this book, and it is all handled so well. Ada is often frustrated and angry and confused (this book shows yet again just how much she doesn’t know due to her unfortunate upbringing). Yet, there is also kindness, love, and acceptance. Mostly, there is a girl who is trying to overcome her particular challenges while her life (and the world) is in a bit of chaos. This is a good sequel. One that will stick with me for a long while yet.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth

By Frank Cottrell Boyce
Walden Pond Press, 2017.  Fiction.  321 p.

Prez is a foster child living with a new family on their farm for the summer after his grandfather becomes too ill to care for him.  Prez doesn’t speak, even though he enjoys the hubbub of life at the farm.  But things get complicated and hilariously comical when a creature arrives that looks like a dog to everyone else – and only Prez can see Sputnik for what he is:  a small little man from outer space wearing a kilt and goggles; an alien who’s trying to save earth from being destroyed. 

An amusing sci-fi adventure ensues as Prez and Sputnik strike out to find 10 reasons why our planet should be saved and to solve the mystery of Grandpa’s whereabouts.  This is ultimately a tender story of family love and loyalty, and now I really want to name my next dog Sputnik!  Also, the audio on this one is not to be missed.

Friday, December 8, 2017


by Sarah Jennings
Bloomsbury Activity Books, 2017.
Board book.

This large, tabbed board book is an interesting addition to the toddler library. Each page features a different emotion and suggests a list of things to do when feeling that emotion. Feeling happy? Jump and sing. Feeling scared? Imaging you're a giant. And so on.

I don't think this book is as well done as it could have been, so don't dive in expecting perfection. But it's nice to see a board book addressing emotional intelligence issues in a cute and endearing way. And honestly, it does offer some good suggestions.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ninja Claus!

Ninja Claus!
By Arree Chung
Henry Holt and Company, 2017. Picture Book.

Maxwell has waited all year to test his ninja skills to catch Santa at the act but things don’t go as anticipated as family and pets get in the way of his master plan. In the end he might not get what he asked for--Santa for Christmas--but he ends up getting something better when he finds out that Santa is the best ninja out there!

Another great edition to Chung’s other ninja books, Ninja! and Ninja! Attack of the Clan, this story will have you laughing as you follow Maxwell’s antics. Perfect holiday read to your own little ninja .

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Where's Halmoni?

Where's Halmoni?
By Julie Kim
Little Bigfoot, 2017. Comics, unpag.
Joon and Noona are looking for their Grandmother (Halmoni) when they walk through a magic door into a mythical Korean landscape. There they meet characters from Korean mythology, the Moon Rabbit, the Dokkebi, the Gumiho, and the Tiger. They need to use all their wits to find their grandmother, and their way back home.

This is a beautifully illustrated volume that is a picture book/graphic novel fusion. At the end Kim talks about the traditional Korean creatures, and also includes an interpretation of the Korean characters that are sprinkled throughout the book.  This is a fun story and a charming introduction to some basic Korean folktale tropes. (unpag. 2017)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Starry Giraffe

The Starry Giraffe
By Andy Bergmann
Aladdin, 2017. Picture book.

A giraffe with a star pattern happens upon a tree full of ripe apples. Being very hungry, she reaches for one, but just then, a hungry little mouse who cannot reach the apples comes by. Giraffe gives her apple to the mouse. This happens again and again as different hungry animals wander by. Will the giraffe ever get to eat one of the delicious-looking apples?

This is a simple story about kindness and sharing with a very fun surprise ending. A great read-aloud.

Display: Dear Diary

Pippa Morgan's Diary
By Annie Kelsey

When Pippa tells a small lie to impress her best friend, she is entered into the school talent show even though she cannot sing at all.

Tales From a Not-So-Happily Ever After
By Rachel Renee Russell

A bump on the head suffered during gym class causes middle school drama queen Nikki Maxwell to have a crazy dream where all of her acquaintances assume the roles of familiar fairy tale characters.

Amelia's Notebook
By Marissa Moss

The hand-lettered contents of a nine-year-old girl's notebook, in which she records her thoughts and feelings about moving, starting school, and dealing with her older sister as well as keeping her old best friend and making a new one.

Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows
By Barry Denenberg

In her diary, twelve-year-old Amber describes moving to Hawaii in 1941 and experiencing the horror of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The Journal of Biddy Owens, The Negro Leagues
By Walter Dean Myers

Teenager Biddy Owens' 1948 journal about working for the Birmingham Black Barons includes the games and the players, racism the team faces from New Orleans to Chicago, and his family's resistance to his becoming a professional baseball player.

Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Without a Country
By Kathryn Lasky

Mary, the young Scottish queen, is sent a diary from her mother in which she records her experiences living at the court of France's King Henry II as she awaits her marriage to Henry's son, Francis.

Lady Ch'iao Kuo: Warrior of the South
By Laurence Yep

In 531 A.D., a fifteen-year-old princess of the Hsien tribe in southern China keeps a diary which describes her role as liaison between her own people and the local Chinese colonists, in times of both peace and war.

Blood Diaries: Tales of a 6th-Grade Vampire
By Marissa Moss

Middle school is tough enough for normal humans, but when you're a vampire, it's even more challenging. Edgar rises to the occasion with wit, humor, and some help from his friends.

Secret at Mystic Lake
By Carolyn Keene

To celebrate her birthday, George is taking Nancy and Bess on a bike tour around Mystic Lake, but when their tour guide disappears and unknown adversaries steal their supplies and slash their tires, Nancy begins looking for clues.

Harriet the Spy
By Louise Fitzhugh

Eleven-year-old Harriet keeps notes on her classmates and neighbors in a secret notebook, but when some of the students read the notebook, they seek revenge.

By Bruce Coville

Gerald the griffin isn't brave enough or fierce enough to fit in with the other griffins of the Enchanted Realm. When he runs away to the human world. he finds himself up to his beak in trouble, friendship, and fun!

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Different Pond

A Different Pond
Bao Phi
Illustrated by Thi Bui
Capstone Young Readers, 2017

Every now and again a book comes along that is so many things all at once—beautiful, thoughtful, poignant, and memorable to name a few. This is one of those books.

This story is about a little boy who wakes up early one morning to go fishing with his dad. They don’t go fishing for fun; they fish to feed their refugee family. The boy tells the story of how he perceives the world around him and how he thinks the world perceives his father and his family. This is a great book to talk about refugees, families, perceptions, and kindness. Wow. Just wow.