Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Librarians Choices 2005

Librarians’ Choices 2005
Master List

1. Alphin, Elaine Marie. 2005. THE PERFECT SHOT. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books. ISBN 1575058626 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

2. Amateau, Gigi. 2005. CLAIMING GEORGIA TATE. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 0763623393 [Suggested Grade Levels 8 and up]

3. Appelt, Kathi. 2005. MISS LADY BIRD’S WILDFLOWERS: HOW A FIRST LADY CHANGED AMERICA. Ill. by Joy Fisher Hein. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060011076 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]

4. Arnold, Katya. 2005. ELEPHANTS CAN PAINT TOO. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689869851 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

5. Baker, Roberta. 2005. OLIVE’S PIRATE PARTY. Ill. by Debbie Tilley. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 0316167924 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]

6. Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2005. HITLER YOUTH: GROWING UP IN HITLER’S SHADOW. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439353793 [Suggested Grade Levels 6 and up]

7. Beaumont, Karen. 2005. I AIN’T GONNA PAINT NO MORE! Ill. by David Catrow. San Diego: Harcourt. Isbn 0152024883 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]


9. Birney, Betty G. 2005. THE SEVEN WONDERS OF SASSAFRAS SPRINGS. Ill. by Matt Phelan. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689871368 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

10. Blumenthal, Karen. 2005. LET ME PLAY: THE STORY OF TITLE IX, THE LAW THAT CHANGED THE FUTURE OF GIRLS IN AMERICA. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689859570 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]

11. Bolden, Tonya. 2005. MARITCHA: A NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN GIRL. New York: Abrams. ISBN 0810950456 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]

12. Borden, Louise. 2005. THE JOURNEY THAT SAVED CURIOUS GEORGE, THE TRUE WARTIME ESCAPE OF MARGRET AND H.A. REY. Ill. By Allan Drummond. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618339248 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

13. Bower, Tamara. 2005. HOW THE AMAZON QUEEN FOUGHT THE PRINCE OF EGYPT. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689844344 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-8]

14. Broach, Elise. 2005. WHAT THE NO-GOOD BABY IS GOOD FOR. Ill. by Abby Carter. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0399238778 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK- 3]

15. Chambers, Veronica. 2005. CELIA CRUZ, QUEEN OF SALSA. Ill. by Julie Maren. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803729707 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

16. Cooper, Elisha. 2005. A GOOD NIGHT WALK. New York: Orchard. ISBN 0439687837 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-K]

17. Cordsen, Carol Foskett. 2005. THE MILKMAN. Ill. by Douglas B. Jones. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525472088 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-3]

18. Cowley, Joy. 2005. CHAMELEON, CHAMELEON. Ill. by Nic Bishop. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439666538 [Suggested Grade Levels K-2]

19. Creech, Sharon. 2005. REPLAY. New York: Joanna Cotler. ISBN 0060540206 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-8]

20. Cronin, Doreen. 2005. WIGGLE. Ill. by Scott Menchin. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689863756 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-1]

21. Cummings, Priscilla. 2005. WHAT MR. MATTERO DID. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525467210 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-9]

22. de Deu Prats, Joan. 2005. SEBASTIAN’S ROLLER SKATES. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller. ISBN 1929132816 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-4]

23. Dendy, Leslie and Boring, Mel. 2005. GUINEA PIG SCIENTISTS: BOLD SELF-EXPERIMENTERS IN SCIENCE AND MEDICINE. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0805073167 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

24. Divakaruni, Chitra. 2005. THE MIRROR OF FIRE AND DREAMING. New Milford, CT: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 1596430672 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

25. Dowell, Frances O’Roark. 2005. CHICKEN BOY. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689858167 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

26. Duble, Kathleen Benner. 2005. THE SACRIFICE. New York: Margaret K. McElderry. ISBN 0689876505 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-9]

27. Ehlert, Lois. 2005. LEAF MAN. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0152053042 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]

28. Erdrich, Louise. 2005. THE GAME OF SILENCE. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060297905 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

29. Farrell, Jeanette. 2005. INVISIBLE ALLIES: MICROBES THAT SHAPE OUR LIVES. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374336083 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-9]

30. Fleming, Candace. 2005. LOWJI DISCOVERS AMERICA. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689862997 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

31. Fleming, Candace. 2005. OUR ELEANOR: A SCRAPBOOK LOOK AT ELEANOR ROOSEVELT’S REMARKBLE LIFE. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689865449 [Suggested Grade Levels 6 and up]

32. Florian, Douglas. 2005. ZOO’S WHO. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0152046399 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-4]

33. Garcia, Laura Gallego. 2005. THE LEGEND OF THE WANDERING KING. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439585562 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-9]

34. Gardner, Sally. 2005. I, CORIANDER. New York: Dial Books. ISBN 0803730993 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-10]

35. Giblin, James Cross. 2005. GOOD BROTHER, BAD BROTHER: THE STORY OF EDWIN BOOTH AND JOHN WILKES BOOTH. New York: Clarion. ISBN 0618096426 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]

36. Giff, Patricia Reilly. 2005. WILLOW RUN. New York: Wendy Lamb. ISBN 0385900961 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-6]

37. Going, K.L. 2005.THE LIBERATION OF GABRIEL KING. New York: Putnam. ISBN 039923991X [Suggested Grade Levels 4-9]

38. Green, John. 2005. LOOKING FOR ALASKA. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525475060 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

39. Grey, Mini. 2005. TRACTION MAN IS HERE! New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375931910 [Suggested Grades K-3]

40. Griffin, Adele. 2005. WHERE I WANT TO BE. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0399237836 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

41. Hanson, Regina. 2005. A SEASON FOR MANGOES. Ill. by Eric Velasquez. New York: Clarion. ISBN 061815972X [Suggested Grade Levels PreK- 3]

42. Hautman, Pete. 2005. INVISIBLE. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689868006 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-11]

43. Hearn, Julie. 2005. THE MINISTER’S DAUGHTER. NY: Athenium. ISBN 9780689876905 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

44. Hiaasen, Carl. 2005. FLUSH. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375821821 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

45. Hughes, Lynn B. 2005. YOU ARE NOT ALONE: TEENS TALK ABOUT LIFE AFTER THE LOSS OF A PARENT. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439585902 [Suggested Grade Levels 8 and up]

46. Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. 2005. STAINED. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 068986745X [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

47. Janeczko, Paul B. 2005. A KICK IN THE HEAD: AN EVERYDAY GUIDE TO POETIC FORM. Ill. by Chris Raschka. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 07636606626 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

48. Jenkins, Emily. 2005. THAT NEW ANIMAL. Ill. by Pierre Pratt. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374374430 [Suggested Grade Levels K-2]

49. Jenkins, Steve. 2005. PREHISTORIC ACTUAL SIZE. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 061853578. [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-5]

50. Juster, Norton. 2005. THE HELLO GOODBYE WINDOW. Ill. by Chris Raschka. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786809140 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]

51. Karas, Brian. 2005. ON EARTH. New York: Putnam. ISBN 039924025X [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

52. Keehn, Sally M. 2005. GNAT STOKES AND THE FOGGY BOTTOM SWAMP QUEEN. New York: Philomel. ISBN 0399242872 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

53. Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie. 2005. NORA’S ARK. Ill. by Emily Arnold McCully. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060295171 [Suggested Grade Level 3-5]

54. Klass, David. 2005. DARK ANGEL. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374399506 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

55. Koertge, Ron. 2005. BOY GIRL BOY. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0152053255 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]

56. Koja, Kathe. TALK. 2005. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374373825 [Suggested Grade Levels: 8-12]

57. Krinitz, Esther Nisenthal and Steinhardt, Bernice. 2005. MEMORIES OF SURVIVAL. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786851260 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

58. Krull, Kathleen. 2005. HOUDINI: WORLD’S GREATEST MYSTERY MAN AND ESCAPE KING. Ill. by Eric Velasquez. New York: Walker & Co. ISBN 0802789536 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

59. Larbalestier, Justine. 2005. MAGIC OR MADNESS. New York: Razorbill. ISBN 1595140220 [Suggested Grade Level 7-12]

60. Lendler, Ian. 2005. AN UNDONE FAIRY TALE. Ill. By Whitney Martin. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689866771 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

61. Lester, Julius. 2005. LET’S TALK ABOUT RACE. Ill. by Karen Barbour. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060285966 [Suggested Grade Levels K-4]

62. Lester, Julius. 2005. DAY OF TEARS: A NOVEL IN DIALOGUE. New York: Jump at the Sun. ISBN 0786804904 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-10]

63. Levine, Ellen. 2005. CATCH A TIGER BY THE TOE. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670884618 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

64. Lynch, Chris. 2005. INEXCUSABLE. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689847890 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

65. Ma, Yan.2005. THE DIARY OF MAH YAN. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 006076497X [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

66. Mah, Adeline Yen. 2005. CHINESE CINDERELLA AND THE SECRET DRAGON SOCIETY. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 006056735X [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

67. Marino, Gianna. 2005. ZOOPA. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0811847896 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-3]

68. McKernan, Victoria. 2005. SHACKLETON’S STOWAWAY. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375826912 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

69. McKissack, Patricia C. and Onawumi, Jean Moss. 2005. PRECIOUS AND THE BOO HAG. Ill. by Kyrsten Brooker. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689851944 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]

70. Meyer, Stephanie. 2005. TWILIGHT. New York: Megan Tingley. ISBN 0316160172 [Suggested Grade Levels: 8-11]

71. Minne, Natali Fortier. 2005. I LOVE. New York: Kane/Miller. ISBN 1929132751 [Suggested Grade Levels K-4]

72. Murphy, Claire Rudolf. 2005. I AM SACAJAWEA, I AM YORK: OUR JOURNEY WEST WITH LEWIS AND CLARK. Ill. by Higgins Bond. New York: Walker & Co. ISBN 0802789196 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]

73. Nelson, Marilyn. 2005. A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL. Ill. by Philippe Lardy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618397523 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

74. Partridge, Elizabeth. 2005. JOHN LENNON: ALL I WANT IS THE TRUTH. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670059544 [Suggested Grade Levels 8 and up]

75. Pearsall, Shelley. 2005. CROOKED RIVER. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375823891 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

76. Perkins, Lynne Rae. 2005. CRISS CROSS. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 0060092734 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-9]

77. Pham, LeUyen. 2005. BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 078685182 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]

78. Podwal, Mark. 2005. JERSALEM SKY: STARS CROSSES, AND CRESCENTS. NY: Doubleday. ISBN 038574689X [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

79. Poole, Josephine. 2005. ANNE FRANK. Ill. by Angela Barrett. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375832424 [Suggested Grade Levels K-8]

80. Richardson, Justin and Parnell, Peter. 2005. AND TANGO MAKES THREE. Ill. by Henry Cole. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689878451 [Suggested Grade Levels K-12]

81. Riordan, Rick. 2005. THE LIGHTNING THIEF. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786856297 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

82. Rodman, Mary Ann. 2005. MY BEST FRIEND. Ill. by E. B. Lewis. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670059897 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

83. Rosen, Michael. 2005. MICHAEL ROSEN’S SAD BOOK. Ill. by Quentin Blake. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 0763625973 [Suggested Grade Levels K- 12]

84. Ruurs, Margriet. 2005. MY LIBRARIAN IS A CAMEL; HOW BOOKS ARE BROUGHT TO CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. ISBN 1590780930 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

85. Salisbury, Graham. 2005. EYES OF THE EMPEROR. New York: Random House. ISBN 0385729715 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

86. Scieszka, Jon. 2005. SEEN ART? Ill. by Lane Smith. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670059862 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-8]

87. Shetterly, Robert. 2005. AMERICANS WHO TELL THE TRUTH. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525474293 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

88. Sidman, Joyce. 2005. SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN & OTHER POND POEMS. Ill. by Beckie Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618135472 [Suggested Grade Levels K-10]

89. Sills, Leslie. 2005. FROM RAGS TO RICHES: A HISTORY OF GIRLS’ CLOTHING IN AMERICA. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 03417085 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

90. Sorrells, Walter. 2005. FAKE ID. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525475141 [Suggested Grade Levels 9 and up]

91. Volponi, Paul. 2005. BLACK AND WHITE. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670060062 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

92. Waite, Judy. 2005. TRICK OF THE MIND. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689870140 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-11]

93. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2005. FREEDOM ON THE MENU, THE GREENSBORO SIT-INS. Ill. By Jerome Lagarrigue. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803728603 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]

94. Westerfeld, Scott. 2005. UGLIES. New York: Simon Pulse. ISBN 0689865384 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

95. Whitcomb, Laura. 2005. A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT. Boston: Graphica. ISBN 061858532X [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

96. White, Ruth. 2005. THE SEARCH FOR BELLE PRATER. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374308535 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

97. Wiles, Deborah. 2005. EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0152051139 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

98. Wittlinger, Ellen. 2005. SANDPIPER. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689868022 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

99. Wooding, Chris. 2005. POISON. New York: Orchard Books. ISBN 0439755700 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

100. Zevin, Gabrielle. 2005. ELSEWHERE. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374320918 [Suggested Grade Levels 8 and up]

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Zevin, Gabrielle. 2005. ELSEWHERE. New York. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374320918 [Suggested Grade Levels 8 and up]

After a tragic accidental death, Lizzie struggles to come to terms with the fate she has been handed. By using the education and experience she receives during her time in Elsewhere, she better understands the true meaning of life and death.

Lizzie, a 15-year-old head-trauma victim wakes to find herself aboard a cruise ship populated with elderly passengers. The ship eventually docks at Elsewhere, and she is greeted by her deceased grandmother. Missing from this “heaven” are the pearly gates and fluffy clouds; rather, Zevin’s strikingly original vision of the afterlife does not fit the stereotypical imagery typically painted. Here, the dead have very similar “lives” as they did before; they work, maintain relationships, and find love. Zevin’s treatment of Lizzie’s emotions is notable and authentically rendered; though she is with family, Lizzie finds herself full of despair and anger about being cheated of a full life and remarks, "You mean I'll never go to college or get married or get big boobs or live on my own or get my driver's license or fall in love?" Consumed with clinging to her former existence, she spends her time keeping tabs on her family and friends on Earth through magical coin-operated telescopes. Eventually coming to terms with the fate she has been handed, she accepts a job assignment, forges a relationship with her grandmother, and finds romance before journeying down “the River” to be reborn. Poignant and philosophical, ELSEWHERE provides readers an opportunity to reflect on time and change as it redefines what being “alive” really means.

After reading ELSEWHERE, teens could create a mixed-media art project which visually represents how their ideal afterlife would look.

Other stories told from the afterlife:
Crutcher, Chris. THE SLEDDING HILL. ISBN 0060502436
Griffin, Adele. WHERE I WANT TO BE. ISBN 0399237836
Whitcomb, Laura. A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT. ISBN 061858532X

By Rose Brock


Wooding, Chris. 2005. POISON. New York: Orchard Books. ISBN 0439755700 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

Raised in the isolated village of Gull, Poison, a dark-haired, violet-eyed sixteen year old, refuses to accept the life for which she was raised. When her beloved baby sister Azalea is kidnapped by Scarecrow and a changeling left in her place, Poison leaves the Realm of Man for the Realm of Phairies in order to confront the Phaerie Lord and bring her sister home. As she makes her way through the Realm of the Phaeries, Poison and the devoted friends she makes along the way must confront a variety of strange and dangerous creatures. When Poison, not knowing her sister was returned a week after Poison left home, finally reaches the Phaerie Lord, Aelthar, she is sent on an even more dangerous journey which will ultimately challenge Poison’s life. Finally in order to prevent Aelthar from his true aim of destroying humanity and replacing the human Hierophant, Melcheron, with one of his own choosing, Poison accuses the most powerful Lord of murder and finds the evidence to support her claim. When Poison named herself originally to spite her stepmother, little did she know Aelthar himself would be murdered by poisoning. As the new Hierophant, Poison will rewrite the story of Melcheron’s life and her own as well.

Wooding has written a dark, chilling, disturbing fantasy novel which can be read on many levels. On the surface, POISON is a coming of age quest, but Wooding also uses the story to propose the possibility that we “write” our own lives and that some will write many tales but “no tale can be read until it is finished.”

Have readers create a topographical map of Poison’s travels along the lines of the “Here There Be Dragons” maps of old including a drawing of each creature she encounters.

Books about fantastical quests:
Pullman, Phillip. THE GOLDEN COMPASS. ISBN 067987942
Stanik, Robert. IN THE COMPANY OF DRAGONS. ISBN 1575450895

By Terri Moore


Wittlinger, Ellen. 2005. SANDPIPER. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689868022 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

After a brief fling with yet another boy, Sandpiper Hollow Ragsdale has become weary of her bad reputation. Her best friends have already disowned her because of it, and her most recent ex is beginning to harass her. And Sandpiper’s home life is not going any better. Her mother is busy planning her own wedding, her father is busy with his numerous girlfriends, and her soon-to-be stepsister is busy being too perfect. Almost as though to distract herself, Sandpiper meets the Walker. Everybody in town recognizes him, but nobody knows his story; they simply refer to him as the Walker. “It seemed like he just showed up one day and started walking all over town.” As Sandpiper begins to walk alongside him, she tries to learn his secrets. However, he continually evades her questions, leaving her more curious and more suspicious about the secrets he has.

Intermixed with the story are poems that Sandpiper writes. “I write poems constantly...They spurt out of me, and then I feel better about myself. Like, thank God, at least I got that out.” The poems provide a summary of each chapter, and they offer an even deeper glimpse into Sandpiper’s character. Written in first person, SANDPIPER accurately captures the voice of a teenage girl. While readers are cheering for Sandpiper to reclaim her reputation and to change her ways, they will also be rooting for Walker to reveal his story. Through Walker’s character, Wittlinger weaves mystery into a story about overcoming personal pasts. With intrigue, romance, and humor, SANDPIPER is a story about tackling personal demons and learning about human relationships.

Each chapter in the book ends with a poem. Encourage readers to try expressing themselves through poetry and other methods such as drawing, sculpting, journaling, etc.

Other books by Ellen Wittlinger:
HARD LOVE. ISBN 068984154X

By Mary D. Buckalo

Each Little Bird that Sings

Wiles, Deborah. 2005. EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. San Diego: Harcourt. ISBN 0152051139 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

Snowberger’s Funeral Home in Snapfinger, Mississippi lives to serve. Comfort Snowberger, little sister Merry, older brother Tidings, Mama and Daddy, Great-uncle Edisto, Great-aunt Florentine, and their faithful dog, Dismay, all serve the residents of Snapfinger whenever there is a death in the community. Comfort has always relied on Great-uncle Edisto’s wisdom and companionship during picnics at Listening Rock. His cheerful advice to her was, “Open your arms to life! Great-aunt Florentine taught Comfort her love of geography. Their deaths, within six months of each other, leave Comfort grief stricken. Snowberger’s Funeral Home cannot get Great-aunt Florentine buried before calamity strikes again. A brutal storm hits the town “on a Wednesday afternoon in September just before Labor Day weekend.” Comfort gets trapped in the storm with Dismay and her cousin, Peach. She must choose between doing the right thing or following her best friend.

Thus begins the epic journey of Comfort Snowberger to find her place in the universe. Her newspaper columns, which include the “Top Ten Tips for First-Rate Funeral Behavior,” her friend Declaration Johnson, Cousin Peach Shuggars, and Dismay, all help her find the path. The heartwarming and life affirming glimpses into southern culture, dialect, and family love allow this book to transcend the sad topic of death. “Let life strut into your heart in all its messy glory!”

Make a replica of Listening Rock with felt. Have a picnic on it to discuss times readers have been faced with difficult choices. What did they choose? Have the readers draw a picture of how they envision their favorite character in the book.

Other books about families, dogs, and storms:
DiCamillo, Kate. BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE. ISBN 0439250722
Ryan, Pam Munoz. ESPERANZA RISING. ISBN 0439120411
Rylant, Cynthia. MISSING MAY. ISBN 0531059960

By Judy Brown McKenna

The Search for Belle Prater

White, Ruth. 2005. THE SEARCH FOR BELLE PRATER. 2005. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374308535 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]

At the stroke of midnight, the exact time Woodrow was born, he receives a phone call from a silent caller that Woodrow believes to be his mother. And thus the search begins to locate his missing mother in this wonderfully pleasing sequel to BELLE PRATER’S BOY (F, S & G, 1996). Woodrow and his cousin Gypsy are now in the seventh grade and have met a new friend, Cassie, who has the gift of second sight. Woodrow remains steadfastly optimistic that his mother will reach out to him when she is ready, but nevertheless wants to search for her himself. He, Gypsy and Cassie embark to Bluefield where they met Joseph, a runaway black teen, and his long-lost aunt who vaguely remembers seeing Belle with the circus. Later, when Woodrow returns to the holler to clean out the cabin he shared with his mother and father, Cassie’s dream results in Woodrow finding a letter his mother left for him declaring her love. This is truly the message that Woodrow desired, and confirms what he knew all along.

Once again the story is told through Gypsy’s first person narrative. Although reading the first novel allows for background details of characters, this story is capable of standing on its own. The realities of ‘50’s living-- segregation, extreme West Virginia rural poverty -- are examined in this story, yet the prevailing theme of optimism clearly comes through. The language of the text is beautiful and clearly depicts the mountain folk living.

Because the circus has a role in this story, readers can research and compare the circuses of the l950’s with those of today. What is different in terms of acts, treatment of employees, average pay or education of the performers, etc…? Present the findings in a visual way to share.

The following books deal with children searching for parents:
Smith, Roland. THE CRYPTED HUNTER. ISBN 0786851619
Weeks, Sarah. SO B. IT. ISBN 0066236223

By Pamela Kemp

A Certain Slant of Light

Whitcomb, Laura. 2005. A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT. Boston: Graphia. ISBN 061858532X [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT is a compelling love story about ghosts. Helen is a ghost over one hundred years old who is presently shadowing a high school English teacher. Each day she sits in the corner of his classroom and observes. One day she is startled to realize that a student is watching her as well. James is a ghost who has inhabited the body of a teenage boy who “had lost his spirit.” James and Helen begin a friendship and James helps Helen seek out an individual that she can inhabit. Helen then becomes “Jenny,” a troubled fifteen year old girl. Because James and Helen are in physical form now, they take their friendship to the next level with little regard of consequences of their actions to the individuals they possess. Over the course of time, James and Helen realize that they cannot continue in this present world. James is the first to leave his “Billy” and then Helen, too leaves “Jenny” after remembering her past, and its mysteries, that will allow her to leave this world and enter into the next.

A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT is the first novel for author Laura Whitcomb. She has expertly woven two worlds into one in this novel. The writing is sharp and paces well. Because of the complexity of this novel, the secondary plotlines are just as compelling as the love story of James and Helen. The ending is gratifying as readers realize that all persons involved in this novel get their just rewards.

Because this story is about the paranormal, readers can discuss and then research various organizations that are devoted to the study of paranormal activity. Readers can study the history of their own communities to see if there are any legends of supernatural activity.

The following are books with the “unsettled spirit” theme:
Colfer, Eoin. THE WISH LIST. ISBN 0641650582
Griffin, Adele. WHERE I WANT TO BE. ISBN 0399237836

By Pamela Kemp


Westerfeld, Scott. 2005. UGLIES. New York: Simon Pulse. ISBN 0689865384 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

Set three to four hundred years in the future, UGLIES, a dystopia, focuses on a global community of pretty people. Tally Youngblood introduces readers to this picture-perfect community where appearances are not a matter of one’s genes but a matter of extensive plastic surgeries planned by the Community of Morphological Standards. Tally and Shay are best friends awaiting their sixteenth birthdays and their surgeries after which they’ll leave Uglyville behind and join the New Pretties. But Shay doubts that the ‘Pretty Committee’ is as concerned with equality and justice as it appears, suspecting that ulterior motives may lay behind the surface. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Shay runs away leaving a cryptic message for her friend to find the way to ‘Smoke,’ the rebel community of “ugly” outsiders. When the authorities discover Shay’s disappearance, Tally is asked to make the hardest decision of her life: betray Shay and the rebel community to the authorities or face living life ugly.

UGLIES is a fast-paced novel taking a typical YA topic—self esteem, conformity, and the perception of beauty—and treating it in a new and ultimately satisfying way by speculating about where current values of beauty and perfection might lead us as a society if taken to the extreme. By setting UGLIES in the future instead of a contemporary high school, Westerfeld is able to provide reflection and commentary on a serious topic in a new and original way.

Scott Westerfeld was inspired to write UGLIES after reading a short story “Liking What You See: A Documentary” by Ted Chiang which was published in STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS. Have teens read Chiang’s short story and compare it to Westerfeld’s trilogy of novels.

Books for young adults by Scott Westerfeld
Westerfeld, Scott. PRETTIES. ISBN 0689865392
Westerfeld, Scott. SO YESTERDAY. 159514000X

By Becky Laney

Freedom on the Menu, the Greensboro Sit-Ins

Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2005. FREEDOM ON THE MENU, THE GREENSBORO SIT-INS. Ill. By Jerome Lagarrigue. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803728603 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]

Enjoying a trip to the dime store snack bar with her mother, Connie wonders why they can’t sit down at the counter and enjoy a banana split like another little girl is doing. “”Can I have a banana split?” I begged Mama. “Not here, Connie.” said Mama. “I’ll fix you one at home.” “Won’t be the same,” I grumbled. All over town, signs told Mama and me where we could and couldn’t go.” The illustrations quickly point out to readers that Connie can’t sit at the counter because she is black. As the story progresses, Dr. Martin Luther King comes to town to speak, Connie’s older brother and sister join the NAACP, and one Saturday, Connie and her mother arrive at the snack bar to find four young black men sitting at the counter.

The turmoil of the 1960’s civil rights movement is difficult to convey in a picture book format, but Weatherford does an excellent job here. Connie’s mother matter-of-factly explains the racial prejudice of the time, and why four college students felt the need to protest at the lunch counter. Beautiful illustrations manage to convey the pride of Connie’s family and transcend the ugliness of the “whites only” signs and the store manager’s ugly attitude. Weatherford includes an author’s note with a photograph of the “Greensboro Four” and details about the sit-in and it’s effect on racial inequity.

Talk with readers about that changes that came about after the Greensboro sit-ins, and how things are different now. Follow up with a reading of Julius Lester’s LETS TALK ABOUT RACE.

Other books by Weatherford:
About the civil rights movement:
Johnson, Angela. A SWEET SMELL OF ROSES. ISBN 0689832524
Miller, Jake. SIT-INS AND FREEDOM RIDES. ISBN 0823962539

By Tammy Korns

Trick of the Mind

Waite, Judy. 2005. TRICK OF THE MIND. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689870140 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-11]

Told from the alternating voices of Matt and Erin, TRICK OF THE MIND is a realistic novel of betrayal, love, and murder for teens. Matt and Erin are two storytellers, each with his or her own personal problems. Because these two characters are outsiders among their own peers, their accidental friendship fulfills a need for each. Erin quickly desires to be much more than friends with Matt and uses her talents with card tricks as a means to continue the relationship. Matt, although accepting the card trick lessons and Erin’s attention, has plans to use the tricks to impress another girl and gain her attention. Matt’s attention toward Erin gives her false hope and Matt is aware of this but continues to use Erin for his own purposes. Through a series of mistaken messages, Matt’s life takes a serious turn and he is accused of murder and jailed. Erin has the potential to help Matt, but now feels betrayed. Once realizing this, Erin sets out to change Matt’s fate: “And once Matt understands what made everything get so tangled up and twisted, I’m sure we can start again.”

Reading the same story from two alternating perspectives works magnificently in this novel with a different typeface for each speaker. Each character rationalizes his/her individual actions and selfishness. Matt and Erin’s inability to deal with family issues only adds to the drama. Well developed characters and an open-ended finale, makes this book a winner.

Because the ending is so open-ended, readers can discuss different possible plot scenarios and defend their ideas using textual evidence and knowledge of characters. It would also be interesting to set up a debate based on differing points of view regarding the ending.

Other books by Judy Waite:
FORBIDDEN. ISBN 0192753126

By Pamela Kemp

Black and White

Volponi, Paul. 2005. BLACK AND WHITE. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670060062 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

“Eddie gave me a nod, and I nodded right back. I didn’t even know the man was black until we walked up to him, and Eddie told him it was a stickup.” This one decision forever changes the lives of two high school students. Marcus Brown and Eddie Russo known collectively as “Black and White” decide to rob people to pay for their senior activities, but things turn out differently when the victim identifies Marcus as one of the assailants. Will the police prove that Eddie was the shooter or will Marcus give up on his best friend?

In alternating chapters told in first person narratives, the young men describe the days after the event while waiting for the police to find them. The author portrays the characters with authenticity which provides nonstop and intense action both on and off the basketball court. Marcus becomes the tragic hero by taking responsibility for his actions while Eddie denies any involvement and accepts a scholarship to attend college. Issues of race and economic class are raised throughout the novel. Eddie’s parents have the financial capability to assist their son where Marcus’s mom has to accept the trial lawyer assigned by the court. . As stated within the novel, “There was nothing between us now, except for the line that separates black and white.” The two teens struggle with guilt and obligations to their parents, the victims, and ultimately each other. Although the language is harsh at times, readers will follow Marcus and Eddie and ponder the choices that were made by the teens.

Readers could roleplay the characters in the story to get a sense of what it was like to be Eddie and Marcus. If you were Eddie’s sister Rose, what would you do about the situation? Teens can discuss the alternatives.

Other books about interracial relationships, basketball, and justice:
De La Pena, Matt. BALL DON’T LIE ISBN 0385732325
Sitomer, Alan Lawrence. THE HOOPSTER ISBN 0786854839

By Aundrea L. Wright

Fake ID

Sorrells, Walter. 2005. FAKE ID. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525475141 [Suggested Grade Levels 9 and up]

Sorrells creates a fast-paced mystery adventure that keeps readers on their toes grabbing for clues to solve the story before the end. With twists and turns along the way, the characters run into new directions in each chapter.

A teenage girl (Chastity Pureheart) and her mother have been running from something since Chastity was a baby, only she has no idea what they are running from. On the night of her sixteenth birthday, things finally come to a head. Her mother disappears and not knowing whether or not she is alive or dead, Chastity begins to search for her, picking up clues that will eventually lead her to her true identity.

The language is simple, not flowery or elaborate, as seen in this excerpt: “A cell phone might have all kinds of information in it. Maybe even the phone number for whoever had sent him out here after me . . . I grabbed [the phone] . . . [Then] I heard a noise behind me” (173).

The story is designed to keep the reader engaged from beginning to end. Definitely a page-turner.

Teenagers can imagine that they are on the run. What might they be running from? Where would they go?

Book by the same author:

By Paige A. Poe

From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls' Clothing in America

Sills, Leslie. 2005. FROM RAGS TO RICHES: A HISTORY OF GIRLS’ CLOTHING IN AMERICA. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 03417085 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

Butterick patterns were such a hit when they were introduced in the nineteenth century that even Queen Victoria ordered them. Leslie Sills’ social history of clothing is full of fascinating details as she moves swiftly but thoroughly from Colonial times to the present. Illustrations are chosen with care to the pertinent period, and usually discussed in detail. Who today would know that Puritan children’s clothes were constructed with hanging sleeves or leading strings—or both—to steady or restrain them? SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL’S review concludes, “This visually pleasing volume will be useful to students researching American history, popular culture, or fashion, or just looking for a fun browse.”

Each time period is set apart with a differently colored background, simplifying navigation. The profuse illustrations include reproductions of paintings and drawings in full color, as well as representative black and white photographs. Full color reproductions of textile swatches further enliven the layout. Related facts and quotes are boxed for emphasis. Sills includes a glossary, extensive bibliography, webliography, museum and organization listings, and complete art credits, as well as an index.

Using magazines and original drawings, children can create a collage of girls’ fashions over time or in a specific period.

Interview mothers, grandmothers, and other women about what they remember wearing as children. How is it different from today?

Books about working children:
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. KIDS ON STRIKE! ISBN 0618369236

By Julie Brinker

Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems

Sidman, Joyce. 2005. SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN AND OTHER POND POEMS. Ill. by Beckie Prange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618135472 [Suggested Grade Levels K-10]

Ponds and wetlands are teeming with wildlife that is important to the ecosystem. This beautiful picture book with woodblock, hand-colored, watercolor illustrations alternates between poetry and factual information about the everyday animals that live in ponds. Reluctant biology students will find the fast facts about wood ducks, green darners, and painted turtles a painless way to dive into other resources that will help them expand their knowledge of biomes. Younger readers will enjoy the juicy words about the food chain and organisms: “Here hunts the heron, queen of the pond, that spears the fish that swallows the frog that gulps the bug that nabs the nymph that drinks the flea that eats the algae, green and small, in the depths of the summer pond.” The glossary on the last page helps readers decipher the scientific language.

After reading the poetry aloud to children, teachers can use the glossary on the last page to help students explore and define unusual words.

Have high school or middle school biology students write a poem about a pond animal that they have researched and studied after a field trip to a local pond.

Other poetry and nonfiction picture books about nature:

By Judy Brown McKenna

Americans Who Tell the Truth

Shetterly, Robert. 2005. AMERICANS WHO TELL THE TRUTH. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525474293 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

Artist Robert Shetterly takes fifty different Americans who took a stand on difficult issues and told the truth. He creates visual and verbal portraits of these people that are so true to their nature one would think their portraits are photographs. Beneath each illustration is a statement of truth that each subject made, such as this one from Dwight D. Eisenhower:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. Is it spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” p. 20

Shetterly takes commonly known people like Mark Twain, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., and intertwines them with some who may be lesser-known individuals such as Jane Addams and W. E. B Dubois. The statements of these Americans express viewpoints that get to the heart of what it means to be an American.

Children can choose one of the Americans portrayed and learn more about his or her life. This could include dressing like the person, visiting his or her hometown, if possible, and learning what life was like for this person and why Shetterly might have chosen the statement that he did. The children could then present what they learned in a manner such as “A day in the life of . . . ”

Book relating to politics/history:
Dangor, Achmat. BITTER FRUIT. ISBN 0802170064

By Paige A. Poe

Seen Art?

Scieszka, Jon. 2005. SEEN ART? Ill. by Lane Smith. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670059862 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-8]

While standing on the corner of Fifth and Fifty-third waiting on a friend, a young boy begins to wonder about his acquaintance. What could be keeping him? I asked a lady walking by, ‘Have you seen Art?’ This question sparks a flurry of activity as one young man journeys into the Museum of Modern Art and into the world of art appreciation. ‘How do you like our new look?’ asked a lady just inside. ‘Nice,’ I said. ‘I’m here for Art.’ From the opening pages, readers are caught in a play on words as the young protagonist keeps asking about his friend, Art, and museum-goers guide him to find examples of modern art.

Readers are in for a treat as the dynamic team of Scieszka and Lane bring a unique twist to the world of art. The long and narrow shape of the book mirrors the modern-art theme while the stylized characters add personality to an otherwise adult topic. Although the first person narrative is repetitive, a broad overview of what different people think defines art is displayed by the reproduction of famous paintings. On the final pages, the question is answered as the two friends reunite outside the museum. One additional piece that is sure to captivate readers is the compilation of artwork as depicted within the book. If you wanted to teach children about art appreciation a great reference would be the book SEEN ART?

During a unit on art appreciation, readers can create individual self portraits to celebrate the re-opening of the Museum of Modern Art. Readers could display their artwork throughout the school and charge an admission fee as a fundraising event.

Books about art appreciation for children:
Browne, Anthony. THE SHAPE GAME. ISBN 0374367647
Raczka, Bob. MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE. ISBN 0761327975
Waldman, Neil. THE STARRY NIGHT. ISBN 1563977362

By Aundrea L. Wright

Eyes of the Emperor

Salisbury, Graham. 2005. EYES OF THE EMPEROR. New York: Random House. ISBN 0385729715 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

Based on the true experiences of twenty-six Japanese American soldiers, EYES OF THE EMPEROR follows the journey of a fictional hero, Eddy Okubo, from his Hawaiian home to his base station on an island in the Mississippi River during the early days of World War II. Eddy and his fellow soldiers are taking part in Roosevelt’s new secret experiment; their assignment is to help train dogs to learn the smell of the enemy. Upon arriving the men are told: “You are here to represent the enemy these dogs will encounter in the Pacific. We’re going to train them to find you by your Japanese scent. You’re not the trainers . . . you’re the bait. We’re going to teach them to smell you, track you down, and attack you” (126). Eddy is shocked, hurt, and confused by his assignment as well as his harsh treatment, but ultimately decides to persevere despite ongoing prejudice all around him knowing that their racist experiment is doomed to fail in the end due to faulty logic. A tale of friendship, prejudice, and determination, EYES OF THE EMPEROR is an eye-opening account of human strengths and weaknesses set against a little known piece of American history.

Show teens some of the racist propaganda produced by the American government during World War II. Excellent images can be found at this site: http://www.rotten.com/library/imagery/propaganda/racist-propaganda/ To learn more about Japanese American soldiers during World War II explore this excellent site: http://www.goforbroke.org/default.asp

Other books about Japanese American treatment during World War II:
Salisbury, Graham. UNDER THE BLOOD-RED SUN. 0440411394

By Becky Laney

My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World

Ruurs, Margriet. 2005. MY LIBRARIAN IS A CAMEL; HOW BOOKS ARE BROUGHT TO CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. ISBN 1590780930 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

Most of us have probably never stopped to think about how children around the world get library books or even if they do. In this delightful volume, Ruurs highlights 13 countries to show us exactly how it is done. Beginning with Australia and its high-tech solar paneled mobile libraries, we then move on to more rural countries such as Azerbaijan, and then to the Inuits of Canada who receive their books in the mail. For each country presented, there are photographs of children reading books, information about how long they may keep their library books and how they return them. There is also an inset with a map that covers the basic geographical facts of each country as well as a picture of its flag.

The most inspiring stories are those from countries such as Indonesia where the books come from boats and then are bicycled throughout the rural countryside to reach children who are hungry for books. In Kenya, camels bring the books and they are set up on wooden shelves with grass mats set up for children to sit on. In Pakistan, foreign aid has provided librarians with book buses to bring books to children. Unfortunately there are too few books to share. Children are given one hour to read their book and then they must return them to the bus. The extent to which adults are willing to go to get books to children who are eager to read is an inspiration, especially to us Americans who are lucky to have so many choices.

Invite children to write to one of the aid organizations listed in the back of the book to determine how best to help out.

Mora, Pat. A LIBRARY FOR JUANA. ISBN 0375806431
Winter, Jeanette. THE LIBRARIAN OF BASRA. ISBN 0152054456

By Cay Geisler

Michael Rosen's Sad Book

Rosen, Michael. 2005. MICHAEL ROSEN’S SAD BOOK. Ill. by Quentin Blake. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 0763625973 [Suggested Grade Levels K- 12]

In this very personal picture book, Michael Rosen writes about feeling sad, particularly the deep sadness he feels over the death of his own son. In simple, direct language, he describes the way being sad feels and how it affects him. He details the very real anger and anxiety he experiences and reveals the memories that offer him comfort. He also connects his own experiences with the sadness everyone feels from time to time.

Quentin Blake’s cartoon illustrations, usually known for their kinetic energy and humor serve the text surprisingly well. A wash of greys and blues suggest the dark clouds of sadness in multiple scenes. A more colorful palette is used for the frames of memories and daily life. The final wordless double page spread is a powerful image of the author pondering a single, lit candle. The emotional journey experienced in the author’s ruminations and the illustrator’s art is an honest, often lonely one, but it also includes glimmers of hope and even humor.

This may be a challenging book to share because of our own difficulties in expressing and handling grief, but it’s a reassuring journey for readers of all ages who have known sadness in their lives.

If you feel comfortable leading a discussion about grief or loss, this is a book that encourages empathy and sharing. Gather other books illustrated by Quentin Blake, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen award. Look at how he conveys humor, action, happiness, sadness through his art.

Other books for children about coping with death:
Clifton, Lucille. EVERETT ANDERSON'S GOODBYE. ISBN 0805008004

By Sylvia Vardell

My Best Friend

Rodman, Mary Ann. 2005. MY BEST FRIEND. Ill. by E. B. Lewis. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670059897 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

Summer is here and six-year-old Lily is clear in her own mind that her best friend during pool play-day is going to be Tamika: “Tamika is my best friend. She just doesn’t know it yet.” Lily has it all figured out that if she just wears the right swimsuit and shares all of her best things, then Tamika will pay attention to her and learn to like her. The only problem is that Tamika is a year older and plays with Shanice. Lily’s point is proven when Shanice is absent one Wednesday and Tamika plays strictly with her. Shanice is back the next week, and everything returns to normal with Lily being either ignored or the butt of the older girls’ jokes. In the background is Keesha, another six-year-old, who patiently awaits Lily’s attention. The text never mentions that all of the characters are African American.

The gorgeous watercolor illustrations lavishly caress the children as they play in the bright sun at the pool. With their squinty eyes and tense bodies, the girls look so realistic that it is hard to believe they are two-dimensional representations. Details in the paintings vividly add dimension to the characters from earrings, hairbands, and outie-belly buttons to the distinctive Popsicles the girls eat. The way Lily stands and the expressions on her face extend the text and help create a more fully realized character. Children will empathize with Lily and her struggle to realize what she really wants. This is an honest look at relationships that children will respond to with curiosity and respect.

Invite children to make a list of all their favorite things about their best friends. Invite them to write thank you cards to their friends for what makes them special.

Books illustrated by E. B. Lewis:
Grimes, Nikki. TALKIN’ ABOUT BESSIE. ISBN 0439352436
Woodson, Jacqueline. THE OTHER SIDE. ISBN 0399231161

By Cay Geisler

The Lightning Thief

Riordan, Rick. 2005. THE LIGHTNING THIEF. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786856297 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

Sixth-grader Percy Jackson finally finds out why odd things—sometimes strange, dangerous things—keep happening to him: while his mother is mortal, his father is Poseidon, a god. Assorted Furies, Fates, and monsters are all after him. The only safe place is Camp Half-Blood, where young demigods learn about their heritage and train for their destinies under the unwillingly sober eyes of Dionysus. As this first book in a projected series unfolds, Percy—along with a satyr and a daughter of Athena—undertakes a quest that demonstrates that the entire Greek pantheon is alive and well and mostly living in America. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL’S starred review calls it “an adventure quest with a hip edge.” BOOKLIST’S review concludes, “Percy is an appealing, but reluctant, hero, the modernized gods are hilarious, and the parallels to Harry Potter are frequent and obvious. Because Riordan is faithful to the original myths, librarians should be prepared for a rush of readers wanting the classic stories.”

Riordan’s informal style is entirely believable in the mouth of twelve-year-old Percy. His protagonist’s good humor about almost everything (including his ADHD diagnosis) ensures that even the more horrific encounters are suspenseful without being terrifying. Chapter titles like “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom” are sure to please readers. While thoroughly entertaining, the smattering of Greek and Latin, as well as the solid grounding in Greco-Roman mythology are educational, too.

Research the original Greek myths using the author’s web site: http://www.rickriordan.com/. Compare favorite myths.
Trace Percy’s journey from Long Island to Los Angeles.

Books about Greek mythology:
D’Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire. D’AULAIRE’S BOOK OF GREEK MYTHS. ISBN 035015836

By Julie Brinker

And Tango Makes Three

Richardson, Justin and Parnell, Peter. 2005. AND TANGO MAKES THREE. Ill. by Henry Cole. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689878451 [Suggested Grade Levels K-12]

AND TANGO MAKES THREE is a picture book story done with wonderfully realistic watercolor illustrations about the penguin families in New York City’s Central Park Zoo. “Every day families of all kinds go to visit the animals that live there.” The book explains how penguins care for their eggs and hatch their young. In this friendly view of zoo life, Roy and Silo are two male penguins that were given an egg to hatch by their zookeeper, Mr. Gramzay. Mr. Gramzay named the penguin chick Tango “because it takes two to make a Tango.” Tango became the first penguin in the Central Park Zoo to have two daddies.

The author’s note at the end of this book reveals that two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo really did hatch an egg and they lovingly cared for the chick named Tango. This book addresses the often-controversial subject of same sex families with a matter-of-fact dignity. Can penguins in New York City’s Central Park zoo teach human families about tolerance and acceptance?

Younger readers can learn about penguins: their natural habitat; their fishing and eating habits; how they hatch their eggs; and how they care for their young. Make a penguin figurine out of clay or papier mache.

Older readers can read the book to discuss society’s attitudes about same sex families. They can create a research paper that addresses opposing viewpoints.

Other stories about blended families or distinctive penguins:
Lester, Helen. TACKY THE PENGUIN. ISBN 0395562333
Ryan, Pam Munoz. NACHO AND LOLITA. ISBN 0439269687
Weeks, Sarah. WITHOUT YOU. ISBN 0060278161

By Judy Brown McKenna

Anne Frank

Poole, Josephine. 2005. ANNE FRANK. Ill. by Angela Barrett. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375832424 [Suggested Grade Levels K-8]

Poole’s poignant picture book biography shares the life and times of Anne Frank. It places her experiences within the larger context of Hitler's rise to power and the vicious persecution of the Jews, both in Germany and later in Holland, where the Frank family was driven into hiding.

Poole’s offering provides young readers an opportunity to connect with Anne in a way not often accomplished by books for young children—with skillful and rich language, a chronology of Anne’s life is given, allowing readers an opportunity to better understand her life and times. While the text is substantial, the narrative nature of Poole’s telling keeps the book from being too heavy handed. Paired with Barrett’s dreamy art, the balance feels just right. Though she uses a muted palette, Barrett’s full page illustrations perfectly capture each scene and offer a sense of immediacy, drawing readers into the action. Realistically rendered, the art heightens this emotional connection and presents Anne’s perspective of the events unfolding. While all the illustrations evoke emotion, especially tender are scenes offering Anne with her family as well as the powerful final image of Anne staring off the page at readers, surrounded by Nazi soldiers after hearing, "smash, crash, boots on the stairs.” While source notes are not included, Poole provides a detailed timeline and offers a brief history of Anne’s diary rather than the fate of the young girl herself.

Older readers preparing to read THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL could read Poole’s biography as a way to build prior knowledge. They could begin a character map using what they learned from Poole’s book and add additional character traits as they read Anne’s diary.

Other works about Anne Frank:
Hurwitz, Johanna. ANNE FRANK: LIFE IN HIDING. ISBN 0380732548
Pressler, Mirjam. ANNE FRANK: A HIDDEN LIFE. ISBN 0141312262

By Rose Brock

Jerusalem Sky: Stars, Crosses, and Crescents

Podwal, Mark. 2005. JERUSALEM SKY: STARS, CROSSES, AND CRESCENTS. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 038574689X [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

Written and illustrated by Mark Podwal, JERSALEM SKY presents the city of Jerusalem over which people have fought for centuries. With simple yet beautiful poetic language, Podwal describes this spiritual center for three of the world’s major religions each with an equal right to the city. Podwal uses the sky itself above the physical city of Jerusalem as a metaphor for the sacred nature, the holiness, of the city. The text briefly tells the stories of King Solomon building his temple the future foundation of today’s synagogues, a star announcing Christ’s birth as well as Christ’s later crucifixion on the site which now holds a church, and Mohammed ascending to heaven where there is now a mosque. While the landmarks are not named, their descriptions are such that adults will know them. Finally, Podwal appeals for peace as all in the city pray to one God and ultimately none can truly own it.

The illustrations are soft but colorful impressionistic pastels all of which draw the viewer’s eyes up the page toward the sky. They not only illustrate the text but also weave a peaceful vision of what has been and what can be.

Readers may enjoy bringing, showing, and discussing symbols of their own faiths. With older children, this book could be used as a springboard for researching the major stories of a faith that is not their own.

Other nonfiction books about religion for children:
Bueller, Laura. A FAITH LIKE MINE. ISBN 0756611776
Hoffman, Lawrence A. WHAT YOU WILL SEE INSIDE A SYNAGOGUE. ISBN 1594730121
Khan, Aisha Karen. WHAT YOU WILL SEE INSIDE A MOSQUE. ISBN 1893361608
Osborne, Mary P. ONE WORLD, MANY RELIGIONS. ISBN 0679839305

By Terri Moore

Big Sister, Little Sister

Pham, LeUyen. 2005. BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 078685182 [Suggested Grade Levels P-2]

This charming picture book compares the privileges (“The Big Sister gets all the new clothes. I’m the Little Sister. I get all her old clothes”) and traits (“The Big Sister is very neat. I’m the Little Sister. I’m not”) of two young siblings. At the midpoint of the book, the comparisons become increasingly complementary as the relationship becomes more gentle and loving: “The Big Sister tells all the good stories! I’m the Little Sister. I get to listen!” The quickly sketched illustrations in Japanese brush pen, colored in a palette of chocolates and raspberry pinks, are amusing extensions of the simple text. BOOKLIST’S review concludes, “…[O]ne can easily imagine big and little sisters—grown-ups and children—giggling together over its many tender truths.”

By archetyping the girls as Big Sister and Little Sister, Pham universalizes the experience of sibling relationships. The illustrations are full of whimsical detail, inviting participation between reader and listener(s). The facial expressions of the characters, in particular, are full of humor and believability. BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER will appeal to most children who have or hope to have a sibling—let’s hope Pham is hard at work on BIG BROTHER, LITTLE BROTHER!

Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do with your sister, brother, or friend.
Discuss conflict and its resolution in family dynamics, focusing on sibling rivalries.

Other picture books about sisters:
Curtis, Marci. BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER. ISBN 0142300780
McPhail, David. SISTERS. ISBN 0152046593
Zolotow, Charlotte. BIG SISTER AND LITTLE SISTER. ISBN 0064432173

By Julie Brinker

Criss Cross

Perkins, Lynne Rae. 2005. CRISS CROSS. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 0060092734 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-9]

In this 2006 Newbery medal novel, multiple teen protagonists muddle their way through a summer of wondering, wandering, and trying new things. Pivoting around a mix of boy and girl characters, this meditative study of life in a small town weaves a variety of character sketches into a patchwork of adolescent longing and belonging. Each vignette moves the story forward quickly, with tidbits of drawings, photographs, dialogues, and poems sprinkled in for good measure. A handful of laugh out loud moments add leaven to the mix. One feels a sense of voyeurism, as if we are reading the diary entries of our childhood friends who are suddenly blossoming into “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” material. Each character is trying on a bit of a new persona, helping a neighbor, taking guitar lessons, building a pig roaster. As one character muses, “it’s a good thing to get out of your usual, you know, surroundings. Because you find things out about yourself that you didn’t know, or you forgot. And then you go back to your regular life and you’re changed, you’re a little bit different, because you take those new things with you.”

Readers may enjoy experimenting with mixing art and writing as Perkins has done, creating graphic journals or visual/textual short stories.

In the story, a necklace gets lost and then turns up repeatedly throughout the story. How might that be significant? Readers can share their own stories about unusual lost or found objects they’ve encountered.

Other books with multiple YA protagonists:
Creech, Sharon. WALK TWO MOONS. ISBN 0064405176
Konigsburg, E.L. THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY. ISBN 0689817215

Also by Perkins:

By Sylvia Vardell

Crooked River

Pearsall, Shelley. 2005. CROOKED RIVER. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375823891 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

CROOKED RIVER is a powerful historical fiction novel set in the Ohio frontier of 1812 that truly engages readers with its storyline of frontier justice. When 13-year old Rebecca discovers that her father has shackled a young Chippewa Indian accused of murder and awaiting trial in their loft, she immediately is terrified by the captive. Rebecca and her sister have the responsibility of feeding the prisoner, and slowly Rebecca’s fear begins to disappear. He begins to leave small gifts in exchange for the food, and Rebecca begins to leave tokens of friendship for him as well. However, as the trial draws near, Rebecca begins to realize that a fair trial for this accused man simply will not happen: “As Indian John’s trial drew closer, a gnawing dread began to grow inside me…an uneasy feeling had come over me about the trial and what was going to happen.” Although Indian John, or Amik as he is called by his people, has a lawyer who clearly produces evidence to the contrary, Rebecca realizes that her community is not interested in truth. She then makes the decision to do what she can to help her friend.

The story is told in two voice narration of Rebecca and Amik, the captured Indian. This style of writing adds much to the story as the readers get two different points of view about the unfolding events. The reader is able to experience the range of emotions that Amik feels including anger, confusion, and gratitude through his story. This is the second historical novel from this author and is based on a true story. An author’s note and bibliography are included.

Readers could write their own scripts for pivotal scenes and conduct a mock trial based on the information in the story.

Other historical novels with a frontier setting:
DeFelice, Cynthia. WEASEL. ISBN 0380713586
VanLeeuwen, Jean. CABIN ON TROUBLE CREEK. ISBN 0803725485

By Pamela Kemp

John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth

Partridge, Elizabeth. 2005. JOHN LENNON: ALL I WANT IS THE TRUTH. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670059544 [Suggested Grade Levels 8 and up]

Partridge starts from the beginning and tells the story of Lennon from birth to death, including his friends and early school days, how he fell in love with rock and roll, about being a “Beatle,” and about his days with Yoko and political views. Much of the story is told just from the photographs-- a different side of John Lennon is portrayed that many readers may not be aware of.

Also included in the book are brief biographies of the major people in Lennon’s life: the other three Beatles--Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, as well as Yoko Ono. A great deal of the book is about Lennon’s childhood and how he came to be a Beatle. His life after The Beatles and his use of drugs and relationship with Yoko Ono are also detailed. This is a great book for any Beatles, John Lennon, or rock and roll fan.

Readers can survey adults and other Beatles fans about their favorite songs. They can research Lennon’s influence on the music industry and how contemporary musicians view his songs, songwriting, and musicianship.

Books about John Lennon, the Beatles, and rock and roll:
Shirley, David. THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL. ISBN 0531158462

By Paige A. Poe

A Wreath for Emmett Till

Nelson, Marilyn. 2005. A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL. Ill. by Philippe Lardy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618397523 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy who was lynched in Mississippi for supposedly whistling at a white woman. Although a trial ensued, his killers were freed. Marilyn Nelson pays homage to a young man who reminds us all of the struggles that took place for racial equality.

“Rosemary for remembrance, Shakespeare wrote.
If I could forget, believe me, I would.
Pierced by the screams of a shortened childhood.”

In this powerful and vivid poem, readers are introduced to Emmett Till through the use of a heroic crown of sonnets in a Petrarchan rhyme scheme. In this capacity, the 15 sonnets are comprised in a sequence in which the last line of one poem becomes the first line of the next. The 15th sonnet is made up entirely of the first lines of the other 14. The formal presentation of the poem allows readers to reflect on the events and bring honor to a life that was abruptly ended. The illustrations mirror the represented use of nature in the poem. These images offer an emotional quality that resonant in the use of color. From the wreath of thorns to the blood soaked roots, the imagery is dramatic and symbolic. The raw power of the poem will have readers crying for justice all over again.

Readers can interview a parent, relative, or friend who may have lived during the time of the civil rights movement and present their findings in the form of a research paper, play, poem, or speech.

Other books about Emmett Till and racial injustice:
Crowe, Chris. GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER. ISBN 0803728042
Till-Mobley, Mamie. DEATH OF INNOCENCE. ISBN 0812970470

By Aundrea L. Wright

I am Sacajawea, I am York: Our Journey West with Lewis and Clark

Murphy, Claire Rudolf. 2005. I AM SACAJAWEA, I AM YORK: OUR JOURNEY WEST WITH LEWIS AND CLARK. Ill. by Higgins Bond. New York: Walker. ISBN 0802789196 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]

I AM SACAJAWEA, I AM YORK is told from the perspective of two people who accompanied the Lewis and Clark exploration team: a Native American woman (Sacajawea) and an African American man (York). The text shows how both narrators saw things:
Sacajawea- “The children chase the man called York and try to rub off his earth-colored skin . . . I am glad the he . . . will stay the winter” (5).

York- “Sacajawea is a smart woman. She collects wild [vegetables] to cook with [our] hunt[ed] game . . . [When] a strong gust of wind blows and . . . almost tips over Capn’s boat, Sacajawea leans over the side and snatches supplies and capn’s journals out of the water” (12).

Murphy shows that both York and Sacajawea have respect for one another and that Lewis and Clark respect them as well. In fact, Murphy notes that both York and Sacajawea are given a vote in where to build the winter fort (28). The captivating illustrations bring the story to life; readers feel as if they are part of the journey. Told from viewpoints of individuals not often known of on the Western journey of Lewis and Clark, I AM SACAJAWEA, I AM YORK, makes a unique perspective on history known.

Readers can pick a scene from the story and act it out (as a still tableau) or create a 3-D visual representation (a diorama).

Other books about Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea:

By Paige A. Poe

I Love

Minne, Natali Fortier. 2005. I LOVE. New York: Kane/Miller. ISBN 1929132751 [Suggested Grade Levels K-4]

Such a sweet book celebrates the simple things of childhood and the silly things that children love without poking fun at them. It is an international book meant for younger children, but it speaks to children of all ages everywhere.

The cover of the book itself evokes happy memories-- of a child trying on shoe much too large for her. Most children have tried on Mom or Dad’s shoes and traipsed around the house. It makes a child feel special, as he or she pretends to be like Mom or Dad.

The illustrations are child-like, but not cartoonish. Everyone can remember playing in the rain, picking at a scab, or just being with family and the crazy things that can happen. This book honors being a kid and “sticking a finger in dad’s shaving cream, just for laughs.” This is a book for every child or child at heart.

Children can make a list of all of the silly and wonderful things that they love. They can illustrate their lists, and then discuss why they love these things. The lists can then be displayed and shared with others.

Book about childhood and appreciating simple things:
Bridges, Margaret Park. I LOVE THE RAIN. ISBN 1587172089
Warnock, Natalie Kinsey. A CHRISTMAS LIKE HELEN’S. ISBN 06182313740

By Paige A. Poe


Meyer, Stephanie. 2005. TWILIGHT. New York: Megan Tingley Books. ISBN 0316160172 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-11]

Upon moving to the town of Forks to live with her father, seventeen-year-old Isabella Sparks falls in love for the first time. Unlike most teens, however, Bella falls in love with a vampire, Edward Cullen, who along with his adopted brothers and sisters -- also vampires -- attends her high school. Due to Bella’s alluring smell, Edward is drawn to her, but must exercise the utmost in self-control. When another group of vampires arrive in town during the Cullen family’s baseball game and one wants Bella for himself, the Cullen family must protect Bella from her own death by splitting into two groups: one to protect Bella by leaving town with her, the other to kill the vampire predator. Shaking off her protectors, Bella is lured to her old dance studio with the falsified threat of her mother’s impending death. Bella, cornered and bitten, faces the end of her mortal life and impending transformation into a vampire herself when Edward and family arrive, avenge her death, and reverse the venom beginning to spread through Bella’s blood. Ultimately, Bella returns to Forks to be with Edward who promises to stay with her as long as she wants him.

Far from a typical teen love story or a traditional vampire novel yet with elements of both intertwined, the improbable plot seems all too plausible through Meyer’s skillful writing. Edward, as a character, is refreshing as he struggles against his natural impulses to avoid hurting Bella. While waiting for intimacy is a rare message in contemporary teen novels, TWILIGHT is a haunting story that will resonate with teens.

Readers can read a traditional teen love story and a traditional vampire novel and then compare the points of convergence and divergence with TWILIGHT.

Other books about vampires:
Klause, Annette Curtis. THE SILVER KISS. ISBN 0440213460
Smith, L.J. BLACK DAWN, NIGHT WORLD. ISBN 0671014765
Vande Velde, Vivian. COMPANIONS OF THE NIGHT. ISBN 0152002219

By Terri Moore

Precious and the Boo Hag

McKissack, Patricia C. and Onawumi Jean Moss. 2005. PRECIOUS AND THE BOO HAG. Ill. by Kyrsten Brooker. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0689851944 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]

When Precious is left home alone due to a stomachache, she must heed one warning from her mother, “Now remember, don’t let nothing and nobody in this house-- not even me, ‘cause I got a key.” Then Brother pulls Precious aside and adds, “It might be Pruella the Boo Hag. Pruella is tricky, scary, and she tries to make you disobey yo’ mama.” Thus the adventure begins between Precious and the Boo Hag. Pruella tries to get into the house in a variety of ways. For example, she disguises herself as an old woman and as Precious’s friend Addie Louise. Will Pruella succeed in coaxing Precious to invite her into the house?

Temptation comes in various forms which allow Precious an opportunity to confront her fears. She faces her adversary with tenacity, courage, and in the eye of the storm sings a chant announcing her refusal to let the hag enter. “Pruella is a Boo Hag- she was right outside my window. She’s tricky and she’s scary, but I didn’t let her in!” The language is vivid, expressive, and will have readers reciting the words in the story. The oil and collage illustrations seem larger than life and bring to mind a playfulness that captures the audience. The animated language and energetic illustrations make this a flavorful read aloud especially for young readers.

Invite children to draw a picture about a time when they were scared.

Children can also complete a Venn diagram where they compare and contrast the story with another book about facing your fears.

Other fantasy books about facing your fears:
Donaldson, Julia. THE GRUFFALO’S CHILD. ISBN 0803730098
Munsch, Robert. THE PAPER BAG PRINCESS. ISBN 0920236162

By Aundrea L. Wright

Shackleton's Stowaway

McKernan, Victoria. 2005. SHACKLETON’S STOWAWAY. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375826912 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

Eighteen-year-old Perce Blackborow wants nothing more than to sail with legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. When he is passed over as a deckhand, Perce stows away below deck on the Endurance, knowing that Shackleton won’t turn the Endurance around to put him off. Perce mightily regrets his decision five months later when the Endurance becomes hopelessly trapped in the Antarctic ice. Over the next 18 months, the 28-man crew is forced to abandon the ship and survive on the ice, battling sub-freezing temperatures, lack of food, and constant danger of cracking ice. “He was patrolling the edge of the floe when there was a tremendous jolt. A crack ripped through the ice right between his feet. Even before he could shout an alarm, the crack raced on through the middle of camp. It split the ice in two, directly under the sailors’ tent.”

McKernan uses real life accounts of Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition as the basis for this work of fiction. Her research included interviewing Perce Blackborow’s family, reading diaries and excerpts from the ship’s log, and referencing numerous books about Shackleton, the Antarctic, and human endurance. All sources are listed, along with a timeline that chronicles the ill-fated expedition from cast off in August 1914 to the men’s rescue from Elephant Island in August 1916 to Shackleton’s death in January 1922. McKernan’s extensive research serves to give Perce Blackborow’s emotional story a passionate tone, while maintaining credibility in this fast-paced tale of adventure.

Challenge readers to work as a group and create a list of provisions they would take on an expedition to Antarctica. Have them take turns giving up their goods, and formulating a plan for survival.

Other books about Shackleton’s expedition:
Armstrong, Jennifer. SHIPWRECK AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD. ISBN 0517800144
Calvert, Patricia. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON. ISBN 076141485

By Tammy Korns


Marino, Gianna. 2005. ZOOPA. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0811847896 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-3]

The first two-page spread in this wordless alphabet book forms a yellow placemat on a gingham tablecloth. Readers see a bowl of tomato soup in which the letters A and B float and must infer that these two lonely letters correspond to the ant perched on the soup bowl’s rim and the butterfly in the image’s lower right hand corner. As each page adds two new letters and two new animals for identification, riotous action begins to fill the scene. Sometimes the animals are obvious: you can’t miss the grasshopper in pink tennis shoes or the chipmunk carrying a long-handled net in his backpack. Other times children will need to study the drawing’s details: elephants appear on the bowl’s rim, as if they were part of a design, and a single unicorn appears to decorate the spoon handle. Ultimately, a zebra explodes into the bowl-breaking conclusion.

This picture book works well when read aloud--groups of children collectively supply the words implied by Marino’s vibrant gouache depictions of a bird’s eye tabletop view. When read independently, the pages will prompt a slower reading for those who want to study the pictures for every humorous detail. The number of animals in each painting grows steadily from two to twenty-six, but each image becomes exponentially more complex as the different characters interact. The ant that appears on the first page, for example, spends time playing with the butterfly, fleeing the frog, hiding behind the iguana, and fleeing once again. The hedgehog goes for a swim and bites the monkey’s tail before the monkey fixes him with a reproachful glare. Finally, Marino names each animal in a visual glossary. This ingenious concept book will mesmerize young readers with its fresh take on a familiar genre.

Children can choose a new theme or topic like plants, foods, or even names to create their own alphabet books.

Other alphabet books with limited text:
Joyce, Susan. ALPHABET RIDDLES.ISBN 0939217503
Rose, Deborah Lee. INTO THE A, B, SEA. ISBN 0439096960

By Suzy Parchman

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society

Mah, Adeline Yen. 2005. CHINESE CINDERELLA AND THE SECRET DRAGON SOCIETY. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 006056735X [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

CHINESE CINDERELLA defies compartmentalizing. On one hand it is fascinating historical fiction based on the Japanese occupation of China during WWII. The period details are presented fluidly and well integrated into the story. Chinese words sprinkled throughout provide an authenticity to the text. A bibliography, an historical note, years and signs of the Chinese zodiac, and a glossary of Chinese terms are included in the back pages. But it is much more than historical fiction. With jailbreaks, threatened American fighter pilots and other exploits, it is a grand adventure story. The author calls it fantasy as she develops the secret Dragon Society of Wandering Knights made up of orphans of all different faiths who discuss their religious beliefs openly and believably and train rigorously in martial arts.

CC is thrown out of her father’s home by her evil stepmother and joins a secret kung fu society that is honor-bound to help those in trouble. Honor, respect, discipline, and loyalty are depicted in discussion among the characters and in their everyday actions as the members of the martial arts academy actively train for a secret mission. Meditation and martial arts are clearly explained and cooking and other household chores are presented as matter of fact aspects of daily life. Although heavily plot-driven, the characters are distinct and mostly fleshed out by their family stories and religions. A great balance between fantasy, action, reality, and faith is believably presented in a fast-paced, multicultural, historical drama.

Invite children to experiment with writing the Chinese characters noted in the glossary. Older readers may enjoy drawing parallels with other Cinderella stories.

By the same author:

By Cay Geisler