Vol 2, Issue 5 May 2022

Whether you've got a long road trip ahead or a long day in the sunshine listening to waves, a good book makes any vacation better. This month's notable reviews provide a little taste of history and discovery as we share recently released books that you may want to include in your luggage or summer tote bag.

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ChildrensLit Notable Reviews

The Fossil Whisperer: How Wendy Sloboda Discovered a Dinosaur
By: Helaine Becker
Illustrated by: Sandra Dumais
Publisher: Kids Can Press
ISBN: 9781525304187
Reviewer: Greg Romaneck

When Wendy Sloboda was a little girl, she loved to go out into nature and observe whatever she could come across. Young Wendy loved to take pictures of plants and animals or draw wild creatures so that she could cover her walls with the denizens of the great outdoors. As time passed, Wendy became particularly interested in fossils and the long-gone world of the dinosaurs. While visiting an archeological site in the Alberta Badlands of Canada, Wendy discovered a small fossil that turned out to be a dinosaur egg. Remarkably, that fossilized egg contained the remains of an unborn dinosaur and proved to be a unique discovery. As time passed, Wendy increased the amount of time she spent on fossil hunting expeditions. Eventually, Wendy chose archeology as her career and, over the years, she came to discover more than three thousand dinosaur fossils. In one case, Wendy's hard work led to the discovery of the skeleton of a Triceratops-like dinosaur that proved to be a previously unknown species. In honor of Wendy's fine work, that species of dinosaur was christened as Wendiceratops. Based on the real-life experiences of Wendy Sloboda, this informative picture book offers young readers an inspiring story of a young girl who took her passion for fossil hunting and turned it into a successful career grounded on the search for knowledge. Combining a fascinating biographical story with engaging illustration and just enough science to please readers with a bent for dinosaurs, this book is a fine addition to a home or school library and one that is inspirational as well as entertaining.

The Ultimate Book of Water
By: Anne-Sophie Baumann
Illustrated by: Vanessa Robidou
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 9791036338793
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Water is one of the most important natural resources found on Earth, and it is a critical component of nearly all life on the planet. Though it is not known exactly how or when water arrived on Earth, scientists have speculations that not only help explain the origins of water but also what is likely to happen to water as a result of climate change. Through the use of highly interactive pages on an oversized backdrop, this book connects readers to a huge variety of information about water from myriad perspectives. From the origins of water to a detailed explanation of the water cycle and a fascinating description of how water supports life, readers will obtain a wealth of information from this engaging book. Each page incorporates flaps, sliders, and pop-up elements that immediately invite interaction and extensive investigation, especially for readers who enjoy hands-on literature. This book is not meant to be read straight through or necessarily in one sitting; the pages are filled with small nuggets of information that require time and patience to uncover, and readers will enjoy returning over and over again. Unfortunately, some of the text is difficult to read because of a lack of sufficient contrast in color, but as readers become more accustomed to the book's design, they will be more willing to investigate these phrases. There is a strong message of conservation and environmental protection throughout this book, and the depth and breadth of information included provide a compelling argument for why protecting Earth and its water is so important. Readers of all ages will learn something from this book, and it is a dynamic addition to nonfiction library collections for elementary school-aged readers.

Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis
By: Susan Hood with Greg Dawson
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0063083899
Reviewer: Molly Callender

The heart-wrenching memoir is the true story of a young girl hiding in plain sight of the Nazis and will keep readers turning pages as quickly as possible. Set in 1941 Stalin-ruled Ukraine, Zhanna and her sister live a happy, carefree life with doting parents and grandparents. Music is a staple in their home- their father is a professional violinist. The sisters are both young piano prodigies. The girls are the youngest ever, at ages 6 and 8, to study at the music conservatory in Kharkiv. The sisters become well-known for their talent. Stalin and Hitler agree that Hitler will not invade Russia for 10 years. Unfortunately, after 2 years, Hitler invades Russia, annihilating the Jewish population. Death marches are common, and Zhanna's family is no exception. Her father saves her by covertly bribing a young Ukrainian soldier. He whispers to Zhanna, "I don't care what you do, but live." Zhanna does just that with Frina, although it is a harrowing and terrifying time in their lives. The girls change their names and travel around the country to stay safe. During this time, their piano abilities are found out, and they are forced to play concerts and travel with the Nazis. Zhanna is continually anxious that their Jewish heritage will be found out. Told through free verse and interspersed with quotes from Zhanna herself, this novel shines a light on the part of World War II that has been largely forgotten. The author's notes at the back include extensive pictures, letters, and information on Zhanna's life. As distressing as it is to hear of the horrors of war, it is a privilege to read about Zhanna and Frina's courage and see their hopes fulfilled. This is a must-read for upper elementary and middle school students.

Crocs: A Sharks Incorporated Novel (Vol 3)
By: Randy Wayne White
Publisher: : Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 9781250813497
Reviewer: Tricia Finch

With its theme parks and beaches, Florida is a perennially popular vacation spot, but the charms of "Old Florida" destinations tend to be overlooked. Set in Sanibel Island, Florida, the "Sharks, Inc." series may just change that perception, at least among younger readers. Sanibel resident White brings Doc Ford, his popular marine biologist character from his series of novels for adults, to serve as a mentor for the kids in this series. Local kids Maribel, Sabina, and Luke are Sharks, Inc., and they complete different ecological-themed missions under the supervision of Ford and Capt. Hannah Smith. Their newest mission is to visit Bonefield Key to locate a wild orange tree surviving a citrus-tree-destroying disease. In the process, they must get by the cantankerous Capt. Pony Wulfert and her attack goose, as well as an extremely large saltwater crocodile who is protecting her hatchlings. Once they earn Pony's trust, she shares with them her belief that she is being haunted by a ghost, because of a long-forgotten treasure. To make things worse, Pony's unscrupulous and greedy neighbor is selling reptiles illegally and will stop anyone or anything in his way. White's child characters are not native Floridians, so readers are privy to a newcomer's perspective of the area. Luke, Capt. Hannah's nephew, has come from Ohio after some difficult experiences, while the girls are both from Cuba. Luke has an affinity for animals and excellent hearing. Younger sister Sabina, obsessed with the supernatural, is convinced that the alligator-like creatures they see are dragons and the island is haunted. Maribel is practical, straightforward, and a good captain. She gets exasperated by her younger sister's antics. Sabina bonds with Capt. Pony over their belief in ghosts and their shared cultural background, while Luke bonds with the goose after he helps rescue it. Part mystery, part spooky tale, and infused with supernature elements, including headless ghosts, visions, and a witch, this story is a good choice for readers who like mysteries, stories with an environmental or ecological bent, or learning about Florida's environment and history. This fast-paced, high-interest novel is sure to be popular in libraries needing more fiction for elementary readers, and it would also make for a good class set purchase for school libraries. Parents who read with their kids and are fans of Hiaasen or White's adult works should enjoy this one as well.

Alice Ate an Apple: The World of Letters
By: Anne-Marie Labrecque
Illustrated by: Mathieu Dionne St-Arneault
Publisher: Twirl Books
ISBN: 9791036338809
Reviewer: Amber Judkins

This is not your average alphabet book. Once your toddler or young child has learned the alphabet, this book is perfect for mastery. Each set of pages reviews the alphabet in order and contains a bright picture and alliteration highlighting that particular letter. The goal is to count how many times the letter appears in the sentence. Readers can also review each letter in its different forms: uppercase, lowercase, and cursive. Lastly, get a jumpstart on writing by allowing the readers to trace each letter. The end of the book reviews each sentence and provides the correct answer as to how many times the letter appears. If you are looking for a beginner book on the alphabet, this book is not for you just yet. This brightly contrasted book is sure to be a hit in your classroom as a read-aloud or in a one-on-one setting at home. Use this book to help your child or classroom become a confident reader and writer.

Oona and the Shark
By: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrated by: Raissa Figueroa
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780063071421
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Oona the mermaid loves making friends with all manner of creatures under the sea, and it is usually very easy for her to connect with others. But Stanley is different, and Oona is determined to make him her friend, no matter what it takes. She tries everything from sharing her favorite toys to putting her many inventions on display, but nothing seems to be working. Frustrated, Oona throws a party to remind herself how magical she is no matter who her friends are. Once the party is cleaned up, though, Oona makes an important realization that helps her better understand Stanley and gives her another approach to win him over. This charming picture book teaches young children about how people might be different from one another and that it requires patience and open-mindedness to bond with others. Rich colors fill each image in this book, capturing the essence of life under the sea. Deep blues, greens, and purples are the primary hues, and these place readers squarely inside Oona's watery world. Together, the illustrations and text create a dynamic and memorable landscape for readers of all ages, emphasizing one another and enhancing understanding even for very young readers. The text appears in a variety of sizes, fonts, and styles, becoming just as much a part of the visual component of the book as the pictures themselves. This choice not only adds appeal for pre-readers but also begins to increase textual awareness and understanding because of the dynamic nature of the writing. Thoughtfully designed and beautifully crafted, this is a story that will resonate with young readers, especially those who are discovering the myriad complexities of friendship. This is an inclusive and insightful inclusion to libraries for young children.

The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell
By: Laura Alary
Illustrated by: Ellen Rooney
Publisher: Kids Can Press
ISBN: 9781525303487
Reviewer: Molly Callender

Maria Mitchell's story comes forward in this new and beautifully done picture book. Maria, the famed astronomer, dedicated her life to science, education, and questioning. Born on the small island of Nantucket, Mitchell was no stranger to the sea and sky. Setting her sights high, she focused on the beauty of the stars. With her father's support and guidance, she learned how to use astronomical tools and read the night sky. Breaking down barriers for women in education and in the male-dominated field of astronomy. Mitchell's story is well-told in this book. Whimsical mixed-media collage enhances the narrative of her life. Taking her actual words from letters written and using them as boats when she sets out from Nantucket into the world shows the artwork's originality. The Author's Note includes extra information about Mitchell, but not in the traditional biographical sense. Instead, she effectively takes Mitchell's own principles and mindsets and uses them as a call to action for young thinkers. This is a compelling and creative way to finish this fantastic book.

Climb On!
By: Baptiste Paul
Illustrated by: Jacqueline Alcántara
Publisher: NorthSouth Books
ISBN: 9780735844810
Reviewer: Molly Mont

Author Paul and illustrator Alcantara take readers on a tropical adventure with this book. Starting in a relatable situation for parents, a young girl pushes her dad out of the house to go on a hike through the Pitons located in St. Lucia. They run into some setbacks along the way but overcome these challenges by working together and helping each other. A sprinkling of Creole words and their meaning are included throughout the story. Each page is beautifully illustrated with native animals, plants, and waterfalls. Their journey to the summit is completed with a spectacular view of the town they live in on a bright and sunny day. The last page of the book includes a seek-and-find option parents can share with their children as they read. This would be a great book to read with a young child as the colorful pictures and short story will keep their attention to the end.

Book An Author

Naomi Milliner

Too short to play basketball and too squeamish to be a surgeon, Naomi Milliner decided to become an overnight success instead. It only took sixteen years to get her debut novel, SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS, published. She has served on the Great Group Reads Committee for the Women's National Book Association since 2009 and enjoyed working as both reviewer and Program & Events Coordinator for Children's Literature in years past. Naomi lives with her husband, sons, and two ridiculous cats in Maryland. She loves visiting students both in-person and virtually.

Naomi is available for in-person and virtual visits throughout the U.S. Naomi has three different presentations and presents for ages 9 through adult. Her presentations are great for schools and PTA meetings, family nights, synagogues and churches, and libraries as they revolve around her book and life with her special needs son.

Andrew Toffoli

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Andrew Toffoli is living one of his many dreams: illustrating, writing, and publishing his own children's book series. Andrew combined his Graphic Design degree with a love of teaching and began his career as a graphic design teacher in Miami Dade County Public Schools, where he has motivated students for over 25 years. Andrew's inspiration comes from his love of family, art, history, and teaching. Over the past 18 years, he has created a series of books called "Histories" that continues to grow. He has also earned a loyal following of teachers that use his books to teach history, art history, and science across the curriculum. Inspiring children to not only learn history but develop their inner author. The Histories series now contains 11 titles and has sold over 50,000 copies.

Andrew is available for in-person visits in Florida and bordering states and is also available for virtual visits anywhere. His presentations include a book reading, illustration demonstration, a run-through of the creative process of writing and illustration, and a trivia game with hand-drawn illustrations as the prizes.

Want to book Naomi or Andrew for your library's summer or fall programs? Directly connect with them through Children's Literature's Booking Service.

Children's Literature's Booking Service provides direct contact with each listed author and takes no commission fees from authors or event coordinators. Want to use this valuable resource to plan your next author event?


Book Awards You Need to Know

The Freeman Book Awards

The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA), the Committee on Teaching about Asia (CTA) of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), and Asia for Educators (AFE) at Columbia University sponsor the annual Freeman Book Awards. The awards recognize quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of East and Southeast Asia.

"We know that reading helps shape a student's view of the world. If stories are biased or skewed, adverse views of society, people, and even of themselves can develop. On the other hand, when parents, teachers, librarians, and other adults share books where characters from under-represented communities are extant, valued, and not stereotyped, positive views are formed. Thus, collections and curricula serving young readers should include diverse books so that all children can see themselves accurately reflected and investigate the experience of people with differing backgrounds. Freeman Book Awards contribute to this process." - Nancy Hope, Executive Director, Freeman Book Awards. Learn more at Freeman Book Awards - NCTAsia.

2021 Winner- Children's Literature

The Floating Field by Scott Riley and illustrated by Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien

After watching the World Cup on television, a group of Thai boys is inspired to form their own team. But on the island of Koh Panyee, in a village built on stilts, there is no open space. The boys can play only twice a month on a sandbar when the tide is low enough. Everything changes when the teens join together to build their very own floating soccer field. Perfect for fans of stories about sports, beating seemingly impossible odds, and places and cultures not often shown in picture books.


2021 Winner- Young Adult: Middle School Literature

Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh

Junie Kim just wants to fit in. So she keeps her head down and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Junie must decide between staying silent or speaking out. Junie's history teacher assigns a project, and Junie decides to interview her grandparents, learning about their unbelievable experiences as kids during the Korean War. Junie comes to admire her grandma's fierce determination to overcome impossible odds and her grandpa's unwavering compassion during wartime. And as racism becomes more pervasive at school, Junie taps into the strength of her ancestors and finds the courage to do what is right. Finding Junie Kim is a reminder that within all of us lies the power to overcome hardship and emerge triumphant.


2021 Winner- Young Adult: High School Literature

Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick and illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada

Fifteen-year-old Yuki struggles at school with her confidence and goes to Japan to stay with her grandfather, a well-known manga artist to whom she is very close. But during her visit, a calamitous event occurs – the East Coast Earthquake and Tsunami – and her beloved Grandpa is lost. Yuki and her friend Taka must make sense of the terrible situation and come to terms with the loss of their life as they knew it – and see that through renewal and with resilience, they can emerge from this tragedy with optimism for the future. Interwoven with Japanese folk tales, modern-day ghost stories, and the creation of her very own vibrant manga hero, Yuki finds the courage to overcome extraordinary odds and take her first steps into the world that lies beyond catastrophe. Told through both prose and manga.


2021 Winner- Young Adult: High School Literature (Graphic Novel)

The Waiting by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim and translated by Janet Hong

The story begins with a mother's confession ... sisters permanently separated by a border during the Korean War. Keum Suk Gendry-Kim was an adult when her mother revealed a family secret: She had been separated from her sister during the Korean War. It's not an uncommon story—the peninsula was split across the 38th parallel, dividing one country into two. As many fled violence in the north, not everyone was able to make it south. Her mother's story inspired Gendry-Kim to begin interviewing her and other Koreans separated by the war; that research fueled a deeply resonant graphic novel. The Waiting is the fictional story of Gwija, told by her novelist daughter Jina. When Gwija was 17 years old, after hearing that the Japanese were seizing unmarried girls, her family married her in a hurry to a man she didn't know. Japan fell, Korea gained its independence, and the couple started a family. But peace didn't come, and the young family of four fled south. On the road, while breastfeeding and changing her daughter, Gwija was separated from her husband and son. Then seventy years passed. Seventy years of waiting. Gwija is now an elderly woman, and Jina can't stop thinking about the promise she made to help find her brother. Expertly translated from Korean by the award-winning translator Janet Hong, The Waiting is the devastating follow-up to Gendry-Kim's Grass.

ChildrensLit Highlights

It's not too late to find great authors for your upcoming summer and fall events. Register as an event coordinator at https://www.childrenslit.com/eventcoreg to use Children's Literature's Booking Service for planning your programs and events.
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