Vol. 1 Issue 8, August 2021

While we had all hoped the 2021-22 academic year was not a repeat of 2020-21, many of you are facing the same or similar challenges. ChildrensLit is thinking of each of you. In a sea of uncertainty and trials, it is comforting to know we can pick up a good book and escape for a few hours. Our August newsletter spotlights eight books our reviewers feel can help your readers escape the challenges they may be facing. Each book presents a story or idea in a page-turning way, and each offers a chance to reflect. They are thrilling and fun afternoon reads, and we doubt any will stay on library shelves very long. Whether you manage a school, public, or home library, each book deserves a space on your bookshelf and in the hands of your readers.

Shelley Oakley
Director, Children's Literature

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ChildrensLit Notable Reviews

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant
By: Nizrana Farook
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing
ISBN: 9781682632857
Reviewer:Elisabeth Greenberg

Nizrana Farook's Chaya, a female Robin Hood character in the tropical land of Serendib, gets out of trouble as fast as she falls into it. In the opening chapter, Chaya is stopped by a bronze spear at her throat, while underneath her blouse, a secret pouch clinks. What has she done? Stolen the Queen's jewels? Why? Because the King would do nothing to help a poor friend who was attacked by a crocodile. Chaya wheedles her way out of trouble with the guard, but as she reluctantly departs the palace, she suddenly hears a shout. The race is on, complete with a mayhem of elephants! Farook beautifully paints her tropical landscape, rich with sounds and flavors, and delineates an engaging pair of friends for Chaya—her carpenter friend Neel who had to drop out of school to work, and Nour, a pampered lass who is just a little bit smarter than Chaya but aghast at the idea of escaping through the jungle. As they manage their trek through the jungle, they encounter wild animals and bandits, are chased by the King's forces, and end up meeting the mysterious Sena, who plans to take the Kingdom back. Highly recommended as an exciting read for third and fourth graders, particularly those who have an interest in India and Sri Lanka.

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children's Books
By: Adam Perry
Publisher: Yellow Jacket
ISBN: 9781499811247
Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green

Ten-year-old Oliver Nelson may be the only patron of the Garden Grove Library. At least, he may be its only thief. Sequestered away in the hard-to-reach section of the stacks, he favors the old, musty, incomplete titles. If he takes some home with him, that shouldn't matter to anyone, right? What difference could one copy of "The Timekeeper's Children" matter, anyway? All of the other kids seem to be completely tuned into their VR headsets; no one should miss this one little book. Then the Pribbles arrive. Eccentric toy inventors—makers of the popular alternative reality headsets—are out to get the same story that is Oliver's most-beloved possession. They'll stop at nothing to get it, even if that means taking the story right out of Oliver's mind. If he is to resist, Oliver must enter the story fully, and ally himself with the characters, so they can all overcome the dark and ominous villains of its pages, all while staying ahead of the Pribbles, who have also entered the story. Readers will be drawn into this meta-story from the start. As the perils mount, it may seem impossible to turn the pages quickly enough. A fascinating blend of fairy-tale and sci-fi gothic elements makes this a one-of-a-kind book from a new voice in children's literature. Recommended for public and elementary school shelves.

List of Ten
By: Halli Gomez
Publisher: Sterling Teen
ISBN: 9781454940142
Reviewer: James Smith

"In the one place I could have been invisible, I'd created my own audience." Halli Gomez's "List of Ten" follows Troy, a sixteen-year-old boy with Tourette syndrome (TS) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Troy narrates his experience as he quickly approaches the tenth anniversary of his TS diagnosis...the day he plans to finish his list of ten goals to accomplish in his life. For Troy, these are challenging goals: to get his first kiss, to talk about Tourette in public, to be pain free. And when the first nine goals are accomplished, to commit suicide. Gomez, who herself has Tourette syndrome, has written a powerful book that refuses to ignore the painful aspects of Tourette yet still maintains a hopeful message. Perhaps most interestingly, by crafting a character who often feels invisible and is marginalized, Halli Gomez successfully makes the experience of disability itself visible. This novel fits well into the growing body of children's and young adult literature that positively centers disabled characters.

This House Is Home
By: Deborah Kerbel
Illustrated by: Yong Ling Kang
Publisher: Owlkids
ISBN: 9781771473804
Reviewer: Kathryn Kardiff

Inspired by the real-life phenomenon of Chinese nail houses, this book tells the story of a rabbit family that refuses to sell their house to developers, who are depicted as two foxes, a powerful image. The rabbits' refusal to sell does not stop the wheels of change from rolling into their quiet, idyllic community as readers see the family's neighbors moving on and the construction vehicles moving in. Soon their little home is an "island in a river of concrete," surrounded by a never-ending flow of traffic and noise. It seems that they will never again have the same quiet, rural life they once knew until one of the younger rabbits comes up with an inspired, creative solution to their predicament. It is a clear message to readers that although some things are out of our control, we still can control how we react to them and devise out-of-the-box solutions to solve them. Kerbel's text is poetic without being verbose, and Kang's watercolor illustrations are soft, yet compelling, adding an almost dreamlike quality to the story. Through these paired-together elements, this story pulls at the heartstrings but is ever hopeful. A small book that tackles big concepts in a thoughtful and touching way.

Q and U Call It Quits
By: Stef Wade
Illustrated by: Jorge Martin
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
ISBN: 9780062970688
Reviewer: Kate Kupiec

Like many letter blends and digraphs, Q and U spend a lot of time together. Usually, they have loads of fun. They make quilts, go on quests, and even visit the quacking ducks on the farm. Eventually, U notices that she can pair up with lots of other letters and still enjoy herself. Q feels lonely, and he struggles to make new friends. Then he invites U to hang out again to play squash, have a barbeque, or even quiz each other. Uninterested, U grows frustrated by Q's constant pleas for attention and takes a break to get some space for herself. When the other letters hear of this split, they begin to question grouping up so often themselves. They start to do their own things independently; chaos ensues. The clever text is enhanced with Martin's illustrations, which show real personality and emotions as the letters go through the story arc, both paired up and split apart. A phenomenal book for phonemic awareness, this piece is made even more hands-on with the formatting: Letters of focus in each sentence are printed in red to give readers helpful visuals. This story is more than just a phonics resource, though; it is a wonderful tool for discussing friendships. It's great to spend time together, to have multiple friends, and to take some quiet moments alone. Learning to balance ourselves and our relationships is essential, and this book shows that struggle and resolution in a much less obtuse and more relatable way than other books. Endless conversations can be prompted with this read.

Women in Physics
By: Mary Wissinger
Illustrated by: Danielle Pioli
Publisher: Science, Naturally!
ISBN: 9781938492341
Reviewer: RevaBeth Russell

What a delight this series is! Filled with STEM thinking and featuring women, each title encourages readers' curiosity. Colorful, exciting illustrations encourage readers to dive into this volume. Emilie du Chatelet was interested in gravity, but she was kept out of cafes where physics was being discussed because women were not allowed. So, Emilie dressed in men's clothing to join the conversation. She also translated Isaac Newton's Principia, which was written in Latin, to French so she could read it. That also meant other scientists would read it. Laura Bassi, the first woman in the world to be a professor of physics, loved studying force, which cannot be seen, although its effect on objects can be. Marie Curie and her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie are famous women who were awarded Nobel Prizes for discovering radium and polonium. Chien-Shiung Wu is a physicist whose discovery changed what was known about atoms. This book features women who asked questions, solved problems, designed, and redesigned experiments. The glossary is just big enough to help a young reader through the book. This book--and all of those in this series--are recommended for every elementary library.

Mad for Ads: How Advertising Gets (and Stays) in Our Heads
By: Erica Fyvie
Illustrated by: Ian Turner
Publisher: Kids Can Press
ISBN: 9781525301315
Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung

Advertising is complex. Behind the commercials and advertisements is plenty of research and planning to promote a product. With this book, readers can learn the basics of the advertising industry, including marketing a product. Follow the marketing of a bubble gum product, learn how advertisers find ways to persuade consumers to purchase their product and find out how marketing research tracks buyers. For instance, learn how colors, emotions, sounds, pricing, and more influence consumers to select certain products over others. Throughout the book, comical characters illustrate some of the information. Headings and subheadings are used to organize the topics. Vocabulary words are printed in bold font through the main body of the text and listed in the glossary. Also, the bibliography has a variety of additional resources (i.e., articles, websites, books, and radio). This book provides a strong start to understanding the world of advertising and marketing. Readers interested in how advertising influences consumers' decision-making will begin to see products from a different perspective.

Are You a Cheeseburger?
By: Monica Arnaldo
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780063003941
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

In the dark of night, inside a garbage can, two dramatically different creatures cross paths. Grub the raccoon is looking for some choice meal options, and Seed is stuck, waiting to be planted in the ground and to start growing. The potential for Seed's bounty is great, and when Grub becomes convinced that Seed will grow into a cheeseburger plant, he is more than happy to oblige Seed's wishes. When Seed develops into something different than Grub expects, though, he is left with an important decision to make. This tale of unlikely friendship is a delightful adventure for young readers. Told through a combination of dialogue and narration, it is a read-aloud children will love hearing as they examine the expressive illustrations. Readers who are becoming more comfortable with complex storytelling will appreciate the progression of the story, especially as it includes dramatic tension surrounding Seed's true identity. The illustrations are filled with texture and detail, drawing readers into the story world. With a combination of real and imagined elements, this dynamic presentation emphasizes the feelings that inherently emerge from having to wait for something exciting. Varying angles and colors make each image eye-catching while complementing the narrative. The endpapers and cover pages further enhance the story by including relevant imagery and kid-friendly humor. Built on hardcover with glossy interior pages, this book is well-suited for both home and classroom settings. Readers who enjoy tales about unlikely friendship with some comic elements are sure to appreciate this book. Well-crafted and entertaining, this book is an excellent addition to library collections for young children, preschool through second grade.

Children's Literature Reviewer Spotlight

James Smith

James Smith joined Children's Literature's review team in the summer of 2020. James is an English language and literature teacher currently getting an MA in Children's Literature and an MAT at Simmons University in Massachusetts. While James loves reading pretty much any middle grade book, retellings of classic tales and books that incorporate non-European mythologies in their world building are especially his favorites. If stranded on an island for days, James would love to have these books with him: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi; Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (honestly anything from Levine Querido Press https://www.levinequerido.com/); and Frogs, Snails, and Feminist Tales by Bronwyn Davies. When James isn't writing killer book reviews, he's spending his time running, baking, academic writing, and--of course--reading! Check out more reviews from James in our previous newsletters, which can be found at childrenslit.com, under Resources.

Book Awards You Need to Know

Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award

Sponsored by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award is named for Amelia Elizabeth Walden, a pioneer in Young Adult literature. Each award and honor are given to a book that exemplifies literary excellence, widespread appeal, and a positive approach to life in young adult literature. "Honor and winning titles must be a work of fiction, ideally a novel (stand-alone or part of a series); be published within one year prior to the call for titles; be published in the United States but may have been published elsewhere prior; and possess a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit." Walden Award | ALAN Online (alan-ya.org). The first Amalia Elizabeth Walden Award was given in 2009.

2021 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Winner

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people. In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal's office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance -- and Papi's secrets -- the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they've lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

2021 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Finalists

Slay by Brittney Morris

An honors student at Jefferson Academy, seventeen-year-old Keira enjoys developing and playing Slay, a secret, multiplayer online role-playing game celebrating black culture until the two worlds collide.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It's the end of senior year, and they're spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer. Everything changes one afternoon in April when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley's not just one of the girls. She's one of the black kids. As violent protests engulf Los Angeles and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family facade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson. With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

Kent State by Deborah Wiles

Told from different points of view--protesters, students, National Guardsmen, and "townies"--recounts what happened at Kent State in May 1970, when four college students were killed by National Guardsmen, and a student protest was turned into a bloody battlefield.

ChildrensLit Highlights

ChildrensLit reviewers come from a wide background of work with children and teens. We continue to secure reviewers who have unique experiences and skills, and this month we are recruiting school library media specialists. ChildrensLit reviews a wide range of books for children and teens, and school media specialists are excellent at curating library collections that meet school library needs. Thus, making them excellent book reviewers as well. If you are a school media specialist interested in becoming a ChildrensLit reviewer, please visit https://www.childrenslit.com/becomeareviewer to sign up.
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