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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 25, Number 5 May 2015 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Self-Help Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Social Issues Shelf American History Shelf Board Book Shelf
ABC Shelf Environmental Shelf Bilingual Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Autism Shelf Fiction Shelf
Graphic Novel Shelf Audiobook Shelf Music CD Shelf
DVD Shelf Activity Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Math Shelf Biography Shelf Folktale/Fairytale Shelf
Judaic Shelf Books in Series Donovan's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking
Elin Kelsey & Soyeon Kim
Owlkids Books Inc.
10 Lower Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON Canada M5V 2Z2
SoCal Public Relations
9781771470629, $18.95,

Written specifically for young children ages 4 to 8, "Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking" looks deep into the forests, skies and oceans to explore how animals solve problems. Whether it's weaving a safe place to rest and reflect, blowing a fine net of bubbles to trap fish, or leaping boldly into a new situation, the animals featured (including the orangutan, humpback whale and gibbon) can teach us a lot about creative problem solving tools and strategies. "Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking" uses lyrical text grounded in current science alongside wonderfully detailed art to present problems as doorways to creative thinking. "Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking" encourages an inquiry-based approach to learning, inviting readers to indulge their sense of wonder and curiosity by observing the natural world, engaging with big ideas and asking questions. An author's note at the end delves deeper into the research behind the text. As entertaining as it is informative, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' throughout, "Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking" is a truly exceptional and highly recommended addition to family, school, and community library collections.

Kung Fu Kitty: Laying Down The Law
Laupi Bortz
Abaton Book Company
100 Gifford Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07304
9780981655017, $9.99, 80pp,

Set in ancient China, featuring animal characters. "Kung Fu Kitty: Laying Down the Law" begins in Henan Province, the birthplace of Kung Fu and the cradle of Chinese civilization, and continues with madcap adventures in outer space. Like its predecessor, this book is family friendly, suitable for readers of all ages. It is beautifully illustrated with detailed pen and ink drawings by Michael Gentile, former art director of New York Press and other publications. While author Lauri Bortz is best known for her award-winning plays, she has been creating children's literature for decades. Ms. Bortz, who worked as a nanny for many years, received multiple requests from her charges and their parents for stories committed to paper, a real book. With the Kung Fu Kitty saga, she has finally met these demands. A quick and entertaining read, "Kung Fu Kitty: Laying Down The Law" is an outstanding novella that can be confidently recommended for young readers -- and older reader's who appreciate a finely honed original story that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

Laugh-Along Lessons: 5 Minute Stories
Helen Lester
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
9780544503922 $12.99

This treasure trove of read-aloud stories holds eight tales that can be read aloud in five minutes, and specialize in fun tales that hold much potential for laughter as well as learning. From 'Me First', which teaches the basics of helping kids take turns, using piggy protagonists, to a princess's too-big birthday which creates a selfish little monster whose most-used word is 'gimmie'. There are hairy monsters, magic chickens, and a fast-hopping rabbit; all of which come to life under a combination of Lester's whimsical story-telling hand and illustrations by Lynn Munsinger in a collection perfect for parents and kids to share.

The Self-Help Shelf

I Can't Believe You Said That!
Julia Cook, author
Anita DuFalla, illustrator
Boys Town Press
14100 Crawford Street, Boys Town, NE 68010
9781934490679, $10.95, (soft cover),

The subtitle for "I Can't Believe You Said That!" is "My Story About Using My Social Filter...Or Not!" RJ is the rebel hero who often speaks before he thinks, needing to apologize for offending others or hurting feelings with his unfiltered comments. Finally, after RJ has made a number of hurtful comments to others, his parents have a talk with him about using his social filter to review his feedback words before he says them. They explain to RJ that he has two bubbles of words in his head, his Thinking bubble and his Talking bubble, and they are connected by a social filter. RJ has been forgetting to turn on his social filter, to help keep from saying hurtful or disrespectful words to others. They encourage him to really think about his words before he says them, how they may impact on others, to use his social filter to stop words that are mean, unkind, or wrong. RJ is encouraged especially by his dad to use his social filter to analyze social situations. Then RJ is given an example of a situation where he manages to use his social filter to make a slightly altered comment to a classmate that is upbeat and positive, instead of hurtful or negative. At the end of several more exciting positive comments that are turned around by use of the social filter, RJ is amazed at his success: "I can't believe I just said that... but it worked!" Additional tips are included for parents and educators help reinforce the excellent suggestions of "I Can't Believe You Said That!" Perky, upbeat color cartoon illustrations show RJ learning from a variety of social commenting situations, keeping a fun, positive perspective. Another life skills book by the same author artist team that is also excellent is "Gas Happens! What to Do When It Happens to You." (9781934490761, $10.95).

My Magic Glasses
Virginia Butler Gray, author
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Bohlsen Gruop
9781452560311, $12.99 (soft cover),

Written by an experienced teacher who understands emotional stumbling blocks often experienced by children, "My Magic Glasses" uses a unique blend of narrative verse, simple suggestions of difficult or painful social situations, and a fun imaginary accessory to identify feelings and help problem solve called my magic glasses. Colorful action photographs reveal children at work and play together, experiencing different feelings, some of anger, unhappiness, rejection, fear of the unfamiliar, disappointment, etc. In each example, the child is encouraged to examine her/his feelings with the magic glasses, to decide what is really happening and what positive steps the child can choose to take to turn around the negative feelings and let go of them. Here is an example of the upbeat, narrative verse that permeates "My Magic Glasses:" "So I put on my glasses and what do I see?/ The words of those others need not affect me./ I have lots of options. I could ride my bike,/ play fetch with my dog, there's so much that I like./ I'll think for a moment and turn things around,/ The power's in me, no need to feel down./ I must pay attention to all that I feel,/ It's all up to me to keep myself real./ I reach for my glasses whenever I'm sad/ about things I have done that make me feel bad./ I know I have choices for all that I do,/ but the easiest way is to blame it on you./ If I let that habit of blaming another,/ take over my life then I'll never discover,/ that I have the power to change how I feel,/ No matter what happens, it's my job to heal (Pp. 6-7)." This is powerful magic indeed. "My Magic Glasses" supports and exemplifies the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) required by current Common Core State Standards. The pages of "My Magic Glasses" are in different rainbow shades, with dark type set for the versed narrative. This works well except for pages 14 and 15, which in my edition were a very dark purple, making it nearly impossible to read the non-contrasting black type. A lighter shade of background, or a lighter shade of contrasting print would work better here for narrative clarity. This is a minor flaw, only mentioned because the book is so full of good ideas for healthy personality development, it would be tragic for any of it to be lost or unread. "My Magic Glasses" helps children to identify their feelings, own their feelings, evaluate the situation calmly, and make deliberate, conscious choices to promote better feelings in the future. Most important of all, "My Magic Glasses" helps kids to care about themselves, listen to their heart, and let go of anger and blame. "My Magic Glasses" should be successful with elementary to middle school children ages 7-11.

The Picturebook Shelf

Good Night Yoga
Mariam Gates, author
Sarah Jane Hinder, illustrator
Sounds True
413 South Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
9781622034666 $17.95

Also available as an ebook, Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story is not just a read-aloud bedtime book; it encourages little ones (and adults!) to relax and get ready for sleep by sharing simple, restful yoga poses and stretches. None of the suggested yoga poses are particularly difficult; at most, they might involve balancing on one leg. "As I breathe in, I bend my knees / and scoop the clouds around me. / As I breathe out, I stand tall / and release the clouds over my head. // and the clouds float by." Charming color illustrations show children demonstrating the poses, and the final two pages show the "Good Night Yoga Flow" succession, followed by simple instructions for "Cloud Journey Visualization". Good Night Yoga is a wonderful bedtime activity that parents and children can share together!

Sleepy Snoozy Cozy Coozy
Judy Young, author
Michael Glenn Monroe, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
Suite 200, 315 East Eisenhower Parkway
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781585369089 $15.99

Sleepy Snoozy Cozy Coozy offers a unique twist on the bedtime picturebook by showing a how a number of animals and their babies bed down for the night. "Near the banks of a river / Through a hole, just a sliver / A beaver dives and then he kicks / Into his lodge of logs and sticks. // A limb and loggy / Dim and soggy / Crusty cruddy / Dried up muddy // Leafy willowy / Not too pillowy / Place where you won't lay your head / But to a beaver it's a bed." In addition to the rhymes and color illustrations of each creature, a lengthy text footnote teaches young readers a little more about how these animals live. Children will especially enjoy sounding out the onomatopoeia in the singsong lyrics.

She Yelled, I Screamed... She Pulled My Hair!
Tracy Leshay
Again Again Books
9780989998833 $19.95 hc
9780989998888 $9.99 ebook

She Yelled, I Screamed... She Pulled My Hair! is a children's picturebook about sibling rivalry. When two little sisters wake up on the wrong side of the bed, it's the start of a very trying day! Will the two of them ever learn how to share, or to get along without yelling and hair-pulling? Black-and-white photographs of the two children (Phoebe and Audrey) who inspired the story enliven this uproarious, modern-day fairy tale. Adults who have ever cared for particularly rambunctious little ones will get an extra kick out of She Yelled, I Screamed... She Pulled My Hair!

The Secret Sock Club
Janine Werchinski-Yates, author
Michael P. Conway, illustrator
Lucky Sock Publishing
9780985568993 $15.99

The Secret Sock Club is a children's picturebook from the point of view of assorted socks. We may scarcely think of the socks we put on our feet, but to a sock, being chewed on by a dog - or worse, thrown out with the trash - is a terrifying danger. The adventures of anthropomorphic socks (portrayed with charming eyes and mouths in simple, colorful drawings) are surprisingly delightful; The Secret Sock Club emphasizes the importance of friendship and mutual support. The text is sufficiently involved so that very young children may need it read aloud to them; children age eight and up will most likely be able to follow the sock adventure on their own. The Secret Sock Club is playful, whimsical, storytelling fun from cover to cover!

The Little Mouse Santi
David Eugene Ray, author
Santiago Germano, illustrator
Bienville Ray LLC
9780692252253, $15.00,

Delightfully written by David Eugene Ray and wonderfully illustrated by Santiago Germano, "The Little Mouse Santi" is the story of a little mouse who may be small, but has a big dream! "The Little Mouse Santi" explores one of the most important aspects of a child's life -- the search for identity. Santi wants to be a cat, and even though all the other mice laugh at him, he follows his dream. This timeless story ends with a whimsical twist as Santi learns a valuable lesson about self-determination while also learning he is not the only dreamer! Specifically intended for young readers ages 5 to 7, and for elementary school libraries for grades K-2, "The Little Mouse Santi" is an extraordinarily entertaining read and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library picture book collections for young readers.

P. Zonka Lays An Egg
Julie Paschkis, author/illustrator
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30318
9781561458196, $16.95,

"P. Zonka Lays An Egg" is a delightful story of a particularly creative chicken who enjoyed the colors of the world, but laid very few eggs. All the other chickens laid their eggs on a regular schedule, but not P. Zonka. Gloria the rooster did not lay eggs, but he did his job of crowing very well. Only P. Zonka did not lay eggs regularly. Instead she spent her days wandering around the farmyard, studying flowers, clouds, and other beautiful sights and colors. The other hens tried to suggest that P. Zonka should try laying eggs as they did, but she only was interested in looking at bright red tulips and pink cherry blossoms. When they ask her why she does not lay eggs, she answers in terms of her observations of brilliant colors of the natural world. The other hens suspect P. Zonka is lazy. Finally one day she concentrates very hard and manages to lay one egg, but was it brown or white or gray-blue like the other eggs? No indeed! This was a spectacularly decorated egg, with "patterns of sun yellow, grass green, tulip red....blues as bright as day and blues as dark as midnight." Everyone agreed the egg was beautiful. P. Zonka continued to study the colors of the world around her, and she didn't lay very many eggs, "...but the ones she laid were worth the wait." All the lovely colorful illustrations of "P. Zonka Lays An Egg" are done in the style of Ukrainian egg decoration, made with patterns of beeswax and layers of dye. Each year many people all over the world decorate pysanky (special eggs), have parties, and eat delicious food. "P. Zonka Lays An Egg" celebrates this beautiful artistic tradition and inspires young readers to appreciate the brilliant colors found every day in nature.

Just One Apple
Janosch, author/illustrator
NorthSouth Books
600 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780735841512, $17.95,

"Just One Apple" is a stunning, deceptively simple wisdom fable for children with striking, contemporary style paintings for illustrations. Brilliant ribbons of colors thread through every page of this story of the dangers of wish fulfillment. Walter is a poor man who has only one apple tree that bears no blossoms and no fruit. Seeing his neighbors' fruitful trees, Walter is envious and wishes fro just one apple. In time his wish comes true, but it proves to be a challenge rather than a blessing. Walter sacrifices all his time and effort to the care and guarding of first the single blossom on the tree and then the growing apple. The single apple grows to a huge size. Walter is ostracized from all friends and neighbors as he becomes obsessed with guarding the single monstrous apple. Finally he picks it and laboriously transports it to market, where no one will buy the giant apple, accusing Walter of fakery. They even tease him to taste it and Walter admits he does not actually like to eat apples. Instead of being a special blessing, the apple had become a burden to Walter. Then a miraculous deliverance happened, when a dragon threatened the kingdom and the king ordered his detectives to claim Walter's giant apple to feed the dragon so it would be appeased. Walter was relieved to be rid of his burden. An odd thing happened when the dragon fell on the monstrous apple and began to eat it. The dragon fell down dead, poisoned! In the end, Walter was still poor, but he regained his health and was happy again. The story ends with Walter lying in bed, making another wish for just two small apples that could be put into a basket and sold at market....... Do you think Walter made a wise wish the second time? What will happen? "Just One Apple" is a thoughtful story of the hazards of obsession, beautifully illuminated by delicate, expressive, imaginative paintings in a bold, contemporary style. Children of all ages will enjoy this unusual story experience.

No, No, Kitten!
Shelley Moore Thomas, author
Lori Nichols, illustrator
Boyds Mills Press
825 Church Street, Honesdale, Pennsylvania 18431
9781620916315, $16.95,

"No, No, Kitten!" is an ebullient, unconventional story about a very unconventional yellow-orange kitten who wants to explore forbidden realms and play with unusual toys. Filled with spunky, detailed, quirky illustrations of all the unlikely adventures Kitten wants to have, "No, No, Kitten!" could almost be subtitled "Kitten Wants to Blast Off to Jupiter (with Puppy)!" The repetitive narrative style starts to charm an lull the reader ("Kitten wants a basket. Kitten wants a pillow. Kitten wants a blanket. Kitten wants....") until the page turn reveals Kitten's latest want, which is a puppy! Every line is punctuated with a perfectly fitting, funny colored illustration which also contain clever clues as to the next shocking adventure Kitten wants to have! Perhaps children will enjoy most of all the portrait of Kitten's devoted but frustrated child owner, a girl who tries desperately to teach Kitten safer and more predictable ways and behaviors. This is the author of the last ditch saying, "No, No, Kitten!" and the real heart of fun. For Kitten, and playmate Puppy, are creative and determined unconventional adventurers, as her proud owner finally learns. Why does Kitten want engines, gadgets, and lasers? Why does Puppy join Kitten on a surprising imaginary blast off spaceship ride to Jupiter, wearing a forbidden helmet? Proud owner reactions surprise and soothe when the incorrigible pair return intact from their imaginary (?) space voyage, but the closing pages are only too clearly indicative that the unexpected adventures of Kitten and Puppy have only just begun. Created by a talented, award -winning team, "No, No, Kitten!" is a fantastic fresh start for a kids' series, with strong support for the power of the imagination and mind stretching abilities outside of conventional role establishment by gender, age, species, etc...

Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Jane Cabrera, author/illustrator
Holiday House, Inc.
425 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780823430505, $16.95,

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is a lushly illustrated forest fantasy dream centered around re imagined lyrics to the well-known children's song of the same name. In the illustrations, a puppy and a kitten row their boat down a winding jungle stream, encountering squeaking mice, chattering monkeys, a trumpeting elephant, a snapping crocodile, a roaring lion, a growling tiger, and cooing doves. Every animal has a proper greeting in the added verses to the song. Finally, the pair reach twilight time, and look for the mommy dog who woofs reassuringly back to them as she covers them up in their beached boat to snuggle up and dream. The illustrations are brilliant, filled with glowing suns, luminous moons, and fantastic colored flowers as well as insects and animals. At the end of the story is the full version of the song with music and lyrics, to be sung together at reading time. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is characterized by its original verse lyrics that invite participation by the youngest reader, and by the unusual illustrations which were created with acrylic paints on palettes of old china plates, using black lines and colors sometimes mixed on the artwork itself as well as the palette. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is fittingly dedicated to "all our planet's disappearing forests."

Dozi the Alligator Finds a Family
Daniel Boris, author
Nicola Sammarco, illustrator
Astor + Blue Editions, LLC
Heritage Builders Publishing, publisher
3105 Locan Avenue, Clovis, CA 93619
9781941437568, $14.95 hardcover,

"Dozi the Alligator Finds a New Home" is a delightful young readers' story written in lulling verse about an adventurous young swamp alligator who smuggles himself aboard a young family's vehicle after a night of fun and fireworks at the carnival. During the long ride home, Dozi meets young Byron Hoxwinder in the back seat, sharing a secret snack and conversation with him in the dark van. Dozi has somehow disguised himself in a red T shirt belonging to Byron, and the new friends devise a clever but possibly unrealistic plan to fool Byron's parents and allow Dozi to stay with his newly adopted family. "Dozi the Alligator" ends with a cliffhanger that begs the author/illustrator team for a crucial sequel in a series that is sure to catch the imagination of adventurous young readers everywhere. The eye-catching, brightly cheery illustrations bring out a positive, cartoon-informed vista with certain nostalgic tones of Walt Kelly's Albert the Alligator and Pogo Possum, of days of yore in Okeefenokee Swamp. A classic always deserves to be re-imagined, and Dozi the Alligator promises to be an exciting new series for inquisitive new readers. The underlying theme of acceptance of differences and celebration of diversity is always welcome and needed.

I Don't Want To Be A Frog
Dev Petty, author
Mike Boldt, illustrator
Doubleday & Company
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385378666 $16.99 hc
9780375982347 $10.99 ebook

Available in both hardcover and ebook formats, I Don't Want To Be A Frog is a silly children's picturebook about a little frog who is dissatisfied with his own species. Why can't he be a cat, or a rabbit, or an owl? Why does he have to be a slimy frog that eats bugs? But then a ravenous wolf explains that there are advantages to being a slimy, bug-filled frog - that's the one animal that the wolf won't eat! Exuberant color illustrations add an outstanding touch to this brief yet whimsical read-aloud story.

Dinosaur vs. Mommy
Bob Shea
125 West End Avenue
New York, NY 10023
9781423160861 $16.99

Dinosaur vs. Mommy presents an unusual scenario in which Dinosaur is spending the day with Mommy, helping her wake up by emitting a terrible roar, caring for laundry, and more. The only problem is: the things Dinosaur does to 'help' Mommy more often cause issues. Does Dinosaur really win in such circumstances? A fun story has Dinosaur running Mama ragged in this whimsical piece.

Counting Crows
Kathi Appelt
Atheneum/Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor
New York, NY 10020
9781442423275 $17.99

Counting Crows is illustrated by Rob Dunlavey and tells of three crows in red scarves and hungry, who fly out of their nest with the idea of grabbing a quick bite. The only problem is: a cat has been keeping tabs of them and is also hungry. A counting book blends with curious crows and a cat dilemma to make for a fun counting book with a difference - and one that will absorb kids.

Tell Me What to Dream About
Giselle Potter
Schwartz Wade
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1
New York, NY 10019
9780385374231 $17.99

Tell Me What to Dream About is the entreaty of a little girl who begs her big sister to help her fall asleep, with a bedtime story providing something different in the way of sleepy possibilities. From eating a meal of tiny waffles with tiny animals to furry friends that might prove too frightening, this story requires parental read-aloud assistance or good reading skills but offers a whimsical, inviting and warm story of sisters who get along. As far as something different in the way of picture book bedtime tales, it's a winner.

Monty's Magnificent Mane
Gemma O'Neill
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street
Somerville, MA 02144
9780763675936 $15.99

Monty's Magnificent Mane tells of Monty, who loves his long, curly mane. Nobody else has anything like it, and there's nothing as important in his life - or is there? When his mane becomes dirty, tattered, and less than visually appealing, Monty discovers that there may be more to life than good looks, and that the finer art of listening to others might be even more important. When a new friend takes a bite out of his pride, Monty gets some quick lessons in pride in this fun story with its unusual illustrations and message.

Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012-3999

Peter Stein's LITTLE RED'S RIDING HOOD (9780545609692, $16.99) tells of a little red scooter who loves driving around his 'hood - and a cast of other vehicles from a monster truck that eats tires and engines to a granny vehicle who always feels somewhat run-down. When Little Red encounters the King of the Road, trouble ensues in a story recommended for boys with an affection for talking vehicles. Sarah Weeks' GLAMOURPUSS (9780545609548, $16.99) tells of a glamour cat who loves to strike a pose to become the center of attention - until an unwelcome interloper steals her thunder. Even worse - it's a dog. In a world where there only seems to be room for one star, Glamorpuss faces some real challenges - and possibly a foe she can't defeat. Steve Antony's PLEASE, MR. PANDA (9780545788922, $16.99) asks all of his animal friends if they'd like a doughnut - but only one animal asks correctly. Here's a book about manners that will appeal to any youngster learning the basics of good manners: a book that holds several lessons and a surprise ending that will delight even as it educates. Selina Alko's THE CASE FOR LOVING (9780545478533, $18.99) considers interracial marriage, is illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, and considers the love between Mildred and Richard Loving, of different races. It tells of how laws changed, love prevailed, and transformations took place, and it's a recommended pick for any looking to teach youngsters about social issues and mixed race marriages. Jennifer Hamburg's MONKEY AND DUCK QUACK UP! (9780545645140, $17.99) receives fun, whimsical illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham as it tells of best animal friends with a difference. They have a strong knack for becoming a winning rhyming team and their rhymes border on rap as young kids will relish the timbre and cadence of their rhyming prowess. Perfect for either read-aloud or young reader pursuit! Jane Yolen and Mark Teague's HOW DO DINOSAURS STAY SAFE? (9780439241045, $16.99) tells of how a little dinosaur's parents shower him with love in many ways; from assuring his safety inside and outside of the home to helping guide him through the world. From his desire to run down stairs and jump from roofs to taking bottles of water on a long hike, this blends a safety-conscious dinosaur with a young boy's experience and invites kids to understand why parents say 'no'. Alice Schertle's SUCH A LITTLE MOUSE (9780545649292, $16.99) tells of an adventurous little mouse who pops out of his hole every morning and runs off to explore the world. The little mouse finds that the nature around him - a meadow, a flowerpot, a puddle - is filled with strange creatures and wondrous things. Kids with basic reading skills will appreciate Stephanie Yue's lovely drawings. Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (978054504356, $16.99)'s GIRAFFES CAN'T DANCE appears in its 15th anniversary edition to explore a world in which Gerald the giraffe is dance-challenged. He wants to dance, but he needs the right music - and the right moves. Fun rhymes accompany a fun celebration of movement and individuality in a presentation that requires very few reading skills. All are wonderful picture book leisure choices.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003

Margarita Engle's DRUM DREAM GIRL: HOW ONE GIRL'S COURAGE CHANGED MUSIC (9780544102293, $16.99) tells of an island girl who faces a tough local rule: that girls cannot be drummers. She has to keep her dream quiet and practice in secret, but when islanders hear her skills, they finally decide that boys and girls alike should be able to drum. The story comes from the true story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's taboo against female drummers and is an inspiring and fun story. Chris Van Allsburg's JUST A DREAM (9780544422834, $18.99) tells of Walter, who wants to live in the future where undoubtedly there will be personal planes and robots. Unfortunately, in the present, it's Walter's responsibility to do chores and he resents his boring present-day world, until a series of dreams lets him know what could happen if he continues on his path of thinking. This story originally appeared over twenty years ago, but its message of environmental responsibility is just as powerful today as it was then. Robbin Gourley's TALKIN' GUITAR; A STORY OF YOUNG DOC WATSON (9780544129887, $16.99) tells of one Arthel Watson, surrounded by sounds in the rural world. He may be influenced by his rural home, but it's not enough to listen - he strives to make music as well. He would grow up to become one of the most famous creators of 'old-timey' music, Doc Watson, and this picture book store will appeal to any with good reading skills and an interest in music. Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld's STICK AND STONE (9780544032569, $16.99) tells of two very different friends who stick up for each other - because friendship rocks. Stick rescues Stone, and so when Stick becomes stuck, Stone can help also. This easy reader is a perfect introduction to the written word, and the give-and-take of friendship. Josh Schneider's EVERYBODY SLEEPS (BUT NOT FRED) (9780544339248, $16.99) tells of all kinds of animals and birds who sleep - except for boy Fred, who has too much imagination and too much to do. All kinds of drowsy animals are amazed at his ceaseless energy - until the inevitable happens. A fun story requires only basic reading skills to get the point across. Especially bright, lively, and appealing is Karen Beaumont's WILD ABOUT US! (9780152062941, $16.99), with gorgeous large-sized, zany drawings by Caldecott Honor Winner Janet Stevens and an inviting story line that celebrates differences. Nobody laughs at Giraffe for his spots, or dares tell a Flamingo that he can't be pink. Fun animal kingdom examples of differences make this a highly recommended and unique choice. These are lovely, unusual reads holding valuable messages for youngsters.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street
Somerville, MA 02144

George O' Connor's IF I HAD A TRICERATOPS (9780763660130 $15.99) extols the virtues of having a triceratops for a pet, who would likely be the protagonist's best friend. It would always want to play and it would always know how the boy felt - and it could scare away nighttime horrors by sleeping in his room. A fun, whimsical story evolves where a boy imagines his make-believe dino friend and has a fun time considering how different his world would be if only he had a dino to play with. Michelle Knudsen's MARILYN'S MONSTER (9780763660116, $15.99) receives good drawings by Matt Phelan as it tells of the kids in Marilyn's class who have monsters. But Marilyn can't go out and just look for a monster: monsters find you. Can she be patient and resist the idea that she's the kind of girl no monster can love? Or should she be pro-active and look for one herself, defying all monster rules? A sweet title, indeed!

The Social Issues Shelf

The Defenders: Bully Patrol
William and Monika Carter, authors
Tad Butler, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers
5 South First Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781939930248, $11.95,

Kick starting a new peaceful anti-bullying campaign waged through "The Defenders" series of books, "The Defenders: Bully Patrol" follows some of the experiences of Matthew and older brother Tommy as they encounter bullying at school. Inviting parents, teachers, children, and educators to unite in exploring creative, positive, non-violent tactics for handling bullies and bullying, "The Defenders: Bully Patrol" endorses a proactive, constructive approach to bully intervention. Tommy, in his last year of elementary school in the fifth grade, is determined to help smooth the way for his younger brother Matthew, a kindergarten student. But Matthew encounters upsetting bullying tactics from two other fifth grade boys when Tommy can't be near him on the playground. Tommy is assisted by two of his close friends as well as the rest of the kids on the playground in standing up to the bullies and refusing to tolerate their bullying. Approved by the teachers, this successful intervention is the beginning of a new group tactic, the Bully Patrol. The Bully Patrol will be known as the Defenders, and will be open to anyone interested to join in standing up to bullies together. A summary chapter at the end of "The Defenders: Bully Patrol" explains that children know bullying is wrong, and they must tell someone about it to help put a stop to it. Older siblings are encouraged to encourage and stand by their younger siblings who experience bullying. Peer pressure can be used positively, as when the other kids on the playground stood with Tommy and Matthew and the Bully Patrol, saying, "We won't tolerate your bullying and we won't play with you if you don't stop." Using adult support and an anti-bullying union approach, kids can reverse the problem of bullying and end it forever. Brightly colored illustrations and quick moving narrative chapters make "The Defenders: Bully Patrol" a hit with readers ages 7 and up.

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor
Maria Dismondy, author
Donna Farrell, illustrator
Making Spirits Bright
5449 Sylvia, Dearborn, MI 48125
c/o 411 Video Information (publicity)
PO Box 1223, Pebble Beach, CA 93953
9780984855834 $10.95

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy is a softcover children's picturebook about learning to befriend and work with schoolmates who are learning English as a second language. When Johnny first meets Gabe, the new kid in the class, he's put off because he glimpsed Gabe crying as mother sent him off to school, and because Gabe knows very little English. As the week goes by, Johnny sees Gabe trying new things, learning more, and sharing mastery of a difficult soccer move with other kids, who immediately want Gabe on their soccer team. Gabe eventually teaches the soccer move to Johnny, who finally realizes that learning to say things in another language can be as difficult as mastering a very tricky sports technique! Chocolate milk (Gabe's favorite drink) is a recurring symbol in this heartwarming story about the importance of making friendships and helping others, and the power of kindness when working to overcome the language barrier. Highly recommended!

A Sky of Diamonds
Camille Gibbs
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Inc.
400 Market Street, Suite 400
Philadelphia, PA 19106
9781849056229 $19.95

A Sky of Diamonds is a picturebook especially for young people ages 5-9, about the dealing with the overwhelming grief from the loss of a loved one. Young Mia tells the story of learning that her mother suddenly died, and how all the color seemed to go out of the world. Guilt, anger, and misery threatened to engulf her. It took time, and help from her Dad, to learn how to cope with the roiling feelings inside of her. Together, they learned ways to remember the good times they shared with Mum, and when Mia feels sad and lonely, she looks up to the glittering stars. "I thought about what Dad had said about how many different ways people understand and think about death. I wanted to find my own belief, and that is when I remembered the sky diamond and how Mum would talk to the stars when she wasn't with me. From that day on, whenever I wanted to think about Mum and tell her something that had happened, I would find the brightest star in the sky and whisper to her." Color illustrations in the style of a child's drawing add a wistful touch to this gentle book, highly recommended for both personal and public library children's collections.

The American History Shelf

An Affectionate Farewell
Trudy Krisher, author
Bert Dodson, illustrator
Bunker Hill Publishing
285 River Road, Piermont, NH 03779
9781593731557 $17.95

An Affectionate Farewell: The Story of Old Bob and Old Abe is a children's picturebook about President Abraham Lincoln, who presided during the Civil War and oversaw the end of legal slavery in America. But it is also about Abraham Lincoln as a person, known for his kindness toward animals and humans alike. Along with the more well-known stories of such as how Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and the tragedy of his assassination, are little-known true tales of Lincoln's boyhood and adulthood. For example, when Lincoln was a child he had a beloved pet pig that he trained to play hide-and-seek, only to be horrified on the day when his father butchered it for food. Young Lincoln also stopped a group of boys from tormenting a turtle, and wrote an essay against animal cruelty. Lincoln's relationship with his faithful horse "Old Bob" is a recurring story theme. Lincoln even started the presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey, when his young son befriended the fowl that was originally destined to become Thanksgiving dinner for the White House. An Affectionate Farewell contains a fair amount of text, and is ideal for young readers who are just about ready to transition from picturebooks to chapter books. Enlightening, educational, and portraying a strong moral message through both the smallest and the most momentous deeds of a great man, An Affectionate Farewell is enthusiastically recommended for public and school library collections.

The Board Book Shelf

Where is Fluffy?
Leslie Bulion and Yann Walcker, authors
Jannie Ho, illustrator
Auzou Publishing
24-32 rue des Amandiers, 75020 Paris, France
9782733832356 $12.95

Part of the "My First Stories" series, Where is Fluffy? is a board book intended for children ages 0-3, but with a twist - it also features paper flaps to lift, and fuzzy parts to touch. The charming story is about Little Bunny, who has lost his favorite blue blanket Fluffy - where could it be? Colorful, heartwarming, and featuring a positive message about sharing at the end, Where is Fluffy? is a delightful story that encourages the littlest of beginning readers to reach out and interact. Highly recommended as a gift for tiny tots!

Whose Tools?
Toni Buzzeo and Jim Datz
Abrams Appleseed
c/o Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
115 West 18th Street, 6th floor
New York, NY 10011
9781419714313 $9.95

Whose Tools? is a children's board book that teaches little ones about many of the different tools used to build a house - and the people who use them! Arranged in a lift-the-flap guessing game, each two-page spread features an array of named tools (such as utility knife, nail gun, snips, and ladder); the child can then lift the large cardboard flap to see a picture of the tool wielder (in this case, a female roofer wearing a hard hat) in action! 24 tools are spotlighted in this educational and charming board book, excellent for gift-giving.

Quack! Quack!
Sebastien Braun, author/illustrator
Nosy Crow
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, Massachusetts 02144
9780763675899, $8.99,,

"Quack! Quack" is an interactive, lift the flap board book for young children who are just learning to use language to communicate. Every page asks a question about a hidden animal or insect in the field, pond, or forest. The opposing page has a flap designed to be lifted by small fingers to show the hidden animal and hear the sound it makes! Children are encouraged to explore each page's riddle and secret flap, and then to make the sounds made by each hidden animal. The duck will quack, the bee will buzz, and the frog will croak, as each delightful page is treasured and explored by young children learning the joy of reading and developing pre-language skills. "Quack! Quack!" is filled with bright, inviting, primary colors and expressive illustrations that invite children to share in the joy of seeing, sharing, and reading. Another title by the same talented author/illustrator in this innovative series that is also highly recommended is "Arf! Arf!" (9780763678944, $8.99). The big flaps on each page are designed to be easy for small fingers to find and lift, as this lift-the-flap series inspires communication, exploration, and reading interactions.

A Place to Live
Case Jernigan, artist
Kyla Ryman, author
Home Grown Books
9780984504275, $9.95,

Originally published as part of a toddler series called The Adventuring Set, "A Place To Live" exemplifies the empowering philosophy of the publisher that even young children need to experience great art first hand. Each book is created by a specially chosen artist, whose images are completed and then explained with minimal narrative. Thus, the art comes first. "A Place To Live" is filled with incredible, evocative images of sometimes unlikely homes using different combinations of mediums, water color and ink work. Some of the images are described as "a pagoda across a bridge," "an ark on a mountain," or even "a tower upon a whale." Each page of art is delicate, precise, fantastic, and unforgettable. Earth, air, sea, and land are elements conveyed in this spectacular board book for toddlers, a magical experience encouraging imagination, dreams, and expression.

If You're Happy and You Know It!
Melissa Everett, author
Mark Krummer, illustrator
Flowerpot Press
2160 South Service Road, Oakville, ON, Canada, L6L 5N1
9781486703593, $8.99,

"If You're Happy and You Know It!" is a rainbow menagerie-illustrated board book experience for young readers can easily become an interactive, singing and clapping song for a happy storytime. These zany, bright party animals are sure to appeal to youngsters, along with the quirky, brightly colored text, which begs to be shouted or sung. If reading time has become snooze time, this is the perfect antidote. "If You're Happy and You Know It!" is the perfect wide awake reading companion to the bedtime story. Children age 2 and up will love this brilliant board book song story with its irresistible, effervescent humor and life.

The ABC Shelf

C is For Chickasaw
Wiley Barnes, author
Aaron Long, illustrator
White Dog Press
c/o Chickasaw Press
P.O. Box 1548, Ada, Oklahoma 74821
9781935684190, $19.95,

"C Is For Chickasaw" is an educational, bilingual alphabet book of Chickasaw objects and significant symbols illuminated with stunning, bold color illustrations in the Southeastern Native American Art style. Every pair of pages explains the word associated with the letter of the alphabet, written in English and in Chickasaw, with further defining information added below the illustrations. Short, explanatory verse descriptions define the meaning of each chosen letter word, which is printed in contrasting color, with the initial alphabet letter capitalized. Thus we have Hello, or chokma for H, Moccasins or sholosh for M, Stickball, or kapochcha' to'li' for S. Tishominko (same) for T, and so on. Every page for every letter contains valuable Chickasaw history and cultural background information, all tastefully expressed in the Southeastern Native American Art style brilliantly colored illustrations. At the end of the alphabet is a handy glossary which lists the English word, Chickasaw word, word syllable and pronunciation of each chosen alphabet word. Additional cultural learning activities are suggested in a list of related questions and answers plus further activities and discussion at the end. "C Is for Chickasaw" is an enriching experience for all young readers, delineating and affirming the heritage and identities of the Chickasaw people.

The Environmental Shelf

Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree
Durga Yael Bernhard, author/illustrator
Wisdom Tales
1501 E. Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781937786342, $16.95,

For ages 5 and up, "Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree: Exploring Trees Around the World" presents a detailed, sweeping overview of beautiful, beloved trees of the world, as perceived through a child's eye, an incredible array of climbing adventures, for children in trees around the world! The gently lilting narrative poetry invites the reader on an international whirlwind tour of a series of treetop visions from a child's perspective. The smoothly traveling, polished verse orchestrates an incredible set of tree-centered views, covering twelve total varieties of trees in twelve different global locations. These illustrations represent trees from every continent except Antarctica! Here are authentically detailed paintings with typical area backgrounds, including whimsical young climbers of different races. The twelve tree species include the Gingko tree from China, Weeping Fig from Cambodia, White Mulberry from Australia, Baobab from South Africa, Mango from West Africa, Olive from Israel, Weeping Willow from Holland, Kapok from Brazil, Montezuma Cypress from Mexico, Southern Live Oak from SE United States, Monterey Pine from California, and the Lychee tree from Hawaii. Each tree portrait is done in beautiful color on two full pages, complete with a child climber in residence, featuring the common name, genus name, and location in sidebars. Natural animal residents of the tree are also mentioned, such as a spider, leopard, chameleon, monkey, sloth, eagle, bat or caterpillar. In different seasons, children of many races cling to the varied branches of twelve different trees, while humans and other animals enjoy the shade, leaves, fruit, and shelter of these wonderful trees. "Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree" closes with a list of the twelve tree types and special facts about them, plus a safety section titled Why You Should Be Careful When Climbing Trees. There is more information about trees and the making of "Just Like Me..." at and also an activities guide, coloring pages, and discussion guide at the Wisdom Tales website, plus a song called the Just Like Me Song at, Additional information and resources such as a field guide to trees is found at the Arbor Day Foundation website, as well. "Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree" is first class nature and cultural education experience for children in grades K-5.

The Bilingual Shelf

Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural/ Sofi y el magico mural musical
Raquel M. Ortiz, author
Maria Dominguez, illustrator
Pinata Books
c/o Arte Publico Press
University of Houston
4902 Gulf Fwy., Bldg 19, Rm 100, Houston, Texas 77204
9781558858039, $17.95,

An unforgettable tale in English and Spanish, "Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural" is an exciting experience that marries art, music, and reading in one vibrant package. Pages of beautiful mural style colorful paintings draw the reader into the exciting story transporting young Sofi from a cold, city errand to a warm, festive dance with pleneros (musicians) and the slightly scary Vejigante, or brilliant trickster. On her way to buy milk at the grocery store, Sofi becomes immersed in the beautiful mural of Puerto Rican dancers and musicians celebrating an exciting festival. Gradually she overcomes her fear of the Vejigante and becomes a part of the troupe, dressed in the fantastic black, yellow and red ruffled costume of the Vejigante or trickster herself. She feels empowered and inspired to lift and fly, viewing exotic scenes of the rain forest, El Yunque, waterfalls, mountains, and the ocean, with beautiful flowers along the way. Finally she is brought back to earth by her mother calling her, discovering she is back on the city street, with the milk to carry home. As she climbs the stairs to her apartment home, she admires her sister's name (Esmeralda Pagan) on the list of students who helped paint the colorful street scene mural. Every page of narrative is written in both English and Spanish, with explanations of vocabulary selections and lavish color illustrations by a famous muralist, Maria Dominguez. "Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural" is an immediate immersion in the arts, a vivid cultural experience for young readers age 6 and up, filled with exotic flashes of joy.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

The Adventures of Rainbow Fish
Marcus Pfister, author /illustrator
NorthSouth Books, Inc.
600 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780735841857, $19.95,

Fans and new readers of this beloved, award winning series will welcome "The Adventures of Rainbow Fish," a collection of five favorite Rainbow Fish stories. Including Rainbow Fish to eh Rescue!, Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale, Rainbow Fish and the Sea Monsters' Cave, Rainbow Fish Finds His Way, and Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea, the collection presents the stunning jewel toned illustrations of fishes with silvery and rainbow scales in deep ocean environments. These accompany a series of exciting, inviting adventure tales that present the fish and other marine creatures as individuals with strong (human-like) personality characteristics, learning how to get along and survive in the deep ocean together. Children will be excited to follow these enticing tales, reveling in the incredible array of fantastic marine fish and other creatures and their special distinguishing characteristics. An award winning series, "The Adventures of Rainbow Fish" teaches children not only about fish and marine dwellers, but also such values as working together to solve problems, valuing each others unique differences, and using creativity to make up with friends who are different instead of fighting with them. The shining silver scales of Rainbow Fish illuminate the rest of the rainbow scales of this beloved piscean companion and teacher.

The Cow's Girl: The Making of a Real Cowgirl
Charlotte Caldwell, author
Barn Board Press
Farcountry Press
c/o P.O. Box 5630, Helena MT 59604
9781591521489, $16.95,

"The Cow's Girl" is a true story of the raising of an adopted Angus female calf, and her caretaker, Cowgirl. A sequel to "The Cow's Boy: The Making of a Real Cowboy," this is the story of the careful nurturing of a black Angus heifer calf named Olivia who got accidentally separated from her real mother by a fence at the age of three days. Taken on as a 4-H Bucket Calf Project, Olivia is fed by Cowgirl twice a day not from a bucket but from two large bottles of formula. Cowgirl feeds Olivia from the bottles so she can pat her head and reassure her with contact while she is being fed. Another Bucket Calf Project is a calf named Oliver, fed now by Cowgirl's younger brother. Brilliant full color photos show Cowgirl feeding and caring for Olive, and also playing with her on the ranch. Cowgirl also takes care of other animals on the ranch, including dogs, cats, chickens, and a pet bunny rabbit named Paisley. She even feeds tiny bottles of formula to two small newborn kittens. Cowgirl helps her father and brothers move cows from the upper pasture ranges down to the barn area, riding on her horse, Sassy. Cowgirl grooms and cares for Sassy. Cowgirl has lots of chores, but she also likes to play games, like racing on horseback with her older brother, or riding her motorcycle around the ranch. She is responsible in all her ranch activities, remembering to close gates after she opens them. Cowgirl helps with many activities in animal care, including giving medicine to cows, helping with branding, and preparing meals for other ranchers who help with branding, doctoring, or shipping animals. Most exciting of all, Cowgirl runs a little camp for young cowgirls in training, who learn to feed kittens and do chores with Cowgirl on the ranch. Many color photo illustrations show Cowgirl cleaning and caring for her special animals and projects, and keeping detailed records of the medicine, food, and other care expenses for raising the animal to maturity. When the time comes, Cowgirl carefully shows all her animal 4-H projects at the fair for judging, including Olive and Oliver, the Bucket Calves. She earns many awards, blue and purple ribbons for her special projects for 4-H. She also donates 11 inches of her own beautiful long hair to Locks of Love, an organization for children suffering from hair loss. "The Cow's Girl" is an excellent true story about the many daily tasks and activities of a real Cowgirl, a responsible young woman who cares for all her ranch animals and pets with tenderness, learning, and respect. It takes a lot of work, but chores and fun go hand in hand for the life of a real Cowgirl.

The Autism Shelf

All My Stripes
Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer, authors
Jennifer Zivoin, illustrator
Magination Press
PO Box 92984, Washington, DC 20090-2984
9781433819162 $14.95 hc / $9.95 sc

All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism is a picturebook written especially for young children ages 4-8. The story is about autism, from the perspective of an autistic young zebra named Zane. Zane feels down after the school day, because "Nobody gets me!" Other zebra children in his class don't understand why he won't hoof-paint (paint just feels awful on his skin), why he screams in response to the fire drill (the loud noise is horrifying and panic-inducing), or why he looks at the floor when trying to talk. Zane worries that his "autism stripe" is all that other people ever see. His mother reminds him that his "autism stripe" is only one of many that make up his personality, including his "honesty stripe", his "curiosity stripe", and his "caring stripe". "Zane ran outside, feeling the warmth of the sun. Finally, he felt proud of all his stripes. He said, 'There's more to me than just my autism stripe. It's just part of me. The other parts make the whole me. I love each stripe because without them, I wouldn't be me!'" A detailed reading guide, and extensive notes to parents and caregivers, is filled with practical information about autism and the challenges specific to taking care of autistic children. All My Stripes is an invaluable resource for teaching children of all backgrounds about autism (especially if they have autistic classmates or peers, or personally have autism). Highly recommended, particularly for public and school library collections.

Tomas Loves...
Jude Welton & Jane Telford
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
400 Market Street, Suite 400
Philadelphia, PA 19106
9781849055444 $15.95

Parents looking for picture book about autism will find this a rhyming, fun book about friendship on the subject, which tells of Tomas, who loves watching toy trains and is mesmerized by their action. He also loves watching cars, strange-sounding names and rhymes, and quiet. The basic interests and reactions of an autistic child come to life in a survey that is well-done and easy to understand.

The Fiction Shelf

Paper or Plastic
Vivi Barnes
Entangled Teen
c/o Entangled Publishing LLC
2614 South Timberline Road, Suite 109
Fort Collins, CO 80525
9781622665211 $9.99

Paper or Plastic is a lighthearted romantic novel written especially for a teenaged audience. When Alexis Dubois is caught shoplifting a cheap tube of lipstick at the local SmartMart, her punishment is to spend her summer working at the store. All but overwhelmed by the confusing-bordering-on-zany world of big box retail, Alexis must learn how to adapt to coupon cutters and jackass customers, and having to come home to her out-of-control, beauty-pageant-obsessed mother doesn't help. At least she can enjoy her pitching position on the softball team, and the supervisor of her new job, Noah Grayson, is a surprisingly adorable geek. Could Alexis' crummy job actually be the best thing that ever happened to her? Highly recommended.

Avis Dolphin
Frieda Wishinsky, author
Willow Dawson, illustrator
Groundwood Books
c/o House of Anansi Press
110 Spadina Ave., Suite 801
Toronto, ON, Canada, M5V 2K4
9781554984893 $16.95

Also available as an ebook, Avis Dolphin is a historical adventure novel for young adults, based on the real-life sinking of the Lusitania during World War I. A young girl named Avis, her friend Professor Holbourn (both based on real-life people), as well as other passengers on that fateful voyage (some of whom are based on real-life people, others of whom are fictional) must work together to survive... but will they ever see home again? A postscript to the exciting story offers a little more historical context, in this welcome addition to public library juvenile fiction collections.

The Choice
Kathy Clark
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street, Suite 401, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5V 2M5
9781927583654, $14.95, 200pp,

Thirteen-year-old Jakob s family has hidden their true identity as Jews and are living as Catholics in Budapest during World War II. One day, in a burst of loyalty, Jakob decides to reveal that he is Jewish, putting his whole family in danger. Jakob hopes his best friend Ivan, a Christian, will help his family but comes to believe that Ivan has abandoned them. Sent as a prisoner to Auschwitz, Jakob is kept alive by his passion for revenge against Ivan. When Jakob is finally freed, he discovers that Ivan, too, made a choice that day, a choice that changes everything Jakob thought was true. Deftly written for young readers ages 9 to 13 and students in grades 6 to 8, "The Choice" by Kathy Clark is a part of the 'A Holocaust Remembrance Book for Young Readers' series and very highly recommended for both school and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Choice" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.67).

Some Kind of Magic
Adrian Fogelin
Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561458202, $15.95, 232pp,

It is the last summer before the big shift to high school for Cass, Jemmie, Ben, and Justin, the neighborhood kids readers first met in Crossing Jordan. Ben worries that their summer break will just be the same-old-same-old until his little brother Cody finds a hat left behind by their mysterious missing uncle. The hat (is it magic like Cody believes?) leads the gang to an abandoned building in the woods. Little do they suspect that this old property with a tragic past might just nudge open the door to the future for all of them. A terrifically entertaining novel for young readers by an impressively talented writer, Adrian Fogelin's "Some Kind of Magic" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to school and community library fiction collections for young readers grades 4 to 7.

A Little Friendly Advice
Siobhan Vivian
c/o Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545758017, $9.99,

"A Little Friendly Advice" by Siobhan Vivian is the story of Ruby who is turning sixteen. But her special day doesn't turn out as sweet as it's supposed to. Her long-lost father shows up, and Ruby doesn't want anything to do with him. She wants to hang out and eat cake with her friends -- loyal Beth, dangerous Katherine, and gossipy Maria. They always have plenty of advice for her, and they have a lot to say about her dad's return. But Ruby's not sure what to think or feel. Especially when a cute new boy named Charlie comes into the picture -- and Ruby discovers not all of her friends are as truthful as they say they are. A terrifically thoughtful and entertaining read, "A Little Friendly Advice" is very highly recommended for high school and community library YA Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Little Friendly Advice" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99) and in an Audible format ($16.95).

Like A River
Kathy Cannon Wiechman
Calkins Creek
c/o Highlights
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
9781629792095, $17.95, 336pp,

Leander and Polly are two teenage Union soldiers who carry deep, dangerous secrets. Leander is underage when he enlists and Polly follows her father into war disguised as his son. The war proves life changing for both as they survive incredible odds. Leander struggles to be accepted as a man and loses his arm as a consequence. Polly mourns the death of her father, endures Andersonville Prison, and narrowly escapes the Sultana steamboat disaster. As the lives of these young, brave soldiers intersect, each finds a wealth of courage and learns about the importance of loyalty, family, and love. "Like a River" is a lyrical atmospheric first novel told in two voices. Young readers will be transported to the homes, waterways, camps, hospitals, and prisons of the Civil War era. They will also see themselves in the universal themes of dealing with parents, friendships, bullying, failure, and young love. A deftly crafted historical fiction, "Like a River" is author Kathy Wiechman's debut novel and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to school and community library Historical Fiction collections for young readers ages 9 to 16. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Like a River" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.38).

The Nine Lives of Pinrut the Turnip Boy
Reg Down
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781502460127, $14.95, 132pp,

One summer's evening a turnip up and left. He'd had enough of being just another turnip in just another row of turnips in just another field of turnips. He pulled himself from the ground, turned upside down, and took off on his leafy stalks. He ambled along the row and out of the field. "Hey, you can't do that!" cried the other turnips. "Watch me," said the turnip. And watch him we will, through all nine lives: in America, Canada, China, New Zealand, New Guinea, Mars and Wobbles. Naturally he has a few adventures on the way, but his skills and savvy, indeed, his sheer existence, also come to the attention of the devilish boss of a nefarious GMO seed corporation called Nonsanto! Finally the vegetables and fruit from Willy Waldorf's Biodynamic Farm defeat the residents of Nonsanto's Friendly Frankenstein's Field in a great and magnificent battle between the organics and the GMO's. With "The Nine Lives of Pinrut the Turnip Boy" author Reg Down again demonstrates a lively imagination combined with superbly crafted storytelling skills that will engage and entertain young readers ranging from grade 3 to grade 6. Very highly recommended for school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Nine Lives of Pinrut the Turnip Boy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher
Sean Jensen
Broadstreet Publishing Group
2745 Chicory Road, Racine, WI 53403
9781424549795, $14.99, 176pp,

For more than a decade, Brian Urlacher was the face of the Chicago Bears one of the NFLs most storied franchises. An eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker, Urlacher established himself as one of the leagues preeminent defenders with his athleticism, intelligence and ferocity. He is widely expected to gain entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he is eligible in a few years which is not bad for an athlete from Lovington, New Mexico, where his coaches did not even see college potential in him until his junior year of high school. "The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher" features the real-life childhood stories and exploits of young Brian Urlacher and illustrate how they shaped him into the world-class athlete he became. The first of The Middle School Rules series, these books not only entertain, but also inspire greatness in the next generation by highlighting the importance of being your best, overcoming adversity, and reaching your dreams through discipline and hard work. Informative, thoughtful, and highly entertaining, "The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to school and community library collections for young readers ages 8 to 12. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.54).

The Wish of the Well-Witcher
Julie Mahler Harris
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
The Barrett Company Communications
9781508988410, $5.95,

"The Wish of the Well-Witcher" by Julie Mahler Harris is a 28 page chapter book written for children ages 7 to 10. It is the story of Little Lucas who has just one tiny wish. That wish is to become a well-witcher like his uncle. But Lucas' dad thinks well-witching is silly business. That is, until their well runs dry and no one can find water! A thoroughly charming and 'kid friendly' story, "The Wish of the Well-Witcher" is a highly recommended entertainment that will leave children wanting more 'Little Lucas' stories!

The Secret Of The Golden Flower
Caroline Stellings
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street, Suite 401, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 2M5
9781927583630, $11.95, 152pp,

Upon her arrival in London to train as a spy, sixteen-year-old Nicki Haddon is assigned to help the British Secret Service infiltrate a drug cartel that is smuggling large amounts of heroin into the country. Working undercover, she discovers a plot to create a super-potent opiate and also discovers a royal connection - one that goes back to Queen Victoria herself. Nicki's kung-fu skills are tested more than ever in this action-packed thriller, as the teen spy unravels this new case and the ongoing mystery of her own past. Caroline Stellings' "The Secret Of The Golden Flower" is the action/adventure sequel to "The Scratch on the Ming Vase" (9781926920917, $11.95, 139pp) and is very highly recommended for young readers ages 12 to 18, and in grades 8 to 12. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to school and community YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that both "The Secret Of The Golden Flower" and "The Scratch on the Ming Vase" are available in Kindle editions ($8.99 and $7.14 respectively).

Ayala's Dreams
Debbie Jespersen
Fearless Jack Publishing
Concierge Marketing Inc.
9780996131612, $12.95,

Ayala (pronounced ah-yah-lah) loves to go on adventures in her dreams. Far off lands, adventures with her favorite animals, and making new friends are all part of Ayala's world... and she wants to share it with you! A pleasant and guaranteed entertaining read for children, "Ayala's Dreams" will prove an enduringly popular addition to family, school, and community library collections.

Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019

Chris Grabenstein's The Island of Dr. Libris (9780385388443, $16.99) presents one Billy, who spends the summer in a mysterious cabin that belongs to Dr. Libris: a cabin surrounded by cameras that holds a private bookcase where, when a book is opened, sounds come from the island in the middle of the lake - sounds like swords clashing and arrows twanging. There's not only another world out there, but it looks like the stories are assuming lives of their own! An engrossing adventure emerges. Mark Goldblatt's Finding the Worm (9780385391085, $16.99) tells of Julian Twerski, who faces a number of hard choices in his life, whether it comes to obeying school commands or responding to a sick friend's needs. This companion to Twerp provides an engaging story about friendship, and explores connections between people. For maximum effect, it's best enjoyed by fans of the prior Twerp.

Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012-3999

Esme Kerr's THE GIRL WITH THE GLASS BIRD (9780545699846, $16.99) tells of Anastasia, who is a real-life Russian princess living in an exclusive boarding school for girls. She's always claiming that someone is stealing her things, but the items always turn up - only smart orphan Edie, a spy hired to keep an eye on the Russian princess, suspects something else is going on. Her investigation of a plot lands them both in trouble in this adventure story of best friends and mystery. Blue Balliett's PIECES AND PLAYERS (9780545299909, $17.99) provides a fine mystery surrounding thirteen valuable pieces of art that have been stolen from one of the most secretive museums in the world, and presents the efforts of friends Calder, Petra and Tommy and two sleuths to restore them. All have been drawn by the mysterious Mrs. Sharpe - and everyone is acting suspiciously in this saga of danger and discovery, recommended for grades 7-12 who enjoy investigative pieces. Trent Reedy's BURNING NATION (9780545548731, $17.99) presents the Second American Civil War in which Danny Wright faces the challenge of surviving when the Federal government invades Idaho and shuts down the state's power. Danny is caught up in a battle when Idaho declares its independence from the Untied States and he becomes the leader of attacks designed to break the Feds' occupation. An engrossing military-style apocalyptic story evolves. Tricia Stirling's WHEN MY HEART WAS WICKED (9780545695732, $17.99) tells of a teen witch who used to cast bad spells, and who now knows that magic and science can be complimentary and work done for good. When her father dies despite all her efforts, Lacy wants to remain in an environment where her magic is healing - but fears her mother's growing darkness. Her journey away from her good place brings new strength to the 'old' darkness in Lacy and her struggle to pick the right kind of magic lends to an absorbing, revealing saga recommended for teens who look for something different in their fantasies.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

Dragons Beware!
Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
First Second Books
175 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781596438781 $14.99

Dragons Beware! is a full-color graphic novel continuing the fantastic adventures of young Claudette and her plucky friends. When the evil sorcerer Grombach threatens innocent humans and giants alike with his magic and predatory gargoyles, Claudette's wheelchair-bound father sets out to retrieve the one artifact capable of defeating him - a powerful magic sword. But the sword was swallowed long ago by the voracious dragon Azra! Determined not to let her father face Azra alone, Claudette ventures out along with her brother Gaston (who is a mediocre warrior but a genius cook), and her princess-in-training friend Marie (who has studied the art of diplomacy and hopes to negotiate with Azra). A sharp mix of comedy and tension, Dragons Beware! is a high-spirited saga that fantasy fans of all ages will enjoy. Also highly recommended is the previous graphic novel featuring the irrepressible Claudette, "Giants Beware!".

Sybil the Backpack Fairy 5: The Dragon's Dance
Rodrigue Dalena Razzi
160 Broadway, Suite 700E
New York, NY 10038
9781629911717 $10.99

Sybil the Backpack Fairy 5: The Dragon's Dance is a hardcover, full-color graphic novel for all ages. The Dragon's Dance has a mostly self-contained plot, but is part of an ongoing series about a young girl named Nina, her friendship with the magical fairy Sybil, and her efforts to stay balanced when the magical world and the mundane world collide. In The Dragon's Dance, Sybil goes missing, and then Nina's little brother abruptly disappears - was he swallowed by orange dragon that just wrecked his room? Is there any way to get him back? Will Nina's budding relationship with Antoine be destroyed over this mess? The Dragon's Dance is not only a fantastic adventure, but also a dramatic story about trying to adapt to an ever-changing world. Highly recommended, especially for public library graphic novel collections.

The Action Bible 1: The Battle Begins - The Story of Creation
Text by David C. Cook
Illustrations by Sergio Cariello Studio, Inc.
Script by Caleb Seeling
David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781411424 $12.99

The Action Bible 1: The Battle Begins - The Story of Creation begins a full-color, graphic novel adaptation of the Bible. Volume 1 primarily covers events from Genesis, from God's creation of the world and the Garden of Eden, to Adam's and Eve's sin of eating the fruit of knowledge and their divine punishment. Although some dialogue between the angels Lucifer and Michael is artistic interpretation, much of the text is directly from Scripture, including God's wrathful judgment upon Adam and Eve: "Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Stunning illustrations bring this dramatic saga to life. An excellent and engaging new way to experience Scripture, The Action Bible 1 initiates a highly recommended series.

The Audiobook Shelf

Lucado Treasury of Bedtime Prayers
Max & Denalyn Lucado, authors
Read by Kathy Garver
Oasis Audio
289 Main Place, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781613757116 $12.99

Also available as a hardcover book, Lucado Treasury of Bedtime Prayers is an unabridged audiobook created as tool that parents can use to help teach their children how to pray. Both classic prayers and new prayers authored by Max Lucado and his wife Denalyn are included; all can be used to show children how to open a conversation with God. Lucado Treasury of Bedtime Prayers is an excellent and highly recommended resource for Christian families and church libraries. 2 CDs.

The Music CD Shelf

Classic Songs & Traditional Tunes
Andy Z.
Privately Published
To Market Kids (publicity)
4136 Lamson Avenue, Spring Hill, FL 34608

Classic Songs & Traditional Tunes is an album of classic and beloved songs, as well as traditional American folk songs. Award-winning children's performer and talented guitarist Andy Z. brings these treasured chestnuts to life with irresistible enthusiasm. Though created especially for young listeners, Classic Songs & Traditional Tunes has an enduring appeal that reaches out to all generations. Highly recommended! The tracks are "This Land Is Your Land", "Shake A Friend's Hand", "I've Been Workin' On The Railroad", "All Around The Kitchen", "Shake My Sillies Out", "She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain", "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", "Oh My Darlin' Clementine", "Turkey In The Straw", "Don't Fence Me In", "You Are My Sunshine", "The Hokey Pokey", "Ghost Riders In The Sky", "Oh Susanna", and "Happy Trails".

Goo On My Shoe
Here Comes Trouble
Privately Published
c/o Waldmania! (publicity)
$14.99 CD / $9.99 download

Here Comes Trouble, a family-friendly band led by a husband-and-wife jazz musicians, present Goo On My Shoe, their latest album about celebrating silliness within and without. Adventuring through a range of musical styles including pop, jazz, hip hop, rockabilly, samba, and punk, Goo On My Shoe is freewhiling fun from beginning to end! The tracks are "I Want Dessert", "Bubbles In My Bath", "Goo On My Shoe", "Little Red Car", "That's Who I Am", "Don't Eat the Mailman, Doggie", "MCT Theme Song", "Hooky", "Alligator", "Watermelon Felon", "Spill the Beans", "Hey, Dolly", "Giraffin'", "Robby Dobby", and "I Like Toys".

Dancin' in the Kitchen
Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
Community Music, Inc.
c/o Sugar Mountain PR
$14.95 CD / $8.99 MP3

Grammy award-winning music team Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer present Dancin' in the Kitchen: Songs for ALL Families, a delightfully adventurous album with a variety of songs, including a few by guest artists, and even the Woody Guthrie poem "Howdy Little Newlycome" set to music. A key theme of Dancin' in the Kitchen is the celebration of diversity, reaching out to families of all backgrounds through vast array of musical styles. Energetic, and with a strong positive message of tolerance and inclusion, Dancin' in the Kitchen is highly recommended. The tracks are "Dancin' in the Kitchen", "Happy Adoption Day", "Soccer Shoes", "Twins", "I'm My Own Grandpa", "From Scratch", "Dinnertime Orchestra", "Howdy Little Newlycome", "I Belong To A Family", "Birthday Pup", "Family Song", "Who's in Charge of Naming the Colors?", "Home", "Everything Possible", and "Dancin' in the Kitchen Reprise".

The Start of Things
Alison Faith Levy
Mystery Lawn Music
c/o Waldmania! (publicity)
$12.97 CD / $9.99 digital

The Start of Things is the second solo children's music album by Alison Faith Levy, formerly "Sippy Alison" of the kids' indie band "The Sippy Cups". Lighthearted, energetic, and original, The Start of Things tells of dealing with everyday apprehensions, joys, and even a little bit of spooky fun in one song about a little lost ghost. The Start of Things sports a potpourri of musical styles, from jazz to country to stylized circus theme, and makes for delightful entertainment during car trips or rainy-day playtime. The tracks are "The Start of Things", "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out", "Pull Your Weeds", "Rainbow Tunnel", "Little Dreamer", "Are You Happy?", "The Froggy Dance", "Ballad of Boo Ghost", "TLC", and "Why Am I Awake?". 32 min.

Today is Forever / Hoy es Para Siempre
Future Hits
Coach House Sounds
c/o Waldmania! (publicity)
$15.00 CD

Today is Forever / Hoy es Para Siempre is a bilingual English/Spanish children's music CD by Chicago Public Schools teacher Matt Baron and his band Future Hits. Each son of the twelve, catchy songs are initially performed in English; then on the second half of the CD, they are all performed in Spanish. The upbeat, joyous music makes learning more about another language fun - whether the listener is a native English speaker discovering Spanish, or an ESL student working to master their command of English. Highly recommended, especially for public library children's music collections! The tracks are "Morning Ritual", "Lost Art Form", "Shell on the Shelf", "Nylon Bird", "This Past Sunny Weekend", "Fall is Coming!", "Belated Birthday Gift", "On Stormy Mornings", "A Pet to Protect Me", "Sentimental Photograph", "Walter the Gum Magician", and "Bypass this Winter", followed by all twelve songs performed with Spanish lyrics. 64 min.

Let's Boogie
Rock 'n' Rainbow
Produced by Tor Hyams
Rainbow Songs Inc.
277 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto, ON, Canada M6R 2M3
c/o Waldmania! (publicity)

Rock 'n' Rainbow, the energetic children's guitar band led by Parents' Choice Award-winning musician and music educator Mike Whitla, presents their debut album of Let's Boogie. The upbeat, dance party songs were created to excite listeners of all ages, and encouraging them to get up and get moving - the tunes celebrate forms of exercise ranging from biking to scooter travel to glam dance. Let's Boogie is just plain friendly fun! The tracks are "I Like To Ride My Bike", "Faster Scooter Cat", "The Freeze", "Let's Boogie", "Five Senses", "Hands Together, Hands Apart", "Hokey Funky", "Elephants Have Wrinkles", "I Can't Fly", "Everybody Farts", "Blue Elvis Blues", "That is the Right Hand", "Let's Dance Today", "Time Warp", "Early Morning Knee-Slappin' Blues", "Rock 'n' Rainbow Theme Song", and "Goodbye".

Calling All the Elephants
Randy & Dave
Song Wizard Records
c/o To Market Kids (publicity)
4136 Lamson Ave., Spring Hill, FL 34608
$14.98 CD / $9.99 download

Calling All the Elephants is an uproarious children's album filled with witty lyrics, catchy themes, and a sense of pure fun. Award-winning songwriter Randy Sharp and musician Dave Kinnoin have teamed up as "Randy & Dave" to bring joyful silly-songs to all ages. Highly recommended! The tracks are "Last Word" (3:13), "Puzzle" (3:38), "Hum" (2:55), "Woke Up Cranky" (3:04), "Squish It Up" (3:09), "Good Day for Spiders" (3:42), "Calling All the Elephants" (3:06), "Counting, One, Two, Three" (2:06), "I'm Special" (2:51), "Miriam's Muse" (3:24), "Never Ever" (3:09), and "Acting Like a Baby" (2:56).

Sing-a-Long History, Volume 1: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Lloyd H. Miller
Privately Published
c/o Beth Blenz-Clucas (publicity)
$9.99 CD / download,

Award-winning music artist Lloyd H. Miller presents Sing-a-Long History, Volume 1: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!, the first of a series created especially to introduce young people to stories from history - especially the parts not always emphasized in school textbooks. The tracks range from original music stylings about legendary "fighting abolitionist" John Brown, or a story about slave girl Harriet Jacobs, to a revisiting of Lincoln's memorable Gettysburg Address and a singing performance of Walt Whitman's classic poem. A downloadable .pdf curriculum guide is also available at Miller's website, Educational and enlightening for all ages, Sing-a-Long History, Volume 1 "must-have" for public library music CD collections! The tracks are "John Brown" (4:06), "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd" (3:03), "Marching Through Georgia" (3:33), "Trapped in the Attic" (2:51), "Baldy" (2:31), "Tenting on the Old Campground" (4:05), "Weeksville" (3:17), "Henry Box Brown" (2:55), "The Gettysburg Address" (3:17), "Keep the Hate Mail Comin'" (4:51), and "O Captain! My Captain!" (3:21).

Backyard Garden
Earthworm Ensemble
Western Seed Records
c/o Beth Blenz-Clucas (publicity)
$13.00 CD / $9.99 digital

The second all-ages CD by Earthworm Ensemble, Backyard Garden is a sprightly album of thirteen original songs, ranging in variety from indie rock to folk and zydeco. The lyrics speak of gardening, nature, and industrious animals of the farm, fields, and wilds. A choice pick to play while tending to one's own family garden, Backyard Garden blends a positive, environment-friendly message into its upbeat music. The tracks are "Ladybug" (4:14), "Backyard Garden" (2:37), "Sparko Stegosaurus" (3:55), "Bees Make Honey" (3:49), "Invisible Wind" (4:02), "I Didn't Give Up" (3:27), "Compost" (3:06), "I Like You" (3:27), "Chicken Coop" (3:43), "Mole vs. Coyote" (3:06), "Coyote vs. Mole" (2:15), "Picture This You're A Fish" (3:54), and "Reduce Reuse Recycle" (4:20).

Plymouth Rockers
c/o Waldmania! (publicity)
$11.99 CD / $9.99 download

Award-winning family music trio Rocknoceros presents Plymouth Rockers, a high-energy album about 14 of America's states, plus a unique take on the classic anthem "God Bless America". Intended for release on July 4, 2015, Plymouth Rockers is an upbeat interweaving of American history and rock-out-loud fun. Plymouth Rockers is lively, fantastic, and perfect for celebrating Independence Day! The tracks are "Would You Like to Visit Kansas?", "Squeakers", "The Sunshine State", "Louisiana", "Colorado Rockies", "Tennessee", "Aloha", "Minnesota", "Mississippi River", "I've Got Friends in New Jersey", "Down by the Riverside", and "God Bless America".

The DVD Shelf

Joseph: Beloved Son, Rejected Slave, Exalted Ruler
Media 4 Kids
c/o Vision Video (dist.)
P.O. Box 540, Worcester, PA 19490

Joseph: Beloved Son, Rejected Slave, Exalted Ruler is an animated feature film for all ages, based on the biblical story of Joseph. Spoiled by his father and resented by his brothers, Joseph was secretly sold into slavery by his jealous siblings. Yet Joseph's life in slavery gradually sparked a change in the young man, teaching him humility and obedience to God. His gift for interpreting dreams makes him the one person who can decipher the pharaoh's nightmares, and use that knowledge to protect all of Egypt from devastation. A profound parable of faith, forgiveness, and redemption, Joseph: Beloved Son, Rejected Slave, Exalted Ruler is a welcome addition to Christian household and church DVD libraries. 90 min., English and Spanish languages, English and Spanish subtitles.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish
Written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Weston Woods
c/o Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545852456 $59.95

Also available as an audio CD or picturebook-and-CD set, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish is the DVD adaptation of a simple story created for young people ages 3-7. Peanut Butter (a seahorse) and Jellyfish are friends who love to swim about their ocean home; they don't get along very well with their neighbor Crabby. But when Crabby gets into trouble, will Peanut Butter and Jellyfish help him? Absolutely! Simple animation, music, and the bonus featurette "Creating Peanut Butter and Jellyfish" round out this heartwarming story of kindness, tolerance, and the importance of doing the right thing. An excellent pick for public or school library children's DVD collections, perfect for homeroom viewing. 8 min., optional English subtitles, closed-captioned.

Bugs in my Hair!
David Shannon, author and illustrator
Jesse Bernstein, narrator
Weston Woods
c/o Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545790130 $59.95

Also available as an audio CD ($12.95) or a hardcover picturebook with CD ($29.95), Bugs in my Hair! is the DVD adaptation of award-winning author David Shannon's lighthearted picturebook about head lice (oh, no!) for children ages 4-8. What will Mom do when she discovers that these unwelcome insect guests are here to stay? A lighthearted story of health, hygiene, and hairy situations, Bugs in my Hair! is a choice pick for public and school library children's DVD collections. 8 minutes, optional English subtitles, closed-captioned.

The Activity Shelf

How Things Work
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500650448 $18.95

How Things Work is a large-sized, hardcover picturebook filled to the brim with amazing facts about things ranging from light and sound to water, machines, natural forces, and more. It's also packed cover to cover with educational, hands-on activities that can be done with everyday objects, such as building a marshmallow catapult from marshmallows, wooden skewers, a thin rubber band, a plastic or wooden spoon, and some tape. Colorful illustrations and photographs enrich this excellent resource, ideal for rainy-day fun or homeschool learning-through-doing. Highly recommended! "Electricity is made in a power station. It travels to a substation, where it is made into high-voltage electricity. This means it can give out lots of power. Next it travels across pylons on overhead power lines to your home. // Electricity is dangerous. Never play with plugs and electrical gadgets!"

Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular
Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781594747601, $12.95,

In "Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular: A Mystery with Animatronics, Alien Makeup, Camera Gear, and Other Movie Magic You Can Make Yourself!" by the team of authors Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith, 11-year-old siblings Nick and Tesla Holt find themselves on the set of a big-budget superhero movie. But someone's sabotaging the onscreen debut of their favorite comic book hero, so the brother and sister sleuths must crack the case with the help of a fresh assortment of homemade special-effects gadgets. This cinematic saga features instructions for all-new movie magic projects that kids can build themselves, such as camera gear, stunt dummies, make-up magic, and more. Science and electronics have never been so much fun! "Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular" is specifically written and designed for young readers ages 9 to 12 and in grades 4 to 7. Unique and enthusiastically recommended for school and community library collections, it should be noted for family and personal reading lists that "Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.22).

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Lynette Noni
Pantera Press
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781921997501 $TBA pbk. / $4.99 Kindle

Also available as an ebook, Akarnae: The Medoran Chronicles Begin is a high fantasy novel that will appeal to readers of all ages. Alex is a teenaged young woman suddenly stranded in a magical school in the world of Medora, far from home. She is fortunate enough to find friends in this strange and wondrous new world, but there are also dangers, and she cannot shake the intuition that something cruel and terrible is waiting for the right moment to make its move. Only Alex can save the Medorans from extinction, but at what cost? Is there any way for her to return home? Akarnae is a sweeping epic, fascinating from cover to cover, and a treasure for connoisseurs of the genre. Highly recommended.

The Glimpsing Book
Steve Loe
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988
9780880925945, $9.99, 236pp,

"The Glimpsing Book" is author Steve Loe's debut novel and reflects the power of imagination in young people. A strange new librarian and a cryptic book collide in the lives of two preteens as they launch a real-life journey far beyond the back of the library and the reaches of the imagination. Sebastian and Henrietta discover that reading, like life, is not a spectator sport, and the power of a great story has the magic to make the seemingly impossible possible. Sebastian believes only in logical explanations. When he uncovers several historical photographs that hold clues to the mysterious book, his reasonable world smashes directly into Henrietta, a reclusive twelve year old mourning the premature death of her best friend, her mother. Henrietta deals with her loss by hiding in the back of the library, where she loses herself in the fascinating realm of fantasy novels. With the power of a megaton magnet, the book draws the two strangers together, challenging Sebastian's logical mind as they begin to understand that the mystical manuscript changes each time it is read. "The Glimpsing Books" is a terrifically entertaining read from start to finish and highly recommended for school and community library fantasy fiction collections.

The Mermaid's Sister
Carrie Anne Noble
c/o Amazon Publishing
9781477820889 $9.99

Teen Clara lives with her sister and guardian in an isolated cottage high on a mountain, and grows up listening to her aunt tell tales of fairies and far-away lands. By day, she and her sister help gather herbs for their aunt's healing potions. But as with any good thing, all this changes when Clara discovers her sister is becoming a mermaid - and realizes that her aunt's stories of how three orphan infants arrived to her via a seashell, a stork, and an apple tree discovery might just be true. If Maren is becoming a mermaid - what will Clara become? And mermaids can't live on land. A journey to the sea involves close encounters with evil and self-discoveries that even Clara couldn't predict, in a satisfyingly winding and engrossing young adult story with a coming-of-age difference. Wishing to become a girl again sometimes isn't enough. Clara's journey is satisfyingly different from the usual fantasy approach and makes for a compelling read for all ages.

Edison's Alley
Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman
Disney Hyperion
125 West End Avenue
New York, NY 10023
9781423148067 $16.99

Edison's Alley provides the second part of the Accelerati trilogy, and returns old fans to the story of Nick and his friends, who struggle to find more pieces of Tesla's free energy transmitter before they succumb to a mysterious leader. For Nick, the strange antiques that have always been part of his life hold danger: to members of the Accelerati, a secret society of physicists, they hold keys to controlling the world with new powers. Add in a build-up of dangerous energy in the world and you have an epic struggle that will appeal to newcomers and prior fans alike.

Finn Fancy Necromancy
Randy Henderson
TOR Books
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
9780765378088 $25.99

Finn Fancy Necromancy's title immediately brings to mind the Tove Jansson classic saga 'Finn Family Moomintroll', and it holds just a few similar attractors as it's a quirky story of magic mixed with family drama - but aside from the title, any similarity to Moomintroll ends. Mature teens into adults will welcome the story of Finn Gramaraye, framed from dark necromancy and exiled to the Other Realms at the tender age of fifteen. Twenty-five years later he returns - and as soon as he gets back, he's accused of another crime he isn't guilty of. He has three days to make his case or face exile again: three days of battling witches, a Sasquatch, and gnomes in the process of proving his innocence. One doesn't expect humor to enter into this picture; but the fact that this urban fantasy holds more than a light dose makes it a standout - and highly recommended as a transitional title into adult urban fantasy reading for young adults who want a unique, compelling story with more than a dose of unpredictability.

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans
Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780385392280 $15.99

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans provides ages 8-12 with the intriguing tale of a dragon, Miss Drake, who has a new pet human in Winnie - who, oddly enough, seems to believe that Miss Drake is her pet. Winnie is introduced to a host of fantastic creatures living in San Francisco and her goal is to draw them all - but when her sketches come alive, and escape, Winnie's in trouble. Can she and her dragon companion capture and contain them? A fun, whimsical story evolves.

The Math Shelf

Night Of The Frightening Fractions
Robert Black
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988
9780880926034, $9.99, 138pp,

"Night of the Frightening Fractions" continues the story of seventh grader Lennie Miller who has to solve the math problems of monsters in her new town, Bailey, Indiana. With her best friend, Gil, not only does Lennie have to compute a ghostly girl's inheritance and help a monster chef with his recipe, but she is the only person in her town who can save Bailey from a horde of often hilarious zombies. Each chapter is filled with pre-algebra math problems. Author Robert Black says about his creative math puzzles in his books for young readers: "A lot of 'work problems' don't make sense in real life. They never explain why you'd have sixty watermelons or why you want to give three-fifths of them to your friend. But in my books, the math problems come out of the situations the characters get into, and the characters have reasons why they want to solve those problems". Very highly recommended for school and community library collections, young readers for whom this is their first encounter with author Robert Black's quite special and unique approach to storytelling will also want to read the first of the Lennie Miller novels "Night of the Paranormal Patterns" (9780898244823, $5.95, 126pp).

The Biography Shelf

Zheng He, the Great Chinese Explorer
Li Jian
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive
North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9781602209909 $16.95

Zheng He, the Great Chinese Explorer is a bilingual English/Chinese picturebook about the amazing true-life story of Zheng He (1371-1433), a visionary explorer of China during the Ming Dynasty. He survived war and tragedy, losing his family at an early age; entering the emperor's service, he achieved brilliant military victories. After the war's end, he led sea voyages and sought to engage foreign governments in trade. His expeditions contacted cultures in southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the east cost of Africa; when he discovered cobalt on the Arabian Peninsula, enabling the unique shade of blue that would become the hallmark of Ming Dynasty porcelain. As educational as it is fascinating, Zheng He, the Great Chinese Explorer is an excellent addition to public and school library nonfiction picturebook collections.

Enormous Smallness
Matthew Burgess, author
Kris Di Giacomo, illustrator
Enchanted Lion Books
351 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
9781592701711 $17.95

Enormous Smallness is a picturebook biography of American poet E.E. Cummings (1894-1962), also known for his paintings, plays, essays, and more. The surreal illustrations and poetic text reveal that E.E. Cummings was fascinated with wordplay throughout his life, and that his imagination supported by a joyful and idyllic childhood. His parents, teachers, classmates, and others helped inspire him to make the most of his gift, and he created unique poetry that would resonate in the hearts and minds of multiple generations. A brief chronology of E.E. Cummings' life and an author's note round out this deep tribute to a great creator. Highly recommended, especially for public and school library children's collections.

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

Wow Wow and Haw Haw
George Murray, author
Michael Pittman, illustrator
Breakwater Books
PO Box 2188, St. John's, NL, AIC 6E6
9781550814620 $19.95

Wow Wow and Haw Haw is the picturebook adaptation of a Celtic legend, How The Fox Lost His Fleas. The story follows a young fox named Wow Wow, who is utterly dismayed to discover that fleas have infested his beautiful fur! How can he rid himself of the itchy parasites? Haw Haw the crow appears to be teasing him at first, but in fact the wise bird has the solution to Wow Wow's dilemma, if he can only decipher the clues she shows him! Charming color illustrations add the perfect touch to this insightful storybook parable, highly recommended.

The Judaic Shelf

If I Went to the Moon
Sara Blau, author
Vasilisa Romanenko and Vitaliy Romanenko, illustrators
Hachai Publishing
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 11225
9781929628803 $12.95

Featuring laminated pages that are easier for little hands to turn, If I Went to the Moon is a picturebook in which a young Jewish boy wearing a blue yarmulka speculates what a trip to the moon would be like. "Doing mitzvos up there / Would be so much fun, / So what would I pack / To get mitzvos done?" A rough translation of "mitzvos" is "good deeds"; the boy eventually concludes that it's better to do mitzvos here at home, especially with his family and friends. If I Went to the Moon is a heartwarming story brought to life with gentle color illustrations, and told in singsong rhyme.

Books in Series

Forests Inside Out
James Bow, author
Kathy Middleton, editorial director
Crabtree Publishing Company
PMB 59051, 350 Fifth Avenue, 59th Floor, New York, NY 10118
9780778714958, $27.60, (HC),

"Forests Inside Out" is part of the Ecosystems Inside Out educational series for young readers ages 8-12 about all kinds of forests. The chapters are well organized, detailed with colored photos, and filled with sidebar features like the Eco Focus boxes and Eco Up Close features which examine specific features of individual forest ecosystems. Beginning with the definition of an ecosystem, "Forests Inside Out" continues with descriptive chapters on tropical rain and dry forests, temperate broadleaf forests, taiga and montane forests, swamps and mangrove forests, and kelp, plantation, and urban forests. The interdependence and interaction between people and forests is further defined, and the urgent need for saving forests of all kinds is explained and demonstrated further in an educational activity for catching and holding water. A glossary and Learning More section of related books and websites completes this excellent educational volume about forest ecosystems. Also recommended from this innovative educational nature series are the following titles: "Rivers and Lakes Inside Out" by Megan Kopp (9780778714996, $27.60), "Mountains Inside Out" by James Bow (9780778714989, $27.60), and "Islands Inside Out" by Megan Kopp (9780778714972, $27.60).

The Word Wizard's Book of Synonyms and Antonyms
Robin Johnson, author
Kathy Middleton, editorial director
Crabtree Publishing Company
PMB 59051, 350 Fifth Avenue, 59th Floor, New York, NY 10118
9780778719236, $23.60,

"The Word Wizard's Book of Synonyms and Antonyms" is an exciting title from the innovative language (English) series for young readers at guided reading level K. Embellished with bright stars, action photos of happy kids, and sigil cartoon figures of Word Wizards In Training representing a rainbow of races and robes, this jolly book takes level K readers on an exciting discovery voyage to explore words which are synonyms and antonyms. Twelve succinct chapters cover the magic of words, the meaning of synonyms (same) and antonyms (opposite), helpful nature of synonyms and antonyms, use of a thesaurus, and more. In a climactic chapter called Make Word Magic, kids are encouraged to make their own thesaurus, starting with lists of adjectives and verbs and adding pictures and stories to describe the word magic of synonyms and antonyms. A list of books, websites, and words to know completes "The Word Wizard's Book of Synonyms and Antonyms," an exciting presentation and exploration of expressions to communicate ideas of different and same states of being. The Word Wizard in Training sidebar feature is particularly effective, using matching games, graph representations to show shades of meaning, and sentence completion pictures to help young Word Wizards gain facility with use of synonyms and antonyms in language and communication skills. Also highly recommended are the following titles, also by Robin Johnson, from the same series for reading level K: "The Word Wizard's Book of Prefixes and Suffixes" (9780778719212, $23.60), "The Word Wizard's Book of Pronouns" (9780778719229, $23.60), and "The Word Wizard's Book of Homonyms" (9780778719205, $23.60).

When Fred the Snake Got Squished and Mended
Peter B. Cotton, author
Bonnie Lemaire, illustrator
IngramSpark, publisher
Ingram, distributor
9781452820507, $ 19.95,

An award-winning children's book series in stunning verse, "When Fred the Snake Got Squished and Mended" (otherwise popularly known as "Fred-Fred") is a beloved, original tale of a charming, adventurous, jungle snake pet who lacked crossing traffic skills. This amusing story is wonderfully written in rhyming narrative verse, full of British style, wit and charm. It is also beautifully illustrated with wild, lively, colorful caricature illustrations which present Fred and friends as a very personable, appealing snake. Most wonderful of all are the brave rescue and repair team who dare to tackle sewing Fred-Fred back together, a daunting task that requires special jungle thread which "comes only from the leaf of a certain bush which grows beneath large rhinos. But, who will dare disturb that wild beast in his lair?" Fortunately, Jungle Jim is up for the challenge and an amazing if unlikely adventure continues to a happy healing ending for Fred-Fred. Kids of all ages will enjoy this delightful story and entire series, originally written by an English physician for the enjoyment of his children and grandchildren. Move over for "Fred-Fred," Lewis Carroll! Other fun Fred titles include "When Jungle Jim Came to Visit Fred the Snake," and "When Fred the Snake Goes to School."

The Three Pig Sisters
Cecil Kim, author
Keun Park, illustrator
Norwood House Press
PO Box 316598, Chicago, IL 60631
9781599536545, $22.60,

"The Three Pig Sisters" is a new title from the Myself Bookshelf series which promotes social emotional learning, or SEL, related to development of self awareness, responsibility, positive relationship building, and also academic achievement. "The Three Pig Sisters" presents a new twist on an old tale of the three pigs. The pig sisters are leaving their mother and home, cautioned to build solid houses to keep them safe from wolves. They assure their mother they will work together to build a strong house and defeat any wolves. Sure enough, though the sisters divide the work of building a safe house, two younger pig sisters succumb to the temptation to eat sleeping berries, and are then found asleep and carried off by the wolf. It is up to the oldest sister to waken them and rescue them, but all three pig sisters must still work very fast and hard to build their safe house. Although the wolf still schemes to break down the pig sisters' door, the tale has an unusual surprise ending which will intrigue young readers. In a cooperative utopian fantasy alternative life, the pigs adopt the wolf and put him to work on their farm tending chickens so all of them can be happy and well fed together. "The Three Pig Sisters" ends with a set of Social and Emotional Learning Focus team building exercises which are fun and character building for all who participate. There is also a link or access to Reader's Theater, which is an interactive approach to reading through dramatic interpretation. This excellent book is a good example of the MySelf Bookshelf Series. Another highly recommended title from this series is "The Drummer Boy (9781599536613, $22.60)," by SooHyeon Min, illustrated by Peggy Nile.

Money Skills + Opening A Bank Account
Susan Rose Simms, author
Saddleback Educational Publishers
3120 Pullman Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
9781680210057, $9.95, 800-6378715

"Money Skills + Opening a Bank Account" is part of a juvenile money skills series which also incorporates a short story, "The Guitar," as an example of the need to develop good money skills awareness when attempting to achieve financial goals. Each half of the book is 30 pages long, and when young readers/teens wish, they can flip the book to read the other half of the money skills story. Perfect for teen readers who are interested in spending and managing money wisely, "Money Skills + Opening a Bank Account" provides just the right amount of detail and information about basic account initiation, usage, and management, along with a motivational story of a teen who wants to purchase a guitar. Color photos and examples of checking registers and related bank account details are included for variety and interest. "Money Skills + Opening a Bank Account" provides solid, basic information in an appealing format to teens in need of financial education. Other titles in this series that are also highly recommended include: "Money Skills + Planning to Save" (9781680210132, $9.95), by Susan Rose Simms, "Money Skills+ Living on a Budget" (9781680210002), by Jane Gardner, "Money Skills + Managing Credit" (9781680210125, $9.95), by Jill Haney, and "Money Skills + Using Coupons" (9781680210149, $9.95), by Jane Gardner.

Word Wizard's Books
Crabtree Publishing Company
350 Fifth Avenue, 59th Floor
New York, NY 10118
$23.60 hc / $7.95 pbk. each,

24 pages in each book of this series offers elementary readers fine introductions to basic words and how to use them, and pair bright contemporary covers featuring kids in action with discussions that even adults will find user-friendly. New additions to this series include The Word Wizard's Book of Pronouns (9780778719229), Homonyms (9780778719205), Prefixes and Suffixes (9780778719212), and Synonyms and Antonyms (9780778719236). Each book emphasizes the 'magic of words' and each considers how particular word groups are helpful in telling stories and creating descriptions, and how to use them property. 'Word Wizard in Training', for example, outlines how to choose words, while 'Almost the Same' discusses different shades of meaning and how they can change through one word choice over another. The results do more than define words: they discuss usage with an eye to pairing word choices with more effective communication methods, using an easy, chatty set of examples that are kid-friendly and attractive.

Donovan's Bookshelf

Crystal Brave: Treasures of the Current
B.K. Bradshaw
Goldminds Publishing, LLC.
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
9781942905028 $5.59 Kindle $27.99 Hardcover

It's one year after the earthquake that led pre-teen Crystal into the wilderness to rescue her parents, and she's finally allowed to accompany her parents on her first archaeological dig at a grave in the Ozarks. Her friends are with her when a new natural disaster strikes: this time, in the form of a wildfire.

Now it's not just her parents who are endangered; it's the priceless relics, a horse, and the lives of everyone around her - and once more, it's up to teen Crystal to save the day.

Familiarity with the prior Crystal Brave adventure is not so much a prerequisite for enjoying this sequel as a likelihood that it, too, will prove of interest to any who enjoy this saga.

As before, Crystal's character is spunky, self-assured, and self-directed - yet, believable. Crystal's observations of human conditions are astute and represent her evolving maturity: "She is rough on the outside, Crystal thought, but she has a soft spot on the inside."

From the mechanics of conducting field research to the history and politics surrounding wild horses, there's a range of issues explored here which makes the story line compelling, realistic, and packed with depth: "Where did the wild horses come from?" "We aren't exactly sure," Ed explained, "but we think they may have started out during the Depression when people were abandoning their horses. Sometimes people have released horses in with them, which is a terrible idea. Living in the wild is a different set of skills than being tame. A lot of the tame horses don't survive."

It would have been too easy to create a one-dimensional character, add a wildfire, and watch the sparks begin: Bradshaw's attention to such details makes for a middle-grade level adventure that delivers so much more, and is a pick for any who want their females spunky, their action well-balanced with attention to character development, and their stories filled with both action and insight.

The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins
Betty Inman Shortt
Goldminds Publishing, LLC
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
ISBN (print): 9781942905141, $14.99
ISBN (eBook): 9781942905301, $6.99!weird-adventures/c104x

Twins Betty and Bev are more than double trouble: they have knack for investigating odd situations; so when strangers come to town, the two have an immediate sense of "something wicked in the air" - verified, of course, by their investigations.

So far, nothing new here: many a middle grade children's book has featured young sleuths with a nose for trouble and oddities.

But The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins holds something just a little different, as young readers will discover; and that takes the form of a 1950s rural setting and kids who are uncommonly savvy about adult psychology: "Shhh, don't let Mom hear you, or she might not let us take the cherries to her. Mrs. Clemens sure seemed interested in him, and I still can't believe she didn't speak to us," Bev whispered, as she popped a cherry in her mouth and spit out the seed."

As investigative pieces for middle grades go, this may seem milder than some amateur detective stories: that's because Shortt takes the time to build atmosphere and relationships rather than charging full speed into the mystery itself.

For younger generations used to quick action and immediate gratification, the story may seem slow at first - but as characters develop and realistic settings spring to life, The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins becomes more compelling, less predictable, and better-rounded than most young reader's mysteries.

Sometimes its action seems nearly adult in its presentation, which might lend to older middle school grades ("Richard lay for a few seconds waiting for his pain to dull. It shocked him to realize the person he once thought he loved, had tried to hurt or even kill him. He raised his head and saw her taillights fading into the Ozarks' night."); at other times the psychology is so well detailed as to also presume a nearly-adult level of perception on the part of readers and protagonists alike: "She seems to love intimidating people, especially ones smaller and weaker like us, thought Betty. The girls knew Ruth could be very dangerous, and she enjoyed every minute of her control over people."

What this really means is that The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins holds an unusual capability of appealing to adult and pre-teen through teen readers - and that's a unique feature in a story centered around twelve-year-old protagonists.

Can two young girls confront a dangerous woman and win? The tale line starts out slowly and simply, but weaves a compelling plot that is satisfyingly different from your usual 'Encyclopedia Brown' style approaches for this age group, making it a recommended pick for a wide audience.

Doris Free: A Harvest of Friends
Cara Brookins
Goldminds Publishing, LLC
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
ISBN (print): 9781942905189, $14.99
ISBN (eBook): 9781942905196, $6.99!doris-free/cbmg

Life on a 1930s Wisconsin farm during the Depression isn't easy, but young Doris Free finds family and small town life to be both challenging and rewarding even as everyone around her struggles, until the arrival of a new black shopkeeper in town adds social struggle to the task of economic survival.

Doris had never seen a black man before (indeed, most in her small town haven't, either) and her first impression of the stranger in town is that he is 'covered in mud' but incongruously appears clean. After all, their isolated small town hasn't been exposed to much of the outside world - and neither has she. All this is about to change in a big way, illustrating how the Depression led to not just economic hardships, but social transformation as people moved out of familiar places and settings and interacted with each other on new levels.

Many books for all ages have been written about the Depression years, but it's this emphasis that is one of the exceptional features of the middle-grade read Doris Free: A Harvest of Friends. The other is an attention to realistic detail. As the young folk observe a changing adult world, they continue their childhood pursuits; and events integrate and translate themselves into a child's perspective rather than taking the usual approach of observations far beyond a child's maturity.

Thus Doris interacts with the newcomer with an impulse generosity tempered by caution, she absorbs adult perspectives on the new arrival and filters them through the lens of childhood, and she leads her life of hard work with plenty of child's play: "After hours of planning, the girls finally had everything just right. Playing school was one of their favorite summer pastimes, which made Ma laugh. "You girls spend the entire school year longing for summer vacation, and the entire summer vacation playing school!" she always said."

Her impulse is to help - and sometimes that gets her into trouble and leads her into adult worlds, with their confusing prejudice and reactions: troubles that are always tempered by family support - which is another refreshing perspective in Doris Free: "We understand it's a serious problem," Pa said when she frowned at their laughter. "But it's important to find the funny parts of life even when things are difficult. It helps a person stay calm and think of all the possible solutions."

Doris Free does a fine job of realistically portraying a myriad of personal and social changes through the eyes of a young girl who learns what it means to truly make a difference.

Xs and Os for Gabby Ann
Petrell Marie Ozbay
Mascot Books
560 Herndon Parkway #120, Herndon, Virginia 20170
9780990844709 $16.95 32 pages

Xs and Os for Gabby Ann features warm, full-color illustrations and provides the unusual picture book story of a girl who loves bedtime: a refreshing change from the flood of titles covering those who don't.

Parents conducting read-alouds will appreciate this positive focus on Gabby's rituals and appreciations, along with the delicious descriptions that evoke images of delight: "She loved bedtime even more than strawberry ice cream with sprinkles on top."

As readers progress, they learn that Gabby's father is far away, and while her mother gives her kisses and hugs, she must imagine her father's presence and involvement in her life. From "far across the sea" her father blows 'x and o kisses and hugs' her way, and these assume a life of their own as they cross oceans and forests to get to their intended destination.

A host of happy animals are encountered and all help the Xs and Os reach their destination: the turtle carries them on his back, and the giraffe on his long neck as he romps through the grass. A pelican brings them to land, a helpful dog crosses yards - everything and everyone in this book is bright, cheerful, and willing to lend a hand in the process of getting her father's love safely to her.

The result is a warm story not just of a happy bedtime, but of a young child's ability to feel her father's love even from afar; and that's a positive, healthy message; especially when paired with vibrant color images throughout. Xs and Os for Gabby Ann is highly recommended as a choice for any parent handling another parent's absence in a child's life.

The Key: A Taylor and Alan Adventure
Jackie Mae & Alison Taylor
Jackie Mae, Publisher
9780991614967 (paperback) 150 Pages
9780991614974 (ebook) $3.99

The Key: A Taylor and Alan Adventure presents Volume 2 in an adventure series (Volume 1 not seen by this reviewer), and focuses on a brother/sister team who are eagerly awaiting the release of a summer movie at the mall which brags it holds the 'theater to end all theaters'.

Movie fantasies quickly end, however, when the two stumble into the wrong movie theater - and into another world.

Now, perhaps the author didn't intend this - but moments of comic relief lightly pepper the story; because the first reaction to their slip into another universe is indignation that, once more, they have left their world - and their intended pleasures in it; "Oh no, here we go again," I shouted to the universe. "Not today, today I want to see my terrific movie, eat my delicious popcorn, and drink my icecold soda!"

Black and white photos also pepper the story, but its strength lies in dialogue and plot that provide advanced elementary to middle school readers with a solid adventure in the 'Land of Baltimore'.

No reader can easily resist a treasure hunt. Few can turn away from the prospect of siblings who challenge catacombs, tombs, unicorns, and mystery, either!

The dialogue is convincing, the story realistic and engrossing, and The Key provides a well-done adventure that needs no prior introduction to its predecessor to prove engrossing.

Combine siblings with another world and an adventure filled with the trappings of magic and problem-solving and you have a compelling story with enough twists and turns to keep it memorable and engrossing, even for selected adult readers!

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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