Fantasy

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Trickster: Native American Tales A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki (2010)
Juvenile Graphic Novel Nonfiction, 231 pages

A unique collection of Native American tales from various tribes. Trickster is an enduring figure in many tribes, taking various forms such as Coyote, Raven, Wolf, etc. This is the first collection of Native American tales I know of that are in the graphic novel format. Each tale has been told by a Native American teller, and the illustrator was matched with each teller. There are funny stories, and more serious stories. I am most familiar with Coyote or Raven tales, but I have been fascinated by Native American tales for a long time. This collection introduces a part of Native American culture to a wider audience. My favorite story is the first, “Coyote and the Pebbles”, told by Dayton Edmonds and illustrated by Micah Farritor. It is a Creation story about how the stars came to be in the sky (the animals asked the Great Mystery for more light at night, Great Mystery said the animals must gather pebbles and arrange them in the sky, Coyote was late to the meeting and the sky was full of pebbles by the time he came to put his pebbles in the sky, he tripped and messed up all the animals’ pebbles and scattered them everywhere and now the animals exclude Coyote from their company). I know beautiful is an overused word, but the illustrations are just so wonderful and match the tale so well. I don’t see a lot of Native Americans these days, and it is essential to keep their culture alive as much as possible. Suggested for grades 3 and up.

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A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness (2011)
Young Adult Fantasy, 224 pages

Conor wakes up in the middle of the night expecting the monster from his nightmares, but a different monster awaits him. An ancient yew tree that can talk to Conor, grow in size, and leave branches and leaves in his room when Conor wakes up in the morning. Conor is not afraid of this yew tree, though. He has something far more frightening to anticipate: his mother’s eventual death from cancer. This ancient being says he has been called by Conor, and he has 3 tales to tell. When he is finished, Conor will have to tell a fourth tale, the tale of the monster that Conor truly fears.  The marriage of horror and grief is perfect for this story—–when Conor first faces down the tree, and it realizes that Conor is not afraid of him, I so identified with that. I empathized very much with Conor, I lost my husband to suicide suddenly and I feel like I have never been through a darker period than that and hope to never experience again. I have also watched my stepfather die at home slowly and painfully from liver cancer. I wanted to enter into this book and put my arm around Conor and tell him it would be all right. Jim Kay’s illustrations perfectly complement the text, which was a story that Siobhan Dowd started but could not complete because she herself died of breast cancer. Kay’s illustrations are appropriately dark and menacing, and exactly how I would picture this monster as described in the text.  Suggested for grades 6 and up.

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Cold Cereal by Adam Rex (2012)
Juvenile Fantasy, 421 pages

Talking rabbit-men, leprechauns, unicorns, the Lady of the Lake, and other characters of the King Arthur legends, and other magical creatures, along with cereal companies and cereal commercials. Fantasy and mystery together in one story. It could be overwhelming to some readers, but I loved this mix of traditional fantasy with the modern world. Scott, his sister Polly, and their mother have come to live in Goodborough, New Jersey because their mother has gotten a job with the GoodCo cereal company and all the employees have to live in the town. Scott thinks he is hallucinating when he starts seeing magical creatures, but he comes to find that they are real and that GoodCo is using the magic from the magical creatures for its own selfish ends. Intended as the first book in a trilogy, the story was full of action and adventure throughout and definitely left me wanting to read the next book (which most likely has not been written yet).

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The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (2009)
Juvenile Fantasy, 313 pages

Ranger is chained up underneath the crumbling-down house of his abusive owner, Gar Face. A stray cat, who is pregnant, shows up one day looking for a place to have her babies. Ranger tries to warn her, but she stays. She and Ranger raise her two children, Puck and Sabine together.  Gar Face is the way he is because that is how his father raised him, and he has no love left in his heart. He is trying to capture and kill the Alligator King, the largest alligator in the area. Grandmother Moccasin is a snake who was able to change into human form, but once you change back to snake, you can’t go back to being human. Grandmother wants revenge because her daughter, Night Song, has changed to human and left her behind.

There is a lot going on here, but I loved this book. I was afraid to read this one because I did not think I could take the scenes where Gar Face abuses Ranger. It was hard to read those scenes, and not want to go into the book so I could take care of  Gar Face myself, but ultimately the whole story with all its parts fits together very well. The ending is neatly tied up, but I was glad because there was so much pain and misery throughout the book, with just enough love and kindness to get me through to the end when Ranger, Puck, and Sabine are finally free. Suggested for grades 4 and up.

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Historical Fiction

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A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux (2012)
Young Adult Historical Fiction, 192 pages

Nature or nurture? Are we the product of genetics, or the environment around us? If you had found out your whole identity that you had lived your entire life was a false one, how would you handle it? Koumail has been moving from place to place with Gloria his entire life in war-torn Caucasus in the 1990’s. Gloria has shown him his passport and has instructed him to say that he is Blaise Fortune and also a French citizen. As things become more dangerous in their travels, Koumail becomes seperated from Gloria and has to do what he has been trained to do. He is a boy without a country and is in limbo while he waits for France to decide what to do with him. He eventually is educated and allowed to get a new passport, and does find Gloria. He also finds out the truth, that he is the son of terrorist parents. I don’t know that I have ever read a story that takes the terrorists’ side into consideration before (other than Walter Dean Myers’ story in the Guys Read: Thriller collection of short stories), and I think it is important that these stories exist. Gloria, although she has contributed to the terrorist act that has given Koumail his French passport, removes Koumail from the situation while his father continues to be a terrorist. Children live in these conditions every day and their voices need to be heard.

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With A Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo (2011)
Juvenile Historical Fiction, 249 pages

Ollie and her sisters go wherever her daddy, the Reverend Everlasting Love, travels as a preacher. It is 1957 in Arkansas, and Ollie’s family have come to set up their revival tent in Binder like they have done so many times before. As Ollie goes to invite the people of the town to that night’s revival meeting, she encounters Jimmy. Jimmy is living by himself, and outcast of the town, and his mom is in jail for murdering his father. Ollie feels the need to find out the truth and help Jimmy. She is met by many obstacles, and people who just want her and her family to go on their way and not change things. Do we accept people on the surface, or do we get to know people as individuals? Do we help others in need when no one else is stepping up to do so? What motivates us? What drives us to keep going? I think this story will help children see that there is not just one way to do things. Our choices make us who we are, and we can limit ourselves or be open to a wider variety of the world if we have the courage to do so. Suggested for grade 5th and up.

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Inside Out and Back Again by Thanha Lai (2011)
Juvenile Historical Fiction, 262 pages

We have heard about the Vietnam War, but my generation does not have a more personal view of it. It is important for this story to be told. The challenges the people of Vietnam faced when they escaped to different countries must have been enormous and overwhelming. Ha and her family end up in Alabama. Her father has been missing for a long time, having served in the Navy and possibly captured and/or killed. The family has to figure out how to go on and live their new life. Some people are open to helping them adjust, and others are racist. Ha and her family members have their own personalities and knowledge and culture, and trying to learn and live in a new culture completely different from what they are used to is a challenging process. There are children today who are going through these experiences and need this story. Told in free verse. Suggested for grades 4 and up.

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The Rock and The River by Kekla Magoon (2010)
Juvenile Historical Fiction, 290 pages

Is it better to protest for change non-violently, or be more aggressive and defend yourself? Sam and his older brother Stick have grown up with their father’s way of non-violence, and getting to know Dr. Martin Luther King personally. Stick can’t take the racist culture they live in anymore in 1968 Chicago, and feels his questions are answered by the Black Panther Party. Sam does not understand at first that Stick is not an advocate of gun violence. He tries to find out what Stick is doing and gets caught up with some of the more militant members of the Black Panthers and also his own anger at being treated unjustly. There are good and bad people everywhere, and there is good and bad in all of us. This story gives a more complete picture of the Black Panthers and what they originally set out to do. Sam and Stick’s father is horrified and tries to stop them from getting involved, but it is hard to wait for change and watch as yourself and your fellow members of your community are beaten down every day unjustly. Somewhere in the middle, I think there is a way to fight for change and also demand respect without using violence. I am probably idealistic to think so. I am also not a person of color and have never been targeted for the color of my skin, so I can’t imagine what that must be like for someone who has had that experience.

Biography

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Face Book by Chuck Close (2012)
Juvenile Biography, 55 pages

Chuck Close is an artist. Faces are always his subject, and he uses a variety of materials and techniques to create his work. As a child he struggled in school because he was severely dyslexic, could not add or subtract, and had a neuromuscular condition. He always had an ability to draw. As an adult, he experienced what he calls “the Event”, which is that one of his spinal arteries collapsed in 1998 and left him paralyzed from the chest down. After months of intensive therapy, he was able to work his way back to creating art again. His faces invite the audience to look at them over and over. He has recreated his own face many times but other people as well. I found it interesting that he sees younger people as a challenge because their faces are more smooth and not as lived in yet. He does not create smiling faces because he likes to leave his art more open to interpretation. After seeing this, he is having me look at people’s faces much more closely. He answers children’s questions throughout this book openly and honestly. Suggested for grades 3 and up.

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Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland (2012)
Juvenile Biography, 48 pages

An illustrated biography of Julia Child. Hartland’s illustrations and text make Julia’s life very accessible to children. Julia led a very interesting life, and her love of cooking and sharing that love with the world is very clear in this book. It inspires me to make cooking fun and try new things, even though I hate to cook most of the time. Suggested for grades 2-5.

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Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (2009)
Juvenile Biography, 133 pages

Rosa Parks was not the first person to refuse to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery bus. Claudette Colvin was 15 and tired of being mistreated because she was black. She had the strength and courage to deal with the consequences. It takes one person usually to inspire others to follow, and she was tired of waiting for the adults to do something. Important black leaders were grateful for what she had done, but also abandoned her when they felt she was not the right person to represent the cause. Colvin stepped up a second time to testify against the legality of segregation, but in the time between being arrested for not giving up her seat and testifying in court, she had become pregnant out of wedlock, and was again seen as not the right image for the cause. Abandoned again, she was a teen mom who had to go on with her life in spite of all the obstacles. What a woman of strength and integrity. Suggested for grades 6 and up.

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Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka (2008)
Juvenile Biography, 106 pages

Jon Scieszka’s hilarious recount of growing up with his 5 brothers (his mom was the only female in the house, I really feel for her). Children will love this book, and will enjoy reading about the silly and dangerous things Jon and his brothers did. It is obvious that Jon’s love for reading and creating stuff kids actually want to read was born at a young age.  He has a great heart for children, and I am glad that he became an author and continues to share his stories with the world. Suggested for fourth grade and up.

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Smile by Raina Telgemeier (2010)
Juvenile Graphic Novel, 213 pages

Anyone who had to wear braces will sympathize with this experience (however, it sounded like Raina’s dental work was a lot more involved than the average person). Raina knocked out her two front teeth in an accident when she was 12, and went through a very arduous and at times painful journey to get her teeth fixed that lasted through her sophomore year of high school. Growing up, noticing the opposite sex, being conscious of your physical appearance——we all have our own version of this story. It really works in the graphic novel format, it fits the narrative quite well. There is definitely an audience for this autobiographical story. Suggested for fifth grade and up.

Books of Information

Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Alan Drummond (2011)
Juvenile NonFiction, 36 pages

Caring for our planet can seem like an overwhelming task. but this book is a great example for children of working together and starting slowly. The people of Samso, an island in the middle of Denmark, have been able to harness wind and other sources of renewable energy to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and methods that are harmful to Earth. It did not happen overnight, and they started out small. The information is presented to children in an easily understandable way, and I enjoyed the illustrations, which remind me of Quentin Blake’s style. Children can read this and be inspired to look for ways in their own geographic areas to help reduce carbon emissions and be less wasteful.  Suggested for grades 2-6.

In Search of Sasquatch by Kelly Milner Halls (2011)
Juvenile NonFiction, 64 pages

Could Sasquatch be real?  Kelly Milner Halls takes a scientific approach, looking throughout history, anthropology, and globally at all the information collected that may suggest that Sasquatch is a possible link between apes and humans. So many people from so many different cultures all over the world have described a creature so similarly it is hard to just dismiss as a story. Children’s minds are generally more open to wonder and exploration of things that are not easily explained. Halls gives children a framework to study these subjects objectively without fear.  Suggested for grades 5-8.

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Truce by Jim Murphy (2009)
Juvenile NonFiction, 116 pages

What was it like for the soldiers during World War I? How did they feel about going to war? I have learned more about war conditions from this book than I remember learning about in history class in school. The enlisted men did not necessarily understand why their countries were involved, but they were patriotic and wanted to defend their countries. There were some moments of peace, such as Christmas Day 1914, which Murphy talks about in this book. The soldiers were able to recognize their similarities with the opposing side, and sang to each other and exchanged Christmas presents. The commanding officers tried to stop them because the longer they fraternized with each other and saw what they had in common, the harder it would be to go back to being enemies once Christmas was over. Murphy uses real photographs (most of which were taken by amateur photographers since the assigned war photographers were not taking pictures during this truce). Children will get a much fuller picture reading this book of what it is like to be at war. Suggested for grades 6-10.

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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson (2011)
Juvenile NonFiction, 107 pages

It is absolutely essential to have this book in as many libraries as possible. Most of us know history, but Kadir Nelson’s gorgeous paintings and the voice of a female African American bring America alive. It is one thing to read about historical events, but when a reader can get a first-person, personal account it means so much more. As a white person, I have struggled with our country’s history and our treatment of African Americans and other minorities. I have experienced depression and guilt that African Americans and other minorities have been treated so horribly. I am thankful in my family that we were taught to see the person and not the color of their skin. As we go into the future, I welcome people of all races coming together and building a peaceful world together. I hope that Kadir Nelson and others like him create many more such wonderful works as this one. Suggested for all ages, for younger children I would probably show the paintings and talk about what is going on in them, and with older children this book can lead to many great discussions.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact On Us by Tanya Lee Stone (2010)
Juvenile NonFiction, 130 pages

I had some Barbies as a child, but I did not play with them much as I was too busy making up stories in my head. Also, I realized that I should not get too attached to my Barbies after my best friend’s older sister chose to burn my Barbie. Was the smell ever bad! My mom was neutral to Barbie, and my stepmother could not stand her. For all the protests about how Barbie promotes an unhealthy body image for girls, I have to say it never occurred to me to think that I  should try to make my body look like Barbie’s did. Also the efforts to give Barbie different careers went over my head too.  I think this is a good book to have in a library’s collection, as Barbie is a big part of our culture and people may be interested in how Barbie came about. Suggested for grades six and up.

Contemporary Realism

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The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (2010)
Juvenile Fiction, 141 pages

I am sure everyone can remember either being the outcast in the crowd or being able to identify the outcast in the crowd. Dwight is the outcast of his sixth-grade class, but he has talents no one else has. When he makes his own Origami Yoda and lets the Origami Yoda give people advice, a lot of times Yoda’s advice is correct. The sixth graders start to believe and more come to Dwight to ask him to put his Origami Yoda on his finger so that they can ask their questions. The author chose to use multiple points of view, both people who believe in Origami Yoda and those who don’t. This makes the story more believable and is a good way to connect with the audience for this book. The characters deal with issues that anyone who is currently in middle school or has been middle school age in the past can identify with, and it is also funny. Suggested for grades 3-6.

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2011)
Juvenile Fiction, 310 pages

Auggie has been born with genetic deformities that have largely affected his face. He is noticeable everywhere he goes, and has to deal with people’s reactions to his face multiple times a day. Auggie has the surgery for his cleft palate that my son will have to have this coming January, so I immediately felt sympathetic to his plight from the first page. Auggie is not mentally disabled, although most people assume he is. Auggie has to fight for his rights as a human being to just exist without being judged by everyone. This story is also told in multiple perspectives, including Auggie, his sister, his friend, and the bully who torments him. There are lots of emotions and issues in this story, and the perspectives of all the young people involved gives a more complete picture. None of the adults get a voice, just the kids. Kids have a different perspective than adults do, and as a reader I wanted to know what the adults were thinking as well, which is suppose is asking this story to do something it was not intended to. Suggested for grades 4-7.

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Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry (2010)
Juvenile Fiction, 161 pages

Brother is the youngest of 5 brothers who live on a ranch. His dad is being deployed to Iraq, and his older brothers are going to military school. Brother is helping his grandparents and the hired hands to maintain the ranch, although it is not his heart’s desire. When a major crisis happens, Brother realizes his true calling to become a preacher and is able to communicate that to his family. This story resonates with a wide audience, because everyone goes on a journey to discover who they are and what their role is in the world. Suggested for grades 4-8.

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The Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp (2012)
Young Adult Fiction, 152 pages

Bounce is a spoiled rich girl with mental issues. She controls 2 boys, Orange and Wiggins. They decide to kidnap a 4 year old girl who calls herself Frog, and advertise her disappearance so that they can get people to donate money which they keep for themselves. They plan on using the money so that they can buy a gun to kill an author who came to visit their school.While Frog is in captivity, she plays a video game called The Children and the Wolves. As the story progresses, Frog gets better at playing the game. The story is told from Bounce, Orange, Wiggins, and Frog’s perspective. Bounce, Orange, and Wiggins all have parents who are not involved in their lives. Orange and Wiggins are poor while Bounce’s family has a lot of money. I am sure there are children who are in similar situations as the main characters, so they may identify with those feelings of being disconnected from their families. They also may experience the violence and sexual situations that happen in this book. There is an audience for this book, but its content will be off-putting to a lot of libraries. There are not many libraries in this area who carry this book. I am not sure who I would give this book to, I think it is “I will know it when I feel it” kind of situation. It is really a judgment call. I would not feel comfortable suggesting this to anyone under the age of 14.

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Wandering Son Volume 1 by Shimura Takako (2011)
Young Adult Manga, 203 pages

Nitori Suichi is a fifth grade boy and Takatsuki Yoshino is a fifth grade girl. As their friendship develops, they discover something about each other: Nitori would rather be a girl, and Takatsuki would rather be a boy. At the end of the story, Nitori’s older sister has accepted that Nitori should have been born a girl. Nitori and his family move away and change schools. Nitori and Takatsuki’s parents are not aware of how their children feel. Growing up and going through physical changes is difficult for everyone, and can also be confusing. There are definitely children who identify with a different gender than the one they were born as. Reflecting their experience in a library’s collection is important. Suggested for grades 6 through adult.

Poetry

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Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies, illustrator Mark Hearld (2012)
Poetry, 108 pages

The author’s knowlege and experience as a zoologist enables her to write descriptive poetry in natural language. Hearld’s illustrations are masterpieces on each page, using a variety of techniques (such as collages, woodcuts, and mixed-media). Children can enjoy this outside at a nature storytime, or inside as an extension of a science activity. Suggested for preschool–grade 2.

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The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems edited by Georgia Heard, illustrator Antoine Guilloppe (2012)
Poetry, 40 pages

Poetry can be found anywhere if you look for it. Dictionaries, a note from the teacher, Facebook statuses, websites, Twitter, a box of detergent, newspaper ads, signs in a store, from computer drop-down menus, literally anywhere. 30 authors found their poems in all these different places and more and came up with their own titles. This is an excellent way to introduce children to poetry and to inspire them to create their own just by looking at what surrounds them. Suggested for grades 3-6.

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A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrator Chris Raschka (2005)
Poetry, 59 pages

This book introduces different poetry forms to children (I have never heard of Senryu, Tanka, Double Dactyl, Triolet, Villanelle or a Pantoum before). The pages are large enough, with a single example and a vibrant watercolor illustration to go with each poem. The explanations are brief, and the “Notes on the Forms” at the back of the book are helpful. Poetry is really fun and a great way to introduce creative language and writing to children. This book could be used with a variety of children in many settings. Suggested for grades 3-9.

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A Pocketful of Posies by Sally Mavor (2010)
Poetry, 59 pages

The reader will want to reach inside this book and touch it, the illustrations are so wonderfully put together. Children will want this to be read aloud over and over. Familiar (and some not so familiar) nursery rhymes accompany Sally Mavor’s beautifully sewn scenes using some found objects. This book inspires me to try this at home with my son. Suggested for preschool–grade 1.

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Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illutrator Rick Allen (2010)
Poetry, 32 pages

Do you ever wonder what animals do at night? Poetry along with scientific facts abound in this book. The poems are clearly laid out on the left side, and the illustrations on the right. The illustrations are linoleum prints, and fit perfectly with the poems. The only thing that bothered me about the illustrations is the one for the title poem, Dark Emperor. The poem is about an owl, but the owl in the illustration is small and in the background. There is a large illustration of a mouse in the foreground. I would have liked to see the owl up close in more detail, especially since the scientific description of the owl is very detailed. Suggested for grades 3-6, this book can complement a science lesson on nocturnal animals.

Beginning Readers

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Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee (2010)
Juvenile Fiction, 81 pages

Bink and Gollie are best friends and have adventures together, whether it is climbing a mountain, or taking their fish to the movies. Great for first and second graders, the text is not too overwhelming and the illustrations complement the text nicely. The judicious use of color makes Bink and Gollie stand out on the page, since most of the illustrations are black, white and gray. Two friends could read this together.

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Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett, illustrator Ann James (2012)
Juvenile Fiction, 60 pages

Sadie and Ratz are the names of Hannah’s hands. They can be used for good or evil. When Hannah’s brother Baby Boy annoys her, Sadie and Ratz attack. When Baby Boy figures out that he can blame things on Sadie and Ratz and not get caught, Hannah has to take action. Dealing with your siblings is something everyone with siblings has to do. Appropriate for second graders to read on their own. The simply drawn black and white illustrations enhance the text, making the emotions recognizable and understandable.

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The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson (2012)
Juvenile Graphic Novel, 39 pages

A graphic novel version of a Hawaiian folk tale. Kalei is searching for food when she encounters the Shark King. She falls in love with the Shark King and they get married and have a baby. The Shark King leaves her to make a place for their son Nanaue in the ocean. Nanaue wants to be like the other humans, but he is too different and they don’t accept him. Nanaue leaves his mother and joins his father in the ocean. Kalei is left by herself but the Shark King and Nanaue bring her food. This graphic novel is a great introduction for beginning readers, as the illustrations really tell the story. It also makes the folk tale more understandable. I felt sorry for Kalei, because she lost her husband and her son, but I feel inspired to look at Hawaiian folk tales now at the same time. Appropriate for second graders and up.

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Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin (2010)
Early Reader, 44 pages

Ling and Ting are twin sisters who everyone assumes is exactly the same. When Ling and Ting go for haircuts, and Ting sneezes during her haircut, people are finally able to distinguish between the two. Ling and Ting do magic tricks, and help each other eat with chopsticks. Anyone who is a twin will probably appreciate this story, but it is humorous even if you don’t have a twin. The illustrations are in a single panel on each page, which helps to notice all the details. Although the faces are drawn simply, they are very expressive. Grades 2 and up.

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Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems (2008)
Early Reader, 57 pages

Elephant and Piggie are excited to play outside, but it starts to rain. Piggie is really upset, until he sees 2 worms excited to play in the rain. Elephan and Piggie choose to go with it and have  wonderful time playing until the sun comes out and it stops raining. Then Elephant uses his trunk to make rain so that Piggie can keep playing. Mo Willems has already captured the hearts of millions of children, and this series about 2 friends is lovely and funny. The illustrations are mostly black and white with some muted colors. Willems makes it look deceptively easy, as if  child could have drawn these illustrations. Grades 1 and up.