BooksForKidsBlog

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"The War To End All Wars:" In the Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I b Kerrie Logan Hollihan


On Monday, June 29, 1914, newboys on American and European streets shouted headlines with reports of an assassination. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Duchess Sophie, shot, point blank, in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Most Americans and many Europeans didn't dwell on the killings. Bosnia, tucked into the southern end of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire, seemed remote. Irene Curie, a French student, looked forward to her vacation at the seaside. British student Ronald Tolkien was writing letters to his fiance' in a fanciful language he called Elvish. Across the Atlantic, high school sophomore Ernest Hemingway was working at his family's summer home. Seventeen-year-old Quentin Roosevelt, son of Theodore Roosevelt, had friends coming to celebrate the Fourth, and comic Buster Keaton was making people laugh on New York's vaudeville stages.

But the "Great War," the war "to make the world safe for democracy," "the war to end all wars" was already inevitable, the jigsaw pieces of European alliances falling into place as if predetermined, and the lives of many young people--the famous, the future famous, and the unknown--were forever changed, as was warfare itself. On the ground, cavalry contended with tanks, submarines sank ocean liners full of tourists, civilians feared homegrown terrorists and spies, and in the air, the first fighter planes and bombers went to war.  Powerful artillery limited ground warfare to deadly trench warfare in which waves of soldiers went "over the top" to be slaughtered by the thousands in the machine gun crossfire.

It was the cause celebre, and young people from two continents volunteered for military service. Those who could not join sought to serve in non-combat roles. Irene Curie, daughter of the famed Marie and Pierre Curie and a future Nobel Award winner, turned from physics to nursing and eventually, working with her mother, manned the mobile x-ray trucks which allowed surgeons to save lives. With three of his Oxford College chums, Ron Tokien, the J. R. R. Tolkien, left his language studies to rush to enlist in the Signal Corps, but eventually served in the infantry, surviving his time in the bloody trenches to go on to write of Middle Earth warfare between orcs and fairies, hobbits and dragons. Superstar of the 1910s, baseball pitcher Christy Mathewson, already in his thirties, signed up along with star Ty Cobb, contracting the tuberculosis which eventually cost him his life.

Too young for the army, teenager Ernest Hemingway served as a Red Cross ambulance driver for three weeks, heroically saved one soldier under fire, and spent the rest of his time recovering from wounds, charming and romancing the nurses, and living to gain fame as a foremost novelist, Deadpan comic Buster Keaton was drafted out of his early Hollywood success, and with only two weeks of basic training was thrown into the fray in France, losing much of his hearing but living to become a silent movie star. Future president Harry S. Truman survived gas attacks at the front to return home to Missouri politics, but "gentleman pilot" Quentin Roosevelt survived little more than the eleven days which was the average for U. S. airmen fighting against the Red Baron.

There were lesser known and unknown young people who sought to serve. Henry Lincoln Johnson, led the African American "Hellfighters Division" in the homecoming parade and ultimately was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2015. "Aviatrix" Katherine Stinson, famed early barnstorming female pilot, was turned down for fighter duty in the air over France, but with her flying circus was put to work raising millions for Liberty Bonds and the Red Cross and finally made her contribution in France as an ambulance driver, receiving permission to fly as mail messenger for General Pershing's headquarters, only to become a casualty of the 1918 influenza epidemic in Paris.

World War I changed everything, casting its shadow over the rebound hedonism of the roaring twenties and the Depression years to follow, and foreshadowing the Second World War to come, impacting the lives of the lost and those who lived on far into the twentieth century.

Kerrie Logan Hollihan's In the Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I (Chicago Review Press, 2016) gives young adult readers an up-close-and-personal look at some of real people, noted and unknown, for whom the "Great War" was the determining experience of their lives. Told with an engaging immediacy which will appeal to readers and backed up for research with ample photos, a timeline, endnotes, bibliography, and index, this book is useful for supplementary reading for world history students and history buffs alike. “A worthwhile addition to every library collection and a natural for military-history enthusiasts,” says Kirkus Reviews.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Stormy Crossing: Kobee Manatee: A Wild Weather Adventure by Robert Scott Thayer

"The skies are clear here in Key West. "Are you guys ready to go," I asked.

"Aye Aye, sir!" said Tess.

"Let's go, captain," Pablo replied.

We left for Nassau, in the Bahamas, the home of my sister Kim. I wanted to surprise her on her birthday.

Kobee Manatee is well suited for long ocean trips, being a gifted floater, insulated by a thick layer of blubber. His buddies, Tess, a fancy seahorse and Pablo, a hermit crab, are experienced sea creatures, but not well-equipped for what happens next.

Kobee's innate GPS steers a steady course, but his weather-predicting senses are apparently not so well developed. The brash bunch sets off gaily in fair weather, with Kobee swimming at a slow, but steady five-miles-an-hour clip under fair skies. But soon Pablo spots some wispy, trailing clouds showing up in the blue sky as they pass Key Largo.

"Cirrus clouds!" Kobee observes, and the fact box at the bottom of the right-hand page, Kobee's Fun Facts, points out that cirrus clouds, sometimes known colloquially as "mare's-tale clouds," herald a change in the weather.

And whether or not they expect it, the three mariners are soon hit by a succession of weather events, a water spout, a massive thunder-and-lightning storm presaged by a shelf cloud, and Tess and Pablo are blown clear off Kobee's big belly and have to swim for their lives back to their big gray life preserver. Luckily, the storm blows itself out and the sailors are blessed with the familiar fair-weather cumulus clouds in their sky.

But it's only a momentary respite. Before they know it, they find themselves in the warm and wild Gulf Stream, an river of tropical water which warms the eastern coast of the U.S and even the western coast of Europe, but also is a potent weather creator. Poor little Tess is carried off in a rip current, but being a well-taught pupil of Kobee's she knows just what to do.

"I was really scared, but I just floated, and then swam out of the current when I could."

But there's not much respite for the three ocean-goers, because "spinning scaly clouds" soon appear on the horizon.

"Yikes! They bring dangerous weather!" yelps Kobee.

And at least this prognostication of Kobee's is on track. In short order they three navigators are hit by a giant rogue wave that tosses even Kobee about like a sock in a washing machine, followed by a full-blown, hard-blowing hurricane. Yikes is right! The three batten down their figurative hatches and hang tight through the eye of the hurricane, as Kobee points out that the wind direction reverses as they go back into the other side of the storm.

But on the other side of the big storm, they are rewarded with sunny skies and the sight of the beautiful reefs off the coast of Nausau. And soon it's party time in the blessedly still waters of sister Kim's Blue Lagoon, in Robert Scott Thayer's latest in series, KOBEE MANATEE: A Wild Weather Adventure (Thompson Mill Press, 2015). This book doubles a weather-study lesson with a bit of oceanography thrown in for free. Kobee is a jolly gentle giant of a narrator. Manatees are popular ocean mammals, big and slow, non-threatening vegetarians, but endangered, beloved of children and tourists, and Kobee makes a fine explainer-in-chief for his pupils, Tess and Pablo, along with the treasure-map-style Fun Facts boxes which fill in the details of Kobee's floating lessons, making this engaging story an easy, reinforcing read for curriculum content in the early elementary grades.

Artist and designer Lauren Gallegos fills the book with flamboyant, full-bleed acrylic illustrations with plenty of detail to keep the story, er, flowing freely right to the Happy Birthday party with Kobee playing and singing a special song for his sister (CD included) and for an under-the-sea party to celebrate the end of the unit.

Another book in this buoyant series is Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida.

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Catch You Later! Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell

THE SUN SET, THE MOON ROSE, AND MAGGIE HELPED CLEMENT BUTTON HIS FAVORITE PAJAMAS, THE ONES WITH THE BLUE AND WHITE STRIPES.

Maggie is the hostess with the mostest for her Pajama Party! Clement the bunny is buttoned up, and Jean the little elephant, and Alan Alexander the bear are in their nighties, too!

But there's still time for fun--a bit of bouncing on the bed is the first order of business! WHEE! A. A. jumps so hard his pants fall down, to a chorus of giggles.

Not a bit embarrassed, he gets busy showing the sleepover friends the Chicken Dance. Clement wins the funny-face contest whiskers down, and they all join in a game of hide-and-seek. Is it bedtime yet?

"NO!"

But hostess Maggie wisely decides to slow things down a bit before they get out of hand. She leads them in some quiet yoga moves and then brings out the bedtime snacks to approval all around.

"NOM! NOM!"

With a bit of wishing upon their favorite star, at last they all settle down for the grand finale. It's time for bedtime stories. Maggie begins with "Once upon a .... "

"THAT'S A GOOD ONE....!" SHOUTS ALAN ALEXANDER.

And it is, in best-selling author-illustrator Patrick McDonnell's latest, Thank You and Good Night (Little, Brown and Company, 2015), which leads Maggie and her little friends through the partying and into the main attraction for all bedtime tales for tykes, the final lights out and a good good night. McConnell's illustrations are as charming as ever, with each of his toy animals given individual personalities with great good humor as Maggie sees them off to good sleep. Bedtime story veterans may recognize McConnell's sly wink in his choice of names for Maggie's friends taken from authors or illustrators of classic children's stories--Clement Hurd, illustrator of Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny, Jean De Brunhoff, author of The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant, and Alan Alexander (A. A.) Milne, author of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. But those are stories for another night.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Playmate? A Playdate for Panda by Michael Dahl

Panda' mom has taken him to Fox's house to play. But Panda is not sure he's ready for a playdate.

Fox greets him with a big smile, but inside, without Mom, Panda finds himself so shy that he can't say a word.

But Fox knows what to do. Quietly, he pushes his full toy box over to Panda.

And soon it's game on!

OUTSIDE THEY JUMP AND HIDE

THEY TAKE TURNS ON SWING AND SLIDE.

Back inside Fox's house, it's music time. Panda plays percussion while Fox plays the xylophone and then they share a snack at the kitchen table. And when they feel like slowing down, Fox shares his best books until Momma Panda comes back.

Panda leaves with a smile and a wave, looking forward... to the next play date, in Michael Dahl's brand-new Playdate for Panda (Hello Genius) (Picture Window/Capstone Books, 2016), a quick briefing on what to do when you visit a new friend.

Sharing toys, using manners, and taking turns help the fun along, and a new friend is the result. Simple-lined, characters in profile and solid basic backgrounds in the full- and double-page illustrations by Orion Vidal keep the visuals bright and easy to interpret for young board book fans with a play-full introduction to one-on-one social skills.

For even more playdate prep, pair this one with Anna Dewdney's popular Llama Llama Time to Share.

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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Bedding Down: The SheepOver (Sweet Pea and Friends) by John and Jennifer Churchman

IT WAS WAY PAST BEDTIME, AND LADDIE THE SHEEP DOG WAS STILL AWAKE....

A good sheep dog sleeps lightly, and Laddie senses that something is amiss among the stalls. It's time to wake up Farmer John.

As Owl calls and Red Fox steals past the barn on silent feet, Farmer John follows his sheep dog to where the orphan lamb Sweet Pea is curled up in the hay.

SWEET PEA'S NOSE WAS HOT AND PINK.

SHE COULDN'T STAND UP BY HERSELF.

Sadie the pony and Prem, Sunny, and Violet, the grown-up sheep watch as Farmer John gently picks up Sweet Pea and carries her up to the greenhouse on the hill. The rooster Buff Orpington crows her name and Keeper the goose honks out...

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH SWEET PEA?

But Farmer John knows what to do. He calls up Vet Allison and soothes little Sweet Pea, promising that when she is well, he will let her have a sheep sleepover with all her friends in the greenhouse.

The country vet quickly diagnoses an infected cut which is causing ther fever, and Laddie and Prem stay with Sweet Pea as she begins to recover.

And sure enough, Sweet Pea is soon frolicking again with Sunny and Violet, and when everyone has been invited, the big SheepOver is a success, with disco dancing and treats for all the animals.

IT WAS THE BEST SHEEPOVER EVER!

John and Jennifer Churchman's runaway hit, The SheepOver (Sweet Pea & Friends) (Little, Brown and Company, 2015) is an appealing story of the softer side of farm life. But the illustrations are the standout, combining actual photos of the Churchmans' animals enhanced with artwork which retains the look of real animals within a muted palette which intensifies their expressions, as the nighttime rural scenery and spatter-painted backgrounds reinforce the gentle warmth of the story. This is one lamb that preschoolers and young primary readers will want to invite to their own sleepovers.

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Friday, February 05, 2016

"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off!" I Love You Already by Jory John

"AH!" SAID BEAR. "I REALLY LOVE SPENDING LAZY WEEKEND MORNINGS AROUND THE HOUSE, SPENDING A PLEASANT DAY BY MYSELF."

And Bear is up for it. In his well-worn bathrobe, a cup of steaming tea beside him, he settles down in his easy chair with his newspaper and a stack of books he's been waiting to read. Perfect!

But his buddy Duck has other plans for the morning. His idea of a great morning is to take a stroll with his friend Bear, just like in his new book 101 Walks to Take with Bears, and he hustles over to Bear's house, his feathers all a-flutter, and bangs on the door, demanding Bear come along.

I CAN TELL YOU MY LIFE STORY! YOU CAN TELL ME YOURS!"

"NO. AND NO!" SAYS BEAR.

But Duck won't take no for an answer, so Bear reluctantly plods along beside him, disgruntled and silent, as Duck babbles on about the clouds. Duck renews his offer to tell his life story.

"YOU ALREADY SAID THAT!" BEAR POINTS OUT.

Duck insists that if they share their life stories, they will be better friends. Bear counters that they are already friends. Duck suggests that teaching him juggling or sharing a swim across the lake would make them closer.

Bear insists that he already likes Duck just fine, but Duck renews his efforts to please, showing off and finally falling out of a tree, only to get the response he's been trying for all along.

"YOU'RE MY BEST FRIEND, DUCK!" CRIES BEAR.

It's the perennial story of a pair of unlikely friends who nonetheless really care for each other, in Jory John's newest, I Love You Already! (HarperCollins, 2015). Artist Benji Davis portrays the laconic introvert Bear and the frenetic extrovert Duck as the odd couple perfectly, with body language and facial expressions that practically tell the story. "The perfect way to say I love you all year round," says Children's Book Council.

Pair this not-exactly Valentine's Day friendship story with John's and Davis' first joint venture, Goodnight Already! (see review here).

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Enough Is Enough! The Thing about Yetis by Vin Vogel

THE THING ABOUT YETIS IS THAT YETIS LOVE WINTER.

Well, of course. Any creature known alternatively as "the Abominable Snowman" should love winter. Snow is their reality, right?

Little Yeti is all about winter wonderlands. In his red knitted cap with pompoms and his cuddly plush Yeti doll in blue earmuffs, he's ready to chill out in the wintry blast.

He loves waking up to hushed snowbound mornings. He knows how to build a mean snow fort, and he's keen on belly-flopping across the ice.

YETIS MAKE THE BEST SNOWBALLS ON THE PLANET!

He also loves slurping hot chocolate with marshmallows like snowballs on top.

But... Just think what it's like to have wet fur whenever you come inside for that cocoa. You haven't seen frizz until you see Yeti fur frizz! POOFY!

And being cold can just get OLD!

YETIS CAN GET DOWNRIGHT CRABBY!

Yep. Yetis get seasonal affective disorder, too.

Who wouldn't when there's nothing in the landscape but snow? Yetis get really, really cold, and even they dream of warm days, too. They get nostalgic about crickets chirping through long summer nights. They remember bird songs, and the sound of waves breaking on the warm sand. Little Yeti yearns to do his belly-flopping on the summer Slip-'n'-Slide.

So what's the cure for Yeti S.A.D.-ness?

Go south Young Yeti, and that's just what Vin Vogel's little character does in his The Thing About Yetis (Dial Press, 2015).  Vogel's lovably plump little guy takes a break from the snow for a bit of time in a sunny clime in a jolly wintry story that admits the downside of the snowtime blues. As Publishers Weekly puts it, "Vogel narrates with gentle humor as his yetis—and the human kids they play with—remind readers that there’s plenty of fun to be had in every season."

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Very Special Bear! Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Maltick

"Could you tell me a story?" asked Cole.

"What kind of story?"

"You know, a true story, one about a bear." he said.

And it just so happens that Cole's mom has quite a story to tell, a story passed down from her great-grandfather Harry Colebourne.

Harry was a veterinarian, and when Canada joined the Allies before World War I, he was drafted to teach soldiers in the cavalry how to care for their horses. Traveling by train from Winnipeg to his unit, young Harry spied a grizzled trapper with a captive bear on a chain. Moved by the little cub's sad eyes, Harry bought the baby black bear and took it with him to boot camp, where the bear became the unit's mascot, and then across the Atlantic to England on his troop ship, where she became beloved by all the soldiers.

Harry realized that the little bear needed a name.

He tried "Teddy" and "Edward" and even "Big Bear," but he could never find the right name.

Finally Harry nicknamed the little bear "Winnie" for his home town of Winnipeg, and she became known by everyone in the camp. But too soon the day came when Harry's troop had to ship out, and Harry had to find a new home for Winnie, at last settling on the London Zoo as the best place for a growing bear.

"We're here, Winnie!" he said. "The London Zoo! This is a going to be your home.

There's something you must remember. You'll always be my bear."

Sadly, the war was long, and Harry was never able to come back for Winnie.

But that was not to be the end of Winnie's story.

A small boy named Christopher visited the zoo often, and soon Winnie became his favorite animal. He was even allowed to go into Winnie's enclosure to play with the tame black bear and the two became very fond of each other. And...

... the boy had a name for his bear... Winnie-the-Pooh.

The boy was, of course, Christopher Robin Milne, whose father, Alan Alexander Milne, A. A. Milne, was inspired to write poems and story books about the imagined adventures of his son and his "silly old bear," books which became timeless classics of childhood.

Author Lindsay Maltick, the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourne, tells her family's true story to her young son Cole, in Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear (Little, Brown and Company, 2015), which has gone on to became a New York Times best-seller and the 2016 Caldecott Award winner for its illustrator, Sophie Blackall. Blackall's illustrations help tell the story in her own gentle and charming style, and children who love the adventures of Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Owl, and Eeyore will now know how they came to be.

For as Piglet said to Pooh, "As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen."

Maltick adds a fascinating photo album, with snapshots of Cole's great-great-grandfather with his pet bear cub, pages from his soldier's diary describing Winnie's days as a military mascot, and even a wonderful 1925 photo of the real Christopher Robin visiting the real Winnie at the London Zoo and a statue in the city of Winnipeg commemorating the bear who in story became "the world's most famous bear."

"The sum total is as captivating as it is informative, transforming a personal family story into something universally resonant." says Horn Book's starred review.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Apocalypse Now? Games Wizards Play by Diane Duane

Nita shivered. "A dream within a dream. How do you know the difference between the vision and reality?"

"Yes," said the Lone One "Such a common problem for people with a specialty like yours. They go wandering off among the paths of vision one time too many, and they never come out."

They walked along again quietly. Then, in an altered tone, the Lone One said, "What's the old saying-->that every wizard is the answer to a problem? And that every intervention, every wizardry, solves not only its own problem but others that you may not even know about?

"All is done for each," Nita said. It was a simple expression of a quantum reality, that all events in the universe were interconnected.

"Right," said the Lone One. "There probably ought to be some irony in the concept that while you're being the solution to someone else's problem, they're being the solution to yours."

Author Diane Duane spells out the premise of her tenth book in the Young Wizards series, Games Wizards Play (Young Wizards Series) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), set around the Invitational Wizard Games, occurring every eleven years, a sort of sorcerer's Trans-World Science Fair event with all the teen trappings of such competitions. When drafted to be mentors to a couple of the contestants, young wizards Nita and Dairine Callahan and Kit Rodriguez bemoan that they missed their chance to compete with the best young wizards, being too young for the last games and too old for this one, but they as they deal with their mentees, they see that their role is even more of a challenge than competing. Nita and Kit are assigned to oversee Penn Shao-Feng, brilliant but lazy, flirtatious and flamboyant, whose proposed spell immodestly promises nothing less than controlling the power of the sun and solar weather over the entire solar system.

Dairine's charge is the likewise brilliant but timid and sheltered Mehrnaz Farrahi, whose project is to use counter-tectonic forces to forestall catastrophic earthquakes and who is dominated and rendered nearly impotent by the labyrinthine rivalries within her family, a centuries-old family of venerable Iranian wizards.

Guiding subjects scarcely younger than they, the three young mentors have their own adolescent issues to deal with in addition to watching out for the workings of the universe. Nita and Kit in particular are in the first phase of their romantic feelings for each other, and Dairine has her own self-esteem problems while trying to help Mehrnaz find the strength to present before the august assembly. But as Penn and Mehrnaz pass their initial trials to compete in the finals, they seem to switch personalities, with Penn falling apart before each presentation, and Mehrnaz gaining a sense of herself as a more powerful wizard than any in her family.

It all comes down to Penn's final presentation, with those seemingly sloppy lacunae in his spell's structure turning out to be essential for the conclusion, one in which Nita's dream visions also prove crucial. Penn loses control in mid-spell, and as the sun begins to transform into a apocalyptic supernova, everyone, from young and senior wizards to the Planetaries and the Powers That Be, prove part of the resolution, just as Duane prefigured in Nita's dream sequence with the Lone One. This able author knits together the many threads of this and her earlier books in a conclusion that will be intensely satisfying to faithful followers of the series and bewitching but bewildering to those who unfamiliar with the earlier works.

Science, science fiction, and wizardly fantasy come together uniquely in this book that will challenge and charm Duane's long-time fans and those who cut their fantasy teeth on Harry Potter.

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Monday, February 01, 2016

The Tide Will Turn: Raging Sea by Michael Buckley

Spangler flashes me a strained smile. "I've watched all the footage of that day in Coney Island. I not only saw what you can do, I saw what you tried to do. You're not the terrorist they have painted you as. You're a hero, and I'm offering you a second chance at it," he says. "Before you can do that, we have to start over. No more solitary confinement. No more whatever it is they are feeding you. I'll free your mother. I'll let the prince and the Triton girl out of their tanks. In return, you have to accept my job offer.

"Job offer?" I cry.

"Saving the world, Lyric. You've seen the news. The world is on the verge of collapse. The East Coast is rubble. Did you see the thing with all the tentacles in the tank during your daring escape? It leaps onto your head, jams it into you, and then drinks you like a milkshake. How do you think that's affecting morale on the front lines? It's my job to make it all stop. You're going to help me."

Halfling Lyric Walker, half-human, half-Alpha, flees the first battle brought on by the seeming invasion of the Alpha sea creatures, capable of human shape but able to shape-shift in the sea into gilled and scaled creatures. The battle has shattered the coast, and Lyric's mermaid mother and human father, and the Alpha prince Fathom she loves are believed dead, and although Lyric knows the Alpha are fleeing the voracious Rusalka from the deep, the humans cannot help but fear and hate Alphas, too.

With her best friend Bex and the warrior creature Arcade, whose arms bear hidden knives, she flees to the west in a "Thelma and Louise" road trip in a battered car, shoplifting food and dodging police and the army in a search for a camp called Tempest where Lyric believes she will find her parents alive. The human inhabitants are hostile, fearful of Alphas and even of the human refugees they call "Coasters" who are trying to escape the carnage on the coast. And finally the three are captured by a militia and taken to Tempest as prisoners. Lyric is held incommunicado in a stainless steel cell, battered and barely fed on half-rotten swill, but she rallies and manages to escape, only to find her father gravely injured but alive, her mother, Fathom, and all captured Alphas floating in filthy tanks, some with amputated limbs or split open. And then the camp leader Spangler makes her a repugnant offer that she ultimately cannot refuse.

It is Lyric's job is to train 33 captured children and young teenagers, half human and half Alpha, to use their powers over water as she does. Like Lyric, they receive the Oracle, a glove which multiplies their power. Lyric feels she is asked to lead virtual babies to their own slaughter, but under her tutelage, their powers burgeon and soon she finds herself leading them in the second battle of Coney Island, The halfling children fight successfully against the Rusalka, but an unforeseen onslaught of the Undine, tentacled brain-sucking Rusalkas, sends her forces and the army into a full retreat. Lyric finds herself facing the absolute Undine, the Mother. And then...

The water is cold and black, and then there is nothing.

To be continued....

After devoting much of Book I of the trilogy, Undertow, to romance between Alpha halfling Lyric and the sea creature Fathom, in the second book, Raging Sea: Undertow Trilogy Book 2, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), author Buckley turns his story to the continuing theme of an Armageddon between the sea people and humans. For readers who prefer fantastic warfare to forbidden romance, the second book provides almost constant conflict--initial power clashes between frenemies Lyric and Arcade, physical conflict at Tempest, the training camp, and a return to what is left of the east coast for a massive battle in the waters off the destroyed Coney Island. A Pyrrhic standoff battle with the murderous Rusalka leaves the storyline is limbo, with Lyric sinking into the ultimate black hole, the Great Abyss.

Readers who dote on dystopic fantasies such as The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games / Catching Fire / Mockingjay will find much cross-species mayhem to mull over in this one, and with its cataclysmic cliffhanger conclusion, and will no doubt be back for more in the final book of Buckley's trilogy. Buckley's descriptive writing is vivid and cinemagraphic, the love triangles are intriguing, and the intensity of the plot will make seeing how this series resolves itself irresistible.

See the ominously scored trailer here.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sharing and Caring: Love Monster And the Last Chocolate by Rachel Bright

Love Monster's mind is still on his vacation, sadly now over, as he approaches the door of his own cozy den.

BUT WAIT! WHAT WAS THIS?

A BOX OF CHOCOLATES!

JUST SITTING THERE!

Could one of his friends have left him a surprise welcome-home gift? They all know how much monsters love chocolates.

Love Monster considers the joys of a mixed assortment of chocolate-covered delights. Which flavors may be inside? Chocolate-covered peanut-butter brittle? Fizzy fruit sherbets? His favorite, berry swirls?

BUT THEN HE THOUGHT A THOUGHT THAT HE JUST COULDN'T UN-THINK!

He really should share this box of chocolates with his friends.

He should... but there are problems.

What if there are not enough pieces to go around? Or worse, what if they choose all his favorites?

And worst of all... what if the only piece left for him is one of those coffee-flavored thingies?

EEEEEUUWWWWWW!

It's a crisis of conscience for Love Monster. He weighs the question: To share or not to share?

I'M SORRY TO TELL YOU THAT LOVE MONSTER DECIDED IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR EVERYONE IF HE KEPT THE CHOCOLATES.

Decision made, he brews himself a cup of tea. He peers through the peephole to make sure the coast is clear and then sits down happily with the whole box of chocolates in his lap.

But just as he is ready to open the lid, he notices a queasy feeling inside... that feeling that means what he's about to do is not the right thing to do.

Love Monster is out the door, scurrying to find his friends with the still unopened box, feeling good about making the right choice.

But in Rachel Bright's latest Love Monster story, Love Monster and the Last Chocolate (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), there's a surprise waiting for our hero when, with his friends gathered around, he opens that box with a flourish, to find it empty--except for just one piece!

"SILLY MONSTER! WE SAVED THE LAST PIECE (YOUR FAVORITE) FOR YOU!"

There's just a touch of irony when author Bright's cute little fuzzy monster finds out that his friends are one step ahead of him all the way, in this sweet story of Valentine candy sharing, and readers will likely not be surprised to learn that the last piece left is not the coffee-flavored thingie. Bright offers up a savory moral but dips it in her sweet but insightful comic coating in illustrative storytelling that makes this one a treat for young readers. Pair this one with Mo Willem's equally empathetic Should I Share My Ice Cream? (An Elephant and Piggie Book) (see my review here).

Rachel Bright's early books in this Valentine-approved series are Love Monster and Love Monster and the Perfect Present.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Babylove! I Love You, Baby by Giles Andreae

GUESS WHAT I'VE GOT?

A BRAND-NEW BABY TO LOVE!

And Baby makes FOUR in this family, as a toddler big brother welcomes the new baby!

This older sibling feels lucky to have a baby. He's round and dimply, with chubby cheeks and a cute little nose, and the tousled-haired new big brother can't wait for him to learn to say "Hello" and to learn to play with him.

Meanwhile, Big Brother goes along with Dad to the pool, where he shows the baby how to kick and splash in the pool. And when Baby is tired and bedtime comes, his big brother gets to say goodnight as the little one goes off to sleep first.

Although Mom's lap is now a bit crowded with her two boys, there's a lot to love, in Giles Andreae's I Love You, Baby(Hyperion, 2015 American ed.), welcoming the entry of the newest member of the family. Illustrated by notable artist Emma Dodd, this celebration of new babies is a fine gift for Valentine's Day (or any time) for big brothers with a new baby in the house. As Publishers Weekly says, "a baby lovefest from start to finish!"

Other books in Andreae's and Dodd's series are I Love My Mommy, and I Love My Daddy (Board Book).




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Friday, January 29, 2016

Where Have All The Colors Gone? Arctic White by Danna Smith

WHEN YOU LIVE IN THE ARCTIC ALL WINTER, EVERYTHING IS A SHADE OF WHITE.

THE BLUE WHITE OF THE TUNDRA,

THE YELLOW-WHITE OF THE POLAR BEAR,

THE SILVER-WHITE OF THE ARCTIC FOX.

Arctic days are as dark as the night. The only light, from the stars and the moon, is white, too.

True, the girl's parka is brown, her grandfather's sled is brown, and so is her dog. But in the winter darkness, they hardly count as color.

SOMETIMES WHEN YOU WISH ON A STAR FOR MORE COLOR, YOU ONLY GET GRAY,

AND GRAY IS A SHADE OF WHITE.

But one day there is a sort of hum in the air. Grandfather promises something golden, the color of hope. The girl is intrigued as that night he leads the whole family across the tundra to a special spot. Everyone seems quietly excited, and the girl wonders what Grandfather means by his promise. He tells her mysteriously

"YOU NEED THE DARK TO SEE..."

And with first a flash of gold, and then orange and red, then blue and green, the aurora borealis fills the sky with more color than she has ever seen, with just enough light to see the pleased twinkle in her grandfather's eyes.

Danna Smith's Arctic White (Harper, 2015) is set in the far north, but its theme is universal. All peoples who know the long black nights of winter experience some yearning for the light and colors of summer. We gather to share winter festivals, decorating with colored lights that remind us that, as Keats put it, "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" Author Smith gives few details about her Arctic family, but like all of us, they share hope, warmth, and pleasure at the experience of the warmth and colors of the Arctic sky.

Smith's lean and lyrical lines draw us into the simple story, and the artwork of Lee White adds much to the text, lovely in its stark, straight lines and many shades of white, punctuated by the joyous swirls of color from the sky at the ending. With a theme of longing and light that all ages will feel, this book is also wonderful for classroom units on color to show the power of white, which is, after all, the true color of light, and that the blackest of nights can make colors more dazzling.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

All Downhill From Here: Max and Marla by Alexandra Boiger

MAX AND MARLA ARE OLYMPIANS--REAL-LIFE, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS OLYMPIANS.

Never mind that Max is a very small boy, and Marla is an owl. (Well, she IS a snowy owl.) The two friends are determined to medal in the upcoming winter games.

They board their bobsled at the top of the hill and hunker down bravely to take the speedy curves. But the sled won't slide.

TRUE OLYMPIANS NEVER GIVE UP.

It seems the runners need a bit of soaping. Max applies the wax the next morning, and donning their helmets, the would-be winners approach the bobsled run again. The wax works.

They slip down the slope way too fast. CRASH!

"MARLA, WE NEED TO TAKE A SICK DAY."

Olympians may never give up, but sometimes they have to adjust their training program. Max and Marla are not just lying around lazily on the snow. Making snow angels is now part of their training, along with rolling downhill as giant snowballs without a sled, in Alexandra Boiger's newest, Max and Marla (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2015). And who needs Olympic medals when you have doughnuts to hang around your neck and nibble as needed?

Boiger's now familiar illustrations (cf. her artwork in Marilyn Singer's hit series begun with Tallulah's Tutu) create a blue and lavender winter wonderland in which her little athletes sweetly play at fame. "Boiger excels at closely observed, affectionate details, like Max carrying a snoozing Marla to bed, or the friends stringing donuts on ribbons to serve as Olympic medals," adds Publishers Weekly.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We've Got to Stop Meeting Like This! The Red Hat by David Teague

BILLY HIGHTOWER LIVES ATOP THE WORLD'S TALLEST BUILDING.

IT WAS THE WIND AND BILLY HIGHTOWER . . . UNTIL ONE DAY A LADDER APPEARED, FOLLOWED BY MEN IN HARD HATS AND THEN...

A GIRL. SHE WORE A RED HAT.

Life at the top is hard. Well... lonely. And when the appropriately named Billy Hightower spots the girl in the red hat, he is determined to catch her eye.

He shouts his hello, but the whirling wind around their skyscrapers carry his words away as if they were whispers.

Billy crafts a carefully composed note:

Hi,
My name is Billy Hightower. I like your hat.

He sends his message to her on the wings of a paper airplane, but the wind takes it off before it reaches her. He attaches it to a red kite and sends it sailing across the distance between the two towers,  but the wind snatches it away just as the girl reaches for it, losing her own red hat to the wind as well. Desperately, Billy grabs a red blanket and holding onto the corners, tries to parasail to the top of the girl's building.

THE WIND RAGED. IT BLEW ACROSS THE BOULEVARD, TRYING TO DRIVE HIM BACK.

Billy soars even higher with the wind, tantalizingly past the girl's outstretched arms. Then the wind changes and he spirals down to the ground, finding himself on the sidewalk in front of a building named The Crimson Towers. Billy almost gives up his mission, until he spots the red hat caught on a shrub near the entrance.

It is just the lead that Billy needs, in David Teague's new The Red Hat (Hyperion Books, 2015), and he carefully retrieves the red hat and runs into the building, heading for the top floor. where he and his mystery girl meet face to face at last.

This is a strange story of two wind-crossed friends, with an unusual talisman, a red hat, and a attraction between the two represented visually by the color red. Artist Antoinette Portis makes the most of this color motif, illustrating the story primarily in thick blackline, white, pale gray, and the blue of the sky, with contrasting accents of red in Billy's paper airplane, kite, and blanket, the door of the girl's apartment, and, of course, the hat. The quixotic wind is shown vividly in silvery swirls, lovely, yet malevolent, echoed, too, by the whirling sweep of the text across the page, but finally foiled at last with the help of the the iconic hat. Although the boy and girl portrayed seem too young to be seen as sweethearts, a Romeo and Juliet separated by two different worlds, the final page of the book does leave us with two words....

THE BEGINNING....

Of this non-hearts-and-flowers, perhaps Valentine story, School Library Journal says, "This dynamic, gorgeously rendered glimpse into the fledgling bond between two people demonstrates the power of persistence."

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Favorite Things! Love Is My Favorite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark

I AM PLUM, BUT I LOVE BEING CALLED PLUMMIE.

AND LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING.

Plummie is an ebullient, enthusiastic, and often ecstatic mutt who loves just about everything--her little squishy bear, her fleecy warm bed, frisbees and the neighbor kids Sam and Gracie, who come over to throw the frisbees with her, and her owners Emma and Rupert, who take her to the park and praise her poos, even if they have to bag it!

"I LOVE ALL KINDS OF WEATHER, ESPECIALLY THE WIND.

(BUT I DON'T REALLY LOVE RAIN.")

But some of Plummie's enthusiasms turn out to be unfortunate! She learns that sofa cushions filled with feathers are not appropriate for a game of tug of war with Sam and Gracie and that going for a impromptu swim with her friend Rocket does not please Emma at all. Some of Plummie's favorite things have pitfalls.

Take ice cream, for example.

It's hard for Plummie not to follow little kids with double-dip cones. She well knows that toddlers and tall cones often lead to tipping and plopping--and sudden dog treats. So when she spots a likely tot with a teetering cone, she dogs her steps until, intimidated, the little kid throws the cone into a tote bag, Plummie is off with her prize, bag and all.

"I COULDN'T HELP IT. I GRABBED IT! THEN EVERYONE WAS CHASING."

"BAD DOG! COME HERE!

WHAT A NAUGHTY GIRL!!"

Emma and Rupert are so upset that they banish Plum down the dark stairs to the cellar.

I STARED INTO THE DARKNESS. WOULD THEY EVER LOVE ME AGAIN?

Preschoolers who are sometimes naughty despite themselves will love this well-told shaggy dog story, Emma Chichester Clark's Love Is My Favorite Thing (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015). Plum is a whiskery, bouncy pup with mischief in her eyes who will steal everyone's heart in this well-paced story. Clark's jolly pencil-and-watercolor illustrations tell the story by themselves, especially her empathetic portrayal of the the little malefactor doing penance in the dark. School Library Journal says, "Dog owners will recognize the authenticity in Plum's voice, that live-in-the-moment attitude, the inability to understand why certain actions are prohibited (hence the lack of explanations in the text), and that particular look that says, 'Please love me.'"

A great Valentine Day's read-aloud and a good book about unfailing love for any time.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Heart to Heart! Evermore Dragon by Barbara Joose

AT THE BREAK OF DERRY-DAY

THE FRIENDS DECIDED WHAT TO PLAY.

"HIDE-AND-SEEK! HIDE-AND-SEEK!"

DRAGON JUMPED UP AND DOWN. "ME FIRST!"

While Girl closes her eyes to count, Dragon hustles off to hide--behind a rather small (that is to say, way too little rock to hide his bulky, angular body. But Girl kindly pretends to search for him fruitlessly.

SHE PEEKED INSIDE HIS LAIR.

"NO, HE ISN'T THERE!


As she feigns being flummoxed, Dragon jumps out with a jolly "BOO!" and Girl declares him the cleverest Dragon ever!

But now it is Girl's turn to hide and she is determined to show Dragon she can be truly clever. She climbs inside a hole in a tree, and totally concealed, she waits to be found.

DRAGON LOOKS EVERYWHERE... EVERY HERE, EVERY THERE.

And Girl waits... and waits, and finally falls asleep in the cozy dark of the hollow. But when she awakes, it's not bright derry-day; it is  a deep, deep dark outside her hiding place, too. Where is Dragon? Girl tries not to cry, but she cannot control the loud, fast beating of her heart.

And still searching, the loyal Dragon's super senses catch the faint sound of her heart.

AND HE BREATHED HIS DRAGON FIRE

AND IT LIGHTED UP THE SKY
.

And all's well that ends well for the frightened maiden and her protector dragon, in Caldecott-winning author (for Mama, Do You Love Me?) Barbara Joosse in her Evermore Dragon (Candlewick Press, 2015), a companion book to her Lovabye Dragon. (see my 2012 review here). Damsels and dragons are a staple of folkloric tales, and Joose's clever wordplay and artist Randy Cecil's atypical fairy-tale illustrations make a striking pair together in this quixotic picture book. As Publishers Weekly puts it, "The unexpected contours of Cecil's figures, like Girl's pancake-flat head and Dragon's ping pong ball eyes, add smiles, but there's also unexpected depth in the tiny, scratchy strokes and dusky shades of his paintings. It's a noteworthy alternative to more commercially flavored princess stories."

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