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Books! Books! Books! Exploring the Amazing Collection of the British Library

Written by Mick Manning & Brita Granström

This is more a celebration of the all things written than anything else. In highlighting so many of the British Library’s most prized possessions, the author also highlights the fact that so much of the world’s knowledge is currently passed along on paper. Preservation of that paper preserves our connection with that knowledge.

The oldest book in the collection is the St. Cuthbert Gospel, a book found in the coffin of the seventh century saint. Another old book is from the thirteenth century – the Lindisfarne Gospel, a book hand-lettered and painted by a monk. In addition to old and rare books, the collection includes an amazing variety of written material. From Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks to original music to newspapers. From atlases to cookbooks to medical books. From Jane Austen to Arthur Conan Doyle to Charles Darwin.  

The authors make every bit of the collection sound exciting. Hopefully, the excitement will carry over to other books for the reader to explore. Exploring the stories behind the works in the library is a good beginning.

  • Books Books BooksTitle: Books! Books! Books! Exploring the Amazing Collection of the British Library
  • Author: Mick Manning & Brita Granström
  • Published: Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Books
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9757-0
  • Extras: More about the Works and the Authors, Glossary

Dangerous Jane

Written by Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by Alice Ratterree

In this time of great social upheaval, it’s more important than ever to ask “What can I do?” Not everyone can do all the things Jane Addams did, but everyone can take inspiration from her example and do as much as possible.

In this heartfelt and significant biography, Slade shows the life of the social warrior. Jane was born into relative wealth, but that did not mean she had an easy life. Her mother died when Jane was two. Jane suffered from spinal tuberculosis, which left her spine deformed. She felt isolated, which added to her ability to empathize with all the immigrants in Chicago. She traveled the world but never forgot her commitment to the underprivileged. She raised money and bought a building near the immigrant populations of Chicago. She renovated Hull House and welcomed families, taught them English, and provided education. Hull House continued to grow to many buildings. Sad and appalled at the start of World War I, she helped form the Women’s Peach Party from the International Congress of Women. Her peace-driven activities earned her the label “dangerous” from the people who wanted to win the war. But she never stopped. She knew that people with differences needed to learn to listen to each other. In 1931, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first female American to receive this honor.

Gorgeous watercolor illustrations give the feel of Jane’s world and her activities over the years.

It’s imperative kids be given the opportunity to follow Jane’s example.

  • Dangerous JaneTitle: Dangerous Jane
  • Author: Suzanne Slade
  • Illustrator: Alice Ratterree
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, History, Social Justice
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-913-1
  • Extras: More About Dangerous Jane, Timeline

Charlie Bumpers vs. His Big Blabby Mouth

Written by Bill Harley
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Charlie is doing his best to get through fourth grade without any major embarrassments, but that’s easier said than done. Everyone is looking forward to career week and wondering if the parents doing presentations will bring them things – like the parent who’s a baker bringing in cookies. Charlie never asked his parents to present because they have boring jobs. When someone suggests Charlie’s dad is a math genius, the tale of Charlie’s dad quickly turns into super-math prowess. By the time everyone knows his dad might come, he has a private jet and will give new calculators to everyone in the school. Charlie is unable to quash the rumors, and he still hasn’t asked his dad. Meanwhile, he’s managed to become the class messenger (aka, Master Messenger), but he can’t resist running in the hallways. Naturally, that creates another disaster (aka, a disastrophe). Then his dad loses his job. How can any of this turn out okay?

Lively black and white ink drawings accompany many pages and help the reader know the characters.

This and the other books in this series are great for kids to learn that they are not alone in their feelings as they navigate all the coming of age issues. Everything that seems important at the time will likely seem silly in the end.

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  • Charlie BumpersTitle: Charlie Bumpers vs. His Big Blabby Mouth
  • Author: Bill Harley
  • Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 184 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Fiction, Chapter book
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-940-7

Long- Armed Ludy and the First Women’s Olympics

Written by Jean L.S. Patrick
Illustrated by Adam Gustovson

            Hey, Olympics, here I come! These might have been the thoughts of a tall, skinny, long-armed college girl in 1922. But only after her school and classmates raised enough money for her to travel to the First Women’s Olympics in Paris, France.

           Lucile Godbold was taller than a girl was supposed to be with long arms and a skinny body. This story starts out wondering how she got so tall. Exactly as a young child would wonder. Did her brothers pull on her arms and legs to stretch her out?

            Exquisite humor is sprinkled throughout this stunningly accurate biography. Even the numbers on all the contestants’ shirts are accurate! Teachers, librarians and parents reading aloud will chuckle and grin while explaining nuances to the younger set.

            The vivacious voice and authentic articulation brings the story to life, as well as the realistic gauche illustrations. Teachers and parents can use the illustrations to compare past with current uniforms, sports, transportation, and women’s inclusion in sports.

            If you can only afford one new nonfiction picture book this year, make sure it is this one.

  • Long-Armed LudyTitle:  Long- Armed Ludy
  • Author:  Jean L.S. Patrick
  • Illustrator:  Adam Gustovson
  • Publisher:  Charlesbridge, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-15809560
  • Genre: Nonfiction picture book
  • Grade level: 1 to 4
  • Extras: Back matter on the First Women’s Olympics as well as on Lucile Godbold.

Old Turtle: Questions of the Heart

Written by Douglas Wood
Illustrated by Greg Ruth

Twenty-five years after the first, and well- loved, Old Turtle, book comes this stunningly beautiful fable enriched by glorious watercolors. Words are few but dynamic as a group like a multi-generational family seeks answers to age old questions by first finding, Old Turtle.

Lyrical, rhythmic language draws the reader along the journey and into the expressive illustrations. Text is present without ever interrupting the fluid action of the drawings. Both words and pictures will be visited over and over answering the call to, “read it again, read it again.”

The entire book is a celebration of life and all it offers. Life’s meaning, its struggles and joys, its purpose and conclusion are each dealt with simply and directly.  Parents and teachers will appreciate using this book to answer hard questions and librarians will have trouble keeping it on the shelves, better order two.

However, the amazing conclusion contains both the challenge and hope of the future in an attainable goal. The most important question of all is the question asked of each dawn. “Who are you, and how will you live this day?”

Even the grown-ups will want to read it again and again.

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  • Old TurtleTitle:  Old Turtle: Questions of the Heart
  • Author:  Douglas Wood
  • Illustrator:  Greg Ruth
  • Publisher:  Scholastic Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 56 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-439-32111-2
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3

Izzy Kline Has Butterflies

Written by Beth Ain

Follow a self-determined fourth grader as she deals with all the trials and tribulations of an entire school year – a year in which she learns a lot, but not always in class.

Much of the story centers around the production of the play Free to Be .. You and Me. The class and Izzy spend a lot of time talking about the play, thinking about the play, and rehearsing for the play. Izzy claims not to really have any friends, so she helps form a friendless group, which she quickly on the outs with. One of those girls – Lilly with two l’s – ends up with the starring role in the play. Meanwhile, Izzy does form a relationship with another girl, Quinn, not realizing at first that this IS her friend.

Though Izzy is a bit of a drama queen, she does have a lot of real issues to deal with, including an absent father and a friend battling cancer. She also learns a lot about teachers being human beings (her teacher gets married plus she loves a super substitute), about divorced dad moving on with their lives, about dealing with an older sibling, and about how FOUR ANNOYING BOYS might not be so annoying as individuals.

Ain captures the voice perfectly. The verse style works well for a talkative fourth grader and should draw in even reluctant readers. Recommended for both girls and boys.

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  • Izzy KlineTitle: Izzy Kline Has Butterflies
  • Author: Beth Ain
  • Published: Random House Children’s Books, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 176 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Novel in verse
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-55080-5

Leo, Dog of the Sea (1519-1521) Dog Chronicles Series

Written by Alison Hart
Illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery

Sailing the high seas with Magellan at the helm sounds exciting and eventful. And it is, but also hard, scary and very challenging. Leo, the ratter dog, tells this exciting tale while trying to stay alive and aboard himself. The captain’s mate doesn’t like Leo or the stowaway boy so they forge a friendship to look out for each other on board ship as well as on tropical islands.

Storms, threatened mutiny, and severe illness plagues the trip but Magellan is determined to find a passageway between the two great oceans of the world. History is truthfully represented in this well researched story made accessible to grade two readers and those all the way into middle school. Grade five readers will enjoy it just as much while tying it to their study of the changing geography of the world.

All the characters are well developed and the setting described enough for the young reader to see it all and wish the book had more chapters. The illustrations are clear in their black and white format adding to the realism of wet, dreary, scary events. But even so, there is also some humor sprinkled in.

This addition to the Dog Chronicles Series will delight readers and allow teachers and librarians to explain viewpoints don’t only belong to people. Parents can use the book to entice children who might not otherwise be interested in a historical book, but could be drawn in by a compelling dog story.         

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  • Leao, Dog of the SeaTitle:  Leo, Dog of the Sea (1519-1521)   Dog Chronicles Series
  • Author:  Alison Hart
  • Illustrator:  Michael G. Montgomery
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 175 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-964-3
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • Grade level: 2 to 5
  • Extras: Bibliography, Further Reading, Diagram of the ship of the day, Map of the Journey, author’s note and an in-depth chapter on the history behind the story.

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot

Written by Matthew Clark Smith
Illustrated by Matt Tavares

So many people make significant contributions to society, enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame, and then are forgotten. Sophie Blanchard is one such person.

Born in eighteenth century, when women were discouraged from doing much besides keeping a house and raising children, Sophie was fascinated by the advances being made in hot air and hydrogen ballooning. She was so fascinated that she pursued a friendship with Jean-Pierre Blanchard, one of the first men to cross the English Channel by balloon. They met an air show and quickly became more than friends. Sophie rode in her new husband’s balloon a couple of times before deciding to ascend on her own, becoming the very first female pilot in 1805. Jean-Pierre died in 1808, but Sophie continued to conduct air shows and even set off fireworks from the heights.

Smith makes this story as exciting as it can be for kids. In the process, he imparts many historical facts and inspires kids to pursue their own dreams.

Tavares gives kids the feeling of being there – from Sophie’s seaside childhood to her appearance at Napoleon’s court. From dark clouds when Sophie mourns to bright sunshine when she becomes a pilot.

Recommended for aspiring pilots and all independent kids.

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  • Lighter than AirTitle: Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot
  • Author: Matthew Clark Smith
  • Illustrator: Matt Tavares
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Picture book, Nonfiction, History, Aviation
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7732-9
  • Extras: Author’s Note with added history, Illustrator’s Note, Selected Bibliography

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Written by Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Brian Floca

            Saved by a crocodile? Yes, in this lively tale of an overworked, bored princess it is possible to be saved by a crocodile.

            Cora is bored with her lessons and very lonely. All she wants is a dog. She writes a letter to her fairy godmother, tears it up and throws it out the window. But the pieces sprout wings and fly away. The next morning, a box is at the end of Cora’s bed. Her crocodile has arrived.

            The crocodile dresses up like the princess, in her pink frilly dress, to take her place. Cora gets a day off. It is a touching story full of great illustrations and huge laughs. Librarians and teachers can use it for read aloud time or parents for bedtime reading with their children.

            Nanny and the king both come around to the thoughts that a dog would be much better than this crocodile who likes to bite people. Of course, he prefers cream puffs and only bites people who are not nice to Cora.

            While the crocodile was causing all sorts of trouble back at the castle, Cora learned to be brave by climbing trees, building a fort and stepping in a cow pie. By the time her parents finally asked her what was wrong, she had the courage to speak up and tell them what she needed to be happy.

            While this is not a beginning chapter book, it is an early chapter book. It has short chapters and will be greatly enjoyed by second and third grader readers who can navigate it on their own.

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  • Princess CoraTitle:  Princess Cora and the Crocodile
  • Author:  Laura Amy Schlitz
  • Illustrator:  Brian Floca
  • Publisher:  Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 80 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-4822-0
  • Genre: Fantasy Fiction
  • Grade level: K to 3

Boys Dancing: From School Gym to Theater Stage

Written by George Ancona

 Boys dancing? You bet! This title will invite more diversity to the theater stage and give boys permission to carry around a book about dance.

Constant movement comes naturally to the four boys introduced at the beginning of the book while they are out at recess. From the playground to the gym, this large collection of full-color photographs follows children from several schools as they learn dance moves from a traveling dance teacher. Later in the school year, and in the book, the children are brought together to prepare for a dance recital.

Each dance is tied to a favorite book. It is a fun look at what can be done in a school or community to introduce students to dance, music and well-loved books.   

Teachers, librarians and parents can use this book to introduce boys to the idea of dancing and bring such an activity to their own schools. As a read aloud, teachers could ask students what stories they would like to see added to such a presentation. Art teachers as well as classroom teachers can use the discussions about costumes to plan a character’s day dress up and play some music to get the class members all dancing.

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  • Title:  Boys Dancing: From School Gym to Theater Stage
  • Author:  George Ancona
  • Illustrator:  Photographs by George Ancona
  • Publisher:  Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 48 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-8202-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: K to 3
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