Author Interview | Book Reviews

Reviews for the Youth Librarian and School Media Specialist

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
by Angel Johnson , illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Glory Hallelujah! When glancing at the front cover you can hear this shout as freed slaves stand with their arms outstretched to the sky. Coretta Scott King award winning author and illustrator, Johnson and Lewis, collaborate to create this Juneteenth celebratory title when the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas was first announced in 1865. From beginning to end one will want to jump in and celebrate with the people as they sing, dance, laugh and give thanks after hearing the momentous news of being freed. Lewis's photo-realistic illustrations define the solemnity as well as the jubilation this significant occasion represents as slaves gather in the cotton fields to hear the news. Back matter is provided by both Johnson and Lewis along with a timeline and glossary to further enhance this title making it a must for primary teachers to have on hand to celebrate Juneteenth as well as African-American History Month. Recommended for ages 5 to 8.
—Jeanne Martin, M.Ed., Collection Development

I Didn't Do My Homework Because…
by Benjamin Chaud and Davide Cali

If I have heard one excuse for not having completed their homework I have heard many in my experiences of teaching elementary and middle school students. You won’t want to miss this title which takes excuses to a whole new level! Children will giggle as they relish the cartoonlike pen-and-ink illustrations of giant lizards invading a neighborhood, a UFO spaceship hovering over a house, little brother turning into a werewolf, plus robots and elves to add to the mix. Along with enjoying the title for its comical school humor, each excuse scenario can easily be turned into a writing prompt for a journal entry or creative writing piece. Inspiration and motivation are key elements for encouraging children to craft a story and this title is one to have at your fingertips. Recommended for ages 5 to 8.
—Jeanne Martin, M.Ed., Collection Development

A Mom for Umande
by Maria Faulconer, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

I am a sucker for adoption stories. A Mother for Choco is a favorite as are Tarra & Bella and Owen & Mzee. In this (based on a true) story, we do not have cross-species adoption; we do have a baby gorilla, Umande, born to a gorilla too young to understand her proper role finding a mother in Lulu, an experienced gorilla mom. The keepers and caregivers at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Spring work with Umande, teaching him how to be a gorilla, and find Lulu at the Columbus Zoo. Once there, the keeper staff use their hand-rearing program for baby gorillas to continue Umande's education while preparing him to be adopted by Lulu. With an author's note at the end, curious children will be given more information on gorillas, hand-rearing, and conservation programs. Some might even become inspired to become conservationists themselves. Illustrations done in oil glazes on sealed paper showcase realistic looking gorillas and humans that will be appealing to children. Some pages are full illustration while others are spot illustration, all will carry well through an audience. Recommended for ages 5 to 8.
— Tracy Gallagher, MLIS, Collection Development

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature
by Sarah C. Campbell

Look at a tomato and one sees a sphere, an icicle a cone, a cucumber a cylinder and almost anywhere you can find shapes of triangles, rectangles and circles, but what about objects which don't fall under classifications such as these? Not until 1975 was there an actual category for these shapes/patterns. Benoit Mandelbrot, a mathematician, noticed that there were natural shapes with commonalities and he named these patterns fractals. Campbell and her photographer husband do a fantastic job with photographs and explanations clarifying what these certain patterns are. Presented are illustrations of a tree displaying how its branches branch off in similar patterns along with photos of a broccoli floret and smaller florets showing their similarity using the same pattern. Campbell presents more examples with branches of lightning in the night sky and an aerial photo of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Directions on how to create a fractal pattern of their own and a biographical sketch of Benoit Mandelbrot conclude this title with the reader walking away with a clear understanding of what a fractal pattern is. Both math and art teachers will welcome this title to use with their classes. Recommended for ages 7 to 10.
—Jeanne Martin, M.Ed., Collection Development

Waluk, paperback, library binding
by Emilio Ruiz

Waluk is a playful polar bear cub who, abandoned by his mother, is searching for food in the Arctic. He meets Manitok, an old bear who teaches him about hunting and humans. The two bond and when Manitok is captured, Waluk leads a jailbreak with other polar bears. Waluk is by turns a sweet story about friendship, a science lesson, and a commentary about climate change and human impact on the environment. The panel art showing Waluk's environment being encroached upon by humans is heartbreaking. Back matter includes information about the endangered polar bear and websites for further reading. This graphic novel is highly recommended for ages 7 to 10.
—Jenny McCluskey, MSIS, Collection Development


by Kenneth Oppel

Oppel's new historical adventure has a whiff of fantasy to sweeten the pot, but the real star of this show is the splendid backdrop against which the whole story is played--the magnificent Boundless. Boundless is the biggest, most extravagant steam train ever built, with double-decker train cars devoted to every occupation a rich patron could dream up--sumptuous dining cars, library cars, cinemas, dance halls, observatories, even an open-air shooting range. And these are all in only the first class section of the train--four classes in all, plus freight and workman cars, and the Boundless stretches to over 7 miles long. Will, our protagonist, is the son of the head engineer staying in first class for Boundless' maiden voyage. His thirst for adventure leads him to traverse all 7 miles of the train as it hurtles down the track, finding himself an unlikely, unwilling player just trying to stay alive in an unfolding drama with a diverse cast of characters--desperate circus players, murderous brakemen, and Royal Canadian Mounties all with different agendas. Oppel does a terrific job of conjuring the wonder of the time period, both of natural marvels as European settlers moved west on the American continent, and mankind's own hubristic endeavors. I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling romp through the majestic Boundless, and will bet my bottom dollar that all of your young historical fiction fans will, too. Recommended for ages 9 to 12.
—Jill M. Barton, MLIS, Collection Development


Totally Cool Nails: 50 Fun and Easy Nail Art Designs for Kids
by Catherine Rodgers

I've been waiting for this type of book for this audience for a while. Thank you, Adams Media! Rodgers, creator of the nail art online tutorial "TotallyCoolNails," gives a beginner's guide for creating nail art. Using an encouraging and supportive tone, she makes no assumptions: she gives all the information a nail art newbie needs while never sounding condescending. The first chapter explains how to prep the nails by determining the right shape for them (did you know there are five?), why a base coat and a top coat are helpful, and what the most commonly used tools are. Then comes the real fun: 132 pages of step-by-step, color-photo-illustrated nail art designs! Page layout is clean and clear: lots of white space and an easy-to-read font. Each step is explained with both text and a photograph. The final page shows the six young ladies who acted as nail models, sporting their super cute nail art. They did it; get this book so your customers can do it, too! Recommended for ages 10 to 13.
—Becky Walton, MLIS, Collection Development