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Reviews for the Youth Librarian and School Media Specialist

Grandma Lives in a Perfume Village
by Fang Sushen

Beautiful photo-realistic paintings of a young Asian boy, his mother and grandmother set in rich hued backgrounds adorn each page in this quiet title concerning the death of a loved one. Little Xiao Le visits his sick grandmother with the wariness most little ones have when near a person not feeling well. Xiao Le soon warms up to his grandma as he enjoys joining her for tea and playing a game his mother played as a young girl. Soon after, grandma “moves to heaven” and Xiao Le comforts his mother as a young one can. He tells his mother that grandma must be frying an egg for breakfast one morning as he sees the bright yellow sun in the sky. When his mother becomes sad with memories he lets her know grandma is drinking afternoon tea with her own mother up in heaven. After much thought Xiao Le turns to his mother and makes her promise not to join them as she hugs him tight telling him the distance is too far for the train to reach. Suzhen has written a sensitive book giving attention to the heartfelt communication between a young boy and his mother regarding the passing of his grandmother. Both public and school librarians will want to have this reassuring title on their shelves. Recommended for ages 4 to 7.
—Jeanne Martin, M.Ed., Collection Development

Two Girls Want a Puppy
by Evie and Ryan Cordell

Emi and Cadence really, truly want a new puppy!  Dad is “skeptical” about this idea, but they remind him that he always says to be “persistent” and they certainly take his advice to heart. While driving the car, working at the computer, grocery shopping, wherever, they question him relentlessly with “Can we get a puppy?” Dad answers with the reason that they aren’t ready for a pet just yet. Emi and Cadence come up with a plan to prove how “responsible,” smart, and “creative” they are as they research and create a book of their own about dogs. Of course, when Dad reads all their facts about caring for a dog what can he say but “Yes!” Not only does this title delight young readers as they read about the girls’ schemes to get a puppy, it also presents learning opportunities as new vocabulary is introduced in bold letters and repeated throughout the story. Recommended for ages 4 to 7.
--Jeanne Martin, M.Ed., Collection Development

by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Renee Kurilla

Won Ton and Chopstick
by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Just in time for National Poetry Month, we have several picture books written in verse publishing in March. Two that caught my eye are Orangutanka written in the tanka form and Won Ton and Chopstick written in the senryu form. I realize that Won Ton and Chopstick has a subtitle stating it is “A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku” however there is also an author’s note explaining that senryu is developed from and similar to haiku. For those of you not familiar (as I was not) to tanka, it is a five line poem which traditionally follows a syllable count however modern efforts tend to use line lengths of short, long, short, long, long. Both titles use a series of poems to share the narrative and both offer opportunities for children to be exposed to a new form of verse. Having been a fan of Eugene Yelchin’s art since the first Won Ton title came out, I was pleased to see similar illustrations done in graphite and gaouche on watercolor paper here. I was not familiar with Renee Kurilla’s work and found it to be lively pencil and ink. Simple stories, fun animals, appealing illustrations, these would both be great additions to a storytime and displays at all times of the year. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
--Tracy Gallagher, MLIS, Collection Development

Cody & the Fountain of Happiness
by Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

The joy that sparkles from the pages of Springstubb's latest is enchanting, intoxicating as the first day of a long and glorious summer vacation, which incidentally is where this slim novel starts.  Cody, optimistic about what the summer will bring, has some highs and lows straight off the bat--camp is cancelled because it turned into a toxic dump--yay!  But now insensitive Payton Underwood, who broke her big brother Wyatt's heart is going to kid-sit her instead--boo.  She makes a new friend while rescuing his old, deaf scaredy-cat, but then loses cat and friend both when hypnosis goes wrong.  Throughout all, Cody's warm and loving family, and her own indefatigable optimism win the day.  With Wheeler's whimsical illustrations displaying a diverse, multicultural neighborhood, I say three cheers for this being the start of a new series!  Highly recommended for all chapter book collections, ages 7 to 10.
--Jill M. Barton, MLIS, Collection Development

Roller Girl paperback, hardcover
by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid and Nicole are best friends, but as often happens in middle school, they start to drift apart as their interests diverge. Astrid’s mom takes them to roller derby where Astrid falls in love with the sport. She enrolls in roller derby boot camp and has a hard time keeping up while Nicole is off at dance camp. Roller Girl is all about Astrid and the angsty awkwardness that comes with adolescence. The comparisons to Raina Telgemeier’s realistic art are correct. Give this graphic novel to fans of her work.  It is highly recommended for ages 9 to 13.
--Jenny McCluskey, MSIS, Collection Development

Ruby Wizardry: An Introduction to Programming for Kids
by Eric Weinstein

Javascript for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming
by Nick Morgan

My web developer husband and I sat down recently to give these two recent titles from No Starch Press a test-drive. Ruby Wizardy is one of a new breed of titles that seeks to help children and young adults to not only get introduced to programming but actually get good at it. As our society becomes more dependent on computers, programmers are in more demand. And it's likely to stay that way. Books like Ruby Wizardy are written in a way that ignores the math assumed to be required in the past and simply moves forward with just a familiarity of computers and a desire to learn. Eric Weinstein's approach is to couch the instruction as a story, introducing programming concepts within the context of this tale. Since there are other programming languages, why choose this one? Ruby is a powerful language but very accessible to people without a programming background. It’s also a fairly recent language that benefits from the good of older languages and rejects the awkward, obtuse syntax in favor of code that reads close to English and can be understood conceptually by non-programmers like its target audience. For instance, you can write a line of code like 1 + 2, run it, and get 3 in response. Most other languages require semicolons, parentheses, etc., that get in the way of many beginners. Ruby Wizardry also benefits from other Ruby tutorial books in that it discards old ways of learning Ruby and is a very thorough guide. Readers who work through the entire book will have encountered most of the advanced concepts of Ruby as this is not a subset of the language in this book. Ideal readers will be those that want to learn programming but may not be technically oriented.

We next considered Javascript for Kids. Javascript is probably the most prevalent computer language today with the World Wide Web. The ideal audience for Javascript for Kids would be people who are gratified by seeing results quickly in perhaps the most ubiquitous software today: the modern web browser. Nick Morgan's approach is to get the core concepts down quickly, starting with using it in a web browser which helps lower the barrier for seeing results. Readers who stick with the book will get into the use of jQuery where they will see their efforts really blossom. Javascript for Kids continues into the powerful and advanced features of Javascript which are the foundations for some of the exciting developments in web development today. Despite its title, Morgan's writing is not for kids only and is suitable for adults who want to learn how to program as well. This book takes the mantle of the "Dummies" series for learning complex subjects.

Both titles are highly recommended from this web developer/librarian team for ages 10 and up.
-- Becky Walton, MLIS, Collection Development

You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.
by Dr. Ben Carson

You Have a Brain is a young adult adaptation of Dr. Carson’s memoir/self-help guide from the 1990s, Think Big. In the first half, Carson relates some of the hardships he faced as a youth: being raised by a single, illiterate, financially-struggling parent in Detroit, being considered the class dummy by fifth grade, not wearing the trendy clothes he saw on his classmates, and having a quick temper. Thanks in part to his loving and wise mother, he overcame these hurdles and went on to become a world-renowned neurosurgeon. One of the most common questions he remembers from his mother when he was growing up was, “Do you have a brain?” (how ironic that he grew up to be a brain surgeon!) which would be immediately followed with the exhortation to use it. In order to work through life problems and realize dreams, Dr. Carson encourages young people to use their brains to make reasoned and determined decisions, with help from his T.H.I.N.K.B.I.G. life philosophy, which is the focus of the second half of the book. Talent, Honesty, Insight, Nice, Knowledge, Books, In-depth learning, and God are explained in chapters of their own. Yes, Carson may be considered by some to be a polarizing figure and the Christian focus may be distracting to some. To other readers, though, Carson may be a welcome role model and his recipe for success may be an instructional and inspirational resource. You Have a Brain ends with a personal talent assessment and discussion questions. Another self-help youth adaptation publishing this month is John C. Maxwell’s Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn for Teens. Recommended for ages 13 and up.
-- Becky Walton, MLIS, Collection Development

Elena Vanishing
by Elena and Clare Dunkle

Elena Dunkle’s eating disorder – first anorexia, then both anorexia and bulimia – is painfully related in this memoir written with help from her mother, Clare. If Elena pulled any punches in telling her story, she sure left a lot of staggering blows for the reader. She does a very effective job of bringing the reader into her mind as she suffers from years of self-torment (her inner hypercritical voice appears in italics) and denial of the real root cause. The reader will feel Elena’s emotional roller coaster ride: one day, proud of her self-discipline and sneaky tricks to avoid ingesting calories and fool health professionals that she’s gaining weight; another day, too depressed to get out of bed; yet another day, disgust at those who are overweight. So too will the reader feel the pain and betrayal of Elena’s family as they listen to her lies and watch her deteriorate before their eyes, rejecting their attempts to help. Her mother suffered the worst, as she took the brunt of Elena’s rage. Perhaps the most painful result of her self-abusive disorder is the miscarriage that happened as a result of poor nutrition, atrophied uterine walls, and insufficient hormones. Elena spirals out of control, spitting venom at her mother, until finally she gains enough self-awareness to be able to work toward an exit from the darkness. Her afterword includes encouragement to those suffering from an eating disorder to seek professional help and the warning that her memoir should not be seen by others as a treatment plan for their own recovery. Elena’s story publishes simultaneously with her mother’s version, Hope and Other Luxuries: A Mother's Life with a Daughter's Anorexia. Recommended for ages 14 and up as well as professionals and parents.
-- Becky Walton, MLIS, Collection Development

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