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What's New? What's New? What's New?

Reviewed by Jim Trelease below are recommended titles published since the seventh edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook in 2013. A sampling of titles from The Handbook
can be found in the Treasury of Read-Alouds.

REVIEWS—PAGE 1

ROSIE'S MAGIC HORSErosy magic horse cover image

by Russell Hoban; illus. by Quentin Blake
Candlewick, 2013    32 pages    PreSchool — K

When young Rosie picks up an abandoned popsicle stick and adds it to her collection of sticks, he has no idea the stick come with a positive attitude—unlike the other sticks that think they'll never amount to anything. Like a lot of things, individually they might never amount to anything but if they "stick together," the possibilities are endless. When Rosie discovers her parents desperately need money to pay the bills, she dreams of solving their woes. That's when the popsicle sticks turn themselves into a magic horse that flies her to a remote island, complete with pirates and buried treasure. Of course the pirates must be outwitted and the treasure secured, all of which make for a delightful adventure tale by two of the top figures in children's literature, with Blake's illustrations among his best efforts.

NELSON MANDELA
by Kadir Nelson
Tregan Books/HarperCollins, 2013     36 pages    Gr. 2 — 5mandela book cover image

One of 13 children, he alone was selected to attend school — but miles away from his family. He eventually became a lawyer but in a land (South Africa) ruled by a powerful white majority where people of color were forbidden normal civil rights. He and his people could not use the public beaches, parks, or theaters. "Apartheid" was to South Africa what "Jim Crow" was the the American south. So young Mandela began to lobby for his people, leading, protesting, until he had to flee underground and over the border. Eventually he was captured and imprisoned — for 27 years. There he became one of the world's most famous inmates, inspiring his followers to continue protesting injustice and frustrating his enemies with his steely courage. Eventually he was released and became president of the country that had imprisoned him and became an inspiration for the world's oppressed people. Kadir Nelson once again shows why he is one of today's most talented author-illustrators in the field of picture book nonfiction. Also by Kadir Nelson: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans; and Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson (with Sharon Robinson)

NURSE CLEMENTINENurse Clementine cover

by Simon James
Candlewick, 2013    32 pages    PreSchool — K

Simon James's watercolors always capture the essence of childhood. With his colleague Bob Graham, no one does it any better with so few strokes. Here we have young Clementine, thrilled at receiving a nurse's outfit and first-aid kit for her birthday. As a result, every family member's ailment —from toe-stubbing to headaches, including the family dog's sore paw — had to be tended to by nurse Clementine. Eventually she ran out of patients and resorted to mending household objects like broken drainpipes. If only she could convince her over-active little brother Tommy to let her attend his various injuries but he wants no part of her and her first-aid kit. That is, until he needs to be rescued from a tree and only nurse Clementine is available for emergency duty. Also by the author-illustrator: Leon and Bob; and George Flies South. Related titles: A Bus Called Heaven and Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten, both by Bob Graham.

BOBBO GOES TO SCHOOL
by Shirley Hughes
Candlewick, 2013    30 pages    PreSchool—KBobbo Goes To School cover

Among the constants of childhood, one item ranks near the tearful top: the lost doll. Shirley Hughes, a master at artfully chronicling family crises, offers here an excellent and original example. Preschooler Lily (the subject of the earlier Don't Want to Go!) is seldom separated from her beloved doll-doggie, Bobbo, although she does give him a workout with her antics. Like the time she was waiting for her mother to unfold the stroller and the school bus was loading nearby. Showing off, Lily begins twirling Bobbo around and around until he flies into the air. But instead of landing back in Lily's arms, he lands on the roof of the departing bus. Catastrophe! No, mother calmly explains, we'll just call school and they'll retrieve it. A good idea, except when the bus arrives Bobbo slides off the roof unnoticed and into the branches of a tree. All ends well but not before there is much angst and searching, reminiscent of Hughes' earlier "lost doll" book, Dogger, still a standard, though this is a very worthy companion.

JEMMY BUTTON
by Alix Barzelay; illus. by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali
Candlewick, 2013    46 pages    Gr. 1—4Jemmy Button cover

Whether it is the story or the artwork, this is a gem on every level. Based on a true story, the book's art has almost a fairy tale foundation: the two illustrators met via the Internet, admired each other's work but could not speak each other's language (English and Italian). In spite of that, the end result is mesmerizing. Most pages contain only a sentence or two of text, with the illustrations carrying the message and mood. In 1830, a shipload of Englishmen arrived at an island at the tip of South America. There the ship's captain either enticed or kidnapped a young native male, bribing his family with a button (thus earning the boy the name Jemmy Button). The goal was to take the teen native back to London and "civilize" him. There were language lessons, museums, operas, concerts, candies, tailors, and even audiences with England's king and queen. Two years later, Jemmy Button shed his formal clothes and happily returned to his native island and family. There are numerous social issues here: the call of home; what makes for happiness; homesickness; and the imposition of our values on others. (More details in Button's story can be found online at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jemmy_Button.)

Jemmy and his relatives came off much better than the natives of another island — San Salvador — after Christopher Columbus stopped to visit in 1492. The end result then was total devastation for the tribe and culture, described in Jane Yolen's picture book Encounter.

Children's literature is filled with true and imagined tales of attempts to "civilize" the natives, including: Kipling's Mowgli in The Jungle Book; Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs; Incident at Hawk's Hill by Allan W. Eckert; and The Wolf Girls (picture book) by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple.

BECOMING BABE RUTHBecoming Babe Ruth cover
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick, 2013    40 pages    Gr. 1-3

People had a lot less patience with children in the old days. Certainly George's weary parents did. His incorrigible behavior had George in constant trouble with Baltimore's police department and businesses and by the time he was seven, his folks felt they had little recourse but to turn him over the the priests who ran Saint Mary's Industrial School, a combination trade school and reform school. What it turned into for George Herman (Babe) Ruth was baseball school. The hitting exploits of Babe Ruth have been detailed before but little has been done in the way of picture books focusing on his lifelong relationship with the school, teammates, and priest that turned his life around. Tavares specializes in sports stories but he never fails to uncover the "heart" in each story. Also by the author-illustrator: Zachary's Ball; Mudball; Oliver's Game; Henry Aaron's Dream; and There Goes Ted Williams.

BRAVE GIRL: CLARA AND THE SHIRTWAIST MAKERS' STRIKE OF 1909
by Michelle Markel; illus. by Melissa Sweet
HarperCollins, 2013    30 pages    Gr. 2-5

This is one of the many outstanding nonfiction picture books that detail moments in American history, often in a fashion more accessible to children than heavier tomes. Such books also illuminate some of today's issues by using yesterday's headlines. For example, while the nation debates the positives and negatives of immigration and immigrant labor, Brave Girl could add come clarity to the debate.

Brave Girl coverAt the turn of the last century, steamboats were bulging with immigrants flooding into America from Europe. American industry welcomed them immediately, right into their factories—especially poor women and girls who had little choice but to work for the lowest wages in deplorable conditions in order to support their families. "Streets of gold" images faded fast. Enter young Clara Lemlich, sweating over a New York City sewing machine all day and borrowing books from the public library to find a means of escaping this factory-form of slavery. It soon became apparent that women had but one choice: to go out on strike against the owners. The bosses, on the other hand, had no intention of letting that happen, employing threats, thugs, police brutality, and firings to stop it. What they hadn't figured on was Clara's determination and inspiration. Before she was done, she led the largest walkout of women workers in American history, inspiring similar strikes in cities outside New York and across the nation. The women's union movement had begun and would change the labor rules of the nation forever.

Related nonfiction picture book titles about brave women leading the way for change: Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen by Marissa Moss; Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill; Eleanor (Roosevelt) by Barbara Cooney; Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson; The Bobbin Girl and Marvelous Mattie, both by Emily A. McCully; and an excellent immigration fictional picture book: When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest.

LUCKY DUCKLINGS
by Eva Moore; illus. Nancy Carpenter
Orchard Books/Scholastic, 2013    30 pages    PreSchool — K

Lucky Ducklings coverThere is something about ducklings that makes them fair subjects for authors through the ages. Whether it's The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen; Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey; or The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack, our little web-footed friends are naturals on the bookshelf. Add to your duck-list Lucky Ducklings. Based on a true incident on Long Island, NY, this handsomely illustrated tale follows a mother duck as she leads her brood of five out of the park and into town for a day of foraging. What mother duck failed to notice were the openings in a sewer grating that easily accommodated her five little quackers. Down they went through the openings — 1-2-3-4-5. Soon the alarm was raised by both mother duck and a parking lot attendant. Eventually, with the help of a tow truck and the fire department, all five were rescued and returned to mom — who led them safely home. A grand little adventure about the dangers of sewer gratings (even for children) and the benefits of community rescue. It's a worthy companion to Make Way for Ducklings.

ONE DOG AND HIS BOY
by Eva Ibbotson
Scholastic, 2012    271 pages    Gr. 2 — 5

One Dog and His Boy coverIn most cases, though not universally, the creative spirit wanes and wobbles as we grow older, especially in our late 70s and definitely the 80s. Little of worth flows from artists and writers at those ages. And then there is the strange case of Eva Ibbotson, who didn't write her first children's book until age 50 and died just after finishing this book at age 85. The strange part: her books were better and more creative the older she got. One Dog and His Boy is a perfect closing to an amazing career.

Young Hal Fenton had everything a rich nine-year-old could want—every toy, every luxury, every food. Except one thing: a dog. And that is all he has ever wanted. And year after year, his busy, impatient, disinterested parents deny his request as "out of the question." A dog, after all, would dirty the floors, the furniture, and, worst of all, inconvenience them. (I couldn't help but smell a nice dollop of Roald Dahl in this portrayal of the parents.) So no dog — until Hal's sobbing grief is more than his father can bear. A dog is promised and the boy's joy is unbounded. Except the plan is for the dog to be rented from Easy Pets Dog Agency, a shop that allows people to borrow a dog for a few hours or days just to show off the animal, and then it is returned. Since his parents feel the novelty of the dog will wear off in a weekend, Easy Pets is the plan of the day. Young Hal is more than grief-stricken—he is appalled. And then he is inspired to steal the dog and run away with it to his grandparents (who, naturally, have been ignored for years by Hal's busy-busy parents). Complicating matters is that five other dogs from the shop have attached themselves to the runaways, who are hotly pursued by police and would-be bounty-hunters. The end is both heart-stopping and heart-warming. Fear not: no dog dies in the writing or reading of this book. Also by the author: The Star of Kazan; and Journey to the River Sea.

ZEBRA FOREST
by Adina Rishe Gewirtz
Candlewick, 2013    200 pages    Gr. 5 —9

Zebra Forest coverIn 1980, America was obsessed with the Iran hostage crisis. Even 11-year-old Annie Snow was consumed by it, despite not having a TV in her home. Then she herself became a hostage. She and her 9-year-old brother Rew, along with their grandmother, became hostages in their own home after a nearby prison break. Until the break, the kids had been largely raising themselves, especially since Gran had grown increasingly withdrawn, going to bed as soon as it grew dark. She'd always been a bit strange — hoarding old magazines, no mirrors in the house, no radio, and no photos either. Nonetheless, she loved the two children and they loved her. After all, she was all they had. Their mother had abandoned them when Annie was three and their barely-remembered father was killed in a fight with a crazy guy a few years later. Still, the two siblings were happy in their own way, building a fantasy life out in the woods behind their house, imagining what their lives would have been like if their father had not died and he'd had been a super hero instead. And then came the prison break and a strange man enters the back door. Even stranger is the look on his face and Gran's face when they see each other. The intruder was no stranger. He was Andrew Snow, the children's father, now an escaped killer. Just as surprising for him, he had no idea his mother and children were living here.

There are secrets and lies in all families, some large, some small, some for good reasons, some for bad reasons. Annie's home had some big ones and gradually they were going to be revealed as their own hostage crisis plays out. But first there are the escape attempts, then the prison search party arrives at the door, followed by the social worker's weekly visit. Then someone (Annie) must be sent into town for food. Does she dare tell? Her brother's plan is nearly fool-proof and yet she refuses to execute it. Why? What is it about her father and his life that holds her back?

The binds of family can sometimes be mysterious. At a time when so many families are touched by the justice system, the penal system, family strife, secrets and lies, this timely novel allows its readers and listeners to see themselves or classmates through the emotions of a fictional family. Andrew Snow has no intention of hurting his children or his mother and he doesn't. He admits to committing a violent crime years ago and regrets it deeply. Everyone makes mistakes and lives with regrets. Can his children ever understand that? The ending is as believable as the Iran hostages release was. This is a riveting yet kindly told debut novel.

 

More Reviews — Page 2

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