Picture Books – Magic for Sale; Bruce’s Big Move; Silent Days, Silent Dreams; After the Fall

Clickard, Carrie. Magic for Sale. Holiday House, 2017. 9780823435593. Unpaged. $16.95.  Gr. K-3.

Georgie McQuist is on a mission to find the ghost that is rumored to be hidden in Miss Pustula Night’s magic shop on a dare from his classmates. This shop is full of magical supplies, like “mirrors that talk back to you.”  After entering the shop, Georgie falls into the basement through a hidden trap door. There he finds the unhappy ghost, who has been banished to the basement until he completes an inventory of its contents. The boy and the ghost accomplish the task, much to the dismay of Miss Night, who demands that Georgie leave immediately.  That he does, with a friendly monster in tow. The boy takes the monster to school for Show and Tell, which scares his classmates who initiated the dare.  Clickard is very clever in her use of rhyming text, which follows an AABBA pattern throughout the text.  The placement of the text adds a creative touch on some pages. Shelley’s illustrations are done in pen, ink, and watercolor.  The full bleed images are very detailed and children will enjoy poring over them to examine the magical artifacts. The characters and objects are depicted in a whimsical style and are appropriate for young children. THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for children who like their scary monster stories on the mild side.  A good addition to elementary collections.

Picture Book, Fantasy        Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District


Higgins, Ryan T. Bruce’s Big Move. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 978-136800354-4. 40pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Bruce, the grumpy bear who unexpectedly became a mother to four geese and three mice who won’t move out, is back in this third edition in the series. With so many animals sharing his den, Bruce finds it’s too crowded, messy, chaotic, and loud. He tries to get rid of the mice, but they just won’t leave. So, Bruce leaves instead. He packs up his geese and heads off on his scooter in search of quieter lodgings. After finally settling on a secluded lake cabin, Bruce is happy, but the geese are mopey and missing the mice. It isn’t until the moving van pulls up and the mice begin making themselves at home that Bruce realizes some things will never change. Readers who’ve enjoyed this unconventional family’s story will find plenty to chuckle about as Bruce tries his hardest to reclaim his peaceful lifestyle before ultimately embracing his new reality of home.  THOUGHTS: Pair this title with Vera Brosgol’s Leave Me Alone! for a storytime centered around caregivers searching for sanity amongst the chaos of their crowded homes.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County


Say, Allen. Silent Days, Silent Dreams. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017.  978-0-545-92761-1. 63pp. $21.99. Gr 3-6.

James Castle was deaf, mute, dyslexic, and autistic, but nothing got in the way of his creative genius. Born in 1899, he spent his entire life living and creating art in attics and chicken houses on Idaho farms. Castle was a self-taught, untrained artist, and more than 15,000 pieces of his artwork survive today. This fictional story, narrated by Castle’s nephew, is based on real-life information, letters, and interviews about the artist. After studying Castle’s style and researching the mediums he used, including burned matchsticks, saliva, sharpened sticks, soot, and shoe polish, Caldecott-winning illustrator Say created this book’s images using some of the same mediums and drawing on Castle’s original artwork as inspiration. The result is a unique tribute to a largely unknown American artist, one who overcame any obstacle he encountered to fulfill his innate desire to create. A lengthy author’s note describes how Say first learned about Castle, and it also discusses his own process of creating this book’s unique illustrations.  THOUGHTS:  Although lengthier than many traditional picture books, this title could be used in conjunction with other books about people overcoming disabilities or as part of a biography unit. Art teachers may be interested in highlighting the unusual mediums Castle used to create his artwork.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County


Santat, Dan. After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-62672-682-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-5.

After his classic and well-known accident, Humpty Dumpty has a tough time getting back into his usual routine. He loves watching birds (which is, of course, why he was hanging out on a high wall in the first place) and his fear of heights now prevents him from being close to them. Even the top grocery store shelf with the most delicious cereals and his bunk bed are no longer options. One day, Humpty gets an idea to make a paper airplane bird. He knows it’s hard, but he keeps trying and trying through several failed attempts until his paper bird can fly high in the sky, close to the birds in his place. When his bird lands on top of the wall, Humpty almost gives up again, but then he thinks of all the hard work he’s put in and all the things he’s missed. He’s very scared, but he manages to climb the wall, one step at a time, “…until I was no longer afraid.” A final surprise makes this story of simple, real emotions even better. THOUGHTS: Santat’s beautiful, carefully designed illustrations help convey the range of Humpty’s emotions and struggle. Share this story with any group who could use help broadening their growth mindset.

Picture book             Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District


Picture Books – Masterpiece Mix; Bizzy Mizz Lizzie; Bob, Not Bob!; La La La

Munro, Roxie.  Masterpiece Mix.  Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3699-6. $16.95. Unpaged. Gr. K-3.

The first person narrator gets ready to make a new painting but is at a loss as to what kind of painting to make:  still-life, portrait, landscape? The gorgeously illustrated pages show examples of each type of painting, introducing youngsters to well-known paintings by famous artists. Our artist’s resultant painting, a double-page spread at the end of the story, is a Where’s Waldo type cityscape, cleverly incorporating all the paintings in the story. The afterward pages provide a key to the 37 paintings used in the book, as well as a brief introduction to the artists responsible.  THOUGHTS: The simple, sparse text of the book is geared to a young reader, but the key at the back of the book is written for a much older reader. This is a lovely book and fine introduction to art, best used as a shared journey between adult and child.   

Picture Book        Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Shannon, David.  Bizzy Mizz Lizzie. Blue Sky Press, 2017.  978-0-545-61943-1. $16.99. Unpaged. PreK – 2.

Little Lizzie is one busy bee. She studies hard, plays hard, and crams her life full of activities, at which she strives to excel. Her best friend, Lazy Mizz Daizy, encourages Lizzy to slow down and smell the flowers, but Lizzie just can’t relax. However, Lizzie finally takes on one task too many. Striving to win the spelling bee and meet the Queen Bee, she studies and studies without break, until she falls asleep during the bee. Waking up three days later, Lizzie finally goes to the garden with Daizy, where the two little bees meet the queen, who teaches Lizzie that taking time to do nothing makes one a better bee. THOUGHTS:  A gentle tale with a message that is always good to hear, but without the rollicking humor, one expects from Shannon’s books.   

Picture Book     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District


Vernick, Audrey, Elizabeth Scanlon, and Matthew Cordell. Bob, not Bob! Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-148472302-9. $17.99. Unpaged. Gr. K-2.

When the subtitle states, “To be read as though you have the worst cold ever,” the readers should know they are in for a humorous sick day. Indeed, Little Louie is feeling lousy, and all he wants is his mother. Alas, yelling for mom sounds a lot like a call to the faithful pet, a dog named Bob! The confusion continues until Louie is able to find the cure he needs and include Bob and Bob (Mom!). While the text is clever and quick, the illustrations by Matthew Cordell prove to be the perfect ink and watercolor compliment. The frustration of Louie mixed with the confusion of Bob and the exhaustion of Mom leads to plenty of real entertainment. The endpapers and the font choice (with a heart in the Bob for Mom) show details that encourage repeated reading and enjoyment for the ill and healthy alike.  THOUGHTS: Would work to compare well with Martha Speaks books, and the illustrations of William Steig or Quentin Blake. Also allows readers to practice reading with meaning, with expression, and with humor!

Picture Book     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD


DiCamillo, Kate. La La La. Candlewick Press, 2017: ISBN 978-0-7636-5833-5. 72pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This nearly wordless picture book begins with a small girl standing in a spotlight. She sings a single note: La. She continues singing for a bit, until she realizes she’s singing all alone. Some falling autumn leaves catch her attention and draw her outside where she continues her song. She sings to the leaves, but there is no response. She also tries singing to the pond, the plants, and the trees but still receives no answer. Feeling discouraged and alone, she goes inside, but when the moon rises, she tries singing to it too. Even though she waves her arms and climbs a ladder to be closer to the moon, it doesn’t respond. The lonely girl falls asleep but is awakened by a resounding La: the moon’s triumphant answer. Under a sky full of stars, the girl and the moon call back and forth, each savoring the sense of connection with another. This simple story is brought to life through Jaime Kim’s gorgeous digitally rendered watercolor and ink illustrations. The full bleed spreads – especially the nighttime ones – are saturated with color and fully capture the joy that a sense of belonging brings.  THOUGHTS: Even the youngest readers will pick up on the idea of needing to be heard, so this book will be good for sparking discussions about self-expression. It may also work well with guidance units about loneliness and forming connections with others. Classroom teachers could also ask students to think about ways they express themselves. This could lead to discussions about singing, dancing, drawing, writing, or many other outlets.  

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


YA Nonfiction – The Shift; Judge This


Brown, Theresa.  The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives.  Chapel Hill: Algonquin. 2015. 226p.  $24.95. Gr. 9 and up.

We all know that nursing is hard; that nurses are often overlooked, underpaid, and way underappreciated.  New York Times Opinion Columnist Theresa Brown, sets out to change that perception in The Shift.  Brown gives an inside look at her day; from when she rises before the sun; to when she arrives at home after her twelve hour shift at a Pittsburgh hospital.  Her day begins with three patients, all with varying types and stages of cancer, and continues as she’s given a fourth patient with an unusual, unpredicted infection.  The reality of how busy nurses are, how little doctors respect the nurses on their floor, and how demanding some patients are, is vivid in this honest portrayal of one day in a nurse’s life.  Thoughts: This is great work of narrative nonfiction.  Although heavy with medical lingo at times, Brown makes sure to define everything for those readers not familiar with medical terms.  This is a perfect book for a student interested in a career in medicine.  

616; Health Care; Memoir          Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School



Kidd, Chip. Judge This. New York: TED Books, 2015. 978-1-4767-8478-6. 125 p. $16.99. Gr. 7 & up.

This adorable little book presents examples of design in multiple mediums and weighs the functionality of each.  Chip Kidd is primarily a book jacket designer, but he includes examples of advertising, signs, packaging, and more.  He rates each example on its clarity vs. mystery.  “Clarity gets to the point … mystery gives us hope,” is how he sums up the difference.  Designers often strive for a balance between the two.  He notes that some mystery in design is often a good thing, but other times it’s just confusing.  On examples of poor design, Kidd offers tips to improve. Kidd’s approach is functional and humorous, easily accessible by readers who have no design experience.  THOUGHTS:  This is a great book to include in a graphic arts or design course.  I would present examples from this book and ask students to find their own examples of good and bad design to add to the collection.  Students who are familiar with Kidd’s TED talk or design work will pick this up, especially because he does a lot of work with comic books and graphic novels.  Students who don’t know who he is will still enjoy his unique perspective on our everyday visual encounters.  Reluctant readers may pick this up because of the eye-popping visuals, small size, and sparse text.

Graphic Art, Design              Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School


Vincent Paints His House


Arnold, Tedd. Vincent Paints His House. New York: Holiday House, 2015. 978-0-8234-3210-3. 26p. $16.95. Gr. K-3.

Fly Guy author Tedd Arnold departs from his usual silliness with this nod to the painter Vincent Van Gogh. While the artist is never actually mentioned in the book, the main character Vincent, complete with reddish hair and beard like his namesake, sets out to paint his house. He struggles with what color to paint, as each page introduces another critter who voices its opinion. Through repetitive text, the story can be a simple introduction to colors or a more complex look (each page has a set of paint tubes with varying shades of the color, such as Cyan, Royal and Cerulean). As he gets increasingly covered in paint, the story builds to the final page which is a colorful house set in a “starry night” background.  Thoughts: This is book will be a hit on so many levels! Fly Guy fans will love the similar pictures, the bugs, and humor. Art teachers can use it to teach colors, basic or detailed, or to introduce Van Gogh. Definitely properly shelved as “E ARN”, it can be paired nicely with many primary art books for library or art class lessons.

Picture Book     Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School


Discovering Art


Discovering Art (5 volume set).  San Diego, CA: Reference Point Press, 2015.  80p.  $31.32  Gr. 7+.  

Allen, John.  Anime and Manga.  978-1-60152-696-0.

Hirschmann, Kris.  Impressionism.  978-1-60152-700-4.

Kallen, Stuart A.  Animation.  978-1-60152-664-9.

Kallen, Stuart A.  Sculpture.  978-1-60152-678-6.

Stewart, Gail B.  Graphic Arts.  978-1-60152-698-4.


Each of the books in the Discovering Art series examines the history of a given art form and looks at the techniques used to produce the form.  These books are well-written and will be readily understood by most young adults.  They make frequent use of informative text boxes, photographs, and diagrams.  Each book also has an index, endnotes, and suggestions for further research (including books and websites).

The volumes on sculpture and impressionist art are not groundbreaking in any way and libraries may want to acquire more comprehensive books on these subjects.  However, the books on graphic arts, animation, and anime/ manga are especially well done.  Each of these books discusses and informs about subjects that interest young adults:  Anime and Manga contains a good look at Hayao Miazaki’s work (Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service).  Animation takes a look at traditional animation, computer animation, and claymation (Wallace and Gromit).  Graphic Arts does an excellent job of raising awareness about the extent to which graphic design is a part of our daily lives.  The discussion of how graphics become iconic (the product can be recognized without words describing it) is especially interesting.

Libraries may want to consider purchasing volumes of this set according to their needs.

740: Drawing and Decorative Arts        Susan Fox, Washington JSHS


The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

Griffin, Adele. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone. New York: Soho Teen, 2014. 978-1-61695-360-7. $17.99. 241p. Gr. 9-12.
Even as a young girl, art prodigy Addison Stone amazed her teachers with advanced sketches and captivating drawings.  Her tumultuous home life caused her to hang with her best friend Lucy Lim quite often or sleep in the art room of her high school.  During her junior year, her art teacher and his wife decide to call in some favors, and with the help of a W.W. Sadtler Scholarship, Addison finds herself living in New York, taking art classes and attending exclusive dinner parties and exhibits featuring her work.  Fame and notoriety play havoc on Addy’s feeble mental state, though.  Always fearless and impudent, Addy oscillates between extreme happiness and crippling depression.  With the help of doctors and medication, she finds a tenuous balance, but yearns to create her work and live her life without being in a state of medicated murkiness.  Her untimely and horrific death escalates the mystery surrounding this beautiful and talented young individual.
Adele Griffin takes the role of a writer/reporter looking for answers to Addison’s unfinished story.  She interviews family members, friends, adversaries and lovers as she searches for answers and the indelicate truth of Addison’s life.  Told from the viewpoint of so many characters, the storyline is incredibly fast-paced, and the intensity of the events is elevated, creating a page-turning thriller.

Mystery    Christine Massey, JWP Middle School

YA Nonfiction…Art


Loonin, Meryl. Public Art. Farmington Hills: Lucent Books, 2014. 1-4205-0917-9. 104 pages. $30.00. Gr. 5 and up.

Public Art, a new titles from the series Eye on Art, offers a brief description of public art  along with information about the various types of public art throughout the years.  It discusses the purpose and reaction to the statues, sculptures, and murals found around the world.  This is an overview to the art form and can be used as an introduction and supplement to more in-depth teaching or research.  Included in the text is a list of other sources, books and websites for further exploration.  Additional titles in this series include: Walt Disney, Paul Cezanne, Frida Kahlo, Comic Art, Michelangelo, Frank Lloyd Wright, Leonardo da Vinci, Painting, and Manga.

Art (700)     Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS



Kalman, Maira and Daniel Handler. Girls Standing on Lawns. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014. 978-0-087070-908-1. 64 pages, 54 color images.  $14.95. Gr. 7 and up.

This collection of photos from New York’s Museum of Modern Art is just as the title suggests, girls standing on lawns.  A part of America’s history is chronicled in this short book along with some of Kalman’s own paintings inspired by photographs.  This can be used in a creative writing class or an art class or even in an American History class as students imagine and reflect on the background for each photo.  The text provided by Handler gives inspiration and reflects on the possibilities for the situation surrounding the photos.  The authors intend to continue to create collections of these unique photos in book form.  This is a beautiful addition to the Arts and/or Literature sections.

Art, Literature    Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS

New YA Nonfiction…Historical Disasters and Art


Goldsmith, Connie. Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2014. 978-14677-16123 88 p. $26.00 Gr. 7-Adult.

Post-World War II, in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the race was on to increase scientific knowledge of nuclear bombs and radiation, and to outmaneuver enemies with the knowledge.  Plans were made, locations investigated, and the Marshall Islands were deemed the ideal locale for detonations.  “Would you be willing to sacrifice your island for the welfare of all men?”  So asked a Commodore of the U.S. Navy of the Bikini Islanders in 1946.  The answer was yes, and the people left with hopes of returning.  But it was not to be.  Author Connie Goldsmith investigates these events and details in-depth how three bombs in particular were detonated, how the islands and people were affected, and how the government either knew very little or kept it hidden or both.  She presents A-bombs Able and Baker, detonated in 1946, and H-bomb Bravo, detonated in 1954.  The immediate devastation was powerful, and the long-term hazards of radiation were staggering.  In the 1980s the Marshallese were promised compensation but have received very little.  This is a powerful look at a tumultuous time, and students can weigh the moral and military, ethical and scientific.  Well-written, with engaging sidebars and purposeful black-and-white photos and an intriguing title, this book will pull in readers.  Source notes, Glossary, Selected Bibliography, Further Information, Index.

623.4; Disasters                      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



McMullan, James. Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014. 978-161620-2522 113 p. Gr. 7-Adult.

James McMullan today is a distinguished artist, designer and children’s book award winner (for I Stink! with wife Kate), but his early life was wonderfully complex.  Born in 1934, McMullan lived the early years of his life in Cheefoo, China, as a privileged, hesitant (much to his father’s distaste) boy.  The grandson of missionaries who built a successful orphanage and resultant fabric business, his parents continued the work—and lifestyle—as esteemed foreigners.  That is, until World War II, when the Japanese took control of China.  His parents hoped to stay in the life they knew, but with increasing loss of freedoms and increasing fear, his parents opted for a dangerous leave.  In order to freely go, they left the vast majority of their material wealth and, importantly for James and his mother, any sense of stability.  While James and his mother returned to her Canadian family, but eventually skip-hopped the globe (Shanghai, San Francisco, Darjeeling, and so on), his father devoted himself to soldiering with the Allied Forces and for three years did not see his wife or son.  James artfully recalls standout memories of his life from 1934-1946 on double-page presentations, an exquisite watercolor opposite the description of the event and emotions.  He shows many ups and downs, from stability with his aunt and uncle, to the humiliation of “failing” at being the strong, sturdy son his father clearly wished him to be.  The striking artwork conveys both the preciseness and ethereal quality of a life lived learning to enjoy space and place, when neither was guaranteed.  A treat for budding artists or anyone interested in the worldwide effects of World War II.

741.6 Art; Autobiography                Melissa Scott, Shenango High School