Elem. – A Book for Escargot

Slater, Dashka. A Book for Escargot. Farrah Straus Giroux, 2020. 978-0-374-31286-2. 40 p. $16.99. Grades PreK-2.

Escargot wants to cook something new, so he’s at the library looking for a French cookbook. As he travels to the cookbook section, he chats with the reader about their favorite books and questions why no book has a snail hero (there are dog heroes and flamingo astronauts, but no snails :-(. Escargot decides that the reader should write a heroic snail tale, and he will help. He explains that writing a book is like following a recipe, “Add the ingredients, mix them together, and voila! A perfect story!” (12).  As Escargot leads the reader through the heroic snail tale, he gets to the cookbook section and finds The Art of French Cooking. He thinks about what he will learn to cook, green beans, a soufflé, or ratatouille, but first Escargot must get to the book. He “flies” down to enact the resolution of the story he is writing with the reader: find a recipe so that he is no longer bored with salad, but as he flips through the recipes Escargot comes across a recipe for escargot. He is worried that a French chef will see him and decide to make escargot, so Escargot eats the recipe so that no one can cook him!

THOUGHTS: This is an adorable story and fabulous read-aloud! I love the breakdown of the fourth wall and inclusion of the reader in the story. Each page allows for conversation between reader and listener and Escargot. The use of French terms provides a basic introduction and may encourage readers to learn more French. The illustrations are gorgeous and combine old (watercolors and pencil/crayon) with new (digital) to give the book a true feeling of being one with the story. I loved A Book for Escargot, and I can’t wait for more from Dashka Slater and Escargot.

Picture Book          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

YA – Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story)

Nayeri, Daniel. Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story). Levine Querido, 2020. 346 p. 978-1-646-14000-8. $17.99.  Grades 7-12.

When Khosrou’s (Daniel’s) physician mother converts to Christianity in the 1980’s, she endangers her life because of the Iranian government’s restrictions on religion. His father, a jovial, loquacious dentist covertly obtains the proper paperwork for escape, then drops off his eight-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter, Dina, at the airport as his wife starts a journey that will take the threesome to Dubai, Italy, and finally, Oklahoma. Daniel Nayeri’s Printz Award-winning book, Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story), telling how his family turned from comfortable, wealthy land owners to battered, poor refugees can be summed up in these few sentences; but the flow of the chapter-less pages weaves a tale likened to the much admired, Scheherazade of 1,001 Nights. The paragraphs describing memories of Daniel’s (no one in America can pronounce Khosrou!) grandparents’ home and his parents’ relationship spin into beloved Persian legends and myths and wind up next to pages relating the harsher daily existence he experiences in Oklahoma. Daniel is at the center of a maelstrom as the cover depicts, a twelve-year-old boy with different tastes in foods and specific hygienic customs, wanting to fit in yet also wanting to hold on to the Persian culture he cherishes. A son with vivid recollections who longs for the warmth of his biological father, but is resigned to live with his stern, abusive Farsi- speaking step-father whom his mother marries and keeps remarrying for companionship and convenience, despite the beatings she suffers. As Daniel narrates his life tale with casual familiarity, the reader learns of the ancient heritage of Iran and its reverence and love of story, his difficulties adjusting to each stage of the refugee journey, and his impressions of Americans and life here. Most of all, the story is a tribute to the perseverance and unconditional love of his mother, Sima. In the refugee hotel of Italy instead of lolling around all day waiting for the call to emigrate, she makes a connection with a Texan woman living in Rome who home schools her own children and arranges for Daniel and Dina to share in the lessons even though Sima has to spend hours erasing the answers from the host children’s cast-off notebooks so that Daniel and Dina can use them. Her determination and dignity to make life good for her son and daughter are evident in that scene. Told not as a memoir, but as a work of fiction—for as the narrator tells us, it is not so simple to sort out fact from fiction when dealing with one’s memories—Daniel delivers the truth of his life as he remembers it with humor and charm and not a bit of self-pity. Shifting from present to far past to recent past, he shares his varied observations, thus preserving his precious legacy of storytelling, made up or real, or a mixture of both.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

THOUGHTS: Like the coveted cream puffs described in one of Nayeri’s tales, this book is a treat for those who appreciate a different writing style and matchless imagery. There are bits of scatological references—the unhappy affect of a first-time encounter with Sloppy Joes and negotiating a toilet with a bidet—but the targeted audience may appreciate and even empathize with Daniel’s situations. Written with a truly inimitable voice, this work is unlike any book for middle grade or young adult this reader has encountered. Recommend to students who love words or like to write, to those new to a place, or those needing to understand another perspective.

Elem. – Every Night Is Pizza Night

López-Alt, J. Kenji. Every Night Is Pizza Night. Norton Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-324-00525-4. Unpaged. $17.95. Grades K-3.

Pipo is a young scientist, and she has done many tests to prove that pizza is the best meal. Pipo loves pizza so much, in fact, that she makes it every night, despite her parents’ desire (and encouragement) to try something new. Local neighborhood grocer Mr. Gonzales even knows Pipo’s list by heart. Pipo travels around her diverse neighborhood to collect more data because “a good scientist always wants more data.” Her neighbor Eugene makes an old family recipe bibimbap, and Pipo’s reaction has her questioning if it may be better than pizza. She leaves to collect more data around her neighborhood, trying tagine, red beans and rice, and dumplings. Mr. Gonzales, who knows everyone and has tried everything, helps Pipo realize there isn’t only one best food, but Pipo needs science to help her accept this theory. Subtle hints n the decor will show a careful reader more about each neighbor’s recipe and cultural background.

THOUGHTS: Ruggiero’s colorful, lively illustrations bring Pipo’s spunky personality to life. With Pipo’s pizza recipes at the end, this will be a fun addition to any elementary library. Use this title as an exploration of the scientific method, communities and neighborhoods, or as a great way to talk about cultural foods.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

MG – Parked

Svetcov, Danielle. Parked. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-399-53903-9. 383 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Jeanne Ann loves books, watching her mom cook, and normalcy. But when her mother suddenly quits her job and moves the duo across the country to San Francisco, life is anything but normal. Forced to live in their orange van named the Carrot, Jeanne Ann struggles with her mother’s lack of a job all while worrying about school starting in the fall. Cal lives across the street from the parked van and has recently been kicked out of school after graffiting an image on a courtyard wall. Curious about his new “neighbors”, Cal tries to help Jeanne Ann in various ways. The two slowly become friends and Cal tries to get Jeanne Ann to enroll in the middle school he will attend in the fall. But with the local beautification committee trying to get rid of the line of vagrant parked vans on the street, time is running out for both of them.

THOUGHTS: This debut novel from Danielle Svetcov does a wonderful job weaving a story together of two “troubled” teens while delicately addressing homelessness. Middle school students will enjoy the story and connect with the themes of friendship, family, and self-acceptance.

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Elem. – Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration and Cake

Singer, Marilyn. Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration and Cake. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. $16.99. 978-0-7352-2790-3. 48 p. Grades 2-5. 

An eclectic anthology of poetic recipes on a wide array of subjects. Rather than listing ingredients for a favorite dish, these recipes feature sage advice ranging in topics from success in cooking, to courage, magic, and substitution. A few of the poems stick to foodie themes. “Recipe for Adventure” is a celebration of less common produce such as kohlrabi and rambutan. Others stray far from food as the topic in favor of other concepts. In the “Recipe for Fairy Tales” well-known components of favorite tales are listed as ingredients: “a handful of magical beans\ a gathering of ramps (whatever that means).” Illustrations composed of vibrantly colored goauche, block print, and collage fill each page. 

THOUGHTS: A unique anthology with a wide range of poetic styles to add to any school library’s poetry collection. 

811 Poetry          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – Goodnight Veggies

Murray, Diana, and Zachariah OHora. Goodnight Veggies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2020. 978-1-328-86683-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Evening has arrived, and the urban, rooftop garden settles down for the night, because even young vegetables need their rest. An engaging worm (reminiscent of Lowly Worm from Richard Scarry books) on his way home to bed guides the reader through an over- and underground tour of the garden, as each vegetable yawns and begins to nod off. A lullaby with the tomatoes, a bedtime story with the broccoli; each vegetable has its own bedtime routine. And why are the young vegetables so tired? Because they are so busy growing! The rhyming text is sparse, giving center stage to the illustrations. Any young readers who think they don’t like vegetables may change their minds after interacting with the delightful artwork. It’s hard not to like an eggplant who dreams of going into space.

THOUGHTS: A fun book for one-on-one reading or at story time. Youngsters will no doubt enjoy finding their favorite veggie or maybe not-so-favorites, and lively discussions will ensue.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat

Raúl the Third. ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat. Versify, 2020. 978-1-328-55704-9. Unpaged. $14.99. Grades K-2.

Little Lobo and his friends, from the Pura Belpré Honor Book ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market, return for more rollicking fun. This time, Little Lobo is asked to deliver lunch to the professional wrestlers in town for a big show. Little Lobo, his dog Bernabé, and his friend Kooky Dooky the rooster proceed to guide readers through a colorful marketplace of food carts where each delicious offering sounds better than the last. The food carts themselves are examined and explored, as well as the myriad of offerings. As in the first book, Spanish language terms are used extensively, sometimes translated in text, other times readers will go searching for the extensive glossary in the back of the book. The illustrations, in a rainbow of dusky colors, are lively and full of action, begging to be pored over. The text is never simplistic or overly explanatory, relying on readers to explore the Spanish language terms on their own. Unfortunately, the admittedly non-inclusive glossary frequently omits words specifically used in speech bubbles or pull out comments, assuming the reader will have the initiative (and ability) to locate a Spanish/English dictionary or look up the term on the internet.  Nevertheless, it is a marvelously fun introduction to Mexican food and culture.

THOUGHTS:  A must purchase for elementary libraries. The brilliant illustrations by Elaine Bay will enthrall readers, encouraging  multiple readings and the litany of Mexican foods will leave readers very hungry!

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

YA NF – The Book of Chocolate; Jack London; Girl Rising; When the Sky Breaks

Winchester, Simon.  When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World.  Smithsonian/Viking, 2017. 978-0451-476357  $22.99  88 pp.  Gr. 7-12.

Simon Winchester, amateur meteorologist, follows his award-winning When the Earth Shakes: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis (2016) with a second book which focuses on hurricanes (also known as cyclones or typhoons, depending upon rotation and hemisphere), tornadoes, El Nino, La Nina, and why these events occur.  He profiles Hurricane Sandy’s life and effects on New York and New Jersey in 2012; the deadliest U.S. hurricane on record, the Great Galveston Hurricane which hit Texas in 1900; a Hong Kong hurricane he experienced in 1995; one 1974 hurricane which leveled Darwin, Australia; Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines in 2013; and of course, Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in 2005.  Through his often-suspenseful explanations, he explains meteorological instruments; the Coriolis effect (of the rotation of the earth on winds, causing circular wind patterns); the U.S. squadron of hurricane hunters; and the Walker Circulation, named after Gilbert Walker, who proved that “if something meteorological was happening on one side of the ocean, the exact opposite was happening on the other side” (53).  How to maintain public safety while not ‘crying wolf’ amid often unpredictable ferocious storms is the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS).  While hurricanes may pummel land with wind and water, tornadoes have “just” wind, but they more than make up for it with the ferocity and speed of the winds (the highest rating is EF5 at 201+ mph).  Winchester states that our world is warming, and the Pacific Ocean will “carry the world’s heat burden on its own” (77), but that “the world will eventually allow itself to come back into balance” (77).  Still, Winchester pushes for better efforts to clean up our world, for our own sake and for the future.  Recommended Reading, Index.  THOUGHTS: A solid addition to science and STEM collections.

551.5  Weather             Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Newquist, H.P. The Book of Chocolate: The Amazing Story of the World’s Favorite Candy. Viking, 2017.  978-0670-015740. $17.99. 156 pp. Gr. 5-12.

Beginning with “What is chocolate, really?” and detailing how the cocoa (cacao) tree grows, Newquist begins the absorbing story of how the chocolate industry grew (to enormous proportions) and how the chocolate we eat is influenced by continent and makers.  Chocolate has been used as a drug, as money, as aphrodisiac, and daily is used as a delicious treat.  The Mayans and the Aztecs traded cocoa; Columbus was initially unimpressed with the beans, but once Cortes understood the bitter Aztec cocoa beverage (and was treated as the god Quetzalcoatl), he seized numerous plantations and re-routed the cocoa—and the recipe for the cocoa drink—to Spain.  Its popularity grew among the wealthy.  When people tasted it, they wanted more.  Demand was huge for this drink, and fortunately, many were experimenting with flavors and pressing.  Not until 1847 was the chocolate bar born; in 1875, milk chocolate (courtesy of Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter).  Just four years later, Rodolphe Lindt created the “conch” machine that made chocolate smooth, pourable, and revolutionary; he kept his methods secret for two decades.  Milton Hershey in Pennsylvania thus created his own methods to make a smooth milk chocolate and form an empire.  The candy battles were just beginning.  Newquist brings humanity to the history of chocolate, explaining how greed and flavors, advertising and demand would influence the industry in both the United States and in Europe (where Hershey’s chocolate are sneered at as inferior).  Newquist is complete in his explanation of chocolate manufacturing today and small chocolate makers worldwide, and what chemically makes chocolate so addictive.  He does include information on the dark side of the chocolate trade: human slavery on African plantations, and how companies are trying to address the issue.  And if you’d like to know the most popular chocolate brand in the U.S today?  It’s M&M’s!  Glossary, sources, index.

THOUGHTS: Newquist has created a highly readable account of the history of chocolate, colorful and full of research and photos.  Anyone who likes chocolate or who wonders about the major producers or future of the industry will enjoy this book.  More suitable for younger readers than Kay Frydenborg’s also interesting Chocolate: Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat (2015).  This could also be paired with Gillian Richardson’s Ten Plants That Shook the World (2013) or Michael O. Tunnell’s Candy Bomber: The Story of Berlin Airlift’s ‘Chocolate Pilot’” (2010) or any examination of industry and economics.

338.4; Chocolate Industry              Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Lourie, Peter. Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush.  Henry Holt & Company, 2017. 978-08050-97573  $18.99  192 pp.  Grades 5-12.

One year in the life of Jack London; one year that killed many other men; one year that gave him all the fodder he needed for his exceptional stories about the gold rush and life in the harsh outdoor conditions of the Klondike.  In 1897, London joined the hordes of men headed on a 500-mile journey to the Klondike with hopes of finding gold.  While some found gold, many more did not.  London’s youth, optimism, physical strength and ability to connect with people helped him with his group.  Lourie wisely adds London’s own words about the experience, heightening the terrible reality of lost lives and dreams.  Photographs, sidebars and illustrations by Wendell Minor provide needed visual insight into the people and the dangers.  Lourie ends with notes from the author, notable places, a timeline of London’s life, bibliography and index. THOUGHTS:  This is not biography of London’s entire life, nor is it meant to be.  Covering this year of inspiration (which ended when London developed scurvy) can easily inspire young people to seek out London’s novels and short stories.  London’s personality comes through as a persistent and optimistic man.

Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Stone, Tanya Lee. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time. Wendy Lamb Books, 2017. 978-0553-511468  $22.99  195 pp.  Gr. 7-12.

Girl Rising began as a film featuring the stories of nine girls whose situations (arranged marriage, forced slavery, and cultures that enabled it) had kept them from getting an education.  When she saw this film, author Tanya Lee Stone felt compelled to learn more, “What are the major obstacles to education, and what causes them in the first place?  Why are these issues so much more of a problem for girls than for boys?  What can we do about what seems to be an overwhelming global problem?” (preface).  She found that in more than fifty countries, school is not free.  Most often, it is the girls who are kept from school.  Poverty, gender discrimination and cultural expectations leave many families with limited choices.  Child marriage, slavery, and human trafficking exist even in countries where they are illegal.  Stone focuses largely on two sections in her book: The Stories and The Solutions.  Girls from Cambodia to India, Peru to Nepal, their faces draw readers to read their words.  The combination of clear photography, stark stories, and the girls’ own words makes this book a powerful push for change.  Excellent bibliography shares books, articles, reports, websites and videos (which could be useful to share with students to drive home the reality of the girls’ lives).  What Stone shows us is at once heartbreaking and hopeful.  The only drawback is the lack of any map identifying countries, to illustrate the truly worldwide nature of this problem.  THOUGHTS: It is hard to stop reading this book, since the stories are so compelling and the danger so real.  And it would be so easy for these girls to be broken.  But many are standing up, speaking out, even while (in many cases) being very careful to reveal their identities for fear of revenge against themselves or their family members.  This book shows the despair, and it shows the hope for these girls and for the world to experience their intelligence, their talents, and their bravery.  This would be a wonderful complement to fiction such as Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns (Afghanistan), Staples’ Shabanu (Pakistan), or Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird (India). Also consider nonfiction: I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (2014); I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorce (2010); and Laura Scandiffio’s excellent Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School (2016), which details this worldwide problem for both genders and has proven popular among my high school students.

371.8 Girls & Education              Melissa Scott, Shenango High School