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Find more Lasting Connections of 2010
Every January here at Book Links we enjoy taking a look back and choosing our favorite books of the last year for K–8 classrooms and libraries. The 30 titles below are all outstanding, with a multitude of possibilities for use in the core content areas. From poetry to fiction to informational titles on topics ranging from climate change to the American Revolution to love, there’s something for everyone.
Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia. By Jeanette Winter. Illus. by the author. 2010. 32p. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $16.99 (9781416997788). PreS–Gr. 2.
Following up on The Librarian of Basra (2005), about another passionate bibliophile, Winter relates the heartwarming true story of Luis Soriana, a Colombian villager who braves difficult terrain and bandits to bring books by burro to his neighbors. Winter’s colorful acrylics are strikingly set against white backgrounds, and her rhythmic storytelling adds appealing details. With its positive message about the magic of reading, this picture book pairs well with Judy Sierra’s Wild about Books (2004), another Lasting Connections title.
Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters. By Jeannine Atkins. 2010. 224p. Holt, $16.99 (9780805089349). 811. Gr. 6–9.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, and Marie Curie were all born in 1867, and Atkins masterfully uses poetry to tell the fascinating life stories of these ground-breaking women through the lens of their relationships with their daughters. Rose Wilder helped her mother write stories about her pioneer childhood; A’Lelia Walker played a role in her mother’s successful beauty business and was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance; and Irène Joliot-Curie became an accomplished physicist, following in her Nobel Prize–winning mother’s footsteps.
Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love. By Pat Mora. 2010. 176p. Knopf, $15.99 (9780375843754); lib. ed., $18.99 (9780375945656). 811. Gr. 7–10.
Mora employs a variety of voices and forms, including haiku, sonnets, and free verse, in these 50 poems (including one in Spanish) that evoke the states of love. The first-person teenage voices ring true, and so do the emotions, from “love’s initial rush and confusion, to love’s challenges, heartaches, and quiet sadness . . . to falling in love again.”
The Dreamer. By Pam Muñoz Ryan. Illus. by Peter Sís. 2010. 384p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780439269704). Gr. 4–8.
This gorgeous example of bookmaking combines Ryan’s lyrical storytelling and Sís’ atmospheric interior illustrations to relate the story of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood and growing-up years. As the young poet comes of age, both he and the reader become aware of the Chilean government’s oppressive treatment of those who speak out for justice and equality. Neruda’s unique perspective on the world and his father’s chilling intolerance for his son’s loves and talents are memorably depicted here.
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Josée Masse. 2010. 32p. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525479017). 811. Gr. 2–5.
“We read most poems down a page. But what if we read them up?” In this creative poetry picture book, Singer’s ingenious reversos—poems that can be read both forward and backward—portray opposing voices in fairy tales. “In the Hood” begins in Red Riding Hood’s voice: “In my hood, / skipping through the wood.” Read it in reverse, and the wolf’s voice comes to life, ending with “skipping through the wood / In my ’hood.” Masse’s rich, colorful full-page illustrations cleverly play off the juxtaposing viewpoints; each scene is divided in two, separating (in most cases) the pairs of characters. Lots of fun to puzzle over, and intrigued students will enjoy creating their own reversos.
Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook. By Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. Illus. by Matt Phelan. 2010. 272p. Roaring Brook/Flash Point, $16.99 (9781596435148); paper, $9.99 (9781596436282). 808.02. Gr. 5–9.
Veteran children’s book authors Mazer and Potter trade off giving lighthearted, solid advice on the art of writing, with “I Dare You” sidebars featuring activities for young writers to try (“Think of six qualities for a character”) and revelations from their own experiences (“I still struggle with not feeling smart enough,” says Potter). The stand-alone chapters can be dipped in and out of and are rich resources for helping students increase their writing confidence.
Word after Word after Word. By Patricia MacLachlan. 2010. 128p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $14.99 (9780060279714); lib. ed., $15.89 (9780060279721). Gr. 2–5.
A six-week visit from an author turns a fourth-grade class into aspiring writers. Through the perspectives of five classmates who are each dealing with problems—from a parent’s cancer to the adoption of a new baby sibling to the loss of a pet—MacLachlan’s simply told story speaks to the transformative power of poetry: “The sun will shine down word / After word / After word / Planting our stories in the earth.” Share this with Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog (2001), another Lasting Connections title.
Lucky Beans. By Becky Birtha. Illus. by Nicole Tadgell. 2010. 32p. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (9780807547823). Gr. 1–3.
This cross-curricular picture book set during the Depression combines the mathematical concept of estimation with the engaging story of a young African American boy’s family and its struggle to cope with tough times. Young Marshall’s mother would love to take home the sewing machine being offered as a prize in a local store, but to win it, one must figure out how many beans are in an enormous jar. Tadgell’s watercolors effectively portray the time and place.
1 + 1 = 5: And Other Unlikely Additions. By David LaRochelle. Illus. by Brenda Sexton. 2010. 32p. Sterling, $14.95 (9781402759956). 513.2. K–Gr. 2.
“1 + 1 = 14?” LaRochelle’s clever mathematical picture book features addition puzzles that will have kids looking and then looking again. On the right-hand pages, a seemingly incorrect 1 + 1 problem is stated. Turn the page, and the answer is revealed (in the case of 14, “1 ant + 1 spider = 14 legs!”). Sexton’s busy, bright artwork depicts the hidden elements to be added in the first view and then zeros in on them in the next. While a few of the puzzles are a little confusing (“1 a.m. + 1 p.m. = 1 day”), the stronger examples are perfect for sharing with students, who may enjoy creating their own problems, too.
Zero. By Kathryn Otoshi. Illus. by the author. 2010. 32p. KO Kids, $17.95 (9780972394635). PreS–Gr. 3.
This follow-up to Otoshi’s One (2008) is a counting book with positive messages about self-esteem and identity. When Zero looked at herself, “she just saw a hole . . . right in the center.” Attempting to emulate the other numbers, she stretches and straightens, pushes and pulls, but ends up unsuccessful and deflated. Ultimately though, Zero discovers a way to count too. Otoshi’s bold, open pages effectively use design elements to convey the story’s theme, with brightly colored numbers appearing against solid black and white backgrounds, and Zero transforming from gray to silver upon discovering her value.
How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships. By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Illus. by Steve Jenkins. 2010. 32p. Houghton, $16 (9780547245157). 591.7. K–Gr. 3.
Acclaimed science authors Page and Jenkins give younger readers a fascinating glimpse into symbiosis in this information-packed picture book. Jenkins’ cut-paper art appears in busy, comiclike panels that illustrate a range of partnerships, including those between ocean sunfish and seagulls, hippopotamuses and helmeted turtles, and dogs and humans. A section at the end offers further information about each animal depicted, along with an additional reading list.
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot. By Sy Montgomery. Illus. by Nic Bishop. 2010. 80p. Houghton, $18 (9780618494170). 639.9. Gr. 4–7.
This title in the ongoing Scientists in the Field series magnificently portrays the urgent efforts of scientists and volunteers to save a rare New Zealand parrot from extinction. Award-winning collaborators Montgomery and Bishop successfully show why the kakapo (which at the time of publication numbered 87 in all) are worth fighting for, and readers will be drawn into the setbacks and triumphs chronicled in the engaging narrative. Stunning photographs help document the extreme lengths the recovery team takes to protect and promote kakapo growth, and the images of the birds themselves are dazzling.
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge. By Joanna Cole. Illus. by Bruce Degen. 2010. 48p. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780590108263). Gr. 2–4.
Anyone searching for a clear, succinct explanation of climate change for younger readers will appreciate this latest installment in the long-running Magic School Bus series. Ms. Frizzle covers global warming, the greenhouse effect, fossil fuel use, and energy alternatives in a madcap road trip to the Arctic and beyond. A lighthearted two-page spread of questions and answers at the book’s conclusion helps summarize the issues and information presented.
Nic Bishop Lizards. By Nic Bishop. Illus. by the author. 2010. 48p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545206341). 597.95. Gr. 2–4.
Following up on Nic Bishop Spiders (2007), Nic Bishop Frogs (2008), and Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths (2009), the master nature author-photographer offers an equally exciting look at the world of lizards, from the rarely photographed thorny devil of Australia to an astonishing action shot of a basilisk dashing across the water’s surface. Bishop’s lively text is as engaging as his photos, and as in previous titles in the series, an author’s note at the end gives further insight on the challenges of animal photography.
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian. By Margarita Engle. Illus. by Julie Paschkis. 2010. 32p. Holt, $16.99 (9780805089370). 595.78. K–Gr. 3.
In this cross-curricular picture-book biography, Engle’s poetic text and Paschkis’ luminous paintings tell of Maria Merian, a 13-year-old girl in seventeenth-century Germany whose secret observations and paintings of the process of metamorphosis disproved the idea of spontaneous generation. Perfect to share as part of a life cycle unit or during Women’s History Month.
Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Beckie Prange. 2010. 40p. Houghton, $17 (9780618717194). 811. Gr. 2–5.
The creators of Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (2005) return to explore long-lasting survivors in nature, from bacteria to squirrels. On each double-page spread Prange’s watercolored linocuts combine with Sidman’s poems and informational paragraphs to cover one featured plant or animal. For instance, on the pages about grass, the illustrations show a selection of grass types; the poem states “I make my humble, / bladed bed. / And where there’s level ground, / I spread”; and the prose paragraph reveals that “grasses now cover almost one-third of the earth’s land surface.” An eye-opening time line of life on earth appears on the endpapers.
Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story. By S. D. Nelson. Illus. by the author. 2010. 48p. Abrams, $19.95 (9780810983991). 978.004. Gr. 5–8.
Gorgeously illustrated and lyrically told, this substantive picture book examines the life of Black Elk and is as much a look at the spiritual and cultural aspects of the Lakota as it is an account of the United States government’s shameful treatment of native peoples. Nelson’s acrylic paintings and pencil drawings alternate with archival images to document Black Elk’s childhood, when he received a powerful vision that influenced the rest of his life; his experiences at the battles of Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee; and his time as a member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. An author’s note, time line, source notes, and further reading make this handsome book a solid research title as well as a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.
Countdown. By Deborah Wiles. 2010. 400p. illus. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545106054). Gr. 5–7.
Through an artfully designed combination of fictional story and photographs, historical quotes, song lyrics, and period advertisements and cartoons, this novel set near Andrews Air Force Base during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis chronicles 11-year-old Franny Chapman’s struggle to find a place in her family and with her classmates. With the terrifying shadow of nuclear war always in the background, Wiles realistically portrays Franny’s worries, hopes, and dreams.
The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution. By Jim Murphy. 2010. 96p. illus. Scholastic, $21.99 (9780439691864). 973.3. Gr. 5–8.
Murphy captures the United States’ tenuous beginnings in this gripping account of the early days of the American Revolution. After describing the formidable obstacles facing General George Washington, Murphy suspensefully leads up to the decisive American victories at the Battles of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton, pivotal turning points in the war. Maps, period illustrations, source notes, a time line, and a note about Leutze’s painting Washington Crossing the Delaware complete the package, which makes an effective pairing with Russell Freedman’s Lafayette and the American Revolution (see below).
The Cruisers. By Walter Dean Myers. 2010. 128p. Scholastic, $15.99 (9780439916264). Gr. 5–8.
A group of slacker students at an exclusive middle school in Harlem finds something to get passionate about when a Civil War unit leads kids to take sides along racial lines. While the premise sometimes stretches credibility, Myers’ engaging characters, authentic storytelling, and thought-provoking themes make this short novel that touches on historical perspectives and racial discrimination ideal for classroom study.
The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough. By Katie Smith Milway. Illus. by Sylvie Daigneault. 2010. 32p. Kids Can, $18.95 (9781554534883). Gr. 2–4.
Daigneault’s oversize colored-pencil drawings accompany Milway’s empowering story of a Honduran family whose efforts to farm more sustainably lead to greater independence from coyote middlemen who are eager to exploit the campesinos. With back matter offering suggestions on what children can do to improve food security around the world, this picture book for older readers is divided into two-page chapters that lend themselves to episodic sharing in the classroom.
Heart of a Samurai. By Margi Preus. 2010. 320p. illus. Abrams/Amulet, $15.95 (9780810989818). Gr. 7–10.
Preus tells the true story of 14-year-old Manjiro, a Japanese boy who was shipwrecked in 1841, rescued by an American whaling ship, relocated to Massachusetts, and eventually able to return to Japan despite that country’s strict isolationist policies. Preus’ extensive research of Manjiro’s life and her authentic portrayal of whaling practices of the time bring this historical novel to life. An effective book to pair with Rhoda Blumberg’s nonfiction title Shipwrecked! (2001), another Lasting Connections title.
Lafayette and the American Revolution. By Russell Freedman. 2010. 96p. illus. Holiday, $24.95 (9780823421824). 355.0092. Gr. 6–9.
The dramatic story of the marquis de Lafayette’s role in the American Revolution receives first-class treatment here, with color period illustrations, a spacious page design, and Freedman’s expertly researched, readable account. After defying the French government in supporting the American cause, the passionate 19-year-old nobleman arrived in the United States with no battle experience, yet he soon proved his worth after wintering at Valley Forge and playing key parts in other areas of the war. Pair with Jim Murphy’s The Crossing (see above) for two enlightening perspectives on the Revolutionary War.
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story. By Linda Sue Park. 2010. 128p. Clarion, $16 (9780547251271). Gr. 6–9.
Park alternates the narratives of Salva, a real-life Lost Boy of the Second Sudanese Civil War, and Nya, a fictional contemporary Sudanese girl who walks hours every day to bring water to her family. Not only is this short novel a gripping survival story, but it also demonstrates the life-changing opportunities that wells can bring to Sudanese villages today. What may seem like a remote, distant conflict to many American readers will have new meaning after they encounter this powerful tale.
Me and Rolly Maloo. By Janet S. Wong. Illus. by Elizabeth Buttler. 2010. 128p. Charlesbridge, $15.95 (9781580891585). Gr. 2–4.
Ethics are at the forefront of this appealing contemporary story about the effects of cheating and the dangers of spreading rumors and making false assumptions. When mean girls Jenna and Patty pressure Rolly Maloo to cheat on a math test, their fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Pie, must figure out who really deserves the blame. Buttler’s interior illustrations incorporate comics-style elements to help tell the breezy, thought-provoking story.
One Crazy Summer. By Rita Williams-Garcia. 2010. 224p. Amistad, $15.99 (9780060760885); lib. ed., $16.89 (9780060760892). Gr. 4–7.
When 11-year-old Delphine and her younger sisters are shipped off to Oakland in 1968 to spend the summer with their mother, they end up at a Black Panthers’ day camp, where they learn more about themselves and their mysterious poet mother, who abandoned them seven years before. Williams-Garcia’s memorable characters, poignant, humorous storytelling, and stirring themes are set against the turbulent times of the civil rights movement.
Rain School. By James Rumford. Illus. by the author. 2010. 32p. Houghton, $16.99 (9780547243078). PreS–Gr. 2.
Rumford’s experiences as a Peace Corp volunteer inform this look at a school in rural Chad. Young Thomas’ first lesson at school will be helping build the classroom. From making mud bricks to constructing walls, the children all pitch in, and when it’s finished, the learning begins. After the nine months of the school year end, the rainy season arrives, and the building slowly falls apart, only to be rebuilt again next year. Rumford’s expressive double-page paintings and spare storytelling depict characters and a setting that will expand young readers’ horizons.
The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story about Suffrage. By Iris Van Rynbach and Pegi Deitz Shea. Illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. 2010. 32p. Clarion, $16.99 (9780547236315). 324.6. Gr. 1–3.
Two sister farmers in 1869 Connecticut protest taxation without representation when the town leaders (all men) “chose to collect an unfair share from single female landowners.” Over the next several years, the sisters continuously petition their local and state governments for the right to vote, and as part of the battle their cows are taken back and forth to auction to pay the taxes. McCully’s expressive watercolors are a witty counterpoint to the substantial text of this intriguing picture book about women’s rights, based on a true story.
They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. By Susan Campbell Bartoletti. 2010. 176p. illus. Houghton, $19 (9780618440337). 322.4. Gr. 7–12.
Expertly researched and engrossing as well as chilling, Bartoletti’s latest foray into history depicts the origination of the Ku Klux Klan and its eventual reign of terror against anyone who opposed its system of vigilante justice. Useful as part of a study of the Civil War, Reconstruction, or the civil rights movement, this in-depth look at racial intolerance in America is peppered with firsthand quotes, period illustrations, and documents and also features enlightening back matter.
Young Zeus. By G. Brian Karas. Illus. by the author. 2010. 48p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780439728065). 398.20938. Gr. 1–4.
Karas’ hilarious picture book chronicles the myth of Zeus, from his narrow escape as a baby from his evil father to his eventual victory over the Titans. When young Zeus wants to know why he doesn’t have any siblings to play with, his caretaker, an enchanted she-goat, responds, “It’s complicated. Sit down and have some milk and honey.” In this lively introduction to Greek mythology, Karas’ oversize, whimsical, gouache-and-pencil illustrations depict monsters and gods in all their glory.
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