Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story / by Caren Stelson. 6.23.2017

Carolrhoda Books ISBN 9781467789035

YA Grades 5-12 Rating: 5

Sachiko shares a Nagasaki bomb survivor’s story of the devastation that changed her family’s lives in 1945, chronicled through extensive interviews with author Caren Stelson.

Sachiko was six when a U.S. military plane dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan just prior to the end of the Second World War in the Pacific. Thousands of adults and children died that horrific day, including several of Sachiko’s siblings. More people, including Sachiko’s extended family, died in the days, weeks, and years that followed. As she matured, she wrote of the influence Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi had on her growing conviction to embrace non-violence and teach others to do the same. As a result, Sachiko decided to publicly share her story of the bombing and radiation sickness in the hope that it never happens again to anyone. Extensive bibliographical references and an index aid additional study.

The author inserts in-depth historical summaries of events and facts in special sections between episodes of Sachiko’s story. The carefully researched historical information add a wider and deeper context for the intimate details of Sachiko’s personal experiences, allowing knowledge and empathy to grow in readers. Tight writing, strong verbs, and original metaphors join with compelling themes and facts–all these transform this shocking and tragic story, a Robert F. Sibert Honor book, into a compelling revelation. Sachiko rises above painful ashes and waves a bright banner of hope that future tragedies can be avoided if difficult truths are known.

Connie Brown, CLJ

God’s Good News: Devotions from Billy Graham / by Billy Graham; illustrated by Scott Wakefield. 6.22.2017

Tommy Nelson ISBN 9780718006303

INT Grades K-6 Rating: 5

God’s Good News by noted Christian evangelist Billy Graham offers 74 illustrated Bible stories for young readers. Graham opens with an inspiring note inviting parents and children to read about God’s love and good news; he closes with a heartfelt prayer for his readers.

The stories are evenly divided between the Old and New Testaments, using scripture quotations from The New King James Version of the Bible. Brief italicized segments provide contextual information when needed, and accompanying each story is a related sidebar from Billy Graham offering additional details, questions to ponder, and spiritual “takeaways.”

For the very young, God’s Good News Bible Storybook is a wonderful introduction to events from the Bible. This is a book that children can grow up with: first by having a parent describe the stories depicted in the illustrations, later as independent readers with a fuller grasp of the actual text, and eventually as “tweens” re-reading their favorite stories and considering some of the author’s devotional messages.

Bright illustrations by Scott Wakefield are bold and active, capturing the history, drama, and awe of the subject matter. The artist adds visual interest and stimulates the imagination by showing scenes from varying perspectives–from inside the pit with Daniel, eye-level with Noah and a giraffe, gazing up at Moses atop the mountain.

God’s Good News would be a treasured gift at any age. This attractive book with its padded hard cover, embossed lettering, and almost 200 heavy pages, is practically destined to find an enduring place on a child’s bookshelf or nightstand!

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

The Drum of Destiny / by Chris Stevenson. 6.2.2017

Stone Arch Books ISBN 9781496526731

YA Grades 5-9 Rating: 4

The American Revolutionary War is an exciting time for a boy, especially for a 12-year-old New Yorker. An avid reader and fluent in French (thanks to his patriot father who owned a book store and his mother’s French roots), Gabe suddenly finds himself orphaned and thrust into the home of a staunch British loyalist. The Reverend Loring, with ten children of his own, treats Gabe more like a servant than a child.

Crisis strikes during dinner one night when Gabe refuses to toast King George III of England and is cast out of the house. He finds himself on the street where the only families that exist are gangs of thieves or pickpockets. Spending a solitary night by a river, Gabe finds a drum that inspires him to travel to Boston in hopes of becoming a drummer boy in George Washington’s army. The only problem is that he doesn’t know how to play the drum. Would they still accept him? Can he make it on foot from New York City to Boston?

Through a series of mishaps on the road, Gabe learns the consequences of indecision and of ignoring good advice. He also painfully realizes that war recognizes no age.

Chris Stevenson leads the reader on a geographic tour and action-packed journey through old Manhattan and across King’s Bridge at the northern tip of the island toward Boston, as Gabe confronts troubles, dangers, and sickness, and finds friends as well as foes. He even meets Benedict Arnold! Significant historical information is conveyed through the characters’ eyes, making the facts meaningful in context and easy to remember.

Although Gabe’s resolve and determination are tested and often waver, he learns courage by staying true to his goals and to himself and grasps the importance of earning the respect of others by being truthful. The Drum of Destiny is an engaging historical adventure filled with life-lessons for young and old alike.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

12 Children Who Changed the World / by Kenya McCullum. (Change Makers) 5.16.2017

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351463

YA Grades 5-8 Rating: 4

12 Children Who Changed the World is one of six books in 12-Story Library’s Change Makers series for middle grade readers.

This small format book introduces 12 remarkable youth, some famous (Anne Frank) and some lesser-known (Samantha Smith), from ancient times (King Tut and Joan of Arc) to modern (education advocate Malala Yousafzai). All achieved a place in history by being leaders, challengers, and creators of change.

Six girls and six boys are featured for their involvement with issues including apartheid, the holocaust, racism, AIDS, and child labor. Others have made enduring contributions to math (Blaise Pascal) and music (Wolfgang Mozart).

Author Kenya McCullum provides engaging biographical details, along with significant facts and related social and cultural background. Each of the 12 children is presented over two pages highlighted with photographs.Helpful extras include “Think About It” questions, a glossary, and a list of books and internet resources. Readers are invited to “go beyond the book” for additional content on the publisher’s website.

12 Children Who Changed the World would be a compelling volume for a home or classroom library, manageable for younger readers, but with a range of topics that may be more suited to grades 5 and above.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Turning Points in History series / by Lois Sepahban and by Angie Smibert. 5.15.2017

12 Incredible Facts about the D-Day Invasion / by Lois Sepahban. (Turning Points in History)

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351289

12 Incredible Facts about the Moon Landing / by Angie Smibert. (Turning Points in History)

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351302

YA Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

12 Incredible Facts about the D-Day Invasion and 12 Incredible Facts about the Moon Landing are two of eight books in 12-Story Library’s Turning Points in History series for middle grade readers. These small format books provide historical and political background, along with significant dates, places, people, and details. Each of the 12 “incredible facts” is expanded over two pages of compelling information, highlighted by related sidebars, maps, and photographs.

Lois Sepahban’s 12 Incredible Facts about the D-Day Invasion presents events leading up to the D-Day Invasion, the planning and strategy, the battle itself, and the aftermath. Contemporary photos illustrate wartime conditions including weaponry and the holding of prisoners.

Angie Smibert’s 12 Incredible Facts about the Moon Landing reviews the “space race,” the early U.S. space program, and the Apollo missions. Both triumphs and tragedies are included, along with thoughts about what the moon landing meant for America.

Each volume offers a great synopsis of a significant event in U.S. history, jam-packed with facts and figures, eye-catching page design, and helpful extras including a list of key dates, glossary, and references. The publisher also offers interactive content, videos, and updates on its website.

The Turning Points in History series would be well-suited to home or school reading. These concise books are manageable for younger history buffs, yet there is enough depth to the material to elevate the reading level for older students.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Broken Ground / by Karen Halvorsen Schreck. 5.5.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476794839

Adult (YA)      Rating: 5

Ruth envisions an idyllic life with the man she loves, going to college, and becoming a teacher. When a terrible tragedy shatters her life, Ruth must decide how much she wants to live–and how to escape a domineering father. Her choice propels her on a journey through America’s 1930s western landscape dotted with Hoovervilles and plagued by state-sponsored racism.

After an assault and a false accusation derail her dream of school and uproot her again, she embarks on a new journey into the world of Mexican workers fighting illegal deportations. In the midst of her own grief and struggles, Ruth rises above herself and discovers the redeeming qualities of service to others that transforms her life and that of those around her. Teaching the Mexican children, she learns that every child should feel content, that education is a universal right, and that God is the God of all cultures and languages.

Through thoughtful narrative, engaging dialogue, and descriptive scenes, Karen Halvorsen Schreck portrays a little-known part of American History. In addition, Broken Ground is a powerful reminder of the redemptive quality of suffering that leads to fruitful growth in God, and that proves that all things do work together for good, if you are open to God’s call and willing to go wherever that takes you.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

No Ordinary Fairy Tale series / by R. J. Anderson 4.7.2017

Knife / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 1)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840510

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Rebel / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 2)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840596

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Arrow / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 3)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840657

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 5

Author R. J. Anderson pens an unusual fairy tale series, one that was previously published in the United Kingdom and is now available for American readers.

In Knife, a young fairy–Knife–is determined to discover why the fairy realm Oakenwyld has lost its magic and how they can get it back. Their numbers are dwindling and only female fairies are left. Fiercely independent Knife is unafraid of the crows, the humans, or even the Fairy Queen herself. She befriends Paul, a human, who joins in her quest to save her dying fairy realm. How will her friendship with Paul change all their lives?

In Rebel, fifteen-year-old Linden, Knife’s foster daughter, is the youngest and smallest fairy, yet the dying queen asks her to go out into the human world and find other fairies to save Oakenwyld. Fifteen-year-old Timothy is staying with his cousin Paul and his wife who are friends of the fairies. Disillusioned by his missionary parents’ faith, Timothy also doesn’t believe in fairies. When Linden begs him for help, Timothy gets caught up in the struggle against evil threatening both their worlds. Will they find the legendary white stone that could save her fairy realm?

In Arrow, fairy Rhosmari is one of the Children of Rhys who live on the magical Green Isles, with limited contact with the outside world and its evils. Sworn never to use violence against others, the Children of Rhys refuse to help when an evil fairy empress gathers an army to destroy the fairies at Oakenwyld and other locations in Britain.

Rhosmari leaves the Green Isles in search of her former betrothed Garan who took the Stone of Naming to Oakenwyld. Having lived all her life in a secluded community, she experiences culture shock when she meets the other fairies. The empress wants Rhosmari because of her access to the Children of Rhys. She is torn–if she fights the empress, she can never return home; if she refuses, she puts the others in jeopardy.

The writings of C. S. Lewis and Tolkien inspired Anderson to write fantasy stories from a Christian worldview for a general audience. Anderson does a good job creating the fairy world. Just like the human world, there are good and bad fairies, loyal and rebellious ones. These fairies are not like the fairies from Sleeping Beauty or Peter Pan; they are a community unto themselves with their own rules and roles (hunter, gatherer, healer, leader). Set in the United Kingdom, the fairies tie in with the Celtic legends in the area. Her No Ordinary Fairy Tale series has a light faith element in Knife and a stronger presence in Rebel and Arrow.

Knife received critical acclaim in the UK and was nominated for the 2009 Carnegie Award. Rebel was a 2016 Christy award nominee (Young Adult category). Arrow is a worthy conclusion to the series and potential future award winner.

Recommended for teen readers in public libraries and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids / edited by Naomi J. Krueger; illustrated by Peter Grosshauser. (Spark Story Bible) 4.3.2017

Spark House Family ISBN 9781506417684

PRI K-Grade 5 Rating: 4

Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids is an illustrated collection of 50 prayers, worded and compiled for young readers.

Nine authors contributed to this 2017 Junior Library Guild Selection, edited by Naomi J. Krueger and organized into four chapters: Prayers of Morning and Evening, Prayers of Praise, Prayers of Comfort, and Prayers of Creation. Each short prayer is titled, referenced to a psalm, and accompanied by an illustration. The prayers reflect a range of thoughts, emotions, and situations.

Imbedded sparkles on the book’s cover suggest that something really special is inside! Cartoon-style illustrations by Peter Grosshauser add brightness and activity to the pages; a friendly green snake playfully appears throughout. The readability and length of the prayers are right on target for children.

A Message for Kids” explains what the psalms are, where to find them in the Bible, and why they are such an expressive part of prayer. “A Message for Grown-ups” encourages parents to help their children engage with the material. Blank pages at the end of the book are included for readers to write their own notes or prayers.

With an intended grade school audience, Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids offers simple, succinct prayers that children can share and understand. The book’s well-organized format and small size make it the perfect travel companion or bedside devotional.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

The Prince Warriors series / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. 3.31.2017

The Prince Warriors / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 1)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690198

The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 2)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690204

The Prince Warriors and the Sword of Rhema / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 3)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690211

INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 4

Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler co-authored this fiction series for children ages 8-12 years old. Xavier and Evan are brothers and used to fighting each other. Now they discover the real battle is in the spiritual realm, and they have been called to fight it using the armor of God.

In The Prince Warriors, Xavier and Evan find themselves in a hidden realm (Ahoratos) where some friends join them, and they learn under the tutelage of Ruwach what it means to be Prince Warriors. He directs them in their first danger-filled adventure and warns them not to take anything from Ahoratos back to their world. Will they defeat the enemy in their first battle with him? What happens when one of them forgets Ruwach’s warning?

In The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, they face new weapons from the enemy, ones they never even imagined. They are given more armor to help them face the deadly Olethron. Have they learned their lessons well? What about the consequence of those seemingly harmless decisions that went against Ruwach’s instructions? Will that cost them the battle?

In The Prince Warriors and the Sword of Rhema, the Prince Warriors finally receive their long-awaited swords, promised to them when they first began their training in Ahoratos. Now they must face the enemy for the final battle to stop him. Will their swords give them victory? Will they recognize the traitor in their midst?

Gina Detwiler and Priscilla Shirer, author of several best-selling adult non-fiction books, do an excellent job of capturing the voice of the children in this new series. They tackle the non-fiction topic of spiritual warfare through the use of fantasy fiction to reach their target audience. More character development than plot development, the series is an easy read for young readers, filled with adventure, choices, consequences of wrong choices, danger, and wisdom gained from experience. Both boys and girls alike will enjoy this series. Loosely based on Ephesians 6:10-18, the series highlights the armor of God and its application in spiritual warfare.

Recommended for school and public libraries. The authors have also created an app for smartphones and a 365-day devotional (Unseen: The Prince Warriors 365 Devotional)

for their young readers, based on the series.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Robo Tales series / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. 3.29.2017

Tinker / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. (Robo Tales, 1)

Novel Kids Press ISBN 9780996294508

INT Grades 4-5 Rating: 3

Mardok and the Seven Exiles / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. (Robo Tales, 2)

Novel Kids Press ISBN 9780996294522

INT Grades 4-5 Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson and her son Luke Williamson co-author this series aimed at young readers, featuring a robotic dog.

In Tinker, 13-year-old Tinker lives with his uncle and two cousins, Grezzer and Ratch, on the planet Kitz. Although his uncle owns the repair shop, Tinker does most of the work. When the Invention Institute holds a Recycle Race, Tinker builds an airbike to compete against his cousins. They sabotage his entry, and a robot dog named Robo helps him fix his entry in time. Who will win the Race and the coveted apprenticeship at the Invention Institute?

In Mardok and the Seven Exiles, Robo flies to the moon Relo on his way to President Cassian. Cadet Riv Mardok is asked by General Gruss to hunt down the Ice Beast. He eagerly accepts the quest but finds himself trapped in a deep pit in the forest. When he calls for help, it is Robo to the rescue. Together with the other exiles, they pursue the Ice Beast, discovering who is behind the strange things happening at the Space Force Military Academy. Can they stop him before Robo flies off to the President?

Ms. Williamson and her son pen convincing stories about Robo and his adventures. It is hard to believe that a robot dog is the main character in these tales, but somehow it works. Williamson used illustrations from a number of young artists, ages 10-15.

Although self-published, these books will appeal to its intended audience. The futuristic spin on a Cinderella story (Tinker) and Snow White (Mardok and the Seven Exiles) will delight readers. In light of the Makerspace movement in libraries, this reviewer recommends Tinker for book clubs.

Recommended for public and school libraries. The third book in the series, The Tiny Cyborg, will be available in 2018.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com