Explore Colonial America series / by Sarah Gilman. 3.22.2017

The First Thanksgiving / by Sarah Gilman. (Explore Colonial America)

Enslow Publishing ISBN 9780766078697

The Founding of America / by Sarah Gilman. (Explore Colonial America)

Enslow Publishing ISBN 9780766078703

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

Both of these titles, part of the series Explore Colonial America, offer full-color photos, maps, and illustrations to give students an appreciation and picture of colonial life. Each title contains a glossary, timeline, index, and section listing books and websites for further reading.

In The First Thanksgiving, the story explores who the Pilgrims were as well as the Indians living in the colony. Students will learn about the hardships experienced by the Pilgrims and their relationship with the local Wampanoag Indians.

In The Founding of America, students get a close-up view of the active grassroots campaigns among the 13 American colonies to break free from England. In the course of 11 chapters, the discussion centers on the Second Continental Congress, the Continental army, a Declaration of Independence, and the new Constitution. The narrative highlighting the new nation formed enables youth to grasp the uniqueness and importance of this venture and dream, the sacrifices of many, and the bonds achieved.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ


The Hedge School / by Gloria Whelan. 3.16.2017

Bethlehem Books ISBN 9781932350524

MS Grades 7 and up Rating: 4

Padraic, 15 years old in 1735, is one of three students who are in their last year at a secret Irish school. Gloria Whelan’s The Hedge School takes place during a time in history when Roman Catholics were forbidden by law to attend or teach school or to worship in a Catholic church. But the people revered education, so they created their own schools that met under hedgerows, moving often to avoid discovery. Schoolmasters and priests alike were always in danger; people were jailed or hung at the landowners’ discretion for breaking any law, and there was no legal recourse.

Despite the desperate times, Padraic, Rose and Liam are irrepressible– full of stories of heroes of the Irish resistance to English rule and determined to enact their own rebellions. When the son of a landowner shows them a hidden way to his family’s stables, as a ploy to force Rose to give him her colt, Padraic and the resistance fighters use that knowledge to visit mischief on the hated landowner. Unfortunately, Padraic, reveling in his success, makes a hasty decision that puts everyone in danger from the law.

The hedge school is itself a strong symbol of resistance, but the central idea of the story is the weft of resistance woven through the warp of English power to determine the daily lives of the Irish peasantry. Whalen’s deft portrayal of teenage bluster and recklessness, and especially of Padraic and Rose, give life to the story. She shows Padraic’s close relationships with his family and teacher and his growth through those relationships. It is their coming to his aid without censure that helps him to realize his mistakes, learn from them, and make better decisions for his and Ireland’s future. Whelan’s mastery of complex stories is evident in her plot and inclusion of historical details that set up Padraic’s hatred of the English convincingly. However, her descriptions of the evil landowner, the selfless resistant fighter, the villainous churl, and others rely on stereotypical attitudes, dialogue, and behaviors, which dilute the emotional impact of the story.

Diane Carver Sekeres, CLJ

World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict series / by Natalie Hyde and Kelly Cochrane. 3.15.2017

Significant People of World War II / by Natalie Hyde. (World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict)
Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778721154

Significant Battles of World War II / by Kelly Cochrane. (World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict)

Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778721147

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

For grades 5 to 8, the series World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict looks at this worldwide conflict involving alliances between political leaders and military forces from many different countries. Each title, written at guided reading level U, offers a section with Further Reading and Websites, Glossary, and Index. Photographs accompany the text, and timelines and maps make it easier to follow the narrative.

Natalie Hyde’s Significant People of World War II looks at key figures involved during this war. Brief biographies give details of the lives and actions of political leaders Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin, Hirohito and Tojo; military leaders Rommel, Goring, Conitz, Dowding, Pound, MacArthur, and Patton; as well as flying aces, code breakers, and activists.

Kelly Cochrane’s Significant Battles of World War II follows the significant battles over the course of the war. European countries, their colonies and allies, such as the United States and Canada, supplied forces for battles. The focus continues on the five parts of the world where the fighting took place: western and eastern Europe, North Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia. With advances in technology since WWI, more destructive fighting occurred on land and on sea. The compelling book explores how victory was won or lost in famous conflicts such as the Battle of the Atlantic, Germany’s Blitzkrieg, the Battle of Britain, Dieppe, Paris, Stalingrad, Berlin, Midway, Pearl Harbor, and the dropping of the atomic bombs.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ





The Great Shelby Holmes / by Elizabeth Eulberg. 3.14.2017

Bloomsbury     ISBN 9781681190518

MS     Grades 3-7     Rating: 4

Army brat John Watson thinks writing fiction was more exciting than his life–until he moves to Harlem and meets Shelby Holmes. After Shelby’s science experiment interrupts John’s moving day, his curiosity and desire for friendship get the better of him. After tagging along with Shelby on an errand, John realizes that his scientist neighbor is actually a junior sleuth–and no amateur at that. It seems like all of New York City knows her name!

Because of Shelby’s reputation, it’s no surprise that when Daisy (the award-winning dog) goes missing, Detective Holmes is on the case. Shelby is no people-person, and Daisy’s family’s emotions are running high before the next competition. She needs outside help to solve the case. But Shelby doesn’t have friends; she has contacts. Can Shelby find the pooch on her own before the big show? Or will she need to trust John in order to break the case?

Children of all ages will love Elizabeth Eulberg’s version of Sherlock Holmes. With a new twist on the classic story, Eulberg comedically sends these two characters to middle school. Just like Sherlock, Shelby is socially awkward and likes to work alone. John, like Dr. Watson, follows the detective out of curiosity. Their adventure leads them to the truth of friendship.

Thanks to John’s personal and journal-like tone in narrating the story, kids will get to experience the case and the peculiar Shelby Holmes up close. Kids can follow John’s thoughts and guess who was the pup-snatcher. The only problem is that Shelby is way more perceptive than John, so readers won’t get all the clues. But it’s still fun for them to guess who the culprit is based on the clues available.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

America’s Tea Parties: Not One but Four! :  Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia / by Marisa Moss. 3.9.2017

Abrams Books     ISBN 9781419718748

INT     Grades 4-7     Rating: 4

Marisa Moss’s America’s Tea Parties: Not One but Four is a book that will certainly provide new and illuminating information to the reader. The text not only covers how the issue of taxation led to the American Revolution, but it also discusses three lesser known demonstrations involving tea in addition to the famous Boston Tea Party. The reader will encounter names with which they are probably familiar but also a few names that they may have never heard of before. For example, while John and Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and King George III all make appearances, the reader will also learn about Christopher Gadsden and other lesser known historical figures.

The book discusses the tactics used by the colonists to fight what they perceived as an oppressive tax on tea. Without representation in Parliament, the colonists believed a tax–no matter how small–to be an act of tyranny, thus establishing a belief in the right to demonstrate.

A timeline at the end of the book helps keep events in their chronological order. The illustrations and sidebars add to the artistry of the book as well as provide more information. The sidebars, while certainly informative, sometimes take up a whole page or more and somewhat interrupt the flow of the main text.

This book would likely be a very excellent title for a parent and child to share together, and is recommended.  

Michael E. Wilhelm, CLJ

12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis / by Sue Bradford Edwards. (Turning Points in US History) 3.7.2017

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351272

INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 4

Part of the Turning Points in US History Series, 12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis looks at central figures involved in this critical moment in history and includes a timeline that enables students to grasp its significance. Included also are sidebars and questions that highlight what the Cuban Missile Crisis was and to what extent it affected the world. Third to fifth graders will find the discussion understandable.

As with all 12-Story Library books, the publisher’s website features updates on this subject, along with videos, interactive maps, graphics, and live content to research the Crisis. The title references 12 facts but, literally, this is misleading as it is really 12 chapters offering a multitude of facts. Most of the illustrations in this title are black and white and sidebars are shaded in green and orange. Content and discussion is of high quality.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Super-Incredible Animals series / by Nancy Furstinger, Carol Hand and Tammy Gagne. 2.20.2017

12 Super-Gigantic Animals You Need to Know / by Nancy Furstinger. (Super-Incredible Animals)
12 Story Library ISBN 978162351388
12 Super-Poisonous Animals You Need to Know / by Carol Hand. (Super-Incredible Animals)
12 Story Library ISBN 9781632351401
12 Super-Fast Animals You Need to Know / by Tammy Gagne. (Super-Incredible Animals)
12 Story Library ISBN 9781632351371
INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 5

Each of the titles in the Super-Incredible Animals series presents 12 amazing animals in special categories. Kids can learn about 12 gigantic, poisonous, or fast animals with each title featuring information about the animals’ life cycles, habitats, and traits. Full-color spreads offer fun facts and information that will tend to hold the interest of children in grades 3 to 6. An appealing feature of these spreads is that boxes, photos, illustrations, and varying headings are in color with font in varying colors.

Every 12 Story Library book is enhanced by its website, 12storylibrary.com, featuring regular updates by the editorial educators. Videos, interactive maps, graphics, and live content feeds help youth go beyond the book to research a topic of interest. The glossy photos, inserts, and highlights on the page seek to present lively text to catch and maintain a reader’s interest.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Next Generation Energy series / by Nancy Dickmann and Megan Kopp. 2.15.2017

Energy from Water: Hydroelectric, Tidal, and Wave Power / by Nancy Dickmann. (Next Generation Energy)
Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778723806

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

Energy from Wind: Wind Farming / by Megan Kopp. (Next Generation Energy)

Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778719830

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 4

Both of these interesting and well-presented volumes from the juvenile environmental education series, Next Generation Energy, are written at guided reading level S. Both titles in the series present action choices and preferred green options for middle grade students age 10 and up.

For centuries, falling water has been used in parts of the world to create energy to run grinding stones at mills and irrigation systems for crops. Nancy Dickmann’s Energy from Water shows how the use of this clean form of energy, called hydroelectricity, is being expanded to help us build a more sustainable future. Readers focus on how other forms of water-based energy, such as energy from ocean waves and tides, are being harnessed and used to help create electricity to power our homes, offices and factories.

Megan Kopp’s Energy from Wind discusses wind power as a clean, sustainable, and renewable form of energy. The chapter “Power Up” invites its readers to think it through, ask and answer questions, and design wind turbines, testing location distances from the wind source and using different blade sizes to see which one works best. A handy Glossary and Learning More section lists books and website resources for inquiring readers.

Both titles are filled with informational graphs, maps, and charts, as well as color-shaded sidebar features such as Fast Forward (where, Energy From Water notes, hydroelectric power is dependent on a consistent supply of running water) and Rewind (promotes comparative, critical thinking about the early hydroelectric plants compared to the most recent). The student is asked to make convincing arguments for their created answer to questions about difficult choices, with regard to environmental impact. There are positive messages regarding what students and young people can do to promote earth protection, such as living and eating green, and redirecting choices towards sustainable changes.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ




Making Mistakes on Purpose: Sequel to Ms. Rapscott’s Girls / by Elise Primavera. 2.13.2017

Dial Books     ISBN 9780803738249

INT     Grades 3–6     Rating: 4

Author/illustrator Elise Primavera pens a sequel about girls at an unusual boarding school. The girls’ parents love them but are too busy to teach them life lessons, so the headmistress teaches them using silly lessons and adventures.

In Making Mistakes on Purpose, Bea, Mildred, Fay, Annabelle, and Dahlia return for their second term at Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents. Since Dahlia was lost last year and ended up at the Mr. Everbest Academy for Boys, she is careful to follow directions this time. However, Fay goes to the wrong address because she doesn’t follow directions. Ms. Rapscott, their headmistress, teaches the girls How to Get to the Top after they land at the Bottom of the Barrel. The girls learn how to Make a Bad Day Good, as well as How to Celebrate a Birthday. Making mistakes and learning from them becomes their biggest adventure.

Elise Primavera provides delightful black-and-white illustrations throughout the text. They add to the whimsy of the story. Readers will enjoy Ms. Rapscott as she teaches the girls who never learned to peel a hard-boiled egg, or take matters into their own hands. The story inspires thinking and learning to fail in order to succeed. More plot development than character development, Making Mistakes on Purpose is a delightful book to read. The ending leaves one wondering what will happen in the next semester.

Recommended for school and public libraries. Fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Stewart), Mary Poppins (P. L. Travers), and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (Betsy MacDonald) will enjoy this book.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Vango series / by Timothee de Fombelle. 2.8.2017

Vango: Between Sky and Earth / by Timothee de Fombelle.

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763687816

A Prince Without a Kingdom / Timothee de Fombelle.

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763691035

HS Grades 7 and up Rating: 4

Translated from the French, this duology revolves around Vango Romano, a young man with mysterious origins, who was washed up on the shore of a remote island off the coast of Sicily, Italy, at the age of three. Political intrigue, corruption, murder, revenge, mystery, adventure, suspense, heroism, loyalty, and a dash of romance are skillfully blended together into this fast-paced series.

Vango: Between Sky and Earth is set against the backdrop of the Nazi rise to power. The story begins in 1934. Nineteen-year-old Vango is minutes away from being ordained as a priest when the service is interrupted by the arrival of the police, who are in pursuit of Vango. Vango scales the walls of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris to escape while also dodging bullets from an unknown assailant. After Vango discovers he is wanted for murder, he embarks on a cross-continental journey to prove his innocence and to find out the truth about his heritage. A timeline of events pertinent to Vango’s life and a map of where he spent his childhood is included in the book.

A Prince Without a Kingdom is set against the backdrop of World War II and leads off with a cast of characters, a brief recap of the first book, and a flashback from Vango’s life as a teenager. Then the novel moves forward to 1936. Vango is still searching for answers to his heritage, which has led him to hunting for a man he believes is not only partly responsible for a deadly attack on his parents but who also knows the secret of his identity. Vango’s pursuit leads him to cross paths with an old trusted friend from his past, who is on a dangerous mission of his own. Vango ends up embroiled in more than one dangerous adventure with assailants hot on his trail who would like nothing better than to put an end to Vango’s endeavors.

Timothee de Fombelle has included a multitude of fictional characters intermixed with real historical figures and events. The Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg airships are key elements in the storylines with black and white pictures of the airships included in the books. Flashbacks are interwoven into the two books providing readers with the backstory of Vango’s childhood.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ