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

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

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge / by Monica Kulling; illustrated by Bill Slavin. (Great Ideas series) 1.31.2017

Tundra Books ISBN 9781770495227

PRI K-Grade 4 Rating: 4

In 1884, Nikola Tesla leaves his native Croatia for New York, bringing a new concept about electricity. Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge is a picture book telling of Tesla’s early ideas, which advanced the use of electric lighting and hydroelectric power in America.

Author Monica Kulling focuses on the bright immigrant’s enthusiasm and innovation, and his model of electricity (alternating current) that challenged Edison’s design (direct current). Her book introduces young readers to Tesla, his competitive relationship with Edison, his role in electrifying the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and his dream of “harnessing” the power of Niagara Falls.

Handsome digitally-colored pen-and-ink sketches by Bill Slavin complement the tone, time period, and setting, with muted greys and browns evoking the grittiness of early industrial America.

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge is an interesting biographical sketch, well-suited for both school and home libraries. The author provides a list of book and internet sources. “Electric Cat,” a short poem about young Niko’s fascination with static electricity, and “Tesla’s Robot,” an account of Nikola’s later invention of a radio-controlled toy boat, add additional information and insight.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest / A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue / by J.A. Myhre. 1.18.2017

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest / by J.A. Myhre.
New Leaf Press     ISBN 9781942572084
INT     Grades 3-7     Rating: 4

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue / by J.A. Myhre.
New Leaf Press     ISBN 9781942572695
INT     Grades 3-7     Rating: 3

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest tells the story of Mu, an orphaned school boy who is the laughingstock of his village because his uncle makes him do “girl’s work.” On his way to do a morning chore, he meets a talking chameleon. This creature tells Mu that his quest soon will begin and he will be free. When Mu is sold by his guardians, he must rely on his animal guide to lead him away from the dangers of the forest, animals, rebels, and himself. When the chameleon whispers truth in Mu’s ear, he must relinquish his plan to find the life he’s always dreamed about.

Kiisa grew up hearing the fantastic tale of her brother’s return to their family. In A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue, Kiisa has her own animal-guided adventure. When she is sent to boarding school at a young age, her father hides a talking bird in her suitcase. The bird flies out of her suitcase and makes Kiisa the joke of the school. Kiisa tries to blend into the crowd, but when rebels come to the compound and kidnap a classmate, Kiisa believes she must charge into danger to save the girl who bullied her. Can she set aside her animosity, survive the jungle, and make it home to her family?

J. A. Myhre’s chapter books hold wonderful folklore-like adventures. Detailed plot sketches and descriptions of the landscapes allow elementary readers’ imaginations to run wild through the African forests and plains. With natural and supernatural danger leaving cliff hangers at the end of every chapter, children will be flipping pages until the end.

Delve into African (Luwendigo) dialect, culture, and legends with these tales. Throughout these stories, readers also will see reflections of biblical stories, such as the prodigal son, Joseph’s coat of many colors, and Jesus’ sacrifice. Dark presences of violence, death, and sin weave into these stories, but the animal guides help characters and readers learn biblical and moral lessons in spite of the evil forces.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

My Little Picture Bible / by Juliet David; illustrated by Elina Ellis. 1.17.2017

Lion Hudson ISBN 9781781281765

PRI PS-K Rating: *5

My Little Picture Bible is a collection of 56 New and Old Testament events retold by Juliet David in a simple format for the very young.

The familiar stories vary in length from one to ten pages and are accompanied by the gentle drawings of Elina Ellis. The book’s small sturdy size and bright illustrations are well suited to preschoolers, yet the content and presentation will appeal to older children as well. A list of contents will help early readers quickly find their favorites.

My Little Picture Bible would be a wonderful spiritual gift (and in fact has a page for inscribing). The stories are satisfyingly complete for such a small book and the sweet quality of the artwork makes the characters and events relatable to children.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

I Spy Bible / by Julia Stone; illustrated by Samantha Meredith. 1.11.2017

Lion Children’s Books ISBN 9780745965550

PRI Toddler-K Rating: 4

I Spy Bible is an interactive “seek and find” board book with scenes from 11 biblical events.

From Adam and Eve to the Resurrection, the colorful pages include brief text by Julia Stone and cute illustrations by Samantha Meredith. A “Can you spot” sidebar on each two-page spread shows six objects for readers to find in the picture.

This sturdy padded book with its very simplistic stories and fairly easy-to-spy challenges seems ideal for the very young. (A notation on the back cover deems it “not suitable for children under 12 months, but presumably the book can be safely managed with a caregiver!) I Spy Bible would be a fun way to introduce toddlers to Bible stories along with some expanded vocabulary words (“skittles”, “vulture”, “jackal”).

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

My Big Story Bible / by Josh Edwards; illustrated by Christine Tappin. 1.6.2017

Lion Hudson ISBN 9781781282038

PRI PS-K Rating: 4

My Big Story Bible introduces familiar events from the Bible in brief illustrated vignettes intended for preschool-age listeners.

Each story (20 from the Old Testament and 15 from the New Testament) is concisely told in a single paragraph, with a simple concluding sentence or question that summarizes a message (“Even the wind and waves listened to Jesus”) or stimulates a child’s imagination (“Why do you think Jesus is like a good shepherd?”). A version of “The Lord’s Prayer” is adapted from The Good News Bible and may differ from what some children already know.

Lively illustrations by Christine Tappi have a gentle, flat, folk art quality. Lots of activity in the pictures will keep little ones focused on the stories and characters. The eye-catching cover offers a glimpse of some of the stories inside.

My Big Story Bible is fairly small in size for a picture book but packs in a lot of content and can inspire young readers in a big way!

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New / by Marty Machowski, illustrated by Andy McGuire. 1.3.2017

New Growth Press ISBN 9781942572282

INT Grades 1-6 Rating: 5

Though geared toward and intended to be used by and with children grades 1 to 6, The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New is a beginner’s theology book that will likely be treasured and used by parents, family members, and friends. Parts may also appeal to teens. The 8.5”x8.5,” inch-thick picture book uses story and art to make scriptural truth understandable and digestible to children. A glossary highlights important Bible words, and each of the 71 topics is listed as a question with a brief scriptural reference to offer a quick setting.

The many beautiful drawings cover basic points of the Christian faith. With 71 topics covered, there is much to savor in multiple settings and to come back to again and again. One plus in the discussion is that the Christian faith comes across as one gift, not as something subject to division among the different Protestant denominations. When pages such as those concentrating on baptism mention that different denominations have different views on when baptism should occur, it notes that all agree that salvation is through Jesus. Each of the topics appears on two to four pages of text and illustrations. Another plus is that, incorporated within the illustration pages are multiple Scripture references as evidence and clarification for each point. The range of discussion covers the theology of God, of People, of Sin, of the Promise and the Law, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of Adoption into God’s Family, of Change, of the Church, of the End Times and of God’s Word.

There is also a companion music CD to The Ology by SovereignGraceKids that offers worship music for the family. A helpful resource for older children would be Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce A. Ware.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel / by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. 1.2.2017

Peachtree ISBN 9781561459124

PRI Grades 1-5 Rating: 4

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel refers to a special navy ship, the USS New York. Following the events of September 11, 2001, the governor of New York gave the Navy a steel beam, weighing seven and a half tons, that was once inside one of the World Trade Towers. The beam was driven to a foundry in Louisiana where chippers, grinders, painters, and polishers worked on the beam. The construction metal workers toiled throughout Hurricane Katrina to turn it into the bow of the ship with the motto “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.” Thus, the USS New York’s story reveals how something remarkable can emerge from devastating events like September 11 and the Hurricane. Facts and figures are presented after the main narrative.

Thomas Gonzalez’s full-page illustrations are powerful, with every page arrayed in bold palette colors. The tones convey moods and action–as for example, reds and yellows and orange move across the metalworking furnace, and black and gray clouds billow from the towers and streams of morning light radiate the hull of the ship.

The images of destruction are shown respectfully but with flair. Author Janet Nolan’s narrative offers only a few sentences about September 11 and Hurricane Katrina so children may need more detail on both of these events to truly grasp the significance of the story.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Baby Wren and the Great Gift / Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones; illustrated by Jen Corace. 12.29.2016

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310733898

PRI PS-Grade 1 Rating: 4

Baby Wren looks out at the world around her, full of the wonder of ring-tailed cats cartwheeling over the walls of tall rock ledges and brave eagles soaring high in a stormy sky. What could a little bird like her do to match the wonder around her? She has no tail, she cannot swim, and she is much too little to be brave like an eagle. As the baby wren continues to explore the beauty around her, will she despair over what she lacks or instead discover a special gift?

Baby Wren and the Great Gift by Sally Lloyd-Jones is an inspiring story of the wonder and beauty of the natural world as seen through the eyes of a newborn bird, who longs to be a part of it all but sees herself as miniscule in light of the other marvelous creatures. Yet through one glorious sight, the baby wren discovers her gift, finding her special purpose in God’s wondrous world. The story is told in a narrative fashion, the baby wren an apparent observer of all the beauty around her; however, there is a clear shift in perspective in the final two pages as the baby wren is then included in the description of the sights and sounds of the canyon. This shift from observer to participant mirrors the wren’s discovery of her place and part in creation.

The rich, earth-toned color scheme of the illustrations brings warmth to the text and delights the eyes. Overall, this picture book is a story of self-discovery and belonging, which leads to thankfulness and praise, and would pair well with The Sleepy Songbird by Suzanne Barton.

Justina McBride, CLJ