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

God Made the Sun/ God Made the Moon / by Mary Manz Simon; illustrated by Lizzie Walkley. 6.16.2017

God Made the Sun/ by Mary Manz Simon; illustrated by Lizzie Walkley.

Worthy Kids/Ideals ISBN 9780824919801

God Made the Moon / by Mary Manz Simon; illustrated by Lizzie Walkley.

Worthy Kids/Ideals ISBN 9780824919818

PRI PS-K Rating: 5

God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon are two preschool board books by the team of Mary Manz Simon and Lizzie Walkley.

Celebrating God’s creation of the moon and sun, the two books encourage children to see these natural wonders as gifts from God. Simon’s sweet rhyming quatrains are lilting and memorable, showing how the moon and sun light up our world both day and night.

In God Made the Sun, a young boy plays outdoors with his friends, swims, and enjoys a picnic with his family. In God Made the Moon, a young girl catches fireflies, listens to the crickets, and stargazes before her cozy bedtime bath and story.

Lizzie Walkley’s tender illustrations are brightly rendered, friendly, and heartwarming. The scenes are happy and loving, filled with charming details that toddlers will love to spot.

God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon are ideal first books for the very young. Sun and moon cut-outs on the cover and pages add visual and tactile interest for little ones. The small sturdy size (and wonderful rounded corners) of these companion books make them perfect for tucking into a stroller, diaper bag, or backpack.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Good Night Owl / written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli. 6.15.2017

Hyperion ISBN 9781484712757

PRI PS-Grade 2 Rating: 4

A noise in the house is keeping Owl up and he just can’t find the source, in Greg Pizzoli’s Good Night Owl, a 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book.

It’s not someone at the door, the wind, a creaky cupboard, or anything under the floorboards. The humor and drama in each scene escalate as Owl tears his little house apart, but the tiny squeak persists.

The source of the sound is obvious to the reader, which adds to the comedy. Preschoolers will enjoy the increasingly outrageous storyline, which has Owl using some extreme methods to get some peace and quiet. Author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli’s muted colors evoke the feeling of nighttime in a cozy home. His wide-eyed Owl, snuggled under a patchwork quilt, is adorable.

Good Night Owl is a sweet picture book that will entertain children and amuse anyone who has ever been forced out of bed by a noise in the night.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

We Are Growing / by Laurie Keller. 6.14.2017

Hyperion ISBN 9781484726358

PRI PS-Grade 2 Rating: 4

Something exciting is happening! The grass is starting to grow and as a result, each blade of grass is discovering his or her unique characteristics. One blade is the tallest, while another is the curliest, and another still the silliest. Everyone finds they are the something-est–everyone, that is, except Walt. No one can seem to find anything special about Walt, especially Walt himself. It will take the minor catastrophe of a buzzing lawn mower for Walt to finally figure out what makes him special.

With simple sentences, patterned dialogue, and repetitive phrasing that will entice emergent readers, We Are Growing by Laurie Keller has rightfully earned its standing as the 2017 medal winner of the Geisel Award. The colorful speech bubbles and varying bolded font make reading a visual delight. The humorous illustrations add characterization, plot detail, and tone to the simple text. This book is a great tool for introducing superlative words and teaching dialogue, both of which could inspire some fun classroom activities. The underlying theme that everyone is special for their own unique characteristics and abilities adds depth to an otherwise silly, lighthearted read. Overall, this is an entertaining book that young readers will enjoy hearing or reading many times over.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Juana and Lucas / written and illustrated by Juana Medina. 6.13.2017

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763672089

INT Grades 3-4 Rating: 5

Juana and Lucas introduces a vivacious little girl, Juana, who loves her life. She loves drawing. She loves her hometown, Bogatá, Columbia. She loves and admires her mother. She loves her grandparents, her friend Juli, and her Tia Cris. She especially loves Lucas, her dog. But a challenge has entered her happy world. She is expected to learn English. She has to pronounce “th” and figure out how to tell the difference between read and read, and so many other elements of the English language, and she simply doesn’t understand how English relates to her Spanish-speaking world. She asks various friends and family members who unsuccessfully attempt to help her understand how speaking and understanding English would be helpful. The best motivation to learn English comes when poor grades could possibly prevent Juana from taking a trip to Spaceland in the United States. Will she be able to cram all those words and sounds in the space between her pigtails, or is it too late to raise her grades?

In this chapter book, Juana Medina’s writing paints the picture of a fun-loving, interesting young girl, and Medina’s cartoonish illustrations also bring little Juana to life. Written in first person, Juana and Lucas reads like a conversation with a third grader. Juana’s character grows throughout the book as she expands her knowledge. Her loving family surrounds her with support and encouragement. Familiar Spanish words are lightly sprinkled throughout, giving English readers a small taste of what Juana experiences while learning a different language. Occasionally different size fonts and even unusual word direction are employed to illustrate the size of Juana’s thoughts or her feelings. The mostly cheerful Juana brightens any room she walks in–even the reader’s living room. Even though learning English presents a challenge, once she has, she wonders, “…if there will be enough espacio between my pigtails for French and Chinese and Italian and Farsi and Portuguese and all the other languages. Maybe it’s time to…ask Lucas what he thinks about that.” (p. 89)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Jumping Off Library Shelves: A Book of Poems / selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. 6.8.2017

WordSong ISBN 9781590789247

PRI PS-Grade 3 Rating: 5

Jumping Off Library Shelves is a delight! With 15 library poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and written by such well-known author poets as Nikki Grimes and Jane Yolen, it covers library cards and their magic, librarians who read your mind because they know just the perfect book for you, canine reading buddies, literary dreams when you use your book for a pillow, and even dictionaries, story times, and the Internet.

The poems are written using different literary devices and illustrated very imaginatively–each one makes readers smile and nod their heads in agreement.

In the words of Michelle Kruegger in “At the Library”:

I’ve found a treasure,
a literal pleasure.

a book
I’ve not read
before.

For kids or adults, this book is a treasure and the poems will be enjoyed again and again.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes / by Duncan Tonatiuh. 6.7.2017

Abrams ISBN 9781419721304

PRI PK–Grade 3 Rating: 4

Children will love the lore that author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh shares in his Pura Belpré award-winning book, The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes. The origin story of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, two volcanoes that overlook Mexico City, is a tragic love story.

This story begins with the Aztec princess Izta and a common warrior, Popoca. While the princess has many suitors, Popoca is the only man who understands her love for the common people. The two are supposed to be married after Popoca defeats the neighboring kingdom’s ruler. In a cruel twist of events, Izta is tricked into believing her lover is dead and drinking a sleeping potion to ease her pain. When Popoca returns, he cannot wake his princess.

Children in Mexico are still told this story today to explain why only one of these volcanoes erupts: Popocatépetl is still trying to wake his dormant lover, Iztaccíhuatl.

While the story of Izta and Popoca draws on Atzec history, Tonatiuh discusses in his author’s note that the historical events as depicted in the legend may be inaccurate. Oral tradition has influenced this story enough that Tonatiuh chose to share his own variation of the events.

Tonatiuh enhances the interest of his story by using some Nahuatl words. This language would have been the language originally spoken by the Aztec people and has influenced much Spanish today. Children can visit the glossary in the back of the book for translations and pronunciation help, or they can find context clues in the illustrations to discover the meanings for themselves. The unique and colorful illustrations were inspired by those on Mixtec codices, giving this story the feel of an authentic legend.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Our Great Big Backyard/ by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager; illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. 5.19.2017

HarperCollins Children’s Books ISBN 9780062468352

PRI PS-Grade 3 Rating: 4

Former first lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager introduce the wonder of our national parks in Our Great Big Backyard.

Young Jane is planning to spend her summer watching movies and playing video games, until her parents announce “The Great American Road Trip” through some of America’s iconic parks. Initially Jane is too absorbed in her tablet to notice the passing scenery, but a meteor shower in Big Bend, Texas finally gets her attention.

As her family explores the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, Jane comes to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, swapping electronic games for real hands-on adventure (and even enjoys writing a postcard instead of sending an email to her friends).

Artist Jacqueline Rogers uses pen, ink, watercolor, gouache, and marker to produce lively scenes of the parks as well as busy images of a classic family car trip and a fun-to-study map inside the front and back covers. Rogers cleverly includes details from the children’s imagination, such as wearing moon suits as they traverse the desert and seeing a spaceship blasting out of Old Faithful.

With minimal text, Our Great Big Backyard is quickly paced and suited to early readers. It is hard to overlook Jane’s ill-mannered attitude at the beginning of the story (mom and dad allowing her to use a tablet while canoeing in the Everglades is also questionable!). Parents might use the opportunity to talk with children not only about our national parks and about traveling as a family, but about the distraction of electronics and the many other ways to have fun.

The publishing of Our Great Big Backyard was well-timed with the 2016 centennial of our national park system. The distinguished authors include a list of parks by state and several websites for further information.

Nina Ditmar, 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