The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found / by Martin W. Sandler. 9.21.2018

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763680336

INT Grades 5-6 Rating: 5

Written for a young adult reader, this true story of the captaincy, wreck, and discovery of the only pirate ship ever found, The Whydah, makes for an enticing story. A 2018 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist, this title is by Martin W. Sandler, a prolific author of books for adults and children, who weaves history and archaeology to offer insights on pirate captain Black Sam Bellamy, his flagship Whyday, and the culture of early 18th-century piracy. Adding to this story, Sandler includes the recovery of the wreck and interpretation of the artifacts.

The factual information presented highlights the golden age of piracy, from the 1650s to the 1730s, when pirates ruled the waves. The Whydah sank in 1717 but was not found until 1984 by marine archaeologists with the artifacts being priceless, both in their value and in the picture they offer of life in this much-mythologized pirate era. The narrative includes detailed maps and period illustrations that enable youth to be involved in the search for the only shipwreck authenticated to be an actual ship used by pirates.

Closing pages offer details about coin artifacts and what they teach us. Five pages of source notes and a bibliography give testimony to the careful research and scholarship achieved. An index is also included. The care with which this story is conveyed makes it easy to understand why The Whydah was chosen as A Junior Library Guild Selection.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess / by Shari Green. 9.18.2018

Pajama Press ISBN 9781772780338

INT Grades 4-7 Rating: 5

Macy admits it: change is not her specialty. Yet soon she’ll have another dad and twin step-sisters, move into a new home, and attend a different school. Why, she complains, can’t things remain the same?

Macy refuses to pack; that way they won’t be able to move. So she thinks. But her mother plans otherwise. Macy has to box her things plus help Iris, the extravagant neighbor next door, to get ready for a move of her own–Iris who insists that she was named after the goddess, not the flower, and who always wears something orange. To top it off, Macy is hearing-impaired and Iris doesn’t know how to sign. Macy stresses over how they will understand each other.

While Macy grumbles and secretly plots to derail the approaching wedding, and Iris prepares herself to transition into an assisted living facility, an unexpected friendship blossoms between them. Communicating via notes, finger writing and Iris’ magic cookies, together they share their love of books, lessons learned, and marvel at the power of words.

Macy starts to consider that maybe change might lead to a wonderful new beginning.

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess is a delightful, humorous, and tender story about a young girl’s challenge to cope with and accept change. Told in first-person verse, Shari Green allows Macy’s voice to come through via her internal dialogue and emotions. Green also uniquely uses bold lettering to indicate when conversations take place in sign language. A Schneider Family Book Award recipient, Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess is a great read with inspiring lessons for all ages.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope With Her Song / by Kathryn Erskine; illustrated by Charly Palmer. 7.17.2018

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780734303013

INT Grades 4-8 Rating: 4

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song by Kathryn Erskine is a picture book introduction to the South African singer who used her voice to fight apartheid.

Growing up near Johannesburg in the 1930s, Miriam loves to sing despite the oppression of harsh restrictions on black people in South Africa. Inspired by the work of Nelson Mandela, she is determined to use her voice to tell the world about the injustice of apartheid. Where this leads her and what she accomplishes are revealed in the story.

This striking book is powerfully written in the present, which creates a tone of tension and suspense befitting the subject matter. With generous use of vocabulary from numerous African languages, the book transports young readers to a time and place of great inequality–but also a time of bravery, activism, and hope.

Bold illustrations by Charly Palmer feature broad shapes and dark colors that highlight the dramatic storyline. Brighter colors in the final scenes celebrate freedom and the homecoming of “Mama Africa.”

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope With Her Song is suggested for middle grade readers owing to the sensitive content and difficult vocabulary. In a detailed author’s note, Kathryn Erskine shares reflections and photos from her own childhood years in South Africa. Other materials include a bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary of 23 foreign words used in the book.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos / by Monica Brown; illustrated by John Parra. 7.11.2018

NorthSouth Books ISBN 9780735842694

PRI PS-Grade 2 Rating: 5

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown is a picture book introduction to the renowned Mexican artist and the influences on her live and work.

Growing up in a bright blue house in Coyoacán, Mexico, Frida loves colors, animals, and observing nature with her photographer father. Early in life, her lively imagination and unusual group of pets (including a fawn, parrot, monkeys, turkeys, and an eagle) combine with her enjoyment of painting to help her endure two medical crises.

Author Monica Brown tells Frida’s story with warmth and admiration. Young readers will be surprised to learn about Frida’s animal friends, amused by the description of her mischievousness, and compelled to know more about this gifted 20th century artist. John Parra provides vibrant acrylic scenes in a folk-art style that capture Frida and her beloved “animalitos.” These delightful illustrations take readers on a visual journey through Frida’s challenging life.

A 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor book and ALA Notable Children’s Book, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos is an enjoyable and inspirational biographical portrait. A thorough author’s note and photograph provide more details and insight for older readers.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Good Night Tales: A Family Treasury of Read-Aloud Stories / by C.S. Fritz. 7.3.2018

NavPress ISBN 9781631465567

PRI Grades 2-3 Rating: 4

This book collects children’s stories written and illustrated by C.S. Fritz, each story inspired by Scripture passages or Bible stories. Some chapters adapt Bible stories (such as Noah’s ark or the Good Samaritan) into stories involving talking animals and fairytale creatures, while others take biblical ideas (such as a lesson Jesus said in one of his parables) and create a story that illustrates that principle. Some stories are told entirely through pictures, while others use words with accompanying illustrations. Each chapter starts with a Scripture reference to the passage or story that inspired it, and there are discussion prompts at the back of the book for families who want to discuss these stories with their children.

C.S. Fritz did an excellent job writing and illustrating this book. Each story contains moments of humor, poetic language or images, and biblical ideas explained in profound ways. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, these stories excel at communicating biblical truths in entertaining ways that will help readers understand them better. The lavish illustrations, which have both silly elements (such as animals wearing glasses) and dramatic ones (such as carefully placed shadows or wafts of smoke), amplify the text’s qualities and make the stories even more powerful. Overall, this book will definitely delight young readers and continue to entertain them even when they become adults.

G. Connor Salter, CLJ

A Different Pond / by Bao Phi; illustrated by Thi Bui. 7.2.2018

Capstone ISBN 9781623708030

PRI K-Grade 2 Rating: 5

Poet Bao Phi offers his son, while fishing on a small pond in Minneapolis, a story of how he and his father before him fished for food in their homeland of Vietnam. This 2018 Caldecott Honor Book brings together issues of diversity, culture, and immigration without using platitudes. The personal story offers many positive messages about family values that highlight the relationship between father and son and between cultures, old and new.

Illustrator Thi Bui’s art offers a striking exhibit of Phi’s prose through illustrations with depth and a quiet, moving emotion. Using a dominant blue background with insets, Bui presents a powerful picture and experience of an immigrant family making its way in a new home while honoring its bonds to the past. The use of varying blues and then illustrations that offer a close-up view as well as an overall view of a scene enables children to linger in the family relationships so integral to the story. Both author and illustrator provide a closing note after the story.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ



Building Faith Block by Block: An Unofficial Minecraft Guide 60 A – Z (Kids Only) Survival Secrets 6.4.2018

Harvest House Publishers ISBN 9780736970853

YA Grades 4-9 Rating: 4

Building Faith Block by Block: Unofficial Minecraft Guide 60 A-to-Z (Kids Only) Survival Secrets by Michael Ross and Christopher Ross provides wonderful detail and interest to the reader. The book is a perfect combination of Minecraft elements and spiritual inspiration, and would be a useful tool for devotions whether at home with the kids or at church camp as a teacher or counselor.

Minecraft is a virtual game world and in Building Faith Block by Block readers enter the Minecraft world of Dragee90, a gamer who shares devotions. Even if the reader does not play Minecraft, the approach in this well-written book is very interesting, making it worth reading to see spiritual messages in another way and helping the reader relate to youth, many of whom are Minecraft fans. Each chapter presents two elements to help relate the game to life. First is “Gameplay”, including tips for Minecraft beginners and intermediate players on how to survive in this virtual world. Then follows “Real Life”, where readers learn about a daily struggle, with Bible verses to help.

When building in Minecraft, gamers have the option of starting over if things are not going as they wish. But, in reality decisions have real consequences. That’s why we have the Bible to help us make wise decisions and build a strong life’s foundation. Win the game of life with the Bible and enjoy the Minecraft world with a gamer’s guide that also provides devotional ideas.

One of the most amazing aspects of this book is that It is not only a great book to help with family devotions, but it was also written by a family. Michael Ross is an award-winning writer and Christopher is his teenage son. Their wife and mother, Tiffany Ross, helped with biblical accuracy.

Building Faith Block by Block is easy to read as well as understand, making it a perfect book that the reader can turn to for both gaming tips and use during devotional time.

Charity R. Bartley Howard, CLJ

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race / by Chris Grabenstein. 4.18.2018

Random House Books for Young Readers     ISBN 9780553536065

INT     Grades 3-7     Rating: 5

Award winning author Chris Grabenstein pens another humorous middle-grade novel combining the elements of an adventure, a mystery, and a race, set in a research/fact-finding environment.

 In Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race, Mr. Lemoncello calls on Kyle, his friends, as well as Kyle’s nemesis, Charles Chiltington, to test his new game (Fabulous Fact-Finding Frenzy), a game that involves an old-time bicycle, a bookmobile, and Mr. Lemoncello’s jet. The first team to bring the correct facts about historical figures back to the library wins the grand prize. When some disturbing “facts” begin to circulate about Mr. Lemoncello, it causes Kyle to question everything he knows about Mr. Lemoncello and to work hard to uncover the truth.

Grabenstein is back with another whimsical and clever story about solving puzzles and uncovering facts. The action takes part in Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, as well as his home and Imagination Factory in New York City. Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race celebrates readers, libraries, authors, and librarians. Grabenstein continues to develop characters that readers will enjoy getting to know. His storytelling and settings and delightful sense of humor will engage the most reluctant of readers. A number of books are given the nod in this book, and the author lists them in the back (C. S. Lewis, Wonder, Seuss, and more).

The Lemoncello series is filled with adventure, suspense, humor, and puzzles for the reader to solve. Fans of the earlier books will devour this book, with its hidden bonus puzzle. Readers will be delighted to know Grabenstein has been signed to write another Lemoncello book!

Recommended for school and public libraries.

 Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

The Hiding Game / by Gwen Strauss; illustrated by Herb Leonhard. 4.4.2018

Pelican Publishing Company ISBN 9781455622658

INT Grades 2-5 Rating: 5

Little Aube, daughter of the famous poet, Andre Breton, is forced to move from place to place with her family during the 1940s in Nazi-occupied France. They eventually find shelter in a hidden villa where an American, Varian Fry, with funds from the New York American Rescue Committee, works to arrange passage for them, and others, out of war-torn Europe.

Sundays are Aube’s favorite day because, together with all of the guests in the house, she spends the day drawing, singing, and playing games. “Papa said that ‘by singing, playing and laughing with the greatest joy,’ they would fight against fear.” But most of the time, things remain secret–like the radio for listening to the war news and the cow in the yard for giving milk. Aube also has her own secret hiding place: the old armoire in the kitchen, just in case “they” come.

The Hiding Game, a work of creative nonfiction based on a true story, is a moving account of a little-known part of history. Strauss introduces the reader to Varian Fry and her great-uncle Danny Benedite, brave men who were instrumental in saving the lives of some of the most important scientists, artists, writers, and thinkers of the day such as: Vlady Serge who fled to Mexico and became one of the country’s leading muralist; Max Ernst, a German painter; and artists Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp; among others.

Illustrations by Herb Leonhard draw the reader into the lives of the characters, turning a factual account into a personal encounter with time and history. Strauss also provides actual photos of the individuals, a brief history of the account, and links for further study and reading.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Arch Books Bible Story Series 4.3.2018

Jesus Christ is Risen Today! / by Eric C. Bohnet; illustrated by Erika LeBarre. (Arch Books Bible Story Series/Easter)

Concordia ISBN 9780758657350

Joshua and the Fall of Jericho / by Sara H. Low; illustrated by Mina Price. (Arch Books Bible Story Series/The Old Testament)

Concordia ISBN 9780758657343

Peter Surprises Rhoda / by Larry Burgdorf; illustrated by Len Ebert. (Arch Books Bible Story Series/The New Testament)

Concordia ISBN 9780758657336

The Night Peter Cried / by Larry Burgdorf; illustrated by Dani Jones. (Arch Books Bible Story Series/Easter)

Concordia ISBN 9780758652263

The Christmas Connection / written and illustrated by Karyn E. Lukasek. (Arch Books Bible Story Series/Christmas)

Concordia ISBN 9780758654694

Falling Into Sin / by Martha Streufert Jander; illustrated by Michelle Dorenkamp Repa. (Arch Books Bible Story Series/Bible Beginnings)

Concordia ISBN 9780758654700

Cain and Abel / by Nicole E. Dreyer; illustrated by Deborah Borgo. (Arch Books Bible Story Series/The Old Testament)

Concordia ISBN 9780758652256

PRI K-Grade 4 Rating: 4

Jesus Christ is Risen Today!, Joshua and the Fall of Jericho, Peter Surprises Rhoda, The Night Peter Cried, The Christmas Connection, Falling Into Sin, and Cain and Abel are seven recent titles in the 125+ volume Arch Books Bible Story Series. The books present events from Scripture in an illustrated, rhyming format for children.

Each slim paperback is retold in memorable four-line stanzas and accompanying full-page artwork. The title pages include a biblical reference, and each book concludes with a thought-provoking letter to parents.

Different author/illustrator pairings for each title contribute to the appeal of the series. Though following a similar format, each story has a unique look and tone. Overall, the poetic writing is clever, with a good amount of challenging vocabulary for young readers. The story settings and details depicted through the varied styles of artwork add visual interest and help distinguish each book.

Jesus Christ is Risen Today!, Joshua and the Fall of Jericho, Peter Surprises Rhoda, The Night Peter Cried, The Christmas Connection, Falling Into Sin, and Cain and Abel introduce children to both familiar and lesser-known stories from the Bible in a fun and engaging way. Whether shared aloud or read independently, these titles are likely to foster an understanding and further exploration of Scripture.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ