Monday, May 25, 2020

ALMOST TIME by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney. Illus. by G. Brian Karas. New York: Clarion Books, 2020. 32p.  ISBN 978-0544785816 hc. $17.99    Gr. K-2    E PIC

Where there are sugar maple trees, there's potential for maple syrup!  Ethan noticed that his family's supply of syrup was gone because his Sunday breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup had been abruptly switched to alternate breakfast foods.  He also knew the routine for making maple syrup.  When spring days are warm and the nights are still cold, sap runs through the trees and it's time to tap them.  Then the sap is boiled down into sweet maple syrup, a process which is brilliantly illustrated in two pages of panels.  But this story is really about waiting for the weather to warm up; waiting for longer days and shorter nights; and waiting for the reward of maple syrup.  During this long period of waiting, Ethan noticed that he had a loose tooth - another process not to be rushed.  Young readers will relate to the experience of waiting for good things to happen.  Ethan found that his patience paid off when he finally lost his tooth and once again enjoyed his favorite breakfast.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, May 18, 2020


THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett. New York: St. Martin's Publishing Group, 2019. 404p. ISBN 978-1250145444 hc, $16.99     Gr. 9-12     YA FIC

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden to discuss what happens to those sixteen year old girls who live in an isolated encampment deep in the forest for exactly one year.  Other than survival, their focus is to dispel the magic essence attributed to the sexual allure of teenage girls before returning to an archaic and repressed society that treats women as property.  Tierney makes the journey with her classmates, some of whom disappear along the way, stolen by poachers who sell their essence and body parts as aphrodisiacs on the black market.  At the encampment, Tierney tries to use her common sense to make the stay a cooperative and comfortable experience for the whole group, but Kiersten, the dominant female, begins her reign of terror over the girls.  Eventually Tierney is exiled and ends up living with and falling in love with Ryker, one of the poachers who is a contradiction of values; both kind and predatory at the same time.  Alliances are made and broken along the way, as themes of female relationships and survival psychology are examined.  Just when readers think they know where the story is leading, the page unfolds in new and unexpected directions.  The unpredictable ending will give readers a lot to think about.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

PLANTING STORIES: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre' by Anika Aldamuy Denise. Illus. by Paola Escobar. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2019. 32p.  ISBN 978-00627486803 hc. $17.99     Gr. K-3        J 921


The story opens in New York City in 1921 with the arrival of Pura Belpre' who came to visit her sister.  The native of Puerto Rico was enchanted by the bustling city, and decided to stay awhile.  She worked in a garment factory until the public library advertised for a bilingual assistant.  It was a perfect fit for Pura, who spoke Spanish, French, and English. Her favorite part of the library was the children's room, where she could be found retelling the folktales handed down from her grandmother. She soon made puppets to repeat those stories visually and bilingually. Through her community work, she met her musician husband and traveled with him for almost forty years, writing down the stories her grandmother told. The books, written in Spanish, were her gift to the immigrant children of New York.  Pura's first book was "Martina & Perez," a love story about a cockroach and mouse.  The illustrator incorporates images of the literary pair throughout the book, which extends to the end papers.  Pura died in 1982, but each year the American Library Association recognizes Latinx authors and illustrators in her name with the Pura Belpre' Award. Her advocacy for diverse children's books lives on today.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

MY HEART by Corinna Luyken. New York:  Dial Books for Young Reader, 2019.  32p. ISBN
978-0735227934 hc. $17.99    PreS-Gr.2     E PIC

Using the contrast of color in gray, white, and yellow tones, Luyken visually depicts the same feelings voiced by her words.  She enlists drawings of windows to graphically show, "My heart can be closed or opened up wide."  Hearts can be found on every page - drawn as leaves, flowers, constellations and the wings or birds.  The illustrations truly enhance the sparse text.  This is a contemplative book that everyone can relate to.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Friday, May 1, 2020

LOOK AGAIN: SECRETS OF ANIMAL CAMOUFLAGE by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 2019. 34p.  ISBN 978-132885094-2 hc. $17.99     Gr. K-3    JNF 591.47

Jenkins and Page take readers under the sea, into a tree, and down to the forest floor to learn how animals hide in plain sight.  By using their shape and skin color, animals blend in with their surroundings in order to hunt their prey or hide from their predators.  The authors even isolate polar animals from their environment, along with hard-to-spot rock dwellers.  Readers may challenge themselves to see camouflaged animals in their natural environment before turning the page to see those same creatures revealed, along with information about how they hide.  The book concludes with vignettes on each animal featured in print.  As always, Jenkins and Page create interesting text and unparalleled collage illustrations by looking at nature from varied perspectives.  They have written eighteen books together, including THE FROG BOOK (2019), CREATURE FEATURES (2014), MOVE! (2006), and WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS? (2003).
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Saturday, April 25, 2020

WHITE BIRD by R. J. Palacio.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019.  220p.  ISBN 978-0525645535 hc. $24.99    Gr. 5-10    JUV

In graphic novel format, Palacio frames a heart-wrenching Holocaust story, passed down from a World War II survivor to her grandson, told via video chat for a Humanities project at school.  Sara Blum lived a fairy tale existence in 1930's France with parents who were college educated and gainfully employed.  However, her town began to change in 1940, as Nazi guards began to appear in the village and Jewish families routinely disappeared.  On a regular school day, guards rounded up the Jewish students at the school, but Sara saved herself by hiding in a deserted tower.  Through the kindness of a classmate and his family, Sara was safely hidden in a barn for four long years.  That classmate was Julien, who had  crippled legs from polio, making him a Nazi target because of his imperfection.  Shortly before the war ended, the Nazis guards caught up with Julien and shot him.  Sara, who had been separated from her parents, became part of Julien's family, remaining close to them even after she found her father who had also been in hiding for years.  In honor of her brave friend Julien, Sara passed on his name to her son and grandson.  Revealing that she hadn't told her story to anyone else, she asked her grandson to keep her story and use it to fight injustice in the world.  Following the suspenseful main story, readers will find ten additional pages of historical information about World War II and the role of the French Resistance.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Sunday, April 19, 2020

OTHER WORDS FOR HOME by Jasmine Warga.  New York: Balzer + Bray, 2019.  342p.  ISBN 978-0062747808 hc. $16.99     Gr. 5-8     JUV

Jude, a young Syrian teen who loves American movies, wants to be a movie star someday, along with her best friend, Fatima.  Her older brother, Issa, is a university student who actively participates in student protests against the government, making the family a target for political retaliation.  After a raid on their home, Jude and her mother are sent to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with her uncle and his American wife.  Now Jude will have to use the English she learned while watching movies, in order to improve her language skills and survive in a new country.  Although Jude extends the hand of friendship to her very American cousin, Sarah is clearly not interested is having relatives that eat and dress ethnically.  The cousins’ relationship is strained to breaking point when Jude and Sarah try out for the same part in the school play.  A good deal of cultural information about Islamic religion, Syrian food, and women covering their hair when they reach puberty is included in the text.  It’s also a story about being a part of two countries at the same time, making new routines while, at the same time, retaining the old.  By writing in verse, Warga emphasizes human ideals and minimizes descriptive geography, sending the message that people everywhere want to be understood and valued.

Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI