Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Picture Book Roundup - August 2016

I haven't done a picture book roundup in a while. Here are a few favorites that passed my desk in August.  They're presented in the Riffle slideshow below.

Some of my reviews would not fit in their entirety in the slideshow.  You can find the full reviews on my LibraryThing or Riffle accounts.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg - a review

Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg

By Tanya Anderson
Quindaro Press, 2016

I wondered why I was getting an "Early Reviewer" copy of a book that was originally published in 2013.  Quindaro Press has reissued the book as a paperback with "French flaps" - sturdy,gatefold flyleafs. They keep the original dust jacket information available, they can be used for bookmarking, and they make the book sturdier.

Tillie Pierce is a short and compelling account of a week in a life of a teen girl who lived in Gettysburg during the Battle of Gettysburg.  Author Tanya Anderson uses many of Tillie Pierce's own words*, but mixes them with a more modern-style narrative, and includes photographs, maps, and background information.  Words that are archaic or might be unfamiliar, e.g., caissons, consumption, accoutrement, are defined parenthetically.  (I prefer footnoting, but parenthetical makes for easier reading).

As you might expect from writer Tanya Anderson, the research is commendable.  The book includes: Bibliography, Black-and-White Photographs,  Further Reading, Glossary, Index, Photo Captions, Source Notes, Table of Contents, Timeline.  There are even step-by-step instructions to use Google Earth to follow the exact path that Tillie took from her home to a neighboring farmhouse which became a de facto military hospital.

If you haven't read Tillie Pierce yet, take advantage of this new edition to read or purchase it.  You won't be disappointed. You can check out its many starred reviews and awards here: Reviews and Awards for Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg  If you're a history teacher, I can't think of a more exciting way to interest teens in history than to let them experience it through the eyes of another teen.

Finally, a note on the publisher, Quindaro: After more than ten years in the publishing business, Quindaro has a new mission.  They have committed to focusing on the YA market, publishing nonfiction designed "to engage the next generation of readers in history." I look forward to seeing their future offerings, and am hoping to review a copy of the upcoming Gunpowder Girls, also by Tanya Anderson.

*Tillie wrote her own book titled, At Gettysburg or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle: A True Narrative.

My copy of Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg was provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers program

Friday, August 19, 2016

Everland - an audiobook review

by Wendy Spinale
Read by Fiona Hardingham, Steve West
Scholastic Audio, 2016

Everland is a *steampunk homage to Peter Pan, and the first in a series.  The setting is London, renamed Everland after its defeat by the Germans and the ravages of a deadly virus that targets adults.

I reviewed Everland for AudioFile Magazine.  Read my review here: []

Listen to a sample clip of Everland here: []
Everland is told from the dual perspectives of Gwen and Hook, and has two capable narrators.  This is ostensibly a YA title so it has a hint of romance, but I think it's also appropriate for younger readers.  It was a tad too sentimental in places and there were a few modernisms I would have left out (the word "snark" and a fist-bump come to mind), but it's a faithful re-working of the Peter Pan story and has great potential as a series. 

If you're not familiar with the steampunk genre, here's a primer that I've posted before:
*steam·punk [steem-puhngk]
1.a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.
2.a subculture inspired by this literary and film subgenre: the fashions and gadgets of steampunk.
Also, steam punk, steam-punk.
1985–90;  modeled on cyberpunk
  * steampunk. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: March 26, 2013).

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Best Man - a review

The Best Man
by Richard Peck
Dial Books, 2016

Richard Peck is a phenomenal writer, and his intent here was write a novel,

" ... addressed to grade-school and middle-school readers. A novel to spark discussion and to open a door to world suddenly living in a whole different era."

He has succeeded in introducing the topic of same-sex marriage in a kind and thoughtful way to his intended audience. Written in the first-person perspective of a rising sixth grader, The Best Man follows young Archer Magill from the end of fifth grade through the beginning of sixth -- through two weddings, bullying, friendship, death, the beginnings of puberty, and wonderful times with his quirky and lovable family. Along the way, he will be the best man in two unforgettable weddings, each of a very different sort. The Best Man is funny and also features Archer's best friend, Lynn,

She was never going to do a lot of peer-grouping with girls. It wasn't her.
"What's that you're drinking?" I inquired.
" A wheat grass smoothie." She wiped off a mustache.
"What's it taste like?"
"Like an open field," she said, "with cow pies."
Then out of nowhere she said, "I'll probably marry Raymond Petrovich. It crossed my mind when he was canceling our absences on e-mail this morning. He's a take-charge guy."
"I thought you weren't ever going to get married," I said, "end of story."
"I was in elementary school when I said that. I've moved on. ..."

This is a story of male role models. You'll love them all. No one tells a story quite like Richard Peck.

This review is of an uncorrected Advance Reader Copy of the book.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Stanley's Shapes and Stanley's Colors - a review

In 2015, I reviewed the new picture book, Stanley the Farmer by William Bee, declaring it (among other things) "a perfect choice for very young listeners."  So when I had an opportunity to review upcoming Peachtree Publishers titles, I was happy to take a look at Stanley's entries into the board book series.  I was not disappointed.

Stanley's Shapes by William Bee
Peachtree Publishers, 2016

William Bee's illustrations are crisp, bright and simple. In Shapes, he ensures that the featured shape on each double-spread page is easy for children to discern, outlined heavily in black.   There are 8 shapes in all, and each one is something that should be easily recognizable for a child.  A tent is a triangle, a window is a square, bike wheels are circles, a kite is a diamond, etc. Text is minimal for each shape,
Wheeeeeeee! Circles make the best wheels!
Preceding the simple, black text is a white outline of the featured shape.  The final spread is an illustration that contains all of the shapes,
What a lot of shapes! How many can you see?
Stanley's Shapes is exactly what a concept board book should be.

Stanley's Colors by William Bee
Peachtree Publishers, 2016

Like Stanley's Shapes, Stanley's Colors is a perfectly simple, child-sized, concept board book.  There are eight featured colors on double-spread pages.  The background is white, except for a colored banner on the bottom.  The colored banner contains the simple black text,
Choo Choo!  Here is Stanley driving his purple train.
and matches the color in the illustration.  Almost everything in the image is purple with the exception of Stanley, and a few small accents.  Black outlining ensures clarity.

If you're looking for a color concept book for very young kids, this is a great choice.

Look for these books in September, 2016.

A note on board books:
I don't usually review board books because I am often disappointed in them.  In my opinion, board books should be exactly like these books, however, in recent years, it seems as if too many of them are just retreads of popular picture books.  They're often too big, too text heavy, too complicated.  If you're shopping for board books for your collection, or your own child, keep it simple!

Review copies were provided by the publisher at my request.

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...