Author Archives: schliesman

Middle School December 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Middle School | Middle School | December - (Comments Off on Middle School December 2018)

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Cronin, Doreen. Cyclone. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2017. 336 pages (978–1–4814–3525–3)

Ages 9-13

Nora, 12, is small for her age but finally tall enough to ride the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island while visiting her cousin Riley. Riley goes on the ride with Nora and then collapses when they get off: an undiagnosed  medical condition has resulted in a stroke. Riley ends up in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) while Nora, at first scared to see Riley, is spending long hours in the hospital waiting room. Monica, a hospital counselor, and Jack, an experienced kid visitor because of his younger brother’s illness, both help Riley navigate the frightening uncertainty, but she can’t bring herself to tell anyone how guilty she feels. It turns out Riley was terrified to go on the roller coaster so Nora blackmailed her, threatening to tell Riley’s mom about an older guy Riley’s  who called Riley the night before. Nora’s engaging, honest voice and compelling extended family dynamics (achingly real and recognizable, and sometimes funny) propel a story that also captures how strangers step up at times of need. Riley’s slow progress by story’s end is all the more satisfying because it shows how the stroke, for all it has changed what Riley is able to do, especially with regard to speaking, has not changed who she is.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Middle School November 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Middle School | November | Middle School - (Comments Off on Middle School November 2018)

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Rosenberg, Madelyn, and Wendy Wan-Long Shang.
This Is Just a Test. Scholastic Press, 2017. 243 pages (978–1–338–03772–2)

Ages 9-12

A late Cold War, made-for-television movie called The Day After, which imagines what happens in a small U.S. town after a nuclear bomb is dropped, leaves seventh-grader David Horowitz upset and unsettled the fall of 1983. Until the movie, his greatest worry was his upcoming bar mitzvah. Now it’s the end of the world. Then again, he’s sometimes just as worried about things exploding in his own home, where his Chinese maternal grandmother, Wai Po, who lives with his family, and his Jewish paternal grandmother, who moved from New Jersey to around the corner after Wai Po moved in, are often at odds in quietly cutting ways. David’s also trying to navigate a new friendship with Scott, a boy who teamed up with David and David’s longtime best friend, Hector, for a trivia contest. They won. Now Scott, who also saw The Day After, has invited David to help him dig a fall-out shelter, and has made it patently clear Hector, who is far from being a cool kid, is not included. Authentic characters, genuine relationships (for better and worse), tension, and humor all combine to make this story about family and friendship and David’s struggle for peace in his own life pleasurable, poignant, and immensely satisfying.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Middle School October 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Middle School | October | Middle School - (Comments Off on Middle School October 2018)

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Reynolds, Jason.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man. Marvel Press, 2017. 261 pages (978–148478748–9)

Age 11 and older

Half Black, half Puerto Rican, Miles Morales is comfortable in his own skin, even if some people aren’t always comfortable with his skin. But the same can’t be said for how Miles feels about other aspects of his identity. He’s a scholarship student from a poor Brooklyn neighborhood attending an elite prep school and he wants to do well for himself, his family, and community, but it’s a lot of pressure. And then there’s the fact that he’s Spider-Man. Only his best friend, Ganke, knows this truth. It was on a visit to his late Uncle Aaron, an ex-con his parents had forbidden him to see, that Miles was bitten by the spider that transformed him. Aaron has been on Miles’s mind a lot lately. For all that he has superpowers, Miles wonders if he has the same bad blood that made his uncle turn to crime. And being a superhero doesn’t mean Miles can solve the challenges in his neighborhood, let alone the world; he can’t even challenge a racist teacher without getting suspended. There is a superhero storyline here as Miles comes to understand and confronts a threat to the world—full of the action and moments of humor expected in the genre—but it’s deftly wrapped inside a vivid work of relatable, contemporary realistic fiction. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Middle School September 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Middle School | September | Middle School - (Comments Off on Middle School September 2018)

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Jamieson, Victoria.
All’s Faire in Middle School. Dial, 2017. 248 pages (978–0–525–42998–2)

Ages 8-12

Imogene has been home-schooled her entire life and has also spent eight weeks every year with her family at the Renaissance Faire in her Florida community. Now she’s finally getting the chance to play a part in the Faire as a squire to her dad’s villainous knight. Imogene is also starting public school—her own choice—for the first time. Imogene’s trials and tribulations as she navigates middle school are framed in terms of a Medieval drama at the start of every chapter of this graphic novel. (“Our heroine’s journey through the halls of middle school winds through unknown lands and uncharted territories.”) The false face and slings and arrows of one popular girl in particular are a challenge, but not as painful as discovering she, herself, is not above treachery as she tries to position herself in the social strata. Her behavior isn’t very noble at home, either. Luckily her family is marvelously grounded, not to mention wonderfully realistic. Life isn’t all Faires and fun, after all: Her dad sells pools and spas as his day job while everyone pitches in at home, whether helping make crafts for the shop her mom runs at the Faire, or watching her little brother. Imogene’s dad is brown-skinned, her mom white, in this entertaining and highly relatable quest in which Imogene emerges the hero of her own story—what every kid can be. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate Summer 2019 (3)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Summer - (Comments Off on Intermediate Summer 2019 (3))

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Yang, Gene Luen. Prime Baby. Illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim. Roaring Brook Press, 2010. 64 pages 
( 9781596436121)

Age 9 and older

Eight-year-old Thaddeus is jealous of his new baby sister, Maddie, and wants nothing to do with her until he realizes she’s a gateway for an alien invasion. His first clue: her single syllable babble (“ga”) is always vocalized in strings of prime numbers. When the aliens finally emerge—from small pods Maddie throws up–they turn out to be “missionaries of smiles and happy feelings.” This is a disappointment to Thaddeus, while the government locks Maddie away regardless. Thaddeus is more than willing to exploit his parent’s resulting distress for personal gain. But then he recognizes the look on his sister’s face in her isolation room as one all too familiar to him: loneliness. First published in the New York Times Magazine, Gene Luen Yang’s smart, funny graphic novel is hilarious from its first page (“my mother’s womb is a Trojan horse”) to its last. Smiles and happy feelings indeed.  ©2010 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate Summer 2019 (2)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Summer - (Comments Off on Intermediate Summer 2019 (2))

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Ann and Jane Drake. The Kids’ Book of the Night Sky. Illustrated by Heather Collins. Kids Can Press, 2004. 144 pages (0-55337-357-X)

Ages 7 – 12

This compendium of facts, folklore, and hands-on activities will delight young stargazers and provide them with a wealth of information about astronomy. Chapters on the moon, the stars, the planets, and the sky in each season all suggest something to make, from a planisphere to a star clock, and/or do, from a celestial scavenger hunt to a game of Night Sky “I Spy.” (Younger children will need help with some of the activities, but there is enough variety to offer something for children of many ages.) The authors’ fresh, lively narrative offers up plenty of science along with brief, breezy versions of traditional lore from peoples around the world. The clear, concise information is never confused by its juxtaposition with folklore or by the humorous contexts in which it is sometimes presented (such as the interview with an aging star). The two-color artwork in blue and black is often unremarkable, but works well when it matters here – diagramming a project, or showing specific information about aspects of the night sky. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate Summer 2019 (1)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Summer - (Comments Off on Intermediate Summer 2019 (1))

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Losure, Mary.
Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d. Candlewick Press, 2017. 163 pages (978–0–7636–7063–4)

How do you recount the life of a 17th-century scientist in a way that is captivating for youth? One way is to make it magical. Isaac Newton grew up at a time when there was little or no distinction between magic and science. His mathematical discoveries are what helped firmly distinguish between the two; even so, he never gave up his belief in alchemy. Here, Newton is profiled from childhood on as a singular intelligence. He didn’t often relate well to people, but he was brilliant and passionate in pursuit of his interests, from alchemy to math to mechanics. Although details about his childhood in particular are not abundantly known, Losure creates a vivid sense of the time and place in which he grew up, including ample information about alchemy, which so fascinated Newton. Near volume’s end, after recounting how Newton’s discoveries transformed understanding in physics and astronomy in particular, Losure writes, “This magician, this last sorcerer—the greatest of all alchemists—was the same man who banished magic from the scientific world.” End matter in this highly readable volume includes glimpses of Isaac’s notebooks, and excerpts from some of the alchemy books of his time, as well as source notes and bibliography.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate May 2019 (2)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | May - (Comments Off on Intermediate May 2019 (2))

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Hale, Shannon. Real Friends. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. First Second, 2017. 211 pages (pbk.  978–1–62672–785–4)

Ages 8-12

The middle child in a family of five children, Shannon is nervous to start kindergarten and to be away from her mother. It’s not long, though, before she meets Adrienne, her first best friend, who shares Shannon’s love of imaginative play. Adrienne is the first in a long succession of friends who are sometimes true, sometimes flaky, and other times downright mean. Mostly, though, they are like Shannon, just learning to navigate the world of elementary school– age friendships. In this graphic memoir, Shannon Hale frankly recounts her struggle to fit in with “the group,” the bullying she suffered from her classmate Jenny, and her desire to find, as her mother says, “one good friend.” She also recalls with at-times uncomfortable honesty the abuse she faced at the hands of her oldest sister, Wendy, whose own loneliness transformed Wendy into a frightening bear in Shannon’s eyes. LeUyen Pham’s bright, clear illustrations are well suited to the large cast of characters, who grow from kindergarteners to sixth-graders in this ultimately hopeful memoir about friendship and sister relationships that will be relatable to many girls today. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate May 2019 (1)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | May - (Comments Off on Intermediate May 2019 (1))

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Miller, Darcy. Roll. Harper, 2017. 206 pages (978–0–06–246122–3)

Ages 8-12

Ren’s family recently moved to his late grandmother’s house outside the small Minnesota community where he’s grown up. He misses spending time every day with his best friend, Aiden, who comes over sometimes but also seems to be having a pretty good time in town without him. Ren has made his athletic dad happy by agreeing to go out for track, but a summer spent trying to run has only convinced him of how much he hates it. In the final weeks of summer break, Ren meets Sutton, a new neighbor down the road. She and her family recently moved from the D.C. area, although her dad is currently at Mayo Clinic recovering from an accident. Sutton raises Birmingham Roller pigeons. Ren knows absolutely nothing about the birds when he and Sutton meet, but he’s intrigued. Soon Sutton is teaching him all about them. In some ways, he feels closer to her than to Aiden, whom he’s known since kindergarten. And it hurts. An understated story about new and changing friendships, and families, is written with grace and fine touches of humor as quiet Ren learns how to speak up for himself, and also for friendship. Terrific characterizations are one of the things that make this story stand out. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate April 2019

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | April - (Comments Off on Intermediate April 2019)

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Engle, Margarita.
Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics. Illustrated by Rafael López. Godwin Books / Henry Holt, 2017. 48 pages (978–0–8050–9876–1)

Ages 8-12

“Flight! / I’m the first woman pilot, but I won’t be the last— / every little girl who sees me up here in blue sky / will surely grow up with dreams / of flying too!” (from “The World’s First Woman Pilot,” Aída de Acosta, 1884–1962, Cuba). Biographical poems introduce 18 Hispanics whose lives, notes author Margarita Engle, range from “some who were celebrated in their lifetimes but have been forgotten by history,” to others who “achieved lasting fame.” Even the shortest poems provide a brief but intriguing sense of their subjects’ lives and accomplishments while nurturing readers’ desire to learn more. Brief biographical “Notes about the Lives” at volume’s end are a starting point for doing just that, while a concluding poem, “More and More Amazing Latinos,” is a treasure trove of additional names—and lives—to learn about. The men and women profiled come from across Latin America and were accomplished in many fields. Gorgeous full-page portraits of each subject incorporate elements of the work for which they were known, while inspired spot illustrations add to the volume’s beauty. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate March 2019

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | March - (Comments Off on Intermediate March 2019)

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Kelly, Erin Entrada. Hello, Universe. Greenwillow, 2017. 313 pages (978–0–06–241415–1)

Ages 8-12

Shy Virgil feels like a failure for not finding the courage to say hello to Valencia before the end of the school year. But his friend Kaori, who believes in fate and fortunes and is an aspiring astrologer, is sure it’s fated for Virgil and Valencia to be friends, so as summer starts she’s offering him counsel. On his way to Kaori’s one day, Virgil encounters bullying Chet in the woods. True to form, Chet steals Virgil’s backpack. Then he drops it down an old well and takes off. Inside the backpack, nestled in fleece, is Virgil’s beloved guinea pig. Chet was unaware, but would it have mattered? Virgil attempts a rescue on his own but gets stuck at the bottom of the well. Meanwhile, Valencia is out exploring the woods nearby, on her way to her own appointment with Kaori, but she can’t hear Virgil calling out from the bottom of the well because she is deaf. The strands of fate and friendship intertwine in surprising ways in this riveting story alternating among the perspectives of Virgil, Kaori, Valencia (all wonderfully developed, singular characters), and Chet. Filipino American Virgil, who feels overshadowed even in his own boisterous family, finds that his grandmother’s (Lola) stories help sustain him in the well, and maybe, just maybe, their magic extends to real life. If friendship is magic, they surely do.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate February 2019 (2)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | February - (Comments Off on Intermediate February 2019 (2))

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Mahin, Michael.
Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy  Waters. Illustrated by Evan Turk. Atheneum, 2017. 48 pages (978–1–4814–4349–4)

Ages 7-10

Born into an area rife with poverty and racism in the Mississippi Delta, Muddy Waters could count on two things in his life: his Grandma Della, and music. Muddy loved the music he heard in church on Sundays, but his favorite was “fish-fry music,” “shake off the dust / and wring out your worries / and laugh and cry and feel alive music.” Muddy loved the blues. After leaving his “back- busting, soul-breaking” job as a sharecropper, Muddy moved to Chicago to make music. He was told he needed to incorporate more jazz into his style, but he stuck with what he knew and brought “the sound of the Delta” to the big city. As it turned out, people in Chicago couldn’t get enough of Muddy’s blues. After a few false starts in the recording business, a record producer gave Muddy a chance to record his own music, his own way, and it was a hit. Muddy was on his way to becoming one of the greatest blues musicians the world has ever known. Bright, bold illustrations against a black background, and an inventive, evocative choice of descriptive words, set the tone and conjure up the sound of the blues in this picture book biography.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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