Just in time for the centennial celebration of the 19th amendment comes Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists,A Kitten, And 10,000 Miles. Nell Richardson and Alice Burke drove through a blizzard, participated in a circus parade, drove long days through the desert, and even dodged bullets in a rough neighborhood in order to promote women's voting rights. Yellow was a prominent color in the suffragist movement (which was new to me, since I only associated white with that movement!), and it is cheerfully celebrated in Hadley Hooper's irresistable illustrations. This is a late addition to my Caldecott 2017 shortlist! If you're familiar with Mara Rockliff's Mesmerized, you know that she presents nonfiction in a lively and super fun way; don't pass this one by.
The Bolds may just be the funniest--or stupidest--book you'll read this year. You just have to roll with the premise of a family of hyenas impersonating a typical suburban British family. They manage to pull it of with most people not suspecting anything (they have a few close calls)...save for their surly and VERY suspicious neighbor (who turns out to have a few surprises of his own!). If you're in the mood for a ridiculous read, this is the one for you. Roald Dahl fans will love this.
On the other hand, The Door by the Staircase might be the creepiest book you'll read this year. Twelve year old Mary is delighted to finally be adopted; she now has a warm bed and scrumptious meals. Things seem to be rather strange in her new home; the nearby town is filled with fortune tellers, magicians, and the like (who are scorned by Mary's new mother). When she discovers that her new mother is actually Baba Yaga (a witch in Russian folklore) and is actually fattening her up for a delicious meal, she must quickly plan her escape from her new home, aided by the son of a town illusionist. Not only is this a top read for those that like scary stories that are creepy rather than bloody, it's also one for those that revel in vivid descriptions of food (blini, farmer's cheese with rye bread, etc) and indepth characters. On my list for Newbery 2017.
I love finding stories about little-known American heroes and heroines, which is why The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier is one of my top favorites this year. Susannah Wright was indeed extraordinary; this Quaker woman was influential with Benjamin Franklin, advised Native Americans on their legal rights, was a successful businesswoman, and wrote poetry. If you're a fan of American history (especially colonial America), don't delay in reading this book.
Whenever I see a dog on the cover of a book, I'm reminded of Gordon Korman's hysterical No More Dead Dogs ("Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down."). Even books that don't have an award sticker but do have a dog on the cover often feature a dog in peril. Readers that love dog stories but dread sad books about dogs in danger, dogs being taken away from their owner, dogs dying, etc will find Fenway and Hattie, told from the perspective of Fenway (the hyper Jack Russell Terrier on the cover) to be a huge relief. Many changes are happening in Fenway's life: his humans move him from a city apartment to a suburban home, Hattie seems to be developing interests outside of Fenway....and he's attending training classes (these scenes, which include the dogs talking to each other about the classes, are highlights). If you need a good laugh and escape, this is the book for you. If you've ever had or even known a JRT (or loved a dog that was a good dog but definitely needed to learn its manners), you will love this (the scenes between Fenway and the dogs next door are fantastic). Victoria J. Coe is planning to continue more adventures with Fenway and Hattie, so stay tuned!
I am all about funny and fun stories this days, which is why I was thrilled to find The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. Fifteen year old Justin and his friends are making an epic zombie movie...as epic as it can with limited funds for special effects, an unfinished script, and a demanding fifteen year old leading lady. Add in the fact that the principal will absolutely not let them film at school, and you have quite a challenge for these young filmmakers. This is hysterically funny and snarky, but never mean. Although it's marketed for YA, there's no mature language or content (there's an on-screen kissing scene that like nearly everything else in the production, ends up being a disaster). Zombie fans will definitely love the jokes and references, but anyone in the mood for a fun and funny read will not be disappointed.
Hannah and Sugar beautifully capture a common childhood fear: a fear of dogs. Dealing with a fear of dogs can be difficult, especially if you're surrounded by kids who love the neighborhood dog. Although Sugar is quite a polite dog and loves the children in the neighborhood, Hannah would rather just avoid him. When Sugar goes missing one day, Hannah is ultimately the hero in bringing him home.
I reviewed The Infinity Year of Avalon James months ago for School Library Journal, and I can't wait for other readers to discover it! Avalon James and her best friend, Atticus, are waiting for the infinity powers that have been promised to them by the end of their eleventh year. While they wait, they have to deal with everyday issues such as a mean kid taunting Avalon about her incarcerated father, the spelling bee, and the inevitable fallout that happens when a friend shares an embarrassing secret about another. Although there are serious issues throughout the story, the overall feel remains light and positive. This is a superb boy-girl friendship story; no snarkiness or putdowns. This is very light fantasy, so realistic readers that like a touch of whimsy and magic in their stories will appreciate this.
Although we are seeing more historical fiction set in the 1970s and 1980s, not all of them fit the need for a historical fiction title that truly embraces important historical events (some just incorporate fads/fashions of the time for background stuff). It Ain't So Awful, Falafel memorably and sensitively captures the worry and dread felt during the Iranian hostage crisis in the late 1970s from the perspective of an 11 year old Iranian-American girl. Zomorod really wants to fit in with her new school and neighborhood, which is difficult when you have an unusual name and your family comes from America's new enemy. Being called on to explain Iranian history and the hostage crisis in class is also a challenge, especially since she barely remembers Iran and like most 11 year olds, doesn't have a firm grasp on the political implications! Like Margarita Engle's Enchanted Air (a memoir), this is a deeply felt, remarkable, and eye-opening look at what it feels like to feel like an outsider in your own country (The No Dogs Allowed Rule is another excellent title in this regard, although not to the extent of these two books). Readers familiar with the experience of moving many times to different homes will also relate. There's also tons of light moments that make this a warm and positive read.
I have a low tolerance for bathroom humor and anti-girl/anti-boy attitudes, so I was quite skeptical of Slingshot and Burp. Can I just say that I really hope we have more Slingshot and Burp stories very soon? I got a huge kick out of this short chapter book featuring two active, rambunctious boys who love playing cowboys (but have a great honor code and do not play "Cowboys and Indians"). Whether they are searching for rattlesnakes or outlaws, scorpions or ghost cats, Slingshot and Burp are always on the move. Their most daunting foes, however, might just be their sisters, who have commandeered their bunkhouse (and decorated it pink!). There is some limited pretend gun play and some "eww girls" moments, but overall, this is a purely fun chapter book about boys with lots of energy and imagination.
If When I Grow Up: Misty Copeland is any indication of the other books in Scholastic's "When I Grow Up" series, then I hope that other titles will be published soon! Told from Misty Copeland's perspective, this sketches the career of this ballet superstar. If you're familiar with Copeland's life story, you know that there were issues between her mother and her mentor; this is presented as her mother not wanting Misty to be separated from the family, etc. A young readers edition of Copeland's memoir will be released in December for those wanting a more in-depth but still child-friendly look at Copeland's life.
When Woodpecker smells the delicious waffles wafting from the local diner, he becomes obsessed with getting a bite (or more) of this breakfast treat. Unfortunately, the waitress is not at all charmed by his attempts to gain entrance to the diner! Woodpecker Wants a Waffle is a laugh-out-loud tale of great hijinks--you just might have a craving for some waffles at the end of the story (and if you're into the diner theme, check out Everyone Loves Bacon).
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library