Friday, March 21, 2014

More Star Quality Reads

Last week, I told you about the 2014 books that have received 3-5 starred reviews. Today, we'll look at the 2014 books in our collection that have received two or one starred reviews. These are awesome books! The number of stars may change as the year progresses and we add more books to our collection, I'll update this list when necessary. There are some fabulous books among this stack, so let's jump right in.

2 Starred Reviews

Baby Bear
This book has been flying off the shelves since we got it in January. Baby bear stories are always popular, and the illustrations in this book by the inimitable Kadir Nelson are tremendous. This is a change for Mr. Nelson, who has made his name creating exemplary nonfiction books about African American history and noted African Americans (he received a Caldecott Honor for Henry's Freedom Box, written by Ellen Levine). In addition to Henry's Freedom Box, my personal favorites are  Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans and We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball.

Baby's Got the Blues
Baby is singing the blues--wet diapers, boring soft foods, sleeping in a crib--it's a tough life! But at the end of the day, there's plenty of hugs and kisses, so it's not all bad. This looks like a fun read aloud.

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond 
I reviewed this in February; very happy it's getting such great reviews!

Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream 
Looking forward to reading this fictional story about the first African American prima ballerina, Janet Collins.

Dare the Wind: The Record Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud
Just in time for Women's History Month!  I've never heard of Eleanor Prentiss, who set a sailing record during the Gold Rush era.  Illustrator Emily Arnold McCully is one of the best: I adore her Mirette on the High Wire.

Dream Dog 
Henry wants a dog. REALLY wants a dog. His dad is allergic to dogs, so that's not going to fly.  His parents offer a lizard, but it's clearly not the same. Henry takes matters into his own hands and creates the most awesome dog ever. Does it matter that no one else can see it? This sounds really adorable (although the reviews I've read make me think that the ending might make some readers tear up!).

Five, Six, Seven, Nate!
I read Better Nate Than Ever, which has great appeal to a specific audience; I found that the obscure musical theater references went overboard in Five, Six, Seven, Nate, while they were somewhat kept in check for the first story (and as someone who has read a lot of musical theater history, some of the references were a bit too obscure for me).

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? 
Birds are some of my favorite creatures, so this lovely book about bird calls is right up my alley. Might be a good read aloud for preschoolers and kindergartners.

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons
I took a peek at this when we received it; a panda cutie leads us through the seasons, told through haiku.

A Mad, Wicked Folly 
This YA novel about a young British woman caught up in the suffragist movement sounds like a winning novel; definitely putting this toward the top of my list!

Mama Built a Little Nest 
A steady discussion on Elizabeth Bird's blog is focused on noted illustrators who have somehow not received a Caldecott Medal (they've either received the Honor or have not received any citation at all). While two of my favorites, Lois Ehlert and Denise Fleming, immediately came to mind (both have received Honors, but not the Medal), I later thought of Steve Jenkins, who has one Honor. Could this take on nest building and caretaking be the one?  (He also has another one, which he wrote and illustrated, coming out soon.)

Maple is adorable. I love it. Going on my Caldecott list. (I started my lists for 2015--look up and to your right!)

Operation Bunny
I'm familiar with Sally Gardner's YA fiction, so I'm happy to find this novel for much younger readers. Those who crave fairy/magic stories will grab this.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Isn't that a great title? This sounds like an offbeat fantasy title; the main character is a girl born with wings who struggles to fit in with society.

YA adventure stories always catch my eye; they are great for readers who want action-packed stories, but do not want science fiction or dystopian novels.  Threatened takes place in the African country of Gabon; issues of endangered species and the plight of children orphaned by AIDS add depth to this story of survival in the wild.

The Tyrant's Daughter 
 Fifteen year old Laila and her family flee their unnamed Middle Eastern country after her father, the king, is assassinated.  Fleeing to a DC suburb brings about many issues, including culture shock, facing realities about her father's government, and a growing suspicion that a close family member was involved in the bloody coup. Author J.C. Carleson is a former CIA official who is receiving praise for her multi-faceted characters and situations.

What's Your Favorite Animal? 
I'm not always a fan of these sort of collaborations (for various reasons), but I can't resist a collection including Nick Bruel, Lucy Cousins, Steven Kellogg, Mo Willems, and many other favorites. I'm a huge fan of everyone listed on the cover, so this will definitely be a treat. Some authors, such as Rosemary Wells, write and illustrate about an actual animal in their lives; others, such as Mo Willems, create a wildly imaginative creature.

When I Was the Greatest
Fans of urban fiction  will want to pick up this YA novel set in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Fifteen year old Ali, named after the famed boxer, tries to avoid the temptations of the street through boxing.

One Starred Review

Thousands upon thousands of children's and YA books are published every year, which makes earning one starred review a noted accomplishment!

Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble 
I LOVE the Bad Kitty series; I reviewed this in February. Hilarious AND cunningly educational; this one is about the writing process.

Baseball Is...
Just in time for opening day comes this loving tribute to baseball.  I am SO ready for baseball season, are you?

Beauty and the Beast
I haven't had a chance to really read this yet, but I do know that the illustrations are outstanding. This is a retelling of the fairy tale classic set in an unnamed west African country.

Betty Bunny Wants a Goal 
Betty Bunny is back! In her latest outing, Betty Bunny learns how to deal with the disappointment of losing.

A Book of Babies 
It's always a good day when Il Sung Na comes out with a new book. I have mixed feelings about the Caldecott (and Newbery) being limited to American authors and illustrators, because this means that some of my favorite artists are not eligible for the medals.  Il Sung Na creates beautiful, adorable, and enchanting picture books. This little duck observes the variety of baby animals around him.  LOVE.

Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles have consistently received fine reviews; I am not a big fan of science fiction/dystopian novels, but Cinder (#1) totally engrossed my reading. I need to get to Scarlet (#2) while I wait for the holds for Cress to die down.  Book #4 (Winter) will be out in 2015.

Divided We Fall 
Yes, yet another dystopian trilogy, but this one is described as a "military thriller," so that's somewhat different. Seventeen year old Daniel enrolls in the National Guard and is caught up in protests against a federal card ID program.  Publishers Weekly calls this a "pageturner" with a "catastrophic cliffhanger." Whoa!

Fake ID 
I'm super happy about this mystery involving an African-American teen; we don't often see multiculturalism in mysteries (another main character is Latino), so this will be a great addition!  Nick and his family are in the Witness Protection Program, which causes a ton of constant upheaval in his life.  School Library Journal says Nick is a "likable Everyman" and that mystery and suspense fans will be "extremely satisfied" by the surprise ending.

Feathers: Not Just for Flying 
Through a scrapbook format, Stewart explains that feathers protect birds from sunlight, carry materials for nests, and attract mates, in addition to flying.

Florence Nightingale 
Demi's gorgeous and inviting picture book biographies are always a must-order. I also take a second look at biographies about subjects who aren't often covered in biographies for youth; the most recent biography we have of Nightingale is a 100+ page biography, so this will fill a void nicely. I've had a chance to browse through this book; the illustrations are, of course, divine, and Nightingale's achievements in hospital orderliness and safety are noted.  Her work in the American Civil War is also featured.

The Forbidden Stone
The prolific and multi-talented Tony Abbott is back with a new series about children who must unravel a mystery that is threatening to destroy the world. Oh, no! The notoriously picky (and occasionally cranky) Kirkus Reviews enthused that "[W]ith engaging characters, a globe-trotting plot and dangerous villains, it is hard to find something not to like."  Fantastic!

Game Slaves
With this eerie cover and name, I knew that our copies would not stay long on our YA new shelves. Characters are real-life players in an online video game;  a new recruit questions the ethics of their game and the game's corporation, which shakes up everything that the players believe in.

Go! Go! Go! Stop!
This is awesomely funny; "Go" only knows one word, which sends the construction site into a frenzy.  Luckily, a new friend named "Stop" shows up. Hidden in this wacky story is a message about working together that isn't hammered into the story.

A Hundred Horses
Sarah Lean, author of the 2013 Schneider Family Award (Middle School Division) for A Dog Called Homeless, is proving to be a fine author of sensitive and moving stories for middle grade readers.  An eleven year old is forced to spend her spring break on a farm with family she has never met, where she meets a mysterious girl with a magical connection to horses.

Jinx's Magic 
Like the first book in the Wizard's Apprentice series, Jinx's Magic is receiving excellent reviews. Wizards, orphans, a mysterious forest--these standard fantasy novel ingredients will never get old.

The Killing Woods 
This YA murder mystery involves a teenage girl grappling with the fact that her father, a veteran with PTSD, is accused in the murder of one of her high school acquaintances.

Let's Get Cracking! (Kung Pow Chicken #1)
A superhero (superchicken?) easy chapter book about a second-grader chicken with an alter ego? Sign me up! This is heavily illustrated, which should attract reluctant readers.

The Lion Whole Stole My Arm 
Although this is a short novel (under 100 pages), this is a sophisticated novel about a young boy, armless because of a lion attack, who must face his new reality and an intense dilemma when he has the opportunity to kill the lion who attacked him.

Matilda's Cat
Emily Gravett is a favorite (and not eligible for the Caldecott *sob*).  Matilda is confident that she knows what her cat likes; her cat, on the other hand, is quite contrary, as cats can be.

Monday, Wednesday, And Every Other Weekend
Picture books about "issues" run the risk of being didactic; this story concerns a young boy dealing with his parents' divorce and his new living arrangements.  Publishers Weekly recommends this for the boy's "calm understanding of his family's situation, combined with his parents' mutual amicability."

New Kid 
Tim Green, along with Mike Lupica, write thoughtful and realistic sports novels, so new books by these two authors are always welcome.  Green's latest story is centered on a troubled youngster who faces a fresh start at a new school and on a new baseball team.

Lauren Oliver is enormously popular, so her books are usually automatic orders. Fans will be drawn to this tale about a high-stakes game that awards $67,000 to the winner. This is not chump change in a town with an overwhelming unemployment problem.  Fans of thrillers should check this out.

Peek-A-Boo Bunny
Bunny books will soon be all the rage, so this is quite timely!  This little rabbit enjoys playing hide and seek with his buddies. AWWWWWW.

Sky Raiders
The ever-popular Brandon Mull's kickoff to a new series involves a wild and spooky night of trick-or-treating, during which a group of teens is transported to an alternate universe.

Some Bugs

We can never have enough picture books about bugs.  This looks bright, beautiful, and gloriously buggy.

Sophie's Terrible Twos
Rosemary Wells has a knack for writing stories to which both youngsters and adults can relate. Sophie is not having a good day; unfortunately, it's her birthday (which may be contributing to her feeling of being overwhelmed).  Luckily, Granny has experience in dealing with cranky toddlers.  Should be popular.

D.J. MacHale's sequel to Sylo  continues this adventure about teens escaping from a forced quarantine.  Kirkus 's stunning review compares this to Stephen King's The Stand; impressive!

Tesla's Attic
After fourteen year old Nick moves to a new house after his family's home burns down (and in which his mother dies), he finds an attic filled with items (destined for an estate sale) that appear to have supernatural powers.  Shusterman is a popular and well-reviewed author, so this will be anticipated by his fans. First in a trilogy.  Although the premise is sad, Library Media Connection noted that humor is "sprinkled throughout" the storyline.

Time for Bed, Fred 
Fred is SO not ready for bed. There are trees to climb and mud puddles in which to splash about.  His loving yet exasperated humans are determined to settle him down for the night.  Who will win in the end? Hoping to add this to my "read aloud" dog stories!

When an Alien Meets a Swamp Monster 
An alligator mistakes a mud-covered helmet and goggles wearing boy for an alien; the boy mistakes the alligator for a swamp monster! Both run home to tell a sibling; their second encounter promises to be just as wacky as the first.  This funny story about misunderstandings is "[T]otal laugh-out-loud joy," according to Kirkus Reviews.

Review journals mentioned in this post: School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly. Some content (including full text reviews) may restricted to subscribers.

Are you excited about the new 2014 books? Looks like a great start to the publishing year!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.

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