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Find more Lasting Connections of 2012
Each January in Book Links, we publish a partner list to Booklist’s Books for Youth Editors’ Choice selections. “Lasting Connections” focuses on the top 30 titles for the K–8 classroom, and in the list below, you’ll find titles covering a wide range of subjects, from Aesop’s fables to wild horses (and the scientists who study them), all selected for their natural connections across the curriculum and to the Common Core State Standards.
Fox Tails: Four Fables from Aesop. By Amy Lowry. Illus. by the author. 2012. 32p. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823424009). 398.24. K–Gr. 2.
Four familiar Aesop fables—“The Fox and the Grapes,” “The Fox and the Crow,” “The Fox and the Goat,” and “The Fox and the Stork”—combine into a single, lively, seamless story in this handsomely illustrated picture book. The titular fox is joined by a stork, who appears in the first episode and then reappears to help deliver Fox’s final comeuppance. Set against spare backgrounds, the uncluttered pencil-and-gauche illustrations are filled with sly, whimsical details—Fox’s collection of trickster storybooks on a kitchen shelf; animal features subtly integrated into trees, rocks, flowers, and hills—that will easily extend discussion in the classroom. A handsome addition to Aesop units.
It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. By Don Tate. Illus. by R. Gregory Christie. 2012. 32p. Lee & Low, $17.95 (9781600602603). 759.13. Gr. 2–4.
One of the most celebrated American “outsider“ artist,” Bill Traylor didn’t start drawing until he was 85 years old. Pulling from childhood memories of slavery, the Civil War, and years spent homeless and jobless on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, Traylor began creating powerful images on sidewalk squares, scrap paper, and discarded cardboard boxes. Tate’s rhythmic, distilled text translates the elemental shapes, colors, and compositions in Traylor’s work—the “rectangles became bodies; circles became heads and eyes; lines became outstretched arms, hands, and legs”—while Christie’s beautiful paintings echo the style of Traylor’s artwork. A moving introduction to a little-known figure, this closes with an afterword that further extends its curricular appeal.Lulu and the Duck in the Park. By Hilary McKay. Illus. by Priscilla Lamont. 2012. 104p. Albert Whitman, $13.99 (9780807548080). Gr. 2–4.
Best known for the Exiles trilogy and her novels about the Casson family, McKay brings her same sly humor, expert pacing, and spot-on sense of a child’s perspective to this gentle, lively early chapter book about a young girl, Lulu, who rescues a duck egg on a class trip and pockets it, concealing her secret from her pet-averse teacher. Illustrated with black-and-white drawings of Lulu in her multicultural classroom, this warmhearted series starter makes a perfect independent reading choice for students transitioning to chapter books.
Max and Ruby’s Treasure Hunt. By Rosemary Wells. Illus. by the author. 2012. 32p. Viking, $17.99 (9780670063178). PreS–Gr. 1.
Wells creates a fresh new outing for beloved characters Max and Ruby in this rainy-day tale in which the bunnies’ grandmother invents an around-the-house treasure hunt. On cheerful, interactive spreads, the clues invite children to follow along and decipher the fill-in-the blank word puzzles, with the help of small visual clues. Wells incorporates more illustrated hints in each spread, offering many opportunities to return for repeated readings, but, as in most Max and Ruby titles, it’s Wells’ masterful ability to convey intense, universal emotions in the faces and body language of her young bunny stars that makes this so memorable.
Penny and Her Song. By Kevin Henkes. Illus. by the author. 2012. 32p. Greenwillow, $12.99 (9780062081957). PreS–Gr. 2.
This start to a new series marks Henkes’ first foray into beginning readers. Penny, a little mouse girl, longs to share a favorite song with her family, but it never seems to be the right time: the babies are napping; dinner is on the table. Finally, after much frustration and patience, Penny gets to share her melody, and, to her delight, her family joins in with costumes and dancing. Once again, Henkes uncannily captures a child’s everyday emotions through the eyes of an irrepressible character.
Starry River of the Sky. By Grace Lin. Illus. by the author. 2012. 288p. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316125956). Gr. 3–6.
After running away from home and hitching a hidden ride in the back of a merchant cart, young Rendi finds himself in the remote Village of Clear Sky, where he finds a job carrying out chores at an inn. As the intriguing cast of characters trades stories, a central mystery remains: What’s happened to the moon? As in Lin’s Newbery Honor Book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Chinese folklore is a connecting ribbon throughout this transporting sequel, which will make a perfect classroom read-aloud.
Water Sings Blue. By Kate Coombs. Illus. by Meilo So. 2012. 32p. Chronicle, $16.99 (9780811872843). 811. Gr. 1–4.
In her first book of poetry, Coombs takes inspiration from the ocean in selections that represent unusual points of a view—a boat’s song, a fish’s prayer, an epitaph for a sunken vessel. Varied in form and tone as well as subject, these brief poems invite readers to rethink seemingly familiar subjects and shift their way of seeing, while So’s luminous watercolor illustrations extend the sense of wonder and mystery in the vast, watery world.
Wonder. By R. J. Palacio. 2012. 320p. Knopf, $15.99 (9780375869020). Gr. 5–8.
One of the most discussed novels of the year, this story introduces 10-year-old Auggie, who is born with a genetic disorder that left his face, as Auggie calls it, “mushed up.” As he leaves the safety of homeschooling and enters his first year of public school, Auggie navigates new friendships, fierce bullying, subtle shifts in his family, and the growing thrill of his own intelligence. From beginning to triumphant end, this title examines the everyday school dynamics through the eyes of an extraordinary boy.
Z Is for Moose. By Kelly Bingham. Illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky. 2012. 32p. Greenwillow, $16.99 (9780060799847). K–Gr. 2.
In this uproarious abecedary, an antsy moose can’t wait for his chance to take center stage as each letter is introduced. “You are on the wrong page,” admonishes a zebra as the moose, smiling coyly, shows up under “D.” “Is it my turn yet?,” he asks as he drops down from above, obscuring the lettering for “H is for Hat.” Then comes the ultimate outrage—“M is for Mouse”—and on each subsequent page, Moose takes revenge with a thick red crayon. Best for kids who already have a handle on the alphabet, this subversive, riotous title is filled with classroom-ready wordplay.
How Many Jelly Beans? A Giant Book of Giant Numbers! By Andrea Menotti. Illus. by Yancey Labat. 2012. 28p. Chronicle, $18.99 (9781452102061). 513.2. K–Gr. 2. What starts off as a jelly bean–collecting contest between kids becomes a clever introduction to big numbers in this oversize picture book. Set against blank white pages, the spare, high-impact illustrations feature Emma and Aiden answering an offstage voice asking how many beans each would like. As each responds with larger and larger numbers, the appropriately candy-colored images show what looks to be the corresponding amount of beans, from 100 to 10,000 to 1 million. The impact is all in the inviting visuals, which offer a fresh, fun approach to huge numbers.
Lemonade in Winter: A Book about Two Kids Counting Money. By Emily Jenkins. Illus. by G. Brian Karas. 2012. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (9780375858833). PreS–Gr. 3.
A coin-counting exercise is folded into this warmhearted picture book set in the dead of winter. Despite snow, ice, and discouragement from their parents, Pauline and her little brother, John-John, decide to open a lemonade stand. After purchasing supplies with their stash of quarters, they set up shop outside their apartment building. At the end of the day, after tallying their expenses and sales, the siblings realize that though they’ve actually lost money, there’s still enough left for two Popsicles, bringing a celebratory ending. The pencil-and-ink illustrations extend the humor with amusing details and add further connection to the easily relatable, childlike protagonists. The repeated sales chant, “Lemon lemon LIME, / lemon LIMEADE,” offers a terrific opportunity for interactive read-alouds, and an appended spread offers an illustrated guide that reviews coins and their values.
The Beetle Book. By Steve Jenkins. Illus. by the author. 2012. 40p. Houghton, $16.99 (9780547680842). 595.76. Gr. 3–5.
The award-winning author-illustrator brings his distinctive paper-collage style to the world of beetles in this large-format book. A startling opening fact—“Line up every kind of plant and animal on earth . . . and one of every four will be a beetle”—leads into sections devoted to topics such as beetles’ anatomy, senses, behaviors, life cycles, communications, and defenses. Jenkins’ artwork is in top form here, with precise, clear, subtly detailed images of beetles positioned against broad white pages. A richly varied and visually arresting introduction to beetles, both familiar and strange.
Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why. By Lita Judge. Illus. by the author. 2012. 40p. Roaring Brook/Flash Point, $17.99 (9781596436466). 598.159. Gr. 1–3.
The subtitle perfectly introduces the focus of this unusual picture book about bird communication, from the chatter of backyard birds to the songs of more exotic species. Rather than employing a traditional narrative style, the spreads present information in brief bursts of texts that often accompany eye-catching, color-washed pencil illustrations. Perfect for exercises implementing the Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on integrating information from illustrations and multiple areas of a book, from front to back matter, this title will easily attract students with its always appealing subject of animal talk.
Just Ducks! By Nicola Davies. Illus. by Salvatore Rubbino. 2012. 32p. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763659363). 598.41. K–Gr. 3.
Like Bird Talk, above, this beautifully illustrated title uses a nontraditional format in its introduction to bird science. Davies, a zoologist, seamlessly combines elements of fiction and nonfiction in a text narrated by a young girl, who talks about the mallard ducks living nearby. Each morning on her way to school, she sees them swimming, nibbling for snacks on the water’s surface, and tipping down to dive for more food underwater. In addition to explaining what the ducks do at night, she touches on mating rituals, nesting, and how, in the spring, baby ducklings hatch. The conversational tone of the text will make the information easy to absorb, and Rubbino’s watercolor paintings are particularly noteworthy in their fluid, energetic brushstrokes, which capture the look and body language of ducks while visually reinforcing facts in the text.
Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95. By Phillip Hoose. 2012. 160p. illus. Farrar, $21.99 (9780374304683). 598.072. Gr. 7–12.
As in The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (2004), Hoose spotlights an endangered bird, the rufa red knot, focusing on one, B95 (dubbed Moonbird by researchers), which he calls one of the world’s premiere athletes: although it weighs a mere four ounces, the Moonbird has flown more than 325,000 miles in its lifetime. Written with an easy elegance and painstakingly researched, this title, a finalist for the 2013 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, profiles not only the red knots but also the work of those who study them. A generous number of photographs, maps, and sidebar features, as well as extensive back matter, complete this handsome example of the high quality of contemporary informational titles for youth.
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas. By Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm. Illus. by Molly Bang. 2012. 48p. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $18.99 (9780545273220). 571.4. K–Gr. 3.
Like its companion books, My Light (2004) and Living Sunlight (2009), this informative picture book is narrated by the sun. Here, though, the central subject is the ocean’s vast supply of microscopic phytoplankton, which supplies half the oxygen created on earth and forms an essential part of the sea’s food chains. The vibrant illustrations support the scientific facts with luminous images that range from the brilliant greens of sunlit shores to the mysterious, bioluminescent hues of the ocean’s depths. With a rarely covered topic in books for youth and artwork that pulses with the energy of the natural world, this is a natural choice for the science curriculum.
Wild Horse Scientists. By Kay Frydenborg. 2012. 80p. illus. Houghton, $18.99 (9780547518312). 599.665. Gr. 7–9.
Among the noteworthy entries in the Scientists in the Field series released in 2012, this title stands out for its finely tuned balance of information about both the animal subjects and the specific, detailed work of the scientists who study them. Here, the setting is Maryland’s Assateague Island National Seashore, which is home to a population of wild horses that may be familiar to readers of Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague (1947). As in other titles in the series, high-quality color photos and well-chosen sidebars further draw students into an engaging volume that not only shows what scientists do in their daily work but also why that work is so essential.
Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. By Joseph Lambert. Illus. by the author. 2012. 96p. Disney/Hyperion, $17.99 (9781423113362). 362.4. Gr. 6–12.
With a dynamic interplay between words and images, Lambert makes full use of the graphic format in this title, which creates new understanding of the well-documented relationship between Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. In compact panels that focus on hands and faces, six-year-old Keller initially wanders through a darkened void; struggles to interact with others and the objects that surround her; and, finally, begins to make sense of the world through language. Woven throughout are passages drawn from Sullivan’s journals and letters, adding further insight into her own early life. Like the previous youth biographies in a graphic format produced jointly with The Center for Cartoon Studies, this title is an excellent choice for tying into the Common Core State Standards.
Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust. By Doreen Rappaport. 2012. 240p. illus. Candlewick, $22.99 (9780763629762). 940.53. Gr. 7–12.
Among the crowded shelves of Holocaust books, this thoroughly researched, ambitious title stands out for its specific focus on Jewish resistance across Europe. Rappaport’s vivid writing conveys both the thrilling underground escape stories without denying the survivors’ guilt and the horror of what was left behind. Thoroughly documented and illustrated with a strong collection of archival images, this is an important addition to the Holocaust curriculum.
The Boston Tea Party. By Russell Freedman. Illus. by Peter Malone. 2012. 40p. Holiday, $17.95 (9780823422661). 973.3. Gr. 2–5.
Distinctive, subtly shaded watercolor paintings dramatize the pivotal events in 1773 Boston that helped to spark the American Revolution. Quotes from both participants and observers bring a sense of immediacy to the clearly written narrative, while accounts of young people who were involved will help draw students into the action. Informative and well documented, this handsome picture book, which begins with several pages of succinct historical background, offers a memorable account that will find wide classroom use.
A Boy Called Dickens. By Deborah Hopkinson. Illus. by John Hendrix. 2012. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (9780375867323). Gr. 3–5.
Arriving just in time for the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birthday comes this unusual, atmospheric offering that follows 12-year-old Dickens, who loves to read when he’s not toiling away for six shillings a day while his family is incarcerated in debtors’ prison. Hendrix’s moody, detailed art amplifies the sense of young Dickens’ sooty, crowded world. This fictionalized introduction to the young writer and his times will also lead naturally into history units and discussions of child labor.
Discovering Black America: From the Age of Exploration to the Twenty-First Century. By Linda Tarrant-Reid. 2012. 244p. illus. Abrams, $29.95 (9780810970984). 973. Gr. 7–12.
From the arrival of the first Africans to the New World all the way through to Barack Obama’s first presidential election, this title from an experienced journalist offers a single-volume entry point into African American history. Despite the broad reach, Tarrant-Reid avoids oversimplifying her subjects, which are organized into heavily illustrated, well-designed pages. Thorough chapter notes close out this excellent resource for browsing or classroom support.
The Fairy Ring;or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World. By Mary Losure. 2012. 192p. illus. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763656706). 398. Gr. 5–8.
This title, chosen as Booklist’s 2012 Top of the List—Youth Nonfiction choice, tells the fascinating, true tale of how two English cousins used artwork and photography to dupe the world into believing that they had seen fairies. The girls’ original photographs illustrate this amazing story of forgery, hysteria, and the secret that cemented a deep friendship. With its mix of sources and elegant prose, this is an exemplary informational title for implementing the Common Core State Standards.
Fire in the Streets. By Kekla Magoon. 2012. 336p. Aladdin, $15.99 (9781442422308). Gr. 6–10.
This powerful sequel to the multiple award winner The Rock and the River (2009) is set against the political turmoil of 1968 Chicago, where 14-year-old Maxie follows her older brother into the Black Panther party. As she attends the Panthers’ political-education classes and helps in their health clinic, she tries to uncover a mole who is betraying their group. Tension builds until the end of this riveting historical novel, which will jump-start discussion across the curriculum.
Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely through a Never-Ending War. By Deborah Ellis. 2012. 144p. illus. Groundwood, $15.95 (9781554981816). 305.235092. Gr. 7–11.
Ellis interviewed 27 young people between the ages of 10 and 17 for this moving volume, which reveals the lives of Afghan young people, behind the headlines, and the grim realities of their daily existence as well as the joy and hope they find. Whether read whole or shared in excerpts, this volume offers unforgettable insight into current events while touching on universal issues of self-definition that will resonate with young people of all backgrounds.
Miles to Go for Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Years. By Linda Barrett Osborne. 2012. 128p. illus. Abrams, $24.95 (9781419700200). 305.896. Gr. 6–10.
Osborne, a senior editor at the Library of Congress, continues the overview of African American history she began in Traveling the Freedom Road (2009) with this companion volume, which focuses on black Americans’ experiences in both the South and the North during the late nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Combining gripping accounts with a high-impact selection of archival images and primary sources, including interviews with those who were young during the time period covered, this title is a must for classroom discussion and research.
Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport. By Deborah Hodge. 2012. 64p. illus. Tundra, $17.95 (9781770492561). 940.53. Gr. 5–12.
Filled with riveting personal biographies, this history of the famous 1939 rescue of 10,000 Jewish children during the Holocaust weaves together a general overview with the detailed memories of 8 survivors. Neither melodramatic nor sentimental, the accessible prose is interspersed with boxed accounts in first-person voices that tell the stories of young people who were sent away from home to live with strangers. The spacious design features historical photos as well as color paintings by artist-survivor Hans Jackson. The extensive back matter supports the stories and includes a glossary, a map of the children’s route, and a bibliography with current websites. Highly recommended for historical research and for personal reading.
Sophia’s War: A Tale of Revolution. By Avi. 2012. 320p. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $16.99 (9781442414419). Gr. 6–8.
Newbery Honor–winning author Avi offers a gripping view of the Revolutionary War through the eyes of a 12-year-old spy. In 1776, Sophia lives with her parents in British-occupied New York City. When a charming British officer is quartered in their home, Sophia idealizes him until she discovers his plot to capture West Point, and she enters into a dangerous journey to pass on the information. With language drawn from the period (and appended in a glossary) and historical events forming the tight framework of the tense, imagined drama, Avi offers an action-filled novel with wide classroom appeal.
Those Rebels, John and Tom. By Barbara Kerley. Illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. 2012. 48p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545222686). 973.4. Gr. 2–4.
Lighthearted and informative, this picture-book presentation celebrates collaboration across personal differences in a double portrait of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Starting with the leaders’ youth, the brief, conversational text highlights how brash, argumentative Adams and contemplative, gracefully articulate Jefferson combined forces to help lead the Continental Congress and draft the Declaration of Independence. Illustrated in an energetic, cartoon style and shaded with neon-bright primary colors, this picture book will infuse energy and interest into elementary-school units on American history as well as general discussions about teamwork and cooperation.
We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. By Cynthia Y. Levinson. 2012. 176p. illus. Peachtree, $19.95 (9781561456277). 323.1196. Gr. 6–12.
A finalist for the 2013 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, this thoroughly captivating photo-essay demonstrates the history-changing role of young people in the civil rights movement. Zeroing in on the lives of four young people who participated in the Birmingham Children’s March, Levinson deftly sets the personal stories within historical context, introducing adult leaders on all sides, from Martin Luther King Jr. and the Reverend Shuttlesworth to Bull Connor, and points out the impact of both the individuals with extreme viewpoints as well as those who kept quiet about the separate-but-equal policies. With a format that includes black-and-white photos and substantive back matter, this offers a fascinating look at rarely covered history.
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