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Find more Special Feature: Lasting Connections: 2014
Each January in Book Links, we publish a partner list to Booklist’s Books for Youth Editors’ Choice selections. “Lasting Connections” highlights our top 30 choices for the K–8 classroom, all published in the previous year and all selected for their natural connections across the curriculum and to the Common Core State Standards.
Triangles. By David A. Adler. Illus. by Edward Miller. 2014. 32p. Holiday, $17.95 (9780823423781). 516. K–Gr. 3.
Adler and Miller, whose previous books include Working with Fractions (2007) and Perimeter, Area, and Volume: A Monster Book of Dimensions (2012), offer another well-organized and brightly illustrated introduction to basic math concepts. Here the text pauses occasionally to ask questions, and it is made even more engaging with Miller’s digital illustrations, which feature rounded people and robots working with brightly colored, geometric shapes. Since some early geometry books fudge on the illustrations, it’s a pleasure to find one in which the straight lines are actually straight and the geometric figures are exact and helpfully labeled. A precise and lively resource.
Two. By Kathryn Otoshi. Illus. by the author. 2014. 40p. KO Kids, $18.95 (9780972394666). PreS–Gr. 1.
In this follow-up to One (2008) and Zero (2010), Otoshi once again uses simple shapes, colors, and numbers to deliver a powerful message. Here she combines an introduction to the concept of even and odd numbers with a common kid problem: a best friend who becomes enamored with someone new. As always, Otoshi is able to get as much feeling out of her drawings of simple numbers as many illustrators can in drawings of children or animals. Children will be immediately attracted to the spare artwork, in which the painted numbers nearly glow against snow-white pages. A jumping-off point for discussions about every aspect of friendship, forgiveness, and, yes, math, this is one of those must-have books that will easily find a place both at home and at school.
The Boundless. By Kenneth Oppel. 2014. 336p. Simon & Schuster, $15.99 (9781442472884). Gr. 4–7.
Best known for his Printz Honor Book, Airborn (2004), and the Silverwing series, Oppel offers a grand adventure story, firmly rooted in Canadian history, with a distinctive setting and a hint of steampunk elements. The vividly imagined present-tense narrative follows young Will, whose quiet life changes as he travels westward and takes part in the golden-spike ceremony completing the Canadian Pacific Railway, in 1885. When he joins his father for the inaugural journey of the Boundless, a mammoth train hauling 947 cars and 6,495 passengers across the continent, encounters with villains, thieves, and a circus community of friends create heart-stopping action scenes and dozens of unforgettable characters.
Brown Girl Dreaming. By Jacqueline Woodson. 2014. 336p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, $16.99 (9780399252518). 811. Gr. 5–8.
In this memoir in verse, Woodson offers a beautifully crafted collection of memories about her homes in Ohio, South Carolina, and, finally, New York City as well as her friends and family. Small things—ice cream from the candy store, her grandfather’s garden, fireflies in jelly jars—become large as she recalls them and translates them into words. The multi-award-winning author also gives context to her life as she writes about racial discrimination, the civil rights movement, and, later, Black Power, but her focus is always on her family. An elegant, eloquent, haunting book about memory that is, itself, altogether memorable.
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Ed. by Paul B. Janeczko. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. 2014. 48p. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763648428). 811. PreS–Gr. 3.
In this beautifully illustrated volume, celebrated poet and anthologist Janeczko presents 36 brief poems (none are longer than 10 lines) about the seasons. The selections are by both children’s poets (Charlotte Zolotow, April Halprin Wayland, J. Patrick Lewis, Eve Merriam, and more) and adult poets (Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Ted Kooser, William Carlos Williams). In their brevity, the poems remind us that less can often be more and that there is art in economy. Caldecott Honor Book artist Sweet captures and expands the spirit and sensibility of the verses in lush, textured artwork. Executed in watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media, the images provide a luminous, layered invitation to pause, reflect, and return to the words in each selection. A special reading experience for each season and for the whole year round.
Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle. By George Hagen. Illus. by Scott Bakal and Jake Parker. 2014. 384p. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (9780385371032); lib. ed., $19.99 (9780385371049); e-book, $16.99 (9780385371056). Gr. 5–8.
Gabriel Finley has lived in his Brooklyn brownstone with his aunt since his father disappeared several years earlier. His mother has been gone since he was a baby. The thing he enjoys most is solving riddles, unaware that this skill will be essential when it comes to finding his father. Adult-novelist Hagen offers a first-rate fantasy for middle-grade readers that pulls elements from other, familiar fantasy titles for youth. Yet this story, filled with ravens and riddles and told from several points of view, stands apart. Young readers will easily connect with the indelible, strong characters, whose witty repartee adds to the book’s appeal, and their ongoing urge to make things right in a world where much has gone wrong. A soaring fantasy.
The Lion and the Bird. By Marianne Dubuc. Illus. by the author. 2014. 72p. Enchanted Lion, $17.95 (9781592701513). PreS–K.
The intimacy of friendship—as well as the bittersweet sweep of time—is exquisitely rendered in this spare story of a kindly lion who rescues an injured bird flying south for winter. Gently paced and illustrated with subtlety, this title relies on many wordless spreads and small visual scenes: a home isolated in a snowstorm, a crocus popping up from a white bank, Lion looking small on a bare page after Bird recovers and rejoins his old flock, and then, Bird’s single note, piercing an otherwise blank page, announcing his return. A welcome antidote to the speed of the world, this picture book by French Canadian Dubuc was chosen as Booklist’s 2014 Top of the List—Picture Book selection.
The Madman of Piney Woods. By Christopher Paul Curtis. 2014. 384p. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780545156646); e-book, $16.99 (9780545633765). Gr. 5–8.
The year is 1901 in this companion volume to Curtis’ Newbery Honor Book Elijah of Buxton (2007), and the two protagonists are African Canadian Benji of Buxton and Irish Canadian Red of nearby Chatham. Each brief chapter alternates between the boys as readers learn that Benji longs to be a journalist, and Red, a scientist. At first, they seem to have little in common except their respective encounters with a strange, frightening hermit known to Benji as the Madman of Piney Woods and to Red as the South Woods Lion Man. Call him what you will, he becomes a large presence in the book when the two boys finally meet and quickly become fast friends. Curtis deftly blends fully dimensional characters, a skillful use of sentiment, and his often hyperbolic humor into a historical novel that examines cultural and racial prejudice from many different perspectives.
Rain Reign. By Ann M. Martin. 2014. 240p. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (9780312643003). Gr. 4–6.
Rose, a fifth-grader who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, is often teased at school about her obsession with homonyms and her love of rules. Rose lives with her limited, overwhelmed, and often harsh father, and it’s Uncle Weldon who offers her the most emotional support. After Rain, a stray dog that comforts and protects Rose, is lost in a storm, Rose struggles between her devotion to her pet and her devotion to rules—all while searching for a secure sense of home and family. Rose’s unforgettable first-person narrative offers an unflinching view of her world from her viewpoint. This nuanced, heart-tugging novel was named Booklist’s 2014 Top of the List—Youth Fiction choice.
Reading with Pictures: Comics That Make Kids Smarter. Ed. by Josh Elder. 2014. 184p. illus. Andrews McMeel, $19.99 (9781449458782). 741.5. Gr. 3–6.
In 2009, Elder founded Reading with Pictures, a nonprofit organization devoted to recognizing comics’ potential as an educational tool. This volume carries forward that mission with a collection of comics selections that are organized into curricular subjects: language arts, science, mathematics, and social studies. Skillfully crafting basic principles into energetic stories, the entries are an inviting blend of facts and comics artistry. Teachers will find content directed toward them, as well as links to downloadable lesson plans, but kids will happily gloss over that to get right to the comics.
The Red Pencil. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illus. by Shane W. Evans. 2014. 336p. Little, Brown, $17 (9780316247801). Gr. 4–8.
A young Sudanese refugee finds hope and the promise of education in this haunting free-verse novel, illustrated with spare, graceful line drawings. After her village is attacked by the militant Janjaweed, Amira and her remaining family members relocate to a camp. Her spirit is sorely tested, but the gift of a pad and a red pencil restores her sense of agency and offers escape through learning. A harrowing story of adversity, survival, and the incalculable power of imagination.
Revolution. By Deborah Wiles. 2014. 544p. illus. Scholastic, $19.99 (9780545106078). Gr. 6–9.
Set in Greenwood, Mississippi, this powerful continuation of Wiles’ Sixties Trilogy, which began with Countdown (2010), deftly weaves together multiple young people’s perspectives on the complicated dynamics of family life and a pivotal moment in U.S. history. Readers will easily connect with both Sunny (a white girl adjusting to a new, extended stepfamily) and Ray (an African American boy who is a harbinger of the “invaders” from the North who open a Freedom School, register blacks to vote, and try to integrate public venues). Period artwork, photographs, and songs interspersed throughout bring the tumultuous period close.
West of the Moon. By Margi Preus. 2014. 288p. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (9781419708961). Gr. 6–8.
Pulling elements from Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore, this captivating novel from Newbery-winning Preus, set in the mid-nineteenth century, blends bewitching tales of magic with the utterly absorbing story of an indomitable young girl’s treacherous journey to escape a cruel goat herder, reunite with her sister, and depart for America, where the girls will rejoin their father.
Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain. By Russell Freedman. 2014. 96p. illus. Clarion, $17.99 (9780547903781). 979.4. Gr. 4–7.
Carefully researched, clearly written, and lavishly illustrated with photos and drawings, this history of the “Ellis Island of the West,” once the busiest immigration station on the West Coast, offers an eye-opening overview of Asians’ arrival in the U.S. up to 1940. Now a National Historic Landmark, Angel Island offers a powerful opportunity to learn from the past, as does Freedman’s important book. An appended bibliography and notes identifying the sources of all quoted material enhance this title’s curricular appeal.
At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui. By Christine Liu-Perkins. Illus. by Sarah S. Brannen. 2014. 80p. Charlesbridge, $19.95 (9781580893701); e-book, $9.99 (9781607346159). 931. Gr. 4–7.
In the Changsha area of south-central China in the 1970s, archaeologists discovered the tomb of an astonishingly well-preserved, aristocratic woman from the early Han dynasty. During an autopsy, doctors found information so specific that they could discern her illnesses and what she had eaten for her last meal. A fascinating blend of science, art, history, and more, this heavily illustrated offering will find wide use across the curriculum.
Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America. By Russell Freedman. 2014. 96p. illus. Holiday, $20 (9780823429219). 323.1196. Gr. 6–9.
Weaving pertinent first-person accounts into a beautifully written text, Freedman transports readers to 1965 Alabama and the historic events that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Numerous, well-chosen black-and-white photos capture dramatic moments and further introduce key figures. With a timeless narrative and a timely epilogue, this striking volume offers a memorable account of a pivotal moment in American history.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. By Candace Fleming. 2014. 304p. illus. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $18.99 (9780375867828). lib. ed., $21.99 (9780375967825); e-book, $18.99 (9780375898648). 947.08. Gr. 7–12.
Fleming’s sweeping story of the dramatic decline and fall of the House of Romanov provides both intimate portraits of the family members and a beautifully realized examination of Russia in a state of increasing social unrest and turmoil. Generous excerpts from letters, diaries, memoirs, and more are seamlessly interspersed throughout the narrative and underscore the stark disparity between the glittering lives of the Romanovs and the desperately impoverished ones of the peasant population. A compulsively readable, splendidly researched work of narrative history. Booklist’s 2014 Top of the List—Youth Nonfiction choice.
Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. By Susan Goldman Rubin. 2014. 128p. illus. Holiday, $18.95 (9780823429202). 323.1196. Gr. 5–8.
Combining her own interviews with extensive research, Rubin offers a deeply layered view of the watershed summer of 1964, when civil rights workers flooded into Mississippi to open schools, register voters, and promote civil rights. Photos, drawings by the volunteers, and other captivating images will easily draw readers into the expertly constructed, profoundly affecting narrative.
Migrant. By José Manual Mateo. Illus. by Javier Martínez Pedro. 2014. 22p. Abrams, paper, $17.95 (9781419709579). 741.5. Gr. 2–5.
A single, long, vertical image tucked into accordion folds and a bilingual text tell the story of a boy who travels illegally from a Mexican farming village to Los Angeles. Once there, he, along with his mother and his sisters, finds work, but he still must search for the father who preceded them. A distinctive, thoughtful, and empathetic view of life as an undocumented young person, this will make an excellent starting point for classroom discussions.
The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. By Peter Sís. Illus. by the author. 2014. 48p. Farrar, $18.99 (9780374380694). 848. Gr. 1–4.
Sís once again creates a small wonder between covers in this picture-book biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince. Multifaceted and evocative, the beautiful illustrations capture the mile-a-second swirl of a little boy’s imagination, the awesome grandeur of flight, and the danger of battle. With facts integrated into the soaring, multilayered images, this will serve as an ideal starting point for discussions of how images and words can work together to convey information.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. By Jen Bryant. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. 2014. 42p. Eerdmans, $17.50 (9780802853851). 409.2. K–Gr. 3.
In brilliant pages teeming with enthusiasm for language and learning, Bryant and Sweet joyfully celebrate curiosity, the love of knowledge, and the power of words in this exuberant picture-book biography of Peter Mark Roget, who published his first thesaurus in 1852. Sweet’s intricate collage illustrations—made out of textbooks, graph paper, maps, fabric, typewriter keys, and other found objects—appropriately emphasize words: lists in wildly expressive handwritten fonts wind through cut-paper assemblages, and on one particularly noteworthy spread, terms related to plants bloom in tendrils around a watercolor illustration of Roget on one of his many walks.
A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country. By Ilene Cooper. Illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. 2014. 144p. Abrams/Amulet, $24.95 (9781419710360). 320.082. Gr. 5–8.
Cooper, an award-winning children’s book author (and Booklist Books for Youth Senior Editor), surveys more than a century of U.S. history in this wide-ranging volume that explores basic civics concepts while spotlighting women’s pivotal roles in shaping the government. Among the images included on each heavily illustrated spread are archival photographs as well as original drawings that further highlight groundbreaking moments in American politics.
Beetle Busters. By Loree Griffin Burns. 2014. 64p. illus. Harcourt, $18.99 (9780547792675). 595.76. Gr. 5–8.
Created for the Scientists in the Field series by the writer and the illustrator of The Hive Detectives (2010) and Citizen Scientists (2012), this fascinating book about the efforts to stop the progress of Asian long-horned beetles might just change the way readers think about the natural world. Crisp color photographs, a relatable young person’s perspective, and clear explanations of science concepts and how they connect to each other make this another winning title in the consistently exemplary series.
Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth. By Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm. Illus. by Molly Bang. 2014. 48p. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $17.99 (9780545577854). 333.8. K–Gr. 3.
Following the acclaimed titles Living Sunlight (2009) and Ocean Sunlight (2012), this third entry in the picture-book Sunlight series once again combines an amiable narrative voice with unusual breadth of vision, depth of knowledge, and subtlety of presentation. Every element in the complex, beautiful illustrations supports the informative text, which offers a welcome, long-term perspective on the subject: how fossil fuels formed millions of years ago and how their use affects the planet today.
Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do. By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Illus. by Steve Jenkins. 2014. 32p. Houghton, $17.99 (9780544233515). 591. PreS–Gr. 3.
From the award-winning partnership of Jenkins and Page comes this stellar presentation of 25 unusual animals. Within the question-and-answer format, each animal speaks in the first person to explain the purpose of its bizarre features. The flat, brightly colored backgrounds make the detailed cut-paper and collage faces pop. A splendid introduction and a memorable read-aloud for young children.
The Fourteenth Goldfish. By Jennifer L. Holm. 2014. 208p. Random, $16.99 (9780375870644); lib. ed., $19.99 (9780375970641); e-book, $16.99 (9780307974365). Gr. 4–6.
It’s strange for 11-year-old Ellie when her mother brings home a boy who looks 13 but dresses like a grandfather. But it’s a shocker when Ellie realizes that the kid is her grandfather, a scientist who has suddenly succeeded in reversing the aging process. Written in a clean, crisp style, with lively dialogue and wit, this highly accessible novel, which explores both the excitement of science and the repercussions of experiments, is a great choice for book groups and class discussions.
In the Rainforest. By Kate Duke. Illus. by the author. 2014. 40p. Harper, $17.99 (9780060282592). 577.34. K–Gr. 3.
This informative volume from the dependable Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out science series offers an uncommonly readable introduction to rain forests through the perspectives of two kids and their well-informed tour guide. The child-friendly illustrations—pen-and-ink drawings with watercolors, liquid acrylics, pencils, and pastels—make this an inviting title from cover to cover. Instructions for making a terrarium are appended.
Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes. By Nicola Davies. Illus. by Emily Sutton. 2014. 40p. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763673154). 579. K–Gr. 3.
Who wouldn’t be fascinated by organisms that “can eat anything: plants, animals (alive or dead), even oil and rocks”? English biologist Davies introduces the strange realm of microbes: their minute sizes, their vast numbers, their diverse forms, and their varied roles in shaping our world. Simply written and concise, the text is greatly extended with Sutton’s large-scale illustrations, which help children to visualize microorganisms and processes that are too small to see. A visually rewarding, inventive picture book about the power of “tiny creatures.”
Water Rolls, Water Rises / El agua ruda, el agua sube. By Pat Mora. Illus. by Meilo So. 2014. 32p. Lee & Low, $18.95 (9780892393251). 811. PreS–Gr. 3.
This eye-catching, bilingual picture book transports children around the world to view water in many forms. Each picture is paired with an evocative verse—for example, “Slow into rivers, / water slithers and snakes / through silent canyons at twilight and dawn”—and its Spanish translation. Both the images and the poetic text support the book’s unifying theme of water as a shared resource that takes many forms. A beautiful addition to classroom units on water and a useful gateway to global awareness.
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Rick Allen. 2014. 32p. Harcourt, $17.99 (9780547906508). 811. K–Gr. 3.
From the creators of the award-winning Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (2010) comes another luminous picture-book poetry collection, which, this time, features a dozen winter-themed selections detailing the natural world. The intriguing topics range from migrating tundra swans and hibernating snakes to shivering bees and diving beavers, and each double-page spread contains a poem, full-page art, and a scientific note. Informative and visually arresting, this is equally suited for classroom sharing and individual reading.
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