Best New Books for the Classroom

We know how important it is to keep up with the best and brightest new children’s titles that effectively connect to the curriculum. Below are reviews of books recently recommended in
Booklist magazine, the award-winning review journal of the American Library Association. With these reviews you’ll find “Thematic Links,” with ideas for curriculum use, including suggestions for pairing these new titles with books you may already have on your shelves, as well as related
Book Links articles from past issues. We’ll also include information on recommended teacher’s guides or other material that will help you share these books in your classroom or library. —

Preschool–Grade 4

Bateman, Teresa.
April Foolishness. Illus. by Nadine Bernard Westcott. 2004. 32p. Albert Whitman, $15.95 (0-8075-0404-1).

K–Gr. 2. The writer and illustrator of Farm Flu join forces for a new farm story. This one celebrates April Fools’ Day with a suitable “gotcha” ending and plenty of fun along the way. Visiting their grandparents’ farm, two children take turns running indoors to tell their grandpa of a string of catastrophes: the cows are loose, the pigs broke the gate, the goats are stampeding. Grandpa greets each revelation with remarkable equanimity and continues to fix his breakfast. When he confides to Grandma that the kids’ news bulletins are April foolery, she tells him that April Fools’ Day is tomorrow, setting him up to fall for their pranks. Bateman’s rhymed couplets prance along in a pleasing way, never sounding a false note. Bright with colorful washes, Westcott’s ink drawings illustrate the action with equal

lightness and grace. Zany and inventive, the artwork amplifies the story’s humor. —
Carolyn Phelan

Thematic Link April Fools’ Day:
Share this title with James Stevenson’s chapter-book story collection
Mud Flat April Fool, where April fool jokes fly fast and furious. Upper-elementary children will enjoy the outrageous practical jokes in Andy Griffiths’ story collection
Just Joking!

Bond, Rebecca.
This Place in the Snow. 2004. 40p. Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-47308-4).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Ah, snow. All the fun of it (and none of the mess) is celebrated in a story that begins with an all-night snow. In the morning, “it lay like lace along the trees. / It hatted the houses. / It capsuled the cars.” The evocative text is rubbed to a silver glow by sloping, looping paintings that follow the curves of drifts and snowballs. Inside houses, children awake. Against pure backgrounds, as white as the packed flakes outside, they tumble to get ready. Outside, the snowplow makes a mound upon which the fun begins. Referencing the pure white walls of the children’s rooms, the white comforter of snow allows the kids to tunnel, hollow, and shovel. And when at last the children are done, they have built a fantastic sledding hill, full of ruts and tunnels and even turrets. After a hard day whistling down the hill, it’s time for steamy soup and to watch the stars come out over the snow. Although childlike at every turn, there is also an elegance that lifts the poetic text and adds an icy shimmer to the everyday fun. —
Ilene Cooper

Thematic Link Winter Fun:
Other snow-related stories for sharing include Uri Shulevitz’s picture book
Snow, as well as Caralyn Buehner’s whimsical
Snowmen at Night. Two excellent informational titles about snow are Marion Dane Bauer’s easy reader
Snow and Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s picture-book biography
Snowflake Bentley.

Cohen, Miriam.
My Big Brother. Illus. by Ronald Himler. 2005. 40p. Star Bright, $15.95 (1-59572-007-3).

Preschool–Gr. 2. This begins as a portrayal of brotherly love, with a much older brother showing his younger brother (perhaps seven or eight) how to play basketball, how to wash a car, how to treat their mama right. The story

takes a turn, though, when the older brother goes into the army (“college costs a lot”). The younger boy takes over the “older brother” role by showing his little brother how to do the same things and more. Together with their mother, they make cookies to send their older brother and look at the photograph of him in his uniform. Told in the middle brother’s voice, the story sounds matter-of-fact. But, somewhere between the lines of text and within the lines of the illustrations, this quiet picture book packs a strong emotional wallop. Himler’s artwork, pencil with watercolor washes, sensitively depicts each character’s emotions through body language and facial expressions. The family is African American; the emotions and experiences are universal—loving one another, learning to show that love, growing into new roles, and longing for absent family members. A particularly timely piece. —
Carolyn Phelan

Thematic Link Family in the Military:
Other picture books about contemporary children with family members in the military are Eileen Spinelli’s
While You Are Away, Mindy L. Pelton’s
When Dad’s at Sea, and Kathleen Benner Duble’s
Pilot Mom.

Freymann, Saxton, and Joost Elffers.
Food for Thought: The Complete Book of Concepts for Growing Minds. 2005. 64p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $14.95 (0-439-11018-1).

Preschool. Freymann and Elffers previously used their ingenious food sculptures to introduce concepts in
How Are You Peeling? and
One Lonely Sea Horse. They have truly perfected their craft in this winning collection that covers basic shapes, colors, numbers, letters, and opposites—all introduced through images of artfully manipulated fruits and vegetables. Solid, candy-colored backgrounds showcase an irresistible cast of produce-part creatures, which, thanks to a few inspired cuts, reflect an astonishing assortment of expressions and personalities. The simple, clean design is ideal for demonstrating the concepts; the uncluttered spreads make counting and identification easy. But it’s the playful, wonderfully clever transformation of familiar foods that will win an audience. Fans of the previous books will find much that is familiar here, but in this mix of concept and unabashed food play, the authors get the formula just right. —
Gillian Engberg

Thematic Link Concept Books:
Other worthy concept books for preschoolers include Tana Hoban’s
Exactly the Opposite,
Is It Red? Is It Yellow? Is It Blue?, and
Shapes, Shapes, Shapes. Anita Lobel’s picture book
One Lighthouse One Moon introduces colors, numbers, days of the week, and the seasons. For a colorful look at many concepts in one book, see Denise Fleming’s
The Everything Book, which covers counting, opposites, colors, and more.

Henkes, Kevin.
So Happy! Illus. by Anita Lobel. 2005. 32p. Greenwillow, $15.99 (0-06-056483-0).

Gr. 1–3. Three components—a “magic” amaryllis seed, a lost rabbit, and a restless boy—intertwine in this powerful

collaboration between two acclaimed author-illustrators. Henkes contributes text stripped gracefully to essentials:

“There was no rain, so the seed didn’t grow”; the little rabbit, exploring, “wandered and wandered until it didn’t know where it was”; and the boy could “think of nothing to do, so he did just that.” Then “the rain came.” The drenching water strands the rabbit on the wrong side of a storm-swollen creek, nourishes the seed that blooms into a bright gift for the boy’s mother, and inspires the boy to construct a bridge that carries the bunny home. Lobel’s vigorous artwork, a riot of color that pays homage to Van Gogh, locates events in a sun-toasted, south-of-the-border landscape, and captures the rhythm of Henkes’ splitting, braided narratives in triptychs alternating with cohesive scenes. This deceptively simple drama imparts a reassuring sense that, at least sometimes, the seemingly disparate incidents of life incline toward universally beneficial, “so happy” convergence. —
Jennifer Mattson

Thematic Link Unconventional Storytelling:
Other picture books with intertwined narratives and varied perspectives include David Macaulay’s
Black and White and Anthony Browne’s
Voices in the Park.

Markes, Julie.
Shhhhh! Everybody’s Sleeping. Illus. by David Parkins. 2005. 32p. HarperCollins, $14.99 (0-06-053790-6).

Preschool–Gr. 1. Not quite everybody is asleep in this beguiling book. “The teacher is sleeping. / School’s done

for the day. / The librarian is sleeping. / Books put away.” Each turn of the page displays a community helper

asleep at the workplace in a themed bedstead. The fireman sleeps atop a fire engine; the grocer snoozes below a

billowing lettuce headboard. Although the rhythm is less precise than the rhyme, the text satisfyingly moves along

while the artwork soars. Amusing, affectionate scenes will show up beautifully from a distance (think community helper units) and work equally well for bedtime reading. Glowing with warm colors in subdued hues, the sturdy pictures stretch wide across the double-page spreads, offering surprisingly energetic, varied compositions, considering that nearly every scene features a sleeping person. On the dedication page, an evening townscape gives children a chance to point out notable buildings that house the sleepers: the grocery store, the bakery, the police department, and more. —
Carolyn Phelan

Thematic Link Community Life:
Other picture books about community life include Judith Caseley’s
On the Town, Melrose Cooper’s
I Got Community, Peter Sís’
Madlenka, and Jean Gralley’s
The Moon Came Down on Milk Street. Also see Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko’s
Be My Neighbor, a photo-essay showing neighborhoods around the world.

Silverman, Erica.
Sholom’s Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became a Writer. Illus. by Mordicai Gerstein. 2005. 40p. Farrar, $16 (0-374-38055-4).

K–Gr. 3. The name Sholom Aleichem may be familiar to only a few children, but the story of this young imp, who

was determined to do his father proud, will strike a chord with many. Born Sholom Rabinowitz, he was one of 12 children living in a Russian shtetl. One of his earliest memories was listening to his father read humorous stories

aloud. But life wasn’t funny or easy for the family—his father’s business failed, and his mother’s death led to the presence of an unpleasant stepmother. Yet the boy found fun in just about everything. A clown, a reader, and, eventually, a talented writer, he used the people and places he knew as a basis of his popular stories. Silverman keeps her focus on the things about Aleichem’s life that will appeal most to young readers: his sense of the absurd, his railings against life’s injustices, and his determination to follow his dreams. Caldecott-winner Gerstein’s ink-and-watercolor paintings appear as full-page art and strips of illustration, both of which are equally adept at capturing the pathos and absurdities of everyday life. As in Aleichem’s own stories, there’s a universality here that transcends the borders of time and place. —
Ilene Cooper

Thematic Link Picture-Book Biographies:
Other picture-book biographies focusing on the early lives of notable figures include Don Brown’s
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein, Jane Yolen’s
The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen, and Laurence Anholt’s
Stone Girl, Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning.

Walter, Mildred Pitts.
Alec’s Primer. Illus. by Larry Johnson. 2004. 32p. Vermont Folklife Center, $15.95 (0-916718-20-4).

Gr. 2–4. The power of this escape story, which is based on true events, is in the realistic detail about a child under slavery and in the storytelling that passes on the history. Alec is frightened when the Virginia plantation owner’s

granddaughter wants to teach him to read. But, with the girl’s help, he secretly studies the primer—until the day the brutal owner discovers him. She slashes his face, and his blood drips onto the book. He takes the primer with him when he escapes to join the Northern army, and it remains with him when he later becomes a landowner in Vermont. Eventually, his daughter tells his story, and she gives the bloodstained primer to the Vermont Folklife Center, which has published this book. Walter’s spare, dramatic words present a glimpse of the history in a brutal world: the child’s intense fear; his bond with his mother and with his blonde friend; and, finally, his triumph.

Hazel Rochman

Thematic Link Family Stories:
Also see the Vermont Folklife’s Center’s picture book
Daisy and the Doll by Michael and Angela Shelf Medearis, which tells another story about this same family. The Center’s Web site at features “Ten Ways to Encourage Family Storytelling,” with ideas that could easily be incorporated into a classroom setting after sharing these books and others with family history themes.

Grades 3–7

Bolden, Tonya.
Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl. 2005. 48p. Abrams, $17.95 (0-8109-5045-6).

Gr. 4–7. In this captivating biography, Bolden introduces Maritcha Réymond Lyon, born in the mid-1800s into a

family of free blacks in Manhattan. Lyon found fame as a teenager in Providence, Rhode Island, when she sued the

state to gain admission to the all-white high school—the only high school in town—and won her case. Bolden’s

succinct, detailed text focuses on Lyon’s growing-up, and the attractive spreads feature well-chosen archival photographs and engravings that offer a fascinating glimpse of Lyon’s world amid “New York City’s striving class of blacks in the mid-1800s.” Lyon had a distinguished family, and Bolden shows how its members inspired her to succeed against formidable odds, even when she felt that “the iron had entered my soul.” Bolden supplements quotes from Lyon’s accounts with extensive research and enthralling detail, and the result is both an inspirational portrait of an individual and a piercing history of the lives of free blacks in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries—stories that are far too rare in books for youth. An author’s note describes Lyon’s adult achievements

and lends insight into Bolden’s research. Notes and a selected bibliography conclude this powerful volume.

Gillian Engberg

Thematic Link African American History:
Raymond Bial’s photo-essay
The Underground Railroad will further enhance readers’ understanding of the role the Lyons’ boardinghouse played as a safe house on the route to freedom. Also see Tonya Bolden’s
Tell All the Children Our Story, a compilation of African American history that reads like a family scrapbook.

Markle, Sandra.
Outside and Inside Killer Bees. 2004. 40p. Walker, $17.95 (0-8027-8906-4).

Gr. 3–6. The subject of this photo-essay in a familiar series is highly dramatic, and the book’s attractive design, with big, clear, full-color pictures and spacious type, brings kids up close to the physical features and behavior of a small, terrifying creature. First, there are the scary facts: hybrids of European and African honeybees escaped from a Brazilian research experiment nearly 50 years ago and migrated across the Americas, reaching the U.S. in 1998. Since then, they have stung and killed nearly 800 people. In an immediate, chatty text, Markle explains how killer bees differ from familiar honeybees, and how they kill (their sting isn’t more deadly; the bees are simply faster

and attack and sting en masse). Caught up by the information, grade-schoolers will want to study the striking photos that show the insect’s anatomy, including a microscopic view of an antenna, a stinger, an eye, and the digestive system. There are also fascinating facts about how honey is made, and the roles of workers, queens, and drones. The use of red type to highlight the many words defined in the glossary and pronunciation guide interrupts the smooth narrative, but this is otherwise an excellent introduction to the excitement of entomology.

Hazel Rochman

Thematic Link Bees, Hives, and Honey:
For more books about bees, see the October/November 2001
Book Links article “Create a Buzz with Honeybees.”

Pringle, Laurence.
Snakes! Strange and Wonderful. Illus. by Meryl Henderson. 2004. 32p. Boyds Mills, $15.95 (1-59078-003-5).

Gr. 2–5. From the opening series of questions (“Can you climb a tree without using arms or legs? Snakes can.”) to the final page on “Snakes and People” throughout history, this fascinating book offers an excellent introduction to the subject. Well researched and vividly written, the text surveys the wide variety of snakes in the world and explains the unusual behaviors that characterize various types. Even children who think they know all about snakes will probably learn something new here: constrictors cause death by pressure on their victims’ hearts; venomous snakes can bite without releasing their poisons. Sometimes showing dramatic scenes, sometimes presenting seldom-seen details, Henderson’s excellent watercolor paintings mirror the text to illustrate both physical characteristics and behavior. With this handsome addition to the series that began with
Dinosaurs! Strange and Wonderful, even readers fearful of snakes may find the subject a little less strange, a little more wonderful.

Carolyn Phelan

Stamaty, Mark Alan.
Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq. 2004. 32p. Knopf, $12.95 (0-375-83217-3).

Gr. 4–7. Stamaty retells the story of Iraqi librarian Alia Muhammed Baker, who, fearing looting and bombs, hid more than 30,000 books prior to the invasion of Iraq in this graphic novel. Sequential panels concisely depict complex sequences of actions and emotions, allowing Stamaty to pack more detail into 32 pages than is possible in a traditional picture book. Stamaty’s black-and-white ink, graphite, and wash artwork is equally nuanced; one can even discern the eerie, flickering shadows cast by the burning library across townspeople’s faces. Younger readers will be instantly drawn by the story’s anthropomorphic book emcee, but this sophisticated and timely work will also appeal to older admirers of Spiegelman’s Maus books. An afterword about historical libraries of the Middle East

sidesteps the knotty issue of current developments in Iraq, and Stamaty provides no source notes. Nonetheless, readers will come away powerfully moved by the expression of civilian life in the midst of wartime chaos. —
Jennifer Mattson

Thematic Links War in Iraq:
Jeanette Winter’s picture book
The Librarian of Basra focuses less on U.S. involvement

in the war in telling Baker’s story, but it can also serve as an effective introduction to the current conflict.
Heroic Librarians: For more true stories about heroic librarians, see Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer’s
Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky and Pat Mora’s picture book
Tomás and the Library Lady.

Grades 5 and up

Alexander, Lloyd.
The Xanadu Adventure. 2005. 160p. Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-47371-8).

Gr. 5–8. In search of a Trojan Rosetta stone, Vesper Holly is off to Asia Minor, along with her guardians, Mary and Professor Brinton Garrett; boyfriend Tobias “the Weed” Passavant; and twins Smiler and Slider. Early in their travels, they sense “some kind of jiggery-pokery afoot.” When they finally arrive at Xanadu, an edifice that “could have been the dream of a deranged architect,” they find themselves prisoners of the archvillain Dr. Desmond Helvitius. Megalomaniac Helvitius sees oil as the future source of wealth and power and has designed a powerful petroleum-based weapon to carry out his dreadful schemes. Amid the thrills and chills, Vesper and the Weed marry. With a masterful mix of vivid description; robust, playful language; sly wit; and laugh-out-loud comedy, Alexander packs more mirth and adventure into his pages than some manage to do in novels triple the size. The surprising plot twists and suspenseful chapter endings make this an ideal read-aloud. A damsel who can handle any distress, Vesper is as plucky as ever in this splendid addition to a solid series.—
Linda Perkins

Denenberg, Barry.
Shadow Life: A Portrait of Anne Frank and Her Family. 2005. 240p. Scholastic, $16.95


Gr. 6–10. Readers of Anne Frank’s diary may think they know her story, but this thoroughly researched volume offers much more, throwing light on the lives of Anne and her family before, during, and after the years in the secret annex. The first section discusses the Franks’ life in Germany when Hitler came to power, their move to Amsterdam, and their lives during the next nine years. The second section, a fictional diary in the voice of Anne’s older sister Margot, offers a slightly different perspective on the time the family spent in hiding. Returning to nonfiction, the third and fourth sections recount what happened to the family members when they were discovered and sent to concentration camps, and describe Otto Frank’s postwar efforts to find his daughters and the publication of Anne’s diary. Inserting a fictional diary into a nonfiction work was an unusual choice, but the section effectively makes the people, their relationships, and their experiences more real. While Anne’s diary is affecting in a way that no other version of her story could be, readers who hunger to know more will find this informative, involving book—with source notes, a detailed time line, a bibliographic essay, and lists of further resources—a great place to turn. Photos, not available prepublication, will be included. —
Carolyn Phelan

Thematic Link The Holocaust:
Book Links articles about the Holocaust include “Bearing Witness to the Holocaust” (January 1998), “Should You Teach
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl?” (May 1998), and “Holocaust Survivors, Rescuers, and Bystanders” (January 1999). Additional recommended books on this topic may be found in “Hero or Holocaust Monster?” in the September 2004 issue.

Kessler, Cristina.
Our Secret, Siri Aang. 2004. 208p. Philomel, $16.99 (0-399-23985-5).

Gr. 7–12. Told from the viewpoint of a Masai girl in Kenya today, this novel brings close the painful conflict between the traditional and modern in a changing world. In the exciting opening scene, Namelok, 12, witnesses the birth of a baby rhinoceros in the bush and vows to keep it secret to protect the animal from dangerous poachers. Her other secret is getting her period, which she keeps to herself to delay the painful traditional initiation ceremony and arranged marriage. (There’s no clear explanation of what that initiation is except in the glossary; presumably it’s female circumcision, which has long been practiced by the Masai and is now being challenged). Namelok wants

to go to school, but her beloved father, the tribal leader, heartbroken that his people have been displaced, and angered by tourists who pay for posed photos, insists she follow the old ways. Neither exotic nor sentimental, Namelok’s personal story is part survival and part coming-of-age. She spends days alone in the bush as she tracks the poacher who killed the mother rhino, and she takes her first step toward independence when she learns the poacher’s shocking identity. Kessler has spent many years in Kenya, and she writes with authority about both the wildlife and the cultural struggle. Always there are the questions: Is tradition sentimental? Are all new ideas bad? —
Hazel Rochman

Thematic Link Indigenous Cultures:
Another book featuring the conflict of preserving traditional culture versus

embracing Western society is Joan Abelove’s
Go and Come Back, about a Peruvian tribe in the Amazon jungle.

Lester, Julius.
Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue. April 2005. 176p. Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $15.99 (0-7868-0490-4).

Gr. 6–9. From his first book,
To Be a Slave, Lester has told the history of slavery through personal accounts that relay the dehumanizing message of the perpetrators. Here he draws on istorical sources to fictionalize a real event: the biggest slave auction in American history, which took place in Savannah, Georgia, in 1859. He imagines the individual voices of many who were there, adults and kids, including several slaves up for sale, the auctioneer, and the white masters and their families buying and selling the valuable merchandise. The huge cast speaks in the present tense and sometimes from the future looking back. A note fills in the facts. The horror of the auction and its aftermath is unforgettable; individuals whom the reader has come to know are handled like animals, wrenched from family, friends, and love. Then there’s a sales list with names, ages, and the amount taken in for each person. Brave runaways speak; so does an abolitionist who helps them. Those who are not heroic are here, too, and the racism is virulent (there’s widespread use of the n-word). The personal voices make this a stirring text for group discussion. —
Hazel Rochman

Napoli, Donna Jo.
Bound. 2004. 192p. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95 (0-689-86175-3).

Gr. 7–12. Drawing from traditional Chinese Cinderella stories, Napoli sets this tale in a small village during China’s Ming period. Since her beloved father’s death, Xing Xing has become “hardly more than a slave,” serving her acrimonious stepmother and pitiable stepsister, Wei Ping, whose botched, bloody foot binding has left her perilously unwell. A dangerous trip in search of medicine for Wei Ping brings Xing Xing into the wider world, but she returns to find home more treacherous than before. Napoli creates strong, unforgettable characters—particularly talented, sympathetic Xing Xing—and her haunting, sometimes violent tale amplifies themes from well-known Western Cinderella stories and raises fascinating questions: Could ancestors serve as “fairy godmothers”? In a society that so grossly undervalues females, what does “happily ever after” really mean? Teens and teachers will want to discuss the layered themes of freedom, captivity, love, human rights, and creative endeavor within this powerful survival story, which, like the yin and yang forces Xing Xing thinks about, balances between terror and tenderness, and is both subversive and rooted in tradition. —
Gillian Engberg

Thematic Link Gender Roles:
Other titles about girls breaking out of their expected roles include Suzanne Fisher Staples’
Shabanu and its sequel,
Haveli (set in Pakistan), Gloria Whelan’s
Homeless Bird (set in India), and Lensey Namioka’s
Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (set in China and also about foot-binding).

Nye, Naomi Shihab.
A Maze Me: Poems for Girls. Illus. by Terre Maher. 2005. 128p. Greenwillow, $16.99


Gr. 6–9. In the thoughtful, inspiring introduction to her latest collection of original poems, Nye encourages young readers to write three lines in a notebook every day: “You will find out what you notice. Uncanny connections will be made visible to you.” The following poems draw from Nye’s observations about nature, home, school, and neighborhood to make connections to a girl’s inner world. Most poems speak with a powerful immediacy. When the speaker finds her mother’s braid in an attic, there is the sharp, lonely realization that her parents will die: “I don’t want to be / eighty years old / looking at the braid / all by myself.” In other poems, she worries if a crush notices her, but there is a strong, contagious confidence in her voice: “Does he see me gleaming / in my chair?” In beautiful lines, the speaker’s hopes extend to the wider world, and she wishes that, like tree frogs, humans had “something / we could / all sing / together, yes.” A wide age range will respond to these deeply felt poems about everyday experiences that encourage readers to lean eagerly into their lives and delight in their passages. —
Gillian Engberg

Thematic Link Poetry Connections:
For boys, suggest
You Hear Me? Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys, edited by Betsy Franco.

Stolz, Joëlle.
The Shadows of Ghadames. 2004. 128p. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73104-3).

Gr. 6–10. In the Libyan city of Ghadames at the end of the nineteenth century, Malika is dreading her twelfth birthday. That is the time when, according to her family’s Berber customs, she will be close to marriageable age and confined to the world of women. In Ghadames that means restriction to the rooftops, “a city above the city, an open sunny town for women only, where . . . they never talk to men.” Malika longs to live beyond the segregated city and travel, like her father, a trader. But the wider world comes to Malika after her father’s two wives agree to harbor, in secret, a wounded stranger. The story of an outsider who unsettles a household and helps a young person to grow is certainly nothing new, and ome of the lessons here are purposeful. But Stolz invigorates her tale with elegant prose and a deft portrayal of a girl verging on adolescence. The vivid backdrop is intoxicating, but the story’s universal concerns will touch readers most: sibling jealousy, confusion about adult customs, and a growing interest in a world beyond family. —
Gillian Engberg

Thematic Link Women’s History:
Frances Temple’s
The Ramsay Scallop (set in thirteenth-century Europe), Donna Jo Napoli’s
Daughter of Venice (set in Renaissance-era Venice), and Terri Kanefield’s
Rivka’s Way (set in eighteenth-century Prague) all portray teenage girls who manage to escape the narrow confines of their lives and experience something of the wider world.

Yolen, Jane, and Robert J. Harris.
Prince across the Water. 2004. 320p. Philomel, $18.99 (0-399-23897-2).

Gr. 6–10. Yolen and Harris, who cowrote
Queen’s Own Fool: A Novel of Mary Queen of Scots and
Girl in a Cage, now tell the story of a young highlander who fights for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden. Just 13 and prone to seizures, Duncan is disappointed when he is not allowed to join his father and the other men of the village in answering their clan chief’s call to war. But before the year is out, he has shouldered his father’s work, suffered the loss of loved ones, fought in a bloody battle, and helped his prince in an unexpected way. The convincing depictions of people and relationships earlier in the story deepen the sense of despair during the battle, which is realistically depicted as cruel, violent, and gory. Structured in three sections, the novel creates a strong sense of life in the Scottish Highlands in 1745–46, of the carnage at the battle of Culloden, and of Duncan’s growing awareness of the world and his place in it. Combining a sensitive portrayal with dramatic tension, Trina Schart Hyman’s sensitive jacket art promises exactly what this novel delivers: a spirited historical adventure and a sympathetic hero. —
Carolyn Phelan

Zhang, Ange.
Red Land, Yellow River. 2004. 56p. Groundwood, $16.95 (0-88899-489-3).

Gr. 5–8. In a straightforward, unemotional manner, this auto-biography tells of a teenager’s coming-of-age during China’s Cultural Revolution. Thirteen years old in 1966, Ange takes pride in his father’s standing as a writer and Red Army officer until the Red Guards suddenly denounce his father as a counterrevolutionary. Wanting desperately to belong, Ange joins a Red Guard group. But a violent encounter opens his mind to questions, and reading forbidden books by Western authors opens his thoughts. Sent to a farm in 1968, Ange works hard in the fields, continues to read, and rediscovers is love of art. The book ends with a brief epilogue on later events in his life and an excellent, seven-page section entitled “China’s Cultural Revolution.” On nearly every page, Zhang’s distinctive artwork opens a window into his past. At times painterly, at times reminiscent of silk-screened posters, his computer-assisted illustrations are beautifully composed and often dramatic. The book also includes reproductions of period posters, artifacts, and black-and-white photos. This handsome book provides a memorable introduction to the Cultural Revolution. —
Carolyn Phelan

Thematic Link The Cultural Revolution:
Other memoirs about China’s Cultural Revolution include
A Little Tiger in the Chinese Night: An Autobiography in Art by Song Nan Zhang,
Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji Li Jiang, and
China’s Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution by Da Chen.

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