Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Illustrated by Raul Colon
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand’s ALICIA ALONSO, PRIMA BALLERINA is a pick for kids in grades 3-5 with good reading skills, is illustrated in color by Raul Colon, and tells the life story of Alicia Alonso whose artistic achievements are remarkable. Alicia became partially blind and lost her peripheral vision at age nineteen but showed a passion for dancing since childhood. She founded her own dance company in Cuba and in 1959 the Cuban government gave her money to establish a new dance school which she directs to this day. An outstanding story evolves, told in fictional dramatic form. 2011, Marshall Cavendish, Grades 3 to 5, $19.99.REVIEWER: Midwest Book Review (Children’s Bookwatch).
Before There Was Mozart : The Story Of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier De Saint-George
In the spirit of their earlier collaboration (Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star, 2007) the husband-and-wife team introduce readers to the life of a relative unknown: Joseph Boulogne, often known as “the Black Mozart.” Boulonge was born on a plantation in the West Indies, the son of a Frenchman and a young Senegalese slave. Joseph was acknowledged and raised by both his parents, and his father encouraged his musical education in the Caribbean and Paris, where he became a darling of the French nobility. Despite the overt racism of pre-revolutionary France, he triumphed by dint of dedication and prodigious talent. James Ransome’s rich, brushy strokes of vivid color expand the engaging text even as they evoke both the lush landscapes of the Caribbean and glittering candlelit interiors. The book’s title is a bit of a puzzle. How many picture-book readers are familiar enough with the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to grasp that the life and impressive career of this Afro-Caribbean-French musical prodigy actually began before the sensation from Salzburg? That quibble notwithstanding, this is a story that needed to be told. 2011, Schwartz & Wade/Random, Ages 5 to 9, $17.99. REVIEWER: Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews)
Blue Mountain Magic
Pollyread and Jackson Gilmore live in Top Valley where the clouds and blue mountains meet. When the twins walk to school, they step into a mysterious and wonderful setting unlike anyplace else in the world. One day the children see the image of a goat that quickly vanishes. What is the significance of this mirage? Where did it come from, and what does it mean? Days later, Pollyread is named valedictorian of her sixth grade class while her brother is accepted to a highly ranked high school. The twins are excited to be able to continue their education in the big city. Then a young man named Jammy, a lawless thug, destroys the peace and quiet of the village by growing cocaine and resisting arrest. Pollyread and Jackson feel an odd connection with this young man whose background is so different from their own. Will Jammy win acceptance on the island? Can he truly find his place in the world without the love and guidance of a father? In this magically crafted text, Pollyread and Jackson discover the mystery that cloaks the entire island, a mystery that is intimately connected with their own family. 2009, Arthur Levine Books/Scholastic, $16.99. Ages 10 to 15. REVIEWER: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
This book is part of the “Facts about Countries” series, which provides elementary school students with an overview of the people, culture, history, and geography of countries around the world. This particular book covers the Caribbean, which it defines as all of the islands in the Caribbean Sea. These include those in the Greater Antilles–Cuba, Hispaniola, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Jamaica–and The Lesser Antilles covering the Windward and Leeward Islands–from the Virgin Islands south to Grenada–and the countries of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Like other books in the series, each chapter spans two pages and treats various aspects of the countries such as farming and fishing, resources and industry, transportation, education, sports, daily life and religion, arts, and government, among other topics. Almost every chapter contains pie or bar charts and many also have sidebars with additional information, such as instructions on how to make sugar from sugar cane. There is a page with definitions of some of the key words that are used in the book. One or two color photos accompany each chapter. What is unlike other books in this series is that in covering so many countries, the information, by necessity, must group these countries together and therefore the differences between the culture of Haiti and that of Jamaica become blurred. This book, as would others in the series, would provide good reference material in for young students writing a report on the area. 2009, Sea-to-Sea Publications, Ages 8 to 11, $27.10. REVIEWER: Lesley Moore Vossen (Children’s Literature).
The Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred
This cumulative tale in the style of the House that Jack Built begins with the pot, the cazuela, which a girl on a farm is stirring. Butter goes into the pot next; a goat churns the cream to make the butter. As each new ingredient is mentioned in English, the one before is named in Spanish. The cow that made the milk is next, followed by the duck who goes to the market to buy the sugar. A donkey picks a lime and carries the pato, duck, to the mercado, market. A hen lays the necessary eggs; a farmer plants the rice. When it is all mixed, there is a celebration. Everyone says gracias for the arroz con leche stirred by the campesina. The double page comic illustrations are highly stylized representations of the characters and objects painted on wood in warm toned acrylics with accents of blue and purple. Even the sun has a human face and a spiked hairdo. Lively action and patterns pervade the pictures. The delightful scene across the jacket of the animals running after the smiling maid trailing the smell from the pot invites the reader in. There is a glossary of the Spanish words and a recipe for arroz con leche as well. 2011, Charlesbridge, Ages 4 to 8. $17.95. REVIEWER: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
Baseball is at the center of high-school junior Mike’s life, just as he feels he is the center of the universe when a high fly ball is arcing toward him. When a talented player from the Dominican Republic, Oscar Ramirez, joins the high-school team, though, Mike finds his universe sliding off-center: Oscar may beat him out as starter in center field, Mike starts to doubt his revered vice principal and coach, Cody, and his jock friends and twirler girlfriend Lori no longer make him happy. When Mike’s resulting anger erupts in knocking down nerdy classmate Zack, Coach Cody withholds punishment with the caveat that Mike infiltrate the school’s Cyber Club to see if they are hacking into the school computer system. Mike is glad to realize his new crush Kat is a member of said club, and it is she who finally convinces him to reconsider his preconceptions. With short sentences and lots of dialogue, the book is a fast-paced read, and it offers an abundance of well-described baseball detail. Veteran sports-story writer Lipsyte has once again effectively captured high school jock culture, as well as Mike’s alienation and feelings that there may be something more. Other characters, however, are loosely drawn caricatures, from the right-wing anti-immigration friend Andy, to politically active “puke” Zack, to fictional Yankees superstar Billy Budd. Coach Cody is as improbably evil as he is paranoid, and events grow more unlikely as the book progresses. Readers may be better served by more cohesive explorations of sports and ethics such as Carl Deuker’s High Heat (BCCB 6/03) or Painting the Black (BCCB 6/97), but Lipsyte serves up fast-paced baseball action that may suffice to keep fans following the ball. 2010, Harper/HarperCollins s, Grades 9-12, $17.89. REVIEWER: Maggie Hommel (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
The joy of hero worship is on full display in this tribute to “Puerto Rican prince” Roberto Clemente, the first Latin American Hall of Famer, who died in 1972 while flying on a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua. The young narrator, named Clemente by his diehard fan father (“ask him why he thinks that the number 21 should be retired forever”), knows “all the stats, and I can tell you todo, everything” about Clemente. And if he forgets something, another family fan, his mother, “jumps in and reminds us that he was a good father and a good son,” who “nunca abandonó su sueño” of a better and more just world. Perdomo (previously paired with Collier on Visiting Langston) strikes just the right note of precocious breathlessness, punctuating his text with Spanish to convey a people’s enormous pride in one of their own (“Clemente! Clemente! It’s us, ¡tu gente! Clemente! Clemente! Prince of the baseball diamante!”). Collier’s watercolor and collage pictures have a burnished look worthy of a heartfelt hagiography while at the same time evoking the dynamism of a genuine superstar athlete..2010, Henry Holt,, Ages 6-up, $16.99.REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly.
This title is one of the latest additions to the now 31-volume “Celebrations in My World” series designed for young readers. Each title examines the history, traditions, beliefs, symbols and celebrations of the featured holiday. Written in kid-friendly language, using fairly short sentences and simple vocabulary, the text is printed in a large, simple font on coloured backgrounds, adding visual appeal. Abundant, vibrant colour photographs and drawings highlight the main concepts while “Did you know?” arcs provide additional information. A table of contents, a glossary and an index are included. Columbus Day focuses on the October 12th holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus’ arrival in North America. This title provides a brief history of the explorer’s voyages from Spain which took him to the areas now known as Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and South America, and which opened the door to European settlement in the Americas. Since 1970, when it was declared a national holiday in the U.S., Columbus Day has been celebrated with parades, special foods and events. Spain, Italy and many Latin American countries also mark this holiday. Though some titles in this series are a little better than others, generally this is a good series that would prove useful in a school or classroom library. Recommended. Rating: * /4. (Celebrations in My World) 2010, Crabtree, $20.76. Ages 7 to 8. REVIEWER: Gail Hamilton (CM Magazine).
Eight Days: A Story of Haiti
pictures by Alix Delinois
A young boy, buried for eight days after the earthquake in Haiti, tells how he managed to pass those fearful days by imagining times with his friends and family as he recalls they were before the catastrophe. On the first two days he plays marbles and hide and seek in his mind with his friend Oscar and others. The third day he spends with his family. On the fourth, he imagines singing a solo with the children’s choir, “,,,the best solo ever sung ” He cries on the fifth day because Oscar goes to sleep after a game of soccer but never wakes up. He goes to the country with his sister on the sixth day, and rides bicycles with her around the town on the seventh. He joyously celebrates his reunion with his parents on the eighth day. The simple but moving text also celebrates Haiti and its children. Delinois’s double-page scenes in acrylics, pastel crayons and collage, have sculptural qualities that seem to express the spiritual strength of the trapped boy. Characters, objects, and contextual details are created with vigorous applications of color. Check the contrasting beginning and end pages. A note from the author adds background information. 2010, Orchard Books/Scholastic, Ages 5 to 8, $17.99. REVIEWERS: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
Flowers in the Sky
Epic Reads/HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers,, $17.99. 2013
Although the narrator of this tender story is Puerto Rican, his story will touch American-born children of all immigrant families. Author Velasquez’s (I, Matthew Henson and Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive) autobiographical story conveys his special relationship with his Spanish-speaking grandmother. Grandma is Eric’s caregiver when his parents are at work. Eric is his grandmother’s guide and translator on her infrequent trips out of the barrio. Within the neighborhood, Grandma has a network of friends and merchants who treat her with fairness and customary courtesy. Outside her network in English-speaking New York, Grandma is dependent on Eric’s translation skills and ability to navigate the majority culture. A school-mandated visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an act of courage for Grandma who does not understand the signs or the “give what you can” admissions policy. She does recognize Diego Velasquez’s famous portrait of Juan de Pereja, a former slave who himself aspired to become a great artist. The painting is for Grandma a point of pride, and for Eric a new awareness that people of Puerto Rican heritage have made notable contributions to the world of art. The history lesson is important to the story, but incidental to the real message of the book. The devoted relationship between Eric and his grandmother is the centerpiece of the story. Grandma is the bearer of traditional Christmas recipes and Puerto Rican pride. The kitchen as a place of shared stories is a constant in many books (such as Adele Geras’ My Grandmother’s Stories) and here, again, we see it as a catalyst for important generation-to-generation sharing that is frequently absent today. The inherent coziness of this book and the overwhelming pride of heritage make it a wonderful addition to multi-ethnic collections, especially for the holiday season. 2010, Walker and Company, Ages 5 to 9,$16.99. REVIEWER: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).
Hot Like Fire And Other Poems : Poems From The World Is Sweet And Hot Like Fire
This book for 8–12 year olds combines work from Valerie Bloom’s two poetry collections, The World is Sweet and Hot like Fire, and the peppery taste of the Caribbean lingers in her throbbing rhythms and exotic take on words. At her best, Bloom bundles the commonplace, routine lives of ordinary folk into her arms for the single moment of a poem. When she steadies them back on solid earth, they bask in the glow of her affection and attention. For the moment of the poem, the modest reality of urban Britain or impoverished Jamaica is ringed with a rainbow halo. A longish poem like ‘Let’s Go Play Football’ (it has thirteen stanzas) illustrates the point. It is tightly constructed, and it’s ostensibly about, well, not playing football. Underlying this, however, is homage to ordinariness, to friendships, to what happens when you say yes to what happens. There’s a poignant wisdom in ‘A Skunk Stood on the Highway’ that hints at the limited impact of protest against the juggernauts that hurtle past us. Although Bloom is known as a performance poet, the impact of some poems depends on savouring the difference between the written word and its visual presence on the page: the witty ‘Snake’ is one such. All in all, the book is a real treat, so do not be put off by the back-cover blurb that contains an inaccurate sentence, a punctuation error and a cliche. 2009, Bloomsbury, Ages 8 to 12, 5.99. REVIEWER: Mary Shine Thompson (Inis – Children’s Books Ireland Magazine).
How Taia Lola Learned to Teach
This book is a sequel to How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay and continues the story of the Guzman family. Tia Lola finds herself moving to Vermont from the Dominican Republic to live with her sister. Her sister is recently divorced, and Lola is moving in to help take care of her sister’s two children, Juanita and Miguel. Tia Lola finds that her arrival in Vermont makes her sister very happy but she herself feels sad. Things change for Tia Lola once she is invited to teach Spanish where her niece and nephew attend school. Juanita is excited that her aunt volunteers at her school but Miguel is not at all happy with the arrangement. He is still trying to adjust to the divorce and the move to Vermont. As the year progresses, Tia Lola plans some exciting events for the students at the elementary school. That is when Miguel’s outlook begins to change, and they all find that they are exactly where they are meant to be. Fiction. 2010, Knopf, Ages 9 to 12, $15.99. REVIEWER: Zenaida Walton (The Lorgnette – Heart of Texas Reviews).
I and I: Bob Marley
I am the boy / From Nine Miles / The one sing / Like three little birds / From my mum mum belly / Come to bring / My message / Of Love Love / Love.” Tony Medina captures the rhythms and cadences of Bob Marley’s songs, and essential details of his life, in a series of poems that comprise a biographical portrait of the reggae artist. References to specific people and places in the narratives are illuminated by an explanatory note for each poem, providing additional information. Presented in picture book format, this volume features handsome illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson that showcase Marley himself and the people and landscape of his homeland. 2009, Lee & Low, Ages 9 to 12, $19.95. REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2010).
After her famous actor father’s death, Esti Legard and her mother, Aurora, move to the West Indian island of Cariba where Esti will study acting. The high school there is quite famous for its theater program. New York agents regularly attend the performances to discover new talent. Teens come from all over the U.S. to attend causing friction between the mainlanders and the islanders. Two strange events occur on Esti’s first day in the theater. Paul, a student who had laughed at Esti, dies after falling from the catwalk. Secondly, a strange voice encourages Esti, but no one else seems to hear. Could the two events be related? As rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet continue, Esti finds herself falling for someone she cannot see but can only hear. She seems possessed by the ghostly Alan. Others think she is a possessed by a jumbee or West Indian evil spirit. Esti is torn between her feelings for Alan and for bad boy Rafe, a friend from her childhood. As talent scouts arrive on the island for the final performance, an approaching hurricane mimics the emotional storms around Esti. Is Alan real or is he a jumbee? Like Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, Esti is torn between two worlds. This page-turning novel is arranged in acts and scenes, rather than chapters, reinforcing the theatrical theme. 2010, Dial Books/Penguin Group, Ages 12 to 18, $17.99. REVIEWER: Shirley Nelson (Children’s Literature).
A Kid’s Guide to Latino History: More Than 50 Activities
An invaluable reference, this book takes you through the history of Latinos and gives readers something to think about for the future. Give your children a history lesson while making capirotada, or Mexican bread pudding. Prepare for a celebration with cascarones, confetti-filled eggshells, and when your guests arrive, a game of loteria, Mexican Bingo, will help pass the time while reinforcing Spanish. When the “board” games are done, learn to dance the meringue and finish the evening off with a slice of tres leches cake and a batido, shake. This book is not about throwing a Latino inspired party; though it gives you tips; but learning about different cultures through crafts, cooking and quality time. Whether you are learning Spanish and the various cultures of the Hispanic world or are a Latino-American this book should be a cornerstone of your collection. The book gives enough insight into the Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Salvadorenos, Cubans, Guatemalans and countless other Hispanic cultures to make it a must addition to your children’s library. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by trying a new recipe and reading poems by celebrated Latinos. 2009, Chicago Review Press, Ages 8 to 12, $14.95. REVIEWER: Mandy Cruz (Children’s Literature).
Mexico And Central America : A Fiesta Of Culture, Crafts, And Activities For Ages 8-12
Turck has created a unique activity book that combines the history of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations with activities relevant to each country. Brief summaries about Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama with accompanying maps and photographs fill the pages that also give step-by-step instructions needed to complete the suggested projects. The projects included are very feasible to use in a classroom or at home. Supplies needed are very easily found in a variety of stores and the projects lend themselves to children expressing their own artistic touches. I like the fact that alternative materials are given if the suggested item isn’t available. This activity book actually reads as a “book,” yet in the middle of any given section will be directions for an activity that goes with the text at that time. The projects cover a wide range of interests that include cooking, calendar making, games, plays, ceremonial and religious celebrations and the list goes on and on. Turck includes a short play found at the end of the book about the dangers of the illegal crossing of borders. There are seven pages of addresses and web sites listed for each of the countries covered in the book as well as one page with a calendar of holidays and celebrations. Thoughtfully included at the very end of the book is a teacher’s guide that lists the activities by grade level. This activity book is an excellent resource for teachers and one that will be used year after year. How wonderful to get so much information and fun from one source! 2004, Chicago Review Press, Ages 8 to 12, $14.95. REVIEWER: Kathie M. Josephs (Children’s Literature).
My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood
Rosemary Wells; with Secundino Fernandez
Illustrated by Peter Ferguson
Secundino “Dino” Fernandez, an architect currently living in New York City, shares his story with Wells, and the reader. Beginning at the age of six in 1954, Dino and his parents left Havana, Cuba for Spain in order to help his father’s brother, Tio Jose. In Spain, Dino lives with his paternal grandparents, in a drab, unfriendly world under the dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. When Dino’s father receives a message that Pepe, who had taken over the family restaurant, needs help, Dino’s family returns to colorful, friendly Cuba, where Dino feels he truly belongs. Unfortunately, his Cuba has changed under the new ruler, General Fulgencio Batista. Dino is also there during the takeover by Fidel Castro. When Castro’s compare Che Guevara takes over Tio Bernado’s business, Dino’s family flees to New York City to help Dino’s Tio Manuel. In New York City, Dino again feels different, entering a country where the language is totally different, a New York that does not yet have a large Hispanic population. It is through his drawings that Dino is accepted by his fourth grade teacher, and his peers–drawings that he uses to illustrate a book report he otherwise could not complete in English, the required language. A tale of being different, emigrating and returning, and the struggle for survival under dictatorships, this work will encourage the child who is forced to face change. Based on the true experiences of Fernandez, this work ends with his accepting New York as his new home, and does not mention his future career as an architect. The words paint pictures, and both the illustrations and photographs themselves provide a visual illustration of the narrative. This book suits a social studies curriculum, providing a first-person account of the feelings of the emigre. 2010, Candlewick Press, Ages 8 to 12., $17.99. REVIEWER: Sara Rofofsky Marcus (Children’s Literature).
Not a Chance
Thirteen-year-old Dian tries to rebel against her socially conscious parents, Canadian doctors who set up a clinic in a remote village in the Dominican Republic every summer. She has gone with them every year since she was five, but this year she begs to be allowed to stay with her grandmother so she can relax with her friends and volunteer at the bike shop. But she loses the argument. The only thing she has to look forward to is hanging out with her friend Aracely, a fourteen-year-old her parents have promised to bring to Canada later to study medicine. On their first day together though, Aracely tells Dian that she is not going to go to school because she is engaged to be married in a year. Dian is horrified and lets Aracely know it, thereby endangering their friendship. Dian vows to stop the wedding, and Aracely stops talking to her. Her only companion is Nerick, a smart and determined Haitian boy who is shunned by the whole village because he is black. She gets permission from her parents to teach Nerick how to work on bikes so that he can start his own business later, but a gossipy woman from the village spreads sexual rumors about them. Though she has a difficult time learning to adjust her viewpoint to the culture, Dian gradually realizes that Aracely is right to make her own decision and that she herself can make a difference in Nerick’s life and in the economy of the village by collecting used bikes and sending them to the village after she returns home. 2013, Orca Book Publishers, Ages 9 to 12, $9.95. REVIEWER: Judy DaPolito (Children’s Literature).
Once Upon A Time : Traditional Latin American Tales
This is a collection of seven Latin American tales presented in bilingual format. “The Wedding Rooster” is a story of a proud rooster that explains why roosters crow at dawn. “The Tlacuache and the Coyote” is an adventure in which the coyote is outwitted by the clever tlacuache, a small gray animal we call an opossum. “The Mother of the Jungle” stresses the importance of caring for nature. “Matina the Cockroach and Perez the Mouse” is a whimsical tale in which the cockroach becomes a very desirable creature. “The Flower of Lirolay” is about a king and his three sons. The king becomes blind and can only be cured by a flower that grows high on a mountain and can only be seen by someone kind and generous. The first two selfish sons fail to find the flower. After the third son finds the flower, the older sons steal it and bury him. In the end, the youngest son is restored and becomes one of the kindest and most generous rulers of all times. “The King and the Riddle” illustrates the importance of riddles in the Latin American culture. A shoemaker’s daughter becomes a queen when the king realizes she is as clever as she is beautiful. The last tale, “Pedro Urdemales and the Giant,” is an adventure of the popular character Pedro in which he outsmarts a giant. Each tale is followed by a note on the origin of each story. Colon’s watercolor, Prismacolor pencil, and watercolor scratching illustrations add to the charm of the book. Nonfiction, Highly Recommended. 2010, Rayo, Ages 8 to 11, $19.99.
Orlando On A Thursday
Ideal for a very young audience, Australian author/illustrator Magenta’s deeply reassuring story stars a boy who does without his beloved Mami every Thursday. “Mami will be back tonight,” says Papi to Orlando on Thursday morning. “In the meantime, let’s play!” Orlando has a couple of shaky momentsa “”I look around to show Mami,” says Orlando after proudly riding his tricycle down a ramp, “but then I remember that today is Thursday.” Papi plays his Magic Drum for the tearful Orlando, who dances to the beat: “I feel much better,” he says. “That is why it is called the Magic Drum,” says Papi. Orlando, Mami, and Papi are drawn as childlike stick figures; they look as if they might have come from the hand of Orlando himself. Simple backdrops in reds, greens, and blues represent Orlando’s house and neighborhood with cut-out shapes and cheerful labels (“Beep! Beep!” say some unsteady black letters across the page beneath a car). Magenta succeeds in putting her arms around Orlando’s small, safe world and conveying its warmth. 2010, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 to 5, $15.99. REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).
Pirate vs. Pirate: The Terrific Tale of a Big, Blustery Maritime Match
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
PIRATE VS. PIRATE: THE TERRIFIC TALE OF A BIG, BLUSTERY MARITIME MATCH tells of one Bad Bart, a burly boy pirate, who faces off with Mean Mo, the mightiest girl pirate on the opposite coast. When the two meet in the middle there’s a contest to see who is the best pirate in the world. From cannonball-hurling to hurling pirate insults, this provides a fun, whimsical story perfect for picture book readers with some basic skills who want something different in their story lines. 2011, Disney, Ages 5 to 8,$16.99. REVIEWER: Midwest Book Review (Children’s Bookwatch).
The Red Umbrella
Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Fourteen-year-old Lucia’s parents aren’t happy with recent changes in Cuba under Fidel Castro, but they stay silent, hopeful that things will calm down. As more and more people around them join the revolutionary cause some out of genuine fervor, others out of fear Lucia’s family gains attention for their obvious lack of revolutionary enthusiasm. When Lucia’s parents decide to send her and her little brother to the United States as part of the Pedro Pan airlift in 1961, Lucia and Frankie are told it will be only for a few weeks, just until things get better in Cuba. But things don’t get better, and Lucia and Frankie end up living with an older couple in Grande Isle, Nebraska. The Baxters don’t know much about Cuba or about contemporary teenage life. But they prove to be caring, loving foster parents, helping Lucia and Frankie adapt to life in America even as the children hunger for news of and from their parents. This swiftly moving debut novel, told in Lucia’s authentically teen-like voice, is based on the experiences of the author’s parents. The terrific storytelling is rooted in details of family life and friendship that cover expansive emotional territory. 2010, Alfred A. Knopf, Age 12 and older, $16.99. REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices).
Silk & Venom: Searching for a Dangerous Spider
The title may be worthy of a YA romance novel, but Lasky’s account of arachnologist Greta Binford is actually a closer cousin to the Scientists in the Field entries. After an opening chapter on the characteristics of spiders, readers meet Binford and learn how her childhood on an Indiana farm awakened her interest in nature, how a college trip to Peru honed that interest into a scholarly pursuit, and how a spider infestation at the Indiana statehouse drew her deeper into the the study of the Loxosceles genus. Binford’s effort to trace the migration of Loxosceles from South American to North America (that, at least, is the theory, which she acknowledges might not pan out) leads her to field exploration in the Dominican Republic, where she and her small team of colleagues crawl around market stalls, investigate abandoned buildings, and turn over rocks in search of the elusive Loxosceles taino. Since the book comes to a screeching halt with their success, readers may wonder exactly what will happen with the specimens they bring back to their Oregon lab. Many readers, though, will be so pleased to follow the hunt for the creepy little venomous critter that they may not miss the scientific follow-through at all. Knight’s photographs, a satisfying balance of spider close-ups and working-scientist documentation, are certain to lure browsers. A “Glossary of Spiders” with thumbnail photos and page references is included, along with an index and list of print and online sources for further reading. Review Code: R — Recommended. 2011, Candlewick, Grades 4 to 7, $16.99. REVIEWER: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).
Sugar Changed The World : A Story Of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, And Science
Let’s be clear: this is not a quick-pick history of junk food, even though readers will probably never look at a Snickers bar or Jolly Rancher the same way again. This is a poignant, ultimately hopeful essay that clearly chronicles the human pursuit of sugar to satisfy our collective sweet tooth. The book describes this history in terms of ages, beginning with the Age of Honey, built on local growth and consumption of comestibles; through the Age of Sugar and its slave-supported, “factory” plantation method of production; and into a period of science and freedom, when enslaved workers claimed their human rights and production of sweeteners shifted from the field to the lab. Discussion is divided into four parts, covering the ages defined by the authors and then drawing history into current events with a closing look at modern sugar workers. As with other Aronson titles, the reward is commensurate with the challenge, and readers who follow the authors’ provocative yet accessible narration will gain fresh insight not only into sugar but also into the worldwide matrix in which slavery flourished. Black-and-white photographs, timelines, a web guide to color images, a research essay, annotated notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. Older readers intrigued by food as a world history focus might also want to move on to Mark Kurlansky’s adult works Cod or Salt Review Code: R – Recommended. 2010, Clarion, Grades 7 to 12, $20.00. REVIEWER: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).
Switching On The Moon : A Very First Book Of Bedtime Poems
Collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Three sections of bedtime verse are nicely gathered up in a marvelous anthology written by classic and modern poets from the United States, Great Britain, the Caribbean and Australia. Sixty poems are a mix of different types; some are quite short as four lines while a few others are rather long on double pages. Fanciful illustrations are rendered in various media which adds to delightful imagination for all ages. The first section, “Going to Bed,” tangles romping on the bed with taking baths and other well-known routines, but also presents calming, twinkling nighttime skies heralded by whimsical moons. “Sweet Dreams” soothes youngsters with precious lullabies collected from different cultures, including one by the American Children’s Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman. The last section, “In the Night,” brings darkness and vivid dreams alive through familiar sounds both reassuring and perhaps not so comforting. There are a variety of moods with much personification presented in childlike fashion. Poems showcase little ones pretending both silly and serious themes. Some are traditional toddler songs, too. As a read-aloud, there are rich possibilities for sharing stories with hearts and minds captured on every page. Young and old alike can spend a quiet night together with this treasured collection knowing that more special memories will be made to last a very long time. Quite helpful are an Index of First Lines, an Index of Poets, and a listing of Copyright Acknowledgments. 2010, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 to 8, $21.99. REVIEWER: Susan Treadway, M.Ed. (Children’s Literature).
Under the Mambo Moon
illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck
Marisol helps her father at his music store all summer long. Her neighbors have moved to the area from all over Latin America, and they visit the store in the evenings to reconnect with the music of their various homelands. Combining music, dance and poetry from many countries, this well-conceived and presented volume of poems will remind many of where their hearts fly home. The music and dance of Latin America is as diverse as the region itself, and the poetry in the book travels from the mariachi music of Mexico to the samba of Brazil with stops along the way in the Andes, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. Some of the pages feature the story told in Marisol’s voice, and the art on these pages consists of black-and-white drawings. By comparison, the art on the “dance” pages is done in acrylics, reflecting the richness and color of the music and dance that lives in the hearts and souls of Marisol’s neighbors. When the day is done, Marisol and her father return home to their own music and dance celebration. A glossary at the back describes the music of the entire region. Highly recommended. 2011, Charlesbridge, $12.95. Ages 8 to 11. REVIEWER: Ellen Welty (Children’s Literature).