Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gotta Keep Reading!

If you want to see something that will get your weekend off to a great start, watch this YouTube video Gotta Keep Reading by students at  Ocoee Middle School. This is what keeps us going!



Thanks to Creative Literacy for the link.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Articles of Interest

A few articles around the blogosphere that might be of interest...

Noes from the Horn Book offeres "Five Questions for Matt Phelan" who won the 2010 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The first question, "Do you think of The Storm in the Barn as historical fiction?" is very interesting since some think the fantasy element in the graphic novel should diqualify the book as historical fiction. Matt's response:
Yes. I also think of it as a supernatural thriller and a family drama and a Jack tale. But when I was writing it, I only thought of it as a story. It wasn’t until after it was finished that I could step back and try to label it. It was a story first and foremost, even before I decided it would be a graphic novel.

The other articles in Notes from the Hornbook highlight the ALA media award winners.

Another interesting article is from The Big Fresh titled, "Just Because They Can Doesn't Mean They Should: Choosing Age-Appropriate Books for Literature Circles." In this article, a literacy coach sits through an excruciating literature circle where second graders are trying to figure out the meaning of young adult themes in The Giver. She uses the experience to think through how teachers of gifted young readers can provide them with texts that are challenging yet still appropriate.

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 2/15/2010

Picture Books

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. Little, Brown, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-00762-7

This is a genius concept—the kids' equivalent of a classic guy bull session, centering on two playmates' favorite toys. So, who's better—Shark or Train? That all depends. When trick-or-treating, Shark is the clear winner, thanks to his intimidating smile (“The clown is very hungry,” he says, as a bowl of candy is poured into his bag). But in a marshmallow-roasting contest, Train triumphs by virtue of his built-in, coal-stoked rotisserie. Just when readers will think the scenarios can't get more absurd (bowling, a burping contest), the book moves into even funnier territory: hypotheticals in which neither comes out on top (their imposing presences make them ripe targets for getting shushed in a library, and their lack of opposable thumbs means neither is very good at video games). Lichtenheld's (Duck! Rabbit!) watercolor cartoons have a fluidity and goofy intensity that recalls Mad magazine, while Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers) gives the characters snappy dialogue throughout. “That counts as a strike, right?” says Shark, having eaten an entire lane of bowling pins. “This is why you guys have a bad reputation,” retorts Train. Ages 3–6. (Apr.)

Farm by Elisha Cooper. Scholastic/Orchard, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-545-07075-1

Cooper (Beach) creates a joyful tribute to family farms in this luminous and lyrical picture book. The text is stately, quiet, and poetic (“Morning chores would be better if they didn't happen every morning”), and the book slowly takes readers through a year of planting, good and bad weather, and ordinary details about farm life. At the same time, Cooper includes enough specific portraits and names to make the book seem like a felicitous cross between fiction and nonfiction. Like a puzzlemaker, Cooper begins with a sequence of cumulative phrases and sketchbook-style paintings: “Take a farmer, another farmer, a boy, a girl. Add a house, two barns, four silos.... Then cattle, chickens, countless cats, a dog. Put them all together and you get...” A page turn reveals “...a farm,” broad and serene, stretched across the palest of skies. Delicately shaded watercolors, outlined in black, are a mix of spot art, clustered images, and spectacular spreads that portray the farm and its inhabitants from diverse points of view. The graceful text and serenely stunning illustrations create a portrait both reverent and realistic. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25452-9

When a small girl loses her father, her only parent (Jeffers represents the loss with the father's empty chair in a moonlit room), she decides “the best thing” is to put her heart in a bottle and hang it around her neck. All the bubbly curiosity that had made her sparkle disappears, “but at least her heart was safe.” Not until the girl, now considerably older, meets “someone smaller and still curious about the world” is her heart restored to her. Jeffers's (The Great Paper Caper) artwork is the sweetness in this bittersweet story. Conversations between the girl and her father appear as balloons with images in them instead of words; his answers to her enthusiastic “questions” about the world are expressed in scientific prints and diagrams. In the final spread, as she sits reading in her father's chair, a thought balloon exploding with childlike and cerebral images alike makes it clear that she is once again at peace. While the subject of loss always has the potential to unsettle young readers, most should find this quietly powerful treatment of grief moving. Ages 4–up. (Mar.)

Fiction

The Celestial Globe by Marie Rutkoski. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-31027-1

This stellar sequel to The Cabinet of Wonders surpasses its predecessor by navigating the intelligent fantasy adventure outside 16th-century Bohemia and deepening the scope of its magic. After an attack, feisty 13-year-old Petra's mind connection to British spy John Dee enables him to rescue her to London through a “Loophole” that allows instant time-space travel. Another Loophole casts two supporting players into central roles when her childhood friend and magician Tomik passes to Portugal only to be captured by Roma pirates, including Petra's friend Neel. These pirates possess one of two magical globes and are searching for the second; combined, they offer “the power to guide anyone through hundreds of Loopholes.” Their quest leads back to Petra and pits them against Bohemia's evil Prince Rodolfo and a complex web of British traitors. Using a winning combination of history and magic, Rutkoski builds on what worked in the first novel and heightens the stakes, as Petra matures under Dee's enigmatic tutelage. Strong characters and fast-paced plotting let this compelling installment stand independently, but the ending will leave readers eager for the next. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. Greenwillow, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-187093-4

The fourth installment in Turner's saga is another absorbing political drama, this time focusing on Sophos, reluctant heir to the Sounis throne. Readers will remember him as Useless the Younger in The Thief, when he was more interested in poetry than power. As the king's only heir, however, he had no choice but to prepare for the monarchy until, in the opening pages of this volume, he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He narrates the story of his abduction to an undisclosed “you,” whose identity close readers of the series may guess. Given the complexity of Turner's plot, readers should reread the first three books before beginning this one, which derives its power from the intricate construction of Turner's imagined world, a realm in which her founding mythology is as impressive as her descriptions of the land itself. Sophos's choice—live anonymously in servitude or accept a role he doesn't want—drives the story as his allies approach a showdown with the enemy Medes. Strong evidence emerges that the story doesn't end here, and fans will savor this while they wait for more. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-545-20719-5

In this exciting steampunk adventure, Carnegie Medal–winner Reeve takes readers to a far future that looks back at our era with a darkly humorous sensibility (how's “Blog off,” for an expletive?), while laying tantalizing groundwork for his Hungry City Chronicles quartet. Fever Crumb, a 14-year-old orphan, is the only girl ever accepted into the Order of Engineers and has been raised in seclusion by obsessively logical scientists in an enormous head, part of an unfinished statue of London's deposed ruler, the hated mutant “Scriven,” Auric Godshawk. But Fever's thoroughly rational nature is thrown into flux when she's sent into the bustling, violent city on her first job, working for an eccentric archeologist who may have discovered Godshawk's secret cache of scientific inventions. As invaders near the city's outer perimeter, the streets of London erupt in mob violence, and Fever finds herself proclaimed a mutant and pursued by an implacable enemy. Beautifully written, grippingly paced, and filled with eccentric characters and bizarre inventions (such as foldable assassins made of paper), this is a novel guaranteed to please Reeve's fans—and very likely broaden their ranks. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)

Just Popping In
 
Encyclopedia Mythologica: Gods and Heroes by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda. Candlewick, $29.99 (12p) ISBN 978-0-7636-3171-0

Reinhard and Sabuda continue to raise the bar in their second Encyclopedia Mythologica pop-up (following Fairies and Magical Creatures), a global tour of gods and other deities. Multiple stories unfold on each page within layered tableaus in miniature booklets, like treasures to be unveiled. A sort of flip book detailing Hercules's 12 tasks is triggered by pull-tab; one booklet shows the destruction of Atlantis; elsewhere, a grimacing Pele erupts from the spewing lava of a volcano; and the plumed Aztec serpent, Quetzalcoatl, seems to fly toward readers on the final spread. A fun and engaging assemblage that seamlessly marries its form and content. Ages 5–up. (Feb.)

Congratulations to these authors!

2009 CYBILS Awards!

The Fourth Annual Children's and Young Adulut Bloggers' Literary Awards were annunced yesterday!

Cybils Awards for Children's and Middle Grade Books

Picture Book (Fiction)

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon; illustrated by Marla Frazee; Beach Lane Books

Picture Book (Non-Fiction)

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton; illustrated by Tony Persiani;
Charlesbridge

Easy Reader

Watch Me Throw the Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems; Hyperion

Early Chapter Book

Bad to the Bone (Down Girl and Sit) by Lucy Nolan; illustrated by Mike Reed; Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books

Poetry

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski;
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Graphic Novel

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis; Bloomsbury USA

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Dreamdark: Silksinger (Faeries of Dreamdark) by Laini Taylor; Putnam Juvenile

Middle Grade Fiction

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson; Simon & Schuster

Cybils Awards For Young Adult Books

Non-Fiction

The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner; illustrated by Andy Comins; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Graphic Novel

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation by Tom Siddell; Archaia Press

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Fire by Kristin Cashore; Dial

Young Adult Fiction

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers; Macmillan

Congratulations to these authors and a great big thank you to the CYBILS bloggers for their hard work!

Monday, February 8, 2010

PW's Starred Reviews 2/8/10

-- Publishers Weekly, 2/8/2010

Picture Books

Paris in the Spring with Picasso by Joan Yolleck, illus. by Marjorie Priceman. Random/S&W, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-83756-2

Debut author Yolleck introduces Gertrude Stein and her coterie—Picasso, Max Jacobs, Apollinaire (plus assorted girlfriends)—spicing her account with gossip and asides (“Pardonnez-moi, excuse me. I must interrupt for just a moment to tell you that these sketches are of Apollinaire and their friends Pablo and Fernande”). Apollinaire watches an acrobat and gets an idea for a poem, Max Jacob writes comic verse, Gertrude chats with Alice B. Toklas; the evening soirée that the narrative takes as its focus isn’t as important as the ordinary ways these extraordinary artists spend their days. The exuberant spreads by Priceman (How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.), scratched and scrabbled in ink and splashed with scarlets, yellows, and blues, showcase the streets of Paris with thoroughly Gallic charm. In his studio, Picasso squeezes black oil paint onto his palette while, across town, Stein passes the hours before her party curled up in an armchair, reading. Intelligently written and illustrated with élan, it’s the next step up for Francophile children who have graduated from Babar and Madeline. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

All Star!: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever by Jane Yolen, illus. by Jim Burke. Philomel, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-24661-6

How great does a baseball player have to be for his baseball card to sell for nearly $3 million? With emphatic prose and oil paintings that echo the perspectives and palettes of vintage photography and commercial art, Yolen and Burke amply prove that Wagner (1874–1955) did plenty to make that collectible worth every dollar. The treatment of Wagner’s hardscrabble early years—he left school in the sixth grade to work in Pennsylvania’s coal mines and used sandlot games to mold himself into a strong, fast, savvy player—is particularly masterful. What could have been a Bob Costas–like sports soap opera becomes an eloquently understated tribute to that archetypal American combination of stoicism, decency, drive, and sheer talent. Joining the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900, Wagner went on to set record after record; as Yolen notes, “he did it all without drugs or fancy training programs or million-dollar incentives—just for the pure love of the game.” (True to form, Wagner had his baseball card pulled from the market when he learned it was being sold in cigarette packs.) That’s reason enough to take kids out to this ballgame. Ages 6–8. (Mar.)

Fiction

A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home by Henry Cole. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-170410-9

Fantasy and natural history blend comfortably in illustrator Cole’s (Jack’s Garden) first novel, as a Louisiana plantation—where wildlife artist John James Audubon and his young assistant, Joseph, stayed for several months in 1821—provides the setting for this story of a gentle, brave mouse’s search for a home. Persecuted by bad-tempered rats and on the run from a predatory house cat, Celeste is rescued by Joseph, who nurtures and confides in her, carrying her in his pocket while he and Audubon seek birds and plants to illustrate. The volume and cinematic quality of Cole’s naturalistic pencil drawings recall The Invention of Hugo Cabret; they pull readers into Celeste’s world, capturing her vulnerability, courage, and resourcefulness (an expert basket weaver, she constructs her own means of rescue when lost). Away from humans, Celeste converses freely with other animals; in Joseph’s presence, however, Celeste bears witness to the cruel (by contemporary standards) methods Audubon used to create his drawings, one of a few moments that might trouble more sensitive readers. Evocative illustrations, compelling characters, and thoughtful reflections on the nature of home combine to powerful effect. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray. Random, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-85843-7

British author Gray’s U.S. debut is both an unusual twist on the road trip trope and a touching story of teenage friendship. After their friend Ross is struck by a car and killed while riding his bike, Blake, Kenny, and Sim decide to honor his memory. After a few acts of petty revenge on people who had made Ross’s last few days tough, they decide to steal his ashes and take them to the Scottish namesake town of Ross. Along the way, they get thrown off a train, lose their money, meet and flirt with three attractive Scottish girls, and discover some often uncomfortable truths about each other and their relationship with Ross. Gray’s story could have ended up a collection of coming-of-age clichés, but instead is likely to defy readers’ expectations as the boys make their way north. Although there are action sequences featuring escapes from the police, stolen mopeds, and even a bungee jump, it’s the relationship among the boys—expressed as much through believable teen banter as through obvious and emotional revelatory moments—that drives the story. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)

Poems to Grow On

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman, illus. by Beckie Prange. Harcourt, $17 (40p) ISBN 978-0-618-71719-4

The team behind the Caldecott Honor–winning Song of the Water Boatman pays tribute to biologically successful species—from mollusks and lichens to dandelions and sharks—in poems that appear in order of each animal’s first appearance on earth (a striking, mazelike time line puts the billions of years into perspective). Sidman’s words are vivid and affectionate—about single-celled diatoms, she writes, “Curl of sea-/ green wave/ alive/ with invisible jewels/ almost/ too beautiful/ to eat,” and Prange’s expressive linocuts capture the character of each animal. Fascinating factual information appears on each page; the graceful integration of science and art results in a celebratory story of survival. Ages 6–9. (Apr.)

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer, illus. by Josée Masse. Dutton, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-525-47901-7

Singer uses “reverso” poems, a form of her creation, to show that there are two sides to every fairy tale (the poems can be read backward and forward). On each page, two poems appear, one an inversion of the other with minor changes in punctuation. In “In the Hood,” Little Red Riding Hood’s poem ends: “But a girl/ mustn’t dawdle./ After all, Grandma’s waiting,” while the wolf’s poem begins: “After all, Grandma’s waiting,/ mustn’t dawdle.../ But a girl!” Masse’s clever compositions play with symmetry (in “Longing for Beauty,” Beauty and the Beast appear as one being, split in half, her tresses echoing his fur), bringing this smart concept to its fullest effect. Ages 6–up. (Mar.)

Congratulations to these authors!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Power of Blogging

This week, the teachers enrolled in my children's literature course started their own blogs and will be posting reviews of the books they read and responding to each others' posts. Their blogs are listed below...if you have a few mintues, please give them a few words of encouragement!

TribeTeacher, LiteraryLady, and Parnaro's Post

As the semester progresses, so will their posts. The use of a blog to post thoughts about the books they read is important for many reasons. First, if teachers are to engage their own students in using technology in rich and meaningful ways, they must first experience those benefits themselves. Second, the ability to read and respond to each others' blogs changes the audience for reader response, which is huge. Third, however, is that if blogs are only used to respond to online assignments, then the full potential of blogs for promoting critical and analytical thinking will not be realized.

Blogs allow students to create content in ways not possible in a traditional paper/pencil environment. Rather than simply using the blog as a context to post a response that could be written on paper, blogs allow students to link to and connect ideas (that can take the form of pictures, podcasts, videos and other multimedia), to make their thinking about ideas transparent and to have others link to their posts. To do this, students must engage in close reading and reflection, to think critically within and across sources of information, to form a clear and concise message for a real audience.

For example, if students are given an assignment to respond to a particular aspect of a book or poem, then the response could include links and connections to information from the author’s blog, to book reviewers’ blogs, other students’ blogs, or other online resources. Students’ responses would necessarily represent an analysis and synthesis of these multiple sources of information along with the students’ own reflections or experiences that would ultimately articulate a deeper understanding of the content and response to the text.

This important aspect of blogging is what we will be working on all semester.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Horn Book's Starred Reviews for March/April

From Read Roger:

The following books will receive starred reviews in the March-April issue of the Horn Book Magazine:

My Garden, by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)

Once by Morris Gleitzman (Holt)

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge (Candlewick)

The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Peter Sís (Scholastic)

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork (Levine/Scholastic)

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad/HarperCollins)

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer; illus. by Josée Masse (Dutton)
 
Congratulations to these authors!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Katherine Paterson: Apple's iPad is no book-killer

Apple's iPad is no book-killer: Author says technology is a threat to reading we can overcome

By: Katherine Paterson

Monday, February 1st 2010, 4:00 AM

Last week, Apple's Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, which will compete with Amazon's Kindle and seduce even more readers from the printed page to the touchscreen.

We recently learned that the average 8- to-18-year-old in America spends seven hours, 38 minutes a day, or 53 hours a week, with electronic media. Technology, which becomes more exciting by the day, seems to have taken over our lives. Are we witnessing the long anticipated death of the book?

It is a legitimate concern. But we are not the first generation to fear change of this kind. Plato had Socrates argue in "The Dialogues" that if people learned to read and write - if, in short, the populace became literate - poetry would disappear, for it was only in the oral tradition that poetry could be preserved properly.

Now it's easy to look back on that fear and laugh. Indeed, I didn't know what Plato and Socrates were all bent out of shape about until some years ago when I was invited to Fiji to speak to a conference of teachers from the South Pacific islands. These teachers didn't even have pencils and paper for their classrooms, much less books.

What could I say to them? Just tell them stories, someone said. But all my stories are about books, I replied, mostly my own books.

When my turn came to speak, I looked out at these beautiful people. I told them, as I had to, stories of books they had never heard of, and I began to feel something I cannot adequately describe - a powerful sensation from the audience that pulled from me what I knew was perhaps the best presentation I had ever given.

I couldn't understand what had happened until I realized that I had never before spoken to an audience who, having grown up in the oral tradition, truly knew how to listen.

That quality of listening is something lost that we will never in all probability retrieve, but we gained in that change and then in the invention of printing the gift of books and the art of reading.

When books were expensive and rare, people read them over and over again. But now there is so much available that few of us read in this intensive way.

This is where we who write for children have the advantage. For the child readers, and they are not an extinct species, still seem willing to take the time to give a book, in Robert Louis Stevenson's felicitous phrase, "a just and patient hearing."

I feel a sense of pity toward my fellow writers who spend their time writing for the speeded-up audience of adults. They look at me, I realize, with a patronizing air, I who only write for the young. But I doubt that many of them have readers who will read their books over and over again, who will create their own Terabithias to play out endless repetitions of beloved passages.

So it is not irrational to fear the current changes. Technology does pose a threat to the written word. Tweeting does not allow for intensive reading. Serious newspapers that give readers a full view of current events are, we are told, on their deathbeds. Throughout our culture, slogans seem to be increasingly replacing serious discussion.

This, then, becomes the question: When strangely abbreviated 140-character statements are streaming onto our screens and we get our information in sound bites from voices we agree with, will fewer and fewer of us truly be willing or able to read the kind of book that will nurture our souls or enable us to be responsible citizens?

It is as futile for us to fight technological advances as it was for Plato to battle literacy. Yet I have hope. I have seven grandchildren, all of whom are well-equipped with electronic gadgets. Yet all of them are readers - because their parents are readers who have read to them, because they have teachers who care about literature and librarians who introduce them to books they will enjoy and be enriched by.

So, do I truly fear that books will become obsolete? No. Recently I heard an interview with a leader in the electronics industry. He was asked if he thought that printed books would now die.

No, he answered. Even if the book had never been created and we had all the electronic devices and media we now have, someone would have to invent a book. It is the perfect technology.

Katherine Paterson, author of "Bridge to Terabithia," was recently appointed the national ambassador for young people's literature by the Librarian of Congress, in conjunction with the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader.

PW's Starred Reviews for 2/1/10

-- Publishers Weekly, 2/1/2010

Picture Books

I Can Be Anything! by Jerry Spinelli, illus. by Jimmy Liao. Little, Brown, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-316-16226-5

Newbery Medalist Spinelli (My Daddy and Me) again demonstrates his versatility as a writer in this buoyant riff on a familiar theme. “When I grow up, what shall I be?” asks the young narrator, answering this question with blithe, whimsical options, pictured with playful exaggeration in Liao's (The Sound of Colors) energetic watercolor and acrylic art. Accompanied by frolicking bunnies, the boy envisions himself as a “puddle stomper/ apple chomper/mixing-bowl licker/ tin-can kicker,” among numerous other “professions.” Though often clad in overalls, in some scenarios he wears more fanciful attire, hovering in a butterfly costume as a “honeysuckle smeller” or performing in a clown suit for a sad lion as a “silly-joke teller.” Liao's artwork runs with the simple, evocative phrases, striking a balance between the classic and the contemporary (on many pages, the boy resembles nothing so much as a modern-day Little Boy Blue, yet he's equally comfortable commanding the stage as a jester or magician). It's an uplifting, imaginative vision of life's possibilities that suggests that there are no limits—not even the sky. Ages 3–6. (Mar.)

Fiction

Stuck on Earth by David Klass. FSG/Foster, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-39951-1

When an alien snail named Ketchvar III takes over 14-year-old Tom Filber's body, he tends to agree with Galactic Confederation ethicists that “we owe it to weak and vulnerable Homo sapiens to euthanize the species” before humans destroy the environment and themselves. But even though he suffers high school at its worst, he is inspired by some people he meets—a lonely neighbor; his passionate environmental club adviser—and begins drawing another conclusion. Ketchvar's cerebral narration is the book's hallmark (“My new theory is that school serves the purpose of narrowing the horizons of young Homo sapiens and conditioning them to accept mediocrity”); it becomes increasingly moving as the question arises of whether Ketchvar is real or if this is a construct Tom uses to deal with his disintegrating home life and general unhappiness. The narrator's well-timed surveillance of a polluting paint factory is too convenient, but Klass's (the Caretaker Trilogy) thoughtful, often wrenching book offers plenty to think about, from what's really going on in Tom's head to questions about human responsibility to the planet and each other. It takes “alienation” to a whole new level. Ages 11–14. (Mar.)

Borderline by Allan Stratton. HarperTeen, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-145111-9

Printz Honor–winner Stratton (Chanda's Secrets) explores the genesis of and fallout from racial and religious discrimination in this thriller about a Muslim boy's life, which is turned on its head when his father is accused of collaborating with Islamic terrorists in a plot to contaminate the water supplies in New York City and Toronto. But 15-year-old Mohammed “Sami” Sabiri has more to worry about than the resulting media circus and his father's incarceration. How can he avoid being bullied at school? How will his mother support the family after being fired? And are the allegations about his father true or are they the result of a scared community and a government embracing prejudice at its worst? When Sami goes undercover to verify his father's innocence, the story reaches a fist-clenching pinnacle before a conclusion that should defy readers' expectations. Despite the sensitive subject matter and potential for sensationalistic writing, Stratton proceeds with a steady hand. It's a powerful story and excellent resource for teaching tolerance, with a message that extends well beyond the timely subject matter. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)

Children's Comics

Meanwhile: Pick a Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities by Jason Shiga. Abrams/Amulet, $15.95 paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-81098-423-3

A mathematician/cartoonist whose best works (Bookhunter; Fleep) play with form and logic, Shiga has created both an enchanting graphic novel and a delightful physical object. Building on the concept of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, Shiga allows readers to select among thousands of story lines. The first question is simple: “Chocolate or vanilla?” From there, readers follow thin tubes and tabs in circuitous paths throughout the book, dictated by their choices. Sometimes the story takes a reader right to left through panels on the page, sometimes up or down, and readers' decisions may have them skip forward or backward throughout the text. Plots include time machines, doomsday devices, quantum physics, and a giant squid. The charming, cartoony illustrations, bursting with color and energy, lend a wry counterpoint to the often disastrous outcomes of the many possible plots. In the electronic media era, it's refreshing to encounter a work that makes such unique use of the physical nature of the book. Young readers will likely spend hours finding new ways to wend a path through the pages of this innovative book. Ages 8–up. (Mar.)

Happy Easter!

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett. Putnam, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25238-9

Brett's finely detailed watercolor and gouache art is a showstopper, spotlighting lifelike—though nattily clad—rabbits decorating eggs in hopes of winning the role of the Easter Rabbit's helper. Hoppi is awed by bunnies' creations, which include an ornate chocolate egg and a “whirling, twirling mechanical egg.” But when an egg tumbles out of a robin's nest, he keeps it safe until the baby bird hatches. Borders of twigs, pussy willows, daffodils, and ferns add greatly to the warm, visually sumptuous setting of this gentle spring story. Ages 3–5. (Feb.)

Congratulations to these authors!