Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair by Ann Bausum

Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair: Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge

Ann Bausum, Author

National Geographic Kids, Nonfiction, Jan. 12, 2021

Suitable for Ages: 10 – 14  and adults

Themes: Hitler, Resistance, Operation Valkyrie, Revenge, Ghost Children, WW II

Synopsis:

During the summer of 1944, a secretive network of German officers and civilians conspired to assassinate Adolf Hitler. But their plot to attack the dictator at his Wolf’s Lair compound failed, and an enraged Hitler demanded revenge. The result was a systematic rampage of punishment that ensnared not only those who had tried to topple the regime but their far-flung family members too.

Within weeks, Gestapo agents had taken as many as 200 relatives from their homes, separating adults and children in retaliation — the German word Sippenhaft means “family punishment.”  They took 46 children from 19 high-ranking Nazi families to a retreat in a tourist town in central Germany called Bad Sachsa. They were housed together, isolated and forbidden to speak their last names. They feared their parents were dead, but didn’t know why. They created their own sign language to communicate with each other. Observers near the retreat called them the “ghost children.” 

Using rare photographs and personal interviews with survivors, award-winning author Ann Bausum presents the spine-chilling little-known story of the failed Operation Valkyrie plot, the revenge it triggered, and the families caught in the fray. 

Why I like this book:

When Greg Pattridge reviewed Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair last April, I was eager to read about an event during WWII I knew nothing about. Ann Bausum’s book is the most compelling piece of nonfiction I’ve read this year. The book reveals historical details that came to light in recent decades — a reason why we didn’t learn about it in school.

German’s feared Hitler’s revenge. Yet there was a group of courageous high-level military and civilian officials who loved their country so much that they were willing to sacrifice their own lives to stop Hitler’s deadly regime. Even though the Allies were advancing, these heroes wanted to show the world that Germans could stop Hitler and reclaim their country.

Christa von Hofacker was one of the children at Bad Sachsa. Her only solace was to write daily in her  diary about her fears and life there so that she might make sense of what was happening. She wondered if her father was dead. And why?  Years after her release, she wrote the diary into a book for her daughter as a Christmas gift. Her diary is the only documentation of that period. 

The book is 143 pages with seven chapters and is filled with photographs. The first chapter gives readers a good understanding of Hitler’s rise to power — he connected with people on an emotional level using fear and lies to ignite unrest, The following chapters focus on the growing resistance to the regime, Operation Valkyrie, Hitler’s revenge, the “ghost children” and Hitler’s demise.  The book is for older middle grade and high school students, as well as adults.  

Ann Bausum’s book is a well-researched and detailed account of a part of World War II that remains unknown to many people today. She spent hours with Christa and four other child survivors listening to their stories. Make sure you check out the research included in the backmatter: a Timeline, Names of the Sippenhaft Families, A Note from the Author, Research Notes and other resources. There is also a photograph of German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressing the Sippenhaft survivors, their families In 2019 on the 75th commemoration of the Valkyrie coup attempt and excerpts of her speech.

Ann Bausum brings history to life by connecting readers to stories from the past that echo into present times. She traveled twice to Europe in pursuit of the people and places intertwined with Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair, her eleventh work for National Geographic Kids and her fourth about international history. Many of Bausum’s titles highlight themes of social justice, including The March Against Fear (National Geographic). Her books have earned numerous honors, and her body of work was recognized for distinction in 2017 by the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C. Bausum writes from her home in southern Wisconsin. Visit her at her website and on Twitter @AnnBausum.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Ferry Boat by Michael Garland

Ferry Boat (I Like to Read)

Michael Garland, Author and Illustrator

Holiday House, Fiction, Jan. 5, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Ferry Boat, Passengers, Manhattan, NYC

Opening: “We go on the ferry.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A blow-by-blow account of one of the most famous ferry rides in the world, this Level F book is perfect for kindergarteners and first graders to read on their own.

Breathtaking scenes illustrate and illuminate a text that is just right for new readers:

We go on the ferry.
Let’s go to the window.
We see a fort.
We see a long, long bridge.

Realistic digital etchings of the Manhattan skyline, the escalator to a gangplank, New York City crowds, and landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and more give new readers an experience that builds skills, boosts confidence, and shows how reading is fun!

This book has been officially leveled by using the Fountas & Pinnell Text Level Gradient(TM) Leveling System.
The award-winning I Like to Read series features guided reading levels A through G, based upon Fountas & Pinnell standards. Acclaimed author-illustrators—including winners of Caldecott, Theodor Seuss Geisel, and Coretta Scott King honors—create original, high-quality illustrations that support comprehension of simple text and are fun for kids to read again and again with their parents, teachers or on their own!

Level F books, for early first graders, feature longer, more varied sentences than Level E. Level F books encourage kids to decode new multi-syllable words in addition to recognizing sight words. Stories are more complex, and illustrations provide support and additional detail. When Level F is mastered, follow up with Level G.

Why I like this book:

Michael Garland’s Ferry Boat is perfect for early readers. It is told from the viewpoint of a child taking a first ferry boat ride from Manhattan to the Staten and back. Through the child’s eyes readers will view the hustle and bustle of passengers boarding the ferry, peering out of large windows, viewing the skyline of Manhattan, passing Ellis Island, Castle Williams, the Verrazzano Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. 

Young readers will be enticed to explore Garland’s stunning signature illustrations. Just look at that gorgeous cover of the Ferry Boat! Each unique spread exhibits a wood grain effect that adds texture to the colorful Staten Island ferry boat, the sites and the happy activities on  passengers, who reflect the diversity of New York City. The artwork is simply beautiful!

Make sure you check out a picture of a grinning five-year-old Michael Garland’s first ferry boat ride at the end of the story. His book is a labor of love and a keepsake for many.  I remember my first ride as a teen..   

Resources: Autumn is the perfect time to take your child for a ride on the Staten Island Ferryboat, if you visit or live near New York City. We don’t have ferry boats in Ohio, but we have historic steam boats (paddle boats) cruises along the Ohio River. You may find ferry boats and riverboats in your area if you live in Michigan, Missouri, Texas, Virginia, Seattle, WA, South Carolina and Florida. Do some research.  Encourage kids to make their own boats. Check out this kid’s activities blog.

Michael Garland has written and illustrated many books for children, including Fish Had a Wish (Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Children’s Books), Tugboat (Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy), Pizza Mouse (Junior Library Guild Selection), and Birds Make Nests (Correll Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Informational Text and NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book). His art for James Patterson’s Santa Kid inspired Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Holiday windows. He has also written many wonderful Christmas books.  Visit his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. 

Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman

Born Behind Bars

Padma Venkatraman, Author 

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Sep. 7, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: India, Prisoners’ families, Homeless persons, Street children, Friendship, Social justice issues, Hope

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Kabir Khan has been in jail since the day he was born because his mom is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. Their cellmates are his only friends, and he’s never even met his dad. The one place he feels a little bit free is the prison classroom, where his teacher delights him with stories of the outside world’s wonders.

When the new warden announces that Kabir is too old to stay, he’s suddenly released — without his mom — to fend for himself on the city streets of Chennai. Fortunately, Rani, another street kid, takes him under her wing and helps him eke out a living, even sharing the tree she calls home. Plotting their future is difficult and dangerous in a world that doesn’t value low-caste kids like them, but Rani has enough confidence for two, plus a trusty slingshot that comes in handy for hunting meals and handling bullies. And she has a clever parrot, Jay, that talks.

This isn’t quite the life Kabir dreamed of; still, he’s discovered he’s not the type to give up. Justice needs to be served, and he’s determined to show the world that he — and his mom — deserve a place in it.

Why I like this book:

Padma Venkatraman’s compelling and hopeful novel sheds light on the life of children born to mothers in India’s prisons. Her powerful storytelling and vivid imagery draws readers into Kabir’s sheltered life in the prison and the extraordinary journey he embarks upon to find his family in Bengaluru. His story will touch readers’ hearts.

The setting is culturally rich. Venkatraman is a lyrical writer and there are many poetic turns of phrase. The chapters are short (three pages), which quickly moves the story and is perfect for that slightly younger group of middle-graders and reluctant readers.  For fans of The Bridge Home, a character from the story makes an appearance. 

The plot is dangerous and suspenseful from the moment Kabir leaves the prison. The police release him to a man who claims to be Kabir’s uncle. Something feels “off” from the start, and Kabir has to plan a fast escape from this fake uncle. Kabir meets Rani, a street-smart homeless girl who makes a living telling fortunes — she’s from the Roma community in India. She has a talking parrot, Jay, perched on her shoulder. Jay offers many moments of comic relief. Rani shares her home with Kabir — a Banyan tree inside the gates of a haunted mansion. Kabir discovers he can use his voice to earn money and his instincts to judge the people he can trust on the outside.  

Venkatraman exposes India’s broken justice system and it’s impact on children and families who are considered lower caste. They live in extreme poverty and are forgotten. She also shows the tension that exists between the Hindus and Muslims, and problems over water shortages due to climate change and draught. 

Growing up in India, Venkatraman’s memories of starving children provide the inspiration for her novels, Born Behind Bars and The Bridge Home.  Her stories are well-researched and she draws her stories from the tales of the children she meets while doing volunteer work with her mother at respectable children’s homes and schools. Most important, I love that she writes about a culture she knows so well. I hope we see more uplifting novels from her in the future.

Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end to learn more about Born Behind Bars.

Padma Venkatraman was born in India and became an American after living in five countries and working as an oceanographer. She is also the author of The Bridge Home, A Time to Dance, Island’s End and Climbing the Stairs. She lives in Rhode Island. Visit her at her website, and on Twitter: @padmatv, Instagram: Venkatraman.padma

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

 

Ada and the Galaxies by Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv

Ada and the Galaxies

Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv, Authors

Susanna Chapman, Illustrator

MIT Kids Press/ Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep 7, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Stargazing, Galaxies, Nature, Intergenerational

Opening: “Ada loves the stars. But in New York, the city lights make the night sky too bright to see the stars.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

There is so much for Ada to do while visiting her grandparents on an island in Maine, but no amount of beachcombing and kayaking during the day can take the place of looking at the bright and beautiful stars at night. She can hardly wait for the sun to set, but will a thick fog spoil her stargazing plans?

Why I like this book:

Renowned physicist Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv have imaginatively created  Ada and the Galaxies, a delightful story about an eager young girl who can’t wait to gaze at the stars with her grandparents. The text flows nicely, giving Susanna Chapman’s breathtaking watercolor and layered photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope time to work their magic with readers. And, it’s a beautiful story depicting a loving relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter.   

I love the authors’ pacing and the build up for Ada’s stargazing adventure with her grandparents. During the day she explores the island shoreline with Poobah and Ama and learns about the natural world around the Maine coastline. There are Osprey in a nest high in a tree feeding hungry babies, and low and high tides to learn about. Ada makes collects shells and moss with Ama and makes a fairy house on the beach.  

Ada explodes with curiosity and enthusiasm as she waits for the sky to turn dark. When fog rolls in, Pooba and Ada  pour over books with gorgeous pictures of stars and galaxies. Ada asks a lot of thoughtful questions. She wonders about life in other galaxies as Poobah talks about how “everything in the universe is made out of the same stuff.  It’s all part of nature.” What a wonderful tribute to the interconnectivity of life in the universe.

Resources/Activities: This book is perfect for home or school. On a clear night, take your children stargazing. Point out the prominent stars, like the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers and Venus. Encourage them to draw pictures of their adventure.

Alan Lightman has a PhD in theoretical physics and is the best-selling author of Einstein’s Dreams, amonth other books for adults. Ada and the Galaxies is his first book for children and was inspired by his granddaughter’s visits to Maine. Alan Lightman is a professor of practice of humanities at MIT and lives in Massachusetts.

Olga Pastuchiv is a children’s book author, painter, and commercial illustrator.  She paints things large and small, for murals and parade floats to illustrations for picture books. She is the creator of Minas and the Fish and the illustrator of Fables in a Modern Key by Pierre Coran and Riparia’s River by Michael J. Caduto. She lives in Maine.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

 

In a Flash by Donna Jo Napoli

In A Flash

Donna Jo Napoli, Author

Wendy Lamb Books, Historical Fiction, Jan. 5, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12 years

Themes: Sisters, Italian, World War II, Japan, Survival, Courage, Hope

Book Jacket Synopsis:

In 1940, when Simona is eight and her sister, Carolina, is five, their father becomes the cook to the Italian ambassador to Japan, and the family leaves Italy for Tokyo. The girls learn perfect Japanese, make friends, and begin to love life in their new home. But soon Japan is engaged in a world war.

In 1943, when all Italians in Japan are confined to internment camps as enemy aliens, Papà and the girls are forced to part, and Simona and Carolina embark on a dramatic journey. Anyone who aids them could be arrested for treason. All the sisters have is each other: their wits, courage, and resilience, and the hope that they will find people who see them not as the enemy, but simply as children trying to survive.

In this gripping, deeply moving story, Donna Jo Napoli gives readers an unforgettable and authentic new perspective on World War II.

Why I like this book:

Donna Jo Napoli’s In a Flash is a dramatic and original story about two Italian sisters who are separated from their father and trapped in Japan during World War II. Napoli’s powerful storytelling captures their harrowing journey to survive and will tug at reader’s heart-strings. 

I was immediately drawn to their gripping story because it’s a piece of history I knew nothing about. There were many Italians living in Japan during the war. And it is researched and well-documented by Napoli. Make sure you read her historical comments at the end of the novel because she sheds more light on this time period. The narrative is in Simona’s strong voice. The setting is vivid, realistic and rich in detail. Readers will get a very strong sense of the beautiful Japanese culture in the first third of the novel — the customs, family life, the pace of life, the abundant markets, and foods — before the bombings begin and the country is thrown into mayhem. The plot is suspenseful, heart-wrenching and hopeful. The ending will surprise readers.

The story is character driven. Readers will be captivated by Simona and Carolina’s spirits and strong wills. The acclimate to the culture and quickly become fluent in Japanese. Tokyo becomes home, even though they live inside the Italian embassy. When Italy changes sides during the war, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, and America begins bombing Japan, tension rises. The girls and their papa, the Italian ambassador and all Italians living in in Japan are sent to internment and secret prison camps. Simona and Carolina escape a camp and find safe havens among very generous and loving cast of Japanese characters who love and keep them alive during their journey;  three female manga artists, beggars, a washer woman, a professor and German priests. 

Readers will be able to experience the human side of war through Simona and Carolina. This is an important addition to children’s historical fiction and deserves a place in school libraries. 

Donna Jo Napoli has published more than eighty books for young readers, including picture books, early readers, and young adult and middle-grade novels. Her work has been translated into nineteen languages and has won many awards at the state and national levels. She is a professor of linguistics and social justice at Swarthmore College, and she brings her research skills and her profound interest in language to bear on her novels, particularly the historical ones. She and her husband live in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich

13 Ways to Eat a Fly

Sue Heavenrich, Author

David Clark, Illustrator

Charlesbridge, Nonfiction, Feb. 26, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Flies, Predators, Subtraction, Counting, STEM

Opening: “Big flies, small flies, fat flies, thinner. / Yum! These flies are someone’s dinner.” 

Book Jacket Synopsis:

A swarm of 13 flies buzzes by, losing one member to each predator along the way, whether the unfortunate insects are zapped, wrapped, liquefied, or zombified, the science is real — and hilariously gross.

Science meets subtraction in this clever reverse counting book about predators and prey.

Why I like this book:

Sue Heavenrich’s novel perspective on flies will delight children of all ages — and some adults too. Flies may be annoying, but you may want to think twice before you reach for a fly swatter because there are a host of insects, animals and plants who depend upon them for food — frogs, spiders, fish, birds, bats, and the Venus flytrap. Flies are full of protein and an important part of the food chain. And oops, even people eat these harmless flies by mistake.

I have a  4-year-old great nephew in Florida who loves everything bugs. So this was a MUST June birthday book for him! He has committed the facts to memory and has a great time telling the story in his own words — especially to his older sister. My niece especially loves the counting aspect of the book. So far he hasn’t asked her to bake a cake with fly protein powder — yes, it exists.

The layout of the book is delightful, with fun rhymes and a few lines of informational text. The book counts backwards starting with 13 flies. David Clark’s humorous and embellished illustrations show flies being gobbled up by predators. They are also very colorful and lively. Did you know that frogs use their eyeballs to push flies down their throat and garden spiders catch them in their webs and inject venom to kill it! When thousands of tiny flies hatch over a stream, a trout can devour five hundred in one day. That’s impressive.

Resources: There are so many ways to use this book with young children — at home and school.  Encourage kids to draw a picture of a fly being eaten for dinner. Ask kids if they’ve knowingly swallowed a fly by accident while playing outdoors. Make sure you check out the backmatter, as Heavenrich includes a humorous section on the edible parts of a fly, a Non-Human guide to fine dining, and other books, website and resources. Visit her at her website.

Sue Heavenrich is a curious naturalist and is particularly amazed by the diversity of insects that visit her garden. After years as a journalist she is trading in her reporter’s notebooks and writing for children. Her 2018 book, Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought (co-authored with Christy Mihaly) shows how we can help reduce greenhouse gases – and maybe help solve global hunger – by putting bugs, weeds, and invasive species on our plates. Recipes included. When not writing, Sue volunteers as a citizen scientist, counting bees and other pollinators. Follow her blog Archimedes Notebook where she shares a lot of science, nature  and STEM books for children.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy I asked my library to order. 

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillio

The Beatryce Prophecy

Kate DiCamillo, Author

Sophie Blackall, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 28, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes:  Girl, Goat, Monk, King, Prophesy, Medieval, Folktale, Love, Friendships  

Publisher’s Synopsis:

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all—for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories—powerful tales-within-the-tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves—ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her—a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone—will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo’s lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

Why I like this book:

The Beatryce Prophecy is an engaging medieval folktale and adventure that is exquisitely imagined by Kate DiCamillo. Her language is lyrical and her powerful storytelling will captivate the hearts of readers. The fast-paced plot is packed with tension, yet offset by the right amount of humor. It is a very special book that is soulful and moving.  

Captivating and lovable main characters are pitted against an evil king. Beatryce is a girl who can read and write, which is forbidden in the kingdom. She has suffered a trauma that is so terrible that she has tucked the memory away. She only knows her name. She’s smart, clever and wise beyond her years. Brother Edik is a monk in the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing who sees beauty everywhere and paints that beauty into his letters, despite a war and violence that surrounds the kingdom. He is a compassionate soul who is the ideal protector for Beatryce along with the strong and playful goat, Answelica, who can send the monks flying with a single butt. But the goat loves Beatryce and appears to communicate with her in a way that only the two understand. A brave orphan boy, Jack Dory, becomes her friend and helps Beatrice escape when the king’s soldiers search the kingdom for the “girl in the prophecy.” Jack, Answelica and Beatrice embark upon a dangerous journey to confront the king and find her mother. 

The Beatryce Propheccy is divided into “six books” with very short chapters, making this fable a perfect bedtime read for younger children. Each chapter begins with an ornately designed letter, much in the style of Brother Edik’s luminous letters. Sophie Blackall’s beautiful black-and-white illustrations pull readers into this medieval adventure and give readers a peek at Beatryce’s world. Verdict: This timeless fable will become a favorite among readers.

Kate DiCamillo is the author of Because of Winn Dixie, The Tiger Rising, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Tale of Despereaux, The Magician’s Elephant, Flora & Ulysses, and the Raymie Nightingale series. She also is the author of the chapter books series Mercy Watson and the Tales from Deckwoo Drive. A former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, she lives in Minneapolis.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter by Jamie Michalak

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter

Jamie Michalak, Author

Kelly Murphy, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Jun. 23, 2021

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes: Animals, Mouse, Adventure, Art, Museum

Opening: “In the Great, Big City, / in the great big museum, / a clock tick-tocks past midnight. / Doors are locked. / Guards keep watch. / All is still, until…”

Synopsis:

In the dark of night, in the big museum, a tiny creature emerges from the shadows. Who is this mouse of mystery? It’s Dakota Crumb, scurrying through the great halls, hunting for treasure with a map in and sack in hand. Hundreds of eyes peer from paintings and follow this mouse as she searches for a famous priceless treasure, that is hidden somewhere in the museum and is marked with an X on her map.

Along the way she spots other treasures left behind by daytime’s human visitors and Dakota pops them in her sack. Will this be the night she will finally find the purple jewel of Egypt she’s been searching for? The sun is rising and off she scampers into her mouse home. And what a home it is!

Why I like this story:

What a delightful and entertaining picture book that will remind readers of the “Night in the Museum” theme. Children will love the suspense of what is lurking around each gallery corner, as Dakota makes her way past exhibits of knights in armor, frozen statues, stuffed animals, pyramids and mummies.

Readers will enjoy guessing just what she does with all the hidden treasures in her mouse hole. Such a clever story with beautiful double-page illustrations that support her nightly journey. Kelly Murphy’s eye-popping art really gives the reader a sense of drama and movement as Dakota scampers about. At the end of the story, readers will get a peek at Dakota’s list of treasures and can go on their own seek-and-find hunt looking for a lot of the treasures on her list. This is a perfect read aloud.  

Resources: Kids will have fun searching for all of the hidden items in the book on Dakota’s list.  Parents can help them invent their own rainy-day treasure inside the house or outside. I use to hide items with clues that kids can follow to find the treasures in our yard.  A nature theme would be fun for outside.

Jamie Michalak is the author of numerous books for children, including the Joe and Sparky series, and Frank and Bean.  Jamie lives in the smallest state, Rhode Island.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Elephant in the Room

Holly Goldberg Sloan

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Mar. 2, 2021

Suitable for ages: 10-14

Themes: Immigration, Turkish Americans. Separation, Elephants, Rescue, Friendship

Book Jacket Synopsis:

It’s been almost a year since Sila’s mother traveled halfway around the world to Turkey, hoping to secure the immigration paperwork that would allow her to return to her family in the United States.

The long separation is almost impossible for Sila to withstand. But things change when Sila accompanies her father (who is a mechanic) outside their Oregon town to fix a truck. There, behind an enormous stone wall, she meets a grandfatherly man, Gio Gardino, who only months before won the state lottery. Their new alliance leads to the rescue of a circus elephant named Veda, and then to a friendship with an unusual boy named Mateo, proving that comfort and hope come in the most unlikely of places.

A moving story of family separation and the importance of the connection between animals and humans, this novel has the enormous heart and uplifting humor that readers have come to expect from the beloved author of Counting by 7s.

What I like about this book:

Holly Goldberg Sloan hit a sweet spot with her novel, The Elephant in the Room. It is such an uplifting story because it is charming and sad, unique and creative. But most of all the story it is filled with heart and it will put a smile on readers’ faces. Her storytelling is captivating. 

The characters are realistic. Sila Tekin really struggles without her mother. She’s quiet in the classroom, her studies are falling behind and she eats lunch alone. The school notices and pairs her with another bilingual student, Mateo Lopez, who is on the autism spectrum. It’s an awkward pairing at first, but I love that Sila accepts Mateo without judgement. Their friendship is sealed when Sila invites Mateo to visit the Veda, the elephant Gio Gardino rescues. Sila and Mateo’s  world revolves around caring for the elephant. And it is always heartwarming to see the bond that forms between animals and humans. They become a family.  

Sloan deals with some major topics — deportation, separation, animal cruelty and autism — which add a lot of depth to the story. Readers will learn a lot about the rescue and care for circus elephants. A lot happens in the story and the viewpoint changes frequently among the different characters, which is told in third person. I really enjoyed Veda’s voice in some of the chapters. The ending is very satisfying.   

Holly Goldberg Sloan spent part of her childhood living in Istanbul, Turkey. After graduating from Wellesley College, she working in commercial production in Los Angeles and in her twenties began writing family feature films, including Angels in the Outfield and Made in America. She was the first woman to direct a live action film for the Walt Disney Company when she directed (and wrote) The Big Green. She is the author of six novels, including the E. B. White Read-Aloud Honor book Counting by 7s, the New York Times best seller Short, and the highly praised To Night Owl from Dogfish. She is the mother of two sons and lives with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit Holly at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

A Feel Better Book for Little Sports by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen

A Feel Better Book for Little Sports 

Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen, Authors

Shirley Ng-Benitez, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Aug. 24, 2021

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Sportsmanship, Teamwork, Resilience, Fun, Rhyme

Opening: All over the world, / in all different places, / people of all ages, genders, and races… / Share a love for SPORTS — they’re so much fun! / Yippee! Hooray! / Your team has won!

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The acclaimed Feel Better Books for Little Kids series now offers an upbeat rhyming story that tackles the fun and the not-so-fun parts of sports: winning, losing, being a good sport, and even resilience. This is a helpful book for little ones who are just entering the world of competitive play, so that they can get the most out of their activities.

Why I like this book:

Brochmann and Bowen’s picture book  is a perfect read for young children who get involved in sports at an early age. What child doesn’t like to run, swim, dance, skateboard, and play soccer, baseball, football, and tennis?  Sports can be a BIG deal for a little child, especially if they have older siblings who are sport enthusiasts!

What I love about this book is that it focuses more on what sports do for children and not so much on winning — although that’s fun too. It brings kids together. It helps them exercise their body and brain and work on their coordination. It teaches kids respect and consideration for others, especially when they win and an opponent loses. This is a very balanced and important book for at home or school.

The rhyming text is snappy and Shirley Ng-Benitez illustrations are lively and colorful. The children represent a diverse group of sport enthusiasts and those who are differently-abled. 

Resources: The author offers an insightful Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end of the book with more information about ways to help kids get the most out of sports while they have fun learning.

Holly Brochmann  and Leah Bowen are sisters and co-athors. This is the sisters’ fourth book in the Feel Better Books for Little Kids series: For Little Tears, For Little Worriers, Little Poopers, and For Little Tempers. Leah is a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist. Holly has a degree in journalism and has a career in public relations. Both sisters live in Texas. You can visit them at their website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.”