Mummies Exposed! (Creepy and True #1) by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Whether discovered in tombs, bogs, or ice, mummies give a unique glimpse into the past through the well-preserved bodies of ancient humans.  Some were intentionally mummified, like Egyptian kings, while others were mummified by the right combination of elements that prevented their flesh from decaying.  Each of the ten chapters tells the fascinating story of a different mummy–its discovery and the stories it tells. Sometimes it takes years to piece together theories of how a person or group of people met their end and wound up in a place where they were found centuries later.  There are plenty of gruesome photos, as well as a glossary, index, and extensive bibliography. 212 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  The conversational tone, fascinating subject matter, and plethora of photos will make this a popular choice for middle schoolers.

Cons:  Although this is billed on Amazon as book #1 in the series Creepy and True, I couldn’t find any upcoming books in the series.

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Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

Published by Creston Books

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Image result for martin and anne nayburg

Summary:  Born five months apart in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank grew up in very different circumstances on different continents.  Both experienced prejudice and discrimination, though, and both loved to learn and express their ideas through writing and speaking. Although Martin lived more than twice as many years as Anne, they both had their lives cut short by hatred.  And both left legacies of peace and love that continue to this day; includes a timeline and bibliography. 32 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  This would be a perfect text to introduce a unit on people who have made a difference, or to encourage students to compare the lives of two famous people.  An inspiring book.

Cons:  An author’s note with more information about Anne and Martin would have been a nice addition.

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Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler

Published by Kids Can Press

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Summary:  “What animal can you make with dinosaur feet, several feather dusters, a lion-killing kick, black toenails, three billiard balls, the speed of a greyhound, and a hose?  Here’s a hint: This animal uses its wings to make sharp turns, quick stops, and zigzagging moves. But don’t look for it in the skies!” If you guessed an ostrich, good for you.  If you didn’t have a clue, you could unfold the gatefold page of this book to get the answer, plus an explanation of how all the parts help the animal. There are 13 animals in all.  The last page tells more about how early explorers described new animals that they found using parts of animals that were familiar to them (think duck-billed platypus). Includes a glossary.  32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  This unique, beautifully illustrated book would be a fun read-aloud to get kids guessing all the animals.  Listeners will definitely want a closer look afterward to learn about the different features of each creature.

Cons:  These were tough…I only could figure out a couple without peeking.

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Up for Air by Laurie Morrison

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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Summary:  The story begins with Annabelle finishing up her seventh grade final exams, frustrated and feeling like she’s not very smart.  She gets some confirmation of that a few days later when her grades come out. The one thing she knows she’s good at is swimming, and she’s excited for summer swim team, which brings together year-round and summer residents in her island community.  At the end of the first practice, the high school coach approaches her to ask if she’d like to move up from the middle school team; Annabelle is thrilled when her mother and stepfather agree, on the condition that her summer reading and tutoring come first.  Swimming and hanging out with the older kids is exciting, especially when Connor starts giving her some extra attention. But some of the high schoolers’ activities are a little scary, and Annabelle finds herself in over her head when she starts to hang out with them outside of swim team, leaving her middle school friends behind.  It may not always be fun, but Annabelle’s summer before eighth grade is a memorable one, and the lessons she learns promise to serve her well as she moves into her last year of middle school. 278 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Annabelle’s difficulties with school, her family, and friends ring true, and middle school readers will undoubtedly relate to her.  Her struggles and mistakes are ones kids will understand; she learns from them, but sometimes not as quickly as the adults around her are hoping she will.  An excellent choice for middle school summer reading.

Cons:  I wish the story had gone up to the end of the summer.

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We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai

Published by Little, Brown and Company

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Summary:  Malala Yousafzai begins by telling the story of her own family’s displacement from their home in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.  As an internationally-known human rights activist, she has traveled around the world and met many others who have experienced displacement, and she shares nine of their stories (all girls and young women), as well as the story of Jennifer, a woman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who has helped one of the families profiled.  The stories take place all over the world, in countries in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. Malala concludes with a story of her family returning home, and wishes the same for those she has written about. Includes photos, a section on how you can help, and a little more information on where each of the young women is today.  224 pages; grades 6+ (there are many references to violence, but nothing too graphic; nothing that a mature fifth grader couldn’t handle).

Pros:  These stories will humanize the refugee crisis for readers who may have only thought about it in an abstract way.  The stories are compelling, and the subjects are close in age to middle and high school readers, sometimes even younger at the beginning of their journeys.  Their courage and determination will inspire kids to want to help others around the world.

Cons:  Some of the stories were only a few pages long and left me wanting to know more.

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Lion and Mouse by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

Published by Groundwood Books

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Image result for lion mouse jairo amazon

Summary:  Aesop’s famous fable is retold with a few modern twists and some attitude.  A “very lovely” lion who is “like a sun” lives in a forest with a mouse who is “a busybody and a glutton”.  One day the mouse goes into the lion’s cave; the lion almost eats him, but changes his mind. When the lion is caught in a trap the next day, it’s the mouse who frees him. But this story continues as the two continue to trade favors.  At first it’s with a feeling of obligation, but soon they are simply being kind to one another. In fact, they end up getting along so well that they live together for the rest of their lives. 32 pages; ages 4-7.

Pros:  You can never have too many versions of a classic folktale, and kids will get a chuckle out of the illustrations and tongue-in-cheek text.

Cons:  It doesn’t quite measure up to Jerry Pinkney’s version, in my opinion.

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Red Light, Green Lion by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Jennifer Yerkes

Published by Kids Can Press

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Summary:  “Some days are not like most days,” reads the first page, accompanied by a picture of a traffic light.  “Red light, green li-”. If you’re expecting “-ght” on the next page, you’ll be surprised to find “-on”, along with a picture of a green lion.  After that, it’s green lightning. There’s also a green lilac, a green lifeboat, some green livestock, and green library books. The message is that you can’t know what the day will bring, and it’s best to accept whatever comes along.  “Some days don’t make much sense at the beginning. But they always make sense in the end.” And, finally, the traffic light turns green. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A deceptively simple book that would make a fun read-aloud for kids to guess what “li-” word is coming up next, and then to discuss the message of the story.

Cons:  It would make a more fun guessing game to have a clue on the preceding page.

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Sandy Feet! Whose Feet?: Footprints at the Shore by Susan Wood, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

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Summary:  As two children play on the beach, they see the tracks left in the sand by a variety of animals, beginning with their dog.  There are also prints left by a sandpiper, crab, seagull, pelican, crab, and sea turtle. At the end of the day, their own tired feet take them back home again.  The last two pages of the story show all the prints in the sand, and the two pages after that give additional information about the animals. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Read this before going to the beach to make kids more aware of the animals around them.  The illustrations do a nice job of portraying the various creatures, as well as their tracks to help kids identify them.

Cons:  It would have been helpful to show pictures of tracks next to the thumbnail photos of the different animals on the last two pages.

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I Am Hermes!: Mischief-Making Messenger of the Gods by Mordicai Gerstein

Published by Holiday House

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Image result for i am hermes mordicai gerstein

Summary:  As he did with I Am Pan!, Mordicai Gerstein has collected myths featuring Pan’s father, Hermes.  Starting as a precocious baby who “wants it all!”, Hermes grows up in a single day from a round orange toddler to a lean orange messenger whose winged feet help him deliver communications to the gods.  After Zeus and the other gods and goddesses decide to retire, Hermes experiments with smoke signals, messenger pigeons, the pony express, and the U.S. mail before finding the perfect medium for communicating: the Internet!  Includes an author’s note that describes Hermes as the “most likable and happiest” of the Greek gods and tells how Gerstein came to create this book. 72 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  A fun and gentle introduction to mythology that introduces many of the Greek gods and goddesses, but focuses on their wackiness without taking anything too seriously.  Kids will enjoy the graphic novel format and colorful illustrations.

Cons:  Some readers may fail to see the humor in a round orange baby wanting everything he can see who winds up being king of the Internet.

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Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child: A Worldwide Jack and the Beanstalk Story by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

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Image result for fearsome giant fearless child

Summary:  As they did with Cinderella in Glass Slipper, Golden Sandal and creation stories in First Light, First Life, Paul Fleischman and Julie Paschkis have created a story that weaves together elements from Jack and the Beanstalk type stories all around the world.  These are all tales in which a child–often the smallest or youngest in a family–uses courage and cleverness to outwit a villain like a giant or witch.  Each illustration identifies the country from which that particular element of the story originates. A map on the endpapers shows all the countries. Whether the hero grows to full size, becomes king, or gains the respect of his family, the story always has a happy ending.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This book would be a perfect ending to a study of Jack and the Beanstalk tales; it’s not meant to be read as another re-telling, but rather as a way to appreciate both the variety and similarities of all these stories.  The folk art-style illustrations give it an international flavor.

Cons:  I’ve always felt that “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman” was an awkward rhyme.  Why not “Fee-fi-fo-fan” or “Fee-fi-fo-fun”?

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