Begieu, Penelope. (2015). Exquisite Corpse. New York: First Second/Roaring Brook Press. $19.99. ISBN 9781626720827 hardback; 124pp. Grade Range: 10-adult
Evaluation: Recommended with Reservations
Zoe is tired of the lack of respect that men in her life show her. When she meets the mysterious Thomas Rocher, she stumbles into the greatest opportunity of her life. The theme of the story – love and the
ultimate revenge – has an ending with an unexpected surprise. First published in France in 2010, this edition was translated by Alexis Siegel. Aimed at ages 16 and up, this is loaded with sex, sexual innuendo, and raw language. Bagieu’s artwork in this graphic novel is simple, yet strong. It often carries the story forward. She reveals much of the emotion of the characters through their eyes, facial expressions, and body language. It is intriguing to watch Zoe evolve from being a naïve young woman who receives disrespectful, sexist treatment by men to a self-confident young woman in control of her life – all due to a friendship she develops with her lover and his wife. Readers will cheer at the come-uppance Thomas receives when he realizes he has been double-crossed. School libraries will want to proceed with caution with this title intended for female readers – and know their community’s
acceptance of the topics included.
Krull, Kathleen. (2015). Dolley Madison: Parties Can Be Patriotic!. Illust. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher. Women who Broke the Rules Series. New York: Bloomsbury. $16.99. ISBN 9780802737939
hardback; 48pp Grade Range: 2-5
Evaluation: Optional Purchase
Dolley Madison is probably best known today for cutting out and saving the painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart when the White House was burned by the British during the War of 1812.
This biography about her includes that episode, but digs deeper into her past in order to help young readers understand the importance of her actions at the time and why President Zachary Taylor referred
to her as the “First Lady” (a term never used before to describe the wife of POTUS) during her funeral. A master at writing both short collective and picture book biographies for children, Krull deftly weaves the
tale of Madison’s life and legacy in this short chapter biography – from her roots as the daughter of a Quaker, to her first marriage to young lawyer John Todd, to her widowhood and single parenthood, then
meeting, courting, and marrying (at the time) Senator James Madison, her partner in life and the reason
behind her success at crafting the future role of First Lady. Krull’s text is very casual in nature by addressing the reader and offering commentary in the text, making Dolley seem a living friend rather
than an object of the past. The cover art of the book (by Edwin Fotheringham) reflects the humor found in the text. In contrast, Johnson and Fancher’s lovely acrylic on watercolor paper artwork is very
traditional, placing the focus back on the informative nature of the work. Appended are a bibliography (with titles noted for younger readers), links to websites for additional information, and an index. An
accurate, solid introduction; however should be considered a secondary source due to the casual nature of the writing and the disparity of the humor-filled cover illustration and the serious interior
Krull, Kathleen. (2015). Sacajawea: Lewis and Clark would Be Lost Without Me. Illust. by Matt Collins. Women who Broke the Rules Series. New York: Bloomsbury. $16.99. ISBN 9780802727991 hardback; 48pp Grade Range: 2-5
Evaluation: Optional Purchase
Sacajawea is best known today for guiding the Lewis and Clark expedition mapping and exploring the upper portion of the Louisiana Purchase. This biography focuses on what is known about her life
through Lewis and Clark’s writings and conjectures a history to fill in the blanks of her life, based on research of what life was like for Native American women at the time. A master at writing both short
collective and picture book biographies for children, Krull deftly weaves the tale of Sacajawea’s life and legacy in this short chapter biography – from her kidnapping by the Hidatsa as a war prize, to her
marriage to Toussaint Charbonneau and exploration with Lewis and Clark (the bulk of the text), drawing closure with the probability of her death in South Dakota and what happened to her children after her
death. Krull’s text is very casual in nature by addressing the reader and offering commentary in the text, making Sacajawea seem a living friend rather than an object of the past. The cover art of the book (by
Edwin Fotheringham) reflects the humor found in the text. In contrast, Collins’ Prismacolor pencils on vellum with Corel Painter artwork is very traditional, placing the focus back on the informative nature of
the work. There are a few inconsistencies in the artwork and the text. An example, the child pictured on p.25 is standing on his two feet yet on p.36 the baby was described as “beginning to crawl”. Also,
there is an inconsistency in depicting Sacajawea, sometimes she appears to have Shoshone Indian facial features and others it looks very Anglo. Appended are a bibliography (with titles noted for younger
readers), links to websites for additional information, and an index. An accurate, solid introduction; however should be considered a secondary source due to the casual nature of the writing, the disparity
of the humor-filled cover illustration and the serious interior illustrations, and the inconsistencies of the interior illustrations.
Parish, Herman. (2015). Amelia Bedelia Sets Sail. Illustra. By Lynne Avril. Amelia Bedelia New York: Greenwillow/HarperCollins. $15.99 ISBN 978-0-06-233405-3 hardback; 145pp. Grade Range: 3-4
Evaluation: Not Recommended for YAs, as this book is a beginning chapter book for grades 2-4
Princess of the literal, Amelia Bedelia and her mother spend time at the beach with her Aunt Mary and cousin Jason, where she experiences skimboarding, finds a surprise in a seashell, and learns the rules of the nautical road as she solves the mystery of why Jason has been sneaking out of the house at night, dressed as a pirate. Filled with the usual puns and plays on words found in most books about Amelia Bedelia, this one – the tenth in the series -- is predictable enough to satisfy beginning readers. Avril’s black and white line drawing/gouache illustrations extend the lively text, making Amelia Bedelia leap off the page. Good, beachy fun.
Selznick, Brian. (2015). The Marvels. New York : Scholastic Press. $32.99 ISBN: 9780545448680 hardback; 672pp. Grade Range: 5-8
Note: Reviewed from an ARC
Aut Visum Aut Non -- “You either see it or you don’t”. Brian Selznick has created a third tome to join The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, c2007) and Wonderstruck (Scholastic, c2011) to complete this trilogy of sorts. All three can/should be read as independent books, as the stories themselves are not dependent on each other. Rather, they are related by the structure of the tale being told and the artistic style used to tell the story, though each is employed differently. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is told by alternating illustrations and text to move a single story forward; Wonderstruck is two parallel stories from different time periods told at the same time in alternate chapters, using only illustrations for the historical story and text for the modern one, bringing them together to a single resolution/ending. The Marvels is two distinct stories -- separate, but related – told one after another.
It does not fit neatly into any one category of fiction, as there are elements of historical fiction and mystery interwoven. The first story begins in 1766 and is the history of five generations of actors, whose roots are in tall ship sailing -- told using only illustrations. It ends abruptly with a blank page. The second story picks up in 1990 and details what happens to Joseph, a young boy who runs away from his
boarding school in order to live with his Uncle Albert, a recluse who lives in London. Selznick does an amazing job of sprinkling in clues as to how the two stories are interrelated as the story unfolds. Many times Joseph is told or else sees the message, “You see it or you don’t”. Just when he thinks he understands Uncle Albert and the secrets of the house at 18 Folgate Street, he realizes there is so much more to understand and he has so many new questions. Selznick literally draws the story to a conclusion as the ending of of the story is told in illustration. This book is steeped in literature, with many literary references in the text – to Shakespearean plays, to poetry by Yeats, and to titles of and characters from many classic adult and children’s books. Selznick does an outstanding job of building and developing characters both visually and through text. Joseph, Frankie, and Uncle Albert all are misunderstood and imperfect, with huge chunks missing from their lives. The house with all its mysteries supplies answers and provides the solution for each. The story was inspired by the Dennis
Severs House in London, and Selznick provides an extensive afterword about it. Have the tissues nearby as the ending has dramatic flair and flourish as only Selznick can deliver. He has put together so many
wonderful things in this story, yet I still have to wonder – who did he write this story for?
Stewart, Melissa. (2015). Hurricane Watch. Illustr. By Taia Morley. Let’s Read and Find Out Science Series. New York: Harper/HarperCollins. $17.99 ISBN 978-0062327765 hardback; 36 pages Grade Range: Preschool-gr. 3
Evaluation: Not Recommended for YAs; this is for up to grades 3
Using simple text, Melissa Stewart breaks apart a hurricane and reconstructs it back into a storm in this nonfiction title, from the “Let’s Read and Find Out Science Series”. Stewart deftly includes definitions of terms that might be unfamiliar with, all the while moving forward with the progression of the storm. Readers will find there is a feeling of being part of the story, although there are no characters in it. Morley’s wonderful full-color watercolor illustrations expand on the text, adding detail and showing the drama of the storm as it builds and finally hits shore. Included in the text are comparative charts and lists (for example, what to do if there is a hurricane watch or a warning and the Saffir-Simpson Scale). Backmatter include a glossary, a couple of experiments, and suggested websites for more information. A worthy update to the 1985 edition by Franklin Branley.