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Librarian Top Picks for January

Check out the books JLG member librarians snatched up in January. From Pre-Kindergarten read-aloud picks to a healthy mix of Nonfiction titles, these January favorites appeal to a wide range of readers!

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      The Distance between Me and the Cherry Tree

      by Paola Peretti

      Jan 2020

      Intermediate Readers

      There are a lot of things ten-year-old Mafalda cares a lot about. Like, counting the stars in the night sky, playing soccer, and climbing the cherry tree outside her school. Mafalda even goes so far as to keep a list of all these things, because soon she won’t be able to do them anymore—because she’s going blind.

      Even with her bad eyesight, Mafalda can see that people are already treating her differently—and that’s the last thing she wants. So, she hides the fact that her vision is deteriorating faster than anyone predicted, and she makes a plan: When the time is right, she’ll go live in the cherry tree, just like her favorite book character. But as Mafalda loses her sight, surprising things come in to focus. With the help of her family and friends both old and new, Mafalda discovers the things that matter most.

      Do Fish Sleep?

      by Jens Raschke

      Jan 2020

      Intermediate Readers Plus

      Sick since even before Jette can remember, her brother Emil now has died. The feelings that losing him evoke in her are huge and confusing. Most simply, it feels as though a dark raincloud has descended over her family. And then there's the ridiculous fact that nobody seems to know what happens after you die, and yet adults often talk as if they do. Told in the first-person voice of a wry, observant 10-year-old girl, Do Fish Sleep? by Jens Raschke is an honest, darkly funny look into loss, memory, and the search for answers. Originally performed as a one-girl play, Do Fish Sleep? was a breakout success at the box office, and received both the 2012 Mülheimer Children’s Theater Prize and the 2014 MDR Children’s Radio Play Prize. Do Fish Sleep? has been a best-seller in Germany since publication and has been translated into several languages.

      Two-color illustrations.

      Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War

      by Duncan Tonatiuh

      Dec 2019

      Biography Elementary Plus

      José de la Luz Sáenz believed in fighting for what was right. Although he was born in the United States, he and his family experienced prejudice because of their Mexican heritage. When World War I broke out, Luz volunteered to join the fight. Because of his ability to quickly learn languages, he became part of the Intelligence Office in Europe. However, despite his hard work and intellect, Luz often didn’t receive credit for his contributions. Upon his return to the US, he joined other Mexican-Americans whom he had met in the army to fight for equality. His contribution, along with others, ultimately led to the creation of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which is the oldest Latino civil rights organization.

      Author’s note. Source for quotations. Time lines. Select bibliography. Glossary. Photograph of José de la Luz Saenz. Index. Full-color illustrations were hand drawn, then collaged digitally.

      Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship"

      by Deborah Heiligman

      Dec 2019

      Nonfiction Middle Plus

      Amid the constant rain of German bombs and the escalating violence of World War II, British parents by the thousands chose to send their children out of the country: the wealthy, independently; the poor, through a government relocation program called CORB. In September 1940, passenger liner SS City of Benaresset out in a convoy of nineteen ships sailing for Canada. On board were ninety CORB children, chaperones, and crew, along with paying passengers. When the war ships escorting the Benares to safe waters peeled off, and the way forward seemed certain, a German submarine attacked and torpedoed the Benares. What followed is an amazing example of all that people are capable of—the worst, and the best.

      Author’s note. List of people in the book. “After the Voyage.” Select bibliography. Endnotes. Index. Black-and-white illustrations, photographs, and reproductions.

      In the Hall with the Knife: A Clue Mystery

      by Diana Peterfreund

      Dec 2019

      PG High Plus

      When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory, and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic film will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern reimagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

      Scary Stories for Young Foxes

      by Christian McKay Heidicker

      Nov 2019

      Mystery/Adventure Elementary Plus

      When fox kits Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they quickly learn that the world is a dangerous place filled with monsters. As the young foxes travel across field and forest in search of a home, they’ll face a zombie who hungers for their tender flesh, a witch who wants to wear their skins, a ghost who haunts and hunts them, and so much more.

      Featuring eight interconnected stories and sixteen shockingly cool illustrations, Scary Stories for Young Foxes has the chills of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and the heart of Pax.

      Black-and-white illustrations.

      Smell My Foot!: Chick and Brain

      by Cece Bell

      Nov 2019

      Easy Reading

      ’Maybe your foot smells good.
      Maybe your foot smells great.
      But I will not smell your foot until you say PLEASE. ’


      Meet Chick and Brain. And their friend Spot. Chick likes to follow the rules. Brain might not be as smart as he looks. And Spot just wants to eat lunch.

      In a graphic reader loaded with verbal and visual humor, Cece Bell offers a comical primer on good manners gone awry. Simple, silly, and perfectly suited for its audience, this tale of Chick and Brain’s constant misunderstandings and miscommunications proves once again that Cece Bell is a master at meeting kids where they are.

      Full-color illustrations created with watercolor and ink.

      The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

      by Sue Macy

      Nov 2019

      Nonfiction Elementary Plus

      Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky has jumped into dumpsters, rummaged around musty basements, and crawled through cramped attics. He did all of this in pursuit of a particular kind of treasure, and he’s found plenty. Lansky’s treasure was any book written Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. When he started looking for Yiddish books, experts estimated there might be about 70,000 still in existence. Since then, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has collected close to 1.5 million books, and he’s finding more every day.

      Told in a folkloric voice reminiscent of Patricia Polacco, this story celebrates the power of an individual to preserve history and culture, while exploring timely themes of identity and immigration.

      Author’s note. Illustrator’s note. Yiddish glossary. Suggestions for further information. Source notes. Full-color illustrations rendered in acrylic and gouache, with fabric textures added digitally.

      The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

      by Junauda Petrus

      Nov 2019

      City High School

      Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

      Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

      Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer, and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

      Music playlist inspired by the events of the novel.

      Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

      by Margarita Engle

      Oct 2019

      Nonfiction Early Elementary Plus

      As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.

      Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?

      Historical note. Full-color mixed-media illustrations.

      All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World

      by Lori Alexander

      Oct 2019

      Science Nonfiction Elementary Plus

      Microbes are everywhere: in the soil and oceans, in snow, and inside our bodies. But in Antony van Leeuwenhoek’s time, people believed that what they saw with their own eyes was all that existed in the world. How did a simple tradesman—who didn’t go to college or speak English or Latin like all the other scientists—change everyone’s minds?
      Proving that remarkable discoveries can come from the most unexpected people and places, this eye-opening chapter book, illustrated with lively full-color art, celebrates the power of curiosity, ingenuity, and persistence.

      Author’s note. Time line of events. Glossary. Source notes. Selected bibliography. Index. Full-color illustrations were created using pastel, colored pencil, and watercolor.

      Other Words for Home

      by Jasmine Warga

      Oct 2019

      Realistic Fiction Middle Plus

      I am learning how to be
      sad
      and happy
      at the same time.


      Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

      At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

      Glossary of Arabic words. Author’s note.
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