The Children's Book Compass

Posts Tagged ‘Scholastic

Mouse & Lion by Rand Burkert.  Illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Scholastic.  Ages 3-10.  Picture book.

This is a beautifully crafted, elegant retelling of the Aesop fable about the powerful lion who is saved by the lowly mouse.  The setting is Africa in an area bordering Botswana and Namibia.   The detailed illustrations feature the African grass mouse and a splendid lion.  Most scenes show close-ups of the animals, some from the mouse’s perspective – a huge paw holding the mouse’s tail or the lion’s gigantic mouth wide opened, displaying his fearsome teeth.  The illustrator shows every hair and whisker on each animal.  One two page spread shows the baobab tree resplendent in front of a setting sun.  Light infuses the pages as the illustrator uses the white background effectively.   The choice of paper, design of the book, and gorgeous illustrations combine with the well paced, character enhancing text.  Team this with Jerry Pinkney’s wordless version, Lion and the Mouse to discuss how illustrators and authors make choices about the stories they produce.


Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  409 pages.  Scholastic.  Ages 11-16.  Fantasy.

Stiefvater imagines an island world where dangerous horses, capaill uisce, emerge from the sea to be tamed (somewhat) and run on race day in November.  The opening line hooks the reader, “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”  Only the capaill uisce are raced on the beach against the cliffs in November.  Two teens alternately tell their stories of preparing for the race.  The two stories seamlessly merge by the end of the book.  Sean at age ten saw his father killed in the race, viciously pulled from his saddle by a capaill uisce and trampled to death.  Later, Sean becomes a gifted trainer of the capaill uisce.  But he works for the richest man on the island and although he has won the race four times, he hopes to win again to gain the horse he loves.  Puck’s desperate goal is win the race so she can use the award money to save her family farm for herself and her brothers.  Only, her problem is that no girl or woman has ever ridden in the race and, instead of riding one of the magic water horses, she wants to ride her own land pony.  The novel is a page turner as it races toward a resolution.  Beware don’t start it late at night.  Romance, adventure and a cast of intriguing characters are the story elements that zip the story along.  The island setting takes an active role in the plot.  The author was inspired by several myths about dangerous fairy horses from the sea that have been told in the British Isles.

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say.  (2011).  63 pages.  Scholastic.  Grades 5-8.  Autobiography.

Allen Say’s books have long been my favorites.  His books have received numerous awards.  Grandfather’s Journey won the Caldecott Medal and The Boy of the Three-Year Nap received a Caldecott Honor.   This new book, Drawing from Memory, provides a narrative of how Say came to be such a recognized artist and writer.  As the jacket flap states, the book is “Part memoir, part graphic novel, part narrative history. . . “   Say crafts his account using original illustrations created with watercolors, pencil and pen and ink together with photographs and a fascinating narrative to tell his story growing up in Japan from his birth in 1937.   He went to live on his own just before his thirteen birthday.  Even though his family disapproved he began to learn to be an artist.  He finds a mentor/teacher, a Sensei, who changes his life and provides him with deep instruction on being an artist.  At sixteen Say went with his father to the United States.   There the book ends.   This book is outstanding for several reasons.  First, it is an account of how a young person finds a way to follow his heart.  Second, it is testament to perseverance in following a dream.  Third, it is an intriguing story of growing up in the Japanese culture prior to, during and after World War II.


Where’s Walrus? By Stephen Savage.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Scholastic.  Grades Preschool-3.  Wordless Picture Book.

This wordless picture book follows a walrus as he romps through an urban landscape.  While his keeper naps, Walrus makes his escape from a tiny pool at the city zoo.  As the keeper searches for him, Walrus finds ways to make himself blend in – adopting a pose like the mermaid statue in a fountain, or as manikin in a department store window and more.  Each time Walrus manages to elude capture with his adoption of a matching hat.  Children will delight in discovering each new disguise while the keeper remains clueless.  Finally, the keeper sees Walrus in a platform diving competition where he is awarded a gold medal.  The last illustration shows Walrus back at the zoo in a large pool where he performs his championship dive.  Savage’s playful illustrations were drawn and created in Adobe illustrator.  The artist uses white effectively as background and emphasis for his crisp, retro illustrations that pop from the page.  This is a great introduction for young children to interactive picture books like Where’s Waldo? Searching for the not-so-hidden walrus will engage them.  Older children might want to participate in story telling by writing text to accompany the illustrations.  All children can engage in building their oral language skills by narrating the story.  Enjoy this link to another Walrus adventure.

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco Stork.  (2010).  352 pages.  Scholastic Grades 8 and up.

Stork’s previous book, Marcelo in the Real World, a coming of age story of an autistic teen, was one of the best books of 2009.  Stork’s newest book will also be a hit with teens.  Seventeen-year- old, Pancho wants revenge for the death of his sister, Rosa, who he is convinced was murdered.  The police disagree.  They attribute Rosa’s death to natural causes.  Because Pancho’s father also died just before Rosa, Pancho is sent to an orphanage (his mother died when he was very young).  There he meets DQ a boy who is dying from cancer.  Pancho is given the job of caring for DQ which means he must accompany DQ to the hospital for treatments and to a facility for children recovering from the cancer treatments.  Pancho is willing to go with DQ because he believes he will be able to investigate Rosa’s death and find a way to kill her murderer.  However, DQ has other plans.  He wants to train himself and Pancho to become “Death Warriors.”  DQ believe that every person has been given a task by an angel on a written slip of paper before he is born – “and our job is to remember, to recollect it, and then go about doing what it says.”  DQ has written his wisdom in his “Death Warrior Manifesto” and he wants Pancho to go on a quest with him to discover their tasks.  Pancho believes his task is to get revenge for his sister’s death.  How each boy comes to terms with issues of life, death, love and their own destinies makes an absorbing read.  The complex plot and language demands a mature reader who will be richly rewarded for his efforts.  Some readers will enjoy the connections with Don Quixote.  Stork is a talented writer I look forward to his next book.

Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

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