National Geographic Kids Beginner’s United States Atlas

by National Geographic Kids

After getting oriented to maps and their symbols, and finding out that there are two kinds of map (physical and political), readers are ready to explore the District of Columbia. Then, they move on to the rest of America, divided into five sections and the Territories. Each group begins with a spectacular spread—a color photo of a typical landscape and one of a picturesque native animal—then offers a clear, easy-to-read map and smaller photos of special interest. Essential facts are provided: date of statehood, flag, population, bird, and flower. The Northeast is New England south to Maryland; especially vivid in this presentation is Maine, with its quirky coastline and a bright red lobster. Next comes the Southeast (Atlantic and Gulf coasts to Kentucky and Tennessee), with lush foliage and water features. Here, North Carolina gets credit for the first powered flight; the featured bird is a flamingo. The Midwest, spreading from Ohio and Michigan to the Dakotas, is characterized by agriculture and wildlife, although state climates and urban (e.g., Chicago, Detroit) and rural landscapes differ greatly. While four states make up the Southwest region, they have a veritable monopoly on deserts, gorgeous rock formations, and tribal reservations. The Northwest section includes both Alaska and Hawai’i, thus offering the greatest diversity from icy slopes to tropical volcanoes and varying from wide, open spaces to sophisticated San Francisco. A final spread shows U.S. territories from Puerto Rico to the Pacific Islands, including Guam and the Marianas. This well-organized, lavishly illustrated atlas (with its moderate price) would be an asset to any classroom or a welcome gift for a geographically-minded young reader. Includes a glossary, an index, and postal codes.

Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft

Hocus Focus

by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost

A magic spell goes awry in this graphic novel adventure for young readers. When the Knight is stuck peeling vegetables for the Wizard, she’s frustrated because she thought she’d be learning magic. Eventually, the Knight takes matters into her own hands, raiding the Wizard’s sanctum for a magic wand and spell book. But when she tries out a transformation spell, the whole thing backfires dramatically. The Knight’s horse ends up magically merged with a worm, and they grow to a freakishly immense size. A silly solution brings everything back to normal. An easy, quickly paced read with humorous illustrations and bold colors, this book is bound to draw and keep kids’ attention. The Knight is a very comedic character, and young readers will be amused by her reactions. The endpapers even contain step-by-step demonstrations of how to draw the Knight and other characters. Children who enjoy this story will want to pick up more books from the “Adventures in Cartooning” series, especially those that follow the escapades of the Knight.

Reviewer: Lisa Czirr

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

by Cynthia Levinson

illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Short, snappy sentences recount young Audrey’s foray into the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 Birmingham, Alabama. Fred Shuttlesworth, Jim Bevel, and Martin Luther King were often dinner guests in her home, so Audrey had heard and absorbed a lot about the efforts to end segregation when listening to dinner conversation. When the ministers’ preaching failed to rouse adults to fill the jails by marching in peaceful protest, they announced a new idea—have the children march instead. Audrey wanted to sit at Newberry’s, drink from the clean fountain, use the library, and enjoy other things afforded to white folk; she was ready to march and march she did, at the young age of nine. Jailed as expected, she was separated from the older, teen marchers, slept on a bare mattress, and was questioned by intimidating white men. In several days, the jail was overflowing with young protestors and all were released. Just two months later, Birmingham rescinded its segregation laws. Levinson maintains a folksy, storytelling voice throughout the longish text; but she does not shy away from the inequalities, the harsh jail conditions, or the loneliness Audrey felt while imprisoned. Newton’s digital collage illustrations are mostly filled with bright color and expressive faces. These illustrations convey excitement, concern, and fear. She captures the emotions of adults, teens, and, most especially, Audrey, whose bounce, enthusiasm, and hope is contagious. A gray-toned double-page spread of Audrey lying in her cell is haunting. Levinson draws from material in her 2015 title We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree) but has abbreviated and simplified the story for a younger audience. This important story proves individuals can make a difference at any age.

Reviewer: Peg Glisson