Traveling to Seattle for ALA Midwinter? Or wish you were? In either case, these fiction and nonfiction titles will help you become familiar with Seattle-its people, its history, its land, and even one of its businesses. Settle in with a cup of Seattle’s favorite java and discover the city in books.

Twitter users to follow: @InsideSeattle, @Seattlemag, @seattletimes

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Contributor: Emily Griffin & Peg Glisson


The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis

Kirby Larson

The “Dear America” series continues with the World War II diary of Piper Davis. Her father, a pastor in Seattle, Washington, serves a Japanese American community. When her older brother is stationed on the USS Arizona, Piper’s caretaker, Mrs. Harada, gives her a diary to help her cope. Piper fills the pages with typical teenage worries about not wearing lipstick and boy troubles, until the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. The entries become serious as she watches her Japanese friends and classmates’ fathers being beaten and sent to Fort Missoula. She begins to understand the situation when all “alien and non-alien persons of Japanese ancestry” must leave Bainbridge Island. Larson does an excellent job recreating the tension Piper feels. Her patriotism and loyalty to her brother, who survived the bombings, creates a fear of the enemy that is juxtaposed with her complete indignation at the incarceration and mistreatment of her Japanese neighbors. When her father decides to follow his parishioners to Camp Minodaka, Idaho, the severity of the treatment shows up on her front door as she and her father are harassed into moving out of their house. Such details as gas rationing, censored letters from her brother, and WWII slang also contribute to this book’s appeal. The diary format forces the narrative into some unrealistic situations, but the formulaic structure provides a comfort level for readers familiar with the series. Teachers and students wanting to bring history alive will enjoy this well-researched novel. 2010, Scholastic, Ages 11 to 14, $12.99. Reviewer: Ann Reddy (VOYA, October 2010 (Vol. 33, No. 4)).

ISBN: 9780545224185

Five Flavors of Dumb

Antony John

Piper is angry. Her parents have raided her college fund to pay for her baby sister’s cochlear implants, a double blow because not only does it interfere with her dreams of going to Gallaudet, the historic college for deaf students, but it also confirms how she’s always suspected her family feels about her deafness–it’s a defect, and one that must be “fixed” for her sister, no matter what the cost. Her general anger at her circumstances goads her into taunting the lead singer of a wannabe rock band at her school; he responds by challenging her to find them a paying gig in a month’s time. She takes up the challenge, and through a mix of coercion, cagey recruitment, and salesmanship that often amounts to outright lies, she guides the disconnected band members toward a unified sound, making good on her commitments in surprising ways. Meanwhile, she works through the difficult and often frustrating task of getting her family clued in to the subtle and not-so-subtle ways they have been regarding her as damaged, and she comes to terms with her own jealousy of her sister. None of this emotional work approaches anything like sentimentality-Piper is too tough a customer for that, and her family is too used to operating in the registers of tension and anger to dissolve into tearful puddles of regret and redemption. Instead, hard-won concessions combine with begrudging acknowledgments and personal victories to give each family member a place from which to reach out to the others. Readers interested in any of the narrative strands-what it takes to make a rock band, what it takes to create mutual respect in a family, or how a characteristic can escape the complex categorization of disability–will find a solid, satisfyingly complex story here. 2010, Dial/Penguin, Grades 7 to 10, $16.99. Reviewer: Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, January 2011 (Vol. 64, No. 5)).

ISBN: 9780803734333

Geology of the Pacific Northwest: Investigate How the Earth was Formed with 15 Projects

Cynthia Light Brown

Illustrated by Eric Baker

In this volume of the illustrated “Build It Yourself” series, readers are presented a fascinating opportunity to learn more about the geology and physical geography of the Pacific Northwest. This portion of the United States including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, and northern California represents one of the most diverse landscapes in the United States. This is a land of sprawling forests, mountains, lengthy seashores, and volcanoes. The Pacific Northwest has been the site of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, and enormous rainfalls. In addition, the Pacific Northwest is a land that encompasses glaciers, rainforests, and a diversity of life unrivaled by any other location in North America. Aside from providing an introduction to the physical science elements of the Pacific Northwest, the author also offers a series of directly experiential activities designed to allow for scientific inquiry. Readers are shown how to construct a waterwheel, recreate soil erosion caused by a river, and recreate a rainforest environment in a terrarium housed in a plastic liter bottle. This approach to teaching science brings the core subject matter to life and is supported by the clever black and white illustrations that dot the text. This is a book that will appeal to young scientists and bring their learning to life. 2011, Nomad Press, Ages 9 to 12, $15.95. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781936313396

The Jewel and the Key

Louise Spiegler

Spiegler gives readers a wonderful mix of fantasy, historical fiction, and romance. Addie McNeal is a typical sixteen year old trying to figure life out while juggling family, friends, and finding her role in the world of theater. It is her love of the theater that leads her to the discovery of a mysterious antique mirror that transports her back in time, as the United States enters World War I. Addie faces many challenges over the course of the story. During the present, Addie’s friend Whaley wants a purpose in life and thinks he has found it as a soldier in the current war. The Jewel Theater, once a site of grandeur and cultural importance, is in crumbling decay. Addie desperately wants to make her mark on the stage. Addie tries to solve all of these problems and more. A delightful cast of characters, a strong likeable heroine, and vibrant descriptions of Seattle in the past and present help create a magical world into which readers can escape. 2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 14 up, $16.99. Reviewer: Shawn Buckenmeyer (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780547148793

Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix

Gary Golio

Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

Golio’s rich text, filled with images and sounds, takes us back to the childhood of rock musician Hendrix in Seattle. Hendrix was not only “crazy about music” and involved with all the sounds around him. He was also drawing all the time. His good friends are not judgmental of Jimi’s offbeat clothes or hair or his family’s constant moving. Together they go to the record store or bicycle to the lake, as Jimi wonders about painting pictures with sound. When his dad buys him a guitar, he begins to try. Moving to an electric guitar, he finds he can create “new worlds with the colors of sound.” Steptoe’s intensely colored mixed media illustrations are demanding and visually complex. Pages are packed with Jimi and his friends as sort of cutouts in the foreground with posters, shadowy environmental shapes, and colorful symbols trying to become sounds for textured backgrounds. Sometimes the book must be turned on its side to follow the story. Along with additional factual information about Hendrix with sources, there are informative notes by both author and illustrator. 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 6 to 9, $16.99. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780618852796


Mary Casanova

McKenna’s life is gymnastics. She has been in gymnastics since she was three-years-old. Her world suddenly changes with an email from her teacher, Mr. Wu, and a “dessert date” with both her parents. They are all concerned because her grades are slipping. Fourth grade seems to be extra hard for her. Mr. Wu thinks McKenna would benefit from working with a tutor. Her parents agree, and now the choice is hers: get tutored or no more gymnastics. No gymnastics? She knows she has to do better in school, but give up gymnastics? The idea of a tutor has her mortified. What if her friends find out? When she meets her tutor, Josie, the young lady is in a wheelchair. How can she understand McKenna’s passion for gymnastics when she can’t even use her legs? As their relationship develops, McKenna begins to realize how brave her tutor is. But she is still too embarrassed to be seen being tutored, so she lets her teammates believe she is taking extra gymnastic training. When her secret is finally revealed, her friends are hurt and angry. This book is great reading. The storyline is very “today” and the artwork is superb. 2012, American Girl Publishing, Ages 8 up, $12.95. Reviewer: Beverly Melasi (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781593699963

Payback Time

Carl Deuker

Mitch True is a great name for an aspiring newspaper reporter, except that “Mitch” is short for “Michelin Man”–a taunt leveled at overweight Daniel when he arrived at Seattle’s Lincoln High School three years ago. Now a senior, Mitch has been passed over for editor of the school paper, but assumes he will keep his lead reporter slot. However, new editor Alyssa Hansson has other ideas, and tells Mitch that being the sports reporter will get his pieces more exposure. Tempted to quit the paper altogether, Mitch overcomes his disappointment and teams up with straight-A student and new photographer Kimi Yon. As football season unfolds, they are both puzzled about why coach McNulty never starts the newest team member, Angel Marichal; they have seen his superior speed and passing during informal workouts. McNulty tells Mitch in no uncertain terms to keep his game write-ups focused on Horst Diamond, star quarterback and Mitch’s former friend. Still, every time the team is in trouble, McNulty puts Angel in the game, and now Lincoln High is marching its way toward the state championships. Mitch and Kimi, suspecting that McNulty’s desire to return to college coaching is driving him to use an overage ringer, are determined to uncover the truth. Their investigative efforts pay off when they learn that Angel has changed his name and moved to Seattle from Philadelphia. Warnings to stop digging into the story come from McNulty, anonymous voices on the phone, and Angel himself. This is, at heart, a football story with a somewhat predictable mystery thrown in for good measure. Well-drawn characters, convincing teen dynamics, and play-by-play game coverage should hook male readers and/or football fans. 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group, Ages 14 to 18, $16.00. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780547279817

Seaglass Summer

Anjali Banerjee

While her parents go to India to visit family, eleven-year-old Poppy Ray is staying with her Uncle Sanjay, a veterinarian on an island off the Washington State coast. Poppy wants to be a veterinarian too, so she can’t wait to help her uncle at work, even if her responsibilities are limited to animal grooming, cage cleaning, and other basic tasks. Over the course of the summer, Poppy gets to know her Uncle Sanjay better and slowly develops a friendship with Hawk, son of the gruff woman who manages Uncle Sanjay’s office. Poppy also discovers that her uncle’s work involves more than just caring for animals-it’s about being part of a community and developing relationships with people, too. She also learns that being a vet is emotionally demanding. It can mean helping a severely injured animal that may or may not recover, or euthanizing someone’s beloved but aging and ailing pet-a plot element handled with realism and compassion. This appealing novel is written with a light touch but has plenty of substance, including a strong cast of intriguing secondary characters. 2010, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, Ages 7 to 10, $15.99. Reviewer: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2011).

ISBN: 9780385735674

The Story of

Sara Gilbert

Sarah Gilbert selected some of the hottest business topics for today’s youth in her newest additions to the sixteen-title, nonfiction series, Built for Success. Each book in this bright, visually appealing series takes one world-renowned corporation and documents its history, starting with the idea people who were determined to see their vision come to light. The books follow the same simple format: five chapters, all ending with a short section that features an interesting story behind the company, a glossary, a selected bibliography, and an index. The chapters are written in an engaging narrative style. Jeff Bezos may have started in his garage, but today this bookseller has diversified into an online department store and an electronic-reader developer. A big focus in this title is the problems a company faces when trying to keep up with its rapid growth. The subject of business is often a dry one, yet Gilbert provides engaging narratives. The four newest books in the Built for Success series keep to the same consistency of topic, style, and presentation of the earlier works. The books avoid the popular, but misleading, “rags to riches” overtone that usually accompanies business stories. Some readers will struggle with the narrative approach to the books, preferring titles that break up the chapters into smaller chunks for easier skimming; however, the bright, well-chosen photos, appropriate length, and captivating narrative will attract students and teachers in business, consumer economics, and current world issues classes. 2012, Creative Education, Ages 11 to 18, $35.65. Reviewer: Heidi Uphoff (VOYA Reviews, December 2012 (Vol. 35, No. 5)).

ISBN: 9781608181742

The Trouble with May Amelia

Jennifer L. Holm

Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

In this sequel to Our Only May Amelia, a Newbery Honor Book, we are reintroduced to May Amelia, her seven often-obnoxious brothers, and her Finnish parents as they deal with everything from a dishonest businessman to a barn fire. Through every travail and adventure, May Amelia narrates both her and her family’s reaction with a humor and understanding that leaves readers wanting more. As the youngest child in her family and the only girl, May Amelia often feels that she is overlooked and underappreciated; however, as this book takes a more serious turn regarding logging misadventures and the potential loss of the family farm, May Amelia finds that it is not always comfortable to be the person in the limelight. May Amelia faces a particularly difficult time when her father blames her for a poor decision he makes; it is during that time that May Amelia and her brothers begin to appreciate each other in ways they had previously taken for granted. Like all of her previous works, Holm gives us a charming book with strong characterizations throughout. 2011, Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin, Ages 8 to 12, $15.99. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781416913733


Steven Otfinoski and Tea Benduhn

Basic information about the state of Washington is presented in an accessible text with an attractive format. Topics required in most school reports about states are included. Brief descriptions of the state flower, bird, tree, gem, fish, and dance are followed by a discussion of geographic features including location, landscape, waterways, climate, wildlife, plants and animals. A chapter about the history of the state includes information about the earliest peoples, the first explorers, acquiring statehood, and times of war. A timeline on a separate page summarizes important dates. The cultural diversity of the state is highlighted in the chapter about the people and what they do. Famous people from Washingtonand tourist attractions are given individual sections. The capital city and the government, including how laws are made, are explained. Agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism are major components of the economy. Insets throughout contain “Quick Facts,” as well as “In Their Own Words” passages of quotes from famous people. The state flag, seal, and song appear near the end of the book. Photographs (both historical and current), maps, and charts offer aids in understanding. Includes a bibliography and an index. A good reference source for upper elementary school students, this is part of the “It’s My State” series. 2011, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 8 to 12, $21.95. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781608700615

Updated 01/01/13

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