Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Agrimbau, Diego. Leonardo Da Vinci.

Agrimbau, Diego. Leonardo Da Vinci. Calkins Creek (Boyd's Mills)  2018  112p.  $31.99           ISBN 978-1-5157-9163-8            elem/ms       Graphic Nonfiction           VG-BNS       

This title calls itself an unofficial biography.  In graphic-novel format, it takes Leonardo from childhood through his life.  He serves as an apprentice to Verrocchio but he dreams of creating his own paintings. He uses cadavers to study anatomy.  As his sponsors change, he moves from Florence to Milan to Venice and back to Florence.  His technique and his search for perfection cause him to spend years on an individual painting.  His disappointments as well as his achievements are discussed.

This story is written as if Leonardo is talking about his life to his apprentice Salai.  This conceit allows the story to proceed forward and backwards in time, rather than following a straight line of progression.  Leonardo expressed his regrets over unfinished works and failed projects.

The illustrations are integral to the story.  It is easy to follow the action, and the drawings clearly show the story. The choice of colors evokes a pensive mood, or at the least, a mood of times past.  The text is clear, with good contrast to the background.  The book also includes a timeline, some historic background, a glossary, discussion questions and writing prompts.  The discussion of  the portrayal of Leonardo in movies mostly addresses the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is superfluous.  The index is rudimentary, as are the suggestions for reading more about Leonardo. 
This title gives readers a general outline of the life of Leonardo da Vinci in a readily accessible format.  Reluctant readers are more likely to pick up a graphic novel than a wordy tome.  The information is presented in sufficient detail to give a good picture of his life.  Grades 4-8.           

The series is Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Stories, and within it the subseries is Graphic Lives.  It includes four titles: Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela, Pope Francis and Leonardo da Vinci.  They are good introductory biographies for grades 4-8.      

Summary: Graphic biography of Leonardo da Vinci that describes his development from an apprentice to a master painter and sculptor and also covers some of his many other interests in science and engineering.  Grades 4-8.      

Leonardo da Vinci, Biography                              --Joan Theal

Ancrum, K. The Wicker King.

Ancrum, K.  The Wicker King. Macmillan/Imprint  2017  305p.            $17.99  ISBN 978-1-250-10154-9  hs            Conflict        E           

Jack and August have been friends forever.  Despite their different social circles, they are both neglected and they depend upon each other for love, support, and guidance. Jack is a star athlete and pretty boy.  August is a drug-dealing pyromaniac.  When Jack starts to hallucinate and becomes increasingly drawn into a fantasy world in which he is the Wicker King, August joins in the fantasy, convinced he can control Jacks descent into madness.  When the boys are arrested for arson, August convinces his attorney to claim insanity so that he can follow Jack to an asylum.  Through counseling and medical intervention, the boys are released and forge a new future together. 

The book itself mimics Jacks increasing instability -- initially the story is printed on white paper, and then the pages proceed from gray through black before returning to white again.  The fantasy story within the story is jarring and frightening, but it helps to illuminate the emotional breakdown that Jack experiences.                           

Summary: A dark tale of mental illness and co-dependency between best friends Jack and August. 

Mental Illness-Fiction                                             --Lisa Teixeira

Avi. The Player King.

Avi.     The Player King.  Simon & Schuster/Atheneum      2017   199p.  $16.99  ISBN 978-1-5344-0324-6  ms/jr  Historical Fiction            VG-BN         

Lambert Simnel works as a kitchen boy in Tackleys Tavern when he is approached by a friar who inquires about his true identity. The friar and the Earl of Lincoln convince the boy that he is Edward, the Earl of Warwick, the true heir to the English throne, as opposed to King Henry VII who thinks he is the proper heir. Edward was imprisoned in the Tower of London, but is said to have escaped, and his whereabouts are unknown. Lambert is apprehensive at first, but is soon caught up in the idea of being a king. He doesnt know where he is from, thinks he is probably orphaned, but he is sure he isnt really the Earl of Warwick. He knows Lincoln is just using him to get closer to the throne himself because the public will rally behind the boy to raise an army. Lambert realizes the game he is playing is dangerous, but he begins to believe the mantra if you act like a king, you will be king. The army is raised, but King Henry prevails. He takes mercy on the boy and puts him to work in his palace kitchen.

This story is based on true events. Early on, the friar makes sure the boy understands how dangerous their actions are and explains the potential consequences to him, including drawing and quartering. It is difficult to imagine that a book written for middle-school students would have the main character facing this fate, and there is a great deal of suspense centering on how Lambert is going to survive. It is easy to see how he gets caught up in the excitement of going from kitchen boy to the King of England. He is also young enough that he doesnt think through his actions fully and is bothered by the prospect of soldiers and others dying for his rouse. This engaging and fast-paced novel will entice middle-school readers.

Summary: The Earl of Lincoln and a friar convince a young kitchen boy he is Prince Edward, the true heir to the English throne, in a plot to overthrow King Henry VII. Based on a true story.                                 

England-History-Fiction, Henry VII-Fiction

                                                                                                --Stephanie Pennucci

Berne, Emma Carlson. What Is An Idiom When It's At Home?

Berne, Emma Carlson. What Is An Idiom When It's At Home?   Capstone Publishers       2018   32p.  $27.32  ISBN 978-1-5157-6388-8          elem/ms       Nonfiction  VG-BNS        

Upper-elementary and middle-school students who enjoy learning about the English language will appreciate this new title on idioms in the Fact Finders: Why Do We Say That? series.  Written in an easy-to-read format, the book will give students a better understanding of what idioms are and will provide solid examples for them to explain to others.  The author touches upon figurative and literal meanings, as well as phrasal verbs and clichés.  Students will be able to identify the idiom and its literal meaning with real-world examples.  The author provides students with a history of idioms and how they are used worldwide, as well as providing insight into the future of idioms with todays technology and use of emojis.

The author includes colorful illustrations, tables, charts, Try It Outsidebars, Did You Knowfacts, a glossary of terms, a list of recommended books, critical thinking questions, a special code to use on FactHound, and an index.

As of this review, four titles have been published in this new series, Fact Finders: Why Do We Say That? which is part of the Fact Finders series.  Each title reviews parts of speech and basic proper grammar in a fun way.         

Summary: An exploration of idioms, covering what they are, providing examples, and including related exercises.         

Idioms, Language Arts                               --Charleen Forba-MacCain