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Here is the very first issue of our new Foundling Family Book Review for all ages by Foundling volunteer and friend (and professional reviewer and reporter) Celia McGee. Here, she’s focused on some great summer reading for kids as they round out the school year.  Enjoy!

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Ages 2-5

How to be a Cat, by Nikki McClure (Abrams Appleseed)

  Who doesn’t love a cat? Well, maybe not everybody, but artist and writer Nikki McClure will bring out the cat-lover in anyone who reads this book as they enjoy the adventures of Small Cat and Big Cat. One teaches and the other learns the skills, joys and challenges of everyday life in the paper-cut illustrations are McClure’s delightful trademark. They follow the pair through lessons about how to “FIND,” “LISTEN,” “EXPLORE,” “CLEAN,” “STRETCH,” “FEAST,” “DREAM,” and more, joined, here and there by a flittery butterfly or a watchful bird to move along the action. Don’t miss the paw prints that open and close the book, which add to the experience of finding a fun surprise on every page.

 

Ages 5-8, and the whole family

You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! By Jonah Winter and Terry Widener (Random House Children’s Books)

   Before Willie Mays was a baseball legend and a history-maker he was a little boy with big dreams. And a way with a baseball that impressed even the grown-ups. Among the first to break the color barrier in a game that used to separate black players and white into different leagues, he got his start in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1940s under the guidance of a father who nurtured his amazing gifts. The powerful illustrations by Terry Widener gloss over nothing, from “Whites” and “Colored” drinking fountains to the cramped companionship of bus travel in the Negro Leagues, while at the same time celebrating the phenomenal player who, once de-segregation made it to baseball, led the New York Giants to some of their greatest victories. His unparalleled “Catch” of 1954 against the Cleveland Indians defied “the Laws of Nature, Gravity, Baseball, Common Sense, Eyesight—and probably a few other laws too!” That’s just one quote that will pique the interest of a range of readers, and help explain why Willie Mays is someone you should be sure to study when you get to visit the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

 

Ages 9-12

Zebra Forest, by Adina Rishe Gewirtz (Candlewick Press)

   A girl, her brother, and their grandmother against a world that has dealt them a rotten hand. Annie, who is eleven, and her little brother, Rew, have been left  for good by their mother with their depressed but protective “Gran” in a village on one side of  the birch-filled ‘Zebra Forest,” as Annie calls it. On the other is a grim and forbidding prison.  Annie possesses a brave intelligence and resourceful sense of humor that have been getting these three through, but the appearance of a dangerous stranger who takes them hostage and picks apart stories of their father’s death they’ve been growing up with tests them each. Set during the Iran hostage crisis and informed by the kids’ well-worn copy of Treasure Island, this is tale that takes some dark twists before emerging into the light of truth and reconciliation.

 

Ages 10-13

Navigating Early, by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte Press)

   When Jack Baker’s mother dies just after World War II, the boy’s Navy officer father moves him from Kansas to Maine, and puts him in boarding school at MortonHillAcademy there. Jack’s views of himself are both funny and poignant—as John Baker III, “I’d rather be a whole of something than just a third,” he notes—and he adapts well enough to his new surroundings. But a brilliant misfit in his class named Early Auden lifts him out of his comfort zone where both friendship and the romance of the wilderness are concerned. The odd couple—Early is what today we might call autistic—embark on a quest mixing the real and the mythological, the earth and the stars, as they run off to hike the Appalachian Trail. That their search involves Early’s older brother, a football hero yet a psychological casualty of foreign conflict, resonates for the make-believe world Early needs to depend on and with the problems of returning veterans our country faces these days.

 

Ages 13-18

In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters (Abrams/Amulet Books)

   The spirit world and the difficulties of young love make for a fascinating, brain-teasing potion served up by first-time novelist Cat Winters. As we know all too well from the diseases of our own time, history has been beset by plagues, and Winters places her story square in the middle of the devastating influenza outbreak of 1918. A scary and suffering Pasadena, California, suddenly becomes the new home of her heroine, Mary Shelley Black. She comes to live with her aunt because her mother has died and her father is being persecuted as an anti-war pacifist, “in a year,” she thinks to herself, “the devil designed.” Little does she know in how many more ways that threatens to come true for her. She uses her courage, her passion for science, and her yearning for the boyfriend she had to see off to war to combat the wiles of a photographer wielding the dark beliefs of spiritualism, while the epidemic rages on. Mary acquires an astonishing array of new knowledge in the process.