Reviews of the 2024 Sibert Award Winners


A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global CelebrityThe Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity
by Nicholas Day; illus. by Brett Helquist
Intermediate, Middle School    Random House Studio/Random    288 pp.
9/23    9780593643846    $19.99
Library ed.  9780593643853    $22.99
e-book ed.  9780593643860    $11.99

The Mona Lisa wasn’t the world’s most famous painting when it disappeared from the Louvre in 1911. Day starts his narrative at the point of the theft, then jumps forward and backward, tracing Leonardo da Vinci’s career, what (little) is known about the painting’s subject, how the Mona Lisa became a pop culture icon, and its whereabouts today. In between the story’s many diversions (e.g., early forensic science, the media’s role in hyping the theft), readers also follow the path of the painting away from the museum and into the pages of history, which Day delivers with a dose of whimsy as he describes a case that had more than its share of ridiculous moments. The book combines age-appropriate true crime with art history and historiography. The nonlinear structure may take some getting used to, but it serves the book’s goal of drawing parallels between elements of the theft and the Mona Lisa’s current place in our culture. Helquist’s cartoonlike black-and-white illustrations do an excellent job of matching the narrative voice and bringing the book’s dramatic moments to life. A lengthy source list is appended. SARAH RETTGER

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping SpiderJumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider
by Jessica Lanan; illus. by the author
Primary    Roaring Brook    48 pp.
4/23    9781250810366    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781250326034    $11.99

Lanan asks readers to imagine what life would be like as a regal jumping spider as they learn about this creature’s traits and life cycle alongside a young girl who is observing one. The child arrives at an idyllic community garden to play with friends and neighbors. She is unaware that “Jumper,” a regal jumper spider, is watching from the garden fence. With Jumper’s reveal, the illustrations — lush creations in ink, watercolor, and gouache — shift to a spider’s-eye perspective: the fence posts now loom large, a huge chickadee flies menacingly close, and tall green plants are everywhere. As the girl happily explores the garden environment, she climbs, runs, and observes her surroundings through sight and sound. Each activity is then ­paralleled by the hungry Jumper as she moves around the garden in search of prey, and explanations of spider senses — such as acute hearing through fine hairs, eyes that can see all around (demonstrated by an effective gatefold spread), and extraordinary jumping abilities — are provided. In a dramatic action sequence, Jumper finally spots and captures a fly almost as big as she is. Extensive back matter includes additional information about spider anatomy and life cycles, a glossary, and tips for spider observation. DANIELLE J. FORD

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The Book of TurtlesThe Book of Turtles
by Sy Montgomery; illus. by Matt Patterson
Primary, Intermediate    Clarion/HarperCollins    40 pp.
5/23    9780358458074    $19.99

“Sometime around 240 million years ago — about the time of the first dinosaurs, and 9 million years before the first crocodile — the shell invented the turtle.” With this cheekily thought-provoking opening sentence, acclaimed science writer Montgomery introduces turtles to young readers. The text continues with a brief discussion of the anatomy of that shell, a discussion enhanced by Patterson’s clear diagram. This pattern, consisting of short, informative paragraphs written in Montgomery’s easy journalistic style and accompanied by a detailed acrylic-paint illustration complementing the text, continues throughout. There are world records (such as largest, flattest, most colorful, and stinkiest) and details about various turtle talents (such as problem-solving, hunting, and climbing). The fascinating details about each species (southern Vietnam box turtles whistle, the Chinese softshell terrapin urinates through its mouth) set the stage for individual differences. As in previous titles (The Octopus Scientists, rev. 7/15), Montgomery mentions animal personalities and stresses that each creature is unique. Brief biographies of turtle celebrities include Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise; and Fire Chief, a snapping turtle who was rehabilitated after being paralyzed. The account concludes with ways in which turtles help our world and several steps that can aid their declining populations. Appended with websites, a glossary, and a bibliography. BETTY CARTER

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Shipwrecked!: Diving for Hidden Time Capsules on the Ocean FloorShipwrecked!: Diving for Hidden Time Capsules on the Ocean Floor
by Martin W. Sandler
Intermediate    Astra    144 pp.
10/23    9781662602047    $24.99
e-book ed.  9781662602054    $14.99

Sandler turns his attention to shipwrecks and marine archaeology, selecting seven shipwrecks that collectively present the excitement of solving the mysteries of where each one lies, the latest excavation technologies, and the wealth of historical understanding each wreck yields up. He begins with the discovery of a vessel from ancient times near Crete, which became the first that led to a deliberate excavation after it was located in 1900. From there, he introduces readers to George Bass, who led the first scientific excavation of a shipwreck in 1960 and in the process created the discipline known as marine archaeology. A shipwreck found off the coast of South Africa in the 1980s compels us to “confront and remember the brutal practice of the slave trade.” Sandler finds the hook in the story surrounding each wreck, and the stories build upon one another to create a more complete understanding of the field. A final chapter teases nine additional shipwreck stories in brief vignettes. The handsome book design features full-color photographs of recovered artifacts; scientists working to restore ships; sidebars with additional information; and historical paintings, photographs, and maps. Source notes, a select bibliography, and an index are appended. JONATHAN HUNT

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes
by Traci N. Todd; illus. by Shannon Wright
Primary    Orchard/Scholastic    48 pp.
3/23    9781338305906     $21.99



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