The Leak, by Kate Reed Petty/Illustrated by Andrea Bell, (March 2021, First Second), $22.99, ISBN: 9781250217950
It starts at the dentist’s office. Ruth, an aspiring young journalist, is frustrated when her dentist scolds her for not brushing and flossing, and scoffing when she insists that she does. Shortly after the dentist visit, she and her friend Jonathan go fishing, only to discover dead fish and a thick, oily sludge by the water. Ruth decides to investigate and report her findings, with the help of her brother’s girlfriend – an intern at the New York Times – and finds herself on the radar of the local country club owner and the power company. Dealing with frenemies, a middle school crush, and finding herself thrust into the spotlight and being intimidated by people who have a lot to lose, Ruth has to choose between personal and journalistic integrity or getting out of the way of controversy. A brilliantly done story about freedom of the press, pollution, and integrity, readers will cheer Ruth on. Artwork is vivid and characters are expressive. This is the kind of art my library kids love; it’s super middle grade friendly and has so much to say. The dialogue keeps pace with the action and readers will get to challenge themselves by wondering what they would do in a similar situation. Give this to readers along with Kayla Miller’s Act and Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone for a surefire primer in activism.
Miles McHale, Tattletale, by Christianne Jones/Illustrated by Elina Ellis, (March 2017, Capstone), $14.95, ISBN: 9781515807537
Recommended for ages 3-6
Miles McHale is funny, smart, and sweet, but he’s also a tattletale. He tattles all day long, to anyone who will listen. Mrs. Snitcher, Miles’ teacher, decides to seize the teachable moment and decrees a Tattle Battle: two teams, one week, no tattling, and gives them a pledge: “If a friend is sick, hurt, or in harm’s way, then telling someone is okay.” It’s a hard lesson for him to learn, even when his friends stop talking to him over it, but when Miles’ little sister gets hurt, it’s up to him to figure out what the difference is between tattling and asking a grownup for help.
Tattling is a rite of childhood passage. Kids can be little town criers, and Christianne Jones is spot on with Miles. Kids will recognize their friends, relatives, and classmates (and maybe even themselves) as they read about Miles telling on his friends for scratching arms, standing on one foot, or sharpening a pencil. Miles provides an excellent opportunity to teach children the difference between tattling and reporting: when to seek help from an adult.
Miles McHale is an especially good book for preschoolers and kindergarteners, who are just starting to sharpen their tattling skills, and are navigating social relationships in a school setting. There are some good tattling vs. reporting resources available online, including articles and activities on tattling management in the classroom and coping skills and activities for kids.