The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle


Author: Rick Riordan

Illustrator/Photographer: None

Publisher and Year: Disney Hyperion 2016

Number of pages: 361

Genre: Children’s Fiction Novel


The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle is the first book in the Rick Riordan’s new series The Trials of Apollo.  This is Riordan’s third series in the Percy Jackson universe, the first being Percy Jackson and the second being Heroes of Olympus. These three series are based around the concept that the ancient Greek gods are still around in modern times and are continuing the tradition of creating half human half god children called demigods. These series create a timeline of events, all leading up to The Hidden Oracle. The book takes place from the God Apollo’s perspective. The basic plot of the book is that Apollo is being punished by Zeus and for his punishment he is turned into a mortal teenager. In order to regain his godly status, Apollo must redeem himself in some way. Apollo meets a twelve year old named Meg who becomes his companion and guide on his quest. The book is full of adventure, friendship, and past regrets.


This book is not only a great adventure story, but also a great story for representation. Many times in the novel, Apollo is forced to think about the past mortals he has loved. He continually thinks about Hyacinthus and Daphne, two mortal humans he had fallen in love with throughout his years as a god. While they are both influential to Apollo’s emotions throughout the story, they are, more importantly, of the opposite gender. This novel not only creates a fantastical world of adventure, it also brings in a realistic depiction of a protagonist who identifies as bisexual. There are also other characters in the story that are not straight. This novel is an example of diversity in sexual orientation in a novel. Too often, especially in children’s literature, are protagonists only depicted as straight, which can be detrimental to children that do not identify that way.


Overall, this book addresses many hard hitting themes like family dynamics, emotional abuse, and grief. This novel is engaging, exciting, and a good source of representation on many different issues. The rest of the Trials of Apollo series will be released over the next couple of years and cannot be spoken for on its depiction of diversity. The Hidden Oracle can be a great source of diversity for many students, and can broaden their world view while being an engaging and adventurous story.

Young Cam Jansen & the Dinosaur Game

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Author: David A. Adler

Illustrator: Susanna Natti

Publishing Information: Scholastic, 1996

Number of Pages: 32

Genre: Mystery


The story of Young Cam Jansen and the Dinosaur Game follows Cam and her friend David as they attend a birthday party that features a guessing game. When one of the partygoers guesses the exact number of little toy dinosaurs in the glass jar, Cam is suspicious that there was cheating involved and decides to use her detective skills to investigate. She comes to find that the boy who won the game placed a second bet after the number had already been revealed, and the mystery is solved.

The illustrations are done in fairly basic colors (blue, red, yellow, green) and are featured in rectangular frames. This gives readers a more limited glimpse at the scenarios unfolding, which is similar to that of the limited information Cam begins her investigation with. Furthermore, the rectangular frames indicated less security than that of round frames, which is fitting for the plot as there is a mystery that has presented itself and has not yet been solved. These illustrations are additive to the text, as some reveal more information and visuals that the text could not have provided alone. For example, one of the illustrations features the slip of paper that had the exact number of dinosaurs on it where one can see smudges of chocolate on the paper. This is important because the guessing game required the children at the party to place their guess before cake was served, and clearly this guess was made afterwards.

This story is broken down into five short chapters, which introduces younger readers to the breakdown of traditional chapter books. Furthermore, the story teaches children a way to engage in more critical thinking as they follow along with Cam’s thought processes as she is solving the mystery. At the end of the story, the person who had the next closest guess is awarded the jar of dinosaurs and opts to share them with everyone else at the party, including the boy who cheated to win the game. This teaches children the value of sharing, as well as not holding a grudge against someone who did not act fairly toward others.

Alex the Parrot: No ordinary bird


Author: Stephanie Spinner

Illustrator: Meilo So

Publisher and Year: Alfred A. Knopf 2012

Number of pages: 38

Genre: Non-fiction


Alex the Parrot is a short chapter book with pictures that describes the life of the African Grey Macaw Alex and his handler Irene Pepperberg. It tells of Irene’s experiments with Alex in order to prove that birds are smart creatures capable of understanding human concepts such as colors, numbers, and shapes.

This book functions as a window or door into the scientific community. The main culture addressed and discussed in the book is that of Irene and her experiences and observations in the scientific field. At many points in the book, it is discussed that Irene has to do certain things in order to ensure that her research will be respected. The book displays scientific culture as something that is easily understandable to children and explains processes Irene follows in a way that is easier for students to understand. The pictures themselves do little to add to the story itself but enhance the overall experience of the book.


The text is broken into smaller three to five sentence paragraphs and each page typically has two to five small paragraphs on it. Having the text broken up in such a way is conducive for a children’s literature book because it allows children to digest the harder information in smaller doses. The pictures are done in a sort of watercolor style and while the humans seem more cartoonish, Alex and any other animals look very realistic. This adds to the readers understanding and visualization that all the events discussed in the books actually occurred. The illustrator uses large pictures and bright colors to capture attention of the reader. The illustrator also uses humor in some instances to break up larger portions of text and keep the reader interested.

The book itself is a truthful retelling of Irene’s experiment and discusses Alex’s death and his death’s impact on the future the experiment. This book is a good tool to use and have in a classroom and is suitable for many ages. This book can function as a stepping stone into discussion of many different aspects of the scientific field. Some examples include experimentation hypothesis process, validity of an experiment, or the general topic of animal brain function. Overall, this book can serve a way to get children interested in scientific topics.

My Name is María Isabel


Author: Alma Ada Flor

Illustrator: K. Dyble Thompson

Publisher/Year: Athenaeum Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993

Pages: 57

Genre: Realistic Fiction


María Isabel Salazar López, a third grader born in Puerto Rico, struggles to fit in at her new school in the United States, especially when her teacher insists on calling her “Mary Lopez” to avoid confusion with two other classmates named María. María Isabel wants to make her parents and ancestors proud, but feels incapable of doing so when she must “listen so carefully every time the teacher calls for ‘Mary Lopez’” (p. 27). However, after reading that María Isabel’s greatest wish is to be called by her given name, María’s teacher allows her to participate in the Winter Pageant—a valuable opportunity María was excluded from when she did not answer to “Mary Lopez.

This short chapter book can function as a mirror for all children, as Alma Ada Flor writes in her dedication, “who believed, at one time or another, that they should change their names” against their own will. Such children can personally identify with the frustration María Isabel felt using an Americanized name she did not choose. All new students, be they American or foreign-born, can relate to María’s emotional and mental adjustment after changing schools. My Name is María Isabel acts as a window for American students by illustrating how central a given name or surname is to one’s pride, heritage, and cultural identity. Alma Ada Flor’s book can also function as a door. María Isabel models how seemingly insurmountable problems can be solved through honesty. María Isabel used the opportunity presented by a writing assignment to express how culturally and personally significant her real name is, and her teacher listened and responded.

The illustrations and descriptions of María Isabel and her family accurately represent Latino culture in the United States. Alma Ada Flor exposes young readers to some basic and authentic Spanish words and nicknames, such as Maribel, cariño, Belita, Chabelita, Papá, and Papi. The book also explores other aspects of immigrant and ethnic culture, such as the importance of family pride, special gifts from ancestors in the home country, and the need for both parents to work to make ends meet.

The text communicates the importance of names and surnames, specifically what it means to be named after beloved ancestors and how names keep alive memories of the home country. María Isabel, her Puerto Rican family, and other minority characters do not look like white people and are drawn as individuals with distinctive features and tinted skin. Alma Ada Flor uses symbolism to illustrate how, at school, María Isabel feels trapped in a spider web that grows thicker every time she is called Mary Lopez; this web acts as a backdrop in two illustrations to show this dilemma. Illustrations are framed and drawn in grayscale to emphasize how María’s new name caused her to feel confined and troubled. The value of multiculturalism and cultural diversity is evident in My Name is María Isabel. María Isabel, though Hispanic and most likely Catholic, was thrilled to sing her favorite song about Hanukkah candles at the Winter Pageant. Although Alma Ada Flor’s book seeks to highlight how important names are to identity, it places characters in rather stereotypical roles: a white, female teacher who exercises her cultural ignorance over María Isabel, and a minority victim who passively resists this oppression by never directly confronting her teacher and only explaining her feelings in writing.