Monday, January 22, 2018

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski - OPTIONAL

Rutkoski, Marie  The Winner’s Kiss (Winner’s Trilogy #3), 484 pgs.  Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2016.  $17.99  Content:  Language: PG (6 swears); Mature Content: R; Violence: R.  

Kestrel has ended up in a labor camp where they steal your memories and make you crave drugs to dull the pain.  Arin is trying to mount a defense against his enemies, and although he has convinced himself that he no longer cares for Kestrel, he thinks about her often.  As Kestrel tries to hold onto who she is, Arin comes to realize all that Kestrel has sacrificed for him, but will it be too late?  

Oh my, I love this series.  I love the characters and the setting, I love the believable story line and the covers are amazing.  All that said, they are hard to recommend to young adults because there is on page sex--it’s not overly descriptive, but it is there.  Also the violence is gruesome and gory-mostly it is war violence but the disgusting descriptions make my stomach turn.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: C. Peterson.      

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser - ESSENTIAL

Glaser, Karina Yan  The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, 293 pgs.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.  $16.99  Content: G.  

The five Vanderbeekers have just been informed that their grumpy landlord will not renew their lease and they have to be out of their home right after Christmas.  The siblings all gather together and come up with creative ways that they can win the heart of crotchety old Mr. Beiderman.  All the children learn something about themselves and each other as they try to solve this problem and hope for a miracle.  

I fell in love with the Vanderbeekers and their neighbors.  Glaser does a fantastic job keeping the story line moving and threading side stories throughout.  This is an easy book to recommend with its sweet morals, family values and lovable characters.  This will be best enjoyed by older elementary kids because the age of the Vanderbeekers is 4-12 years old, but some middle students will enjoy it as well.  

EL – ESSENTIAL; MS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick –ESSENTIAL

Sonnenblick, Jordan The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade 208 pgs. Scholastic, 2017.  $17. Language: G (0 swears) Mature Content: G Violence: PG (bullying, psychically abusive mom’s boyfriend).  

Maverick doesn’t have much. His mother is an alcoholic with a string abusive boyfriends who can barely keep herself together, let alone a household. Maverick is used to going hungry, wearing the same clothes everyday, and fending for himself. School doesn’t help either- adults don’t seem to understand, the other students make fun of him for being short, and his attempts to make friends lead to situations that make everything worse. But Maverick doesn’t give up and decides he is going to take a stand and defend those like him, he will be the secret sheriff of sixth grade.

This is such a great book for quite a few reasons. First of all –it was just the right length –realistic fiction that is three or four hundred pages for elementary is a huge deterrent –and it seems like most of them are. It would make a great read-a-loud for a 5-6th grade teacher. Maverick is an incredibly believable character and the readers will find themselves rooting for him and hopefully discover some empathy. This was a book that I could not put down and it did not talk down to the reader either. The situation is fully fleshed out and the author has a done a great job creating the world. This is one of the best fiction books (non-graphic novel anyway) I have read this year. Its very realistic yet isn't cold or distant, it has a warm heart. 

EL –ESSENTIAL.  Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Blacktop: Toni by LJ Alonge - OPTIONAL

Alonge, LJ  Blacktop: Toni  127 pages. Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin Teen).  $16.  Language: G (7swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence : PG-13

Toni plays for a community basketball team, she comes from a line of foster homes until she and her brother find each other again and with his employment they are able to move in together. Toni’s temper and her lack of social skills leads to her team’s demise. She has to work it out so they can be a team again and she can learn the value of friendship.

This is the fourth in the series of Black Top Basketball books.  The narrative voice is street slang that for some reason capitalizes Dumpster. It is easily understood, the reading isn’t too tricky. But it lacked logic, how did two kids get an apartment, with a lobby no less? How did they swing cell phones and wi fi? It moves quickly and for sports aficionados it could be a fun read. 

EL, MS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: Lisa Moeller; Language Arts Teacher

Rabbit Moon by Jean Kim - OPTIONAL

Kim, Jean Rabbit Moon.  PICTURE BOOK.  Arthur Levine (Scholastic), 2018.  $18.  9781338036398

The rabbit on the moon takes children’s wishes and turns them into stars.  When he gets lonely, he decides to take his own trip to Earth and meets delightful friends.  But what happens to the stars if he isn’t there?

Once I read that in Korea the speak of a rabbit on the moon, the whole book made more sense.  The illustrations shine, while the story is sweet.

Pre-K – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge - OPTIONAL

Hardinge, Frances  A Skinful of Shadows, 415 pages. Amulet Books,  2017. $20.  Language: PG (20 swears this book takes place in Medieval times so the profanity and cursing are mostly used in a religious context , 0“f”); Mature Content: PG (very mild) ; Violence: G (some sword play, head banging and some drug use as a weapon, poisoning and such).

Makepeace lives in the Puritan community of Poplar England with her mother. She and her mother live with her aunt and uncle until her mother is killed in an apprentice riot. Makepeace is sent to live with her father’s family. Her mother had escaped from her lover’s home to save her daughter from their curse. Makepeace’s family has the ability to absorb the souls of the very recently departed. It is supposed to be voluntary but the Fellemotte family has turned it into a way to make and keep their fortune. Makepeace takes on the goal of bringing down the Fellemote family before they fill her up with unwanted guests.

Dreary everything is dreary. The story is interesting the writing is strong but the overall feeling is dreary. For those who enjoy historical gothic this would be an interesting read.  The question is to portray a dreary existence must it be drearily written? (I did have students asking if they could “check the book out next” because of the intriguing cover)

MS, HS – OPTIONAL Review by; Lisa Moeller, Language Arts teacher. 

Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Gris Grimly - OPTIONAL

Grimly, Gris Old MacDonald Had a Farm.  PICTURE BOOK.  Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2017.  $18. 9781338112436

 Farmer MacDonald has his farm with the pigs, sheep, chickens, and such.  But in the barn there is a surprise!

Grimly attacks the subject with his characteristic dark edges.  The animals are quirky; the only thing I don’t like was the lack of centers on MacDonald’s eyes – that upped the creep factor for me, though I am not sure children will actually notice.  If you’d like a slightly different version of the traditional song, this is a definite winner.

Pre-K – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Little Pinto and the Wild Horses of Mustang Canyon by Jonathan London - OPTIONAL

London, Jonathan  Little Pinto and the Wild Horses of Mustang Canyon  Illustrated by Daniel San Souci  PICTURE BOOK Candlewick Press, 2017.  $6.99  Content: G.  

A little pinto foal is born in the desert.  His family is a band of mustangs led by the stallion, White Face.  They go to find water, but while there a plane tries to round them up and the little foal falls into the river.  The foal is able to get himself up to the other side, and his mom goes to get him.  White Face leads the band back to the mountains and they are able to stay together.  

The illustrations of the horses and canyons is the best part of this book.  The story line reads choppy and almost like a poem.  My second grade son who loves horses didn’t love this book-I think it was confusing to have the plane chase the horses without any understanding and it doesn’t say where the plane went or how the horses got away.  There is an explanation at the back about how there used to be 2 million wild mustangs, but they were ruthlessly slaughtered until their number faded to seventeen thousand and the government stepped into protect them.  There is also a glossary.  

EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Dog Man and Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey - ADVISABLE

Pilkey, Dav  Dog Man and Cat Kid, 253 pgs.  GRAPHIC NOVEL  Graphix, 2018 (Scholastic).  $9.99  Content: PG.  

Petey tried to clone himself and made an adorable kitty that Dog Man adopts, while Dog Man is at work, a babysitter is supposed to be watching the kitty, but the babysitter is really the evil Petey in disguise.  Also, Dog Man is going to be made into a movie and the stars have been cast.  When the real Dog Man causes catastrophes the director kicks him off the set.  When Dog Man and his kitty work together they are able to uncover the evil Petey and his plot to ruin the movie.  

As an adult, I think this series is ridiculously stupid.  However, my second and third grade sons love this series so much they asked for it for Christmas and when they drive with their friends in carpool they sit and talk about Dog Man and laugh.  The illustrations are bright and attractive the plot is easy to follow and there is a slap stick humor throughout.  The rating is PG because one of the robot bad guys has his pants pulled down and his illustrated bare bum is on page.  Also they say words like “dumb jerk” and use potty humor.  If you want a book that all the boys will be waiting to check out this is it.  

EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.    

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich - NO

Dietrich, Cale. The Love Interest, 373 pgs. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2017. Language – R (104 swears, 23 “f”), Mature Content – PG13 (hetero- and homosexual content); Violence – PG13; 

412 has been in training at a private secret spy service, LIC, for several years now, and his chances for being chosen as a Love Interest for a mission are getting slimmer. Finally given his chance to be a Nice and make his Chosen fall in love with him, 412 is named Caden and is taken to Viriginia to compete against a Bad for his Chosen. But there comes a point when lies become detrimental to oneself as well as others, and Caden has to decide what—and who—he values most.

Caden’s story was definitely not what I expected when I started reading, but that’s not a bad thing—unfortunately, it also was not necessarily a good thing, in that the surprise did not make me more fond of this book. My favorite thing about The Love Interest is the discovery of self that I experienced with Caden; it’s hard to feel comfortable being you when you accept how someone else defines you. However, the distraction of language throughout the entire book made for an overall bad impression. 

HS – NO. Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen