Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Growing Up by Tommy Greenwald - ADVISABLE

Greenwald, Tommy Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Growing Up, 182 pgs. Holtzbrinck Publishing, 2016. $13.99. Language: ( 2 (Diety)  swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence:G. 

It’s the last day of middle school and it’s also Charlie Joe’s birthday, but he’s not ready to grow up and move on to high school.  He likes the carefree days of his youth, and wants to keep them.  He’s not ready for the responsibility of high school, maybe graduating from middle school is not such a good thing after all.   

This is a day in the life of Charlie Joe, and he gets in just as much trouble in one day as he has in each of the other books.  Book #6 is a great ending to the series, Charlie Joe finally resolves his distaste for reading, and he manages to slip out of trouble and learn some life lessons along the way.  Not the best in the series, but a must have to complete the set.  

EL, MS ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir -- OPTIONAL

Tahir, Sabaa An Ember in the Ashes. Razorbill Books (Penguin), 2015. $19.95. Mature Content: R; Violence: R; Language: R (100+ swears; no 'f')

When everyone in Laia's family is either captured or killed by soldiers, she goes undercover as a slave in a nearby military compound in order to exact revenge and rescue her imprisoned brother. It's a dangerous mission, however -- especially once she meets Elias, one of the most skilled soldiers in the facility. Like Laia, Elias is not who he seems, and his secrets have the potential to kill many people -- including Laia.

An Ember in the Ashes has a definite dystopian feel, and would likely appeal to that audience. While it does rely on many genre cliches, the vivid characters; twisting plot; and rich world-building make this one difficult to put down in many spots. For those who prefer the audio versions of books, this one is well-read, with a male and female narrator for the two perspectives.

The violence and sexual content definitely take this over the edge to R-rated -- and move it from ADVISABLE to OPTIONAL as well. Many scenes contain detailed death, often by the tens or even hundreds. One particularly memorable chapter includes such anguish associated with the multiple, in-real-time murders that sensitive readers will have difficulty forgetting it any time soon. Rape and prostitution are mentioned often, and attempted rape occurs in several scenes. That said, mature readers who are not very affected by gore and who love dystopian novels may enjoy this one quite a bit.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Sydney G., Teacher/Librarian

Sticks and Stones by Sarah Mlynowki, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins -- ESSENTIAL

Mlynowski, Sarah and Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins Sticks & Stones (Upside-Down Magic #2). Scholastic Press, 2016. $14.99. Content: PG.

Nory, Bax, and their friends from the Upside-Down Magic class are back in a second adventure. This time a group of students with "normal" magic is trying to see the Upside-Down Magic program disbanded. After all, the UDM students have "wonky" magic and are different and scary; therefore they don't belong at a school with "normal" kids, right?

Can the Upside-Down Magic kids save their program when so many prejudiced students -- and even teachers and administrators --  are turning against them?

Like the first book in the series, this one skillfully addresses weighty topics such prejudice, tolerance, hypocrisy, differing ability/talent levels, friendship, and self-worth -- all in an entertaining, suspenseful, non-preachy way. It also includes several laugh-out-loud lines. (We now quote the "tiny toothbrush" one in our household on a regular basis.) There's plenty of nuance throughout, all working together to build on the theme of acceptance of others and of oneself. A must-have series for a middle-grade library.

EL, MS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by Sydney G., Teacher/Librarian

The Oval Office Escape (Commander in Cheese #2) by Lindsey Leavitt - ADVISABLE

Leavitt, Lindsey The Oval Office Escape (Commander in Cheese #2) 65 pgs. Random House, 2016. $4.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
In these continuing adventures of Ava and Dean Squeakerton, the mice silbings that live in the White House, they must face off with Presidents beloved cat, Clover. The mice are worried that having a cat in the white house again will change everything and many lives will be lost. Will the siblings find a way to work around the cat or will they end up as cat food?
I enjoyed this read as the young mice find out that appearances can be deceiving. I think these books will always be popular in the fall as elections come up, perfect timing for the coming Presidential elections. They are adorable and students will love to imagine how they would navigate as mice. The illustrations make the book longer but allow for easier comprehension for younger readers, perfect for 1-2 graders. Lots of cover appeal as well!

EL (K-3)  – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Big Move (Commander in Cheese #1) by Lindsey Leavitt -ADVISABLE

Leavitt, Lindsey The Big Move (Commander in Cheese #1) 83 pgs. Random House, 2016. $4.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
Ava and Dean Squeakerton live in a big white house with their family and friends. They are mice and they live in the actual White House in Washington DC. When a new president moves in with her kids (and cat!), the mouse siblings are determined to obtain a Lego for their collection. But they are taking some big risks; will the be stepped on by a mover, trapped in a room, eaten by a cat, discovered by humans, or all of the above? Includes cute simple illustrations.
This is an adorable book that contains quite a few interesting facts. I think students will be intrigued by the idea of a mice navigating the White House and its dangers. There is both a mouse pair of siblings and a human pair, so students can relate quite easily to the characters. The illustrations make the book longer but allow for easier comprehension for younger readers, perfect for 1-2 graders.

EL (K-3)  – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis -NO

Davis, Kent A Riddle in Ruby, 425 pgs. Green Willow (Harper Collins), 2015. $17.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG (gender bending) Violence: PG (fighting scenes)
Ruby is a young girl who is learning to be a thief, natural for a daughter of a pirate. When her father goes missing she goes searching for him, but her city isn’t the colonial Philadelphia we are familiar with, in her world there is an type of magic called Alchemy. She meets a young Lord name Athen, who has a big secret. Also everyone is trying to capture her because Ruby because she has a secret she doesn’t know about, although everyone else seems to.
I have been trying to finish this book for a year, having never engaged with the content. I found the main character boring, the plot stilted and off kilter, and the map cap adventures odd but not in a fun way. I found the world claustrophobic and didn’t want to continue reading this book, especially a very long 425 pages of it. I am not sure if students readers would like it, but I can think of 100 books I would rather recommend.
EL – NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles - ESSENTIAL

Knowles, Jo Still a Work in Progress, 311 pages.  Candlewick, 2016.  $17.  Language: G (4 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (extremely mild boy talk); Violence: G.

Noah, Sam, and Ryan have been best friends forever.  While Noah is tring to deal with all of the normal pressures of middle school, he is dealing with an open secret at home – his sister’s anorexia.  Even his friends only refer to it obliquely, and even his parents aren’t sure how to handle their daughter’s demands and behavior.  When she has a relapse at Christmas, Noah is sure that no one can help him deal with this added pressure and withdraws from his friends a bit, just when he really needs them the most.

Yeah Knowles!  I have at least five people that I want to share this book with right now for a variety of reasons.  Whether talking about anorexia and its lingering effects on everyone involved, talking about struggling with trauma while everyone around proceeds as normal – Knowles covers both concepts with equal deftness.  This is a gem!

MS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Hotel Bruce by Ryan Higgins - ADVISABLE

Higgins, Ryan T. Hotel Bruce.  PICTURE BOOK.  Disney, 20q6.  $18.

Bruce has settled in to his life as the mother of four geese who migrate south for the winter each year.  One year when the group arrives home, however, they find that an enterprising trio of mice have turned their house into a hostel.  Shenanigans ensue, Bruce loses his temper, and the geese finally help him straighten things out at the end.

While the first Bruce book was brilliant, this one is just amusing.  Highly amusing, of course.  It reminds me of Shrek when all of the characters flee to the swamp to his house. 

EL (K-3), EL – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett - ESSENTIAL

Barnett, Mac How This Book Was Made, pictures by Adam Rex.  PICTURE BOOK.  Disney, 2016.  $18.

How does a book get made? The Barnett/Rex super team know all the answers!  In their incredible comedic way, they cover all of the aspects of the process.  I personally love the exchange between author and editor.  I am putting this in my library and will be showing it all of my Language Arts teachers just for that scene.

EL, MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Happiest Book Ever by Bob Shea - OPTIONAL

Shea, Bob The Happiest Book Ever.  PICTURE BOOK.  Disney, 2016.  $17. 

Book wants to be the happiest book ever, but the un-smiling frog is bringing things down.  When Book banishes frog for being un-happy, the other friends remind book that being mean is the least-happy behavior of all.

Don’t compare this to “The Book With No Pictures”.  If you do, you will be disappointed.  For all of its forced cheerfulness, it just doesn’t sell the premise well.

Pre-K – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher