Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814 by Jane Sutcliffe - - ESSENTIAL

Sutcliffe, Jane The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814, 120 pgs. Non-Fiction Charlesbridge. 2014. $19.95.  Language: G; Violence: PG (Battle scenes, not disturbing but descriptive) Mature Content: G.  

200 years ago, our capital, Washington D.C. was under attack by the British during the War of 1812. This is the account of the events leading up to the burning of the city, the battle and a bit of the aftermath.  The British were in and out in one fatal day, but managed to destroy some of our young country’s treasures and architecture, including the Capitol and the White House.  

Sutcliffe gives us several different viewpoints, including Presidentress Dolly Madison (from a letter to her sister), British and American soldiers, towns-people, a tourist and even a slave's account of that terrible day. Enough illustrations to provide context to upper elementary students, this short history is accessible on all school library levels.  

EL MS - - ESSENTIAL, HS - - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz - - ESSENTIAL

Hurwitz, Michele Weber The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, 264 pgs. Random House Children’s Books. 2014. $16.99.  Language: PG 5 swears (Diety); Violence: G; Mature Content PG.  

It’s the summer before 13-year-old Nina starts her freshman year in high school, and she wants to make a difference.  Her Grandmother taught her about STs (simple truths) and Nina decides to do one kind thing for each day of summer vacation, anonymously.  Can one girl’s random acts of kindness bring a whole neighborhood together? 

This is a great feel good book with realistic kids and their problems.  Well written without a lot of issues, this realistic fiction / teen romance will be a hit with the girls.   

MS HS ESSENTIAL Lisa Librarian

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Call of the Bully by Scott Starkey - - Optional

Starkey, Scott The Call of the Bully, 264 pgs. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2013 $6.99. Language: G (0 swears) Violence: G; Mature Content: G.

Rodney Rathbone is back and headed to summer camp!  But Wy-Mee camp isn’t all fun and games.  In fact, his old enemy Josh is there along with some new bullies, too. But when Rodney finally lands in the “Loserville” cabin, his camp experience begins to turn around, and with the help of his new friends, maybe this summer will turn out OK after all.  

In this follow-up to How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying, Rodney again battles bullies (mostly adult ones). Many funny situations will keep the reader laughing, but mean isn't funny in my book and the improbable situations went a bit “overboard”.  

EL OPTIONAL. Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 26, 2014

V is for Villain by Peter Moore -- OPTIONAL

Moore, Peter  V is for Villain, 336 pgs. Disney-Hyperion, 2014. $17.99. Language: PG-13 (55+ swears; 0 'f'); Violence: PG-13; Mature Content: PG-13.

As a mostly-regular boy living in a world peopled with superheroes, Brad is tired of being bullied. It's almost a relief when he's removed from the pre-superhero track at his school, and sent to the alternative program for those with less potential. Luckily for him, the new track is filled with potential friends -- ones he may be able to team up with to finally seek revenge on his oppressors.

To be honest, I found this book frustrating overall. The action was surprisingly slow in many spots, especially for a supposedly thrilling superhero tale. Brad spent much of the first half being bullied without standing up for himself. He spent much of the second half feeling morally smug and intellectually superior. For a supposedly ultra-intelligent guy, however, Brad just…wasn’t. He missed a lot, and rather than making him speak and act with actual ingenuity, many of the other characters seemed purposely and unrealistically dumbed-down, maybe to make Brad appear smarter in contrast? Or to give him targets for his snide comments? Perhaps superhero junkies, or those who enjoy protagonists with a sarcastic sense of humor, will enjoy this one more than I did.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Scan by Sarah Fine and Walter Jury -- OPTIONAL

Jury, Walter and Sarah Fine Scan (Scan #1), 336 pgs. Putnam Juvenile, 2014. $17.99. Language: R (90+ swears; 22 'f'); Violence: PG-13; Sexual Content: PG-13.

Tate's father is demanding, cold, and tough. He's also an inventor with a dangerous secret. When a shootout at Tate's school results in his father's death, Tate and his girlfriend Christina are forced to go on the run in order to protect the older man's invention: a scanner that can distinguish humans from their nearly-identical alien invaders.

Scan is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller with enough action, suspense, and explosions to keep readers turning the pages. Tate's relationship with his girlfriend is well-developed, and I appreciated their coolness under pressure. While the strong language makes this one optional instead of advisable per Kiss the Book guidelines, in this case the swearing rarely seems gratuitous, considering the extreme situations the characters find themselves in and the many villains they are up against. The multiple unresolved plot threads make it clear that this will be the first of at least two books, if not more.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Monday, July 21, 2014

Just my Lost Treasure by Mercer Mayer -OPTIONAL

Mayer, Mercer Just my Lost Treasure 24 pgs. HarperFestival, 2014. $3.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
When Little Critter is sent by his mom to find his missing socks, he sets right out. But what he finds instead is tons of missing ‘treasure’, from toys to instruments to clothes. He is so excited to find each new thing, but still hasn’t found the socks!
Of course, adorably illustrated, this book is filled with cute animals and bright colors. I don’t really like the lesson here though. It grates at me that Little Critter has so many toys and is so irresponsible with them. Especially true after reading the Rent Collector for my last review, where a family lives at the dump and each item they use really is a treasure.  

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

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright –ADVISABLE

Wright, Camron  The Rent Collector 288  pgs. Shadow Mountain, 2013. $15.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG13 Violence: PG.
Unbeknownst to most of the world, there are many families who live right at a garbage dump called Stung Meanchey, a real place in Cambodia. They make their living scavenging and selling, a grim existence made dangerous by disease, lack of essentials, danger from the garbage itself, and roaming gangs. We follow the story of Sang Ly, a young mother trying to raise an ill son and wanting to learn how to read. When she discovers the rent collector, a grumpy horrible woman, can read, Sang Ly is determined to learn.  Turns out there is more to the rent collector than anyone could possible guess.
This is a wonderful and eye opening story! It’s such a different point of view on literature -one that is fresh to the joy and desire to learn to read. The host of characters are interesting and well developed. I think high school students would do well to read about this very grim place, yet a place so full of hope. Adults will love this surprising read as well.

HS –ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.