Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel by Natasha Lowe - ADVISABLE

Lowe, Natasha. The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel.  275 pages.  A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon and Schuster), 2016.  $16.99.  Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G.

Nora Ratcliff found a baby in a flower pot.  She and her husband had never been able to have children and he had died several years before.  But when she held that baby she knew that they would be family.  She named the little girl Mabel after her mother.  When Mabel was little she showed magical talent so Nora moves the family close to the Ruthersford Academy for witches.  Mabel excels at witchcraft, but she is constantly constrained by the rules of “ladylike” witches.   Like you must ride your broom sidesaddle with a cat for balance, you mustn’t experiment, and you must always wear a dress and look elegant.  Mabel has many friends at school, but not Winifred, who is jealous of Mabel’s talent.  Winifred tells Mabel that she was adopted.  Mabel is very upset, because she didn’t know, but realizes that families are people who love and care for each other.  Winifred also steals Mabel’s invention and locks her up in an attic.  To save the day, Mabel must break every “lady-like” rule.

Mabel is a plucky, kind, and imaginative character.  Despite obstacles, she is willing to work hard and overcome them.  Her reaction to finding out she was adopted feels genuine, but also her realizing what her life could have been like if she hadn’t found a home and a family with Nora Ratcliff.  The story is set in a magical Victorian England world and Mabel struggles with many of the same restraints that non-magical ladies did at that time.  The plot moves quickly to a satisfying conclusion. 
Natasha Lowe is also the author of two other witchy books: The Power of Poppy Pendle and The Courage of Cat Campbell. 

EL-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

Foxheart by Claire Legrand - ADVISABLE

Legrand, Claire.  Foxheart.  469 pages.  Harper Collins, 2016.  $16.99.  Language: G, Violence: PG, Sexual Content: G.
When the girl was three-years-old, she was left on the doorstep of a convent.  She wouldn’t tell them her name, so the nuns called her “Girl” and some of the other girls called her “Pig” or “Witch”, or all three: “Pigwitch Girl.”  When the girl was twelve-years-old, she saw wolves attack a nun and she heard screams of the other girls.  She thought he was the Wolf King, but that couldn’t be because he was the one who protected the lands from witches.  She escaped the convent to become a master thief with her faithful dog, Fox.  She was stealing when she was caught by a boy her age—Sly Boots.  He was not a good thief and his parents were under a terrible spell.  Girl chooses the name Quicksilver and agrees to help Sly Boots steal medicines for his parents.  In the market, they are meet an old witch who changes time.  The witch knows the girl’s real name and gives Quicksilver three guesses to know why.  Quicksilver guesses on her third wish that the old woman is herself and she is right.  Anastazia has fought the Wolf King for many lifetimes.  Both she and the Wolf King are trying to find the bones of the seven first ones—the first magical creatures who came from the same star.  Anastazia wants to destroy them to save her race, the witches.  She takes Quicksilver and Sly Boots back in time to teach Quicksilver about magic and to look for the skeletons.  Quicksilver isn’t so sure she wants to spend her life looking for bones, she’d rather be a thief.  She promises Sly Boots that she will get him back to his parents, she just needs to figure out how.

Foxheart is a dark, epic fantasy adventure with plenty of peril and surprises.  Quicksilver is a most unlikely and often unlikeable heroine.  Having never known kindness, she isn’t kind.  Yet, she still manages to become heroic and not just by her strength.  She learns the power of forgiveness and friendship.  And it is only when working with others, “Many is Mighty”, that they are able to destroy the bones of the first ones.              
EL-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

The Aerosmurf by Peyo -OPTIONAL

Peyo The Aerosmurf 56 pgs. Papercutz, 2013. $5.99  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
This is actually a collection of 6 short comic book stories featuring the Smurfs and Gargamel. The first story is the aerosmurf, the rest range from pie throwing mayhem to a pet dragon. They are fun adventures and very wholesome.  
Ever since I read the collected works of Peyo, I can’t even look a smurf in the face, let alone read the prolific noun and verb replacements of the word smurf in these stories. Therefore, I have put this book in the bottom of my pile for years, sorry! At my school library the students recognize the smurfs, but have zero interest in checking the books out (we have a few leveled readers). If they are popular at your school, this would be easy to add to your collection, but they aren’t my favorites by far.

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

The Smurflings by Peyo -OPTIONAL

Peyo The Smurflings 55 pgs. Papercutz, 2013. $5.99  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
This is actually a collection of 6 short comic book stories featuring the Smurfs and Gargamel. The first story is the about the creation of some smurflings and a girl smurf friend for Smurfette, the rest range from a ghostly adventure to a pet dog. They are fun adventures and very wholesome.  
Did I mention that it always creeped me out that there was only one girl smurf? Well this one changes that, now there are only two. Ever since I read the collected works of Peyo, a yearbook sized collection with microscopic size comic boxes, I can’t even look a smurf in the face, let alone read the prolific noun and verb replacements of the word smurf in these stories. Therefore, I have put this book in the bottom of my pile for years, sorry! At my school library the students recognize the smurfs, but have zero interest in checking the books out (we have a few leveled readers). If they are popular at your school, this would be easy to add to your collection, but they aren’t my favorites by far.

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Never Ever by Sara Saedi - ADVISABLE

Saedi, Sara Never Ever, 320 pages. Viking (Penguin Random House), 2016.  $17.99.  Content: Language:  PG-13 (2 swears, 0 “f”) Mature Content: R  Violence:  PG.  

It’s Wylie Dalton’s 17th birthday and her life is a mess.  Her parents are in the midst of a divorce leaving the family in turmoil.  Instead of going to her family birthday dinner and spending the last night together as a family before her brother Joshua is sent to juvie, Wylie and her brothers sneak out of the house and go to a rooftop party.  There she meets Phinn Moonlight, where there’s instant attraction between the two.  By eating a parvaz flower Wylie and her siblings are given the ability to fly.  The three are finally convinced by Phinn to go to Minor Island, a place that he claims would fix all their problems.  They discover an island where no one ages beyond seventeen.  There are no parents or police officers telling them what to do.  It seems like paradise.    
But then there’s talk of Hopper and the forbidden side of the island.  And Wylie learns about the lost kids, who went out camping one night and never came back.  Everyone seems to idolize Phinn, never questioning any of his policies or decisions.  But when Wylie starts standing up to him, she learns that he doesn’t like it when people challenge him.  Maybe Minor Island isn’t really paradise after all.

This is a modern retelling of Peter Pan and the first of its kind that I’ve read.  I found it to be an engrossing read and enjoyed the unexpected plot twists.  Although the Peter Pan theme of the book may interest younger readers, the content is targeted toward an older audience (underage drinking, drug references, birth control and sexual relationships).  This is author Sara Saedi’s first book, but there’s a sequel in the works, which I am looking forward to reading. 

HS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer:  Nancy W.

The Christmas Fox by Anik McGrory - ADVISABLE

McGrory, Anik The Christmas Fox. PICTURE BOOK. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. $16.99. Content: G.

A little fox is invited by numerous other animals to join in readying a place for a special baby who is set to arrive.  Each time the fox chooses to stay behind because he does not have anything to give or add to the preparations. When he finally comes to the place, he does in fact bring joy. And that is enough. 

This is a simple and beautiful addition to a Christmas library. I loved the illustrations, the childlike innocence of the fox, and especially the message. The story might be especially appealing to younger readers who need to be reminded that everybody can do something to help. 

Pre-K, EL (K-3), EL—ADVISABLE. Reviewer: TC

Get Coding! By by Candlewick Press -ESSENTIAL

Candlewick Get Coding! 205 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2017. $12.99  NON-FICTION
This book has 6 missions relating the discovery of a large diamond. The reader/coder creates a website step by step based on the story. It starts with basic HTML, then moves into adding new elements via CSS and JAVAscript. Young coders can retrieve images from the book’s website to supplement their creation (and get help and tips). Features lots of little illustrations and informational tidbits.
I LOVED this book! A student coder can learn to create a fun website from this easy to read and easy to use book. The missions are awesome and add a ton of interest as the reader feels like they are part of a story, making the creation process easier to understand! A teacher could use this book and use each mission to take a class on computers through the entire web creation process. I thought it would be too overwhelming to throw in three types of computer language but the book does an excellent of explaining the necessity of all three in the process and seamlessly pulls them all together in a manageable way. This has been my favorite coding book so far, I can’t wait until it comes out in August 2017. Best for upper elementary and middle school.

EL, MS –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics by Steve Jenkins -ADVISABLE

Jenkins, Steve Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics 48 pgs. Houghton Mifflin, 2016. $17.99  NON-FICTION
This book provides facts and information about a wide variety of animals. It starts with animal classification: invertebrate’s vs vertebrates. It moves into a pie chart that vividly shows how many more insect species there are than any other type of animal. Scale models are show for a variety of creatures, including some shown as life size, like the hummingbird. There is a bar chart for speed per MPH, including some interesting facts! Also included are infographics for jumping, flying, amount of sleep, and many more. Fully illustrated in Jenkins typical style.
This was an absolutely fascinating book, that could easily be used by a teacher for a lesson on animals or on the different types of infographic/charts. The infographic format was essential to providing the information and is stunning because of it. I learned quite a bit reading this book and it was all interesting. I think student will enjoy reading this book, as its kind of the Guinness records version of animals and more. Though I am a big fan of photographs in non-fiction (and this one has zero), in this particular book its mostly necessary to have all the illustrations and works very well.

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

Rivers of Sunlight by Molly Bang -OPTIONAL

Bang, Molly Rivers of Sunlight 20 pgs. Blue Sky Press (Scholastic), 2017. $18.99  NON-FICTION
This large picture book focuses on the sun’s place in the water cycle from the point of view of the sun. It features large illustrations with lots of movement. The last part of the story focuses on helping to conserve water and climate change.
To show the movement of water in its various states, the illustrations are quite busy, then the text is placed directly on top of the action which results in both a challenge to read the text and a bit uncomfortable to look at. I am not sure what age the author intended this book to be for, but it seems too challenging for our first graders who learn about this topic (even as teacher read-aloud) and wouldn’t appeal to older readers. Also the title is a bit misleading, it made me think this book was about the sun itself, not its place in the water cycle, though that is listed at the bottom in smaller text.

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Skunked by Jacqueline Kelly - ADVISABLE

Kelly, Jacqueline Skunked! (Calpurnia Tate #2), illustrated by Jennifer Meyer. 106 pgs. Macmillan (Henry Holt) 2016. $15.99. Content: G.  

When Calpurnia’s brother Travis brings home an orphaned baby skunk, Calpurnia scrambles to help care for the secret pet - an animal no one wants, but is so cute! But when Travis goes back to the hollow tree, there’s another surprise.  

The first in a new series (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet)  this heartwarming easy reader is a sweet story with enough action and skunks that the boys will like it too. A spin off of the older reader (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate) no prior understanding of the book is required to enjoy this fun historical read.  

EL - ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig - OPTIONAL

Haig, Matt A Boy Called Christmas, with illustrations by Chris Mould, 236 pgs. Penguin Random House, 2015. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril, fairy creature deaths) 

Eleven-year-old Nikolas, tired of being ill treated by his Aunt, runs  away to find his father who had joined a search party looking for the magical village of Elfhelm, far to the north.    Taking a mouse with him, and meeting a reindeer along the way, eventually Nikolas is discovered by elves who take him (against the Elf rules apparently) to the village themselves and try to protect him from their mean ruler Father Vodol.  Nikolas escapes and tries to right the wrong his father committed, and becomes the hero of Elfhelm in the process.  

The story of how ordinary Nikolas (nicknamed Christmas by his father) became the magical Santa is full of boy humor (tough talk, dumb jokes, impossible situations) Christmas (elves, snow, toys) and suspense.  A funny Holiday read, but not really a “Christmas Classic”  

EL - OPTIONAL  Lisa Librarian

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke - ESSENTIAL

Hatke, Ben  Mighty Jack, 205 pgs.  GRAPHIC NOVEL  First Second, 2016 (Roaring Brook Press).  $22.99  Content: PG.  

During summer break, Jack is charged with watching his little sister while his mom works two jobs and tries to save them from financial ruin.  Jack resents this responsibility because Maddy is autistic and doesn’t talk.  When the two siblings go to a flea market and are sold seed packets they begin a garden, but the garden isn’t normal and monster-type vegetables are taking over.  Jack works with his neighbor friend as they try to figure out how to control the magic that has been unleashed in his yard.  

This is a fun new graphic novel series.  The illustrations are great and the story line is well paced and entertaining.  I like the characters and can’t wait to see where the story goes, because the ending is a cliff hanger.  The content is PG because the monsters are a bit creepy.  

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