Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore - OPTIONAL

Blakemore, Megan Frazer, The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill, 312 pgs. Bloomsbury, 2015. $16.99.  Language: G: (0 swears) Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG. 

12-year-old Hazel Kaplansky is the smartest kid in the class, until Samuel Butler moves in.  Samuel’s grandmother owns the safe making factory in town, and during the cold war and McCarthyism, there’s no end to the speculation about who might be spying for Russia.  Hazel is convinced that their new hired hand, Mr. Jones, is certainly the head of the spy ring, and that he’s getting information from the spies in the factory.  But a sleuth needs a partner, and Samuel fits the bill. But Samuel has a few secrets of his own, secrets everyone in town seems to know except Hazel.  

This historical fiction is delightful.  Full of references to the 50’s (Nancy Drew, TV shows and good old small town USA library and gas station) the characters are real, and the mystery is intriguing with a couple of red herrings. Historically, I loved the nostalgia, but I don’t know if the cold war is interesting enough to capture today’s young readers.  

EL MS - OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tommy Can’t Stop by Tim Federle –NO

Federle, Tim and illustrated by Fearing, Mark Tommy Can’t Stop Disney Hyperion, 2015. $16.99 PICTURE BOOK
Tommy is a little boy with a lot of energy. His family tries everything to tire him out. When he is enrolled in tap class, the solution is found, and so is his talent.
I really like this illustrator! I didn’t enjoy the cadence of the story and the word choices were just awful, vocab too challenging. I feel that this was more like a biography for the author and his fans to enjoy than a story that children can relate to, for example Pogo sticks were referred to and kids today don't know what that is. Don’t get me wrong, so many children have unstoppable energy levels, but this story was a bit confusing because of the wording. I didn’t even realize that the boy was enrolled in tap, I thought it was just PE or something, and the vocabulary in that section would only be understandable by those in dance. I feel like the story could have been told quite a bit better and could have functioned as a really great lesson that dance is great outlet for both boys and girls.

PRE-K, EL  –NOT RECOMMENDED  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones –ADVISABLE

Lloyd-Jones, Emily Illusive 406 pgs, Little, Brown; 2015. $18.00  Content: Language: PG (0 swears); Mature Content: PG13 Violence: PG13
In a future where a virus had everyone scrambling for a treatment, there was one medication which worked, but had a side effect for a small portion of those who took it. They result was some extra-normal abilities. These people were not only shunned, but often jailed, or recruited to work as forced agents for a variety of government and criminal agencies. Ciere, a girl with the ability to create illusions, was able to get into a better situation, a thief with a decent boss.  Things in her life start to unravel when she robs a bank, setting off a series of events and unforeseen circumstances that lead her into the very heart of the formula that created her abilities, and more danger than she could have imagined.
This story has so many great components, especially the ending. I think teens will really like this dystopian crime magical thriller. Even though I didn’t care for the main character and thought she was really dull, I found some of the sub characters very interesting, but the action was so continuous that it pulled me along. There is still plenty more to explore and though the ending didn’t preclude a sequel I think the author could drum up any number of continuations, for example, getting to know people with some of the other “side effects”. Violence and references to a career as an escort make this better for High School. 
HS-ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Seeker by Arwen Dayton - ADVISABLE

Dayton, Arwen Elys Seeker, 435 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2015. $18.99. Language: PG (0 swears); Mature Content: R (drug use, prostitution); Violence: PG-13 (battles, graphic deaths). 

Tonight is the night. Quin, Shibonu and John have been training for years with Chin’s father, Briac, and Shibonu’s father, Alistair, to become Seekers, protectors of good people from harm. Generations of their families had taken the Seeker oath and now is their time. Once sworn, Quin and Shibonu realize that Briac has evilly twisted the purpose of Seekers. The keys to the Seekers’ power to travel through time and space are two tools: an athame and a lightning rod. John demands it to restore his family’s power, Briac will kill for it to use for evil and Quin has it. Can Quin and Shibonu restore the Seeker’s noble purpose and not be killed?

Gripping writing opens this book and the pace does not slow down. The book’s three main settings evokes three different sub-genres of fantasy: the training in Scotland – medieval/historical; Singapore – gritty realism; and London – Steam Punk with blimps. The weapons are futuristic and the fighting is graphic. A well done fantasy with a sequel, Traveler, due in spring of 2016.

HS – ADVISABLE. SGH – Librarian

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs - OPTIONAL

Combs, Sarah Breakfast Served Anytime, 261 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2014. $16.99. Language: R (50+ swears, 0 “f” ; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G. 

Gloria has been chosen to attend “Geek Camp” at the University of Kentucky for the summer. She enrolls in a session called “Secrets of the Written Word”, which is a small group of 4 students whom Professor X has asked not to bring technology of any form. Gloria meets and bonds with her roommate and her classmates, even the boy who annoys her.

This book is about relationships but none of them feel very realistic. Gloria labels everyone immediately and not often flatteringly but becomes instantly close to her classmates and her beauty contest contestant roommate. The characters seem token (mysterious professor, lesbian classmate) and the few issues are dealt with too briefly. This could have been a good book for students looking for a gentle story but the amount of swearing will put them off.

HS – OPTIONAL. SGH – Librarian

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Clover Twig and the Perilous Path by Kate Umansky - OPTIONAL

Umansky, Kate Clover Twig and the Perilous Path, 249 pgs.  Roaring Brook Press, 2012.  $16.99.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G;  

The sequel to Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage finds Clover once again caring for a witch named Mrs. Eckles.  Not far into the story however, Clover must bravely voyage down the Perilous Path to save her little brother and foil the plans of the wicked Mesmeranza.  

Without having read the first installment, the reader could enjoy the adventures of this clever heroine.  There are several subplots to keep track of, which at times slows the pace of the main action.  The resolution was unexpected, although somewhat anticlimactic.  Overall, a clever, quirky story with a delightful sense of humor.  

EL - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Joy

The Kidney Hypothetical by Lisa Yee - OPTIONAL

Yee, Lisa  The Kidney Hypothetical, 266 pgs. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015. $17.99. Language: R (81 swears, 16 deity, 4 "f's", other mildly crude language) ;  Mature Content: PG-13 (drinking, smoking) ; Violence: PG.  

In just seven days, Higgs Boson Bing will graduate from high school and he is on top of the world.  He has been accepted to Harvard, has won many of the top awards at school, is dating Roo, one of the prettiest, most popular girls at school, and is pretty sure he has the Senior of the Year award in the bag.  Then everything falls apart.  When his girlfriend asks him a hypothetical question -- would you give me one of your kidneys -- he doesn't answer yes because it's just a hypothetical question.  He has no idea that one comment will start the beginning of one of the worst weeks in his life.  Everything goes wrong from Roo storming off to some serious harassment at school to Harvard calling to re-evaluate his acceptance.  And his family seems to be falling apart.  Then he meets Monarch.  She won't tell him her real name, but he finds her compelling and interesting and she makes him question what he really wants and who he is trying to make happy. 

On one hand, I enjoyed this book, read it in one sitting and found it quite amusing.  On the other hand, there were several things that seemed over the top.  Does your girlfriend of two years, cry , stomp off and not speak to you again because you won't hypothetically give her a kidney?  Do you experience such vitriol from your classmates because of it?  Does the administration at school really treat you with such disdain and act as though you are getting what you deserve?  If they truly believed Higgs didn't deserve the things that he achieved, why wait until his very last week of high school to let him know?  I thought Higgs was likeable, not perfect, but he did learn a few things about himself, and there is a satisfying end to the story.   

HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer:  RB