Saturday, February 18, 2017

March Book Three by John Lewis - ESSENTIAL

Lewis, John and Andrew Aydin March Book Three, art by Nate Powell, GRAPHIC NOVEL 246 pgs. IDW Publishing, 2016. $19.99. Language: PG13 (7 swears, 1 “f”) - note, there is a lot of use of the “n” word, and there may additional swearing in the supplementary dialogue;  Mature Content: G; Violence: PG13.  

In the third and final installment of this graphic novel autobiography, John Lewis, a key player in the Civil Rights movement tells the rest of the story, this time the struggle to secure voting rights for ALL Americans.   Beginning with the Birmingham church bombing in 1963 and culminating with the march from Selma to Montgomery, we witness the courage and commitment of these brave people as they demand the rights they were given nearly 100 years before.  

This is a hard series to read, it’s poignant, violent, and heartbreaking.  Each installment is an essential part of the story.  While the language and violence are difficult to read, both are necessary to give a complete account of what happened.  Anyone teaching about the Civil Rights movement should read this series and the books should be available for students to read as well.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Galaxy’s Most Wanted: into Dorkness (Book #2) by John Kloepfer -OPTIONAL

Kloepfer, John Galaxy’s Most Wanted: into Dorkness (Book #2) 234 pgs. Harper Collins, 2015. $12.99  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
A group of kids at a summer camp have just come off battling an alien invasion, one they sort of caused by building an interstellar text messenger which drew the aliens to earth. Although the kids were able to defeat the aliens, a new group has arrived. These reptilian aliens are called the Kamilions. Luckily the kids have an alien friend and their scientific skills to help them out. They have to deal with brainwashed soccer campers, fly a space cruiser, hide out form a freeze ray bomb and more. 
This book is a total no-go if you haven’t read the first book in the series. A garbled attempt at summarizing the first book is made, but it really just hops right into the main story. I feel like I missed getting to know the characters and the buy-in to this zany fast paced world. I think that students would like it, its fast, funny, easy to read, and full of pictures. I felt like it might be too nonsensical at times (too much made up inventions and creatures and plotlines) and that it was way too long. Readers that go for super silly plotlines like this don’t often want a book this long. I also didn’t like the aliens being accused of sniffing the kids underwear, that kind of stuff is just disturbing to read in a kids book.  

EL –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Dog Man Unleased by Dav Pilkey - ADVISABLE

Pilkey, Dav  Dog Man Unleashed, 220 pgs. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphix, 2017 (Scholastic).  $9.99  Content: G.  

Dog Man has the body of a man and the head of a dog which causes him problems when he can’t control his animal instincts.  When the villain, a cat named Petey, is impersonated in town Dog Man is sent to investigate.  The story line gets a bit complicated as the Police Chief’s evil fish, Flippy, takes some smart food and tries to steal from everyone.  Petey is upset that someone is pretending to be him and gets involved.  At one point there is also a paper version of Petey the cat.  Needless to say the villains all get their due, Dog Man saves the day.  

Heaven help me.  I realize as an adult I’m not the intended audience, but I cringed at the many misspelled words and strange sentence structures.  My eight year old son thinks this series is hilarious and I do think the story line is creative.  Rating it for libraries I think your kids will pick this up and love it, the English teacher in me is dying that this is considered reading material.  My biases aside, it will be a big hit especially among reluctant readers.  

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth C. Davis - ESSENTIAL

Davis, Kenneth C. In the Shadow of Liberty : The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. NON FICTION. Henry Holt and Company, 2016. $17.99.  Language: G(0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG. (references to the treatment of enslaved people) 

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson; American presidents, but also owners of enslaved people, particularly the 5 individuals featured in this book. While millions left no records - no birth dates, death dates, even names, these 5 belonged to prominent men and were close to the families, so they experienced American history alongside these famous statesmen, and shared their stories.  But for Ona Judge, she would rather be free and live in poverty than be enslaved and serve Martha Washington. George Washington’s valet Billy Lee was the president’s constant companion for most of his life (and was the only slave emancipated at Washington’s death). 

These stories and several others show us the complicated lives and times of the people of our newly formed nation.   Some were captured in Africa, others born into enslavement, but they shared their stories.  Pictures of documents and artifacts complement the stories.  A piece of history that was never taught in school - but should have been. It is very evenly presented, telling the facts and history without passing judgement.  This was a fascinating, gripping read, well documented - including source notes, a bibliography, index and acknowledgements. 


The Lord of the Hat (The Creature from my Closet Book #5) by Obert Skye -ADVISABLE

Skye, Obert The Lord of the Hat (The Creature from my Closet Book #5)  247 pgs. Henry Holt, 2015. $13.99  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
Rob has a messed up closet, which combines an old science experiments, a bunch of books his mom wants him to read and an interesting antique door. What comes out of the closet is a mishmash of book characters that talk and need his attention. In this book it’s the Suessol, which is Gollum from Lord of the Rings combined with the cat from The Cat in the Hat. It has a secret mission for him to accomplish when Rob and his family and friends head off to New Mexico. Includes lots of little cartoony illustrations.
I have had requests for this series, and I should have picked it up sooner. This book is like one step harder than Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is vaguely like being inside the head of a child with ADHD. The references, vocabulary and content would be better appreciated by upper grade student, for example dating and kissing. Though middle school readers who are low level would love this book as well. I, of course, loved the references to various books and how the main character, Rob, is inspired to read the Lord of the Rings by meeting the character mashup.

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

The Amateurs by Sara Shepard - OPTIONAL

Shepard, Sara  The Amateurs (Amateurs, #1), 307 pgs.  Freeform Books, 2016 (Disney).  $17.99  Content: Language: R (77 swears; 6 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Seneca and her friends, Maddox, Brett and Madison, are interested in a cold case about a girl named Helena.  They decide to use their spring break to work on the case with Helena’s sister, Aerin. Someone doesn't want them delving into the case and they find trouble.  And when all the sleuths come together they each have their own secrets and romance is brewing.  

Shepard is the author of the Pretty Little Liars series.  This book is hard to put down because the mystery unfolds so well.  The characters have a lot of teen angst because of their pasts and although it is unbelievable that teenagers would do some of these things it was fun.  The content includes underage drinking, drug use and heavy make out sessions. If the content/language was cleaner it would be advisable.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.  

Varmints by Andy Hirsch -NO

Hirsch, Andy Varmints 213 pgs. First Second, 2016. $16.99  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG  (Drinking, Gambling) Violence: PG (Lots of Western Style Gun Violence) GRAPHIC NOVEL
This book is the adventures of orphaned siblings, Opie and Ned as they travel the Wild West seeking justice for their mom’s death. Everywhere they go they cause mischief that rolls into disaster, mostly because of precocious Ned. They burn down a saloon, crash a train, and much more. Meanwhile they bicker and joke and stick together.
This was an action packed and slapdash adventure with many chapters filled with antics and well crafted characters. That being said, I thought it was really boring and irritatingly busy. Would a young reader like it? I bet they would, but their parents may not care for the drinking, bar brawling, suggestive women, tons of gun violence, and that it is fun and funny to burn down buildings. You may be thinking I sound paranoid and that is 100% true, parents can cause no end of drama in a school library situation, some books are worth standing up for and some just aren't. Middle school readers would find the characters a big childish to hold their interest. The illustrations are bright and well drawn and have a very traditional comic strip style feel.

EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Wizard’s Dog by Eric Gale - ADVISABLE

Gale, Eric Kahn The Wizard’s Dog, 280 pages.  Crown (Random), 2017.  $17.  Content: G (some danger).
Nosewise is a wizard’s dog, but he is not allowed in the room where all of the magic training goes on.  Working through the apprentice, Morgana, he worms his way in and finds the Asteria, a devise that will actually let him talk!  Besides talking, however, Nosewise will have to find the power within him to work magic spells if he wants to save Merlin after he is betrayed by his own apprentice.

Nosewise is adorable and hilarious!  You can’t stop yourself from rooting for him all along the way.  

EL, MS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing -ADVISABLE

Weing, Drew The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo 123 pgs. First Second, 2016. $15.99  Content:
Charles is not happy to move to Echo city. His mom and dad bought an old hotel that they are fixing up. One his first night there, he discovers there is truly a monster in his closet. Luckily another child who lives in the building gives him a business card for Margo Maloo. When she comes to take care of the problem, Charles discovers that the big city is teeming with the unexpected and he finds himself unexpectedly interested. Features well crafted comic style illustrations.
This was a fun book that students will enjoy, I get many requests for creepy graphic novels. (Though this isn’t too creepy!) I like that the main character is excited and full of interest in learning (what teacher wouldn’t!?) The artwork was cute and easy to follow. Hopefully it’s the start of a series. My only issue is that the dad finds a pack of risqué playing cards, and it shows a swimsuit laden woman on the front. Did we really need to have that in a young readers book? I hope I don't get any upset parents. (Believe me, they will notice).

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin- OPTIONAL

Litwin, Eric. Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs, PICTURE BOOK. Orchard Books, 2016. Groovy Joe has just bought himself some delicious doggy ice cream. He eats it up and starts singing its praises, when in barges a dinosaur. Groovy Joe happily shares his ice cream. Two more dinosaurs eventually show up and Joe shares with them too. Ice cream doesn’t last forever and the dinosaurs aren’t too happy with Joe. He sings them some more songs and they dance together, happy that they’ve shared.This looks to be a continuation of a Groovy Joe story. I did like how the dinosaurs roared their way in and you expect them to be angry, but they really just want ice cream instead. I didn’t love the ending because I thought it was too abrupt. It just didn’t wrap up as well as I would have liked. PRE-K, EL (K-3)- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian.

Lucy's Lovey by Betsy Devany- ADVISABLE

Devany, Betsy. Lucy’s Lovey, PICTURE BOOK. Henry Holt, 2016. $17.99. Lucy loves one of her many baby dolls the very best. Smelly Baby goes everywhere with Lucy and although she got her name from originally smelling like peppermint, her smell is now more like all of the food that Lucy eats. On the way home from Grandma’s house (and a run in with Grandma’s super slobbery dog) Smelly Baby is hanging out the car window to air out. Unfortunately, Smelly Baby’s seams are loose on her arm and she goes off flying onto the road. Smelly Baby can’t be found and Lucy is devastated. Luckily, Lucy had the foresight to write her address on Smelly Baby’s belly and she is returned home, newly washed. Lucy gets to work right away making Smelly Baby smell like her old self again. I wasn’t intrigued by the cover of this book, but boy was I wrong! The pictures are so well done. Soft and detailed, with lots of color. The story is sweet and relatable. PRE-K, EL (K-3)- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian

Ghostbusters: Who You Gonna Call? by John Sazaklis- OPTIONAL

Sazaklis, John. Ghostbusters: Who You Gonna Call?, PICTURE BOOK. Golden Books, 2016. $4.99. Three scientists are convinced that ghosts are real and they are going to find the evidence to prove it. Once they start finding ghosts, they have to figure out a way to contain them. They all work together to detect the ghosts and trap them. They run into trouble when a ghost-loving hotel custodian decides to unleash hundreds of ghosts around the city. Once the crew of Ghostbusters finally corals all the ghosts, everyone in the city knows who to call. This is a replication of the new Ghostbusters movie, with the all-female cast. The illustrations are actually really great and do a good job scaling down the movie to a kid friendly level. That being said, the story itself is much too convoluted. There are a lot of details necessary for the flow of the movie, that might not be as necessary for the book. It was just a little too much to make sense of, and I’m an adult. This would be a great gift for a Ghostbusters lover. EL- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Shay, School Librarian