Thursday, November 26, 2015

Little Hedgehog’s Big Day by Daniel Howarth - ESSENTIAL

Howarth, Daniel and Heidi Little Hedgehog’s Big Day.  PICTURE BOOK.  QEB Publishing (Quarto), 2015.  Content: G.

Little Hedgehog is worried about starting Big school in a few days, so he turns to his forest friends for advice on how to get big enough to be ready.  Some good advice from a teeny ant and some encouragement from his mother also help him be ready for that special day.

So cute!  Every mom should read this book to their children before their first day of school.  The Howarths weave in some silliness and wrap things up with a series of great advice that feels natural.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Nancy’s Mysterious Letters and The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Keene - OPTIONAL

Keene, Carolyn Nancy Drew Mystery Stories: Nancy’s Mysterious Letters and The Secret of Shadow Ranch.  Grosset & Dunlap (PenguiN), 1965, 2015.  $9. 

Grosset & Dunlap has added new covers to the 1960’s versions of the Nancy Drew books - so far we are up to number 8 in the series.  While I like the covers, the interiors are exactly the same - including the sometimes fuzzy printing of the text, with quality changes from page to page.  I know, because I compared them to my originals from home. I think that is a pretty odd editorial choice, but i am going to put the books on the shelves and see if they have any longevity.  I pared the yellow spine versions down to just a dozen, but they still circulate once or twice each year. so these can’t hurt.

EL - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

London: A Book of Opposites and San Francisco: A Book of Numbers by Evanston - ADVISABLE

Evanson, Ashley London: A Book of Opposites and San Francisco: A Book of Numbers.  BOARD BOOKS.  Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin), 2015.  $7.  

Evanson takes a cute look at different cities around the world with her board books covering basic concepts.  She carefully chooses appropriate landmarks and cultural items for each book.  So enjoy your tea in London and your baguettes in Golden Gate Park!

Pre-K - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Maggie Malone Makes a Splash by Jenna McCarthy & Carolyn Evans -- ADVISABLE

McCarthy, Jenna and Carolyn Evans Maggie Malone Makes a Splash (Maggie Malone #3). 192 pgs. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2015. $6.99. Content: PG.

Twelve-year-old Maggie Malone convinces her friend Elizabeth that they should try out for the swim team, but when Elizabeth turns out to be unexpectedly talented, the team's former star is determined to take Elizabeth down. And she's planning to use Maggie to do it. Worst of all, when Maggie warns her friend, Elizabeth thinks Maggie is lying out of jealousy. There goes every friend Maggie had finally made at her new school. To escape her problems for a while, Maggie decides to spend the day as Marina Tide, photogenic daughter of a world-renowned oceanographer. Unfortunately, Marina's picture-perfect world is even more dangerous than Maggie's own. How can Maggie save Marina's reputation -- and possibly life -- then turn around and save Elizabeth from impending social disaster? Especially when Maggie can't even get a handle on her own life?

The third book in the series is almost as fun as the first two, with its insights into a world many middle-grade readers would love to visit if only they had magical boots of their own. Maggie is an especially fun character to travel with, as she's smart and resourceful and genuinely kind, while not being so perfect that she's unsympathetic. While both the middle school and Marina Tide plots were wrapped up a bit too quickly and easily to be completely satisfying, this was still an enjoyable read that would likely do well on many library shelves.

EL (4-6), MS -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands - ESSENTIAL

Sands, Kevin The Blackthorn Key, 384 pages.  Aladdin (Scholastic), 2015.  $18.  Language: G (1 swear, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (one scene about peeing in a barrell); Violence: PG-13 (murders, fires, evidence of torture).  

Christopher Rowe is happy with his life as an apprentice to a well-respected apothecary in London during the 1660’s.  Then people start dying and his master acts out in a way contrary to everything Christopher has ever experienced - and when Chris returns to the shop, his master is dead and Christopher has nowhere to go.  Enemies are everywhere - even in seemingly friendly faces.  Too many people have already died and Christopher is the only one who has all of the keys to solve the mystery - if he can figure them out before the enemy catches him.  

Sands starts the book with a great comedic hook and then plunges into danger.  I was enthralled from start to finish.  However, contrary to the blurbs on the book, there is no magic involved in this book.  I was not disappointed when I read it, just confused.  The book is an exciting enough and dangerous enough to immerse a reader without also having magic.

EL - OPTIONAL, MS - ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Battle of the Bulge by Rick Atkinson - OPTIONAL

Atkinson, Rick Battle of the Bulge, 229 pages.  Henry Holt (Macmillan), 2015.  $20.  

After his look at D-Day, Atkinson tackles explaining the complexities of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in 1944.  The narrative is complex, with many names and countries and troops involved in a dizzy array of small towns.  I had to finally mark all of the maps in the book so that I could remember where the action was taking place and see who was moving where.  The personalities of the players don’t really shine through.  It would have been better if he had focused on just a few people and tell the story around them.  I would only recommend this for your die hard war aficionados.  

MS, HS - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher