Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Witch's Pyre by Josephine Angelini - ADVISABLE

Angelini, Josephine  Witch’s Pyre (Worldwalker Trilogy, #3), 376 pgs.  Feiwel and Friends, 2016.  $18.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (21 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

Lily is a powerful witch with her loyal coven.  They find themselves living among the Hive, a city they have traveled far to reach but quickly they learn that the city has its own witch with evil intentions.  Lily has to outsmart the all reaching power of the Hive’s witch and combine her coven with Lillian’s in an attempt to free all of the oppressed people on the continent.  

This is the third and final book in the Worldwalker series and it has a satisfying ending.  The characters are likable and the idea is creative.  The world building is extensive but it makes sense.  The only way this book makes sense is if you can read the whole trilogy back to back, the author doesn’t bridge the novels and it was hard to remember what happened in the second one.  The violence is the witch burns on a pyre and there is some war violence.

MS, HS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming - ADVISABLE

Fleming, Candace  Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West, 230 pgs.  Roaring Book Press, 2016.  $19.99  Content: Language: G; Violence: PG-13; Mature Content: PG.  

William Cody was a rambunctious youth who wasn’t afraid of much.  Early in his life he joined people who were traveling west, either by wagon train or with the army, and worked to provide for his mother and fatherless siblings.  He became famous for his work in the west and in his early twenties started giving tours to people from the east.  He eventually used his popularity to create a Wild West show that he traveled throughout the United States and Europe preforming to great success.  

I enjoyed this well written biography of Buffalo Bill because I feel like Fleming tried to clarify the facts that have been muddled among so much fiction.  There are great pictures throughout and the beginning of each chapter includes part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.  The violence is the way the Native American’s were treated and the mature content is that he cheated on his wife multiple times.  

MS, HS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti – OPTIONAL

Feuti, Norm The King of Kazoo 208 pgs. Scholastic, 2016. $12.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears; 1 Heck); Mature Content: G Violence: G GRAPHIC NOVEL
Bing is a princess and a magician with a self-centered and air headed father. He is determined to make a name for himself as the King who.., well he hasn’t figured it out yet. There is a strange tunnel and explosions at nearby Mount Kazoo, so Bing and her father take off, with Torq, in the first car invented, to find out what happened. They discover that the entire kingdom is in danger. It will take magic, bravery and quick thinking to figure out how to stop the impending disaster.  Basic simple comic illustrations.
This was a nice little adventure with a message about family and not being self-centered. At times it felt very slow for no reason (a good reason would be like a halt for character building) which I found irritating. The artwork is just average. Overall I was kind of bored. It can’t hurt to have this in your collection, but I would rather spend library budget on something with a bit more interest or at least stellar artwork for a graphic novel.

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

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio –ADVISABLE

Golio, Gary Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song.  PICTURE BOOK.  20 pgs. Millbrook, 2017.  $19.99.  Content: G.
This book functions as a mini biography of Billie Holiday with a focus on the segregation injustices that she experienced. Readers learn that when a song writer approached her with a potentially controversial song which decried the lynching and treatment of African Americans, she not only sang it but had it written into her contracts that she would sing it. She faced threats and assault but she did not give up. The Lyrics are included as well as a lengthier biography and photograph. The artwork is heavy swirly paint.
This is one of those picture books that I think is perfect for middle and high school. Though it short, and could be used to open a lesson or unit, it packs a powerful punch. I could see history teachers and music teachers both using this as intro to protest songs, segregation, and powerful female figures of history. While it’s of extreme importance to teach about civil rights to elementary students, this is a bit too intense for their maturity level. While the artwork had movement, it was just blurry and heavy and frenetic, I think it failed to bring to life the powerful and talented Billie Holiday for the readers.  
MS, HS –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Jamals Journey by Michael Foreman –OPTIONAL

Foreman, Michael Jamals Journey.  PICTURE BOOK.  20 pgs. Anderson Press, 2017.  $17.99.  Content: G.
This book is about a little desert camel who becomes separated from his family, a Bedouin camel group. He meets some fellow desert animals and finally a hawk guides him home. Features large bright pages with an adorable camel.
This felt more pre-k to me than elementary due to the perspective of the baby camel. It offers a small window into a desert habitat but very small, just a few mentions of animals. The same goes for the Bedouin culture, mostly we just see the grouping and their journey from desert to city. Essentially it’s a very basic lost and found baby animal story featuring a culture children might not be familiar with. It wasn’t my favorite, I think with a bit more expansion into habitat, culture or both, it would have stronger cultural or science value, which is a better choice for a school library.

PRE-K – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy – ADVISABLE

Kennedy, Katie What Goes Up 336 pgs. Bloomsbury, 2017. $17.99 Content: Language: G (10 swears); Mature Content: PG(Kissing) Violence: PG13 (fighting, threats)
Rosa and Eddie are trying out for a new NASA team that allegedly will be making first contact if any aliens should approach earth. There are hundreds of applicants and the tryouts are lengthy, strange, and often brutal. Eddie will have to face his past and Trevor will have to learn bravery. When an unexpected craft appears the pair, their instructors and another candidate are thrown into a terrifying and challenging adventure, tasked with saving earth as we know it.
That is hands down one of the worse descriptions I have ever written, there is just WAY too much to spoil, as many unexpected things happen. This is a Sci-Fi adventure with lots of technology and out of the box thinking. The author does an out of this world job with character building, but not quite as much with setting the scene, so often I had trouble picturing some of the events or settings. The tryout part is way too long and repetitive, showing how special the teens were over and over again, which may lead to some readers giving up before the super fast paced action portion of the book. The swearing and slight content feels natural and isn’t excessive by any means. A great book for sci-fi fans!

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lifers by M.A. Griffin - OPTIONAL

Griffin, M. A. Lifers, 279 pages.  Chicken House (Scholastic) 2017. $17.99. Language: R (147 swears, 0 "f"); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

When Preston and Mace go looking for their friend Alice after she disappears mysteriously, they never expected to find themselves in the middle of a secret government cover-up.  The friends soon discover that Alice, along with hundreds of other teens, have been charged for petty crimes, rounded up, and sent to a prison in another dimension.  Now captives of an agency known as M.I.S.T.. Preston must put his trust in a rogue agent and enter the prison with little hope of finding his friend.  

This was a fast-paced read with a Maze Runner feel to it.  The story is rather short so their isn't a lot of back story but it will appeal to adventure readers.

MS, HS -OPTIONAL. Gina, Media Specialist

Patrick and the President by Ryan Tubridy - OPTIONAL

Tubridy, Ryan and P.J. Lynch Patrick and the President. PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2017. $16.99. Content: G. 

Its 1963 and President John F. Kennedy has announced he will be returning to his ancestral homeland, Ireland, for an official visit. A young schoolboy, Patrick, is beyond excited for the opportunity to possibly meet this famous man. His school sings at JFK's arrival, and later he serves the US President at a tea party. He gets to actually shake President Kennedy's hand, and that moment is a story his family holds tight to and tells about for years and years to come. 

This historical fiction picture book sticks closely to the actual story of President Kennedy's trip to Ireland, but the boy at the heart of the story--Patrick--is apparently entirely fictionalized. I think it would have been a better book had Patrick's story actually been true. The illustrations have a realistic look to them and there is a lot of text on every page--making this book a hard sell for any sort of read aloud or for younger readers. Even from a history standpoint, there is little here that could be used in a classroom setting. Kennedy's trip to Ireland happened, but outside of Ireland it’s not as compelling. I think this book will be appealing and popular to those who have Irish ancestry, and perhaps for those looking for an unique story about President Kennedy, but will have little general interest.

EL--OPTIONAL. Reviewer: TC

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Piper Morgan Joins the Circus by Stephanie Faris -- OPTIONAL

Faris, Stephanie Piper Morgan Joins the Circus, illustrated by Lucy Fleming. CHAPTER BOOK. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2016. $5.99. Content: G.

Eight-year-old Piper Morgan experiences a few coveted weeks at the circus while her mom works a temp job there. But how can Piper fulfill her dream of becoming a star performer if she keeps messing up the show?

The colorful cover and high-interest topic are likely to attract readers, and many will enjoy Piper's matter-of-fact voice. She does come across as rather self-centered much of the time, however, and it is difficult to truly have a stake in whether or not she finds lasting friendships because her mother's temporary position means they would have to move on soon anyway. Those who are easily embarrassed for characters may find some of Piper's in-ring mess-ups a bit painful. (I know I did.) Others may just find them entertaining and will appreciate perhaps that she eventually learns how to make the show go on despite disasters.

EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli – ESSENTIAL

Wiesner, David and Napoli, Donna Jo Fish Girl 185 pgs. Clarion, 2017. $25.00 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G GRAPHIC NOVEL.
Fish Girl is a young mermaid living in a boardwalk aquarium. “Neptune” has rescued her from the sea and keeps her safe in the aquarium, along with many other sea creatures. Her job is to flit through the scenes, giving people just a tiny hope they saw a mermaid and to collect the coins tourists throw in. Her only friend is Octopus. But one day a girl her age comes through and Fish Girl is spotted by her. Gradually they become friends, although Fish Girl can’t speak. The girl even gives her a name, Mira. Mira starts to see her home in a new way and gradually explores her environment and discovers that her god and her home are not what she thought, and there is a big and scary world to explore.
If you assumed the artwork would be great, given that David Wiesner was the illustrator, you would be correct, its just fantastic. Its extra large pages are filled with stunning artwork. The story itself is one of questioning the world around you, being curious, and friendship. I loved this graphic novel and I think student readers who are mermaid fans will as well. It is definitely a novel and is quite long, best for 4th grade and up.

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

Karl, Get out of the Garden! Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything by Anita Sanchez –ADVISABLE

Sanchez, Anita Karl, Get out of the Garden! Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything.  PICTURE BOOK.  47 pgs. Charlesbridge, 2017.  $17.99.  Content: G.
This is the picture book biography of Carolus Linnaeus, starting with his childhood in Sweden, his growing love of the outdoors, a kind teacher who suggested he study medicine so his parents would be appeased and Carolus could still study plants, his decision to make an order of the chaos of naming plants, animals, and insects, and his incredible hard work and contribution to science. Filled with illustrations and quotes.
This is a fantastic book for an introduction on the classification system, especially since it shows the reader how necessary its creation was, and what a big task. An upper elementary or middle school teacher could use this as a read-aloud before a unit. It’s a big long and complex for lower elementary though, despite its picture book format. The illustrations are not easily shared with a group and are sloppy and blurry, if it had better illustrations I would rate this book as Essential.

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

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story by Suzanne Slade –ADVISABLE

Slade, Suzanne Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story.  PICTURE BOOK.  20 pgs. Sleeping Bear Press, 2017.  $17.99.  Content: G.
A picture book biography of Anna Comstock, readers first learn about her early love for nature, her pursuit of education in science in a time where she was unique for attending college, her detailed drawings of insects, and especially her passion for educating children about nature which left a lasting contribution today. Filled with large, bright, watercolor illustrations. Readers can learn more about Anna’s life in the end notes.
This was a lovely book and would be nice read to show young girls that insects are just a ‘boy’ thing. It was be fascinating to pair this with Anna’s actual book and/or a lesson on science drawing. I am going to show this to our art teacher right away. Also great for a lesson on contributors to our modern day education system.

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