Friday, October 28, 2011
This is the story of three people in the same creepy sea side town; chapters and font type differentiating the three points of view. The first is in the past, a priest whose desire to find out what the afterlife holds is driving him to dabble in the dark side. In the present is Rebecca, she is new to town and is very sulky about it. Also in the present, is Ferelith –a smart girl with an interest in darkness, who is all alone in the world and has little or no boundaries. Their stories collide in a dark old building which is full of secrets, and bodies.
It’s the perfect time of year to read a creepy story, but I was disappointed. The priest chapters featured a ton of repeated religious blather that got old very quickly. It was tempting to skip over much of what he said and try to pick out continuing plot elements. The author failed to endear me to Rebecca, the one character who is most danger. I didn’t even feel like I knew her at all, so was unable to get that fear factor when it came time for her to be a part of the action. Without a character to care about, this story was total loss for me. I know that teens will relate to the angst that Rebecca exhibits, but even they will lose patience with her moody yet gullible ways. There was a point where this story was meant to come together in some profound way–but I never did grasp what the author intended.
MS, HS –NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
Santat, Dan. Sidekicks. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic) 2011. Hardcover: $24.99; Paperback: $12.99. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Language: G; Sexual Content: G; Violence: PG. Captain Amazing's weakness is not Kryptonite...it is a peanut allergy. When that peanut allergy makes him get hurt, Captain Amazing decides he needs a sidekick. This announcement causes great excitement among his pets at home because each one wants to be the captain's sidekick in order to spend more time with him. This causes a bit of pet rivalry. Which pet will be chosen? Or will an outsider become the sidekick? I loved this book. My wife loved this book. My children (ages 3 and 5) absolutely adored this book. They have had it read to them multiple times, and they still want more. For this review we had a copy with only a few pages in color, but we want to buy the color version because of how much we all love this book. The whole family can't wait for Dan Santat to write another book. It's great. Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL, MS - ESSENTIAL. Brent Smith, Reading Teacher
Williams, Marcia. Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs. Candlewick Press, 2011. $16.99. PICTURE BOOK. Marcia Williams is a veteran at writing and illustrating myths and retelling their stories in comic strip fashion. She has written about Shakespeare, Greek Mythology, Robin Hood, and others alike. Ancient Egypt retells the story of Egypt's pharaohs and its gods. It starts with Ra and goes on to tell about other gods--like Isis, Osiris, and Set. Pharaohs that the book mentions include Tut and the curse in his tomb and Cleopatra. This is a wonderful book. The illustrations and comic book style make it so that the stories are more memorable for readers, especially young ones. Greek mythology might be more common in our Western society, but Egyptian mythology has more mystique to it (and this book helps readers of all ages understand a brief overview of Egyptian mythology. This book is so good my wife and I wan to buy the other books by Ms. Williams. Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL. Brent Smith, Reading Teacher
Ray, Michelle Falling for Hamlet, 348 pgs. Little Brown and Company, 2011. $17.99 Language PG-13 (41 swears); Mature content-PG-13; Violence-PG-13; In a modern take on the timeless story of Hamlet, Ophelia is the main character and explains her love for Hamlet through a day-time television interview, an interrogation and a journal-like confession. This story closely follows the tragedy of Hamlet, with the main difference being that Ophelia never goes crazy, and fakes her death to escape Claudius. Entertaining and fast paced, this is a fun novel, but is too risqué for the classroom or for a teacher to require it as reading. HS-OPTIONAL. Reviewer, C. Peterson.
Moss, Marissa The Bravest Woman in America Illustrated by Andrea U’Ren. Tricycle Press, 2011. $16.99. PICTURE BOOK. Content-G. Ida was a young girl who loved the sea, so when her father became the keeper of the lighthouse, she was ecstatic. She went with her father in his rowboat whenever she could and learned through his stories how to handle emergencies and care for the lighthouse. When her father fell ill, she watched the sea for him and helped save four young boys whose ship capsized. As her parents aged, she eventually became the lighthouse keeper and saved many more lives. EL (K-3), EL & MS-ADVISABLE. Reviewer, C. Peterson.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Birdsall, Jeanne The Penderwicks at Point Moette, 295 pgs. Alfred A. Knopf New York, 2011. $16.99. Language G (0 swears), Sexual Content G; Violence G; The group of Penderwick sisters are off on another adventure, with Jeffery of course! Although Rosland is in New Jersey while the other three sisters are at Point Mouette with Aunt Claire. A crazy fun summer full of questions: will Skye survive as Oldest Avaiable Penderwick (OAP)? Will Jane fall in love with the mysterious skateboarder? And will Batty blow up? A cute story full of crazy turns. I loved how there was rateable siblings, the oldest trying to keep everything under control, the middle child wishing to be older, and the youngest always looking for fun! A great read full of sisterly love. EL ESSENTIAL Student Reviewer: Kylie Usher
Ultimate Weird But True, 185 p. National Geographic, 2011. $20.00. Kind of like the Guiness Book of World Records, but this book doesn’t limit itself to best, first, etc. In stead it is populated but full-color photos or illustrations on every page and an astonishing array of interesting, weird and intriguing facts. It is definitely the kind of book that kids will share and giggle over. EL, MS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher
Drew is a 13 year old girl that hasn’t made many meaningful connections in her life and everyday seems the same to her. While she does love going to her Mom’s cheese shop, it’s not hers. Her best friend is a rat named Hum. When she meets a mysterious boy named Emmett, who happens to love rats, she finally has a friend of her own. When Drew suspects her Mom is secretly dating someone, she is confused as to why her mom would keep this from her, and this creates a distance between them. When Emmett asks her to take a big leap by going on a journey, Drew must decide if its time to make her own decisions.
This is a great coming of age story, and since its set in the 1980’s –it is free from much of the modern day growing up too fast drama potential -cell phones, trampy clothes, and parties. It’s a wonderful story about connection, relationships, and independence. I think students will find Drew’s very natural evolution of thought and decision making processes right in line with what they are going through. The characters are realistic and memorable. The life lessons imparted are so subtle and well integrated that they are almost subliminal =(My perfect definition for sublime reading and right on for student readers).
Elementary –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
Mimi is a Chinese-Australian and she is having trouble reconciling that, and getting teased at school doesn’t help. She has very traditional parents that run an Chinese medicine shop. When her father forbids her from taking an art class, the art teacher gives Mimi a set of magical pastels. When she creates sidewalk art, people are drawn to it in droves, the magic of the Garden of Empress Cassia seems to create healing in those people who need it. When a classmate figures out what it going on, Mimi is going to need to face her fears if she wants to keep the magic from turning evil.
While I liked the Chinese cultural elements, this book was not a great read. First of all, Mimi’s problems are all solved for her through magic, which is a bit too convenient for my liking. This was a peeve for me in another book, see my review here. Her voice is also too young for the intended reader age group, so students will no doubt find it jarring as well. I thought she was like a 6 or 7 years old, until she was going on a lunch date with a boy from school. The way the Chinese legend plays out into real life is confusing as well, and I don’t think students will grasp it the way the author intended to convey it.
Elementary –NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
Kirby, Jessi Moonglass, 232 pgs. Simon &Schuster, 2011. $16.99. Language-PG-13 (34 swears), Sexual Content PG; Violence G; Anna did not want to leave her home that she had grown up in. She would miss the beach, her friends, and the memory of her mom, however her dad has convinced her to tear out those roots. When she moves into the beach side cottage she feels as if she already has some memories here, how can that be? Anna starts to put the pieces together with some help from a cute life guard. When she finds that her mother grew up in this quaint village how will she take it? This was a cute love story! I really liked how she didn't want to move in fear of loosing her memory of her mom to move to a place overflowing with her presence. A surprising find and a new piece of moonglass to add to any collection! MS ADVISABLE Student Reviewer: KU
Adams, Tom Super Science: Feel the Force! Illustrated by Thomas Flintham Templar Books, 2011. $18.99. PICTURE BOOK. Content-G. A pop-up and lift-the-flap book about science. Topics include: force, friction, floating, pressure, sound, light, electricity, and magnetism. Each page includes historical information about scientists or people who have experimented with the topic, an experiment that can be tried at home, and explanations of what the topic means. Great illustrations and fun facts about science. I think the pop up tags would be hard to keep intact in a library setting, but it’s a great book. EL-OPTIONAL. Reviewer, C. Peterson.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Perez, Ashley Hope. What Can(t) Wait 232 pgs. Carolrhoda Lab, 2011. Language: R (87 swears 8 "F") Sexual Content: R; Violence: PG-13
Marisa is seventeen years old and lives in Houston, Texas. She was raised always hearing of how her familia came from Mexico and that they had to work hard and that they still do. She is expected to get a job so that she can help pay for family expenses and then eventually marry a boy from the neighborhood, have children and have her daughters do the same. The only problem is, Marisa sees that there is more to her potential than that; she doesn't have to marry a man who will abuse her and treat her like chattel. Her calculus teacher opens her eyes to the possibility that the life her parents expect her to live isn't her only option. Marisa could get into a college for engineering and hopefully start a career. But all the pressure from work, studying, and trying to make a better life for her niece is overwhelming. Not Marisa's best friend or even her boyfriend Alan can reach her. Marisa starts thinking that there will be no way to get out, especially with a father who vehemently opposes the idea of her leaving. Can Marisa handle all of the pressure? Will anybody be able to get through to her? I enjoyed this book, granted there was a lot of swearing and sexual content, but there was a spark in the story that made me just want to keep on reading. I think that the author did a very good job on this book and had pinpoint accuracy on the struggles she faced being so realistic. HS - ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: EM
Gavin, Jamila Tales from India: Stories of Creation and the Cosmos, illustrated by Amanda Hall. Templar (Candlewick), 2011. $20. Gavin’s tellings and Hall’s paintings work together to create a beautiful new collection of Indian mythology. I am not well-versed in the mythos, so I had a great time reading and learning, without feeling overwhelmed. The stories would be accessible to any level, whether read out loud to an elementary, or used as part of the 9th grade Common Core. EL, MS, HS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher
Tharp, Tim Badd 308 pgs. Knopf, 2011. Language: PG-13 (34 swears and no "F" up to page 68) Violence: Pg-13; Sexual Content: PG-13. Ceejay is kind of a tomboy, she hangs out with the guys and can seriously throw a punch. But mainly she is known as Bobby's kid sister. Bobby was a charming bad boy who would stick up for the underdog when he needed to but still liked to live on the wild side. Ceejay was expected to follow her example and be the protector if she needed to. But one day she swears she sees Bobby in the passenger seat of some girls car. Generally not a problem, right? Usually yes, but Bobby is supposed to be overseas fighting. Could that really have been Bobby in the car? and if it was, why didn't he come home and visit? I could not get very far into this book at all. It was full of swearing, drugs, alcohol, fighting and partying. I generally finish a book when I start it but this one just was not doing it for me. I would suggest this to HS age, if you were going to try and read it, but overall a NO because I would not recommend it. NOT RECOMMENDED. Student Reviewer: EM
McMahon, Peter. Machines of the Future: Space Tourism. Illustrated by Andy Mora Kids Can Press, 2011.$16.95 PICTURE BOOK. Content-G. This book explains how space is becoming available to travel, even if you aren’t a scientist. The book explains space hotels and what life is like on the International Space Station. It describes what eventually could happen with space travel. Among the descriptions are experiments to help readers understand different elements of space travel, including captions from different space travelers. Great illustrations and fun experiments make this an educational read as well as a hands-on guide to space travel. EL-OPTIONAL. Reviewer, C. Peterson.
Vanessa is an eclectic and funky artist –whose style reflects her colorful ways. She can’t wait to start living a more grown up life and getting a job at a local art supply store is a great start. When she starts to press some of her life views on her best friends, she must come to terms with fact that her mindset might be a little wrong. When she starts to hang out with an older guy –she might have a few more life lessons to learn.
This book is a few months of Vanessa’s life –and it felt short. Students may like how funky Vanessa is and the mistakes she makes. But students will not like overt life lessons, which instantly removes the potential for an authentic teen voice and reveals an adult writer (talking down to them).
HS – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
Everyone has heard of Anastasia, the Russian royal who is rumored to have escaped the slaughter of her entire family. But what was she like? This book attempts to bring us historically accurate fiction of not only Anastasia’s last years, but those of her family. It shows us what their life was like while at the height of power and what follows when the curtain of war and revolution descends. The story is presented from the alternating viewpoints of each the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas: Olgan, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia.
I was excited to read this well-researched book and have the players come to life in a way that I could not imagine on my own. But I was disappointed. There are more characters than I can count, many with nicknames, so its positively overwhelming. The author chose to include a wide variety of Russian words, no doubt to add to the setting/feel of old Russia, but most were used out of direct context, forcing me to use the lengthy dictionary/list at the start of the book too often. The four sister alternating viewpoints didn’t work out that great either –as the characters were too similar and they all blurred into one voice. Although I knew the inevitable tragedy was coming, the author failed to connect me to the characters enough for me to dread or even grieve for their impending doom.
HS – NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The story doesn't match the song verbatim so there will have to be some improv, but you can't help but sing along as you get pulled into this bright, vibrant story. The illustrations are just as hoppy and happy as the text. EL(K-3)-ESSENTIAL. Whitney, Library-Teacher.
Sweet story about friendship with winsome watercolor illustrations. The two page layout heightens the effect of the illustrations. EL-ESSENTIAL. Whitney, Library-Teacher.
Perhaps I am off the beat, but this story fell flat for me. It was too cumbersome to read and the rhythm didn't flow well. The text was way too long to keep the interest of young kids and I'm not sure how an older audience would take to it. Great illustrations but poor story. EL-OPTIONAL. Whitney, Library-Teacher.
Kate is a semi-geek who is the assistant trainer (medical help) for the football team at her high school. When the coach does some health boosting injections, Kate is mad. While she tries to figure out what’s in the mystery vials, she realizes that whatever it is, its not good news. Its worse than Steroids, and with much worse side effects..like turning the recipients into Zombies. After she gets bit, but doesn’t seem to come down with the whole Zombie virus, Kate knows she might be the only one who can stop the spread of this now communicable condition. Throw in a crush, a loyal brother, and a bunch of hungry zombies!
This was a fun and creative book!! You are right there with the interesting character of Kate as she faces danger! Students will love the blood and gore, as well as the fast pace and popular topic. While some of the descriptions are downright gruesome, its tame in other areas –so exceptionally safe for a school library.
MS, HS – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
Three very different girls come together each summer at an exclusive summer camp in Switzerland. Ingrid is an outspoken and eclectic rebel. Vivien is sweet girl who wants to be good cook and loves to eat. Shirin is an Iranian princess who is having a hard time understanding the other girls and making connections. They have complex histories and personalities. Switching viewpoints, the book allows us to see the events of the summers and their personal lives through the unique perspective of each of the three girls. Just like sisters, they fight, experience life, grow apart, and grow up.
These girls are going through typical teen issues, but the sexual issues are graphic enough to make this book a public only read. I really liked that the author made both the story and characters multidimensional and tried to weave the stories to come together in surprising ways –yet despite this the story lacked heart for me. I didn’t ever fully connect with any of the characters or care about them, and I never felt that the bond between them was genuine. Optional for Public only.
HS – PUBLIC ONLY Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
A graphic novel adaptation of the first novel in the book series. Apparently Rose and Lissa have run away from the academy prior to this storyline, and here we find them caught and brought back to the vampire training academy/school. While Rose is only technically in training to protect Lissa, their years on the run have made it her self-appointed duty. They have an almost mystical bond. When Lissa goes missing, her mortal yet vampiric life may be on the line, so Rose must use their bond to try to rescue her.
As a stand alone graphic novel, this story does not work for me at all. Despite the fact that it may mirror the book plot, this strongly felt like the second book in a series. I also think the assumption is made that the reader has previously read the book series –because it seemed sparse. Although the artwork is fun, I only recommend if the Vampire Academy book series is already popular at your school. (Note: there is a near nude make-out scene depicted in detail).
HS – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.
Monday, October 24, 2011
DeVillers, Julia Liberty Porter, First Daughter: New Girl in Town, 190 p. Simon, 2010. $6. Content: G. Liberty’s dad has been President of the USA for a week and Liberty is heading out for her first day at a brand new school. A new school in the middle of the year is hard enough, but as the First Daughter? Challenges can abound. Liberty Porter is pretty cute. She’s a good book for a young reader who is moving out of chapter books. EL – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher.
Metzger, Steve Detective Boy Blue, illustrated by Tedd Arnold. Orchard (Scholastic), 2011. $17. PICTURE BOOK. Little Boy Blue has become Detective Blue as he solves mysteries and collars bad boys all over his city. When Miss Muffet goes missing, Blue is on the case in a flash. While kids may enjoy this picture book just for its wackiness, if you make sure they know the nursery rhymes first, they will enjoy it even more. Dozens of classics are referenced in Tedd Arnold’s bright illustrations, too. What a great pairing. EL – ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher.
Crowther, Robert Amazing Pop-up Trucks. Candlewick, 2011. $18. POP-UP BOOK. Vroom, vroom! Truck crazy little boys will be jumping all over this wonderful pop-up book. Five awe-inspiring vehicles are in 3D, with plenty of supplemental information to keep them reading. Ready your pocket books for gift-giving! GIFT, EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher.
Zalben, Jane Breskin Four Seasons 318 pgs. Knopf, 2011 Language: PG (1 swear, no "F") Sexual Content: G; Violence: G
Allegra Katz, Ally for short, was born to a famous violinist father, and an amazing opera singer mother. She is 13 years old and has been playing piano since she was four; but she doesn't take any ordinary piano lessons, she studies at the Julliard School where she will hopefully get good enough to get to the big shots. Ally starts liking a boy, but with her busy practice and school schedule never has time to do anything with him or her best friend. She goes to a music camp for the summer where she rooms with a 16 year old girl named Emma. Emma is nice to Ally and teats her like an older sister would, but Ally and Emma get in a fight and Ally starts to realize that maybe piano isn't her passion anymore. She feels so overwhelmed by her teacher Ms. Pringle and she doesn't know how much longer she'll make it. But with two parents that are musicians she feels like she'd be letting them down if she quit. Ally torn between her feelings doesn't know how much longer she can handle the pressure. It's overbearing. I really enjoyed this book, a few parts were a little slow but it was good. MS - ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: EM
Krull, Kathleen Big Wig: A Little History of Hair, illustrated by Peter Malone. Levine (Scholastic), 2011. $19. Fascinated with hair? So is Kathleen Krull. A lot of real history, a little bit tongue-in-cheek. Together with Malone’s illustrations they make for a fun way to learn about hair – including some “extensions”. What a fun look at hair. Illustrations and text mesh perfectly. Even if it isn’t actual curriculum, kids will giggle their way through. And a great gift idea for your favorite hairdresser! EL, MS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher.
Rosen, Michael J. Night of the Pumpkinheads, carvings by Hugh McMahon. Dial (Penguin), 2011. $17. PICTURE BOOK. The pumpkins in the patch are sick and tired of their jack-o-lantern faces and want to be really creative this Halloween, coming up with their own creative costumes and trying to scare the children. Hugh McMahon obviously loves carving pumpkins, because he has created a treasure of awesome pumpkin-ness. And Michael Rosen is no slouch at plotting a creative way to show off McMahon’s work. EL (K-3) – ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher.
Franklin, Emily and Halpin, Brendan The Half-Life of Planets 247 pgs. Hyperion, 2010. Language: R (37 Swears 3 "F"). Liana is a pretty high school girl who aspires to be a planetary scientist. But she has the bad rep of being a slut. This she learns when a note with that dreaded four-lettered word appeared in her locker one day. To prove that she isn't she will abstain from kissing, which seems so easy until she meets a boy named Hank. But Hank isn't like any of the other boys she's kissed. He isn't the lead singer in a band, or the popular jock. He is funny when he doesn't mean to be and is socially awkward. Liana doesn't know why he's like this until she learns that he has Asperger's Syndrome. But they do have one thing in common, they both are very passionate about something, Liana: Planetary Science and Hank: Music. As their friendship grows and possibly develops into something more can Hank work on not scaring her away by being awkward? and can Liana keep from kissing? I really enjoyed this book, it felt like something you'd see in high school and was very realistic. HS - ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: EM
Wood, Douglas Franklin and Winston: A Christmas that Changed the World, illustrated by Barry Moser. Candlewick, 2011. $17. NON-FICTION, PICTURE BOOK. While Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had met and even exchanged many calls and messages, they had never had a chance to meet as friends and be together until the Christmas of 1941 – Britain was already deep into WWII and Pearl Harbor had been bombed just two weeks earlier. Together the two leaders convinced America that now was the time to enter the war and back it fully. While I understand the author’s interest in the subject, I am having a hard visualizing the audience of this picture book. It is hard to convince high school teachers to use picture books already, and there isn’t really anything dynamic enough in here to excite their students. And this won’t work for an elementary school – not even considering the picture of Churchill draped with a towel as he exits the tub – the subject matter just doesn’t fit. The illustrations are well done and the material is interesting – but only for someone who cares deeply about Roosevelt, Churchill or WWII. NOT RECOMMENDED. Cindy, Library Teacher.
Wing, Natasha. Wummer, Amy. The Night Before Preschool, 32 pgs. Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin), 2011. $3.99. Outside cover: “Twas the night before preschool, alarm clocks were set. All the children were cuddling their favorite plush pet… One little boy has a slight case of jitters. But it sure doesn’t take long before he realizes just how much fun it is at his brand-new school!” If you have never read one of Wing’s “The Night Before” books, you are missing out. These award winning books following the classic Christmas story, The Night Before Christmas. We loved this story line, as well as the illustrations. Unfortunately, it would only be applicable to Preschool age children, therefore I had to give it an OPTIONAL rating. But don’t hesitate to check out her other books in this series! Baby-Preschool. OPTIONAL. Reviewer: SL.
Seibold, J. Otto. Count Dagmar! (Board Book), 20 pgs. Chronicle Books, 2011. $8.99. Back cover, “Dagmar is getting ready for a party, and all his friends will be there! Help him count fuzzy bats, silly monsters, friendly ghosts, and –his favorite- candy!” This is a great lift-the-flap board book. It could be used in a unit on counting, or on Halloween. The illustrations are bright and bold. We enjoyed this book! Pre-K. EL (K-3). ADVISABLE. Reviewer: SL.
Fruchter, Jason. Ni Hoa, Kai-Lan: Roller Rintoo! 24 pgs. Golden Books, 2010. $3.99. Rintoo loves adventure! He wants to be the fastest skater in the roller rink- but he has never skated before. He turns to his friends Kai-lan and Hoho for help. With the help of his friends, will he finally succeed at learning to skate? We enjoyed this book. The illustrations are fabulous. My son remembers watching these characters on Nickelodeon and thought this book was fun and cute. This book would be most appropriate for little ones, possibly preschool age. Pre-K. OPTIONAL. Reviewer: SL.
Nickelodeon, Wonder Pets Flyboat Adventures (Board Book), 8 pgs. Simon & Schuster, 2010. $5.99. The Wonder Pets are on an adventure to save a Baby Blowfish under the sea, a Baby Chimp in outer space, a Baby Rabbit underground and a Baby Chicken on top of a barn! In order to rescue all their friends, they transform their Flyboat into a Flysub, a Spaceboat, a Diggerboat, and a Balloonboat. This board book has movable cardboard wheels that will excite little ones while reading. Although a great board book, this book is probably not applicable to school libraries or classroom. (The photo shows plastic wheels. This version has cardboard wheels). Baby. Pre-K. OPTIONAL. Reviewer: SL.