Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Forbidden by Syrie James - ESSENTIAL


James, Syrie and James, Ryan M. Forbidden, 410. Harper Teen, 2012. $8.99 Language PG-13(50 swears), Sexual Content G; Violence PG; Claire has finally settled in at her new school and is silently praying that her mom will find some reason to stay put. Claire loves it here, she loves her school and friends and when a new guy shows up she wants to stay even more desperately than before. When Alec arrives at school he plans on just blending in and making no strong connections with anyone. That was his plan until he saw Claire. When the two find out who each really is angel and half angel, their love explodes but they must keep is a secret. How can they do that though when everyone is after Clair's life pushing Alec to try to protect her. But how far is too far? 

Forbidden is a wonderfully amazing story that I absolutely adore. A love story that explodes off the page making me and all other readers unable to exit this world that we've been transported into. An ending that laves readers itching for more. MS HS - ESSENTIAL. Student Reviewer: KU

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard - ADVISABLE


Hubbard, Jenny Paper Covers Rock, 181 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2011. $16.99. Language PG-13 (34 swears), Mature Content PG; Violence PG; After Thomas' death his friends try coping in several different ways. This friend has decided to put to use the journal his father bought him years ago. Telling the story slowly in his own point of view mixed in with flash backs to who his friend was, even talking about common everyday things like classes helps the unnamed writer who is Thomas' friend. But then the writer finds himself crushing hard on his English teacher, and cursing himself because he knows that she might just know too much. 

A tragic story that is complex. Hubbard keeps it interesting by sharing little by little the story. A shocking story that could be classified easily as a drama. I also liked how the book was from a very blunt guy's point of view. It was interesting to read in this different point of view. HS - ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: KU

Bubble in the Bathtub by Jo Nesbo - ADVISABLE


Nesbo, Jo Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder: Bubble in the Bathtub, 425 pgs. Aladdin, 2011. $15.99. Language G (0swears), Sexual Content G; Violence PG; Doctor Proctor sends Lisa and Nilly a postcard asking for the two friends to help him save his love in the past. They are asked to get the time traveling soap and come help him change history, but that is easier said than done. When these three fiends travel through time they change history all over the place and find two unexpected friends. 

A interesting story that has simplified the idea of time travel to easily captivate kids so that they can understand the concept too. Wonderfully funny and just as exciting a love story for boys as it is for girls. With all the pictures giving this chapter book a picture book feel it is a great book for children transitioning between the two. EL - ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: KU

How to Die of Embarrassment Every Day by Ann Hodgman - OPTIONAL


Hodgman, Ann How to Die of Embarrassment Every Day, 208 pgs. Henry Holt, 2011. $16.99.  Language G(0swears), Sexual Content G; Violence G; Ann, an girl who has lived a very interesting life, discloses her embarrassing moments in this story. All about toys that were cool and adventures she had playing outside, about growing up and experiencing new things. Funny stories punctuated by pictures from Ann's childhood. To tie it up she includes instruction on how to avoid the situations that have been told in her own autobiography. 

I thought it was filled with only a few embarrassing stories and a bunch of just normal stories. Not very funny, and kind of a let down. You wanna hear about embarrassing stories try my life. Disappointed with how the title and short disclosure of the story prepared me for moments of embarrassment but the book was clean out of any of those stories. EL - OPTIONAL. Student Reviewer: KU

The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges - NO


Bridges, Robin The Gathering Storm, 400 p. Delacorte (Random), 2012.  $20.  Katerina Alexandrovna may be a spoiled princess, sailing through the halls of 1880 Russian nobility, but no one knows that she can also raise the dead.  Katerina longs to be part of the light court, but if she uses her powers, she will come under more and more influence of the dark, so she refuses to ever use them,  Until one night she stops a plot of the evil Montenegrin’s to control the Crown Prince – and reveals her powers to the wrong people.  Now she is stuck in a power struggle between the two sides, with the throne of Russia and perhaps the future of the entire world hanging in the balance.  

Katerina is the same ineffective, passive princess that made Bella so irritating in the long run, but her shortcomings are even more evident.  When the prince of the Montenegrin’s uses blackmail to claim her as his bride, her brilliant excuse to delay the marriage is “My parents won’t allow me to marry before my birthday”.  Really?  When the evil vampire Montenegrins kidnap her at sweep her away to their dark castle to use her in some dark ritual, she pins all of her hopes of escape that her Maman is sure to have some kind of temper tantrum or hissy fit over something (not the fact that they kidnapped her) which will allow Katerina to leave their clutches.  By the end I threw the book against the wall in disgust.  This vapid attempt at a supernatural romance I can do well without.  NOT RECOMMENDED. Cindy, Library Teacher

The Hot List by Hillary Homzie - ESSENTIAL


Homzie, Hillary The Hot List, 244 pgs. Mix, 2011. $6.99. Language G(0swears), Sexual Content G; Violence G; Sophie and Maddie thought it'd be just a fun quick thing that wouldn't last for more than a day two at most. The Hot List however, had other ideas. After one afternoon of writing up a hot list together on a bathroom stall at school Sophie thought she and Maddie would now be inseparable like never before. Before Sophie could blink the Hot List had spun out of control turning already crazy middle school into even more of a place of popularity contests. Now loosing Maddie is more of a reality than ever, but can Sophie stop the Hot List? 

A funny overexaggeration of middle school that is a refreshing view on how fickle popularity is in reality. Makes me glad that my middle school years weren't like Sophie's. Wonderfully demonstrates how groups can be created and changed. Very funny. EL, MS - ESSENTIAL. Student Reviewer: KU

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol -OPTIONAL

Brosgol, Vera Anya’s Ghost, 224 pgs. First Second, 2011. $10.87. (Language PG; Violence-PG ; Sexual Content-PG).
Anya is a normal teen girl –kind of unhappy with everything –her body, her friends, her lovelife, her family… When she falls into an old empty well, an unexpected friend helps to save her life. This new friend is a bit off-putting, since she is a ghost. At first she seems pretty helpful, but her help starts to become kind of ominous.
Overall I found this book to be humdrum and drab. While it was quite readable with simple characters and plots, it was so linear that it came off as boring. The artwork was monotone and plain, so very basic that it might have some trouble competing with more innovative graphic novels. I think teens would read this but its not a must have, by any stretch.
MS, HS –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - ADVISABLE


Rossi, Veronica Under the Never Sky, 384 p. HarperCollins, 2012.  $18.  Language: G (1 swear); Violence: PG (knife fight); Mature Content: G.  For  300 years, domed cities have kept a very small part of Earth’s remaining population safe, letting them lead lives of indolence as they hook into the Realm and play out entire lifetimes through digital interaction.  For 300 years, Aether has contaminated the air above Earth and Perry and his people have eked out their existence in the Outside, under these dangerous skies – skies which have changed them in strange ways.  When Aria angers the very important father of one of her acquaintances, she finds herself cast out of her dome home and into the Outside.  Reluctantly Perry takes Aria along with him as he deals with problems of his own – cast out of his own group, searching for his nephew who has been taken by the Dwellers.  

It too bad this book only has a picture of Aria on the cover – it is as much or more Perry’s story and would attract a larger audience if it weren’t so gender specific.  At least she’s not wearing a dress!  Another post-apocalypse book, but still well constructed and deserving to be read.  MS, HS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher

The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone - ESSENTIAL


Stone, Tanya Lee The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us, 123 pgs. Viking, 2010. $19.99. Language G(0swears), Sexual Content G; Violence G; Ever thought really about how Barbie was a part of your childhood, or how she's changed you? Well Tanya has, Starting with the creator of Barbie all the way to Barbie today. 

A riveting story telling a popular doll's history as well as addressing the Barbie debate. With great quotes and points this book will have you deciding on your side in this on going argument. Eye opening to how your childhood might have differed had Barbie been nonexistent. HS, MS - ESSENTIAL. Student Reviewer: KU

Following Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci - ADVISABLE


Plum-Ucci, Carol Following Christopher Creed, 416 p. Houghton Mifflin, 2011.  $17.  Language: R (80 swears, 10 ‘f’), Mature Content: PG-13.  Christopher Creed has been gone for five years, but a body has been found in the woods near his old hometown.  Mike Mavic has been following the story on Torey Adams’ blog since the beginning and now he has been drawn to Steepleton.  Instead of a definitive end to Chris’ story, what he finds is a town in crisis.  There is more than one dead body, but there is more human wreckage – wreckage of heart and soul – strewn all over Steepleton.  

Plum-Ucci’s follow-up is as intriguing as the first, but much darker and disturbing.  This would be a good one for fans of the first to read a couple of years AFTER.  HS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher

Bloodlines by Richelle - ESSENTIAL


Mead, Richelle Bloodlines, 421 pgs. Razor Bill, 2011. $18.99. Language-PG (12 swears, 0 "F"), Sexual Content-G; Violence-PG-13; Alchemists have the job of keeping the life of Morois and Dhampirs aka vampires and their guardians secret to the humans. So when Sydney's father wakes her up in the early morning she know that a job is in store for her. Hoping this means that they have forgiven her for helping out Dhampir Rose, she rushes downstairs. However little does she know, this assignment will prove harder than expected to prove her allegiance to the Alchemists. Now having to live with the new Moroi queen Lissa Dragomir's little sister, Sydney finds that its easy to blur the lines between doing her job and actually caring for this girl that she has been put in charge of. With this hard assignment, how will Sydney prove her faith fullness to the all important Alchemists. 

I loved this book and how well it connects to Mead's recently finished Vampire Academy. With all of the favorite characters from the past story its perfect for those who are just itching for more of Rose and her friends. I'm amazed at how different everything is viewed through this character's point of view. Refreshing and a wonderful way to travel back into an old story in a new way. MS HS ESSENTIAL Student Reviewer: KU

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fallen in Love by Lauren Kate - ESSENTIAL


Kate, Lauren Fallen in Love, 200 p. Delacorte Press, 2011.  $16.  Content: G.  Of all of the Valentine’s Days that have passed since Lucinda and Daniel have been on their eternal quest, there has only ever been one where the two of them have been together, knowing each other, and able to love – but it will take Shelby, Miles, Arianne and Roland to make it work.  There is more than one set of hearts involved in this Valentine novella.  

Kate has written a very nice intermediate novel as we all anxiously await summer and the publication of book #4 in the Fallen series.  Your girls will love it.  MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

A You’re Adorable by Martha Aexander - ADVISABLE


Alexander, Martha. A You’re Adorable Candlewick Press, 1994. $6.99. Content G- BOARD/PICTURE book.  This ABC book is based on a “popular” song from the 1940s,  although I cannot place the song. It’s a cute board book with lots of fun illustrations. PRE-K - ADVISABLE. Shauna, reading teacher.

Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer - PUBLIC


Easer, Katherine Vicious Little Darlings, 310 pgs.Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2011. $16.99. Language-R (66 Swears, 41 "F"s), Sexual Content-PG-13; Violence-PG-13; When Sarah's grandmother sends her to an all girl college for having sex with her current boyfriend, Sarah can't think of anything worse. That is until she finds that her roommate, Maddie, claims she is going to die young, and Maddie's friend Agnes is scarily possessive. Somehow Sarah finds herself caught up with these two strange girls, finding that they have turned into her friends. But now that she is living with these two girls in their own house she finds that they might be even more weird and dangerous than she originally thought. Add a boy into the mix and its easy to tell that Sarah is going to find out what happens when friendships turn for the worse and become the desire to kill. 

A scary thriller, with shocking turns and events, Easer has created a fearful life that sends chills down the spines of all readers. A story that has readers guessing whats next and finding that things are not what they expected them to be. Skillfully written to give warnings that urge predictions that turn out to be right in the most unexpected ways. PUBLIC ONLY. Student Reviewer: KU

Trains Go by Steve Light - ADVISABLE

Light, Steve. Trains Go Chronicle Books, 2012. $8.99. Content G- BOARD/PICTURE BOOK. The shape of the book adds to the fun of it. It’s about 12”x6” so opened it’s 24” long! Each page shows a different type of train along with the sound it makes. This a great book for train lovers, and teachers that want to expose their students to onomatopoeia for the first time. PRE-K, EL - ADVISABLE. Shauna, reading teacher.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews –ESSENTIAL FOR PUBLIC ONLY

Andrews, Jesse Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, 304 pgs. Harry N. Abrams, 2012 (March). $11.17. (Language-R (Swear count: I gave up after 100 and some are too creative to categorize, Violence-PG; Sexual Content-R)
Greg is a high school senior who has survived and thrived on a complex set of social rules –that include skirting the edges of all the social groups. Greg loves films and has been making his own for years with his friend Earl. He hates all the films they have made and no one else is allowed to see them. When Greg’s mom forces him to reacquaint himself with a girl named Rachel, because she has leukemia, he has to start breaking all his rules.
That is a pathetic description of a wildly entertaining book that is one of my new all time favorite books. I will be buying all books by this author. It went beyond accurately portraying a main characters world view –I felt like I was in Greg’s head –and it was a fun place to be. It was: laugh out loud, read excerpts to friends, relive and laugh some more, downright FUNNY. Did I mention that it was whitty and interesting and unique? I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that it’s probably not appropriate for most school libraries. But that being said –I think it a must have for public libraries!
HS – ESSENTIAL FOR PUBLIC ONLY Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

The Sharp Time by Mary O’Connell –NOT RECOMMENED

O’Connell, Mary The Sharp Time, 240 pgs. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2011. $11.98. (Language-PG13 Swear Total: 6, Violence-PG13; Sexual Content-PG)
After the death of her mother, 18yo Sandinista Jones is very much alone. Although her day to day life is stable –she owns her home and a car and has enough money to pay the bills, her personal life is a shambles –she is utterly alone. When a teacher at her school is “mean” to her, Sandinista stops going to school, gets a job at her favorite clothing store, and contemplates revenge.
Flat out –this book was a chore to read. It was “overly artistic” - never thought I would say that- via a plethora of descriptive words, maybe trying to show us Sandinistas unique world view but the result was just uninspiring and irritating. I detested her obsession with the school teacher that was mean to her. It filled nearly half the book. It was worse than reading a teen’s obsession with a member of the opposite sex –because the teacher was boring and wasn’t even that evil. At one point I swore that if she mentioned her again, I would throw the book across the room. But then I remembered I was a mature adult book reviewer that needed to read the whole thing –but I don’t think teens will have a problem pitching this book after the first few chapters.
HS – NOT RECOMMENED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald - ESSENTIAL


Greenwald, Tommy Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading, 220 p. Roaring Brook, 2011.  Charlie Joe, middle schooler,  is desperate to never read a book from cover-to-cover.  The lengths that he will go to in order to avoid reading are outrageous and legendary.  If you have an aversion to laughing, you’d better not get this book.  It begs to be read out-loud to the nearest person you can find to listen – even total strangers! EL, MS – ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

10 Valentine Friends by Janet Schulman - OPTIONAL


Schulman, Janet. 10 Valentine Friends. Alfred A, Knopf, 2011 $8.99. Content G-PICTURE BOOK.. This counting book is bases on the valentine/love theme. It shows how not just lovers can celebrate the holiday, but the entire neighborhood. The pictures are bright and colorful. OPTIONAL for HOME/FAMILY use.  Shauna, reading teacher.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson - OPTIONAL


Pearson, Joanna  The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills 224 pages Scholastic, 2011. $16.99 Content: Language: PG-13 (16 swears; 13 God); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.  Janice is a Junior in high school and is a self-proclaimed anthropologist.  Her observations about fellow classmates seem to be factual to her, until her best friends point out to her that she is overly critical and maybe her observations are judgmental.  Janice has a change of heart after a boy she liked ends up being mean to her and she fights with her best friend.  In the end it was interesting, but my biggest complaint is the author seemed to be writing a middle school novel and then half way through it turned very high school with some mature content.  HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin - ESSENTIAL


Zevin, Gabrielle  All These Things I’ve Done  354 pages  Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011.  $16.99  Content:  Language: PG-13 (14 swears, no “F”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  Anya is the daughter of the former mob boss, living in a time where chocolate and coffee are illegal and water is rationed, e-mails charge postage and violence is rampant.   She has an older brother who has learning disabilities and a younger sister who depends on Anya for everything.  With a family situation where she is the unrecognized guardian she pulls a lot of weight for a teenager.  While caring for her family, she has to deal with the extended family members who are part of the mob and she also falls in love with the DA’s son.  I enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down.  I thought it was a fresh take on dystopian society and the characters where engaging.  HS-ESSENTIAL.  Reveiwer, C. Peterson.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The whole story of half a girl by Veera Hiranandani –OPTIONAL

Hiranandani, Veera The whole story of half a girl, 224 pgs. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012. $12.67. (Language-G, Violence-G, Sexual Content-G).
Sonia is a sixth grader navigating public school for the first time, having been to a fun alternative school for the rest of her education. Everything is different. She even starts to feel uncomfortable about her heritage for the first time (she’s half Jewish and half India Indian). At home, there are many changes too. Her father lost his job and is depressed, while her mother seems worried and stressed. Sonia tries to find her way through the changes.
The voice of Sonia is very juvenile, she seems years younger than she is supposed to be. For example I found it hard to buy into a 12 year old with half Indian heritage questioning if they are “black”. It seems like a question a much younger child would be asking of their parents. I think there are a lot of great tidbits to be found here, such as the ambiguity of friendship, and understanding your own parents. But I think the presentation of the book is muddled enough that student readers would be bored and miss most of the possible lessons.
ELEMENTARY – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

Who Am I? by Gervase Phinn-ESSENTIAL

Phinn, Gervase. Who Am I?  illustrated by Tony Ross.  $16.95.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  A baby chameleon has just hatched and finds himself alone in the middle of the jungle.  He doesn’t wait long before he sets off to find out who he is and where he belongs.  He confronts a variety of jungle animals on his quest.  Each jungle animal is beautifully illustrated in bold colors.  From giraffes to cheetahs, each jungle animal shares their distinct and unique character trait to the young chameleon.  There is excitement and suspense at the end of the story that will have children begging for more.  This book would be perfect in a unit on colors, jungle animals or families.  We loved this book!  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer:  SL. 

A Leaf Can Be... by Laura Purdie Salas- ADVISABLE

Purdie Salas, Laura.  A Leaf Can Be…, illustrated by Violeta Dabija.  $17.95.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  This rhyming book explores the many roles that leaves play in nature.  From “snake concealer” to “rain stopper” the illustrations and simple words explore the world of leaves.  We enjoyed the illustrations and the variety of uses in this book. Some of the animals and characters are absolutely adorable!  The book ends with, “A leaf is a leaf- a bit of a tree.  Now go and discover what else it can be!”  Obviously teachers could use this to further student imagination and discovery of leaves and their uses. Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL. 

Maudie and Bear by Jan Ormerod- OPTIONAL

Ormerod, Jan. Maudie and Bear, illustrated by Freya Blackwood.  $16.99.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is a book with five stories starring Maudie and Bear.  Maudie is an adorable little girl.  Bear is her best friend.  These stories explore the two enjoying bike rides, making snacks, mending differences, and sharing quality time together.  There is one story that is a take-off from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  The illustrations are quaint and memorable.  For that alone the book is worth reading.  Some stories were tender and memorable, other were not.  We didn’t like how bossy Maudie could be.  She obviously represents young toddlers, but Bear’s unwavering devotion to Maudie isn’t realistic.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

The Lost Dog: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi- OPTIONAL


Carnesi, Monica.  Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic. $15.99.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is a true story of a dog that was rescued after traveling seventy-five miles for two days on the Baltic Sea. This lost dog is found floating on sheets of ice and is finally rescued by the crew of R/V Baltica.  It is a heartwarming account of this brave dog’s adventure and the crew members who eventually found him.  We liked the story. However, we didn’t like that the author called him “Dog” instead of “the dog” or by his real name, “Baltic”.  We realize that he wasn’t named until after his rescue, but calling him “Dog” made the story somewhat impersonal and more difficult to read.  The illustrations are unique and exciting.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  EL.  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

The Loopy Coop Hens: Pip's Trip by Janey Morgan Stoeke-ADVISABLE

Stoeke, Janet Morgan.  The Loopy Coop Hens: Pip’s Trip.   $16.99.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  Midge, Pip and Dot live on Loopy Coop Farm.  They are tired of their routine lives and want to see the real world.  They make a plan to hide in the back of the farmer’s truck and see where he goes every day.  The plan is for them to go together, but on the day of their big adventure, Pip suddenly realizes she is alone!  She no longer want to see the world, but it is too late.  The engine starts up and Pip quickly closes her eyes.  Where will she go?  What adventures will she have?  This is a fun filled book that will keep preschoolers on the edge of their seats and have them laughing in the end!  The illustrations are large and colorful.  The words are simple and easy to understand.  Pre-K.  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer:  SL. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The vanishing game by Kate Kae Myers –NOT RECOMMENDED

Myers, Kate Kae The vanishing game, 368 pgs. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2012. $11.35. (Language-PG Violence: PG; Sexual Content-PG13).
Jocelyn’s world come’s tumbling down when her twin brother dies. Jack was everything to her, what kept her going through their sad childhood and many foster homes. When she gets a mysterious letter from him, she knows she will do whatever it takes to figure out the puzzle he is trying to get her solve. Jocelyn enlists the help of an old friend, a fellow foster care kid, Noel. They are let on a wild goose chase that forces Jocelyn to revisit her past and both of them to be placed in grave danger.
This is one of those books that really grabs you and keeps you reading, and then disappoints with its ending. I think the multiple layers of mystery, and the life replays were incredible, but again overshadowed and ruined by the ending. (Spoiler Alert:) The ending was overcomplicated and had a supernatural element which was totally unnecessary and down right stupid. There is such a thing as combining too many genres and this author chose to use it to detriment. I would almost equate this read to a story where you find out it was all a dream, I think teens would find it just as much a disappointing cop-out as I did.
MS, HS– NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

My awful popularity plan by Seth Rudetsky –ADVISABLE

Rudetsky, Seth My awful popularity plan, 224pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2011. $11.98. (Language-PG13 (Use of the word Fag) Violence: G; Sexual Content-PG13).
What Justin would really like is to be more popular and to date Chuck, the captain of the football team. These are lofty goals for a short, nerdy, hardly noticed gay teen who likes Broadway. Justin accidentally stumbles into a situation where his dreams seem to be taking off. But to reach them, Justin must travel far from his real self: dating a girl, ignoring his best friend, and even doing Chucks homework. Will Justin find the courage to be the real Justin?
I really enjoyed this book. It is a light-hearted look at life in high school, which features a much neglected main character –a typical gay teen boy. It was self-deprecating with about being angsty. Funny without being too silly. Trendy without dating itself. I feel like the author really provided his main character with an authentic voice. The only issue for a school library might be the repetitive use of the word Fag. If that is considered a swear word at your school, this book is out. If not, I think that this book provides a great context to get to know this word from a gay perspective.
MS, HS– ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

Dreamland (Book 3 of Riley Bloom series) by Alyson Noel –NOT RECOMMENDED

Noel, Alyson Dreamland (Book 3 of Riley Bloom series) 224pgs. Square Fish, 2011. $7.99. (Language-G Violence-G; Sexual Content-G).
Riley is a 12 year old “living” in the Afterlife. This is her third adventure in being dead. When she is given some time off from her job helping souls, she doesn’t know what to do with her time. She decides she wants to check in with her living sister, Ever. The best way to do that seems to be through dreams. When she pursues this route she finds out its more dangerous than she could imagine.
Although this book can function as a stand alone, I don’t recommend it. I thought it was incredibly linear and boring. Even as an adult, reading about an afterlife in which the main character is bored with not to mention where the main character has to “work”, is depressing on many levels. I don’t think students will enjoy this book because the events are hard to relate to and frankly, not that exciting to imagine.
Elementary – NOT RECOMMENDED

Something to hold by Katherine Schlick Noe –ESSENTIAL

Noe, Katherine Schlick Something to hold, 256 pgs. Clarion Books, 2011. $11.55. (Language-G Violence-PG; Sexual Content-G).
Set in the 1960’s on an Oregon Native American Reservation, the reader experiences a year in the life of 6th grader Kitty. She mostly just wants to make friends. When Kitty starts to notice some racial tension and injustices, she can’t help but speak up and take action. Gradually she wins the trust and respect of the native students and is able to help out when someone is needed the most.
This was a great book! The setting was an essential component of the story and really added to it (Unlike a few I could grumble about –where the time period only contributes to making an incredibly dull read for students). I like the gradual realization of Kitty to the treatment of the Native Americans and her ability to be brave enough to take action. The story itself manages to be action packed and interesting, with tidbits of native culture, and even a well developed setting. (I think I can still smell the fields of sage!).
Elementary – ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

Barnyard Purim by Kelly Terwilliger- OPTIONAL

Terwilliger, Kelly. Barnyard Purim, illustrated by Barbara Johansen Newman.  $7.95   Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  This book celebrates a Jewish holiday known as Purim.  The holiday celebrates the Biblical story in the book of Esther.  In this picture book, the barnyard animals dress up and perform a play recounting the story of Esther and Mordechai and their efforts to save the Jewish people.  I don’t know if it’s appropriate to tell a biblical story in the classroom, but if so, this is a cute way of doing so.  The illustrations are wonderful, fun and exciting.  The story is told in an intriguing and interesting way.  There is a sly fox that makes the ending exciting.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL.   

Big Birthday by Kate Kosford- ADVISABLE

Hosford, Kate. Big Birthday, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown. $16.95.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  Everyone wants the perfect birthday party- especially Annabelle.  She is tired of the traditional parties and wants something extra special this year.  After examining all other options, she gets the idea of celebrating her birthday on the moon. Annabelle is certain that a party on the moon will exceed all her expectations!  Little does she know, parties on the moon have their challenges as well.  The illustrations in this book are absolutely beautiful!  The story is imaginative and creative.  The ending is superb!  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL. 

Big Hugs, Little Hugs by Felicia Bond-ADVISABLE

Bond, Felicia.  Big Hugs, Little Hugs. $16.99.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  Perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day, Felicia Bond creates a colorful book celebrating the wonder of hugs.  Each page is simple and beautiful.  With very few words, Bond explores hugs in winter and summer, in day or night, and even upstairs and downstairs. We loved the illustrations.  This is a perfect book for preschoolers or anyone in love!  Pre-K.  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL. 

Elmer and Super El by David McKee-ADVISABLE

McKee David.  Elmer and Super El. $16.95.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  Elmer is a beloved patchwork elephant who is always willing to help a friend.  When Super El is in need of Elmer’s help, Elmer is quick to respond.  Together, Elmer and Super El travel through the jungle encountering an array of animals and creatures as they go on a quest to find Aunt Zelda.  With humor and bright, bold colors, McKee tells a fun and captivating story to preschoolers everywhere. This book could be used while teaching about colors, jungle animals and friendship.   Pre-K. ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL.    

The Great Sheep Shenanigans by Peter Bently-OPTIONAL

Bently, Peter. The Great Sheep Shenanigans, illustrated by Mei Matsuoka.  $16.95.  Contend: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  A sneaky and hungry “wily old wolf” by the name of Lou Pine is looking for  sheep to eat for a snack. He comes up with a crafty plan to trick the sheep and hopefully have his fill of cutlets, roast leg of lamb, chops and more!  What Lou Pine doesn’t know is that sheep are very crafty themselves.  Who will get the last laugh?  The book is beautifully illustrated.  The colors are bright and the illustrations tell the story perfectly.  Be aware:  there is mention of the wolf landing in a pile of poop.  Make sure to prepare for students laughter and comments with that one! There is also a little twist on the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.”   Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hugo Movie Companion by Brian Selznick - OPTIONAL

Selznick, Brian.  The Hugo Movie Companion, 241 pages.  Scholastic, 2011.  $19.99.  Language: G; Sexual Content: G; Violence: G.  This is "A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture."  Selznick first writes about the original book, The Adventures of Hugo Cabret and then he goes on to write about the various people who helped turn it into a movie...starting with the director, Martin Scorsese.  He writes about the actors and other people as well.  The book is full of color photos both from the movie and from behind the scenes, as well as the original book.  But I didn't love the book.  I started out enjoying it, but before too long I found myself bored with all the references to how great everyone is and was.  The movie industry is already a self-absorbed industry and I did not enjoy the big love fest about people who are so excited to work with a director or how great so-and-so was.  I don't find the book to be worth the money, but eleven out of eleven reviewers on Amazon.com gave it 5 out of 5 stars.  I did find the photographs to be wonderful, but I think you could find a more worthwhile book to spend twenty dollars on.  EL, MS, HS - OPTIONAL.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher