Monday, April 30, 2012

Jasper John Dooley Star of the Week by Caroline Adderson –NOT RECOMMENDED


Adderson, Caroline and Illustrated by Clanton, Ben Jasper John Dooley Star of the Week 128 pgs. Kids Can Press, Ltd, 2012. $11.96.  (Language-G Violence-G; Sexual Content-G).
When it’s Jasper John Dooley’s turn to be Star of the Week he is beyond excited.  But things start go wrong, first off his much loved lint collection doesn’t go over that well for Show and Tell.  Then Jasper is jealous of his friend Ori’s little sister, and wishes that his family was bigger. When he builds his own brother out of wood, named Earl, it eventually lands him in the principal’s office. Will Jasper make the most of his week in the spotlight or make a mess of everything?
This was one of the worst books that I have reviewed. From an adult perspective (with a psychology background), I was downright disturbed. When a 7 year old is sniffing his lint collection (including belly button lint) in a dark basement it raises my alarm bells. That wasn’t the end of my list of qualms either and you don’t want to get me started.
While I know that student readers won’t have my same hang-ups, I do think that they will fail to relate to this character as he uber weird, acts way younger than his age, and is just plain pathetic. 
EL – NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Shadowcry by Jenna Burtenshaw - ESSENTIAL



Burtenshaw, Jenna, Shadowcry. Greenwillow Books, 2011. Pgs. 320. Language: G, Violence:PG, Sexual Content: G

The Night of Souls, a night where the veil of death is thinnest and impossible magical things become possible, Kate Winters is in great danger. After raising a blackbird from the dead, Kate Winters finds herself burned out of her house and on the run from Silas, a powerful sorcerer, and Da’ru, an evil emperess, who seek  her family’s heirloom magic book “Wintercraft.” In the wrong hands, this book could spell death for many. With her uncle captured and sold into slavery, she’s forced to seek the help of Edgar, a boy with a mysterious, troubled past, to help her escape evil’s clutches. To save her family and kingdom, she’ll need to master her powers and discover her family’s secret past. Will she succeed? Can she save her kingdom?

A fun mystery adventure for fantasy fans. All characters, good and evil, are mysterious, likable, and well-developed. The plot is intense, complex, and fairly fast-paced. The author also does a great job of using foreshadowing and red herrings to keep the reader’s interest. Readers who like action, adventure, magic, paranormal, and a little bit of mystery will enjoy reading this book. MS, HS. ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Kira M, Youth Services Librarian, WHI Public Library.

Julia Gillian and the Dream of the Dog by Alison McGhee

McGhee, Alison, Julia Gillian and the Dream of the Dog. Scholastic Press, 2010. Pgs. 327. Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G

Julia is starting sixth grade and middle school. Instead of enjoying recess, Julia is stuck “controlling variables,” older school bullies, reluctant reading buddy, and mounds and mounds of homework. To make matters worse, Julia’s old dog, Bigfoot slowing down is the final straw for Julia’s world falling apart. Can Julia find a way to get her life under control or will life get the best of her?

A short, fun read for reluctant readers. The characters are well-developed. The plot is well-done and does a good job of holding the reader’s interest. Readers who like realistic fiction, school stories, and friendship stories will enjoy reading this book. EL(4-6). ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Kira M, Youth Service Librarian, WHI Public Library.

Hans My Hedgehog by Kate Coombs - ADVISABLE


Coombs, Kate Hans My Hedgehog  (a tale from the Brothers Grimm), illustrated by John Nickle.  Atheneum (Simon), 2012.  PICTURE BOOK. $17.  

The farmer and his wife would take any child to raise – even one who is half a hedgehog.  When their hedgehog son grows up, he runs to forest to find his own path – that leads to the gates of two different kings and two very different receptions.  And the breaking of a long ago spell.  

Don’t expect this to blithely follow the original – and you really wouldn’t want it to.  Coombs hasn’t “Disney-fied” the original, but she has tweaked things just a bit – telling the story with the same lessons, but not as mean or scary.  This would be good for any fairy tale collection – and great as a comparison.  This one is staying in my library.  

EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher.

Leaving Fishers by Margaret Haddix - ADVISABLE


Haddix, Margaret Petersen Leaving Fishers, 255 p.  Simon & Schuster, 1997, 2012.  $9 (new paperback edition).  

Dorry is just floating through her new school – friendless.  Until Angela and her friends come to her rescue and introduce her to their religious group, the Fishers of Men.  At first their attention is flattering, but step by step, the Fishers start pulling Dorry away from her job, from school and even from her family.  Will Dorry choose this group over everything?  

Haddix’s look at the draw of a cult hasn’t lost any of its power after 15 years.  And if you can help a student draw the same connection to gang membership, even better!  

MS, HS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Daisy’s Perfect Word by Sandra Feder –OPTIONAL


Feder, Sandra and Illustrated by Mitchell, Susan Daisy’s Perfect Word 88 pgs. Kids Can Press, Ltd, 2012. $11.21.  (Language-G Violence-G; Sexual Content-G).
Daisy love’s words. She keeps lists of words and puts a lot of thought into what words make her feel like. She has favorite words and words she doesn’t like. When her beloved teacher announces that she is moving away, Daisy decides to give her the perfect word. In a world full of words how is Daisy going to find the perfect one?
This is the kind of book that teachers love, but students might not really vibe with. What teacher wouldn’t love an active learner who is obsessed with increasing their vocabulary and enjoying every second of it? Who knows maybe Daisy will inspire! Overall a wholesome and easy to read simple chapter book.
EL – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

George by Frank Keating - OPTIONAL


Keating, Frank George: George Washington, Our Founding Father, paintings by Mike Wimmer.  Simon & Schuster, 2012.  $17.  

Educated only until he was 15, among many things, George Washington learned rules of character that he wrote down, treasured and used to govern the rest of his life.  From the his first forays with the militia when he was in his 20’s, through the French-Indian War, the Revolution and onto the Presidency, Washington let these rules become his actions.  

While I loved the paintings on each page and could spend hours poring over them, the integration of the Rules and the text didn’t really appeal to me – I would have rather had a Rule on every page, rather than scattered hither and yon – and it wasn’t intriguing enough to support the stilted, fake auto-biographical styling of the narration.  I would, however, recommend this to a teacher to use the paintings to support a look at Washington around President’s Day or any time for a history lesson.  

EL – OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher.

Don’t You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Haddix - ESSENTIAL


Haddix, Margaret Peterson Don’t You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey,  115 p. Simon and Schuster, 2012, 1996.  $9 (new paperback edition).  

Tish Bonner’s life is falling apart.  The only hints are in the journal that she writes twice weekly for Mrs. Dunphrey’s English class.  But Tish knows that if she writes “Do not read this”, Mrs. D will respect her privacy.  Until one day, Tish decides to take that extra step and trust her teacher with her pain and anguish.  

Wow!  Has it really been 16 years since this was first released.  This is still one of my go to books when helping a reluctant reader find that first spark.  I love the new cover on this edition.  Time for some new copies!!!  MS – ESSENTIAL.  

Cindy, Library Teacher.

Monkey’s Friends by Ruth Brown –RECOMMENDED


Brown, Ruth Monkey’s Friends 28 pgs. Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2012. $11.69. (Language-G Violence-G; Sexual Content-G).
When Monkey goes for a walk through the jungle he makes sure to greet all his friends, even when they are hidden.
A great lyrical walk through the jungle. Each page has flap that reveals the hidden friend. Beautiful textural artwork and jungle creatures with just enough personality.
Pre-K – ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

I Don’t Want to be a Pea! by Ann Bonwill - ADVISABLE


Bonwill, Ann I Don’t Want to be a Pea! Illustrated by Simon Rickerty.  Atheneum (Simon), 2012. PICTURE BOOK.  $15.  

Hugo Hippo and Bella Bird are best of friends, but when they have adifference of opinion as they get ready for a costume party, their friendship may be in jeopardy.  

An excellent story about friendship and compromise.  Adorable pictures and just enough story for a great little lesson!  I will be keeping this one in my middle school for our Teacher Advisory classes and for our Teen Living class.  

EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher.

Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins - ESSENTIAL


Hawkins, Rachel Spell Bound (Hex Hall), 326 p. Disney Hyperion, 2012.  $18.  Violence: PG; Language: PG-13 (18 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G.  

Stripped of her demon powers, Sophie doesn’t know where to go in the next step to stop a huge battle that could destroy her family and her friends.  One day she is in the clutches of the evil, demon-hunting Brannicks (who also happen to be her relatives???!!!!) and the next Sophie and her friends are back at Hex Hall – the new power base for the Casnoffs – and they are just supposed to go to class and pretend that nothing happened?  Sophie will not take all of this lying down – in fact she will kick some major butt to save everyone she loves.  But she will also be forced to make a choice that could very well break her heart.  

LOVED IT!  Totally stunned and happy by the ending – I can’t wait until you get a chance to read it!  

MS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Words Set Me Free by Lesa Cline-Ransome - ADVISABLE


Cline-Ransome, Lesa Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass, illustrated by James E. Ransome.  Simon & Schuster, 2012.  PICTURE BOOK.  $17.  

When Hugh’s master catches his wife teaching the young slave Frederick to read, he tells her, “it would forever unfit him to be a slave.”  How true those words were.  While it didn’t happen quickly, the renames Frederick Douglass later finds his way to freedom and becomes an important part of our country’s history.  

While a picture book, there is just enough story to make this worth looking at for a longer lesson.  There are so many great picture books about Slavery and Civil Rights, an elementary school or middle school class could use then all as a basis for an excellent unit.  

EL, MS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher.

Fake Moustache by Tom Angleberger


Angleberger, Tom Fake Moustache, 196  pgs.  Amulet Books, 2012.  $13.95.  Language - G, Sexual Content -G; Violence – G;  

A fake mustache bought at the novelty store pits two friends against each other in a battle to save the fate of the world.  The mustache isn’t just any cheap costume.  It is the Heidelberg Handlebar #7, a very convincing disguise, it can turn a whole town into mindless yes-men. Casper Bengue  a twelve-year-old pust on a suit and mustache and begins robbing banks around the country and launching a bid for the presidency.  His friend Lenny Flem Jr. quickly realizes his buddy is up to no good.  With the help of Jodie O’Rodeo,  teen cowgirl queen, at his side with the townspeople on their trail, Lenny and Jodie set out to stop Casper (Fako Mustacho) before he makes it to the White House.  

This is a silly story that start out a little confusing, but picks up.  It is told in three parts first from Lenny’s point of view then Jodie’s then back to Lenny to end the book.

EL/MS-OPTIONAL. Reviewer:  SFC Librarian.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Man Trip (A Calvin Coconut Book) by Graham Salisbury -ESSENTIAL

Salisbury, Graham and illustrated by Rogers, Jacqueline Man Trip (A Calvin Coconut Book) 144 pgs. Wendy Lamb Books, 2012. $11.04. (Language-G Violence-G; Sexual Content-G). Calvin gets to go on a plane for the first time, but even better he gets to go deep sea fishing. He is going with his Mom’s boyfriend Ledward, who calls it a Man Trip. Calvin has only ever caught little fish in the creek by his house and is super excited. There is also the complication of the frogs ruining his mowing and certain girl at school who loves frogs! I am starting to think that this author is the master of understated life lessons mixed skillfully into engaging stories.
I was so thrilled by this book, that I might have enjoyed the fishing more than Calvin did! Students will love these stories of a young boy who has a colorful life and fun adventures. This is the second Calvin Coconut book I have reviewed, and I am now officially a huge fan of this series and its author. EL – ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Bears Beware (Zigzag Kids #5) by Patricia Reilly Giff –OPTIONAL

Giff, Patricia Reilly Bears Beware (Zigzag Kids #5) 224pgs. Yearling, 2012. $4.99. (Language-G Violence-G; Sexual Content-G). Mitchell is a bit nervous about going camping and sleeping in a tent. But all the kids from the Zigzag afternoon center will be there –including his best friend Habib and his older sister. After he is partnered with a strange boy for a nature walk –he is really worried. Will Mitchell get eaten by a bear or will he end up having a good time?
This book wins the award for being the shortest book with the most characters and plot elements. Part of the character over abundance could be due to the fact that this is the 5th book in the series, so the groundwork has been laid out, leaving this book feeling rushed in the introduction department. I think beginning readers would find this book a confusing read. Older students would find it too boring. EL – OPTIONAL

The Apple Tree’s Discovery by Peninnah Schram


Schram, Peninnah and Rachayl Eckstein Davis  The Apple Tree’s Discovery  Illustrated by Wendy W. Lee  Kar-ben Publishing, 2012. $16.95  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G   

A little apple tree sits in a forest of tall oak trees.  The apple tree is jealous of how the oak trees are so tall that it looks like the night stars hang in them, so he asks God to give him stars in his branches.  God tells the tree to be patient.  As the seasons change, eventually the ungrateful apple tree grows apples, but when he still isn’t happy with what he has, God blows the apples off the tree.  When the apples burst open he shows the apple tree that there are stars inside the apples if he looks at them the right way.  The stars are actually the seeds inside arranged in a star pattern.  

I can’t tell if this book is about God answering our prayers and helping us obtain our dreams or about seeing life from a different perspective so we can see our dreams answered.  I wanted the apple tree to learn to be grateful, which is where the book looked to be going, but didn’t end up that way.  The illustrations weren’t great either.  

EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

City of Lies by Lian Tanner - ADVISABLE


Tanner, Lian City of Lies, 278 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2011. $18.00. Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG; 

When Toadspit’s little sister Bonnie is kidnapped, Goldie and Toadspit follow the villains who took her to the city of Spoke. When Toadspit is taken also, it’s up to Goldie, a boy with some mice who can predict the future, a very intelligent cat, and Morg (the museum’s slaughterbird) to rescue the children. To make matters more difficult, Spoke is having a Festival of Lies where everything is back to front and upside down. 

There is plenty of action, but often the plot is disjointed and difficult to follow. I felt like the author had a clear picture of the story, but didn’t give the reader enough information at times for it all to make sense (like when a big lie happened and characters ended up in a completely different time and place). The characters in the story are very likeable and those who read the first book in this trilogy, The Museum of Thieves, will most likely want to read this book to see what happens to them (which is why I’m labeling it as advisable and not simply optional). 

EL-MS ADVISABLE. Reviewer: M. Mathews, middle school librarian.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Whatever After Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski –OPTIONAL

Mlynowski, Sarah Whatever After Fairest of All 176 pgs. Scholastic Press, 2012 (May). $10.08. (Language-G Violence-G; Sexual Content-G). Abby and her little brother Jonah move into a new house and end up going through a mirror in the basement, and finding themselves somewhere else entirely. They discover pretty quickly that they are in the fairy tale of Snow White and they have messed up the plot. Will they stay and fix it or try to leave while they still can? Although a ton of effort went into giving Abby a great personality, it wasn’t enough for me to make up for the lack of creativity. I appreciate the concept of retelling classic stories, but only if it makes them better or more understandable. In this case, corrupting this story with a dose of reality took away all the gilding and left me feeling a bit empty. Sort of like if the characters that walk around Disney took off their masks. EL –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Aliens in Underpants Save the World by Claire Freedman-ADVISABLE

Freedman, Claire. Aliens in Underpants Save the World, Illustrated by Ben Cort. 32 pgs.  Aladdin, 2012.  $15.99.  Content: G PICTURE BOOK.  “Aliens love underpants.  It’s lucky that they do.  For underpants saved our universe.  Sounds crazy, but it’s true!”  This is a creative story about underpants and aliens-a mix of items that will have kids laughing for quite some time.  Aliens need our underpants, but why?  The ending will surprise everyone!  The story is written in rhyme.  The illustrations are bold and beautiful.  We enjoyed this book!  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL. 

Artist Ted by Andrea Beaty -ADVISABLE

Beaty, Andrea. Artist Ted, Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre. 32 pgs.Simon & Schuster, 2012. $15.99.  Content: G PICTURE BOOK.  When Ted wakes up and finds his room to be the same as it looked every morning, he decides he needs to become an artist to “spiff things up around here.”  His artistic talent doesn’t end there.  He decides to paint the walls of the house, the walls of the school, and even a classmate.  The illustrations are bright and bold on simple backgrounds.  This book could be used in a unit on art or color.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL. 

Me Want Pet! by Tammi Sauer-ESSENTIAL

Sauer, Tammi. Me Want Pet! Illustrated by Bob Shae. 40 pgs.  Simon & Schuster, 2012.  $15.99.  Content: G PICTURE BOOK.  Cave boy has many things.  But what he really wants is a pet!  With every attempt to bring home the latest pet, his parents find a reason why he has to take it back.  Luckily when the cave boy finds himself in trouble he kindness to these animals pays off.  This is a beautifully illustrated and creatively written book.  We loved it!  This book could be used in a unit on animals, pets, and friendship.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

Take Your Mama to Work Today by Amy Reichert-ESSENTIAL

Reichert, Amy. Take Your Mama to Work Today, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger.  40 pgs.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012.  $16.99.  Content: G PICTURE BOOK.  “You never know when you might have to go to work at the office.  So be prepared!  Here’s everything you need to know before you go…”  This is an adorable book about a babysitter calling in sick, and a mother needing to take her little girl to work with her for the day.  The mother is extremely patient, her coworkers extremely understanding, and the little girl wonders how in the world the office ever survived without her!  The illustrations are priceless.  The story is simple and touching.  This book could be used in a unit jobs or on family relationships.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers-ADVISABLE

Rogers, Gregory.  The Hero of Little Street,32 pgs. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. $17.99.   Content: G PICTURE BOOK.  This is the final book in Roger’s trilogy.  The illustrations are incredible, the story simple and adventurous even though the book is wordless.  The story begins with a little boy who succeeds in escaping a bunch of bullies who chase him the streets of his hometown.  He slips into an art gallery, figuring he will hide there.  He then finds himself in a completely different adventure as he follows a little dog into a painting and transports himself to seventeenth century Holland.  A new adventure awaits him in Holland, with as much action and suspense as his hometown.  We loved the action and adventure of this book.  We enjoyed every detail and every page.  Because it is a wordless and detailed book, it would be difficult to use as a read-aloud to a whole class.  It’s better suited for one on one time with someone special!  Pre-K.  EL(K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL. 

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons


Lyons, Kelly Starling  Ellen’s Broom Illustrated by Daniel Minter  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012.  $16.99  PICTURE BOOK Content: G  

Ellen celebrates the fact that her family no longer has to sit at the back of the church because the slave days are over.  As part of registering the families the local government has each previously considered slave couple register as married couples with their children.  This spurs a story from Ellen’s mother about the broom marriage that they first had when they were slaves.  Because slaves couldn’t marry legally, they use to have a broom ceremony where they would jump over the broom together and start their life, but because that marriage wasn’t recognized by the law they could be separated by their owners.  At the end of the story, Ellen decides that she wants to have a broom ceremony when she grows up and her parents decide that is okay because it’s part of their heritage.  

The illustrations are great and the story is an interesting  way to explain the fact that slave couples couldn’t  be married and could be separated at any time.

EL (K-3) (4-6)-ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse: Starring Harry by Thea Feldman - ADVISABLE

Feldman, Thea.  Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov (based on the books by George Selden and Garth Williams). Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, 2011. $15.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is an early reader with characters from the book the Cricket in Times Square.  In this newer book, Harry gets a job working in a play in a theater.  This puts a strain on his and Tucker's relationship because Harry is too tired to spend time with Tucker during the day.  And Tucker really misses his friend.  This was a cute book.  It's not one of those that you must buy, but if you have the money it's worth having on your shelf.  Pre-K, EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban - NOT RECOMMENDED

Hoban, Russell.  The Little Brute Family, illustrated by Lillian HobanMacMillan's Children Publishing Group, 2011 (Originally Published in 1966). $15.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is a republished early reader edition of the classic story.  I had never heard of the story (but I wasn't born until 1978).  The Brute family are a bunch of grumpy misfits who never share any pleasantries with each other.  They eat together, but the food tastes horrible and everything else they do doesn't work out for them.  Then one of the Brute children finds a "wandering lost good feeling" and everything changes.  I did not like this book.  It was not a story.  It was a low-level character sketch.  Great, we now know the characters...let's get on with the story.  Please, can something happen?  What's the point?  I can't imagine any young kid wanting to read this when other books are out there with monsters and skeletons and giants.  Pre-K, EL (K-3) - NOT RECOMMENDED.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

The Stinky Giant by Ellen Weiss and Mel Friedman - ADVISABLE

Weiss, Ellen and Mel Friedman.  The Stinky Giant, illustrated by Alessia Girasole.  Random House, 2012. $3.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is a Step 3 Early Reader book, for readers grades 1-3 who can read on their own.  It tells the story of Pepper and Jake who have a big problem: Urk is a stinky giant whose wash water comes roaring down the mountain he lives on and causes a huge flood.  Naturally, Pepper and Jake decide to solve this problem; they walk up the mountain to talk with Urk.  But he doesn't want to listen to a couple of puny kids.  This is a good book (for what it is).  It was a little challenging for my son, but he wanted to read it because it was thought it was interesting to find out what would happen to the kids and their giant problem.  It's a book worth having in you classroom or school library.  EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

Dinosaurs around the World by Kingfisher - ADVISABLE

KingFisher.  Dinosaurs around the WorldKingfisher (MacMillan Children's Books), 2012. $9.99.  NONFICTION.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is a lift-the-flap book about dinosaurs in different periods all over the world.  Each page "specializes" to give some detail about either a different age (cretaceous, triassic, jurassic, etc...) or a different type of dinosaur (herbivore, carnivore, in the air, in the water, etc...).  Then, each page has flaps to lift to provide even more detail to learn.  I think this is a really good book.  My four year-old daughter and my six year-old son both really enjoy it.  The pages are colorful, and the flaps are perfect for both kids who just want to look at the picture and who want to learn more.  The only reason I am not giving this an essential rating is that I wish it had tried to do less, and provided more detail.  My favorite page was the one that only focused on the brachiosaurus because there was a lot of information.   Pre-K, EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

City of Orphans by Avi - ESSENTIAL


Avi City of Orphans, 350 pgs. Atheneum Books, 2011. $17.00. Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG;

 Maks Geless is a thirteen-year-old Danish immigrant living in New York in 1893. He earns much needed money for his family by selling newspapers. One day Willa, a homeless girl, helps him fight off an attack by the Plug Uglies (a local gang in the habit of robbing newsies). Together, Maks and Willa must avoid being attacked by gangs as they try to prove that Maks’s sister Emma is innocent of stealing from a patron at the Waldorf Hotel where she works. 

In typical Avi fashion, the book creates a vivid picture of life during a specific time period (in this case, the late 1800s in the city of New York). I felt like I was there witnessing the distinctions between the rich owners and operators and the poor immigrants living in tenements or on the streets-- struggling to survive. The story takes place over a five-day time period, so each day is packed full of adventure and emotion clear until the end. 

EL-MS – ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: M. Mathews, middle school librarian.

A Secret Keeps by Marsha Chall - OPTIONAL


Chall, Marsha Wilson  A Secret Keeps Illustrated by Heather M. Solomon  Carolrhoda Books, 2012.  $16.95  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G   

A little boy is excited to go and see his grandparents because his grandpa has promised he will find a secret when he visits.   The little boy spends the whole book asking   different birds and animals to see if they know what the secret is.  Finally at the end the little boy follows the mewing that he hears in the barn and finds a hayloft full of new kittens.  His grandfather lets him keep one.  

The illustrations are great, but when the little boy was going around the farm trying to discover the secret it wasn’t written very clearly and it was a bit boring.  

EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Girls Don’t Fly by Kristen Chandler - ADVISABLE


Chandler, Kristen Girls Don’t Fly, 300 pgs. Viking, 2011. $17.00. Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13 (Sexual Content); Violence: PG

Myra is a teen-age girl with: parents who work too much, an older sister who’s pregnant out of wedlock, four younger brothers who adore her, and a boyfriend that just dumped her. Myra finds herself doing things she normally wouldn’t, like dressing up in a chicken costume, and becoming fascinated by birds and the Galapagos Islands, and through the process, really does “find” herself. 

I liked the way the chapters began with a fact about birds and related to the story. The book has a “hopeful” feel to it in spite of all the demands placed on Myra. While the book was about a girl personally learning to fly, sometimes all the bird information was a distraction for me. The sexual content makes it inappropriate for a middle school. 

HS-ADVISABLE. Reviewer: M. Mathews, middle school librarian.

All About Grandmas by Roni Schotter


Schotter, Roni  All About Grandmas  Illustrated by Janice Nadeau  Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.  $16.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G  

This is a great book about the different kinds of grandmas in our lives.  The book shows through cute illustrations how grandmas have different talents and they love us in different ways.  Some grandma’s work and some stay home.  Some grandmas like to read to us and others like to tickle.  This is a great book that illustrates the important relationships we all have with the grandmas in our lives.  

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Relic Hunters by Derek Benz - OPTIONAL


Benz, Derek & J.S. Lewis Grey Griffins: The Relic Hunters, 349 pgs. Little, Brown and Company, 2011. $16.00. Language: G (O swears); Mature Content-G; Violence: PG; 

Second book of The Clockwork Chronicles. Four kids, each with a special talent/super power, are out to save the world (or at least the kids from their school) from the evil Otto von Strife. There are shape shifters, fairies (who are difficult to control), clockworks (robots), giant spiders, flying cars and zombies. 

While I liked all the action this book had, sometimes it was difficult to follow. Maybe reading the first book in the series (and even the series the author wrote before this one) would help with character development and plot. I’m hoping future books will tell more about the Shadowlands because it is mentioned several times but not fully described. While the book is a fun read at times, it is generally “all over the place” and kind of frustrating. 

EL, MS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: M. Mathews, middle school librarian.

Trains by Susan Goodman - ESSENTIAL


Goodman, Susan E. and Michael J. Doolittle  Step Into Reading: Trains  Random House, 2012.  $3.99  EARLY READER.  Content: G.   

This is a book that covers the main facts about trains.  It tells the history of the train up to the modern advances in train transportation.  It shows a diagram of the parts of the train and explains how they work.  There are also some neat pictures of unique trains.  I think this is a great transitional reader book that train lovers will enjoy.  

EL (K-3)-ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Liberator by Richard Harland –NOT RECOMMENDED

Harland, Richard Liberator (Sequel to Worldshaker) 496pgs. Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2012. $10.98. (Language-G Violence-PG; Sexual Content-G).
The giant airborne juggernaut, the recently renamed Liberator is already having problems. The Filthies and the Swanks are supposed to be building a community but there seems to only be discord. The Filthies don’t want to share their newfound power and there is also a saboteur. On top of everything else –they are running out of coal to fly the ship! Then the Liberator is faced with the wrath of the other juggernauts. When things come to a head with the Russian ship, the Filthies decide its time for another revolution! Col is still in love with Riff –but their friendship is in discord as well –especially after his wife comes back into the picture!
Despite my enjoyment of the first book (See My Review here), this second book was a chore to read. The day to day minuscule details of their politics and practicalities were grating. Even when the action picks up, I found myself not really caring about the outcomes. I dreaded the last 400 of 500 pages and that is a lot to dread. This book is not a stand alone and the first book must be read in order to understand it. The first half of the book is so boring there is no way a student will make their way through the second half.
MS –NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.