Monday, March 31, 2014

The Superlatives: Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols - OPTIONAL

Echols, Jennifer  The Superlatives:  Biggest Flirts, 317 pgs.  Simon Pulse, 2014.  $9.99  Content: Language: R (45 swears; 10 “F”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG.  

Tia is a party girl and she likes to have casual relationships with guys because her three sisters before her have shown Tia that falling in love only leads to trouble.  So Tia doesn’t know what to do when the new guy Will doesn’t just want to hook up for one night.  As they work together on the drum line in band she starts to realize that he is easy to talk to and makes her want to be a better person.  She starts to contemplate what it would be like to have Will as a boyfriend.

This book is a fun romance with good characters that make it easy to read.  My objections to this book being in a school library are: under-aged drinking, drug use, and casual sexual relationships.  It’s too bad that it has so much adult content because the characters show growth and it’s a fun beach read.  

HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport - ADVISABLE

Rappaport, Doreen  To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt  Illustrated by C. F. Payne  Disney Hyperion, 2013.  $17.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

This is a short biography about President Theodore Roosevelt.  When Teddy was little he liked reading about great men and he loved studying animals.  As he got older he loved to go on adventures.  He married and had kids.  He was involved in politics and became President after the assassination of President McKinley.  President Roosevelt helped conserve a lot of our national parks.  

This is a good overview of President Roosevelt’s life touching on the main events of his life.  There are quotes from Roosevelt mixed in throughout.  There are great illustrations and inspiring quotes encouraging people to go out and enjoy life.  This isn’t a comprehensive telling of his life, but it’s a great introduction for beginning readers.  

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

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle - -ESSENTIAL

Federle, Tim Five, Six, Seven, Nate!  293 pgs. Simon & Schuster, 2014  $16.99. Language: PG13 (64 swears - all diety) Violence: G;  Mature Content: PG.  

Nate is in the chorus of a real Broadway Show! But playing second understudy to an alien isn’t as glamorous and exciting as he expected, plus, Libby didn’t teach him to tap dance! With opening night approaching, can Nate keep it together? 

In this hilarious sequel to Better Nate than Ever, Federle brings to the reader all the drama of the rehearsal hall, and the magic of backstage.  Your theater loving students won’t be able to put this down.  As a drama teacher, I highly recommend this one.  Keep ‘em coming.  

MS - ESSENTIAL  Lisa Librarian

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Triangles by David A. Adler - ADVISABLE

Adler, David A.  Triangles. Illustrated by Edward Miller. Unpaged. 2014. Holiday House. $17.95. Nonfiction picture book.

While the author explains all about triangles and their angles, the illustrator presents us with two kids and a robot building another robot. The book starts by explaining angles, covering how they are named, measured and classified. It then moves on to types of triangles. By the end of this short book, the kids have constructed a new robot mostly out of triangles, and the author has identified all the congruent and similar shapes on its body, and labeled all its angles. 

The illustrator uses a retro color scheme of mostly turquoise, red, and yellow which gives the book a classic picture book feel, but the text is strictly informational. Most students may need lots of time and practice to master all the information presented here, but the illustrations are well labeled and the book would work well as a review for any class learning about these concepts.

EL - ADVISABLE. Reviewed by: PKFoster, teacher-librarian

Voices from the Oregon Trail by Kay Winters - ADVISABLE

Winters, Kay  Voices from the Oregon Trail. Illustrated by Larry Day. Unpaged. 2014. Dial Books for Young Readers (imprint of Penguin Group). $17.99. Picture book.

In this historical picture book, each spread shares some thoughts from a member of a wagon train company, most of whom are moving to Oregon with dreams of a better life, with the one exception being some thoughts from a Native American whose lands these travelers are traversing. Through the travelers' words, the reader learns about some of the reasons why people chose to undertake such a long and dangerous journey, and some of the hardships and joys they encountered along the way. The endpapers feature a map of the Oregon Trail and portraits of those whose voices we hear. Almost three pages of historical notes at the end of the book offer nonfiction information about this six-month trip along the Oregon Trail that thousands took before trains reduced the travel time to a week. 

Students may need to make a diagram for themselves to keep all the relationships and responsibilities among the company straight, but each vignette offers insightful glimpses into people's lives from this period in our country's history, while the information at the end offers some excellent historical content.

EL - ADVISABLE. Reviewed by: PKFoster, teacher-librarian.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle - - ESSENTIAL

Federle, Tim Better Nate Than Ever 275 pgs. Simon & Schuster, 2013 $16.99. Language: PG13 (54 swears - all diety) Violence: PG (Bullying);  Mature Content: PG.  

13-year-old Nate Foster wants to be a Broadway Star! So, when his friend Libby sees an open audition for E.T. the Musical, Nate “runs away” - his parents are out of town - to New York City to try out.  When his phone runs out of battery and he gets further along in the process than he expected, Nate finds himself stranded in the city with no money and nowhere to go.  

This is a marvelous novel for the Broadway lover!  Tons of show references and the auditions are like watching a sporting event (if you like that sort of thing).  The writing is fresh and funny.  Get this for your middle school library.  I’m sure you have kids who would love it. 

MS - ESSENTIAL Lisa Librarian

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood - ADVISABLE

Spotswood, Jessica  Star Cursed, 367 pgs.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (10 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Cate Cahill is a witch living at a convent run by the Sisterhood.  She has left her fiancĂ© Finn and committed to helping the witches of the Sisterhood against the dark manipulations of the Brotherhood in order to protect her two little sisters.  The Sisterhood has received a prophecy that one of the Cahill girls is going to be an oracle, and they all assume it’s going to be Cate, but when the Brotherhood starts imprisoning girls in an attempt to out the oracle, Cate calls her sisters to the protection of the Sisterhood.  

This is the second book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles and picks up where the first one left off.  Cate is a strong, kind sister who is trying to become a leader on the brink of war.  There is romance, magic and intrigue.  I enjoy this series because it’s pretty clean and has a strong and smart protagonist.  The ending of this book leaves the reader hanging, but the storyline is so intriguing I just can’t wait to see what happens next. 

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

Robot Burp Head Smartypants! by Annette Simon - OPTIONAL

Simon,  Annette  Robot Burp Head Smartypants!  Candlewick Press, 2014.  PICTURE BOOK $16.99  Content: G.  

Two robots can’t stop burping while they are trying to talk, count and say their letters. They believe a screw may be loose and that is what is causing them to burp.  They say stuff like “Brr 1-2-3-rrp” or try to say a word “Affirma-burp-irmative”.  

This picture book has bright colored robots that are adorable, but the lack of a story line makes it difficult to understand.  The words and numbers being interrupted by burps is confusing and makes reviewing numbers or letters very confusing.  The bright robots drew my boys attention but they didn’t maintain interest when the words of the story didn’t make sense.  

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Say it Ain’t So by Josh Berk - ADVISABLE


Berk, Josh Say it Ain’t So 279 pgs. Alfred A Knopf, 2014 $16.99.  Language: G (0 swears); Violence: G; Mature Content: PG (crotch references - - other middle school humor).  

Lenny and the Mikes are back with another mystery.  It’s baseball season at the middle school and Mike has been practicing catching in hopes of making the Schwenkfelder baseball team.  When 8th grader Davis Gannett gets cut from the team, Mike takes his place as first string catcher, but can the team maintain their winning streak when someone is trying to sabotage the games?  

Lots of play by play, exciting games and sports references.  This is a great boy read, and the second book in the Lenny and the Mikes Mystery Series. MS - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth -- ESSENTIAL

Muth, Jon J. Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons PICTURE BOOK. Scholastic Press, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

Twenty-six haikus celebrate friendship through the seasons, with gorgeous artwork accompanying. The haikus themselves are loosely formed, not always following the five-seven-five pattern, but their appreciation of nature and calming, almost meditative flow feel very haiku-ish. Although the picture book format looks, at first glance, as if it's suitable for younger audiences, it would also work well with middle or even high school students studying poetry.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL

Katy Duck, Flower Girl by Alyssa Satin Capucilli -- ADVISABLE

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin Katy Duck, Flower Girl, illustrated by Henry Cole. Simon Spotlight, 2013. $3.99. Content: G.

Katy Duck is very excited when she finds out she'll be a flower girl in a wedding. But just what is a flower girl? In addition to being a cute story, this early reader is a nice introduction to the concept of flower girls and other wedding roles. Although the repetition of Katy Duck's favorite phrase is a little much, her enthusiasm is enjoyable, and the appealing illustrations draw the reader in.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith -- ESSENTIAL

Smith, Jennifer E. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, 256 pgs. Poppy, 2012. $17.99. Language: PG (5 swears; 0 'f'); Sexual Content: PG; Violence: PG.

When Hadley Sullivan misses her flight, she should be upset. However, all it means is less time having to watch her father marry another woman. And when she ends up next to Oliver, a gallant British boy with a great sense of humor, things get even better. They spend the entire night talking as their plane crosses the ocean. But when they arrive in London, things go wrong and they are separated...perhaps forever. Will love have another chance, or is Hadley doomed to one great plane flight conversation with a boy she'll never see again?

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a fun, fast (and clean) story, and I wouldn't hesitate to add it to my library shelves.  The romance between Hadley and Oliver is well-developed and interesting, and the subplots dealing with their families add further tension. The appealing cover and witty title should help it fly off the shelves until word-of-mouth catches on.

HS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Monday, March 24, 2014

P.K. Pinkerton and the Pistol-Packing Widows by Caroline Lawrence - - ADVISABLE

Lawrence, Caroline P.K. Pinkerton and the Pistol-Packing Widows 289 pgs. Penguin Group, 2014. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears); Violence: PG; Mature Content: PG13 (innuendo).  

12-year-old P.K. Pinkerton, Private Eye and Master of Disguise, is off on his 3rd big case.  This time, to Carson City, Nevada, where in 1862 the Legislature is meeting.  P.K. has been hired by Poker Face Jace's fiancee to spy on him, make sure he's safe and not courting other women.  But when P.K. discovers Jace is seeing a "black widow" who has discovered his identity, he has to change his plans.  Is this the end of P.K. Pinkerton?  

Another well-written western, this mystery is sure to please.  Not too gritty view of the old west, the misspelled and edited swears make this a perfect read for upper elementary and middle school kids.   EL, MS - ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

The Elementals by Saundra Mitchell - OPTIONAL

Mitchell, Saundra The Elementals, 294 pgs.  Harcourt, 2013.  $16.99 Content: Language: PG-13 (12 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Julian has the ability to bring things back to life, but he is frustrated because his crippled left leg makes him unable to help with his family’s farm or go with his brothers off to war.  Kate can stop time, and lives with her artist parents and wants to create motion pictures.  Kate falls for a girl that she believes will become famous as an actress in Kate’s films and they run away together.  Julian and Kate have always known of each other, but until they find each other they don’t know the affect their powers have.  

This trilogy has been a roller coaster and I didn’t like the ending.  The characters from book one and book two are the parents of the characters in this book, so it’s necessary to read the series before you end with this book or their powers don’t make since.  I loved Julian’s character because he was strong and trying to do right for himself and his family, but I was annoyed with Kate’s character because she was selfish and her decisions seemed rash.  The ending was depressing and abrupt, and I cared about Julian’s family but never got to find out what happens to any of them.  

MS, HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mr. Burke is Berserk by Dan Gutman - ADVISABLE


Gutman, Dan Mr. Burke is Berserk 106 pgs. Harper Collins, 2012. Content: G. $3.99.

When the mayor comes to Ella Mentry school to announce budget cuts, he fires the teachers, shuts down the music and art programs and threatens to sell the coffee maker on eBay.  But when Mr. Burke, the lawn maintenance guy, also gets the ax, he takes matters into his own hands.  

#4 in the My Weirder School series, this silly easy read would tickle the early elementary readers.  Fun series. 

EL  (K-3) - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That: A Tale about Tails by Tish Rabe - ADVISABLE

Rabe, Tish  The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That: A Tale about Tails  Illustrated by Tom Brannon  Random House, 2014.  $3.99  EARLY READER  Content: G.  

Sally and Nick are playing pin the tail on the donkey, when the Cat and the Hat shows up and offers to take them to see more animals with tails.  They see a monkey, a snake and a bird and talk about how those animals use their tails for different purposes.  

This book is an early reader with about 2-3 sentences per page.  The story is told in rhyme and has a few made up words, as Dr. Seuss books often do.  The illustrations are bright and cartoonish.  The information isn’t scientifically in-depth, but it’s a good introduction to tails for new readers.  

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

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That: Night Lights by Tish Rabe - OPTIONAL

Rabe, Tish  The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That: Night Lights  Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu  Random House, 2014.  $4.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

Nick and Sally are two kids trying to make shadow puppets on the wall of their treehouse when their flashlight burns out.  The Cat in the Hat shows up and offers to shrink them and take them to see fireflies.  They fly in the Cat in the Hat’s machine among the fireflies and even save one from a spider web.  They return to their treehouse and a few fireflies help them make more shadow puppets.  

This story is told in rhyme and has bright cartoonish illustrations.  The book has certain pages that can glow in the dark and comes with some glow in the dark stickers.  The story was okay, but I felt like there could have been more information about fireflies.  

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

Friday, March 21, 2014

America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates - ESSENTIAL

Bates, Katharine Lee  America the Beautiful  Illustrated by Wendell Minor  G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2003.  $18.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

This book has beautiful illustrations painted to match the poem “America the Beautiful”.  The book begins with a page long introduction to the poem with an explanation of how Katharine Bates traveled across the country and was inspired to write her poem.  Then each verse of the song is matched with an inspiring illustration to explain the verse.  The end of the book has a small glossary with mini pictures from throughout the book with further descriptions of where the places are in the United States along with a United States map showing their location.  At the end of the book there is also a short biography about Katharine Bates as well as Samuel Augustus Ward, the man who wrote the music that was later paired with “America the Beautiful” to make it a song.  This is a fantastic work of art that inspires love and patriotism for America. 

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

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke - OPTIONAL

Tucholke, April Genevieve  Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, 360 pgs.  Dial Books, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: R (111 swears; 3 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13/R.  

Violet and her twin, Luke live in a rundown mansion by the sea.  Their parents are artists and have left them on their own, so they rent out the guesthouse in an attempt to get money for groceries.  River shows up to live in the guest house and he and Violet become more than friends, but around the town dark and sinister things begin to happen.  Violet can’t discern whether the things that are happening are because of River, or if the devil has really shown up in her small town of Echo.   

This book is creepy with dark characters and magic powers.  Violet frustrated me sometimes because she knew something was wrong, but she didn’t do anything about it, she just let life happen to her.  There is obviously a lot of swearing and the violence was a cut throat and torture.  As an adult, I was entertained by this book and thought it was creative, and maybe I would have given it advisable, but the swearing and violence moves it to optional.   

HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin - ESSENTIAL

Zevin, Gabrielle  In the Age of Love and Chocolate, 286 pgs.  Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language G (1 swear); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Anya Balanchine is an eighteen year old orphan who takes care of her sister and her older brother.  She has overcome hardship and has decided to open a cacao night club in New York to offer people something similar to illegal chocolate.  She joins with Mr. Delacroix, her ex-boyfriends father, who used to be her nemesis because she knows that together they can be successful.  Anya’s success comes at a cost as she tries to do right by the people she cares about.  

This is the last book in the Birthright series and I loved it!  It made me laugh and cry and Anya is a great character to watch grow and learn.  The writing is awesome and pulls you into Anya’s story of love and loss.  I loved this entire series and wish I could read it again for the first time.  The content is mild and appropriate for middle school or high school even though the characters are high school age.  

MS, HS-ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Big Rig by Jamie Swenson - ADVISABLE

Swenson, Jamie A.  Big Rig  Illustrated by Ned Young  Disney Hyperion, 2014.  $16.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

Frankie is an eighteen-wheeler and he invites the reader to join him while he carries his cargo.  He points out the different parts of his truck, such as his eighteen wheels, his big horn and his Jake brakes.  Frankie picks up the cargo, drives through inclement weather and has a blowout that the service truck repairs, but he finally reaches his destination and unloads his cargo at a dinosaur park.  

Big Rig has great bright illustrations and fun ways of introducing the reader to semi-trucks.  This is a great boy book which encourages the reader to make sound effects while reading it.  The only part that is a bit confusing is when the truck blows his tire, he says “Alligators everywhere”, referring to the parts of his rubber tires that have come off in the road, and until I got to the end of the book with the definitions I didn’t understand what he was talking about.  Young readers that love trucks will love this book.  

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

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage - ESSENTIAL

Turnage, Sheila The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing 352 pgs. Penguin Group, 2014. $16.99 Language G (o swears); Violence: G; Mature Content: G.  

The Desperado Detective Agency has another case when Grandmother Miss Lacy and Miss Lana “accidentally” buy the old Inn, which comes with a ghost (in the fine print).  Mo and Dale take the case (and the history assignment) to find out what’s going on at the old property.  Mo continues her letters to her “upstream mother,” handsome Lavender is back along with all of the residents of Tupelo Landing. 

This delightfully witty, little bit scary, every bit fun sequel to Three Times Lucky stands on its own, but this is a marvelous series for either the elementary or middle school library. EL, MS - ESSENTIAL Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Elegy by Tara Hudson - OPTIONAL

Hudson, Tara  Elegy, 386 pgs.  HarperCollins, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (29 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Amelia is still a ghost and Joshua is still in love with her.  They have the support of family and friends as they try to demolish the gate between Joshua’s hometown and the netherworld.  Amelia is threatened that if she doesn’t turn herself over that the demons will take someone she cares about every week until she relents.  Amelia joins with the Seers of Joshua’s family and they come up with a plan to destroy the gate, but it might be at the cost of Amelia and Joshua’s relationship.  

This is the final book in the Hereafter trilogy.  The characters are easy to follow and the rules of the ghost world are clear.  The characters worried a lot about what was going to happen, which got a bit tedious and once the real action started it seemed out of left field.  I felt dissatisfied with the ending, which is sad because it was such a good series until that point.  If your library has the other two books in the series, then your readers are going to want to know what happens to the characters.

MS, HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Mama Hook Knows Best - ADVISABLE

Osbourne, Sharon  Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Mama Hook Knows Best  Illustrated by Massimiliano Narciso  Disney Press, 2013.  $17.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

Captain Hook’s mother tells three stories that she said have taught Captain Hook important pirate rules.  The first story is similar to the Tortoise and the Hare with the message being: sail a steady course and pay attention.  The second story teaches the lesson that being greedy is bad and the third is similar to Peter Cries Wolf with the lesson being that we shouldn’t lie.  

This book is one story of Mama Hook reading three short pirate stories and at the end she gives the moral of the story.  The short stories have good messages and readers who love Jake and the Never Land Pirate characters will love this retelling of classic fables.  The illustrations are great and show the humorous situations Captain Hook gets himself into.  

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

A Gift for Mama by Linda Lodding - ADVISABLE

Lodding, Linda Ravin A Gift for Mama, illustrated by Alison Jay.  PICTURE BOOK.  Knopf (Random), 2014.  $18.  

Oskar has found the perfect birthday present for his mam - a yellow rose.  But someone else needs the rose more and will be willing to trade his paintbrush for it.  Oskar is willing to trade, and sets off with his new perfect gift - until a  conductor needs to replace his lost baton; he will give Oskar a new melody in exchange.  Will Oskar ever make it home with his new perfect present?  

Add this one to your list of books to help students learn about predicting.  Set in Vienna at the end of the 1800’s, Jay’s illustrations are a charming backdrop to Lodding’s tale. 

EL - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Dollar - NO

Doller, Trish Where the Stars Still Shine, 342 p. Bloomsbury, 2014.  $18.  Violence: G; Language: R (70+ swears, 4 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (child rape, graphic sex).  

Ten years earlier, Callie was kidnapped by her own mother and the two have been on the run ever since.  Callie has never been to school, she usually eats vending machine food. Then her mother is arrested, and Callie is returned to the father she doesn’t remember - and his new family, where she doesn’t feel she belongs.  Kat, a girl in town, adopts Callie as her best friend - because Kat remembers Callie, even if Callie doesn’t remember her.  But Callie is more interested in the town bad boy, Alex, who has problems and cracks in his own life.  How do you know what is right and wrong when you have been raised with lies?  How do you become a whole person when someone sold your body for money and security?  Callie is so confused and she doesn’t know where to urn for the truth.  

Doller shows the evil side of mental illness is this hard-hitting book.   Unfortunately, children being kidnapped by their own parents or a caregiver are the most common form of abduction.  While I understand why Callie engages in casual sex, I don’t ever understand why I need it described for me. Very simliar to If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch in subject matter - hand both of them are explicit in their descriptions. I would have to choose Murdoch’s book, though it has its own content issues.   

NO.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Zoom! Zoom! Sounds of Things That Go in the City by Robert Burleigh - ADVISABLE

Burleigh, Robert  Zoom! Zoom!  Sounds of Things That Go in the City  Illustrated by Tad Carpenter  Simon and Schuster, 2014.  $16.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

This book follows transportation throughout a day in the city.  The book begins in the morning with the sun waking up the city and has different events happen, such as a fire truck going down the street, or people going off to lunch.  Then it ends with the city saying goodnight and all of the transportation going home and shutting down for the night.  

This book has bright, bold illustrations with cute cars that have faces.  The story is told in rhymes with a couple of paragraphs and some transportation sounds.  This is a fun, simple read for little people who like anything to do with cars and trucks.  

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

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan - OPTIONAL

Cremer, Andrea and David Levithan  Invisibility, 358 pgs.  Philomel Books, 2013.  $18.99  Content:  Language: PG-13 (24 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Stephen was born invisible and has been alone for the last year since his mother has passed, so imagine his surprise when his new neighbor, Elizabeth can seem him.  They get to know each other and consider themselves dating, all before Elizabeth even finds out that she is the only person who can see Stephen.  Eventually the two of them begin to search for an answer to Stephen’s invisibility taking them into a world of Spell Casters and Curse Casters.  What started as Stephen’s problem quickly becomes Elizabeth’s.  

Exploring what it would mean to be invisible is interesting and these two authors create great characters.  The perspective jumps back and forth between Stephen and Elizabeth, which is mostly good, but sometimes there is repetition of events, making me impatient for more action.  I was disappointed in the ending and felt like the details of the Spell and Curse Casters made a slow storyline and didn’t help solve anything.  Overall, I got to the end of the book and was disappointed and frustrated that such good characters would have such a boring story.  MS, HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monster Truck Mania! by Cynthia Lord -- ADVISABLE

Lord, Cynthia Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania!, illustrated by Derek Anderson. PICTURE BOOK.

In this Hot Rod Hamster installment, Hamster gets to visit the fair with a few friends. Each ride is more thrilling than the last, but still he wants more. When he learns that the monster truck driver has broken his glasses, Hot Rod Hamster immediately volunteers to fill in. Turns out this is the ride he's been waiting for all day.

The mix of rhyming text and conversation bubbles feels a little awkward, making it hard to get a good flow going while reading. Still, the bright, cheerful illustrations and rough-and-tumble topic will interest many kids, and the numerous questions asking readers which rides they would choose at the fair invite participation.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

The Scariest Day Ever...So Far by Kara McMahon -- ESSENTIAL

McMahon, Kara Friday the Scaredy Cat: The Scariest Day Ever...So Far, illustrated by Maddy McClellan. Simon Spotlight, 2013. $3.99. Content: G.

Friday has had a lot of scary days in his life, but this is the scariest one so far. It starts when he wakes up and finds a new pink bed next to his blue one. Then he notices a new bowl. And a new toy. When something small and white streaks by him, he knows immediately what it is: a monster! Except...this monster turns out to be remarkably cute. And nice. And fluffy. Wait! It's not a monster. It's a new kitten for him to play with!

Friday is a hilarious protagonist, with his over-the-top fright and amusing reactions to that fear. Many kids will figure out the new resident early on, making Friday's overreaction seem even sillier. His obvious hiding spots lend further goofiness to the book, and his scaredy-cat ways open the door to important discussions about fear.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams -- OPTIONAL

Williams, Carol Lynch The Haven, 224 pgs. St. Martin's Griffin, 2014. $18.99. Language: G (0 swears); Sexual Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.

Shiloh is a Terminal -- a girl raised in an institute so she can be sheltered from the scary and disease-ridden outside world until she eventually dies. Or so she's been told her whole life. But when she learns that everything is a lie, she must decide whether to save herself and the other residents of Haven Hospital and Halls, or return her former state of drug-riddled ignorance and dullness.

While The Haven may appeal to fans of dystopian novels, in all honesty the main emotion I felt while reading it was frustration. The plot moved very slowly and was filled with flashbacks, dream sequences, and discussions about the world, but very little action. Because the resistance group had no solid plan, it was hard to feel any suspense about whether or not they would accomplish their nebulous goals. The big twists were obvious -- well, to everyone but the characters themselves. Shiloh was reluctant to an extreme; throughout the entire book it felt as if she were being dragged from scene to scene. Then, during the big climax, all she could think about was whether or not her love interest would kiss her. All in all, a slow-moving and not particularly original (but short) read.

MS, HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Good-Pie Party by Liz Garton Scanlon -- OPTIONAL

Scanlon, Liz Garton The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. PICTURE BOOK. Arthur A. Levine Books, March 25, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

Posy Peyton doesn't want to move, but instead of letting her sit around and mope, her friends convince her to plan a "Good-Pie Party," in which everyone will bring pies to say goodbye to Posy's family. Soon the three friends are elbow-deep in ingredients, making pies -- and one of their last memories together.

While I loved the idea of a whole party revolving around pies, this book didn't totally come together for me. The illustrations looked lumpy and washed-out, and nothing was truly resolved regarding the main issue of the girls being separated, making the story itself feel unfinished. Still, it was nice to see something positive coming out of a difficult situation, and it may lend some solace to students who have to move away.

EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Minnie's Pet Salon by Ashley Mendoza -- OPTIONAL

Mendoza, Ashley and Bill Scollon Minnie's Pet Salon, illustrated by Loter, Inc. Disney Press, 2013. $3.99. Content: G.

Pluto wants to put on a pet show, but first he and his friends must get the pets ready. In order to do so, Minnie sets up her own pet salon. Along the way the friends encounter a few issues, which are easily solved by calling for Toodles and choosing from among the supplies he carries. When the pets are ready, however, the friends have the biggest dilemma of all: which pet should win the show? No problem. They ALL get to win!

This is an uninspired story which mainly seems designed for fans of the television show. Instead of relying on Toodles to simply fly over with a few tool options, as in the show itself, it would be helpful if the characters actually had to come up with their own solutions to the problems they encountered. Also, it's nice to have a feel-good ending, but 'everyone wins' feels like a copout. Despite this, the televion-to-book connection may draw in some readers. A note on the formatting: The large, clear font helps early readers, although many of the pages have black text on a dark background -- perhaps a result of the format adaptation? -- and the lack of contrast can be difficult on the eyes, especially in low light.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Greetings from Somewhere: The Mystery of the Gold Coin by Harper Paris - OPTIONAL

Paris, Harper  Greetings from Somewhere: The Mystery of the Gold Coin, 118 pgs.  Illustrated by Marcos Calo  $15.99  Little Simon, 2014.  Content: G.    

This book is about some kids who find out that there mom got a new job, so they are going to travel the globe.  They get farewell gifts and the boy, Ethan, losses his farewell gift the very day they’re about to leave. So they go all around town to try to find it, then they finally find it in a fountain. And they get home in time to leave.  Their mom and dad did not know that they had been gone, only there grandpa knew.  

I felt like I wanted to know more, the story seemed short with the main characters leaving town right when the story started to get good. The mystery didn’t last long, and they only went to a few places. I liked the characters names and the pictures were really good.  

EL-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: Isabelle, age 10.

Greetings from Somewhere: The Mystery of the Mosaic by Harper Paris

Paris, Harper  Greetings from Somewhere:  The Mystery of the Mosaic, 115 pgs.  Illustrated by Marcos Calo  $15.99  Little Simon, 2014.  Content: G.  

This book was about two kids who go to Italy.  Their grandpa wants them to go to see a mosaic and to go try a restaurant. While they are at the restaurant they meet some of their grandpa’s old friends, one of which has a gondola.  One day while they are exploring, they see someone still their new friend’s gondola and they begin their search for the missing gondola.  

I liked that someone stole the gondola, and it wasn’t just lost-it made it a better mystery.  I really liked that it took place in Italy because it seems like an exciting place.  The illustrations are amazing.  This is the second book in the Greetings from Somewhere series.   

EL-ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer: Isabelle, age 10.             

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher -- NOT RECOMMENDED

Christopher, Lucy The Killing Woods, 384 pgs. Chicken House, 2014. $17.99. Language: R (50+ swears; 29 'f'); Sexual Content: R; Violence: R.

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. After all, he's the one who found the body and carried it back to his house. Emily is certain her father is innocent, but it's impossible to find out the truth. Especially when Ashlee's boyfriend Damon seems to have secrets of his own, and Emily's father is suffering so badly from PTSD that he can barely speak, let alone defend himself.

I have a pretty high tolerance for mature content in young adult novels, but I only got a couple of chapters into this one before the details about sex, extreme drug use, and disturbing violence made me too uncomfortable to finish. Perhaps if I had enjoyed the voice more or had a chance to settle into the novel before being hit in the face with these issues I would have been able to continue. Alas, I could not finish it and cannot recommend it.

HS -- NOT RECOMMENDED. Reviewer: Caryn

Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike - OPTIONAL

Pike, Aprilynne Earthbound, 338 pgs.  Razorbill, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (47 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Tavia is the only survivor of an airline crash that took her parents.  After much brain surgery, she is now living with some distant relatives and working through her issues with her therapist.  The biggest light in her world is her best friend, Benson, a college student who works at the local library.  Tavia starts seeing a boy, Quinn,  who keeps telling her to follow him, but he is a ghost or something that is not quite there, which confuses Tavia and makes her aware that the world is not what she thinks.  After overhearing a cryptic message from her caretaker, she goes to Benson and they make a plan to try and figure out what Tavia’s secrets are.  

This is the first book in a new series, so there is a lot of world building and at times it is slow and boring, but I kept reading because I wanted to know what Tavia’s secrets were.  I’m interested to know what happens to all of the characters, because this book left me hanging.  I was frustrated with Tavia’s insta-love for Quinn and how she ignored her caretakers when they were trying to explain what was going on.  The ideas in this book are original enough, and there’s nothing really wrong with this book, but it’s not a must read either.  

MS, HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

Thursday, March 13, 2014

2014 TOP 50 lists

http://kissthebook.org/top50/ 

Use the link above, or the link on the right side of our page and check out my list of Best Books for the last 12 months.  I would love to hear your opinions.  I just presented these lists at our state conference (thanks for helping, Lisa!) and of course had a great time see my friends from around the state.

Enjoy!

Cindy

Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool - - ESSENTIAL

Vanderpool, Clare Navigating Early 295 pgs. Random House, 2013. $16.99 Language: G (0 swears); Violence: PG; Mature Content: G.  

When Jack Baker’s mother dies, Jack’s father re-locates the 13-year-old from Kansas to an east coast military boarding school.  With no boating experience, Jack has a hard time fitting in.  But then he meets Early Auden and the boys embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Early tells Jack a story about Pi and his adventure based on those numbers (which are colors, things, textures)  This adventure coincides with the boys' real adventure in the Appalachian Mountains.  

In the spirit of Moon over Manifest, Newbery Medal winner Vanderpool brings us another coming of age novel.  This book is about loss, grief, love and friendship.  This is a great boy book, well written, and would make a nice addition to a middle school library.  Although this novel was a Printz Honor book, it does not contain the mature content found in most books considered for this award.  

MS - ESSENTIAL Lisa Librarian

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams- ESSENTIAL

Williams, Margery The Velveteen Rabbit. (Deluxe Edition). PICTURE BOOK. Random House Children’s Books, 2014. $19.99.  This is the Deluxe Edition of this timeless classic with cloth binding and gold accents.  This reconstructed classic is the perfect gift for a special teacher or a baby gift, etc.  The illustrations are different than the edition I grew up with because they are remastered from the 1922 first edition.  I personally favor having illustrations on every page instead of reading for two full pages and then having a two page spread of illustrations, but knowing it is patterned after the original made it easier to understand why it was printed this way.  For those who have never read this classic, Margery Williams creates a wonderful story about a stuffed bunny who becomes “REAL” by the love of a little boy.  Mechanical toys may come and go, but the toys that are truly loved by most children are special and unique. “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”  We love this great book and loved exploring the new illustrations and colors of the original edition. Pre-K. EL (K-3). ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: SL.

If I Ran The Zoo by Dr. Seuss-ESSENTIAL


Seuss If I Ran The Zoo. PICTURE BOOK. Random House Children’s Books, 2014 Reprint.  $17.99.  In this Caldecott Honor winning picture book, Dr. Seuss explores a huge range of animals he would have in his very own zoo.  “My New Zoo, McGrew Zoo, will make people talk.  My New Zoo, McGrew Zoo, will make people Gawk.” Suess then explores the strangest odd creatures that the imagination can concoct: An Elephant Cat, a fine fluffy bird called the Bustard who only eats sauce made of mustard. “I’ll capture them fat and I’ll capture them scrawny. I’ll capture a scraggle-foot Mulligatawny!”  We love Dr. Seuss books and this is at the top of our list.  The illustrations are so unique the reader cant’ help but explore each page longer than other picture books. This is a beloved children’s book! EL (K-3) EL. ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: SL.

Pete the Cat: Valentine's Day is Cool by Kimberly and James Dean-ADVISABLE


Dean, Kimberly and James Pete The Cat Valentine’s Day Is Cool. PICTURE BOOK. Harper Collins, 2013. $9.99.  Another great Pete the Cat book and this one comes with 12 Valentine’s Day cards, a fold out poster and stickers!  Pete doesn’t think Valentine’s Day is any big deal.  That is until he runs into his friend Callie who explains to him that Valentine’s Day is her favorite holiday because you get a chance to tell people how special they are to you.  Pete gave it some thought and realized that making cards might be a perfect way to express his feelings.  He made cards for all the boys, then all the girls, and he even remembered his mom!  When Pete later realizes that he forgot to make a card for his good friend Callie, she replies by saying, “That’s okay.  Cards are just a way of showing you care.  Hanging out with you…that’s WAY better than any card!”  This is an adorable book about friendship and showing love in a variety of ways.  We loved the story, the sentiment, the illustrations and the extras that the author threw in (poster, cards, etc).  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL.

Say Hello Like This! by Mary Murphy-ADVISABLE


Murphy, Mary Say Hello Like This! PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2014. $12.99.  This is a great children’s book that creatively explores the sounds that animals make. Murphy describes to children how animals say hello on the left side of the page and then with a turn of a half page insert, she shows them the actual sounds the animals make. “A donkey hello is silly and happy…(turn page) like this!  Hee-Haw! Hee-Haw! Hee- Haw! A beetle hello is tiny and tappy… (turn page) like this!  Tip tap, tip tap, tip tap…” Little ones will love the excitement of turning the half page to reveal the animal sounds and will have fun repeating each animal sound with the reader.  The illustrations are cheery and fun.  This is a great read-aloud book for young ones and would make a perfect baby gift.  Pre-K.  EL(K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL.

Order of Darkness: Stormbringers by Philippa Gergory - OPTIONAL

Gregory, Philippa  Order of Darkness: Stormbringers, 327 pgs.  Simon Pulse, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG (2 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.  

In this second book in the Order of Darkness series, Luca is still looking for signs of the end of days, so when he comes upon a child crusade led by a self-proclaimed prophet, Johann, he stops to investigate.  Johann is leading the children to Jerusalem and promises that they will be rewarded for their journey by God, but when he leads the children into the ocean after it seemingly parts for him, bad things happen that Luca can’t explain.  

The characters in this book are great, Luca and Isolde as well as their servants Ishraq and Freize, they make you care for them and their hearts desires.  The overall idea of investigating the End of Days is interesting, but sometimes the debates in theology go on and on slowing the whole story line down.  I also had a hard time with this book because it’s obvious that the big unexplained even is a tsunami, but Luca keeps trying to find a religious explanation for it, so it was frustrating as the reader.  Overall, it’s not a bad series, it is just slow at times.  

MS, HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee--OPTIONAL

Vanhee, Jason Engines of the Broken World, 262 pgs. Henry Holt and Company, 2013. $16.99. Language: PG-13 (34 swears 0 “F”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13

Merciful Truth and her brother Gospel’s mother is dead. They want to give her the proper burial she deserves, but the snow and cold won’t allow them to break the ground and dig a grave. The Minister who guides them through animal form disapproves of their actions and makes them feel guilty for their choice. The siblings vow to lay their mother to rest as soon as the storm ceases, but in the meantime, put her under the table in the cold of the kitchen. Merciful does her best to justify her actions to the Minister and even begins to feel less guilty until she hears the lullaby begin. How is it possible that she is hearing her mother singing when Merciful knows her mother is dead?

What begins promisingly as a creepy story of the dead rising again quickly devolves into a confused plot about parallel universes, the end of the world, God and his plan, and a hazy battle between good and evil. As the supernatural genre of young adult literature persists, many authors attempt a new take on a tired idea. This story makes such an attempt and is ambitious in its scope, but fails to create a book that feels complete or comprehensible. The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying as the reader is left with many unanswered questions.

MS,HS—OPTIONAL. AEB

 

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber- ESSENTIAL




Huber, Raymond Flight of the Honey Bee.  Illustrated by Brian Lovelock. PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2013. $16.99. This story is about a little honeybee who has the job in the colony to be one of the scouts. Scouts job in the hive is very important because she must find the flowers that provide the nectar to make honey. The honey bee is also one of the most important creatures on earth because it moves pollen from one plant to another helping produce seeds and fruits. I learned many things about honeybees while reading this book.  I liked the illustration because they were very realistic.  On each page the author not only told the story of Scout but also included informative facts which I found not only helpful, but interesting.  I think this book would be a great book to have in every classroom.  EL (K-3). EL.  ESSENTIAL.  Student Reviewer: JL- age 11.

The End (Almost) by Jim Benton-NOT RECOMMENDED


Benton, Jim The End (Almost). PICTURE BOOK. Scholastic, 2014. $16.99.  Donut the bear loves to read. When this particularly short story ends, Donut is not ready.  He tries every way possible to continue the story even though the reader is out of pages and the story is really over. Donut even tries to hide behind a sign that says, “You Can’t See Me”  hoping that the reader will continue. Finally the reader asks if Donut would like the story read a second time. Not surprising, the second reading is equally short.  The illustrations are clever and created by New York Times bestselling author Jim Benton.  The story has the potential of being a great one, but this book missed the mark for us.  The idea that children love story time and don’t want favorite books to end is creative.  I can’t put my finger on why, but when the book ended, we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and moved on to another book.  We simply didn’t feel like the author succeeded in reaching his initial goal or idea.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  NOT RECOMMENED. Reviewer: SL.

Twenty-six Pirates: An Alphabet Book by Dave Horowitz- ESSENTIAL


Horowitz, Dave Twenty-six Pirates: An Alphabet Book. PICTURE BOOK.  Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013. $16.99. From A to Z this Alphabet book is packed with adorable, funny, quirky pirates who help little ones explore and learn the alphabet.  “Pirate Juan wants his mom.  Pirate Doug needs a hug.  Pirate Yul’s a dancin’ fool.”  We loved the rhymes.  We loved the creative and unique illustrations that depict each letter of the alphabet perfectly.  Teachers could use this book idea to create their own classroom pirate ABC book using names of their students and or teaching rhyming words.  This is a must for every classroom as well as for anyone with preschool age children. Pre-K.  EL (K-3). ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: SL