Thursday, July 31, 2014

Anton and the Battle by Ole Konnecke - OPTIONAL


Konnecke, Ole.  Anton and the Battle.  PICTURE BOOK.  Gecko Press, 2013.  $17.95.  Violence: PG.  Sexual Content: G.  Language: G.  Anton thinks he is the strongest.  Luke thinks he is stronger.  Anton can lift a big rock.  Luke can lift a bigger one.  Their argument escalates until they threaten to blow each other up with bigger bombs.  A dog comes and both boys scurry up a tree where they continue to argue about who is hungrier and who can drink the most.  The illustrations use color very effectively, the backdrop is black and white and only the boys and the items they boast of, have bold primary colors.  It felt almost like a cartoon, a cross between Dennis the Menace and Calvin and Hobbes.  The concept of competition and “I’m better/stronger/louder/faster/etc…” is definitely a theme that all children can relate to.  As a parent, I didn’t like the violence of threatening to “flatten,” “blow away,” and ultimately “bomb” the other child.
Pre-K/EL K-3: OPTIONAL.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.     

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Ernest H. Shephard - ESSENTIAL


Grahame, Kenneth. The Reluctant Dragon, illustrated by Ernest H. Shephard.   Holiday House, 2013.  $16.99.  Content: G.  Fans of fractured fairytales of all ages will devour this delightful tale.  A young boy loves books and meets a very sensible dragon who happens not to be ferocious at all, but rather writes poetry.  The boy complains that the dragon is not a “proper” dragon at all; however, they become good friends until the townsfolk find out about the dragon.  St. George arrives to fight the dragon and the boy explains that the dragon hasn’t done anything and is quite a delightful companion.  Nevertheless, St. George accompanies the boy to speak to the dragon and convinces the dragon that they must indeed pretend to fight for the villagers were quite set on it.  Luckily, all fights end with a feast.  Although, the book was published 75 years ago, the story and characters are fresh and jump off the page with their delightful personalities.  The ink illustrations have just the right amount of detail and were done by none other than Ernest H. Shepard the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows. 
EL-ESSENTIAL.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.  

True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt - ADVISABLE


Appelt, Kathi.  The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, 327 pages. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013. $16.99.  Content: G.  Bingo and J’miah are raccoons that have an important job…they are true blue scouts of the Sugar Man Swamp.  Their job is to protect the swamp from their headquarters, a rusty old DeSoto car, where they hear “the voice.”  And if something is wrong, the true blue scouts are to wake the Sugar Man, the protector of the swamp.  And something is definitely wrong, the owner of the swamp, Sonny Boy Beaucamp, wants to tear down the trees build a gator wrestling arena and theme park.  Chap Brayburn’s mom owns the Paradise Café by the swamp and he wants to protect the swamp and a rare bird called the ivory-billed woodpecker that only his grandfather has ever seen.  Chap and the Blue Scouts save the swamp with the help of the Sugar Man and the old Desoto.   Dripping with southern charm and champions to root for, this is an ecological tale that will worm its way into the heart of all conservationists.  The story is told from multiple perspectives and the plot moves quickly. 
EL-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.     

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki –NOT RECOMMENDED

Tamaki, Jullian  This One Summer. 320 pgs. First Second, 2014. $17.99  Content: Language: PG13 (14 swears); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G. GRAPHIC NOVEL
Rose is with her parents at their summer rental home at Awago Beach. Just like every summer she spends time with her best summer friend Windy. The girls are just at the cusp of childhood versus growing up. They can play and be totally silly, but are interested in their changing bodies and what the sexual exploits of the teens that have summer work at the beach. Various sub plots about pregnancy come together as Rose’s Moms depression over a miscarriage directly effect their families happiness and a teen in the area finds out she is pregnant.
Let me start by saying that the illustrations, especially of water are just stellar. Considering the whole book is in grey scale, the artist really made use of every variation and is talented. I didn’t enjoy the story at all. I felt like the purity of the girls friendship and transitions were over complicated by the other plot elements. I don’t think many teens will relate at all to the mom’s miscarriage depression, which is a large part of the story. They might not like reading about transitions they have already gone through. Younger girls who would relate to that transition, would probably be too young for the other plot elements such as the sexual content.  

HS –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown -NOT RECOMMENDED

Brown, Box Andre the Giant: Life and Legend 240 pgs. First Second, 2014. $17.99 Content: Language: PG13 (10 swears); Mature Content: PG13 Violence: PG GRAPHIC NOVEL
Andre Roussimoff was called Andre the Giant. He is remembered from his time in the wresting circuit and as an actor in the cult classic move, The Princess Bride. Due to a genetic quirk, he would never stop growing, his health deteriorating at a younger age due to complications from it.  At his largest he was 500 pounds and seven and half feet tall. This graphic novel goes through his life and his challenges.
I was excited to read this, as a big fan of the movie and his character, I always thought it would be interesting to know more about him.  Call me old fashioned, but I craved photographs. Its my opinion that if someone lived in modern times, then its just mean not to feature some. If  the person is historic, then the imagination of the illustrator is a perfect tool. I think the graphic novel format is being over used. Is Andre the giant known by your high schoolers? Do they know The Princess Bride movie?  If so, there might be some interest in this. I was disappointed.

HS – NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston –OPTIONAL

Johnston, E.K.  The Story of Owen 312 pgs. Carolrhoda Books, 2014. $17.95 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: PG.
Siobhan and Owen are normal teenagers  that they live our modern day world, but in this story Dragons have always existed. The dragons have always been a pest, all through out history, but with the introduction of carbon fumes to our society, they are even more dangerous, as they love the stuff. Owen is a dragon fighter in training, a family tradition, and his family has just moved to a small town in Canada. Siobhan finds herself using her musical skills to tell the stories of his skills in the field. Dragons in their area are not decreasing despite having their own dragon slaying family living in town, something awful is going on. Can two teenagers find out and stop it?
Sounds so exciting right? I couldn’t wait to pick up this book, yet I found it quite overly detailed in its attempt to repaint history with a thread of dragon involved. Even as I managed to read my way to the climax of the story, I found I didn’t care anymore what happened. I was glad to read a teen book without romance, swearing, and featuring responsible main characters. The author tries to do one of my favorite thing, adding multiple sub elements and plots like Siobhans musical knowledge, but they just don’t fit in cohesively.
HS –OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814 by Jane Sutcliffe - - ESSENTIAL


Sutcliffe, Jane The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814, 120 pgs. Non-Fiction Charlesbridge. 2014. $19.95.  Language: G; Violence: PG (Battle scenes, not disturbing but descriptive) Mature Content: G.  

200 years ago, our capital, Washington D.C. was under attack by the British during the War of 1812. This is the account of the events leading up to the burning of the city, the battle and a bit of the aftermath.  The British were in and out in one fatal day, but managed to destroy some of our young country’s treasures and architecture, including the Capitol and the White House.  

Sutcliffe gives us several different viewpoints, including Presidentress Dolly Madison (from a letter to her sister), British and American soldiers, towns-people, a tourist and even a slave's account of that terrible day. Enough illustrations to provide context to upper elementary students, this short history is accessible on all school library levels.  

EL MS - - ESSENTIAL, HS - - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz - - ESSENTIAL

Hurwitz, Michele Weber The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, 264 pgs. Random House Children’s Books. 2014. $16.99.  Language: PG 5 swears (Diety); Violence: G; Mature Content PG.  

It’s the summer before 13-year-old Nina starts her freshman year in high school, and she wants to make a difference.  Her Grandmother taught her about STs (simple truths) and Nina decides to do one kind thing for each day of summer vacation, anonymously.  Can one girl’s random acts of kindness bring a whole neighborhood together? 

This is a great feel good book with realistic kids and their problems.  Well written without a lot of issues, this realistic fiction / teen romance will be a hit with the girls.   

MS HS ESSENTIAL Lisa Librarian

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Call of the Bully by Scott Starkey - - Optional

Starkey, Scott The Call of the Bully, 264 pgs. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2013 $6.99. Language: G (0 swears) Violence: G; Mature Content: G.

Rodney Rathbone is back and headed to summer camp!  But Wy-Mee camp isn’t all fun and games.  In fact, his old enemy Josh is there along with some new bullies, too. But when Rodney finally lands in the “Loserville” cabin, his camp experience begins to turn around, and with the help of his new friends, maybe this summer will turn out OK after all.  

In this follow-up to How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying, Rodney again battles bullies (mostly adult ones). Many funny situations will keep the reader laughing, but mean isn't funny in my book and the improbable situations went a bit “overboard”.  

EL OPTIONAL. Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 26, 2014

V is for Villain by Peter Moore -- OPTIONAL

Moore, Peter  V is for Villain, 336 pgs. Disney-Hyperion, 2014. $17.99. Language: PG-13 (55+ swears; 0 'f'); Violence: PG-13; Mature Content: PG-13.

As a mostly-regular boy living in a world peopled with superheroes, Brad is tired of being bullied. It's almost a relief when he's removed from the pre-superhero track at his school, and sent to the alternative program for those with less potential. Luckily for him, the new track is filled with potential friends -- ones he may be able to team up with to finally seek revenge on his oppressors.

To be honest, I found this book frustrating overall. The action was surprisingly slow in many spots, especially for a supposedly thrilling superhero tale. Brad spent much of the first half being bullied without standing up for himself. He spent much of the second half feeling morally smug and intellectually superior. For a supposedly ultra-intelligent guy, however, Brad just…wasn’t. He missed a lot, and rather than making him speak and act with actual ingenuity, many of the other characters seemed purposely and unrealistically dumbed-down, maybe to make Brad appear smarter in contrast? Or to give him targets for his snide comments? Perhaps superhero junkies, or those who enjoy protagonists with a sarcastic sense of humor, will enjoy this one more than I did.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Scan by Sarah Fine and Walter Jury -- OPTIONAL

Jury, Walter and Sarah Fine Scan (Scan #1), 336 pgs. Putnam Juvenile, 2014. $17.99. Language: R (90+ swears; 22 'f'); Violence: PG-13; Sexual Content: PG-13.

Tate's father is demanding, cold, and tough. He's also an inventor with a dangerous secret. When a shootout at Tate's school results in his father's death, Tate and his girlfriend Christina are forced to go on the run in order to protect the older man's invention: a scanner that can distinguish humans from their nearly-identical alien invaders.

Scan is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller with enough action, suspense, and explosions to keep readers turning the pages. Tate's relationship with his girlfriend is well-developed, and I appreciated their coolness under pressure. While the strong language makes this one optional instead of advisable per Kiss the Book guidelines, in this case the swearing rarely seems gratuitous, considering the extreme situations the characters find themselves in and the many villains they are up against. The multiple unresolved plot threads make it clear that this will be the first of at least two books, if not more.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Monday, July 21, 2014

Just my Lost Treasure by Mercer Mayer -OPTIONAL

Mayer, Mercer Just my Lost Treasure 24 pgs. HarperFestival, 2014. $3.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
When Little Critter is sent by his mom to find his missing socks, he sets right out. But what he finds instead is tons of missing ‘treasure’, from toys to instruments to clothes. He is so excited to find each new thing, but still hasn’t found the socks!
Of course, adorably illustrated, this book is filled with cute animals and bright colors. I don’t really like the lesson here though. It grates at me that Little Critter has so many toys and is so irresponsible with them. Especially true after reading the Rent Collector for my last review, where a family lives at the dump and each item they use really is a treasure.  

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

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright –ADVISABLE

Wright, Camron  The Rent Collector 288  pgs. Shadow Mountain, 2013. $15.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG13 Violence: PG.
Unbeknownst to most of the world, there are many families who live right at a garbage dump called Stung Meanchey, a real place in Cambodia. They make their living scavenging and selling, a grim existence made dangerous by disease, lack of essentials, danger from the garbage itself, and roaming gangs. We follow the story of Sang Ly, a young mother trying to raise an ill son and wanting to learn how to read. When she discovers the rent collector, a grumpy horrible woman, can read, Sang Ly is determined to learn.  Turns out there is more to the rent collector than anyone could possible guess.
This is a wonderful and eye opening story! It’s such a different point of view on literature -one that is fresh to the joy and desire to learn to read. The host of characters are interesting and well developed. I think high school students would do well to read about this very grim place, yet a place so full of hope. Adults will love this surprising read as well.

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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More by Jane Fonda - - PUBLIC ONLY


Fonda, Jane Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More, 288 pgs. Non-Fiction Random House. 2014 $17.00. 

Illustrated with drawings and complete with an index (so you can look up what you want to know and skip what you're not ready for) this clear, up front book for teen boys or girls is about everything from emotional health to sexuality to dealing with relationships. It is WAY too mature for a school library, but as a resource purchased for the right girl, this subject matter is valuable. 

PUBLIC ONLY Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck - - Advisable


Peck, Richard The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, 223 pgs.  Dial Books for Young Readers 2013.  $16.99. Language: G (0 swears) Violence: G; Mature Content: G.  

A little mouse who has been raised by his Aunt Marigold and attends the Royal Mews Academy, runs away from school on the eve of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Celebration, to seek an audience with the queen and to find out why he doesn’t have a name. “Nameless is Blameless” his Aunt always tells him, but maybe there’s more to this mouse than he thinks.  

Peck continues to delight children’s fiction readers, this time with an adorable mouse.  Not as laugh aloud funny as A Year Down Yonder, but still, a well written story. 

EL, MS - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan -- ADVISABLE

Morgan, Page The Beautiful and the Cursed, 341 pgs. Random House Children's Books, 2013. $18.99. Language: PG-13 (92 swear words, although technically 80+ of them refer to hell as a place instead of as a swear since demons are involved; no 'f'); Violence: PG-13; Mature Content: PG-13.

In 1899 Ingrid and her sister Gabby move to Paris to escape a humiliating past, but when they show up nothing is as they had expected. Their new home is an abandoned abbey with creepy gargoyles ringing the roof. A city-wide curfew is in place to protect girls from a recent series of violent and unexplained murders. A mysterious servant with arresting eyes seems abnormally interested in them. Worst of all, Ingrid's twin brother, who had arrived early to prepare the abbey for their presence, has disappeared. Searching for Grayson is dangerous, but Ingrid and Gabby aren't the type to sit at home and wait, even in a city where mishaps are not only tinged with violence, but with a sense of the otherworldly.

With its gorgeous and evocative description, historical setting, and sense of impending doom, this carefully-spun tale has the feel of a gothic horror novel, with some tantalizing hints at future romance woven in. Ingrid and Gabby are both strong characters, and they grow well throughout the novel. While the ending has some wonderful twists and a suspenseful climax, several unresolved threads will clearly be carried into the sequel.

HS -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn


Friday, July 18, 2014

Of Neptune by Anna Banks - ADVISABLE

Banks, Anna  Of Neptune (The Syrena Legacy, #3), 327 pgs.  Feiwel and Friends, 2014.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG (2 swears); Violence: PG; Mature Content: PG-13.

Emma, a half human/ half Syrena (mermaid) loves Galen, the Triton prince, and they have planned their future together.  But when Galen’s friend Rachel dies, he starts to question their plans and wants to go with Emma on a road trip to grow close together.  Emma’s grandfather, the King of Poseidon wants Emma to visit the town of Neptune where she will meet other half-breeds.  Neptune causes Emma to wonder about her plans with Galen and they find people with evil intentions.

This is the third and final book in the Of Poseidon series.  It has an action packed story line with interesting new characters.  The ending is satisfying and I enjoyed the whole series.  It’s great for those readers who like mermaid stories.

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More Than This by Patrick Ness - PUBLIC ONLY

Ness, Patrick  More Than This, 472 pgs.  Candlewick Press, 2013.  $19.99  Content: Language: R (100+ swears; 2 “F” words); Mature Content: R (homosexual sexual situation); Violence: PG-13.  

Seth kills himself by drowning in the freezing ocean.  He wakes up on the sidewalk of his childhood home, halfway around the world in England.  He is alone and the world is completely silent-no insects, animals or other humans and his home is covered in dust.  He thinks he is in hell, but is confused by the world around him.  Whenever he falls asleep he sees glimpses of his old life and Seth has trouble telling the difference between reality and his past.  

This book is fascinating and deep, at times it reminded me of the Matrix.  Ness pulls the reader into his world completely and I couldn’t put the book down trying to figure out what was going to happen next.  I’m sad that the book had such strong sexual content because it is a fascinating read, and fun to talk about.  

PUBLIC ONLY  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

B is for Box: The Happy Little Yellow Box by David A. Carter - OPTIONAL

Carter, David A.  B Is For Box: The Happy Little Yellow Box Little Simon, 2014.  $12.99  POP UP BOOK  Content: G.   

A smiling little yellow box navigates readers through the alphabet.  Each letter has a sentence with alliteration and a simple drawing and some letters get a pull tap or pop out image.  The background is black and the drawings are done in white, looking like chalk.  My little boys love this book and have read it multiple times already.  I would say that it’s advisable, except I think that books with tabs and pop outs are hard for libraries because of all the little hands who get impatient and pull the wrong way.  This would be a cute gift though.

PREK-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.       

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord -- ESSENTIAL

Lord, Emery Open Road Summer, 352 pgs. Bloomsbury/Walker, 2014. $17.99. Mature content: PG-13; Language: PG-13 (50+ swears; no 'f'); Violence: PG.

Reagan is convinced that joining her superstar best friend Dee on her concert tour will be the perfect way to forget a troubled past. Unfortunately, it's not as easy to run from mistakes as Reagan had hoped, and hot opening act Matt Finch only adds to the complications.

This young adult novel is the perfect blend of romance, humor, and angst, with plenty of backstage details to entice music fans. Reagan and Dee's friendship is a wonderfully strong element as well, showing that best friends can be just as important as crushes, if not more so. While the cover implies a hotter read, Reagan and Matt's relationship is refreshingly clean, and I appreciate that they decide to move slowly despite their mutual attraction; it adds a depth and sweetness to their relationship. As a character, Reagan comes across as brusque and cynical at times, but her attitude seems realistic given her background, and her demeanor gives her plenty of room to grow both during the novel and, presumably, afterward.

HS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Vote by Gary Paulsen -- ESSENTIAL

Paulsen, Gary Vote, 136 pgs. Wendy Lamb Books, 2013. $12.99. Content: PG.

In this follow-up to Liar, Liar; Flat Broke; and CrushKevin Spencer is at it again. Kevin prides himself on his leadership skills, but those are about to get a serious workout, because he's made a spur-of-the-moment decision to run for student body president. It's either that or risk losing his brand new girlfriend to the other candidate. But as it turns out, running for office is not as easy as it looks.

Kevin is a hilarious, and very candid, character, and his narrative is filled with wonderfully quirky details. While he has a lot of room to grow, he is smart and charming, and his story likely appeal to many readers, both male and female.

MS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

One or Two Things I Learned about Love by Dyan Sheldon - OPTIONAL

Sheldon, Dyan  One or Two Things I Learned About Love, 288 pgs.  Candlewick Press, 2012.  $15.99  Content: Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG-13 (French kissing); Violence: G.  

Hildy expects that this summer is going to be plain and boring like all of the summers before, until she meets Conner, a cute boy who seems interested in her.  As Hildy and Conner begin to become boyfriend and girlfriend, Hildy finds herself changing to make him happy.  Hildy has a lot to learn about balancing life and boys.  

The cover of this book is very misleading.  It looks like a fun, sweet teen romance, when in actuality it’s about a controlling boyfriend-he’s so controlling, it’s borderline abusive.  The book reveals an important lesson about remembering who we are when navigating through first love, but the main character took forever to realize the problem and when she finally did it felt abrupt.  

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

Fool's Gold (Order of Darkness, #3) by Philippa Gregory - OPTIONAL

Gregory, Philippa  Fool’s Gold (Order of Darkness, #3), 366 pgs.  Simon Pulse, 2014.  $19.99  Content: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: R (descriptive talk of sex); Violence: PG.  

Luca, Isolde, Ishraq and Freize are headed to Venice on orders by their unknown Lord to determine where the gold saturating the market is coming from.  Luca and Ishraq come upon an alchemist and try to determine if he is making the gold or if it is real.  Luca loves Isolde and they find themselves in a frustrating situation with an older courtesan who is interested in Luca.  

This being the third book in the series, the characters are already developed, so it’s necessary to read the other two books in the series.  The Luca and Isolde situation made the book seem more adult that the other books in the series.  Philippa Gregory writes good historical fiction and this had interesting science as well, but it just felt like it was intended for an older reader.  There is a line of questioning in the book that is very sexual and descriptive-making it rated R.  This book, as opposed to the other two books in the series, actually had supernatural elements, so it's not just historical fiction.  

HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Am Otter by Sam Garton -- ESSENTIAL

Garton, Sam I Am Otter. PICTURE BOOK. Balzer + Bray, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

Otter loves living with his keeper. They play together every weekend and have the best time. Unfortunately, Keeper has to go to work each week, leaving the mischievous Otter to his own devices. Bored, Otter starts his own toast restaurant for all of his stuffed animals, but it doesn't go at all like he'd planned. The results are disastrous -- and hilarious. This is a cute, original story, and the ending made me laugh out loud the first time I read it. It's the illustrations that really make the book, though. Not only are they adorable, but they are so full of rich detail that I notice new elements every time I read.

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

Zoe's Jungle by Bethanie Deeney Murguia -- ADVISABLE

Murguia, Bethanie Deeney Zoe's Jungle. PICTURE BOOK. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

This story within a story alternates Zoe's imaginary attempts to catch the rare Addiebeast with her reality of playing at the playground with her sister Addie. It's nice to see a picture book that celebrates both the art of imaginary play and the fun that can be had when two sisters get along.

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

Plesiosaur Peril by Daniel Loxton -- ESSENTIAL

Loxton, Daniel Plesiosaur Peril, illustrated by Daniel Loxton and Jim W.W. Smith. PICTURE BOOK. Kids Can Press, 2014. $16.95. Content: G.

When a baby Cryptoclidus strays from its pod, it earns the attention of a hungry Liopleurodon. The baby must think fast -- and swim even faster -- in order to avoid becoming a meal. An author's note at the end provides more background on both types of prehistoric ocean-dwellers.

With its action-packed story, this book is a perfect blend of adventure and information, tailor-made for dinosaur lovers. The artwork is wonderful as well; its blend of photographs and illustrations brings the ancient creatures to life so vividly that they look real.

Pre-K, EL -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson -- ADVISABLE

Robinson, Sharon Under the Same Sun, illustrated by AG Ford. PICTURE BOOK. Scholastic Books, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

Grandmother Bibi and Auntie Sharon are visiting family in Tanzania. It's Bibi's birthday, and the family has a surprise in store: a safari in Serengeti National Park, followed by a much more sober visit to a slave-trading post on the shores of the Indian Ocean. An author's note at the end provides further background on this story, which is based on a true experience.

Under the Same Sun is a good reminder that even families who are separated are all living under the same sun and can hope to see each other again soon. While the story is lovely, I absolutely adore the illustrations. They are so realistic and full of life and emotion that they almost feel like actual photographs instead of paintings. All in all, a very nice read.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Help! We Need a Title! by Henré Tullet -- OPTIONAL

Tullet, Henré Help! We Need a Title! PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2013. $16.99. Content: G.

Uh oh! Readers have shown up to read this book, and the characters are not ready. They don't have a plot. They don't know who the villain is. They don't even have a title. Who should they call? An author, of course. And they know just the one: Henré Tullet.

I felt like I should love this book. It seems creative and offbeat and like something I would enjoy, not to mention Tullet is very well-known for writing Press Here. Unfortunately, while the plot seems like it is supposed to come across as spontaneous and unpredictable, much of it is wandering and slow instead. When I shared it with my four-year-old, she declared it boring and requested a different book before we'd even reached the end. Perhaps others will enjoy the quirky style -- all 64 pages of it -- but, with a few exceptions, we found it much too long and sluggish.

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

Papá and Me by Arthur Dorros -- ESSENTIAL

Dorros, Arthur Papá and Me, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. PICTURE BOOK. Rayo/HarperCollins, 2008. $6.99. Content: G.

A boy and his father spend the day together, singing, and cooking breakfast, and walking to the park. Speaking in English peppered with Spanish words and phrases, they move throughout their day, celebrating being together and having fun.

I love the joyful feeling of this book, and the love that seeps through the pages. The Spanish phrases add an interesting element to the story, and are shown well enough so students who don't speak the language shouldn't feel left out. The father is a wonderful role model, and the lively illustrations are colorful and warm and filled with the love between a father and his son.

EL -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Elan, Son of Two Peoples by Heidi Smith Hyde -- OPTIONAL

Smith, Heidi Elan, Son of Two Peoples, illustrated by Mikela Prevost. PICTURE BOOK. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014. $7.95. Content: G.

In this tale based on a true story, it is 1898 and Elan and his family are traveling from San Francisco to New Mexico. There, this son of a Jewish merchant and Pueblo Indian Chief's descendent would see his mother's native village for the first time. Not only that, but he would follow up his Bar Mitzvah with participation in the Pueblo ceremony to become a man.

While the book has an interesting premise, overall I found it fairly confusing, perhaps due to lack of background in either culture. Clearer explanations and illustrations would have helped. The length of the text felt burdensome as well. Still, the story it is rooted in is interesting, especially when described in the author's note at the end, and it may find an audience among those who are partial to religious overtones in their stories.

EL -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt -- ESSENTIAL

Howatt, Sandra J. Sleepyheads, illustrated by Joyce Wan. PICTURE BOOK. Beach Lane Books, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

Some sleepyheads snooze in nests, or holes, or caves. But where is the tiny sleepyhead who belongs in the cozy bedroom? Asleep in mama's arms, of course.

I think I could read this book to my preschooler every night before bed for the next several years because it is so peaceful and sweet, perfect for young children. The soothing rhythm and lovely pictures work together to make a cozy, simple sleepy-time read-aloud. I only wish it were available in a board book format to make it even more accessible for the very tiniest of listeners.

Pre-K -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox -- OPTIONAL

Cox, Lynne Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas, illustrated by Brian Floca. PICTURE BOOK. Schwartz & Wade, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

Most elephant seals live in the ocean, but not Elizabeth. She loves the Avon River flowing through Christchurch, New Zealand -- and many of the residents of Christchurch love her, too. But when she stretches out in the middle of the road one day and causes an accident, well-meaning citizens tow her out to sea, where she would be safer. Elizabeth isn't having any of that, though. This is one elephant seal who loves city life.

This is a charming true story that may appeal to many animal lovers. It is, however, very long and and just quirky enough to have a limited audience, making it an optional purchase.

EL -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Super Silly School Poems by David Greenberg -- ADVISABLE

Greenberg, David Super Silly School Poems, illustrated by Liza Woodruff. PICTURE BOOK. Scholastic, 2014. $6.99. Content: G.

This book follows the tradition of Shel Silverstein with its funny poems and illustrations, all of which center around school. The humor utilizes such things as boogers, bad smells, and toilet paper to effectively appeal to children's sensibilities. Many will indeed find these poems silly and will likely giggle as they read.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn


What's New? The Zoo! by Kathleen Krull -- OPTIONAL

Krull, Kathleen What's New? The Zoo! A Zippy History of Zoos, illustrated by Marcellus Hall. PICTURE BOOK. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

This detailed history of zoos begins with the first known collection and works its way up, over 40 pages, to the modern-day panda exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.

Despite the title, this book did not feel "zippy." It was, in fact, quite long and fairly dull. Many of the illustrations could have been more appealing as well; some were downright incomprehensible, such as the zookeeper's face for the Rio de Janeiro zoo. Selected facts might be helpful for students who are either researching zoos or are planning field trips to one, but the book is not very interesting when read in its entirety.

EL -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Washday by Eve Bunting -- ADVISABLE

Bunting, Eve Washday, illustrated by Brad Sneed. PICTURE BOOK. Holiday House, 2014. $16.95. Content: G.

One Saturday morning in 1889, Lizzie and her doll walk to Grandma's house to help with washing. Together they boil the water, separate the clothes by color, and wash them using homemade lye soap. Once they have finished, they have a sense of accomplishment and are finally able to relax.

Reading this book was not only an interesting endeavor, but it also helped me have a huge appreciation for modern conveniences such as washers and dryers. I will try not to complain about doing laundry again. (Emphasis on "try.") Although this book is historical, Lizzie is a very relatable character, as she yearns to go play instead of doing chores, yet she feels a very natural sense of pride when the job is done. The lovely illustrations make a good accompaniment to the text.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn


Clara and Davie by Patricia Polacco -- ADVISABLE

Polacco, Patricia Clara and Davie: The True Story of Young Clara Barton. PICTURE BOOK. Scholastic Press, 2014. $17.99.

Long before Clara Barton became a legendary medical practitioner and started the Red Cross, she displayed an acuity for healing. She was also brave, damaged, and exceptionally smart. This book tells the story of her early years, showing her talents and her struggles, as well as her close relationship with her older brother Davie.

This is an interesting insight into an amazing woman. It was inspiring to see Barton overcome her speech difficulties and tense relationship with her domineering older sister in order to become the healer she was destined to be. I also enjoyed seeing how big a role her brother played in her history; one key person really can make a difference in someone else's life. This story is quite long and detailed for a read-aloud, although it would be helpful for individual students' research projects or for encouraging children who also wish to grow up and do great things despite any personal difficulties.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Oh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O'Neill -- ESSENTIAL

O'Neill, Gemma Oh Dear, Geoffrey! PICTURE BOOK. Templar Books/Candlewick Press, 2013. $15.99. Content: G.

Geoffrey has trouble making friends because he's so clumsy, but when he sulks off to his favorite tree, he discovers there are some animals he can't fall on, splash, or smash: birds and monkeys. Geoffrey finally fits in.

The story is fun to read aloud, with its use of onomatopoeia and exclamations, but it's the illustrations that make it. They are gorgeous, so rich and interesting, full of color and texture, perfectly capturing each animal's characteristics and emotions.

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

Mighty Dads by Joan Holub -- ADVISABLE

Holub, Joan Mighty Dads, illustrated by James Dean. PICTURE BOOK. Scholastic Press, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

Using a construction-zone theme, this picture book explores the relationships between fathers and their children. For example, Big Excavator helps his child while they dig, Big Bulldozer shows his child right from wrong as they scoop, and Big Crane keeps his child safe as they reach up high.

With its large font; simple concepts; bold illustrations; array of building site equipment; and emphasis on parent-child relationships, this one seems perfectly geared for very young construction-lovers. The action makes it interesting for daytime reading, but the restful ending helps it work for before naps and bedtime as well.

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

Hickory Dickory Dog by Alison Murray -- ADVISABLE

Murray, Alison Hickory Dickory Dog. PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2012. $16.99. Content: G.

Using elements of "Hickory, Dickory, Dock" this picture book shows a dog who loves his boy so much that he refuses to stay home. Trotting past the school's "No Dogs Allowed" sign, Rufus joins the boy for a day of learning.

This cute story is fun to read aloud. The pictures and font are charmingly retro, befitting the book's nod to an old-fashioned nursery rhyme. Observant readers will notice humorous details such as the dog becoming progressively dirtier with each activity he accompanies the boy in doing.

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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How Do Lions Say I Love You? by Diane Muldrow -- ADVISABLE

Muldrow, Diane How Do Lions Say I Love You?, illustrated by David Walker. PICTURE BOOK. Golden Books, 2009. $3.99. Content: G.

Through rhyming text and quiet illustrations, this book shows the ways in which many animals demonstrate their love to each other. It seems made for lap reading with a toddler or preschooler, perhaps right before a nap or bedtime. While it is not particularly unique, it does ooze tenderness, and its rhythm is very soothing.

Pre-K -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn


The Bear's Sea Escape by Benjamin Chaud -- ADVISABLE

Chaud, Benjamin The Bear's Sea Escape. PICTURE BOOK. Chronicle Books, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

Papa Bear and his cub have trouble hibernating when it's cold, so they search for a warm place to sleep. Certain they've found the spot, they curl up in the teddy bear section of a department store -- only to have the cub carried away by a little boy who thinks he's a stuffed animal. Now Papa Bear is searching everywhere for his baby, who always seems to be just out of his sight. This book is reminiscent of the Where's Waldo series, in that both the cub and his father are on every page, hidden among all the action depicted in the very busy illustrations. Those who catch on to the fact may have fun finding the two everywhere, although others may miss the point without some guidance.

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

Goatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl -- ESSENTIAL

Perl, Erica S. Goatilocks and the Three Bears, illustrated by Arthur Howard. PICTURE BOOK. Beach Lane Books, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

In this humorous spin on the Goldilocks story, a little goat sneaks into the three bears' house and proceeds to eat the bowl of porridge (spoon and all), the chair, and the bed. Unlike Goldilocks, though, she realizes she has done something wrong, so she compensates the three bears with a special present. Both the voice and the illustrations are hilarious, and it's a lot of fun to find the differences between this book and the tale it fractures. It is also refreshing to see the goat at least attempting to make up for her transgressions.

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

Tools Rule! by Aaron Meshon -- ESSENTIAL

Meshon, Aaron Tools Rule! PICTURE BOOK. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

The backyard is a mess, so all the different tools get together to build a shed. Once they're protected and organized inside their new shelter, they can finally sleep peacefully.

Tools Rule! touches on teamwork and the importance of organizing one's workspace, while introducing a number of tools by name and showing them in use. Action, wordplay, and colorful illustrations add to the interest.

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

Where's My Homework? by Michael Garland -- ADVISABLE

Garland, Michael Where's My Homework? PICTURE BOOK. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, 2014. $6.99. Content: G.

A boy's homework is missing. Did aliens sneak into his room and abduct it? Did pirates plunder it? Maybe a snake slithered away with it? As it turns out, the homework-stealer is right under his nose.

Where's My Homework? was enjoyable on the first read, as I wondered what had happened to the assignments, or if they had even existed in the first place. I liked it even better on subsequent reads, though, when I noticed the hint to the culprit on many pages. While the ending is far from original, the journey to it is both fun and funny. It would work well for students practicing their plot-prediction skills, or simply for an entertaining story time read-aloud.

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

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan -- ADVISABLE


Whelan, Gloria Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. PICTURE BOOK. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. $17.99. Content: PG.

This amusing picture book shows readers a little-known facet of Queen Victoria's life: her urge to swim in the ocean, the social laws she would break by doing so, and how her husband finally devised a plan that let her take a dip. This fancifully-described true story includes a bibliography, a picture of the bathing machine, and an author's note with more information about Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and the machine.

This is a fun idea for a picture book, and it brings a piece of history to life in an interesting way. It would be a great opener into discussions of monarchs, or of social conventions. As often happens in rhyming picture books, the rhythm is thrown off in a few places, but it flows fairly well throughout most of the book. While some nudity is hinted at -- its avoidance, after all, is the crux of the story -- the reader never sees more than a bare arm or knee.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

When did you see her last? By Lemony Snicket -OPTIONAL

Snicket, Lemony When did you see her last? 288 pgs. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013. $16.00 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G
This is a follow up to “Who Could that be at this Hour”. Lemony is now apprenticed to a detective who isn’t great at her job. They are investigating the disappearance of a girl named Cleo. He starts to track her and keep s getting different answers. Did she actually run away?  Lemony starts to make some connections and starts to investigate the evil Hangfire.
This is my first Lemony Snicket book and I found I didn’t care for it. Its so whimsical that its almost a farce. I kept getting jolted out of the story by stupid jokes. Like instead of Whole foods, the author plays off it with Partial Foods. Because of this I just had a hard time buying in and found I could care less about the outcome. This author seems popular with children, I can't quite figure it out. So if it’s a demanded author at your library, by all means add this book to your collection.

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

Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick –ADVISABLE

Vernick, Audrey  Screaming at the Ump 272  pgs. Clarion Books, 2014. $16.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Casey loves his life, he lives with his dad and Pop at a school for Umpires. Of course it helps that he loves watching baseball. He has a zany best friend who keeps life interesting as well. Casey would love to be a reporter, and when a controversial story falls in his lap, he really wants to use to prove himself to the school newspaper, but he will need to thing about being objective and ethics.
Although this story isn't about a boy that plays sports, there is plenty to love for a baseball fan. I think students will be enchanted by the idea of living in a such a non-traditional way –at a umpire school. The author does a wonderful job of letting us get to know all the characters really well and is talented at weaving in various small plotlines to make a really filled out story. Students will be drawn in by the cover and really enjoy the story.

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

Golden by Jessi Kirby - OPTIONAL

Kirby, Jessi  Golden, 277 pgs.  Simon and Schuster, 2013.  $16.99  Content: Language: R (31 swears; 2 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.  

Parker is a teacher’s aide for Mr, Kinney, a teacher who asks his seniors to write in a journal for their end of year project, then he boxes them up and sends them to the seniors in ten years.  Parker is in charge of finding the seniors current addresses, and she comes across the journal of a girl that went missing and was presumed dead at the end of her senior year.  She decides to read the journal and it changes the way she wants to live her life and sends her on an adventure with her friends.  

I love Jessi Kirby’s other books and you can’t deny that she writes well, but this wasn’t my favorite of hers.  The mystery of the missing girl is great and I liked the characters.  The ending was disappointing because I wanted the character to reconcile who she was before she read the journal with who she changed into because of what she learned.  Instead, I felt like she gave up on all of her hard work because she didn’t feel like she knew who she was, which made the ending unsatisfying.  Also, the “F” words were out of left field and totally unnecessary, bumping it into high school level, otherwise it would have been good in middle school.  

HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble by Nick Bruel - OPTIONAL

Bruel, Nick Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble, 127 pgs.  Roaring Brook Press, 2014.  $13.99  Content: G.  

The book is about Mr. Bruel explaining how to write a good book. Mr. Bruel had many examples to help you understand what he is talking about.  And Uncle Murray helps explain the differences of the words that are important. 

I liked this book because you got told how to write a good book. I also liked that it felt like you were having a one on one conversation with Mr. Bruel during the book. I liked the pictures a lot.  This wasn’t my favorite Bad Kitty book.  

EL-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, Isabelle, age 10.            

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts -- OPTIONAL

Watts, Jeri Kizzy Ann Stamps, 185 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2012. $5.99. Content: PG.

It is 1963, and Kizzy Ann Stamps is about to attend a recently-integrated school. In a series of letters to her new teacher, she describes her fears about going to classes with white students for the first time, as well as her thoughts about civil rights issues and her experiences with her beloved dog Shag.

Oh, how I wanted to love this book. The premise is interesting, and Kizzy Ann's voice captivated me in the first few letters. Unfortunately, the epistolary style made the events in Kizzy Ann's life feel distant because they were summarized instead of happening in the moment. Also, while I very much enjoyed the writing, I kept being pulled out of the story because it was difficult to believe that a child Kizzy Ann's age, and one who had had inadequate schooling, would write with such an adult voice and use such a wide vocabulary. Still, I enjoyed the glimpse into Kizzy Ann's world, and I finished the book with a smile on my face.

MS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn