Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to Make a Planet by Scott Forbes –ESSENTIAL

Forbes, Scott and Illustrated by Camden, Jean  How to Make a Planet 64 pgs. Kids Can Press, 2014. $17.95. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
This  ‘story’ takes elementary aged readers through all the steps it took to create our planet, as if they are creating their own planet. The science component is very comprehensive and covers a wide range of concepts from the water cycles to chemistry to physics and of course astronomy. Its heavily illustrated including photographs, as well as just so bright and colorful. It makes use of analogies that children will relate to and fun facts.
Students in my school would love this book! There is a certain time of year, curriculum spurred, where I am cleaned out of astronomy books. This one is a bit technical for the 2-3 graders, but I think they will devour it none the less. The way that the reader is carried through the science, through the idea of creating their own planet, overcomes any complexities of the content. The illustrations are top notch and really add to the ability to comprehend the text. It has cover appeal and will no doubt fly off your shelf.

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

Bedtime Math2: This time its personal by Laura Overdeck –ADVISABLE

Overdeck, Laura Bedtime Math2: This time its personal 96 pgs. Feiwel & Friends, 2014. $15.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.

Created for a parent and their child as a bedtime ‘story’, this book features short funny informational blurbs about a wide range of topics such as underwear and teeth, and toenails. The companion page are short math riddles created for different levels of difficulty  titled: Wee ones, Little kids, and Big kids.

This is a fun way for parents to make math a part of the daily normal routine, not something to be dreaded or feared. The illustrations are bright, color, and modern. The little topical blurbs are often silly and interesting at the same time. The questions seem right on the money for the most part, as far as differentiating for different skills levels. The questions for the WEE one, the least challenging were sometimes a bit difficult for supposing to be the easiest. I think this would be a fun book for a parent to own and could be used by all the children in the family. I think students just have fun reading through and trying to answer all the questions on their own as well.

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

The Witch's Curse by Jordan Quinn -- ESSENTIAL

Quinn, Jordan The Witch's Curse (The Kingdom of Wrenly #4), illustrated by Robert McPhillips. 120 pgs. Little Simon, 2014. $15.99. Content: G.

The Kingdom of Wrenly is soaking wet! It has been raining for days, and everything is flooded. Such abnormal weather can only be the result of a curse -- and Prince Lucas is sure he knows who's responsible. With the help of his friend Clara, the two set off to stop the rain.

I love how strong, brave and clever both Lucas and Clara are, while still making some understandably childlike mistakes. Their initiative is admirable as well, and the mystery of who is at fault and how to stop them adds suspense. The plentiful illustrations, large font, and fairly simple sentences make this one good for early chapter book readers. At first I was a little annoyed at the way Lucas rushed to accuse without much proof, but when I discovered that that was the point of the book, I loved it. Not jumping to conclusions is a lesson everyone needs to learn sometime, and this was a good way to show it without seeming preachy.

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


The Mystery in the Forbidden City by Harper Paris -- ESSENTIAL

Paris, Harper The Mystery in the Forbidden City (Greetings from Somewhere #4), illustrated by Marcos Calo. 122 pgs. Little Simon, 2014. #15.99. Content: G.

After their adventures in Venice and Paris, Ella and Ethan have now traveled to Beijing with their travel-writer mother and homeschooling father. But when they discover an ancient map, they are so engrossed in interpreting it that they lose their tour group. Can the twins find both the tour group and the purpose of the map before their parents discover they've gone missing?

This is another wonderful installment in the Greetings from Somewhere series. Like the books that came before, the twins work well together and are clever without seeming too adult. The entwined mysteries provide enough suspense to keep young readers guessing, and the details of the setting will likely make many readers want to visit Beijing while also teaching them a little something about the area. The large font, plentiful illustrations, and fairly simple wording make this good for those who are new to chapter books. Ella and Ethan do refer to previous adventures, which makes it more difficult -- though not impossible -- to read the books out of order. Includes a glossary with several words in Chinese; this is an interesting addition, although a pronunciation guide would have been helpful.

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

The Ability by M. M. Vaughan - - OPTIONAL


Vaughan, M.M. The Ability, 330 pgs. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster). 2014. $6.99. Language: G (0 swears); Violence: PG; Mature Content: G. 

12-year-old Christopher Lane gets in trouble at school.  The teachers and the headmaster hate him, and his home life is terrible.  His father is dead and his mother has been grieving for several years, won’t leave the house, and Chris is trying to keep it together. So, when the offer comes to go to a full tuition scholarship, special school to hone and train his “ability”, Chris accepts! It’s a small school, with only a few other students, and they receive the royal treatment, but can the children learn to control their abilities in time to save the Prime Minister?  

The first book in The Ability series, I’d hoped it would be more interesting, that the premise would develop better, that it would be better written.  

EL MS -- OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale - - ESSENTIAL

Hale, Nathan, Donner Dinner Party, 125 pgs. Abrams, 2013. $12.95. Language: G (0 swears) Violence: PG (murders, cannibalism-offpage) Mature Content: G.  

The tragic story of the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party who left Springfield, Illinois heading for California in 1846. Due to some terrible decisions, some very bad luck and an early snowstorm, they become stranded less than 100 miles from their destination and faced starvation, exposure and death. 


Illustrator Nathan Hale, tells the story through American Spy Nathan Hale (who is stalling his execution on the gallows by telling historical tales). This graphic novel is remarkably funny, considering the subject matter.  The gruesome content is kept off page and is treated delicately.  Book 3 in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is a fun way to get reluctant readers interested in history. 

EL MS - - ESSENTIAL  Lisa Librarian

Ukulele Hayley by Judy Cox -- ADVISABLE

Cox, Judy Ukulele Hayley, illustrated by Amanda Haley. 96 pgs. Holiday House, 2013. $16.95. Content: G.

When Hayley's third-grade teacher announces an upcoming talent show, Hayley is dismayed to realize she doesn't have any show-worthy talents. But then she discovers an old ukulele at a garage sale. With the help of a few mentors -- and a lot of practice -- Hayley becomes very good at her instrument. So good, in fact, that she spearheads a ukulele club for her classmates. But the school budget has fallen short, and the entire music program may be at risk. Hayley and her uke-playing friends will have to work hard to save the music.

Hayley is a fun, spunky character. Her kindness, determination, and creativity are admirable, and she's easy to root for. The voice is pretty adult at times, with many phrases and thoughts a third-grader would be unlikely to use, and the ending is a little too pat, leaving me to wonder which programs would get cut if the district saved music. Still, kids will likely have fun following Hayley's journey, and it could be a wonderful inspiration for music-lovers everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if it even spurred a few ukulele players among its readers.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pointe by Brandy Colbert -- OPTIONAL

Colbert, Brandy Pointe, 340 pgs. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2014. $17.99. Language: R (100+ swears, 38 'f'); Mature Content: R; Violence: R.

When she was thirteen, Theo's much-older boyfriend abandoned her. Two weeks later, her best friend disappeared. Since then the aspiring ballerina has dealt with both an eating disorder and a lot of shame. But Theo's best friend has just been recovered, Theo has a chance at a future in ballet, and the guy Theo's crushing on, well, isn't the greatest but isn't quite as bad as her first love. Things are looking up, right? Actually, no. Because Theo has a lot of baggage to deal with, and a lot of pressure. And that will only get worse as the trial for her best friend's kidnapper grows near.

First of all, the cover of this book is beautiful, designed to draw students from across a busy library. The details on the ballet lifestyle are fascinating, and the diversity of the cast feels refreshing and real without trying too hard. There is no doubt that this book deals with some important issues as well, and ones that do need to be addressed in a realistic way without moralizing, over-explaining, or condoning said actions. However, there is so much going on in just over 300 pages -- statutory rape and molestation, kidnapping, drinking, drugs, eating disorders, betrayals, cheating boyfriends, Stockholm syndrome, PTSD, and much more -- that it becomes overwhelming. Each of these could take up an entire book, such as in Winter Girls or Speak, but since they were all crowded into one story none of them could get the full attention it deserved. The spread-out plot also made for a lot of characters, many of whom were underdeveloped, and the ending felt a bit anti-climatic. Still, Colbert's writing is lovely, and more mature readers may enjoy it very much.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Infatuate by Aimee Agresti - OPTIONAL

Agresti, Aimee  Infatuate (Gilded Wings #2), 401 pgs.  Harcourt, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG (6 swears); Violence: PG-13; Mature Content: PG-13.  

Haven and her boyfriend, Lance, and best friend, Dante decide to go to New Orleans and help in a volunteer program.  While there they find that the city is being attacked by demons who are disguised as beautiful people.  Haven and Lance start to drift apart when they find that the other volunteers in their group are also angels.  They start their angel training in the hopes that they can beat back the demons.  

This is the second book in the Gilded Wings series and the first one had a fantastic setting with great chemistry between the characters-this one isn’t as good.  It actually took me a whole month to finish (unheard of for me) because I just couldn’t get into it and I found that I didn’t really care about the characters.  It felt like a drawn out middle book that was trying to bridge two books together.  In the end when it started to get good-it left me hanging.  Overall, it was a disappointment-but maybe I was in a bad mood…for a month.   

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Promise Bound by Anne Greenwood Brown - ADVISABLE

Brown, Anne Greenwood  Promise Bound (Lies Beneath, #3), 353 pgs.  Delacorte Press, 2014.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (29 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Lily is a Half (half mermaid and half human), but she has a pendant from her grandmother that gives her glimpses into the past, glimpses into Calder’s past.  Although Lily and Calder love each other and Calder is more human with Lily’s family in his life, Lily realizes the importance of Calder learning his past so he can move into the future.  But when Lily pushes Calder to find his past, there are misunderstandings and Lily is left to handle all of the family drama at home without him.  

This is a great ending to the Lies Beneath series.  The storyline never slows down and all three books build to this satisfying ending.  I liked the setting and the darker take on mermaids.  The characters in the book are high school aged, but there isn’t anything content wise that would keep it from middle school libraries.  Easy to recommend to young adult readers.  

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

Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown - ADVISABLE

Brown, Anne Greenwood  Deep Betrayal (Lies Beneath, #2), 333 pgs.  Delacorte Press, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (24 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Lily’s parents have moved her back to her hometown to keep her away from the lake where she almost died, but Lily misses Calder, her merman boyfriend.  Also, Lily’s father, Jason, is fighting his urge to get in the water and is confused about why he feels drawn to it.  Lily convinces Calder to help Jason understand what it means to be a merman without losing his humanity, but all the time Calder spends with Jason is time away from Lily and people are turning up dead all around the lake.  

In this second book in the Lies Beneath trilogy there is a mystery which moves the plot along quickly.  I was disappointed that Lily and Calder’s relationship wasn’t better developed and the ending seemed quickly wrapped up after all of the build-up.  That said, I like this series because the setting feels realistic and the story is interesting making it easy to recommend because it draws the reader in.  

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

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown - ADVISABLE

Brown, Anne Greenwood  Lies Beneath (Lies Beneath, #1), 322 pgs.  Delacorte Press, 2012.  $8.99  Content: Language: PG (17 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

Calder is a merman and he is tied to his three sisters through a mermaid bond.  Calder was once human and was made a merman, so maybe that is why he is opposed to killing humans, whereas, his sisters seem to enjoy it.  Calder is promised that his bond with his sisters can be broken if he exacts revenge on the man, Jason Hancock, who led their mother to her death.  Calder finds that he is falling for Jason’s daughter and he can’t bring himself to do the killing.  

This is a great story with interesting characters and a believable setting.  It’s hard to put down and I’m anxious to read the rest of the series.  It’s clean enough to put in middle school or high school libraries and is a new perspective on mermaids.  I listened to the audiobook, and the reader is great.  

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

How the Beatles Changed the World by Sandler - ESSENTIAL

Sandler, Martin W. How the Beatles Changed the World, 169 p. Bloomsbury, 2014.  $21.  Content: G.  

The Beatles burst upon the American music scene in 1964 and before they broke up for good in 1970, they had changed music, movies, fashion, and more. 

I thought I would only skim this book before writing the review, but I read every single word instead.  My husband will tell you that I am not really a Beatles fan; they are not a group that I listen to choice, usually.  But as I was reading Sandler’s biography, I was engaged, entertained, and educated.  I also realized that I could hum or sing pretty much every song the Beatles produced - so they have influenced my life too.  This high-quality offering is an excellent addition to music appreciation, a collective biography collection, or a general non-fiction library.

MS, HS - ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Magic in the Mix by Annie Barrow - OPTIONAL

Barrows, Annie Magic in the Mix, 224 p. Bloomsbury, 2014.  $17.  Violence: PG (not graphic); Language: G; Mature Content: G.  

Molly and Miri have returned from the past and now the world and their family think that they are one of three sets of twins in the family  - not that the girls rescued Molly from an abusive situation in history.  The girls’ dad is tearing up the front porch and time has cracked open again.  Miri is worried that Molly might sacrifice themselves in order to save her mother.  But they have bigger problems when their older brothers are mistakenly drawn back to the Civil War and are captured by a cruel man in the South while they are dressed in Northern uniforms.  The girls will have to move quickly and brilliantly in order to save the boys.
  
I wanted to love this so much.  Even though I don’t know anything about the first book in the series, The Magic Half, I like the premise very much.  And Barrows has written not only the Ivy + Bean series, but also The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which is brilliant historical fiction.  This one is kind of all over the place, though.  It has so much setup before the Civil War scenes, that it feels like the first in a series, not the second, which should have dropped us right into the action.  That’s a lot of pages for an elementary series that doesn’t really deliver.  

EL - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Bats in the Band by Brian Lies - OPTIONAL

Lies, Brian Bats in the Band.  PICTURE BOOK.  Houghton Mifflin, 2014.  $18.  

The bats are coming out of winter hibernation and headed for a multi-genre music concert in a nearby barn.  

This one tries to bring in so many types of music, it is more scattered than the others in the series.  The bats are still cute and I love how they use fireflies in place of lighters.  

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine - OPTIONAL

Shine, Joe I Become Shadow, 304 p. SOHO Teen, 2014.  $18.  Language: PG-13 (65 swears, 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  

When she was 14, Ren was kidnapped by vicious people who did what they had to in order to mold her into a killing machine - a protector of someone who would become important to the world in the future.  She survived her four years of training, though not all of her year mates did, and now she’s assigned to a geeky college freshman.  Besides going to classes she doesn’t want to attend, everything seems pretty easy - until the day someone tries to kill her charge.  Now many lives are in danger and Ren needs to call upon her best friend for help.  

This one is a little harder to buy - the government has a device that can help them see into the future and find important people?  Sure.  But kidnapping hundreds of fourteen year olds and no one noticing and caring?  I don’t think so.  Beyond that, there is not much substance to the plot and not enough really cool action to love it as a fast-moving, hard-hitting action novel.  Maybe if it had a little more room to percolate, but at 304 pages, it already had a lot of room.  

HS - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Pig Kahuna Pirates! by Jennifer Sattler - ADVISABLE

Sattler, Jennifer Pig Kahuna Pirates!  PICTURE BOOK.  Bloomsbury, 2014.  $17.  

When Dink wakes up from his nap in a grumpy mood, Fergus can’t think of anything to cheer him up.  Finally, Fergus finds a way to use Dink’s grumpy mood in his own pretend pirate play.  
The Pigs’ imaginations are in full force in their new book.  I love that Fergus can’t find a magic bullet to cure Dink’s mood and after a while he let’s Dink try to work through his mood on his own.  

Pre-K - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Monday, August 25, 2014

Aesop’s Fables retold by Ann McGovern –OPTIONAL

McGovern, Ann  Aesop’s Fables 80 pgs. Scholastic Inc., 2013. $4.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
This short and sweet re-telling of Aesop’s Fables are bit sized little renditions. It has all the classics and some I have not read (since I always pick up those beautifully illustrated versions, they contain less).
I am not sure if this is a reprint or the author has gone through and sharpened up her earlier version. The cover is very appealing but the level of artwork goes down significantly in the book with some simple but awful illustrations. I wouldn't add this version to my library but it might be one to recommend to classroom teachers or to have a classroom set available, since the short versions of these tales would make a great activity for students.

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

When I grow up I want to be…a Teacher by Wigu Publishing–NO

Wigu Publishing When I grow up I want to be…a Teacher 60 pgs. Wigu Publishing, 2013. $12.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Carlee wants to be a teacher, but then her mom starts to teach at her school, she is worried others students will make fun of her or dislike her because of how they feel about her mom. She starts to think about other professions. By the end of the day she will find out what everyone thinks of her mom, and how she has let peer pressure color her decisions.
When I want a career book for the library, I want it to play up what makes that job unique and interesting. This book title is very misleading. The plot is more about peer pressure, but the story to get there is very convoluted. As the main character considers other jobs, there are inserts, as if from a boring textbook, about a variety of topics, ugh! The illustrations are sort of hideous and creeped me out Big Time.

EL - NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Belladonna by Fiona Paul - ADVISABLE

Paul, Fiona  Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose, #2), 343 pgs.  Philomel Books, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG (1 swear); Violence: PG-13 (forced drowning); Sexual Content: PG-13.  

Cass’s fiancé Luca is convicted of heresy and convicted without a trial to be executed in one month’s time.  Cass believes that if she can find the Book of the Eternal Rose then she will have enough to free Luca and convict those who have convicted Luca.  Cass goes to Florence to try and find the book, but she finds Falco, her first love, and a whole slew of secrets that lead her into a life-threatening situation.  

I love this series, and this second book didn’t disappoint.  The setting and time period are well developed, so when you read you feel like you have slipped into another world.  The characters, major and minor, are well developed and you care that they succeed at their attempts to free Luca.  The ending is satisfying, but leaves enough that I can’t wait to read the third book.  Good stuff.  

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

Starling by Fiona Paul - ADVISABLE

Paul, Fiona  Starling (Eternal Rose, #3), 324 pgs.  Philomel Books, 2014.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Violence: PG-13; Mature Content: PG-13.  

Cass has freed her fiancé Luca from prison and is still in search of the book of the Eternal Rose.  In her attempt to find the book, yet stay hidden from those seeking her arrest, she finds herself among courtesans and Falco, her old love.  Although Cass has a deep love for Luca, she finds herself confused by her feelings for Falco, and that confusion leads to problems with Luca.  Cass also faces the head of the Order of the Eternal Rose and tries to save the women the order preys on.  

This is a fantastic ending to the Eternal Rose series.  The characters are interesting and the setting in historical Venice pulled me in as a reader.  There are secrets, love triangles and revenge and it’s a fun fast series to get caught up in.  

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fallout by Todd Strasser - - ADVISABLE

Strasser, Todd Fallout, 258 pgs. Candlewick Press. 2013. $16.99. Language: PG (5 swear); Violence: PG; Mature Content: PG13 (Adult nudity - not graphic, teen boy conversations)  

In the 1962 American suburbs,  eleven -year-old Scott’s dad has built an extension to their house, including a fallout shelter.  The neighbors think he’s crazy, until Russia really does drop a bomb and Scott’s family uses the new shelter (along with a few neighbors who forced their way in.)  The family planned for 4 people, now there are 10 and one is badly injured.  Tempers are short, is their time short, too?  

Written in alternating chapters (before the bomb and after) this well-told study in revisionist history lets the reader consider “what if?” MS ADVISABLE - - Lisa Librarian

Friday, August 22, 2014

Remake by Ilima Todd - ESSENTIAL

Todd, Ilima Remake, 304 p.  Shadow Mountain, OCTOBER 2014.  $18.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (shark attack).  

Nine is looking forward to her Remake day - the day she will be molded and shaped into her idea of perfection - including a gender change, if that is what she wants.  Because of her red hair and freckles, she has always been the odd one in her batch of 20.  On the way to their remake, disaster happens and Nine is the lone survivor.  She is rescued by a secluded island group who live outside the government’s control.  Through them, she learns about how life used to be, before remaking.  Now she’s not so sure that the way she was raised is the way things should be.  Nine has so many things to figure out - and love can help her find the way, or break her heart beyond healing.  

Well done Ms. Todd, well done.  She very nicely creates a unique science fiction world and a main character who is engaging.  I suspect there is a  sequel in the offing and i am looking forward to it.  

MS, HS - ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Hidden by Loie Dauvillier - OPTIONAL

Dauvillier, Loie Hidden, illustrated by Marc Lizano (translated by Alexis Siegel), 76 p.  GRAPHIC NOVEL.  First Second (Macmillan), 2014 (English translation).  $17.  Mature Content: PG.  

A little girl wakes up in the middle night and finds her grandmother also unable to sleep.  The girl  convinces her grandmother to talk about her troubles and the grandmother tells her about her life as a little girl in France during World War II.  She shares the cruelty of others towards her because she was a Jew, the terror of the raids, and then her frantic flight to safety in the French countryside.  

Though the story is written about a little girl and in a format that would appeal to younger readers, I would suggest that this is best for 6th grade and above.  It might be good supplemental material for a Holocaust unit, because it does evoke the confusion of a child over the war.  When it comes to a high school level graphic novel about the Holocaust, however, I still recommend Maus - the original graphic novel.

MS - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Windy City by Smith and Spradlin - ESSENTIAL

Smith, Roland and Michael Spradlin The Windy City (I.Q. #5), 231 p. Sleeping Bear Press, 2014.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (scary, not graphic).  

Q and his step-sister Angela are still on tour with their parents, but the danger is heating up.  The FBI is not sure who the actual target is - the rock star parents?  The boy genius?  Angela, because her “dead” mother is a deep cover government operative?  Boone, the kids’ roadie protector is becoming more and more mysterious, too.  With a little help from the son of the President of the US, Q and Angela might be able to survive this, but it will mean major changes in their family life.  

This series should be way more popular than it currently is.  I love Q, Angela, and Boone and their exciting stories.  Share these with boys or girls and get the word out!  

EL, MS - ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica George - OPTIONAL

George, Jessica Day Thursdays with the Crown, 272 p. Bloomsbury, OCTOBER 2014.  $17.  Violence: PG (scary without being graphic); Mature Content: G; Language: G.  

Celie, Rolf and Lilah, along with Celie’s griffin, have been pulled to a place unknown by the tower of Castle Glower.  They think they are in the place where the castle originally came from, and maybe they will find out the truth about the castle’s origins and about the griffins.  The trio finds them right in the middle of a vicious argument between two wizards - a fight that could destroy them and the castle.  

Wow - this so did not go in any direction that I thought it might from the first two in the series.  I had to disassociate from the other two in order to judge this one on its own merits.  While I liked the idea of learning about the castle’s past, but the two villains in this story are very flat and unpersonable; the plot does not save the story from these unappealing characters.  If the series has been successful in your library, then you will be buying it.  

EL - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs - OPTIONAL

Coombs, Kate The Tooth Fairy Wars, illustrated by Jake Parker.  PICTURE BOOK.  Atheneum (Simon), 2014.  $18.  

When Nathan loses his first tooth, he wants to keep it forever, but the tooth fairy assigned to him finds it any way and leaves him a dollar.  Nathan’s attempts to keep his teeth become more and more elaborate and the tooth fairy is more and more determined.  

The illustrations for this book are my favorite part - I really like Parker’s style.  The struggle between the two characters is amusing, especially the lengths to which both sides resort.  The final illustration, however, is kind of creepy - and as a parent, I am very glad that I don’t have such a trophy or remembrance in my house.  I know it is fun to extend the whimsy of childhood with beliefs like the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus, but sometimes the lengths we go to are a bit extreme.  This one rides the line - a cute story with great illustrations that becomes just a bit creepy.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

FYI - soon after I read this book, a good friend told me about her son who just lost his first tooth.   Like Nathan, he did not want to let go of his tooth, no matter what his parents promised that fairy would bring!  I took this book over and read it to him and his siblings and they liked it VERY much!  

Go To Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Ray - OPTIONAL

Ray, Mary Lyn Go To Sleep, Little Farm, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.  PICTURE BOOK.  Houghton Mifflin, 2014.  $17.  

As a little girl gets ready for bed, the animals and nature far and near also prepare to sleep.  
Occasionally the rhymes are a little forced, but overall the illustrations and text work together for a good sleepy book.  The style is reminiscent of early picture books, with an almost monochromatic color palette.  This would be a good one for grandparents to read aloud as a bedtime story - that final story before ti really is time to turn out the lights and sleep.


Pre-K - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E.D. Baker - ADVISABLE

Baker, E.D. The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker, 352 p. Bloomsbury, OCTOBER 2014.  $17.  Content: G.  

Cory’s mother has always pressured her to be a tooth fairy and follow in her path.  Now that Cory has passed all of the training and has been working on the job, she has lost all desire to continue down that path.  As Cory tries to find a new way for herself, her mother is actively harassing her and the Tooth Fairy Guild seems to be out to sabotage Cory’s efforts.  Then Cory finds out about a secret her mother has kept from her all of her life - things are about to change drastically for Cory.  

While I have a hard time believing the Tooth Fairy Guild could wield quite so much power and influence, this is still classic Baker fun.  I am sure there are more books to come.  I think authors are amazing.  You would think that reworking fairy tales and such would get tiring after awhile, but I still read new permutations that make me fall in love all over.  Of course the book is best understood if students know the original tales, so make sure you have some good Mother Goose and other fairy tale books on hand for reference.

EL, MS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton - OPTIONAL

Slayton, Shonna Cinderella’s Dress, 322 p. Entangled Teen, 2014.  $10.  Content: G.  

In the midst of World War II, Kate’s Dad is traveling somewhere in Europe, her brother is anxious to enlist and join the war over there, and Kate and her mother are trying to hold life together and hope that the men will come home safely.  Then Mom’s aunt Elsie from Poland arrives on the scene with a crazy story about a very important dress that Kate’s family has kept safe for a very long time - the original Cinderella’s ballgown.  While Cinderella’s descendants may not have an political importance any more, should the crafty Burgosovs (evil step sisters) get their hands on the dress, they could do some damage.  Besides all of that, Kate still has to worry about following her own dreams, not her mother’s, and prove herself capable of designing as beautiful department store windows as the men, along with wondering if the handsome boy will ever pay attention to her.  

Slayton writes her book in fits and starts, with few real time clues, so it is hard to know exactly how much time is passing between scenes - has it been days? months? years?  I don’t know.  Other than that confusion, she a good job of weaving the Cinderella basics with a novel with glimpses of World War II and at heart about a girl who is trying to find her place in the world.  If this is meant for a YA audience, it feels on the older end of the spectrum.  It has a historical setting, which are not as popular by themselves.  The gorgeous dress on the cover and title will capture browsing eyes, though and help sell it.  

HS - OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

Mr. Ferris and his Wheel by Kathryn Davis - ADVISABLE

Davis, Kathryn Gibbs Mr. Ferris and his Wheel, illustrated by Gilbert Ford.  PICTURE BOOK.  Houghton Mifflin, 2014.  $18.  

The Chicago World’s Fair was set to open and there was nothing yet planned to compete with the wonder of the previous fair in France with its Eiffel Tower.  When Mr. Ferris proposed his Monster Wheel, the organizers allowed him to build it - without any monetary help from them, because they were sure it would fall to the ground.  Mr. Ferris’ Wheel became the highlight of a fair filled with wonder and inspiration.

Mechanical wonders are so commonplace now, children don't have any idea how experimental and scary the ideas used to be.  Not just for young students, this would be a good book to pair with Going up! : Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top, a story of an early elevator in any class with engineers.

EL, MS - ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher

No Nap! Yes Nap! by Margie Palatini - OPTIONAL

Palatini, Margie No Nap! Yes Nap! illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.  PICTURE BOOK.  Little Brown, 2014.  $17.  

Baby doesn’t want to take a nap and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  Mom chases her around the house and both settle down for a much needed nap.  
This would be great as a board book.  The bright illustrations and the short phrases would be a good beginning reader book too.  

Pre-K - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Splat the Cat Makes Dad Glad by Rob Scotton –ADVISABLE

Scotton, Rob  Splat the Cat Makes Dad Glad 32 pgs. HarperCollins, 2014. $16.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. EARLY READER
Splats dad is sad and Splat is determined to cheer him up. He learns about a contest at the Cat School Picnic and decides that winning that with his dad would cheer him up. So Splat practices with his little mouse friend Seymour. When it comes time for the daddy/son contest, things don’t go quite as planned. Will Splat go splat?
Splat is pretty popular at my school library –so any read from this series would go over well. The plot is fairly cute and the lesson is nice. I think students will enjoy the accidents that Splat has. The artwork is fairly good,  not my favorite art style. I didn't like the attempt to have a rhyming scheme to the story, since words that were awkward had to be used in order to not break the rhyme. For example the word Lad. Ugh.

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

The School of Nonsense (Ernest and Rebecca Book #5) BY Guilluame Bianco –NO


Bianco, Guillaume The School of Nonsense (Ernest and Rebecca Book #5)48 pgs. Papercutz, 2014. $12.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. GRAPHIC NOVEL
Rebecca is a six year old girl who was sick and made a very special friend named Ernest. He is a microbe. But now she is healthy and he has disappeared. When a bad virus attacks the school, Rebecca does her best to fend it off, but really wishes Ernest would come back. In the meantime she is worried about her Grandpa who is sick. Her big sister has a secret admirer and they have been texting back and forth.
As book #5 in the series, this one is definitely built on the past books, so this is not a read-alone. I don’t know what to make of the age recommendation, the main character is 6 years old but the vocabulary and the plot lines that involve older characters don’t mesh well with that, so I decided on the middle ground, middle school. I found myself annoyed by the main character. I thought the microbe thing was confusing. I thought Rebecca’s school teacher was a bit creepy. The artwork is adorable and bright and fun but that’s not enough for me to recommend this read.

MS?– NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Worse Things Happen at Sea! A Tale of Pirates, Poison, and Monsters by Alan Snow - ADVISABLE


Snow, Alan.  Worse Things Happen at Sea! A Tale of Pirates, Poison, and Monsters.  332 pages.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013.  $17.99.  Language: G.  Adult content: G.  Violence: G.  Author/illustrator Alan Snow concocts an unforgettable, zany pirate tale with plenty of cheese.  The Ratbridge Nautical Laundry, a rat-pirate ship that cleans and starches clothes, is in trouble when they are sued by someone who saw drying underwear on the rigging.  Arthur’s grandfather owns the ship and is very sick.  Arthur takes his grandfather to a doctor who gives out his special medicine, Black Jollop, for free.  Grandfather is immediately better, but the doctor is out of Black Jollop and needs to sail off to find the secret ingredient.  Arthur and his boxtroll, Fish, stowaway and have an exciting adventure including: mechanical monsters, poison, and forbidden cheese.  The ink illustrations abound with quirky personality and whimsical personality.  A fun read that will have boys asking “Arrrghhh there anymore?”

EL/MS: ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.


My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish: The Seaquel (Book #2) by Mo O’Hara –OPTIONAL

O’Hara, Mo My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish: The Seaquel (Book #2) 208 pgs. Feiwel & Friends, 2014. $12.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
(Please note that Sequel is spelled Seaquel for fun on this title. Not a spelling error.)
Tom is still Frankie the Zombie Goldfish’s owner and guardian. Tom is excited to go on a family vacation to the ocean, but there is a sign by the lighthouse that says that an evil eel lives there. Tom’s brother Mark, the Evil Scientist wants to catch it. Frankie and the Evil Eel might end up facing off.  When Mark tries to mess with Tom’s school play of Robin Hood, Frankie is going to have to swim in.
Again, a great cover. This book was actually a bit better than the first, less confusing because the plotline was focused in more. The illustrations are ironically cute as they illustrate analogies in the text as well as plot elements. There was much less ‘morons’ and other mean talk from the older brother in this one as well. This second book was more readable and fun, but I don’t think it could function as a stand alone, since students will be confused about how the goldfish became the way he is.
EL – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (Book #1) by Mo O’Hara –OPTIONAL

O’Hara, Mo  My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (Book #1) 198 pgs. Feiwel & Friends, 2013. $12.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: PG.
Tom’s big brother, Mark decides to become an evil scientist. Tom is horrified, especially when Mark decides to experiment on a poor goldfish. He puts a toxic mix in its fishbowl and it dies. Tom and his best friend bring it back to life with a battery. But the fish, Frankie, is different –smarter and capable of hypnotizing people. He is out for revenge and when Mark and his friend cause big trouble at Tom’s school –Frankie might just be able to get what he wants and help Tom too.
The cover of this book is incredibly appealing, especially for reluctant readers. I found the story a bit harsh, lots of degrading language from the big brother, introduction of the concept of harming one’s pet, and lots of violence. The story gets more crazy and convoluted as it goes on, and I felt totally uninterested. The character of the best friends little sister is so annoying that I couldn't bear to read her catch phrase one more time. I wouldn't add this to my school library, but its no worse than captain underpants.

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss-ESSENTIAL

Seuss McElligot’s Pool. PICTURE BOOK Random House Children’s Books, 2014. $17.99.

Winner of a 1948 Caldecott Award, this Dr. Seuss book is still a favorite.  Marco is accused of being a fool when he tries to catch fish in McElligot’s Pool.  “I’ve been here three hours without one single bite, there might be not fish… but, again, well, there MIGHT!” Marco then goes on an imaginative adventure guessing what MIGHT be in the pool “cause you never can tell what goes on down below!”  In the end of the story Marco explains that the sea is full of so many fish that if he is patient, he might get his wish. 

The story is positive and uplifting with a great message for young readers.  The illustrations are bright and bold and classic to what only Seuss can produce. 

EL (K-3). EL. ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: SL.   

I Can Read: It's Valentine's Day by Jack Prelutsky-ADVISABLE

Prelutsky, Jack It’s Valentine’s Day. PICTURE BOOK. Content: G. Jack Prelutsky has written and published 14 fun poems about Valentine’s Day in this great “I Can Read” independent reader.  The words are silly and easy to read. “I made my dog a valentine, she sniffed it very hard, then chewed on it a little while and left it in the yard!” With poems about teachers, best friends, cakes and mailboxes, and more there is a poem that will interest all readers.  The poems are sweet and funny with detailed illustrations by Marylin Hafner. This book could be used in a unit on poetry or Valentine's Day celebration. EL (K-3). ADVISABLE. Reviewer: SL. 

My Pet Penguins by Mark Iacolina-ADVISABLE

Iacolina, Mark My Pet Penguins. BOARD BOOK.  Price Stern Sloan, 2014. $5.99.  18pgs. Content: G. This board book is a fun rhyming book about very cute and very active penguins.  Whether the penguins waddle, play, flip or mix they are busy and imaginative.  The illustrations are simple but irresistible!  This adorable book would be a perfect gift for anyone with little ones who love to read.  Pre-K. ADVISABLE. Reviewer: SL.

Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin- ESSENTIAL

Cronin, Doreen The Chicken Squad. Illustrated by Kevin Cornell. CHAPTER BOOK.  Content: G. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014. $12.99.

This book is about a family of chicks, their mother, and a crazy squirrel. When the crazy squirrel comes into the yard he looks like he just looked death in the face. He claims he has just seen a UFO.  It’s up to Chicken Squad to solve the mystery. Read this book to find out what happens and whether the mystery is solved and what is really lurking behind the chicken coop.  I really liked the illustrations. I also thought the author told the story in a funny and likeable way. I liked the little chicks-my favorite ones are Sugar and Dirt.

EL (K-3). EL. ESSENTAL Student Reviewer  J-L age 11.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm -- ADVISABLE

Holm, Jennifer L. The Fourteenth Goldfish, 208 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, August 26, 2014. 16.99. Content: PG.

Eleven-year-old Ellie doesn't know her grandfather very well, but when a science experiment turns him into a teenager, even she has to admit that Melvin, the curmudgeonly boy, is her mom's eccentric father. But Melvin isn't satisfied with turning himself young; he is determined to revolutionize humanity and win the Nobel prize with his cure for aging. Too bad he's now banned from the lab where he used to work. To regain access, he must enlist Ellie's help and, along the way, teach her a little about both life and science -- two subjects which really aren't so different from each other.

The Fourteenth Goldfish is a gentle introduction to themes of life and death, for those who are beginning to think about such things.   Ellie's and her grandfather's interest in science not only sets a wonderful example, but informs readers in an interesting way while making chemistry, physics, and other subjects come alive. The lesson about persevering is also admirable, a reminder that people often experience many failures before they finally succeed at something brilliant.

MS -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz -- OPTIONAL

de la Cruz, Melissa The Ring and the Crown, 384 pgs. Disney-Hyperion, 2014. $17.99. Language: PG (13 swears, no 'f'); Violence: PG-13; Sexual Content: R.

Using five points of view, this fantasy tells an alternate version of history in which magic exists, shaping London, New York, and all the other parts of the world as we know them. Marie is a princess who never wanted to have the glory, the responsibility, or the complicated life to go with her title. Aelwyn, the princess's best friend, has magical powers that mean her enslavement to the crown instead of her freedom. Isabelle, the orphaned daughter of a French family, is determined to win back her former fiancé, the crown prince of Prussia. Ronan's family is destitute, and they depend on her to make a good match with a rich man -- whether or not she loves him. Finally, Wolf, the younger brother of the Prussian prince, is considered the "spare" and as such has little power to change his destiny or anyone else's, no matter how much he wishes it.

This one had a slow start for me, as the many points of view made it difficult to find my footing in each scene and to get to know each character. Because the characters each only got about 20% of the book, the story necessitated telling about much of the action instead of showing it, as well as giving some clunky info-dumping instead of natural revelations. Still, by the second half I was invested enough to have trouble putting the story down, and by the end I could understand why de la Cruz chose to tell the tale this way. I admit I was a little skeptical about how the book would be wrapped up, and feared it may be a cliffhanger with a year-long wait for the next installment, but I found the conclusion satisfying and interesting, and it kept me thinking for a while afterward. The sexual content definitely straddles the line between PG-13 and R; many acts are strongly implied and are, in fact, central to the plot. None are specifically detailed, however, and such acts are not only not condoned but often have disastrous results. Still, this one may be more suitable for mature readers.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens by Gloria Whelan - ADVISIBLE

Whelan, Gloria All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens, 255 pgs. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. $6.99. Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G

In India during the 1920s, Rosalind finds herself trying to find a balance between two worlds. She is an ex-pat in India with a father who is an officer in the British Indian Army and is enjoying all the trappings of being a British citizen of the occupying country while trying to connect to the occupied. She is aware of Gandhi and the increasing support for him and his movement for independence.  This is a effort she supports and will do what she can to advance the cause, but does she really understand what she is doing and the consequences her actions may bring about?

This story successfully tells of the struggles in India during the British occupation at a time when change was beginning. Rosalind is a well-drawn character who believably mixes activist zeal with the naiveté that is often seen in teenagers. Her choices and the consequences they bring about allow for an understanding that sometimes what seems right may not be what is best. Readers will come to appreciate the problems inherent with imperialism and Social Darwinism and have a better grasp of what is involved when change is sought. The characters in the book have a few too many convenient moments to allow the story to progress, but that is a small snag in the overall story.

MS,HS—ADVISIBLE. AEB