Thursday, January 18, 2018

Renegades by Marissa Meyer - ESSENTIAL

Meyer, Marissa Renegades, 552 pages.  Feiwel and Friends, 2017.  $20.  Language: PG (5 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G (non-descriptive LGBTQ relationship); Violence: PG-13 (lots of fighting, murders)

Ten years earlier, after a gang killed her parents and little sister, Ace Anarchy rescues Nova and took her into his ragtag group of Anarchists – people with superpowers who were rebelling against all forms of government control over, especially since those governments were anti-super.  But Ace was later defeated by the Renegades, a group using their powers for good, meaning defeat the Anarchists and restore order to the world.  Now (ten years later), Nova and the remaining Anarchists keep trying to find ways to take down the Renegades.  After the latest failed attempt, Nova decides to make the ultimate sacrifice – pose as a prodigy and join the Renegades herself – take down the enemy from within.  But when Nova sees the Renegades and gets to know them, will her heart still be bent on vengeance?

Thankfully the romance in this book is not so obviously Nova’s impetus for any of the choices she makes.  Meyer draws a nicely conflicted character surrounded by flawed systems and individuals.  She keeps getting stronger as a weaver of tales.

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Lost Frost Girl by Amy Wilson - OPTIONAL

Wilson, Amy The Lost Frost Girl, 307 pgs. Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2017. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril). 

12-year-old Owl doesn’t know who her father is.  Her mother is vague or changes the subject when she is asked. But now, Owl is experiencing some interesting life changes - she seems to be able to freeze things at will and is not bothered by the cold. When a new boy at school seems to know more about her than she does, the identity of her father becomes vital. This adventure into the fey world introduces a modern child to the characters of nature - Mother Earth, Jack Frost, Queen of the May, sprites and goblins and a few new ones.  

A fun adventure with peril, drama - middle school drama and magic spells, however the resolution was a little confusing - I’m still not sure I understand how everyone fits in, but I loved the theme of “be who you are but don’t get carried away”.  Owl is only 12, so the “boyfriend” drama is a stretch. Also, the world Wilson creates is great, but the premise of an elemental having a human child - well, the explanation doesn’t really work for me, and left me with more questions than answers.  

EL ,MS - OPTIONAL  Lisa Librarian

Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray - ESSENTIAL

Gray, Claudia Leia: Princess of Alderaan (Star Wars), 409 pages.  Disney, 2017.  $18.  Language: PG (6 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G (kisses); Violence:  G (deaths, but no blood).  9781484780787

Leia at 16 is not yet her parents’ heir to the throne of Alderaan.  She still has much to learn about life and herself and how the galaxy works under the thumb of Palapatine.  She still has faith in the Imperial Senate, but is seeing more and more abuses of power.  And now her parents seem to be pulling away from her and hiding things, when they used to always share.  As she meets other teens from throughout the galaxy and works to right the wrongs she sees and tries to find out what secrets her parents are hiding, she is on her way to becoming more the Princess Leia we will see in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Another rich background story in the Star Wars universe.  Have fun with this.  Gray also wrote my other favorite Star Wars backstory – Lost Stars.

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Great Hibernation by Tara Dairman - OPTIONAL

Dairman, Tara The Great Hibernation, 260 pages.  Wendy Lamb (Random), 2017.  $17.  Content: G.

Legend has it that every citizen of St. Polonius-by-the-Fjord over the age of 12 must take a bite of bear liver at the annual ritual or all of them will fall asleep as part of the Great Hibernation.  Jean has just turned 12 and she really wants to, she really tries to, but she secretly spits it out.  Then all of the adults start falling asleep! And the mayor’s bossy son,  has declared that according to the town charter, every child must take over their parent’s job.  Jean is sure that something really fishy is going on.  But she can’t seem to shake the “mayor’s” goons long enough to do some serious searching.  She and her friends will have to make some tricky moves I order to save their town.

As strong and inventive as Jean is to fight against her foes, she and her friends couldn’t carry this book for me.  I couldn’t buy into the idea of eating bear liver to stay awake, even when it was explained “scientifically”. The whole hibernating adults thing just gave me the willies.

EL – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Way Back Home by Alecia Whitaker - ADVISABLE

Whitaker, Alecia  The Way Back Home (Wildflower, #3), 324 pgs.  Poppy, 2016.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (11 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.  

Bird is at the top of her country singing career.  She has found a balance between her own voice and what her record label expects from her.  While on tour she is surprised to have her old love interest, Adam, come back into her life and she struggles with all the demands of being a star.  

This is the final book in the Wildflowers trilogy and it has been fun following Bird on her road to stardom.  I liked Bird and felt like she was trying to do the right thing while figuring out who she really was.  The mature content is underage drinking and alcoholism.  

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

Fault Lines in the Constitution by Levinson - ESSENTIAL

Levinson, Cynthia and Sanford Levinson Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, their fights, and the flaws that affect us today, 225 pages.  Peachtree, 2017.  $20.

While the Constitution of the United States is a brilliant, ground-breaking document, no document or form of government is absolutely perfect.  And there is no way the men of 200 plus years ago could predict the changes to our culture, economy, and way of life in the future.  They did the best they could.  Levinson  and Levinson identify and delve into the shortcomings of the Constitution and explain how those faultlines affect  us now.

For me this was a very interesting and engaging reading experience. A teacher of history could use the information in this book to guide an in-class debate about how well the Constitution of the United States works (or doesn’t work).  A teacher could also use the book for ideas in preparing higher order questions for students to consider. For me, this book helped me to expand my thinking and at least consider the possibility that there are maybe things that could be improved in the Constitution to help the United States function better and helped me to reflect on the impossible job the Framers had in creating a completely new form of government. They couldn’t possibly have thought of everything.
Any US History or Government teacher at any level should read this book to further their knowledge of our Constitution and government.

MS, HS, GIFT – ESSENTIAL.  K. Abel, US History teacher

Book or Bell? by Chris Barton - OPTIONAL

Barton, Chris Book or Bell? Illustrated by Ashley Spires.  PICTURE BOOK.  Bloomsbury, 2017.  $17.  9781681197296.

Henry is hooked on his book.  When he decides to stay in instead of going to lunch, disaster happens.  The solution – get Henry’s attention with a bigger, louder bell.  But when that doesn’t work, maybe an even bigger bell is called for?

I like Chris Barton – I like Ashley Spires.  This book, however doesn’t make my heart sing.  Its kind of funny and kind makes sense in its progression, but it just doesn’t quite gel into a hilarious whole.

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