Saturday, July 21, 2018

TheTrain of Lost Things by Ammi-Joan Paquette - ADVISABLE

The Train of Lost Things by Ammi-Joan Paquette, 208 pages. Philomel Books, 2018. $17.

Language: G; (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G. 



Marty's dad gave him a very special birthday present - a denim jacket with special buttons that represent all the great times they have had together. Marty's dad is dying, and Marty is horrified to discover that he has lost the jacket, but when his dad reminds him of a story he used to tell Marty, about the "Train of Lost Things" Marty decides to try to find the train for himself and recover the jacket. 

An interesting look at dealing with grief. We so desperately want to hang on to things so we don't lose the memories connected with them. In Marty's case, the loss was so consuming he forgot what was most important, his dad.

Lisa Librarian

Twig by Aura Parker - ADVISABLE

Twig by Aura Parker.  PICTURE BOOK Simon and Schuster, 2018.  $18 9781534424685  



Heidi is the new girl at bug school.  She is a stick bug and is often mistaken as something else or not noticed at all.  When Heidi’s teacher notices what is going on, she coordinates the knitting of  a colorful scarf that makes Heidi more noticeable.  Heidi quickly becomes a favorite among the bugs because there are lots of things that she is able to do including the game of Hide and Seek.  

I loved this book about a wallflower that is finally appreciated.  I loved the illustrations of cute Heidi the stick insect.  This is good for those who feel like nobody notices them and also for those who might overlook others—great moral of appreciation ourselves and others.  

C. Peterson.

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon - ADVISABLE

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon, 330 pages.  Simon and Pulse, 2018. $19.  

Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G. 



Twinkle loves to make films so she decides to stop being the quiet, unpopular girl in her class by making a film for the end of year social.  She thinks that her popularity will increase if she can make a great film and then she can be cool enough to get her best friend back.  While making the film, a cute boy named Sahil becomes her producer and the chemistry starts to flow, but Twinkle thinks Sahil’s more popular brother, Neil, will get her the popularity she needs so she won’t commit to their shared feelings.  Twinkle has to learn to like herself and be kind to others when popularity starts to happen.  

I really liked the beginning of this book as Twinkle has a cute personality, but her unkindness as she becomes popular was frustrating and predictable.  I loved Sahil and their chemistry and I liked the creative story for their romance.  I enjoyed the clean content, with very few swears but the mature content included mention of breasts and walking in on parents during sex. Overall the story is a cute, light romance along with a coming of age theme.  

C. Peterson.

Ascent by Roland Smith - ESSENTIAL

Ascent by Roland Smith, 228 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, $18.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence PG



Peak Marcello is back, eying the ascent of a relative mystery mountain, Hkakabo Razi, one of the highest in Asia, but also one of the most remote.  Peak is traveling with Alessia, whom he has feelings for, and her bodyguard, Ethan.  In order to get to the mountain, Peak and his fellow travelers have to navigate the rain forest, which turns out to be as dangerous as the ascent itself. 

Roland Smith skillfully weaves Peak’s adventures with enough description that I wanted to swat at bugs in the rain forest and get a cup of hot tea on the mountain.  The characters are likeable and the pacing is great. This book could stand alone, though it is the third book in the series.  If you do read it first, you will want to go back and check out the other two. 

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Good Morning Snowplow! By Deborah Bruss - OPTIONAL

Good Morning Snowplow! By Deborah Bruss, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson.  PICTURE BOOK.  Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2018.  $18.  9781338089493



While the city is going to sleep, the snowplow is just getting started.  All through the night the plow and driver work hard to make the streets clear and safe for everyone waking up to the sun rising – as their work day is just ending.

Bruss tells her story is that sing-songy rhyme where it is hard to resist bursting out into song. It makes it hard as a read aloud. The illustrations have a snowy night quality.  While I totally get the choice to evoke a snowy night, washed out pictures coupled with a lackluster font choice make for a dreary read.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Friday, July 20, 2018

Annie’s Life in Lists by Kristin Mahoney - ADVISABLE

Annie’s Life in Lists by Kristin Mahoney, 257 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2018. $17.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G



Annie is trying to fit in at a new school, having moved from the city to the small town of Clover Gap. She documents her life in a series of lists as she tries to navigate new friendships, shifts in family, and overcoming shyness.  Annie is sure she is the reason she got kicked out of her school and her family had to move. Her older brother is far from happy about the move, and her father doesn’t navigate life outside the city well.  Plus Annie is desperately missing her best and only friend.     

While Annie is only a 4th grader, her story would resonate with middle school kids as well.   The use of lists as a narrative device is fun and very readable.  Annie is a believable and likable character, and this book makes you want to start keeping a journal in list form.  This is a sweet coming of age story that will make you want to attend a small town festival. 

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Surprise! By Caroline Hadilaksono - ADVISABLE

Surprise! By Caroline Hadilaksono.  PICTURE BOOK. Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2018. $18.  9781338139198



Bear, Raccoon, and Squirrel really want new friends, but they can’t find anyone in their forest that is interested.  When a human family comes along, the trio is ready to make a great surprise for their new neighbors – using all the things the family conveniently left around the campsite for food, decorations, and entertainment.  Will their new friends like all of their work?

The forest friends are pretty funny!  Their well-intentioned antics are reminiscent of awful Mother’s Day breakfast made with little, loving hands.  And the opportunity to talk about how to set up a campsite so that woodland creatures really can’t invade and destroy is a happy side-plot.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Something Stinks in Hamlet by M.E. Castle - OPTIONAL

Fakespeare: Something Stinks in Hamlet by M.E. Castle, 245 pages. Imprint (Macmillan), 2017. $14.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence G



Kyle Word has problems. He has an annoying little brother he calls Gross Gabe.  He also has a hard time reading, so he likes to draw comic book pictures while his good friend Becca writes the stories.  But his biggest problem is that he has been sucked into the book Hamlet with Gross Gabe and know-it-all fellow fifth grader, Halley, and he can’t return to regular life unless he and his two companions can help Hamlet win back his stinky kingdom.

This book has fun illustrations that break up the text.  I liked the references to Hamlet, though I’m not sure 5th graders would get them.  However, the Shakespeare is so loosely based, maybe it doesn’t matter.  The humor involves food fights, stink bombs, and a wagon full of manure landing on the king, plus the fact that Kyle has to pee through several chapters.  If that’s your cup of tea, grab a skull and Hamlet on.

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Unstinky by Andy Rash - ESSENTIAL

Unstinky by Andy Rash. PICTURE BOOK.  Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2018.  $17.  9780439368803



Bud the Stinkbug is not very stinky.  No matter what he tries, his stinks keep coming out smelling like flowers.  He tires so many different ways to be a really stinky bug.  But maybe instead of changing his stink Bud instead needs a change of venue!

So cute!  In a stinky way, of course.  Weird to say, but I think the latest crop of fart books are on the spot!  I am a big fan of Bud the Stinkbug!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Whatshisface by Gordon Korman - OPTIONAL

Whatshisface by Gordon Korman, 231 pages, Scholastic Press (Scholastic), 2018. $17.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence G



Because his dad is in the military, Cooper Vega has moved around a lot.  It happens so often, he is resigned to being known as Whatshisface. To make him feel better about his last move to a Shakespeare crazed town named Stratford, his parents buy him a top of the line smart phone.  His phone inadvertently picks up the ghost of a teenager from Shakespeare’s time.  The ghost has some issues with Shakespeare and Cooper finds himself helping the ghost, while holding down a bit part in the annual Shakespeare play that all seventh graders are required to participate in. In return, the ghost tries to help Cooper navigate his affections for Jolie, who is playing the part of Juliet. 

It is fun to see a present day middle school through the eyes of an Elizabethan teen ghost.  The characters are likeable and Roddy’s ghost will have you throwing in a dash of Shakespearean methinks, forsooth, and zounds, into your speech.  The plot is a bit far-fetched, but the humor makes it readable.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

The Snowflake Mistake by Lou Treleaven - ADVISABLE

The Snowflake Mistake by Lou Treleaven, illustrated by Maddie Frost. PICTURE BOOK.  Maverick Arts, 2018. $18.  9781848863125



The Snow Queen has left Princess Ellie in charge of the machine that stamps out her perfect matching snowflakes.  But Ellie likes to run and play and she panics when a large of amount of snow is required and the machine breaks!  To save the day, Ellie has to cut the flakes by hand. She’s afraid what her mother will have to say when she returns.

I love the long sentenced rhymes – it feels so natural without forcing the reader into a sing-song voice like so many others do.  A cute story about problem-solving with a added side of parent-child working together.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Monsterland Reanimated by Michael Okon - OPTIONAL

Monsterland Reanimated by Michael Okon, 233 pages, WordFire Press, 2018. $15.

Language: PG-13 (23 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence PG-13



This is the sequel to Monsterland, written by Michael Phillip Cash, aka Michael Okon.  I’m not sure why he changed his pen name for a sequel. Wyatt and his friends have survived the collapse of Monsterland and it has had serious repurcussions on the world at large.  Governments have fallen and Wyatt Baldwin and his friends have survived, but are on a reconnaissance mission to find information in a neighboring town.   They discover a new and even greater danger emanating from Monsterland, which threatens everyone.  Apparently Vincent Konrad’s goal of taking over the world did not end with his death.

Okay, I like monsters, and this book has tons of them.  Almost too many.  And if mummies and the Glob aren’t enough, there is a gang of doctors and lawyers who control the roads and kill travelers.  While the action was almost constant, Wyatt and friends seem more concerned with their romantic relationships than they are with losing family members.  I’m thinking that even hormonal teenagers should possibly be more disturbed by death than pondering their next kiss.  There is obviously a sequel planned, so if you are wondering about what is going to happen with your favorite werewolf and the fate of the world, hang on.

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher