Monday, August 2, 2021

To Marry and Earl by Karen Thornell - OPTIONAL


To Marry and Earl
by Karen Thornell
, 212 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $15.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kate has secret plans to be a spinster, for she has seen the pain of love and marriage. However, her father has plans to stop using resources to support Kate. In fact, her father is going to gain resources by selling her hand in marriage to the highest bidder. What if that bidder is a stranger? What if he’s not?

The premise of Kate’s story was exciting, but my expectations went unfulfilled. While I’m not sure what exactly I wanted, I was disappointed by the conflicts which were divided into two categories: repetitive and overly dramatic. Furthermore, I still have unresolved questions. Thornell brings up good points on the topics of forgiveness and love, but the overall story was not great.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, August 1, 2021

All These Warriors by Amy Tintera - HIGH


All These Warriors (Monsters #2)
by Amy Tintera
, 336 pages. Clarion Books, 2021. $18.

Language: R (117 swears, 8 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Seventeen-year-old Clara might only be months older from when she joined the international squad to fight scrabs, but she isn’t the same person anymore. Clara can now kill scrabs without flinching, have ten-minute long conversations with her brother, and joke around with friends that she made. If only Clara could solve the mysteries of how to defeat the scrabs and heal the wounds Julian left in her life -- then everything would be perfect.

Tintera doesn’t beat around the bush; even if it’s been a while since you read the prequel, Tintera drops readers right back into Clara’s story. I was just as engaged in and excited about Clara’s life as I was when I needed this sequel months ago because I finished All These Monsters. Clara and the other characters around her are so real and relatable that I forget they are only imaginary friends. I love Clara and her determination to succeed despite what she believes are her failures, and I love the support she gets from the family she has made for herself. I’m happy that I didn’t have to wait for another sequel to come out, but I’m devastated that the story is over. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, and partial nudity; the violence rating is for blood and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Titanic (History Smashers) by Kate Messner - ESSENTIAL

 The Titanic (History Smashers) by Kate Messner, 191 pages. NON-FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Easy to read format about the Titanic with snippets of graphic novel and plenty of pictures. Younger readers and adults will find the format inviting, making Titanic facts easily accessible. Well researched, with an index and bibliography, even reluctant readers will be pulled into the tragedy of the luxury ocean liner that sank into frigid waters after hitting an iceberg. 

Michelle in the Middle 

The Elephants Come Home by Kim Tomsic and Hadley Hooper - ESSENTIAL

The Elephants Come Home by Kim Tomsic, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. PICTURE BOOK. Chronicle Books, 2021, $19. 9781452127835 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Lawrence and Francoise take in seven elephants into their preserve who have been mistreated, hunted and bullied. The elephants are angry and destructive and in danger of being put down. Though he doesn’t know anything about elephants, Lawrence sings to them and tells them stories. When Lawrence dies, the elephants seem to know and make a lengthy trek back to the Anthony home to be with Francoise, and returned for the next three years on the exact anniversary of Lawrence’s death. 

Beautifully written and touching story about friendship and kindness. Based on a true story about Lawrence Anthony and his unusual friendship with a herd of elephants. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Spark by Alice Broadway - OPTIONAL

Spark (Skin Books #2) by Alice Broadway, 320 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc), 2019. $18.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As punishment, Leora is told to go to the blanks’ community as a spy, or else put her loved ones at risk. The longer Leora lives with and learns about the blanks, though, the more she questions the history she’s been taught. Who is telling the truth of their history?

Reading Leora’s story was painful for a few reasons. First of all, it’s just as slow as the prequel. Second, Leora doesn’t feel like the heroine because she’s making poor choices that she should know better than to make. I was frustrated that she seemed to have learned nothing in the first book. Lastly, readers go through too much back and forth in not knowing what is real. While I appreciate that Broadway is illustrating how difficult it is to identify truth, the point was executed poorly.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones - ADVISABLE

 Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones, 283 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $19. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

A missing will, a dead body, and two orphans who don’t want to be shipped off to boarding and military schools by an evil grandmother. Rosie and Baker’s great-grandmother has been taking care of them since their parents died, until she ups and dies herself. Before she does, she makes them promise to pretend she is alive until her missing will is found. Rosie and Baker are in a fight against time, trying to protect Great-Grammy’s home from Grim Hesper, evil lawyer grandma, who wants to sell it and everything in it, while trying to find the will that will save the farm as it were. 

 Great premise. I like how Rosie and Baker hide the body in the basement freezer and try to keep people from opening it. I especially like Great-Grammy’s character, who has planned way ahead. The story was fun but predictable and dragged out too long. That said, if you want to read about two plucky kids weaving an ever bigger circle of lies, this could be your book. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Fearless by Kenny Porter and Zack Wilcox - HIGH

 Fearless by Kenny Porter, illustrated by Zack Wilcox, 188 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphix (Scholastic). 2021. $13. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Kara and Alice are best friends until Alice gets accepted into a new middle school two towns away. Alice quits answering Kara’s attempts to get a hold of her. Drawing on her favorite TV show, Shinpi Rider, Kara sets off on her bike to be fearless like her TV idol and find her best friend. Kara faces adventures and misadventures along the way and discovers that friends don’t always stay the same. 

If you’ve ever had a best friend move away, then you can relate to Kara. Kara discovers things about herself and that people change and move on and that other people move into our lives. Themes of friendship, family, and adolescence make this pretty universal. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting by Tsukiya, translated by Jenny McKeon - OPTIONAL

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting by Tsukiya, translated by Jenny McKeon
, 152 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Kaiten Books, 2021. $14. 

 Language: PG-13 (27 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13; 

 BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Kirishima Tooru is a violent henchman for the Sakuragi crime family. He will do anything for his boss, but he is thrown for a little bit of a loop when his boss asks him to watch over his young daughter. Suddenly, he is playing hide and seek, drawing and coloring, and attending family day at school for this little girl, and wonder of all wonders, loving it! 

I was intrigued by the combination of humor and violence promised with the premise of a yakuza becoming a babysitter. I was a little surprised that it turned into a little slice of life storyline between the henchman and the boss's kid daughter. I found the manga surprisingly funny and heartwarming, despite the organized crime aspects. 

 Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz - ADVISABLE

The Chance to Fly
by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz
, 288 pages. Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), 2021. $17. 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Nat Beacon is an elite athlete - she is a talented wheelchair racer, but it's not her dream. She's a theater kid loves all the musicals, knows all the show tunes but, she's never actually been in a show. When Nat's family moves to the east coast, Nat sees a flyer for a youth theatre production of Wicked and auditions. She is overjoyed when she is cast in the ensemble, but when the choreographer assumes she can't dance because she's in a wheelchair, Nat and other kids in the cast work together to help her show off her theater skills. 

So much fantastic theater magic - the friendships, the show tunes, the rehearsal warm ups, blocking, tech rehearsals, on stage and off stage drama - the drama kids at your school are going to love this. Tony Award winner Ali Stroker has been there and writes from experience and from the heart. I'm so excited to recommend The Chance to Fly! 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Quack by Anna Humphrey - ESSENTIAL

Quack by Anna Humphrey, 233 pages. Albert Whitman & Company, 2020. $17

Language: PG (12 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

10yo Shady Cook doesn’t talk at school. He is a selective mute who has anxiety so badly that he doesn’t even talk to his best friend, Pouya. Pouya is the class clown and is pretty sure the end of the world is coming. When a stray duck enters Shady’s life, it seems to calm him. Anxious to help their son, Shady’s parents get a special permit for the duck to be a comfort animal at school. Wearing diapers, Svenrietta is a hit for the underdogs (or underducks). 

Written in alternating points of view, the author, who raised a daughter with selective mutism, helps throw some much needed light on this form of social anxiety. Shady communicates to people at school through blackout poetry, which is a nice touch. The characters are likeable and relatable, and it’s refreshing to see a supportive family as Shady navigates the sometimes traumatic world of Carlson Elementary. 

Michelle in the Middle https://amzn.to/3x4x0KS

Lin-Manuel Miranda Raising Theater to New Heights (Trailblazers) by Kurtis Scaletta - ADVISABLE

 Lin-Manuel Miranda: Raising Theater to New Heights (Trailblazers) by Kurtis Scaletta, illustrated by David Shephard, 163 pages. NON FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 9780593124468 

Content: G

 BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Lin-Manuel was born and raised in New York City. He excelled in school and he always worked hard. He loved theater and plays and music. He even performed a rap about Alexander Hamilton in front of President Obama in the White House. From that one song grew a whole musical. It was really well received all across the country and it has made Lin-Manuel really famous. He still lives in New York city with his wife and two sons.

I loved this book! Lin-Manuel's story fascinated me and I found his story very inspiring. The story shows that if you find your passion and work hard enough your dreams can come true. I learned a lot about Lin-Manuel and also about what it takes to put on a great musical both on and off Broadway. It was all very interesting. I highly recommend this book. I love to learn about people and this series, "Trailblazers", is great. It was a fast, easy read. Much happy reading to you!

 Ellen-Anita, Librarian 

Be More Chill : The Graphic Novel by David Levithan, art by Nick Bertozzi - ADVISABLE

Be More Chill : The Graphic Novel
by David Levithan, art by Nick Bertozzi
140 pages. Hyperion. 2021. $22 

Language: PG13 (13 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (sexual situations) Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jeremy would like more attention - especially from Christine, a fellow actor in the school's Shakespeare play. But, he keeps a tally of all the things that make him a loser, and Christine isn't interested in him.  But then he talks to Rich after rehearsal and is introduced to a supercomputer pill that if taken will sit in Jeremy's brain and assist him.  for only $600 this pill will make Jeremy popular, and help him win Christine.

Based on the novel that became a Broadway musical, this is a unique story of a nerd turning his life around, and what happens when popularity becomes the main focus.  Illustrated in greyscale with blue accents, the style fits a high school audience best, as does the mature content.  I liked the science fiction element - a computer that takes over a characters brain.  I enjoyed it.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, July 26, 2021

Amelia Earhart: First Woman Over the Atlantic (Trailblazers) by Sally J. Morgan - ADVISABLE

 Amelia Earhart: First Woman Over the Atlantic (Trailblazers) by Sally J. Morgan, illustrated by David Shephard, 169 pages. NON FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 9780593124581

 Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Amelia Earhart was born in her grandmother's house and she had a wonderful childhood filled with adventure and exploring. she had a "cool" mom who didn't believe in dressing girls in fancy dresses. Instead she made her daughters loose pants so they could run, play, climb and explore. Amelia kept a scrapbook of women who inspired her. Amelia started a club called the Ninety-Nines. It was started as a club for women pilots. Today the club has thousands of members all over the world. 

 I have always loved Amelia Earhart. I have read everything I have been able to find about her, from the time I was a little girl in Norway. She was brave and inspiring. As a librarian I bought every book I could find about her to put in my library. I think this is a fascinating book with a lot of details about Amelia's life. I loved the way it was written, with interesting tidbits tucked in between the rest of the text. I highly recommend this book. Read and enjoy!

 Ellen-Anita, Librarian 

Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen and Aaron Becker - ADVISABLE

Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Aaron Becker. PICTURE BOOK. Little Brown, AUGUST 2021. $19. 9780316487672 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

A month after the events of 9/11 a very burnt tree with just a little bit of greenery was found among the rubble. Carted off to a plant nursery, it took more than a year for the tree to recover and begin to bloom again. After almost 10 years, the survivor tree was replanted at the now memorial site, exhibiting the resilience of life of all kinds. 

I had no idea I would read two books about the 9/11 Survivor tree today. I enjoyed both of them and they both support each other. I’e read a couple of other picture books about the tree – both of those told from the tree’s point of view which I did not enjoy as much (look them up on Amazon). I am going to suggest to our creative writing teacher that she use the set of four, maybe five books as the basis of a unit – I think It’d be very informative for students to evaluate them. Enough of that – this in particular is a worthy book besides its usefulness in the classroom. Coleen handles the subject gently and lovingly, infusing hope and positivity into a brutal memory. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson and Gianna Meola - NO

The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson and Gianna Meola
, 176 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphic Universe Lerner, 2021. $15 

Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (graphic novel combat) 

BUYING ADVISORY: NOT RECOMMENDED 

Josie Black has always felt like a slightly underachieving teenager, never quite able to get good marks on tests, or achieve well in sports. Maybe it's because she is so tired, her mother often takes her when she travels for work, and Josie has trouble catching up, on sleep and school. But one day, she discovers that she is really a highly trained secret agent, and that her mother has been using mind control to hide this from everyone - including Josie. 

Oh, this felt like such a good idea - a teenager who is really a secret agent. However the story was constructed poorly, and the art - all in shades of red was terrible. I don't recommend The Spy Who Raised Me. 

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunny Makes a Splash by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm - ESSENTIAL

Sunny Makes a Splash
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
, 224 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Scholastic September 2021 $13 (paperback). 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Sunny made it through her first year of middle school, but now summer is in full swing and all her friends are busy or away. No one will even be in town for her 13th birthday. Luckily, on a visit with her mom's friend to the country club for a swim, Sunny sees Tony, a boy she knows from school, working the snack shack. When the pool is cleared for "adult swim" and the shack gets super busy, Sunny helps out and Tony's dad offers her a summer job! 

I love this series so much! Sunny is adorable, I enjoy the nostalgia of the 70s - the bikes, the candy, the ice cream - even the country club - reminds me of my 12yo summers at the pool. Sunny's mom is priceless (and exactly like my mom) so suspicious and worried that Tony may have nefarious plans, when he's just a really nice boy. Full color illustrations and a great story. Stands on its own, but your library absolutely needs the whole set. 

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun's Tomb by Candace Fleming - ESSENTIAL

The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun's Tomb by Candace Fleming, 304 pages. NON-FICTION Scholastic Focus September 2021 $19.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Starting with an ancient looting of the tomb, and concluding with present day theories about a curse, Candace Fleming's account of Howard Carter and his discovery and processing of Tutankhamun's tomb is both exciting and gripping. 

I loved the side notes about the deaths of those involved, and how she asked a question at the end of each, inviting the reader to decide whether or not a curse was involved. Full of captioned photographs, a bibliography and source note - budding archeologists as well as those interested in mummies and curses will not be able to put this down. A fascinating non-fiction read.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan - ADVISABLE

The Promise Witch (Wild Magic #3) by Celine Kiernan
215 pages. Candlewick Press, 2020. $16

Language: PG (2 swears); Mature Content: G. Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ever since the deposed queen/witch sent the cursed winter, the weather around the castle has been unpredictable. Now there is a terrible drought. But Mup's mam, the new queen, is trying her best to unite the people; even opening a school for children where they can learn all the magic. But Crow is doing some magic of his own, and when his song conjures a monster, his mother, Magda, returns with a touch that turns things to ash and a mission to put the old queen back on the throne. Mup is compelled to get involved. 

The final installment of the Wild Magic Trilogy is just as creepy and exciting. Wraps up nicely with some great life lessons about respecting others' talents and differences, the strength of community and trusting in your abilities. Kiernan is a talented Irish author, and I hope to see more of her books published in the US.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter - ESSENTIAL

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter,
238 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphix (Scholastic), 2021. $13.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

More than anything else, 10yo Maggie wants a dog. Everyone in her family has someone - she has twin younger brothers, her parents are expecting another baby and Maggie is sure that a dog is the perfect companion. So she visits the shelter and finds the perfect dog, Maggie is in heaven - her dreams have come true. Until she starts itching and sneezing. That's right, before they can even bring the dog home, Maggie has an allergic reaction - in fact, the doctor confirms, it's not just dogs, it's any animal with fur or feathers. So much for getting a family pet. Then, when her best friend next door adopts a dog, Maggie feels personally attacked. How could she do this? Claire knew Maggie was allergic! 

Allergic is fun and angsty - in the same vein as Sisters (Telgemeier), Roller Girl (Jamieson) and Real Friends (Hale), it will find a similar audience. Maggie is realistic, funny and learning a lesson about herself. I loved the illustrations - the pictures of Maggie's itchy arms brought back memories of my own child's allergies. I loved that it wasn't a single story - besides the allergy problem it's also about building friendships, getting along with your family, and starting again in a new school. Buying a few copies, because one won't be enough. 

Lisa Librarian

Friday, July 16, 2021

Friends Forever by Shannon Hale illustrated by LeUyen Pham - ESSENTIAL

Friends Forever
 (Friends #3) by Shannon Hale illustrated by LeUyen Pham,
340 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second, September 2021. $13 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (reference to kissing, creepy adult) Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Shannon is in 8th grade, where her life is even more complicated. Her relationship with her sisters is strained, expectations from her parents are high, and even though her best friend is a boy, her friends have started dating, but no one seems interested in Shannon that way. She gets braces, hates her hair, and can't seem to succeed at anything popular like the class election, or the school play. She's super worried about disappointing her parents, but loses her drive to do well in school. When everything comes crashing down, Shannon wonders if something is wrong with her. 

Friends Forever is a great culmination to an amazing trilogy. Standing alone, but better if you've followed her story, I loved how the topics matured along with Shannon. I loved the end notes, which include help for dealing with mental illness. Shannon's story is raw and at time heart breaking, perfect for middle grade readers who love drama, or need a good read they can relate to. 

Lisa Librarian