Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Islanders by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May - ADVISABLE

The Islanders by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May
, 293 pages. Simon and Schuster Kids, 2021. $18

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

11yo Jake's dad is wounded in Afghanistan and is being flown to the U.S. for treatment. While Mom goes to be with Dad during his recovery, Jake is sent off the live with his grandma on Dewees Island - a nature preserve without cars or roads - not even any stores! As if that is not bad enough, he loses his phone while on the boat over to the island. Jake has to spend the whole summer with his grandma. Grandpa died recently so Grandma is mourning and she is depressed and listless. Grandma puts him to work cleaning and being a naturalist. He is to keep a journal of everything he sees every day. He even gets put on Turtle Patrol with his two new friends.

Jake is a strong and believable character. It was fun to see his growth and maturity increase as time went by. Jake and Grandma help each other, with a little help from other people, too. I really enjoyed this book. While reading I felt like I was right with them all at Dewees Island, exploring, observing, and keeping a nature log. It would be a wonderful read-a -loud book with a class, with your child or grandchild.

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

As Large as Life by Jonny Marx, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat - ADVISABLE

As Large as Life
by Jonny Marx, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
PICTURE BOOK, NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY 360 Degrees (Tiger Tales) 2021 $25 9781944530341 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

26 different habitats for the reader to explore, each with a number of its resident animals illustrated with a most interesting fact included. 

I was so engaged! Because of the nature of the book, it can be opened on any page and perused. I learned so many new things! The only drawback, for my library, is the fact that the book is oversized - at 13" tall it won't fit on my shelves where it belongs unless it's placed on its side. Includes a table of contents.

Lisa Librarian

Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galiza, Defender of Free Speech by Gattaldo - ADVISABLE

Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galiza, Defender of Free Speech
by Gattaldo
PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Candlewick Press, 2021. $18. 9781536219180 

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL (K-3) - OPTIONAL,   EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Daphne grew up hearing stories about her 4th great grandfather who fought against Napoleon's army when they invaded Malta. She was a girl who knew her own mind, and like her grandfather, fought against injusstice. At 19yo she was arrested during a peaceful protest on false charges and spent 2 days in jail. As an adult, she wrote for a national newspaper and was not afraid to tell the truth. 

The author, Gattaldo was a close friend of Galiza and wrote/illustrated this to honor her memory. I loved it. The illustrations are just a little abstract, which gives the book its poetic feel, even though the text is in prose. I will enjoy introducing my middle school students to this important journalist. Contains some elements that may be upsetting to a younger child.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Monsters of Rookhaven by Padraig Kenny, illustrated by Edward Bettison - ADVISABLE

Monsters of Rookhaven by Padraig Kenny, illustrated by Edward Bettison,
325 pages. Henry Holt (MacMillan), 2021. $17 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (monsters, peril, killing, and eating things) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

2 orphans - Jem and Tom, stumble upon a hidden manor house guarded by man-eating flowers and inhabited by monsters. But the monsters are Mirabelle's family, she's a monster, too. She's the one who found the children, she's convinced the elders to let them stay (at least until Tom isn't sick anymore) and she's trying to keep everything together, until something even more sinister than the monsters threatens the humans in the village as well as Mirabell's family. 

I loved this gothic tale - it had all the stuff - secret runes, trap doors, a beast behind a locked door (ironically names Piglet) a mystery, and kids helping save the village. Wonderful! Plenty of illustrations as well as black divider pages help wrap this story in a creepy, dark and ominous world. Plenty scary for those who want a thrilling read. 

Lisa Librarian

Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli - OPTIONAL

Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli
, 322 pages. Razorbill (peguin), 2020. $18

Language: R (100+ swears, 16 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (sexual abuse mentioned)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

18 months ago Aubrey had a broken back from a horrible fall, but now she is on the Olympic gymnastics team and headed to Tokyo. There are only a few weeks of strenuous training left before her chances at Olympic gold. As she and the others train with the “Gibby”, their Olympic coach, drama abounds, but so does laughter. Then Gibby is taken away by the FBI – he’s been accused of falsifying a drug test that took one of the girls off the team. The IOC whisks the girls away from the media spotlight to the gym of a former Olympian who is not connected with Gibby’s program. Can the girls finish their training and fulfil their dreams?

You don’t have to be a gymnastics fan to enjoy this fascinating fiction look at the “ripped from the headlines” storyline. I’ve read many sports books by Lupica, Feinstein, and Green, and Iacopelli does the same thing with gymnastics. You may not know what they are doing, but even the descriptions of the events will draw you in. While I would love to have this in my library – language-wise it is not appropriate for a middle school. Too bad.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Black Kids by Christina Hammond Reed - OPTIONAL

The Black Kids by Christina Hammond Reed
, 359 pages. Simon, 2020. $19

Language: R (100+ swears, 55 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (drinking, drugs, ; Violence:

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

17yo Ashley is living the high life in a posh LA suburb in the 1990’s. As one of a few black girls in her high school, she sees some racism, but her money mostly protects her from any real belligerence. Then the white police officers who were filmed beating Rodney King, a black man, are acquitted, and the world around her erupts. Now she finds out who her real friends are as they take sides and point fingers. Now her family can’t ignore the problems that they thought their money had bought them out of – not problems that they created, but problems caused by systemic racism that linger and lurk, waiting to make everyone’s lives miserable.

Ashley and her family let us see life as it was in LA in early 1992 – the racism that didn’t disappear after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and hasn’t disappeared in 2020. However, it also depicts the casual sex, drinking, and drug use among high school students of any decade – exacerbated by their monied, privileged lives. Ashley herself is not particularly a sympathetic character, making this harder for adults to read than teens.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Dear Student by Ellie Swartz - ADVISABLE

Dear Student by Ellie Swartz, 304 pages. Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House), February 2022 $20 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Autumn has just started 6th grade. Her BFF just moved to California, and Autumn is worried about starting middle school alone. Walking to school on the first day, she meets Cooper when he accidently injures a baby lizard on the road. Then, at school that day, Autumn is invited to have lunch with Logan, a gregarious girl who seems to make friends easily. Maybe there's a chance for friendships after all. A favorite part of the school paper is "Dear Student" an advice column which will be written by a 6th grade student secretly assigned by Mr. Baker. Autumn applies (so does Logan) and when Autumn gets the job, she finds giving advice secretly is much harder than she thought, and could hurt her newly found friendships. 

Autumn is a great character, a lot going for her as well as a lot going on in her life (don't get me started about her father "leaving to join the peace corps" (what??)) She's resilient, thoughtful and is really trying to do the right thing even though she's going through a lot. Realistic representation of today's kids - Cooper and Logan were also experiencing some challenges. I liked the middle school drama and how a rumor can spread through the whole school in just a few class periods.

Lisa Librarian

Ain't Burned All The Bright by Jason Reynolds, artwork by Jason Griffin - OPTIONAL

Ain't Burned All The Bright
by Jason Reynolds, artwork by Jason Griffin
384 pages. Atheneum  (Simon and Schuster), 2022. $20. 

Content: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

A boy and his family during the 2020 pandemic lockdown. The father is sick in bed; coughs. Mom is always watching the news, which is about racial unrest and seems to be fixed to that, rather than the family. His brother plays video games while his sister is on her phone. More a slice of life than a story, Reynolds and Griffin follow the young boy and his worries -so many worries, no real answers, just like real life. 

Fans of Jason Reynolds may pick this up, but it's not like his other books. Certainly a timely book as most of the readers today will have life experience to connect.  A quick read as text is limited, but there is so much in Jason Reynold's sparse text and Jason Griffin's illustrations that the book may be a different experience for each new reader. The illustrations are collage and just about every kind of rendering including gaffers and scotch tape, spray paint, and ball point pen, on moleskin notebook. I will certainly be showing my art teacher. 

Lisa Librarian

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy - ESSENTIAL

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
, 292 pages. Hyperion (Disney), 2021.

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (age appropriate drinking, making out); Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE; HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Faced with no job offers after she finishes her fashion design program (with an emphasis on SHOES! Yum!), Cindy leaves her beloved NYC and heads back to Hollywood to her blended family – stepmom, 2 lovely stepsisters, and three adorable half sibs. Erica (stepmom) is the head of a very successful reality dating series – Before Midnight, and needs the steps to come in as last minute replacements, and Cindy decides to also take the plunge, even though she is taking a big risk as a plus-sized woman in a size 2 world. When she meets the bachelor – who should he be but that swoon-worthy man she met on her flight to LA! Can they keep their chemistry on the down-low and navigate the pitfalls of reality tv?

Even though the characters are college graduates, the story is totally appropriate for especially high school. Murphy weaves another charming story of living with a real-sized body and being your best possible person even with all the snark that surrounds you. And of course there is a great romance mixed in.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Lena, the Sea and Me by Maria Parr - OPTIONAL

 Lena, the Sea and Me (Companion to Everything on a Waffle) by Maria Parr, translated by Guy Puzey. 284 pages. Candlewick Press, 2021. $17

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Every time Lena and Trille from Mahtildewick Cove build a raft, it sinks. When Lena’s soccer team gets a new coach, she is not thrilled. She has always played goalie and now her chances look slim for that position. Both Lena and Trille go to music lessons that they do not like. Is it their fault the little sister gets stuck at the top of the flagpole? And how will they get her down?

A fun, easy read and a good reminder of how my childhood was in Norway. I still make waffles for my family, the Norwegian way. This is a good read-a-loud book and there are lots of things to talk about and discuss. Trille and Lena have oodles of fun, and some scary, adventures.

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui - ADVISABLE

Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui, 288 pages. Scholastic Press, 2021. $18 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Nimra has been attending a private Islamic School and has finished their Hifz program where she memorized the Qur'an. Now her parents feel it's time for Nimra to attend public school. Her best friend Jenna also goes to Farmwell, but when they are at school, their friendship seems different - Jenna didn't welcome Nimra into her friends group and she doesn't like that Nimra wears her hijab. When Matthew, Bilal and Waleed, 8th grade boys who overhear her praying in the band room, invite her to sing in their Muslim band Barakah Beats, she agrees, hoping this will impress Jenna and her friends - which it certainly does. But, Nimra knows her religious parents wouldn't want her to perform, so she doesn't tell them. 

Nimra really transitioned well from private to public school despite the friendship drama - which was spot on for that age group - who likes who, and making your friends talk to a boy for you etc. Siddiqui does a great job of keeping the reader culturally involved without weighing down the plot to do so. The author's note is great - I hope my readers don't stop at the end of the story, but keep reading through to the end. 

Lisa Librarian    

Flight of the Puffin by Ann Braden - OPTIONAL

 Flight of the Puffin by Ann Braden, 229 pages. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), 2021. $18

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Someone writes a message on a card "You are Awesome," and leaves it to be discovered. As different people discover it, things start to change. Libby is a bully, but she wants to change. However, that is hard and she finds herself suspended from school again. We also meet Jack who is fighting to keep his small school open. The state says there are no money to keep it open and they will bus the students to a school in the city. Jack finds it hard to remember what and who counts the most. Next we meet Vincent, a mathematical genius who really admires Katherine Johnson. Vincent is bullied at school and it is getting worse. Then we meet T who ran away from home and is determined to make a home in a tent on a rainy sidewalk. Each child tells their own story, and T writes in all free verse.

I loved the story of each person and how hard they worked on overcoming their individual struggles. I really enjoyed the book but I was not happy with the surprise at the end. Other than that, I loved the book.

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Jude Banks, Superhero by Ann Hood - ESSENTIAL

 Jude Banks, Superhero by Ann Hood, 312 pages. Penguin Workshop, 2021. $17

Content: G (death of a child)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

12yo Jude’s sister, Katie, has died. He idolized his sister and they did everything together. Now Jude thinks if he just had a cape and was a superhero he could have jumped in and saved Katie. Jude struggles with grief and survivors guilt. Jude's mom has stayed in her room and is not even functioning since Katie died. His dad is trying. The neighbors take good care of the grieving family and bring an endless string of lasagna casseroles. Jude feels lost and really doesn't know how he'll even survive all this grief and all the lasagna. He finally meets a girl that also lost a sibling. Jude and Clementine bond over what they have in common and form a friendship of sorts.

Hood has a tremendous story - well written, believable, strong characters and a fast, easy read. I cried and laughed at different parts of the book. I am recommending it to everyone I meet. Jude's story deeply touched my heart and he will be with me for a very long time. This is a great book to hand to a student who has lost a sibling or a friend. People around us die all the time, and this book gives great insight to the grieving process. It even gives some ideas of what to do and what not to do when someone loses a loved one. Read this book!

Ellen-Anita LMS 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Thief and the Noble by Dana LaCheminant - OPTIONAL


The Thief and the Noble
by Dana LaCheminant
, 268 pages. Covenant Communications, 2022. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lady Marian wants to help the lower class, but first she has to understand their needs. She dons a disguise to take a job as a barmaid and meets Robin, a thief intent on redistributing wealth. But everything becomes more complicated when Robin and Marian discover that the other isn’t what they appear to be.

As a retelling of Robin Hood, I enjoyed reading LaCheminant’s story – the thrill of vigilantism, the desire to help those who need it, and the reimagining of beloved characters. Unfortunately, I did not fall in love with this Robin, which made watching Marian fall in love with him difficult. Focusing on the action/adventure parts of the story was more fun than the romance parts, though the last chapter was, admittedly, a cute conclusion to the development of their relationship.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Pantomime by Christopher Sebela and David Stoll - HIGH

Pantomime by Christopher Sebela, illustrated by David Stoll
, 144 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Mad Cave Studios. 2021. $18

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Haley and her brother, Max, are sent to a special needs high school following the death of their mother. They find friends in other deaf students and band together to commit crimes, which Haley finds strangely thrilling. They end up stealing from the wrong person though, and find that there are unpleasant consequences that will forever change their group. 

Stoll uses ASL (American Sign Language) in the illustrations, which is pretty cool. It is a dark story with flawed characters that I found difficult to root for since they are committing crime after crime. The story has enough twists that it will keep you hooked and the illustrations complement the storyline with the perfect blend of color that adds tension in the book. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Kindred by Alechia Dow - HIGH


The Kindred
by Alechia Dow
, 392 pages. Inkyard Press, 2022. $19.

Language: R (36 swears, 5 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Felix is a duke of the kingdom, and Joy, his Kindred, is of the poorest class. While linking members of the kingdom through the Kindred program is supposed to help merge the gap between classes and give everyone a voice, the kingdom calls the pairing between Felix and Joy a mistake. They’ve always known that being together was impossible, but, when emergency circumstances force them to meet in person, the impossible starts to feel right.

I am blown away by how quickly Dow made me fall in love with these fictitious alien cultures and places. The characters and the story, though, took a few chapters for me to start enjoying. And then, just as I was starting to get pulled in, my interest stalled again when Earth got involved. Felix and Joy develop in ways that encourage readers to similarly make a positive impact on the world and stand up for themselves–and others–and the scifi world built is mesmerizing as Dow paints with words, but I didn’t love the execution of the plot. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, and nudity.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall - ADVISABLE

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
247 pages. Candlewick Press, 2021. $20. Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

When a gentle monk finds a girl asleep in the barn with Answelica the goat, he takes her to the monastery to recover. The girl can remember her name, Beatryce, but not much else. However, as Edik nurses her back to health, he discovers that she may be the girl a prophecy refers to, and that her life may be in danger - the King is looking for her. So, disguising her looks by shaving her head, dressing her in monk's robes and warning her not to speak is not enough. When a boy comes from the village looking for someone who can write down a confession - the other brothers at the monastery are anxious to send Beatryce away (for their protection) and reveal that she can read and write. Now, Beatryce finds herself on an adventure, with the boy, the monk and a man who used to be a King. 

As much as I love books set in the middle ages (Gidwitz's The Inquisitor's Tale, Cushman's Midwife's Apprentice) I have a hard time getting the kids interested. Hopefully DiCamillo's reputation will help, as I think she has given us a well-told story with a bit of action, and a lot of suspense. Also, the goat, Answelica, was my favorite. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Girl and the Witch's Garden by Erin Bowman - ADVISABLE

The Girl and the Witch's Garden
by Erin Bowman,
288 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $18. 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Piper Peavey is worried about her father. His cancer has progressed and he needs to spend extended time in the hospital. Piper and her dad have been on their own since her mother left them when she was little, but now she's being sent to spend the summer at her grandmother's estate.  Arriving there, Piper finds a group of children, close to her age as well as her mother who is barely involved except to enforce behavior. It seems these children have magical powers, called affinities, and are working at the Estate with the hopes of being adopted. The children are needed to find a magical elixir in the witch's enchanted garden, but Piper wants to find it first - to save her father. 

I do like stories with kids who have magical powers, and these kids are learning how to use theirs - in the case of Piper, discovering what hers are. The mystery unravels slowly, the trials in the garden were dangerous and exciting, and the ending is satisfying but leaves a few openings for a sequel.

Lisa Librarian

Pantomime by Christopher Sebela and David Stoll - HIGH

Pantomime by Christopher Sebela, illustrated by David Stoll
, 144 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Mad Cave Studios. 2021. $18

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Haley and her brother, Max, are sent to a special needs high school following the death of their mother. They find friends with other deaf students and band together to engage in crime. Haley finds committing crime strangely thrilling. They end up stealing from the wrong person though, and find that there are unpleasant consequences that will forever change their group. 

This book uses ASL (American Sign Language) in its illustrations, which is pretty cool. It is a dark story with flawed characters that I found difficult to root for since they are committing crime after crime. The story has enough twists that it will keep you hooked and the illustrations complement the storyline with the perfect blend of color that adds tension in the book. 

 Michelle in the Middle https://amzn.to/3JA4zw5

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick - OPTIONAL

Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick,
208 pages. SHORT STORIES Scholastic Press, 2021. $20.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

A series of stories, told by a first person narrator and his/her interactions with James who appears in various roles and worlds and manifestations. The stories are very short - 3-5 pages each, and of course, Selznick has provided illustrations. 

Oh dear . . . while I love the quirky stories Selznick tells, I have to say, I was lost. I kept hoping that there would be something to tie it all together. Yes, it's about grief and time and friendship and hope and love, but except for "James" I couldn't find a common thread. The protagonists are children - I think - but I think adults who have more background knowledge and nostalgia and sophistication to make those connections will appreciate this more. 

Lisa Librarian