Saturday, March 17, 2018

Time Jumpers by Brandon Mull - ESSENTIAL

Mull, Brandon Time Jumpers (Five Kingdoms #5), 434 pages.  Aladdin (Simon), 2018.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

Cole and his friends an allies are desperate – the torivor Ramarro has escaped his prison.  He has been temporarily trapped inside a time loop in Creon, but he will break free at any moment.  Unless they can find the final princess and a few other very powerful allies, and put together at least the glimmer of a plan, not only are the Five Kingdoms doomed, but also Cole’s home – Earth.  Time itself if noth their enemy and their ally.  Cole will have to stretch himself – his power and his heart – in order to confront his greatest enemy.

Wow!  When it comes to plotting this tale, Mull has mastered the disparate elements into a cohesive whole.  His weakness, however is the dialogue.  His characters do a whole lot of talking – in terse sentences that feel strained at many points. Almost every time a conversation occurred I felt I was being short-changed;  I was surprised.  But the final action-packed confrontations were well worth the journey.

EL, MS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Sticky Notes by Dianne Touchell - ADVISABLE

Touchell, Dianne Sticky Notes, 210 pages.  Delacorte Press, 2018.  $17. Language:  PG (6 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.

Foster Sumner is ten years old.  He likes all the things that a ten year old might like, including toy soldiers, tadpole hunting and the beach.  However, Dad is forgetting things.  He is forgetting the stories that have always been so important to them both.  Foster doesn’t know it, but Dad’s struggle with Alzheimers has just begun.

Having personal experience with one who went through the devastating effects of Alzheimers, I found the book to be spot on.  The struggle with the disease, as well as the emotional, and physical cost for the caretakers is very real.  This book would be very valuable to students whose parent, or grandparent has been diagnosed with a memory issue. Sumner’s actions and reactions get to the heart of a ten year old watching a loved one lose their sense of identity.   The story includes unprovoked anger, inaccurate accusations, and arguments based on imagination.  Inappropriate words or conversations can seemingly come out of nowhere with Alzheimers.  There is also one bloody scene in the book.  Touchell mixes home life and scenes at school in a believable way.

EL, MS – ADVISABLE . Reviewer:  KG

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater - OPTIONAL

Slater, Dashka The 57 Bus, 305 pages, NON-FICTION Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), 2017. $18. Language: R (11 swears 12 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (details of physical assault)

Sasha and Richard go to different high schools in Sacramento, but one day, as they were both riding home on the 57 Bus, 16-year-old Richard was messing around with his friends who may have goaded him into setting fire to sleeping Sasha’s skirt.  Born male, Sasha identifies as agender (doesn’t identify as any gender), during questioning Richard tells the police he is homophobic which immediately turns the assault into a hate crime.  Sasha is badly burned and spends a long time in the hospital, but Richard may be tried as an adult, and spend years in adult prison.

This narrative non-fiction tells the background of both Richard and Sasha, their family and friends, the day of the attack and the consequences of the assault - of both the victim and the perpetrator. There is a lot of information educating the reader about the court system, the language and terms of gender, sexuality and romance, social justice, restorative justice, and juvenile vs. adult prison.  This book reads like a novel, but is very informative as well.  Includes a timeline of Gender Neutrality milestones, and some statistics of Juvenile Incarceration.  

HS - OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

The High King by Lloyd Alexander - ADVISABLE

Alexander, Lloyd The High King (Chronicles of Prydain, #5), 248 pages.  Henry Holt and Company, 2017. $26.  Content: Language: G; Violence: PG; Mature Content: G. 

Taran and his close friends are on an important mission to save Prydain from the evil Arawn.  All of Taran’s allies and friends band with him on this quest to save their beloved kingdom, and all of the skills and friendships he’s made up to this point will be the only chance he has to combat evil.  This fifth and final book in the Chronicles of Prydain is the epic battle between good and evil.  Taran must rely on those he loves as well as his own confidence in who he has become. 

I enjoy this series because of the characters and setting.  This is the cloth bound edition to mark the 50th Anniversary and includes a short story and other material.  Like I've said with the other books, this is a great series for boys and it's clean.

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

Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander - ADVISABLE

Alexander, Lloyd Taran Wanderer (Chronicles of Prydain, #4), 218 pages. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. $26. Content: Language: G; Violence: PG; Mature Content: G.  

Taran feels like he needs to know who is parents are in order to know who he is, so he sets out on a quest.  He is told of a mirror that will show him the truth, so Gurgi and Taran meet many people, good and bad, along the way.  Taran wants to be of royal birth so he can marry Eilonwy and he struggles internally with what it means to be Taran.  

I love the Chronicles of Prydain.  Like all of Alexander’s books, Taran Wanderer has great characters who fight against evil, usually while on a journey.  This is the 50th Anniversary cloth cover edition and there are some extras in the back, including a pronunciation guide.  The violence is PG because there is a death but it’s not graphic.  This is a great boy read.  

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

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson - NO

Lawson, Richard All We Can Do Is Wait, 275 pages. Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2018. $18. Content: Language: R (109 swears, 50 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13 (sex, drug abuse, abuse, and sexting).

 A bridge in Boston has collapsed, so many family members are waiting for news of loved ones at a local hospital.  A group of teens: Jason and Alexa (siblings), Scott, Skyler, and Morgan gravitate to each other as they are all alone and anxious for the wellbeing of their loved ones. Over the long hours of waiting, these teens share their lives and secrets with each other.

From the premise of the book, I had hoped to find a book filled with courage, hope, and growth. While there are tidbits of those virtues spattered through the read, it was overshadowed by disturbing images. This book is a teenage soap opera.  It’s all about teenage angst. There is vulgar language and actions on almost every page of the book.  Every teen in this book faced major life issues. Although the book shows the good that can come of persons supporting each other in a crisis, much of the book was spent on all the sordid details of their lives. If this was intended to be a “coming of age” book, it missed the mark.


Royal Crush by Meg Cabot - OPTIONAL

Cabot, Meg Royal Crush (Middle School Princess #3), 314 pages.  Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan), 2018.  $17.  Content: G.

Olivia, Princess of Genovia is getting ready for the birth of her older sister Mia’s twins and her own thirteenth birthday party.  Plus, she is having problems with her friendship with Prince Khalil – does he even want to be friends.  Add in the drama with her cousin Luisa and having GrandMere act as a chaperone on the school trip to the Royal School Winter Games – Olvia has too amny things to worry a bout within a very short period of time.

Cabot catches middle school drama to a point where it is almost painful to read.  The diary is a bit weird format – especially when Olivia mentions she is writing while riding up the ski chairlift – what?! Or while sitting a lunch in the school dining room? The entitlement that Olivia has started buying into is beginning to become grating.  It might be time to wrap up this series.

EL – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Friday, March 16, 2018

Snow Lane by Josie Angelini - OPTIONAL

Angelini, Josie Snow Lane, 197 pages.  Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2018.  $17.  Language: PG (13 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (abuse by a parent, groping); Violence: PG (fights)

At ten years old, Annie is the youngest of eight siblings  (seven girls, one boy), in a very crowded house, with little room for love.  She has two fast friends/protectors at school, which gives her the strength to walk the tightrope of her loveless family.  It isn’t until her sister runs away and brings the situation to the attention of the authorities that things have a chance to take a turn for the better.

The conflict between the length of the book and the content makes it hard to suggest a school level for this book.  Plus, I don’t want to think that young children who would be drawn to the length would see themselves within its pages.  But older students who can handle the content, need more than the book provides.  I feel like I had a good long look at Annie’s life, with deeper understanding of her family dynamic.  But, when it comes to the resolution, it lacks depth and exposition.  Annie’s story was difficult to read for all the right reasons – Angelini makes us squirm, because we know that this is what life really is like for far too many children.  I just wish she had given equal strength to the end.

MS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher