Monday, October 25, 2021

How to Build a Story by Frances O’Roark Dowell - ADVISABLE


How to Build a Story … Or, the Big What If
by Frances O’Roark Dowell
, 114 pages. NONFICTION. Caitlyn Dlougy Book (Simon & Schuster), 2020. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Have you ever had a great idea for a story, started writing it, and then had to stop because you didn’t know what came next? Dowell breaks down how to build a story so that you don’t just start stories but finish them, too!

I appreciate that Dowell refers to the process as building rather than writing a story. I mean, it is all about writing and includes exercises to try after each chapter, but Dowell’s process builds on what young (or not-so-young) writers are doing and teaches them how to keep going. After following all the steps, writers have accomplished something substantial and are encouraged to start again.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, October 24, 2021

24 hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling - ADVISABLE

24 hours in Nowhere
by Dusti Bowling
260 pages. Sterling Children’s Books, 2018. $17 

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril, bullying). 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Gus is the smartest in his grade, but living in Nowhere Arizona, his opportunities are limited. Bo Taylor is a huge bully, and when Rossi tries to rescue Gus from Bo trying to make him eat cactus, Bo takes Rossi's dirt bike. Hoping to get it back, Gus goes to Bo's trailer home with all the money he has, but Bo wants gold - from a particular mine - the most deadly mine in Nowhere. He agrees, and Bo sends Matthew - one of his henchmen - along to make sure Gus doesn't try to trick him. When Gus's friend Jesse and Rossi hear what's happening, they come along, too, and the 4 friends begin a life or death adventure. 

Dusti Bowling is so good at edge of your seat adventure. So exciting, "24 hours in Nowhere" was hard to put down. She knows the desert so well, I can imagine myself there with the kids. It's about friendship and family and choices and courage. Gus is a wordsmith - I loved the thesaurus in his head as he choose the perfect words. This would make a fun class novel or read aloud.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Room to Dream (Front Desk #3) by Kelly Yang - ADVISABLE

Room to Dream (Front Desk #3
) by Kelly Yang,
320 pages. Scholastic Press, 2021. $17 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Business at The Calivista is going great, so Mia and her family are is taking a trip to China to visit her grandparents. She hasn't been back since they moved to the United States. It's only been a few years, but things in Beijing have changed a lot. When she returns things have changed a lot in Anaheim, too. Things are strained with her friends Jason and Lupe, there's new trouble at the hotel, and Mia may be sharing too much in the columns she's writing for an English speaking kids' newspaper in China. 

I love Mia's introspection and how driven she is to do the right thing. I also loved that she learns from her mistakes and tries to do better. Kelly Yang's author's note makes great connections for the reader, as this series is based on Yang's life. So excited to see another installment in Mia's story - I hope they keep coming. While this could stand on its own - Yang gives enough background in context, Front Desk and Three Keys should be read first, you'll want them all in your library.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, October 22, 2021

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter - HIGH

Better Than the Movies
by Lynn Painter
, 356 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2021. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears 5 'F'); Mature Content: PG (Dating situations); Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Liz Buxbaum has known her next door neighbor Wes Bennet since they were little kids, and he has always been a huge pain. He played tricks on her when they were young, and even now, in high school, it's a constant battle with him over who gets the good street parking spot in front of their houses. Until, Wes has something Liz wants - she's always dreamed of going to Senior Prom with Michael - and Wes has the connections she needs, so, in a crazy trade for a favor, Liz promises to give up the parking spot if Wes will help her get a promposal. 

Every chapter starts with a quote from a romantic movie which sets the stage for the crazy things that happen to Liz throughout this hilarious romantic book. I love the movies as well, and was totally captivated by the story right from the first pages. Highly recommended to my high school readers, the relationships - especially with her best friend were spot on.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison - OPTIONAL


The Right Side of Reckless
by Whitney D. Grandison
, 416 pages. Inkyard Press, 2021. $17.

Language: R (170 swears, 37 “f” + Spanish swears); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Sixteen-year-old Regan pretends to be happy as she obediently walks down the path her parents have laid out for her with the perfect boyfriend and the perfect future career. Seventeen-year-old Guillermo is on probation after his third arrest, and he is determined to do nothing else to disappoint his family -- even if that means sacrificing happiness now. Are lines meant to be crossed, or is it better to stay within them?

Regan and Guillermo are on opposite sides of the same struggle as they try to find ways to be happy while also pleasing their loved ones. I was excited to see how Grandison would illustrate balance between their extreme mindsets, but the resolution was not as powerful as I wanted it to be. The main characters set good examples for readers, but they didn’t connect to me, especially when they made choices that felt contrived. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mentions of drug use, innuendo, groping, and mentions of sex and sexting.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

An Alleged Rogue by Sian Ann Bessey - ADVISABLE


An Alleged Rogue
by Sian Ann Bessey
, 250 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Adam has been busy chasing down the man who ruined his family instead of preparing his sister for her coming out. His time away from Society has allowed rumors to swirl -- rumors that paint him as a villain. When Phoebe hears the rumors, she becomes determined to save his sister from him, sure that his moments of kindness are merely a facade.

Bessey has crafted a story to keep readers on edge as the pressure builds by reading from both the protagonists’ and the antagonist’s points of view. The villain schemes while the protagonists think they are resolving all their issues. Somehow, Bessey strikes a balance between giving her main characters enough hardship to wade through that their good fortune feels like a relief, not cheesy. The more I read, the more fun the story became to read.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn - HIGH


Never Saw You Coming
by Erin Hahn
, 320 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2021. $17.

Language: R (90 swears, 48 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Meg just found out that her dad isn’t really her dad, making her gap year to find herself that much more important. Micah has mostly avoided thinking about his dad, but the upcoming parole hearing is reopening the not-quite-forgotten wounds. Affected by choices that weren’t their own, Meg and Micah struggle to move forward under the burden of their pasts.

Meg and Micah have relatable struggles with self-acceptance, with forgiveness, and with their relationships with God. My family issues and my wrestles with my faith felt understood; seeing my heartache and confusion in these pages was comforting, like being heard and supported by a close friend. Hahn expresses genuine pain, genuine healing, genuine sorrow, genuine joy -- genuine journeying through life. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mention of illegal drugs, innuendo, discussions of sex, and mentions of orgasm, masturbation, and rape. The violence rating is for mentions of intended suicide and of a gun.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, October 18, 2021

Why We Fought by Jerry Borrowman - OPTIONAL


Why We Fought
by Jerry Borrowman
, 208 pages. NONFICTION. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2021. $20.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

World War II was devastating to families and countries, and it would have been worse if not for those individuals and groups whose stories are finally being told here. Risking their lives to help Jews flee and to help the Allies fight against the Nazis, these heroes knew to fight for what they believed was right even when it wasn’t easy.

Borrowman organizes this book into seven sections, and each true story pierces the heart of readers and will encourage them to act in a way that fights for good. None of the heroes talked about in this book went about doing good in the same way; likewise, readers can find their own unique ways of being heroes. Some of the accounts and facts can get dry, but the inspiring stories are worth it.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, October 14, 2021

War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman - ADVISABLE

War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman, 214 pages. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021. $17. 9781984850102.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 'F'); Violence: G; Content: PG (Racist comments)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Millie McGonigle is growing up on the coast of California in 1941. After her Gram's sudden death, she is anxious and a little bit obsessed with the dead and dying. And as war comes to America, its easy to see the morbid all around. In this coming-of-age historical fiction, Millie will grow to see her Gram's final message as one of hope and learn how important that hope and positivity will be in war time. 

I found this middle grade historical fiction novel to be rather meandering in its storytelling, and thus a little hard to really get into. Its a bit of a different Homefront take than the usual WWII piece as the story begins before Pearl Harbor, and ends before the war concludes. I enjoyed the anxious and gloomy protagonist--it was a delightful change from the usual WWII teens you meet in literature--and this felt very realistic with normal family life happening around big world events. Overall its a nice story but nothing I'd immediately recommend everyone needs to read. The PG rating on content is related to a neighbor family who are very prejudiced; their racist comments are always immediately responded to, however, by the protagonist or her family. 

Reviewer: TC

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Bickery Twins and the Phoenix Tear by Abi Elphinstone - ADVISABLE

The Bickery Twins and the Phoenix Tear
(The Unmapped Chronicles #2) by Abi Elphinstone
, 330 pages. Aladdin (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $18 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Fox and Fibber have been competing with each other their whole lives. Their parents have taught them to be selfish, uncaring, and rude. But when the family businesses are facing ruin, and neither twin can come up with a viable business plan, the twins stumble into an antique shop run by an old man, Casper Tock, and are whisked away to Jungledrop. Morg, banished there in book 1 is up to her old tricks again, this time her magic is causing a draught in our world, and if she finds the "forever fern" will take control of Jungledrop. The Twins can save both worlds, but they will need to learn to get along first. 

I love the magic - so many different kinds, magical food, magical beasts, enchanted maps and plants, even furniture that anticipates moods. The story moves along quickly and is so engaging, a terrific read aloud. This is a delightful series, and book 2 easily stands on its own. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Cross-Country Christmas by Laurie Lewis - OPTIONAL


Cross-Country Christmas by Laurie Lewis
, 245 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After crashing a Tesla (that isn’t hers) through a fence (that isn’t hers) out in the country, CC ends up staying at the ranch of the man, Reese, whose fence was broken. CC and Reese resist the nudges of their hearts to explore the pull between them -- at first. Mishaps with the sheriff, some exes, and a mother  seem to ruin their fragile relationship, but no one told their hearts.

Lewis created some interesting characters with deep wounds for readers to laugh and cry with. I loved how CC and Reese’s story shows readers that everyone has baggage and that baggage does not define us. However, I was disappointed by the long explanations that were used to give the backstories of the main characters; those passages were tedious and hard to pay attention to.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, October 11, 2021

Superpowered by Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary - ADVISABLE


Superpowered
by Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary
, 302 pages. NONFICTION. Random House Books, 2020. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

If you’ve ever felt anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, Jain and Dr. Tsabary are here to help. They’ve done all the research, and they know that you have superpowers to overcome your worries. Let this book be your guide to unlocking your powers and refinding your true self!

Jain and Dr. Tsabary don’t pretend that our anxiety doesn’t exist or isn’t hard to live with. They validate the struggles their readers are going through and literally empower their readers by teaching them how to develop skills to face challenges. This is not a book to read and set aside; the interactive exercises help readers practice what Jain and Dr. Tsabary propose, proving that we can save ourselves with these superpowers. I love everything about this book, from the sciencey stuff to the illustrations, and am excited to implement these ideas in my own life.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi - ADVISABLE

Me and Banksy
by Tanya Lloyd Kyi,
272 pages. Penguin Random House, 2020. $16. 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Dominica attends a fancy private middle school that prides itself on the security of the students. In fact, the number of cameras in the halls and classrooms are a bit disconcerting. Especially when images from those cameras start appearing on the student online forum - images and clips that are embarrassing, someone picking her nose, a boy with his fly open, and even Dom, who thought she was alone in a private corner of the library and quickly turned her shirt right-side out. When Dom tells the principal, she is accused of violating the social media safety rules herself. So Dominica and a few of her friends decide to fight back themselves, organizing an art installation as a protest. 

There were a lot of things I really liked about "Me and Banksy" I liked that Kyi established right away that this school was pretty over the top - the kids wear a nametag that notifies their parents when they arrive at school. I learned about the artist Banksy, I knew about his/her art but not about the meaning behind some the work. However, making the principal's son the villain with no consequences felt very stereotypical, as did several of the other classmates. Includes an authors note about not trying to fight cyber-bullying without the help of a trusted adult. 

Lisa Librarian

How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman - OPTIONAL

How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman, 159 pages. NONFICTION. Storey Publishing, 2020. $17.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Figuring out what you need to know before you need to know it is hard. Newman gives readers simple instructions for 65 important skills, including how to make a bed, how to calculate a tip, and how to use a swiss army knife!

Newman is witty in her step-by-step directions and pop quizzes, keeping readers engaged in reading pages of instructions. I love that she breaks down tasks that can seem daunting into simple steps -- and then encourages readers to ask for help to learn and to make cheat sheets for themselves as reminders. Young readers will be empowered as they find they can do things like make spaghetti for dinner or write a condolence note.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

What Adults Don’t Know About Architecture by The School of Life - OPTIONAL

What Adults Don’t Know About Architecture by The School of Life, 183 pages. NONFICTION. The School of Life, 2020. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

You might not think much about architecture, but architecture shapes our world -- literally. Is your city boring or beautiful, and what makes it that way? By understanding what buildings are saying to us, we can work to build a better world together.

The School of Life has an agenda, and I felt pushed to agree with their opinions on what makes a place beautiful. While the later sections helped me understand their whys, I didn’t appreciate being told what to think. I still like some of the ideas this book offers on how to look at buildings in a way I never have, but the pushy language was a huge disappointment to me after I loved their other book, “What Adults Don’t Know About Art.”

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Plants on the Move by Emilie Vast - OPTIONAL

 Plants on the Move by Emilie Vast. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Charlesbridge, 2021. $19. 9781623541484 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Vast categorizes a wide variety of plants and the different ways they move their seeds to reproduce around the land. The text is accompanied by black and white illustrations with pops of colors that look like woodcut prints. 

Very useful for a class on pollination and reproduction. The text and the illustrations are a bit dry, so I don’t think students will grab this repeatedly, but a teacher will certainly embrace it. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado - HIGH

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
by Crystal Maldonado
343 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $19. 

Language: R (122 swears 26 Fs); Mature Content: PG (making out, talk of want to have sex); Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

16yo Charlie Vega has never kissed a boy, but she dreams about it all the time. More than anything, she would like a boyfriend. Charlie has a lot going for her: she's nice, outgoing, funny, and smart. She is also, admittedly, fat. Her best friend Amelia is pretty and thin, and Charlie always wishes people liked her as much as they like Amelia, especially her mom. Sometimes Charlie feels her mom wishes Amelia was her daughter instead. But when a popular football player asks Charlie to the dance, Charlie feels like her dreams are about to come true. But no one believes he is serious, what could he see in Charlie? 

Body image, high school drama, family drama, there's a lot going on but it doesn't weigh down this remarkable debut novel. I love the strong friend relationships and the message about being yourself. Charlie seems to have a positive body image, but still worries about shopping in the larger size stores. So realistic - can't wait to start recommending Fat Chance, Charlie Vega. 

Lisa Librarian

Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld - OPTIONAL

Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld, 400 pages. Entangled Teen (Entangled Publishing), 2021. $10.

Language: R (109 swears, 12 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cassidy is a senior in high school, intern for her father’s firm, and self-appointed successor of her mother’s work -- she does not have time to be abducted by aliens. As she struggles to remember the abduction and how to stop it from happening again, Cassidy discovers that she isn’t the only one who’s been taken. And she’s not the only one ready to do something about it.

Buying into the ideas of alien abductions and aliens living among us was difficult for me, so I allowed the pages to drag and took long breaks from reading Cassidy’s story. As the story got more complicated, I struggled with the alien conspiracies. Barneveld’s conclusion was unsatisfactory in how the antagonist was dealt with, but I found that I am content with her interpretation of aliens now that I have the whole picture. I’m still not a huge fan of alien stories, but this one isn’t bad. The mature content rating is for underage drinking and mention of drugs; the violence rating is for murder and mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow - ADVISABLE

So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow
, 288 pages. Feiwel & Friends, 2021. $18 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The four March sisters and their parents have escaped slavery and are building a new home in the Freedpeople’s Colony of Roanoke Island during the midst of the Civil War. Meg is teaching lessons in a tent, while the white missionary teachers work in the buildings. Joanna works alongside the men of the colony to build houses and other important structures to keep the fledgling colony growing. Bethlehem works as a seamstress – mostly of Union soldier uniforms, while youngest Amethyst stays home and entertains herself with dancing. 

While touches of Alcott’s Little Women are there to see, Morrow’s remix makes very important and interesting steps away from the classic. For example, when Jo takes Amy to Boston to further dancing career, Jo meets with prejudice from never-enslaved free blacks of the city. Morrow shows many other prejudices incited by well-intentioned and not-so-well-white people. All-in-all a fitting remake, with much to teach us all. I have many Google searches myself from my first reading. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

How to Apologize by David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka - ESSENTIAL

How to Apologize by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick, 2021. $17. 9781536209440 

BUYING ADVISORY: Pre-K, EL (K-3), EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When anyone makes a mistake, they need to apologize. Apologize with sincerity and make what amends you can make. 

LaRochelle’s book is needed not just for pre-schoolers, but for every grade level and on into adulthood. I’d love to know how much collaboration there was between author and illustrator for the artwork, because the animal antics are just the right fit to get the points across well. I am planning on reading this during a faculty meeting soon! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS