Friday, May 1, 2020

2020 Top 50 for Elementary and Secondary!

Did any of your favorite books make the lists?  How many have you already read?  Which ones will you add to your collection?

I had so much fun presenting my choices for my favorite books that KTB's reviewers and I read from March 2019 to February 2020.

Here is the link to the lists that I presented.  I will add cute graphics in a longer post later.  But please feel free to print and share these lists far and wide.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo - ESSENTIAL


Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, illustrated by Kit Seaton, 192 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL DC Comics, 2020.  $17.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (28 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Diana feels like she doesn’t fit in among the Amazon women on her island of Themyscira, but while trying to prove herself to them, she breaks the biggest rule of the island and brings a mortal onto the island.  Diana saves Alia Keralis from a shipwreck and then figures out that Alia is a Warbringer.  In an attempt to save the world from war and violence, Diana learns that she has to take Alia to wash in a spring in Greece.  But Diana’s attempts are thwarted on all sides, so Alia and Diana must learn what their real strengths are.  

I LOVED the original book Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Bardugo, but this graphic novel is just as entertaining.  It was fun to revisit the story and the graphics where perfect.  Alia and Diana are lovable, and their friends are just as much fun.  This will be appreciated by all graphic novel readers. I can’t wait to read more graphic novels from this series. The content includes battle scenes, and someone gives the girls the middle finger.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Middle School Bites by Steven Banks - ESSENTIAL

Middle School Bites by Steven Banks, 298 pages, Holiday House, 2020, $14. 

Language: PG (8 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Eleven-year old Tom has the total misfortune of getting bitten three different times while visiting his grandmother’s house just days before his first week of middle school.  Turns out he was bitten by a werewolf, a vampire, and a zombie.  Needless to say, Tom’s first day of school isn’t as great as he had envisioned, especially since he had envisioned being invisible.  Fortunately, Tom has his best friend, Zeke, who thinks everything is excellent, including being friends with a Vam-Wolf-Zom.  But Tom is wondering how he can impress the girl of his dreams while wearing an inch of sunscreen to keep the sun from burning, craving rare steaks, and growing pointy ears. 

Fun humor.  Tom is a barrel of middle school angst, and his older sister Emma is a teenage girl totally wrapped up in herself, which means she totally annoys Tom but is great character.  If you like Sponge Bob, this is your book, since Steven Banks was the head writer for that series.  The illustrations in the book add to Tom’s wild ride and you will be glad you rode along.

Michelle in the Middle

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

How to Win the Science Fair When You’re Dead by Paul Noth - OPTIONAL

How to Win the Science Fair When You’re Dead (#3) by Paul Noth. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 184 pages, 2019, $14.

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Happy Conklin Jr. is back in his third adventure.  As the book opens, Hap is being held prisoner by his evil Grandma, who has plans to take over the universe and destroy Earth, and also has a terrible punishment planned for him.  Hap knows he has to escape and thwart Grandma’s plan and save his sisters with the help of aliens and Squeep, his pet lizard who communicates through a brain-blending ring. 

If this sounds like a lot going on, it is.  Also, since this is the third in a series, read them in order or you will be totally lost.  The plot was fun, but difficult to follow.  The title didn’t even really fit the book, since the science fair is only in the last few-pages and Hap shows up abruptly whilst the science fair wasn’t mentioned previously in the book.   The pictures are cool and help explain the story, though I still think it’s weird Hap has a beard.  The title and cover will draw readers in, but the ride is convoluted.

Michelle in the Middle

The Blossom and The Firefly by Sherri L. Smith - ESSENTIAL

The Blossom and The Firefly by Sherri L. Smith 310 pages. Penguin Random House Publishing, 2020, $18.

Language: PG; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Taro and Hana are two 15yo seeing World War II from different points of view in Japan in 1945. Taro is a young soldier who is a talented musician who has given it all  up to be a death bomber for his country. Although still a boy, he knows he is ready to complete his duty and die for his Emperor and people. Hana is the young girl who does the laundry and cleaning for his barracks. She has lost her brother and father and all the men in her village and given up hope, until his music brings her back to life.  His violin and passionate playing bonds them together and they each begin to dream of a life that will never be and that they will never have.

The genius of this book is that it has a male and a female voice in a historical fiction novel to engage the whole classroom learning about the Eastern Front of World War II. There are haunting images of Japan before and after the war from both Taro and Hana’s perspective and their viewpoints of the Americans and Japan’s Emperor and the war in Europe and how it differs from their own battle. Although I am not sure how many students would read this book on their own, it is perfect for small book clubs and a classroom read when studying World War 2 and Japan.

Dina W. - ELA teacher

Monday, April 6, 2020

Jackpot by Nic Stone - HIGH


Jackpot by Nic Stone, 343 pages.  Crown (Random House), 2019.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (100+ swears; F-2); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Rico Danger works at a convenient store to supplement her mother’s income and try to provide for their small family.  As a high school student, Rico sees other kids her age coming through the store who seem to have it all, including the cute boy, Zan Macklin.  When Rico sells a lottery ticket to an elderly woman and then finds out that their store sold the winning ticket that has never been claimed, Rico goes on an adventure to seek out the unclaimed ticket.  Rico needs Zan’s skills to help her find the elderly woman, but the more time Rico spends with Zan the more Rico realizes she may be falling for him.  

This fun romance also has some heavier themes such as race, familial obligations, class differences and not judging others.  I loved Rico and her strength, and I also loved Zan and his kind heart.  I couldn’t put this book down and was anxious to see if Rico and Zan could find the lottery ticket.  Nic Stone is a fantastic author and writes lovable characters that are easy to empathize with.  The content includes lots of language and talk of a “wet dream”.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson              

Hilo: All the Pieces Fit by Judd Winick - ADVISABLE


Hilo: All the Pieces Fit (Hilo, #6) by Judd Winick, 210 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House, 2020.  $14.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE   

Hilo and Izzy are robots with feelings.  Razorwar is the “bad guy” who comes to life on earth and Izzy is on Razorwar’s team as they fight Hilo.  Izzy creates a chip that can make a robot human and she gives Razorwar the chip.  When Razorwar puts the chip into Hilo, Hilo explodes and becomes human.  There is a lot more action involving tin-can robots and what happens to Hilo as a human.  

I think people who like the Hilo series will definitely want to read this because it has an important turn in the story.  The twist about Razorwar in the story was good.  The pictures are well done and help tell the story.  I like this whole series.  

Reviewer, Logan, 5th grade  

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Deadly Aim by Sally M. Walker - ADVISABLE


Deadly Aim: The Civil War Story of Michigan’s Anishinaabe Sharpshooters by Sally M. Walker, 288 pages.  Henry Holt and Company, 2019.  $20.  

Content: Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13   

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

During the Civil War, American Indians helped fight for the Union Army.  Company K was the largest completely American Indian company and they were composed mostly of sharpshooters.  Their story is a complicated mix of acceptance and segregation during the war, but their stories are like many soldiers at the time-stories full of love, of their family and a need to protect their land.  

Sally Walker does a great job portraying these Union soldiers’ heroic actions and desires for their families.  I enjoyed the pictures and especially the individual stories set against the larger story of the war.  I also love when an author tells little known side stories to the war, and I didn’t know that so many American Indians helped fight the war. I also knew nothing about the horrible prison conditions many Union prisoners of war faced in the Southern prison camps.  One of the Anishinaabe soldiers is fourteen and his story is followed throughout the war. The content includes an amputation that is described, battle injuries, blood and dead bodies, starvation to the point of eating vomit and horrible prison conditions.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer - HIGH


Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer, 384 pages.  Bloomsbury, 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: R (71 swears; 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Rob is a senior in high school who used to be at the top of the social ladder, but is now struggling to get through each day.  Rob’s father stole money from a lot of people in his town and then unsuccessfully attempted suicide, which left him paralyzed and Rob and his mom in charge of caring for his dad’s paraplegic body.  Maegan is a good student, but ever since she tried to cheat on the SAT test and was caught, she is ridiculed at school and her parents don’t trust her at home.  On top of that Maegan’s perfect older sister has returned from college pregnant and leans on Maegan for help.  After they are paired together for a school project, Rob and Maegan learn to share their heavy problems with each other and try to survive their senior year.  

Kemmerer writes empathetic characters and pulls you into their dramas from the beginning.  I enjoyed the plot building and the twist and read this book quite quickly.  Romance, tension, secrets, heartache and familial bonds build a captivating read.  The ending felt abrupt and the content includes a descriptive suicide attempt, teen pregnancy and a student involved with a teacher.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Under the Stars by Carolyn Twede Frank - OPTIONAL

Under the Stars by Carolyn Twede Frank, 272 pages. Covenant Communications, 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Rosie wants the chance to join up with the posse chasing down Ivan’s murderer, but the marshal isn’t taking on any women. With some help from her friends, Rosie becomes Ross and joins the posse anyway. She might have been able to fool the marshal into letting her go along, but Rosie has her work cut out for her if she’s going to keep up the ruse until they catch the outlaw.

I was disappointed to not have as much fun reading about Rosie’s antics as I expected. Frank’s writing was the kind of funny where I understand the humor but don’t actually laugh because I was embarrassed for Rosie as I waited for her careful plans to fall apart. The more I read, the more ridiculous the story became as Rosie tried to discover what she wanted and how to get it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading how everything wrapped up in the last couple chapters.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack - ADVISABLE

Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack, 320 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2020. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Running from their pasts, Sabrina and Harry are looking at futures of uncertainty if nothing changes. When they cross paths, Sabrina and Harry clash over everything, but soon find that the other might just be what they need to move forward.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sabrina and Harry’s story, which is full of hope and forgiveness, strength and perseverance, motivation and confidence to change. The most powerful message is the one that we can all change, that not one of us needs to let our past define who we are today or who we will become tomorrow. Kilpack has dreamed up a unique situation for her characters that is engaging all the way to their happily ever after, though I feel that a couple points were not adequately addressed and resolved.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, April 3, 2020

Nineteen by Makenzie Campbell - OPTIONAL

Nineteen by Makenzie Campbell, 192 pages. POETRY. Central Avenue Publishing (Central Avenue Marketing), 2020. $15.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Campbell opens herself to be vulnerable about love lost and a journey of self-empowerment as she shares her stream of consciousness thoughts with readers. The words feel like poetry because of the emotion fused into them, but the free verse is untraditional and seems more like a memoir.

As I read, Campbell’s words felt calming and comforting to read, and she evoked self-reflection. While not all of her experiences are happy, Campbell is able to create an atmosphere of empathy and encouragement for readers.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen