Sunday, May 20, 2018

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman - OPTIONAL

Heiligman, Deborah Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers, 409 pgs. Henry Holt (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2017. $19.99 Language – PG (7 swear, 0 “f”), Mature Content - PG; Violence - PG

 Vincent Van Gogh was the oldest living child in his family, followed by Theo. The brothers’ relationship was not smooth, and through their letter correspondence—or lack thereof—we see how they grew apart and returned to each other through the years. As they tried to navigate life with their careers, their love lives, and their family drama, Vincent and Theo were there for each other in times of need. This book illustrates the true story of two brothers who would do anything for each other.

One reason I was really excited to read about Vincent van Gogh is because the impressionist movement that he was part of is my favorite art movement. I enjoyed reading about his interesting life, and the success that Vincent and Theo found despite numerous setbacks in both career and love pursuits gives me hope for my own life. There are parts that can be dry, but I think that Heiligman kept their stories more interesting by summarizing the letters that the brothers wrote instead of including all the letters word for word. 

HS – OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Jabberwalking by Juan Herrera - NO

Herrera, Juan Felipe. Jabberwalking, 137pgs. Candlewick Press, 2018. $22.99 Language – G (0 swears, 0 “f”), Mature Content – G; Violence – G.

Herrera talks directly to readers in this book of jabberwalking poems. As he talks with readers, Herrera also teaches his readers how to jabberwalk and write poems like he does. Hurry! You’ll get left behind if you can’t keep up.

The poems and narrative told through those poems are very disjointed and confusing. I didn’t understand what was going on in the first couple of chapters, then I thought I understood what was going on, and then I was lost again as Herrera continued with his half-baked ideas. If I learned anything from this book it’s that anyone can write a book. 

MS, HS – NO. Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Zoo is Not For You by Ross Collins - ESSENTIAL

Collins, Ross  This Zoo is Not For You.  PICTURE BOOK Nosy Crow (Candlewick), 2017. $17. 9781536200157

A platypus with an invitation shows up at the zoo, where the front gate is advertising for interviews.  As the platypus makes his way through the zoo and is interviewed by the different animals, they decide that he isn't going to be a good fit for their zoo for various reasons mostly regarding his appearance.  When the platypus leaves, the monkey finds his invitation and the animals realize their mistake: that really the platypus had come to invite them to a party.  The animals join the platypus in his party bus with all his friends, where the platypus quickly forgives the zoo animals.

This is a great book for many reasons, not the least is that Ross Collins is a great author/illustrator-I love There's a Bear in My Chair.  First, the illustrations are fantastic. I loved the body language and facial expressions of the animals.  Second, it makes for a great read aloud because of the rhyming text which has a sing-song rhythm.  And third, what a great lesson about not judging someone for their appearances and their intentions.

EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.   

A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale by Penny Parker Klostermann - ADVISABLE

Klostermann, Penny Parker  A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale, illustrated by Ben Mantle.  PICTURE BOOK Random House, 2017. $18. 9781101932322

William lives in the land of fairy tales, but he is more interested in cooking than in princesses and kingdoms.  He dreams of becoming a chef, but finds difficulty in serving the characters from the fairy tales, such as the picky three bears.  One day a food truck drops a box of food on the side of the road from the Fairy-Tale headquarters and William decides he's going to improve the foods used in different fairy tales.  He bakes Snow White's poisoned apple into a fabulous desert, cooks Cinderella's pumpkin into a pie and makes bean soup out of Jack in the Beanstock's beans.  Everything eventually happens as it should, but William's cooking is appreciated across the kingdom.

This is an adorable spin on the fairy tales.  William's love of cooking mixed with the quirky fairy tale characters makes for a fun read.  Kids will recognize most of the fairy tales and have fun finding the way the stories have changed.  The illustrations are bright and attractive with cute facial expressions.

EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

How Sweet the Sound by Carole Boston Weatherford - OPTIONAL

Weatherford, Carole Boston  How Sweet the Sound, illustrated by Frank Morrison.  NON-FICTION/PICTURE BOOK Atheneum Books (Simon and Schuster), 2018. $18.  9781481472067

This book tells the history behind the hymn "Amazing Grace".  John Newton is the author of the original lines of Amazing Grace, but over time through the struggles of African Americans, Cherokee Indians, Civil War soldiers and anti-war protests the song has evolved, taken on new meaning and lyrics have been added to the original.  The first part of this book explains a sea-faring Newton who was almost killed in a storm, and it was the turning point for his conversion to God.  The last part of the book shows those since Newton who have transformed the song and sung it for comfort in hard times.

The illustrations in this book are fantastic and tell the story better than the text with the expressive facial expressions as well as use of color.  Too bad the illustrations aren't enough to carry the story.  The text is written like a disjointed poem, which comes across as incomplete sentences, so as an exposure to Newton and his history it's confusing until you get to the author's note to read the actual history.  That said, the author's note gives a fascinating history and I wish that would have been the text for the pictures.

EL (K-3) - OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen - ADVISABLE

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen.  400 pages. Scholastic, AUGUST 2018. $18.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Holocaust)


Chaya Linder is only 16, but she has lived a life of danger for the last three years working as a courier for the anti-Germany resistance in Poland.  When she was pushed out of the Krakow ghetto, she went to the farm of her Jewish scout leaders and from there they all decide to join the war efforts. Chaya is more than willing to risk her life, but Esther, another courier is a constant thorn in her side.  Chaya is going on her most dangerous mission ever and Esther has joined her.  Esther insists that the pair make their way to Warsaw – the most infamous ghetto of them all.

Go Jennifer – thank you for showing us that you can write about danger, violence, and life’s worst situations without filing the narrative and the characters’ mouths with swearing and graphic violence. Chaya’s journey through between Poland’s ghettos is a compelling read.  Add this to any Holocaust display to help students understand this awful time.

Cindy, Library Teacher

The Magic is In You by Colin Hosten and Brooke Vitale - OPTIONAL

Hosten, Colin and Brooke Vitale  The Magic is in You, illustrated by Grace Lee.  PICTURE BOOK Disney Press, 2018. $17  9781368024617

Eight different Disney movies are illustrated in this book about finding the magic within yourself.  One page spread says something about how life can be hard or challenging and then ends with the sentence, "Just remember..." and when you turn the page the second page spread shows an inspirational part of the movie and a quote about how you can find the good in yourself and in life.

The illustrations are great and are paintings, not frames from the movies.  My fourteen year old daughter loves all things Disney and she thought this book was adorable.  My younger sons thought it was boring and "dumb" because it repeats itself, has no story line and the quotes seemed too cheesy.  This is best as a gift for Disney lovers.

EL (K-3), GIFT - OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas - ADVISABLE

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas.  320 pages. Swoon Reads (Macmillan), JULY 2018. Language: R (56 swears, 2’f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.


It's bad enough that Abby lives her superhero brother, Conner aka Red Comet, and has to keep his secret even from her Red Comet-fanatic best friend Sarah.  Now Abby’s life was saved by a new superhero in town, she thinks she might like this mysterious guy, AND he may actually be a villain.  Is this new super Isaac, the dreamy new guy who is the leading man to Abby’s leading lady in the school musical?  Or it is someone else – Rylan, the shy guy from the background of Abby’s high school days who suddenly is looking hotter than ever? Be involved with supers was never more complicated than when hearts are also involved.

Banas has written a superhero novel that is sure to draw in many fans of the genre.  Superhero books are a little harder sell in my library than the movies are in the theaters, but I have confidence in this one.  The romance is the front and center plot point and that will definitely help sell it.

Cindy, Library Teacher

Meet Cindy Sherman by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan -- NOT RECOMMENDED

Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist, Photographer, Chameleon. NONFICTION. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 9781626725201

This biography introduces photographer Cindy Sherman, tells a bit about her background and the inspiration behind her artwork, and shows examples of her various self-portraits.

I have to admit, I did not read all of the text. The pictures alone were disturbing enough, but the one on page 48, which shows a woman in a naked suit -- complete with her various body parts -- was the final straw. Perhaps some will enjoy this exploration of Sherman's work, but I could not see putting this book in a school library.


Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer - OPTIONAL

Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer, 336 pages.  Scholastic Press, OCTOBER 2018.  $19.
Langauge: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some deaths)


Snub lives the normal life of a silverback gorilla with Mother, Brother, Wrinkled, Teased, and their leader, Silverback.  First a new baby is born to mother, and Snub calls him Breath.  But then violent shaking and wildfires destroy their home. Snub and Breath are alone after Mother is attacked by a strange new group of beings – Snub calls them not-gorillas because while they have arms and legs and kind of move like Snub, they have no fur and their actions are incomprehensible. Snub even adopts one young not-gorilla who is abandoned by the group and calls it Orphan.

Schrefer reaches far back into history to look at the first interactions between man and gorilla. Because of the difficulty of writing through the eyes of a gorilla, the narrative is less compelling – less able to draw the reader into the story.  The interactions between Snub and the not-gorillas are short.  I applaud Schrefer’s bold choice  - to see through Snub’s eyes, but it is less likely that students will talk this one up with each other.

EL, MS – OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas - ESSENTIAL

The Scroll of Kings (Lost Books #1) by Sarah Prineas, 304 Pages.  Harper, JUNE 2018.  $17. Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some fighting danger)

After running away from his family of sword masters, Alex has found a place as an apprentice librarian. When he finds his master dead – and apparently killed by a book, Alex takes off again, this time carrying a letter from the Queen, asking for his dead master to come take over as Royal Librarian.  Alex figures he can pretend he is Librarian Farnsworth, but the Queen is not completely taken in and gives him just two weeks to get the library in order.  The Royal Library is an even worse mess than Alex thought – there are many more dangerous books within its shelves and every book is upset and scared.  Alex must fight a war on two fronts – against the rogue books and against Lord Patchedron – the kingdom’s former regent who is hiding something deep and dark, even if the young Queen won’t see it.

Hooray!  I had so much fun reading this!  And not just because it was about books and librarians. Prineas has brought all of her considerable talent o bear on her newest book.  Swashbuckling danger surrounds a story of personal growth and revelations.

Cindy, Library Teacher

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Gabriel Finley and the Lord of Air and Darkness by George Hagen - ADVISABLE

Hagen, George Gabriel Finley and the Lord of Air and Darkness, 288 pages. Random House, 2017. $17 Language: PG (3 swears 0 ‘f’) Mature Content: PG (smoking); Violence: G.

11 year old Gabriel Finley and his three friends, Abby, Somes, and Pamela, set out to find the magical torc. It's black magic caused his mother to vanish when he was a baby,  as well as the dreaded Corax with his soul trapped inside the torc. He now must free his mother with his friends and his amicus, Paladin. Will he find a way to free his mother, or will Corax rule the world?

This book didn't have much action, and the action didn't start until very late in the book. Otherwise, it was a good book. It was interesting over all having tear jerking moments as well as an amazing story line and a lot of laughs.

EL - ADVISABLE 7th Grade Student Reviewer KG