Thursday, August 5, 2021

Manu by Kelly Fernandez - ADVISABLE

Manu by Kelly Fernandez, 192 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphix (Scholastic). 2021. $13. 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL - AVERAGE 

Manu is taken in by nuns as a baby. The nuns run a school of magic for girls, who are witchlings. Manu’s magic is pretty powerful and the headmistress believes she has the potential to help other people with it, though Manu would rather use it for pranks. When one prank goes bad, Manu’s best friend, Josefina wishes for Manu’s magic to disappear. Manu uses a dangerous spell to bring it back, but the spell brings back more than just the magic she bargained for. 

 The author draws from her Dominican Republic background and weaves Spanish words and culture into Manu’s story that makes this appealing. There are instances of demonic possession and Manu and Josephina are attracted to each other. There is a wide-open door for another book as Manu struggles to find who she really is and how she fits in. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Dennis Brutus: Poet and Political Activist by Craig Ellenport - ADVISABLE

Dennis Brutus: Poet and Political Activist (Discovering History's Heroes) by Craig Ellenport
, 133 pages. NON-FICTION/BIOGRAPHY. Aladdin (Simon), 2021. $19. 978-1534462366 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (reference to beatings, protests, gun shots)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Dennis Brutus was a South African poet and political activist. He was imprisoned for his work to end segregation in South African athletics, spending time in jail with symbol of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela. Later, Brutus left South Africa, but he never left the fight to end inequalities. 

This is a well-written biographical sketch of a man who did many great things, but is not well known for his efforts or his life. Written as informational text, it may be difficult for readers to connect with the story of Dennis Brutus, as it reads a bit dry despite the dramatic and important events of Brutus' life. 

 Keri, elementary school teacher 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Copycat Science by Mike Barfield - ADVISABLE

 Copycat Science by Mike Barfield, 96 pages. NON-FICTION. QED Publishing, 2020. $16. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Ten categories of STEM topics are explored through the example and examination of what many famous scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have already done throughout history to discover the way things work. Illustrated as a comic strip, each historic figure is described with a brief biography, followed by a companion page that depicts step-by-step directions to explore one of their experiments on your own. The content of this book is both engaging and educational. The wording is clear, and the experiments are all feasible for young (and old) scientists alike. Even if one were not to try any of the experiments, their descriptions add to the understanding of how great each of these people were in the development of their field.. 

My third graders found the material a bit above their comprehension level, but were fascinated by the illustrations of the experiments; they are so clear and understandable that even students this young could use the book to guide their own STEM activities. 

Keri, elementary school teacher and her third grade students 

Big Brain Book by Leanne Boucher Gill - OPTIONAL

 Big Brain Book: How it Works and All its Quirks by Leanne Boucher Gill, Phd, 224 pages. NON-FICTION. Magination Press, 2021. $25. 9781433830457 


 BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

This is, indeed, a big book about the brain and how it works. There are three sections to the book which are further separated into short chapters, each of which is written to answer a specific question about the brain. There are a multitude of text features to help guide the reader through, as well as a final short summary and a "Now What?" section to invite further exploration of the chapter topic. A well thought out, well laid out, well designed book, this is incredibly eye-catching. It is also extremely informative. It is, however, large, wordy, and likely to appeal only to a very narrow audience. It is described as being written for kids who are interested in the brain, and it has met its mark in every way. It isn't an overly easy or generally appealing book to most elementary or middle school readers, unless they have a specific reason to want to research or learn more about the brain. 

Keri, elementary school teacher 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Friendship Book, by Wendy L. Moss - OPTIONAL

The Friendship Book by Wendy L. Moss, Phd, 143 pages. NON-FICTION. Magination Press, 2021. $15. 9781433832291 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

A guide to help one understand and develop the skills, habits, and ability necessary to friendship, this book is filled with multiple examples of how others have made and kept friends. True to life situations are presented throughout the book. Related questions and answers are examined, with the hope that the reader will appreciate and apply the principles laid out in this book with success. 

This book is extremely wordy. And long. And clinical. My heart breaks for the person who picks up this book with the intent to learn something about friendship because that person is obviously seeking for something incredibly important, and will likely only exacerbate the problem by spending time alone, reading this book. The magic friendship pill or formula isn't to be found in any of these many chapters. 

Keri, elementary school teacher 

Monday, August 2, 2021

To Marry and Earl by Karen Thornell - OPTIONAL


To Marry and Earl
by Karen Thornell
, 212 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kate has secret plans to be a spinster, for she has seen the pain of love and marriage. However, her father has plans to stop using resources to support Kate. In fact, her father is going to gain resources by selling her hand in marriage to the highest bidder. What if that bidder is a stranger? What if he’s not?

The premise of Kate’s story was exciting, but my expectations went unfulfilled. While I’m not sure what exactly I wanted, I was disappointed by the conflicts which were divided into two categories: repetitive and overly dramatic. Furthermore, I still have unresolved questions. Thornell brings up good points on the topics of forgiveness and love, but the overall story was not great.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, August 1, 2021

All These Warriors by Amy Tintera - HIGH


All These Warriors (Monsters #2)
by Amy Tintera
, 336 pages. Clarion Books, 2021. $18.

Language: R (117 swears, 8 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Seventeen-year-old Clara might only be months older from when she joined the international squad to fight scrabs, but she isn’t the same person anymore. Clara can now kill scrabs without flinching, have ten-minute long conversations with her brother, and joke around with friends that she made. If only Clara could solve the mysteries of how to defeat the scrabs and heal the wounds Julian left in her life -- then everything would be perfect.

Tintera doesn’t beat around the bush; even if it’s been a while since you read the prequel, Tintera drops readers right back into Clara’s story. I was just as engaged in and excited about Clara’s life as I was when I needed this sequel months ago because I finished All These Monsters. Clara and the other characters around her are so real and relatable that I forget they are only imaginary friends. I love Clara and her determination to succeed despite what she believes are her failures, and I love the support she gets from the family she has made for herself. I’m happy that I didn’t have to wait for another sequel to come out, but I’m devastated that the story is over. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, and partial nudity; the violence rating is for blood and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Titanic (History Smashers) by Kate Messner - ESSENTIAL

 The Titanic (History Smashers) by Kate Messner, 191 pages. NON-FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Easy to read format about the Titanic with snippets of graphic novel and plenty of pictures. Younger readers and adults will find the format inviting, making Titanic facts easily accessible. Well researched, with an index and bibliography, even reluctant readers will be pulled into the tragedy of the luxury ocean liner that sank into frigid waters after hitting an iceberg. 

Michelle in the Middle 

The Elephants Come Home by Kim Tomsic and Hadley Hooper - ESSENTIAL

The Elephants Come Home by Kim Tomsic, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. PICTURE BOOK. Chronicle Books, 2021, $19. 9781452127835 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Lawrence and Francoise take in seven elephants into their preserve who have been mistreated, hunted and bullied. The elephants are angry and destructive and in danger of being put down. Though he doesn’t know anything about elephants, Lawrence sings to them and tells them stories. When Lawrence dies, the elephants seem to know and make a lengthy trek back to the Anthony home to be with Francoise, and returned for the next three years on the exact anniversary of Lawrence’s death. 

Beautifully written and touching story about friendship and kindness. Based on a true story about Lawrence Anthony and his unusual friendship with a herd of elephants. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Spark by Alice Broadway - OPTIONAL

Spark (Skin Books #2) by Alice Broadway, 320 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc), 2019. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As punishment, Leora is told to go to the blanks’ community as a spy, or else put her loved ones at risk. The longer Leora lives with and learns about the blanks, though, the more she questions the history she’s been taught. Who is telling the truth of their history?

Reading Leora’s story was painful for a few reasons. First of all, it’s just as slow as the prequel. Second, Leora doesn’t feel like the heroine because she’s making poor choices that she should know better than to make. I was frustrated that she seemed to have learned nothing in the first book. Lastly, readers go through too much back and forth in not knowing what is real. While I appreciate that Broadway is illustrating how difficult it is to identify truth, the point was executed poorly.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones - ADVISABLE

 Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones, 283 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $19. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

A missing will, a dead body, and two orphans who don’t want to be shipped off to boarding and military schools by an evil grandmother. Rosie and Baker’s great-grandmother has been taking care of them since their parents died, until she ups and dies herself. Before she does, she makes them promise to pretend she is alive until her missing will is found. Rosie and Baker are in a fight against time, trying to protect Great-Grammy’s home from Grim Hesper, evil lawyer grandma, who wants to sell it and everything in it, while trying to find the will that will save the farm as it were. 

 Great premise. I like how Rosie and Baker hide the body in the basement freezer and try to keep people from opening it. I especially like Great-Grammy’s character, who has planned way ahead. The story was fun but predictable and dragged out too long. That said, if you want to read about two plucky kids weaving an ever bigger circle of lies, this could be your book. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Fearless by Kenny Porter and Zack Wilcox - HIGH

 Fearless by Kenny Porter, illustrated by Zack Wilcox, 188 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphix (Scholastic). 2021. $13. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Kara and Alice are best friends until Alice gets accepted into a new middle school two towns away. Alice quits answering Kara’s attempts to get a hold of her. Drawing on her favorite TV show, Shinpi Rider, Kara sets off on her bike to be fearless like her TV idol and find her best friend. Kara faces adventures and misadventures along the way and discovers that friends don’t always stay the same. 

If you’ve ever had a best friend move away, then you can relate to Kara. Kara discovers things about herself and that people change and move on and that other people move into our lives. Themes of friendship, family, and adolescence make this pretty universal. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting by Tsukiya, translated by Jenny McKeon - OPTIONAL

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting by Tsukiya, translated by Jenny McKeon
, 152 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Kaiten Books, 2021. $14. 

 Language: PG-13 (27 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13; 

 BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Kirishima Tooru is a violent henchman for the Sakuragi crime family. He will do anything for his boss, but he is thrown for a little bit of a loop when his boss asks him to watch over his young daughter. Suddenly, he is playing hide and seek, drawing and coloring, and attending family day at school for this little girl, and wonder of all wonders, loving it! 

I was intrigued by the combination of humor and violence promised with the premise of a yakuza becoming a babysitter. I was a little surprised that it turned into a little slice of life storyline between the henchman and the boss's kid daughter. I found the manga surprisingly funny and heartwarming, despite the organized crime aspects. 

 Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz - ADVISABLE

The Chance to Fly
by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz
, 288 pages. Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), 2021. $17. 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Nat Beacon is an elite athlete - she is a talented wheelchair racer, but it's not her dream. She's a theater kid loves all the musicals, knows all the show tunes but, she's never actually been in a show. When Nat's family moves to the east coast, Nat sees a flyer for a youth theatre production of Wicked and auditions. She is overjoyed when she is cast in the ensemble, but when the choreographer assumes she can't dance because she's in a wheelchair, Nat and other kids in the cast work together to help her show off her theater skills. 

So much fantastic theater magic - the friendships, the show tunes, the rehearsal warm ups, blocking, tech rehearsals, on stage and off stage drama - the drama kids at your school are going to love this. Tony Award winner Ali Stroker has been there and writes from experience and from the heart. I'm so excited to recommend The Chance to Fly! 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Quack by Anna Humphrey - ESSENTIAL

Quack by Anna Humphrey, 233 pages. Albert Whitman & Company, 2020. $17

Language: PG (12 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

10yo Shady Cook doesn’t talk at school. He is a selective mute who has anxiety so badly that he doesn’t even talk to his best friend, Pouya. Pouya is the class clown and is pretty sure the end of the world is coming. When a stray duck enters Shady’s life, it seems to calm him. Anxious to help their son, Shady’s parents get a special permit for the duck to be a comfort animal at school. Wearing diapers, Svenrietta is a hit for the underdogs (or underducks). 

Written in alternating points of view, the author, who raised a daughter with selective mutism, helps throw some much needed light on this form of social anxiety. Shady communicates to people at school through blackout poetry, which is a nice touch. The characters are likeable and relatable, and it’s refreshing to see a supportive family as Shady navigates the sometimes traumatic world of Carlson Elementary. 

Michelle in the Middle https://amzn.to/3x4x0KS

Lin-Manuel Miranda Raising Theater to New Heights (Trailblazers) by Kurtis Scaletta - ADVISABLE

 Lin-Manuel Miranda: Raising Theater to New Heights (Trailblazers) by Kurtis Scaletta, illustrated by David Shephard, 163 pages. NON FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 9780593124468 

Content: G

 BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Lin-Manuel was born and raised in New York City. He excelled in school and he always worked hard. He loved theater and plays and music. He even performed a rap about Alexander Hamilton in front of President Obama in the White House. From that one song grew a whole musical. It was really well received all across the country and it has made Lin-Manuel really famous. He still lives in New York city with his wife and two sons.

I loved this book! Lin-Manuel's story fascinated me and I found his story very inspiring. The story shows that if you find your passion and work hard enough your dreams can come true. I learned a lot about Lin-Manuel and also about what it takes to put on a great musical both on and off Broadway. It was all very interesting. I highly recommend this book. I love to learn about people and this series, "Trailblazers", is great. It was a fast, easy read. Much happy reading to you!

 Ellen-Anita, Librarian 

Be More Chill : The Graphic Novel by David Levithan, art by Nick Bertozzi - ADVISABLE

Be More Chill : The Graphic Novel
by David Levithan, art by Nick Bertozzi
140 pages. Hyperion. 2021. $22 

Language: PG13 (13 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (sexual situations) Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jeremy would like more attention - especially from Christine, a fellow actor in the school's Shakespeare play. But, he keeps a tally of all the things that make him a loser, and Christine isn't interested in him.  But then he talks to Rich after rehearsal and is introduced to a supercomputer pill that if taken will sit in Jeremy's brain and assist him.  for only $600 this pill will make Jeremy popular, and help him win Christine.

Based on the novel that became a Broadway musical, this is a unique story of a nerd turning his life around, and what happens when popularity becomes the main focus.  Illustrated in greyscale with blue accents, the style fits a high school audience best, as does the mature content.  I liked the science fiction element - a computer that takes over a characters brain.  I enjoyed it.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, July 26, 2021

Amelia Earhart: First Woman Over the Atlantic (Trailblazers) by Sally J. Morgan - ADVISABLE

 Amelia Earhart: First Woman Over the Atlantic (Trailblazers) by Sally J. Morgan, illustrated by David Shephard, 169 pages. NON FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 9780593124581

 Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Amelia Earhart was born in her grandmother's house and she had a wonderful childhood filled with adventure and exploring. she had a "cool" mom who didn't believe in dressing girls in fancy dresses. Instead she made her daughters loose pants so they could run, play, climb and explore. Amelia kept a scrapbook of women who inspired her. Amelia started a club called the Ninety-Nines. It was started as a club for women pilots. Today the club has thousands of members all over the world. 

 I have always loved Amelia Earhart. I have read everything I have been able to find about her, from the time I was a little girl in Norway. She was brave and inspiring. As a librarian I bought every book I could find about her to put in my library. I think this is a fascinating book with a lot of details about Amelia's life. I loved the way it was written, with interesting tidbits tucked in between the rest of the text. I highly recommend this book. Read and enjoy!

 Ellen-Anita, Librarian 

Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen and Aaron Becker - ADVISABLE

Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Aaron Becker. PICTURE BOOK. Little Brown, AUGUST 2021. $19. 9780316487672 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

A month after the events of 9/11 a very burnt tree with just a little bit of greenery was found among the rubble. Carted off to a plant nursery, it took more than a year for the tree to recover and begin to bloom again. After almost 10 years, the survivor tree was replanted at the now memorial site, exhibiting the resilience of life of all kinds. 

I had no idea I would read two books about the 9/11 Survivor tree today. I enjoyed both of them and they both support each other. I’e read a couple of other picture books about the tree – both of those told from the tree’s point of view which I did not enjoy as much (look them up on Amazon). I am going to suggest to our creative writing teacher that she use the set of four, maybe five books as the basis of a unit – I think It’d be very informative for students to evaluate them. Enough of that – this in particular is a worthy book besides its usefulness in the classroom. Coleen handles the subject gently and lovingly, infusing hope and positivity into a brutal memory. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson and Gianna Meola - NO

The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson and Gianna Meola
, 176 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphic Universe Lerner, 2021. $15 

Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (graphic novel combat) 

BUYING ADVISORY: NOT RECOMMENDED 

Josie Black has always felt like a slightly underachieving teenager, never quite able to get good marks on tests, or achieve well in sports. Maybe it's because she is so tired, her mother often takes her when she travels for work, and Josie has trouble catching up, on sleep and school. But one day, she discovers that she is really a highly trained secret agent, and that her mother has been using mind control to hide this from everyone - including Josie. 

Oh, this felt like such a good idea - a teenager who is really a secret agent. However the story was constructed poorly, and the art - all in shades of red was terrible. I don't recommend The Spy Who Raised Me. 

Lisa Librarian