Wednesday, April 10, 2019



Here are the 50 books the best dressed secondary schools should have -- some for middle school and some for high schools.

Tell me what you think!  How many of these do you already have in your library?  I'd love to know how your teachers may be using them in their classrooms.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott - OPTIONAL

We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott, 352 pages.  Entangled Teen, 2019.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (102 swears; 62 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13.  



Cobain is a social outcast who feels his time with weight lifting.  One day a new girl, named Molly, comes to school and she and Cobain have a connection. But when Molly goes missing, Cobain seems to be the one everyone suspects, even though Molly sent a letter to her mom saying she was running away.  Cobain knows that he and Molly’s love is stronger than her just leaving, and that something bad has happened to her.  He becomes obsessed with finding her, but as he starts to put the clues together, he realizes that he might be the reason she is missing.  

This suspenseful read was hard to put down.  As the book twists and turns, I was never sure if Cobain was a reliable narrator or that Molly was really a victim.  The characters in this book are dark and disturbing but it all comes to a climax in the end.  The content is over the top swearing, on page sex as well as other descriptive sexual acts, emotional abuse and violent fighting.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Someone Else’s Shoes by Ellen Wittlinger - OPTIONAL

Someone Else’s Shoes by Ellen Wittlinger, 292 pages. Charlesbridge, 2018, $17.

Language: R (41 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content PG13; Violence: PG; 



Izzy is an aspiring stand up comedian beginning 7th grade and life seems pretty dismal.  Not only has her father remarried, but her mother’s new boyfriend has an annoying teenage son who is staying at her house.  If that isn’t bad enough, her aunt committed suicide and her uncle has come to stay with them with his son, her younger cousin, Oliver.  Her uncle is only a shell of a man because of his wife’s loss.  When her uncle goes missing, Izzy, Ben, and Oliver fear the worst and go on a quest to find him.  

There are great themes of what it means to be a family, and how to redefine those relationships, even under adversity.  The characters discover things about themselves and each other that help them to grow.   

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Jacob’s Room to Choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman - ESSENTIAL

 Jacob’s Room to Choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case.  PICTURE BOOK.  Magination Press, MAY 2019.  $18. 9781433830730



Jacob and Sophie need to use the bathroom at school, but the older kids chase them out because they each don’t look like the picture on the door.  When they explain to their teacher, she and the kids in the class talk it through and then come up with a solution.

So many, many people need to read this book.  Kids adults, politicians, administrators – there is not one person in this world that doesn’t need to digest and ponder the less of this sweet, simple, and very necessary (unfortunately) book. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Double Play by Tim Green and Derek Jeter - ADVISABLE

Double Play (Baseball Genius #2) by Tim Green and Derek Jeter, 336 pages.  Aladin (Simon & Schuster), 2018, $18.

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



This is book two in the Baseball Genius series.  Jalen DaLuca continues to use his baseball genius of predicting pitches to help Yankees star, James “JY” Yager.  Yager reciprocates by helping his father’s diner take off and provided much needed funds for Jalen and his dad.  Jalen has problems of his own too.  He deals poorly with the bullying of the coach’s son, which costs him his spot on his baseball team. In the end, it comes down to a double play of epic proportions to save both baseball players.

If you are into baseball, then this is your book.  The sports writing captures the game well.  It does seem a bit of a stretch that a twelve year old can predict pitches so well and that his friend Cat, another twelve year old, is a mini lawyer and sets up deals with a pro baseball player.  Though Jalen runs into problems, this book pretty much wraps up the ending with a bow, though there is a definite lead-in to the next book.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Becoming Me by Andrea Pippins - GIFT

Becoming Me by Andrea Pippins, 186 pages. ACTIVITY BOOK. Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House Children’s Books), 2016. $14.99

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



Pippins guides any reader—of any creativity experience level—through art and creativity exercises. You can finish the book in an exciting afternoon or take it one page at a time. The first half focuses on introducing different styles of art, and the second half focuses more on letting you use the tools Pippins introduces to find your creative style and desires. I found the book fun, and I had to try really hard to let go of the idea of doing things “right” so that I could just enjoy the process of making art. Good luck!

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones - OPTIONAL

The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones, 385 pages.  Candlewick, 2018.  $19.  

Language: R (20+ swears, 10 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (sex, drugs, death); Violence: R 



Donovan is in the Ruinous Sweep, trapped between life and death, in some nightmare scape. Donovan tries to work out the last night of his life with help from the living and the dead. Once he almost has it solved, he is able to offer clues to his girlfriend via his coma ramblings, to his girlfriend who then takes on the case to solve his father’s murder and his soon to be death in the living world.

Ruinous Sweep is a line from Dante’s Inferno. Wynne-Jones’ writing is very dense and full of ten dollar ACT words, symbolism, and allusions to Dante and other classical works. Although beautiful and well constructed, it is hard to wade through and the average high schooler isn’t going to care enough to make the effort. Perhaps AP students or super fans of Dante or classical literature. Also, the pay off isn’t that great, just like all classic heroes on a journey, they find what they need and the story ends tied up in a happy bow. 

Dina W. - ELA teacher

Monday, March 18, 2019

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson - OPTIONAL

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson, 251 pages. NON-FICTION. Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc), 2018. $19.99

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13



Martin Luther King, Jr. may have lived over half a century ago, but his is still a familiar name. His work in the Civil Rights movement continues to impact those today. In this book, Swanson details the events that made Dr. King so well-known, that caused his death, and that occurred as his murderer was found and arrested.

While I have learned many things in school about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was enlightened by the context and details that Swanson gives his readers. I have been hit with recognition that this is still only recent history. We are still not living Dr. King’s dream—how can we contribute to his work today? As the late President Kennedy said, “Every man can make a difference, and every man should try.”

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen - OPTIONAL

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second (Macmillan), 2018. $22

Language: R (8 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R.



Frames in this graphic novel switch between events leading up to the Rwandan Genocide and the after-effects on one individual, Deogratias, who participated in the brutality. The story rotates around two girls and their mother and the white missionaries they work for. Deogratias is in love with the girls but betrays them in the end. His punishment is to become a dog and beg for mercy from the village.

I have to acknowledge that this book takes on the most difficult and brutal of subjects, so I feel hesitant to say it was too dark, given it is a mirror held up to actual events. But the events were portrayed unflinchingly and comprehensively, taking on foreign hypocrisy, rape, murder, prostitution, alcohol abuse, and of course genocide. The illustrations were not gratuitous, but that does little to soften the difficult subject matter.

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan Wolf - ESSENTIAL

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff.  POETRY PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick, 2019.  $18.  9780763680251



Wolf has written and Raff has illustrated a host of very clever poems about the objects, forces, and people in our solar system.  Included are two voice, three voice, and even four voice poems for group performance, but really every poem in here begs to be read aloud, sung aloud, rapped aloud. I can’t imagine a science class that wouldn’t be enhanced by these poems.  And what a great idea for a cross-curricular activity.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Squirm by Carl Hiaasen - ESSENTIAL

Squirm by Carl Hiaasen. Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House LLC), 2018. $19

Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.



Having no fear of snakes makes Billy a great defender of those who are picked on because he can use snakes to intimidate bullies. This does occasionally get him in trouble, but when he goes after a dad he has never known who lives in Montana and chases poachers, it serves as a tool in his adventures.

This is an adventure story at its best. It has wild animals and untamed wilderness, but also long lost dads and moms who move according to the eagle population. The novel is beautifully paced, with a lot of balance between plot and character development.  

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher