Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Millionaires for the Month by Stacy McAnulty - ADVISABLE

Millionaires for the Month by Stacy McAnulty
323 pages. Penguin Random House, 2020. $17 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo 7th graders Benji and Felix are not friends, but they have been partnered for the field trip to New York City. Felix follows rules, Benji does not. When the boys find a wallet in the park, Benji spends the $20 inside before giving it to their teacher to return. The wallet belongs to a billionaire who publicly rewards the school with ten thousand dollars worth of technology, but privately wants to teach the boys a lesson about money. A penny doubled everyday for a month is $5,368,709.12 and it's this amount she challenges the boys to spend, in just 30 days. There's lots of rules to follow - they can't tell anybody about the challenge for one, but, if they succeed, they'll each get ten million dollars. But spending that much money is harder than they thought, and it's not just about finding stuff to buy. 

I loved this modern retelling of Brewster's Millions. Seeing how that kind of money affects each family differently, and its effect on each boy was wonderful. There's more to the story than just the money - it's also about friendship, and self confidence, and making your parents proud, and doing the right thing. Engaging and exciting from the first few pages, I think my middle schoolers will really like "Millionaires for the Month" 

Lisa Librarian

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon - ADVISABLE

 


10 Things I Hate About Pinky (Dimple and Rishi, #3) by Sandhya Menon, 354 pages. Simon Pulse, 2020. $19. 

Content: Language: PG-13 (39 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Pinky doesn’t feel like she fits into her conventional family, which is exacerbated when Pinky’s mom accuses Pinky of setting the barn of their summer home on fire. In response to her mother’s hurtful accusation, Pinky invites her very conventional friend/enemy Samir to spend the summer with her family at their summer home.  Pinky promises Samir that she will get him an internship with her lawyer mom’s firm, if Samir pretends to be Pinky’s “perfect” boyfriend. As the two spend more time together, they become less enemies and way more than friends. 

I like Menon’s books, including this one, because they show high school aged kids navigating family, friends and expectations.  Pinky is not easy to like because she is looking to be offended at every turn, but her character does grow throughout. Samir is lovable from the beginning. There were a few moments that I was beyond annoyed with Pinky, (one in which she recommends that Samir and his mother get therapy-ha the irony!- the entire book is about Pinky and her mother’s inability to communicate), but I do think that teens will relate to Pinky’s struggle to be accepted by her family, and deep down, accepted by herself.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Worst-Case Collin by Rebecca Caprara - ADVISABLE

Worst-Case Collin
by Rebecca Caprara
, 256 pages. Charlesbridge, September 2021. $18 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Collin has struggled since his mother died in an accident two years ago. Now he plans for the worst-case scenario. What if there's an avalanche? What if there's a fire? He keeps his lists in an orange notebook so he can be prepared for the worst. But what he couldn't prepare for is what was happening at home. His father has started hoarding things and the house is quickly filling up. He's stopped taking care of himself and Collin, and Collin is too embarrassed to ask anyone for help. 

Hoarding isn't a topic you see much in middle grade, and Worst-Case Collin is a great read about how it affects the child of a hoarder. Written as a novel in verse, it reads quickly but is full of emotion and tough topics. His friends were unaware of Collin's home situation (he expertly managed to keep them outside or go to their houses), but Liam's mom was a great example of a caring parent, suspecting that something was wrong but not forcing Collin, just providing a safe place and what support she could. I wasn't particularly impressed with the poetry, and I have hard time selling books in verse to my middle school patrons, but the topic was engaging, and Collin is a great character, so I will be buying Worst-Case Collin. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, April 19, 2021

Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton - OPTIONAL


Before I Saw You
by Emily Houghton
, 400 pages. Gallery Books, 2021. $17.

Language: R (221 swears, 42 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Alice, at 31 years old, has been in control of her life and successful career for years now and doesn’t need anyone else -- until she nearly dies in a fire and finds herself in the hospital. After being in a car wreck, 28-year-old Alfie is on his way to recovery, bringing joy to the hospital ward that has become his temporary home even while he still struggles emotionally. Both Alice and Alfie have to make the tough decision to ignore their broken pieces or start the process of picking themselves back up.

Houghton skillfully addresses the emotional scarring that cannot be taken care of in a hospital as easily as our physical wounds -- scarring that might even be overlooked by those around us. Emotional health is just as important as physical health, and I love that Houghton illustrates different coping skills and encourages readers to build -- and be -- support systems for those around us, be they friends, family, or strangers you help through kindness. Story-wise, though, I feel that the ending was a let down. Alice and Alfie’s story was built up with compelling anticipation, and then I got to the last page and still looked for more because it felt incomplete. The mature content rating is for mentions of sex. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales - HIGH


Perfect on Paper
by Sophie Gonzales
, 304 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2021. $19.

Language: R (168 swears, 67 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Darcy, a junior, is the only person who knows the secret behind locker 89 because she’s the mastermind. Students drop off letters with relationship issues and the fee, and Darcy responds with advice guaranteed to help -- or your money back. Well, Darcy was the only one who knew before Brougham caught her and demanded her help for his silence.

Darcy’s story is a lot of fun to read for both the fictional drama and misunderstandings as well as for the non-fiction relationship theories and advice she gives throughout the book. While the drama can be over-the-top and the misunderstandings can be a bit obvious to the readers, Darcy’s experiences of making mistakes and trying to fix them feel completely relatable. I’m already making adjustments to my to-read list so that I can reread Perfect on Paper. The mature content is for mention of sex, underage drinking, alcohol abuse, and drug use.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes - ESSENTIAL

Black Brother, Black Brother
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
, 239 pages. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. $17 

Language: G (0 swears. 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Bullying). 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Donte is attending a premier private school in Boston with his 9th grade brother Trey. The brothers are biracial, with Trey looking more like his white father, and Donte more like his mother's family. Trey never gets in trouble, Donte does all the time - and it's unwarranted. When a teacher blames Donte for throwing a pencil in class (he didn't) and Donte is given detention, things escalate and Donte is arrested and charged with delinquency. One particular student, Alan, is the star of the fencing team, but bullies Donte. Donte wants to learn to fence, and maybe dethrone the king of the school at his own game. 

Rhodes writes for middle readers so well. I loved the sports element, and learning about fencing, Alexander Dumas, and racism even on the Olympic level. Donte's parents were supportive and involved - his mother is an attorney and represented Donte in court. How tragic for two brothers to have such different life experiences simply because of the color of their skin. An exciting and fast read with a great message. 

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson - OPTIONAL


Isabelle and Alexander
by Rebecca Anderson
, 368 pages. Shadow Mountain, 2021. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Isabelle is excited for the good match her parents have made but nervous about marrying Alexander since he is still practically a stranger. Despite her reservations, Isabelle goes into her marriage hopeful and chooses to nourish that hope despite the disappointments and hardships that abound. Will this new life ever fill with the happiness she imagines?

Anderson has written a different kind of love story in that it seems somewhat backwards. Isabelle and Alexander are married by chapter two and slowly get to know each other and hope for love as the book, and their marriage, progresses. I did not like Alexander for at least two-thirds of the book because his changes of emotion from one scene to the next hurt Isabelle. However, one day, without warning, I picked up the book looking forward to reading about the couple; I guess Alexander charmed me as he charmed Isabelle. In the end, I enjoyed the read, though I don’t think it is anything spectacular.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson - OPTIONAL


The Lucky Ones
by Liz Lawson
, 352 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2020. $19.

Language: R (269 swears, 124 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

May should have been in the room during the shooting that killed her twin brother, but, instead, she hid in the band closet and listened to their screams. Zach begged his mom not to take the case to defend the school shooter but became a social pariah anyway. What else is there when all May and Zach can feel is anger?

Tragedies aren’t just for Shakespeare, and real life can be as scary as a Stephen King novel. Lawson puts readers into the aftermath of a school shooting, highlighting the hate and confusion that occurs after disaster strikes. As readers follow the lives of May, Zach, their families, their friends, and their peers at school, we discover together the healing power of forgiveness -- the importance of forgiving others and forgiving ourselves -- even if the road is long and arduous. The mature content rating is for illegal activity, underage drinking, and mention of drugs; the violence rating is for blood, gun use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, April 16, 2021

Until Vienna by Heather B. Moore - OPTIONAL


Until Vienna
by Heather B. Moore
, 176 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

At 24 years old, Gigi is making her way out of the market of eligible young ladies, and that’s okay with her; Gigi is happy with her work at the dressmaker’s and is pleased about her younger sister’s upcoming wedding. When her elderly aunt declares that Gigi will accompany her on an art tour across the continent, Gigi is reluctant but happy to go. Little does she know that her aunt has more in mind than simply looking at beautiful artwork.

I found Gigi’s adventures across Europe and her journey with love enjoyable to read for three-quarters of the book. Then the big conflict came to try the relationship Gigi was building, and it was lame. I felt that Gigi and her love interest acted out of character in order for there to be conflict, and I was disappointed by the forced misunderstanding. Their unsatisfactory challenge made their triumph and eventual happy ending less sweet.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky - HIGH


The Mary Shelley Club
by Goldy Moldavsky
, 352 pages. Macmillan Children’s Publishing (Henry Holt and Company), 2021. $19.

Language: R (92 swears, 21 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Being in a new school is hard as a junior, but Rachel’s mostly been able to fly under the radar -- until the night she laughs at the popular girl’s humiliation at a party and is blamed for the prank pulled on her. Now Rachel is on a mission to figure out what really happened at the party. The deeper she goes, the more Rachel has to give up of herself to stay there.

What a thrill! Moldavsky has written a masterpiece. Throughout Rachel’s story, Moldavsky feeds readers just enough to stay patient until the connecting link for all the seemingly-random pieces falls into place with a near-audible mic drop. If I could choose to forget having read this book, I would do so in a heartbeat in order to read it for the first time again. It was scary fun. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mention of drugs, innuendo, groping, and mention of sex. The violence rating is for blood and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Treacherous Legacy by Kathi Oram Peterson - OPTIONAL


Treacherous Legacy
by Kathi Oram Peterson
, 251 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When 35-year-old Anna sees her uncle, her last living relative, die in front of her, he uses his last breath to tell her to run. Anna’s uncle had continued her father’s work to prove that their ancestors were not Nazi sympathizers, and now Anna feels the same duty to finish what they started. Following the teachings of her father, Anna starts down the right path, but digging into family secrets is dangerous for Anna’s heart as well as her life.

Anna runs from people trying to kill her and is forced to trust strangers in order to reach her goals; she gets misled and discovers things about her loved ones that are hard to believe; and, yet, through it all, she barely scrapes by -- as should heroes who are on a quest for justice. While all these elements made the story as outlandish as it was entertaining, the climax felt less involved and victorious than I hoped. Peterson has written a compelling journey with a quick ending as she ties up all the loose ends. My favorite part was the author’s note where Peterson explains which WWII details from Anna’s story are true.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus - ESSENTIAL

A Place to Hang the Moon
by Kate Albus
, 309 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $18.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo William, 11yo Edmund, and 9yo Anna are orphans - their parents died years ago and they recently lost their grandmother. Their solicitor is concerned that families wanting to adopt them may be looking more at their trust fund than at the children, so, when Mr. Engersoll suggests the children be sent to the country with other evacuee children out of London, and give them the opportunity to see some families for themselves, they take the chance. All three are good readers, and value it, so they make an instant connection with the village librarian - but she appears to be an outsider herself - some of the village leadership feels Mrs. Muller is "unsuitable" to billet the children, so they are placed with a family, and then another, they find themselves needing a miracle. 

What a delightful read! Oh the children were great - I expected them to be entitled and difficult, but just the opposite. So many books referenced and quoted - librarians will love "A Place to Hang the Moon", and will also love recommending it. A nice WWII historical fiction, a great companion read for those who loved Bradley's "The War that Saved my Life."

Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Turnover by Mike Lupica - ADVISABLE

 The Turnover by Mike Lupica, 243 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2020. $18

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

7th grader Lucas Winston loves basketball. There is nothing he loves more except maybe his mother and grandfather. Lucas’ grandfather is a basketball genius who shares Lucas’ love for basketball and coached Lucas and his team mates to victory the previous year. Lucas is hoping for a repeat, but when he is given an assignment to write about an important person in his life, Lucas discovers a past secret that could threaten to tear the relationship with his grandfather apart. 

Anyone who loves basketball will probably like this book. Lupica always delivers on court action. There is nice tension as Lucas begins to unravel his grandfather’s past. I thought the reaction to the secret seemed a bit extreme considering how many decades had expired. The ending is not a surprise, but is satisfying nevertheless. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

The Twin by Natasha Preston - NO

The Twin by Natasha Preston, 384 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2020. $12. Language: PG-13 (32 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (Off page killing).

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Twins Ivy and Iris have been living apart for years since after their parents’ divorce, each parent got custody of one of the twins. After the tragic death of their mother, Iris has returned to live with Ivy and their father. Both twins are devastated, but especially Iris. Now Ivy must find a way to bring Iris into her life sharing her school and friends with a sister she barely knows. Things seem to be going well until it seems that instead of sharing, Iris is more interested in taking over the Ivy’s life. Ivy may be paranoid or she may be in danger.

From the first page the direction of the plot is evident to even the most naïve of readers. A book that would better serve as a script for a cable network Saturday afternoon movie, this story is not worthy of the time it takes to read it. The characters are two dimensional and the ominous tone that is attempted is tired. The ending leaves the story unfinished in what is more than likely supposed to be a shocking cliff hanger, but will leave the reader angry for pushing through to the conclusion.

Reviewer: AEB

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard - ADVISIBLE

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard, 352 pgs. Blink, 2020. $19. Language: PG (5 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (child in peril, on page killings in battle, corpses placed on display).

BUYING ADVISORY—MS, HS - ADVISIBLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL—HIGH

Siria Nightingale lives in a land of perpetual darkness. She longs to experience the sun, but only knows about its light and warmth from stories of the old days. On her sixteenth birthday, as she prepares to be presented to the queen, Siria discovers something about herself that will put her on a drastically different path. Now instead of serving the queen who brought the darkness, she will join the rebels who are fighting to return the light.

A fast-paced read full of adventure, romance, and magic. The characters in this story are well written and appealing. The plot is original and has few holes enabling the reader to become immersed in an exciting battle of good vs evil. The only slight drawbacks are the magical setting that would benefit from a bit more background as the reader is thrust into the story quite abruptly and a plot where the energy is more stable instead of veering dizzingly at times between calm narrative and frantic action. 

Reviewer: Ali Bridge

Desert Diary: Japanese American Kids Behind Barbed Wire by Michael O. Tunnell - ESSENTIAL

Desert Diary: Japanese American Kids Behind Barbed Wire by Michael O. Tunnell
, 134 pages. Charlesbridge, 2020. $20

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

8yo Mae Yanagi and her classmates are prisoners in the Topaz Camp in Utah during World War II. She and her classmates kept an illustrated classroom diary. The diary, coupled with insightful research, illuminates what resilient people can do when faced with the unthinkable. Topaz was located in a harsh, square mile of Utah desert, holding upwards of 8,000 people. 

Loaded with pictures and photos of the original class diary, this is an inviting and captivating read. Information is presented in accessible themed chapters. This is a beautiful rendering of a dignified people unfairly placed in a terrible situation. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Crocodile Rescue (Wild Survival) by Melissa Cristina Marquez - OPTIONAL

Crocodile Rescue (Wild Survival) by Melissa Cristina Marquez,
240 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $8. 

Content G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Adrianna Villalobos gets to travel the globe with her older brother, Feye, and their parents, for the nature show her parents host. Adrianna is excited to finally be old enough to be on the show as they journey to Cuba in search of an injured crocodile. After Feye is injured in an accident partially caused by Adrianna, her parents want her behind the scenes, but Adrianna is intent on proving that she has a place in the show and with her adventurous family. 

Adrianna’s adventure is an easy read and the pacing is fast. I liked the use of Spanish terms and the glossary at the back insured that readers could understand them. Anytime an animal was mentioned in the book there was an informational insert with a line drawing so kids who like animals can pick up some quick facts. The plot is superficial though and easy to predict. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Logan Likes Mary Anne (The Baby-Sitters Club) by Gale Galligan - HIGH

Logan Likes Mary Anne (The Baby-Sitters Club) by Gale Galligan
, based on the novel by Ann M. Martin, 170 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL Scholastic, 2020. $13. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Mary Anne isn’t sure what to expect from her 8th grade year, but she is glad to get back with the Baby-sitters Club. When the group becomes overwhelmed with jobs, Mary Anne gets sent on a job with Logan, a dreamy boy who just moved to Stoneybrook, as a test run. Logan and Mary Anne seem to hit it off, but Mary Anne feels awkward and uncertain around Logan, and life for Mary Anne suddenly seems complicated. 

 Fans of the Baby-sitters Club books will devour this one, no questions asked. Mary Anne’s character is sweetly awkward and relatable. The art is colorful and bright and helps tell the story, so pull up some cake and celebrate Mary Anne’s angst and birthday with her. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Skywatchers by Carrie Arcos - ESSENTIAL

Skywatchers by Carrie Arcos
, 356 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin), 2020. $19. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The Skywatchers Club was formed to keep the skies safe from Soviet intruders. High schoolers Teddy, John, Caroline, Eleanor, Bunny, Frank, and Oscar volunteer to help and take a shift watching the skies. Most days are boring with only the occasional passenger plane flying by, if they do at all. But one day they see a strange green light and a mysterious object lands in the forest. When Teddy, John, Caroline, and Bunny go to investigate they disappear. 

 This story is inspired by true events pulls teens into a world full of UFO’s and aliens where they will have to save each other and possibly the world. I really liked this book. It was fun to read, especially because it was inspired by true events. Mature Content is PG because the story takes place in 1952 during the Cold War, so there is a lot of talk about McCarthyism, the Red Scare, the USSR, etc. 

Julia M., Student 

Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair by Ann Bausum - ESSENTIAL

Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair: Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge by Ann Bausum
, 144 pages. National Geographic. 2021. $20. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

In 1944, some of Hitler’s generals, believing that Hitler was endangering his own people and alarmed at the atrocities being committed, resolved to kill him. Code named Valkyrie, a bomb went off in the Wolf’s Lair, but did not kill Hitler. Enraged, Hitler rounded up not only the conspirators but their families as well. Within weeks, the Gestapo had taken as many as 200 relatives from their home, separating adults and children. 

 Though I had heard about Valkyrie, I had no idea that Hitler’s revenge was so intense he wanted entire families wiped out including giving young children new names and identities. Bausum delivers a well-researched book on a little-known topic. Pictures and primary source documents make this an informative and gripping read. 

 Michelle in the Middle