Monday, July 28, 2008

Under the Jolly Roger by L.A. Meyer - ESSENTIAL

Meyer, L.A. Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber, 518 pgs. Harcourt, Inc.

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG-13; Violence~PG-13


Jacky begins this adventure upon a whaling ship called the Pequod. After three months she has worked off her passage to England and is determined to find Jaimy and discover why he has not contacted her. After spying Jaimy with a beautiful young woman, Jacky bolts off and is pressed into naval service aboard the HMS Wolverine. She of course is dressed as a boy and when her gender is revealed and she is before the captain, he decides to keep her on board and reinstates her as a midshipman. However, the whole crew knows the captain has unseemly plans in store for Jacky. Captain Abraham Scroggs is a tyrant of a captain and it doesn’t take much to get Jacky back into trouble.

Full of adventure, danger, and spunk, L.A. Meyer has written another winner.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Singing to the Sun by Vivian French and Jackie Morris- ESSENTIAL

French, Vivian Singing to the Sun, illustrated by Jackie Morris. PICTURE BOOK. Kane/Miller, 2008; first published in Great Britain in 2001.


A lord who does not believe in love marries a woman who only believes in gold and they have a son and make him study books and spells. After his 18th birthday they send him off to win the hand of one of three princesses, one whom brings wealth, one lands and the third love and happiness. The parents send him off with the court jester, still arguing over the value of land vs wealth. But the princess may have ideas of her own and being born a prince doesn’t bring wisdom.

While there seems to be a trend in rewriting fairy tales to make the girl be stronger, this trend also seems to make the boy look foolish or useless at the same time. This is a rare tale that lets the princess be strong, while showing the prince a path to actual happiness. This short book makes a powerful statement to counteract a movement that seems to have gone too far in the opposite directions. Teachers in elementary can use this as just a great stiry with beautiful illustrations, while middle and high school Language Arts teachers should make this a part of any unit about fairy tales. Even a Teen Living teacher could use this as a great opener to a discussion about gender roles in fairy tales and the modern world and the effect they have on our self-esteem or world view.


Tin Angel by Shanon Cowan - OPTIONAL

Cowan, Shannon Tin Angel. Pgs. 331 Lobster Press.

Language- Pg-13; Sexual Content-G; Violence-G


Ronnie loves her house, but she is forced to move. She hates the idea but goes just for her family. Since Ronnie is new in her new neighborhood, she gets accused of murder. She has no idea why, but she knows for a fact someone set her up.

I really liked this book. Ronnie can be naive, but she has a good heart and wouldn't kill anyone. I think that the author put a good amount of emotion and heart into her writing.

Student Reviewer: SH

Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce - ESSENTIAL

Pierce, Tamora Melting Stones, approx 320 p. Scholastic, October 2008.


Rosethorn has been called to a small island nation to investigate poisoned wells and dying land. Evvy, Briar’s pupil, has to come along because of the trouble she caused back at Winding Circle. Evvy seems to be along to annoy everyone she comes in contact with and she feels less and less connected to the people around her as she delves deeper and deeper into the fascinating rocks of the island. No one seems to appreciate her magic. Only with the support of her mountain heart friend Luvo can Evvy find the strength that she will need to hold together the very rocks of the island and save the land from angry, persistent embryonic volcano spirits, who are determine to break free and wreak havoc.

Originally written for a Full Cast Audio production; I haven’t heard the audio, but the text flows smoothly from scene to scene using Evvy’s voice as the narrator. Fans of Pierce’s Circle of Magic series will be dizzily happy with this newest in the series. I hope you already have all the others!

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pompeii by Liz Sonneborn - OPTIONAL

Sonneborn, Liz Pompeii, 74 p. NON-FICTION. Twenty-First Century (Lerner), 2008.


Pompeii’s riches were discovered by accident and its depths were plundered for its treasures to enrich the king of Spain. While scholars complain about the chaotic worksite, The actions of three men who alternately in charge of the excavation create a complicated morass of conflicting plans and actions all through the late 1800’s.

Unfortunately, too much of the book is devoted to the complicated interactions of the first chief excavators, turning it into a rather dry text that only spends a small amount of time on the importance of Pompeii itself. While the historical information be interesting to someone studying the details of the Pompeii excavation, it is not high in usefulness for the middle school classroom.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Impossible by Nancy Werlin - ESSENTIAL

Werlin, Nancy Impossible, 384 p. Dial (Penguin), September 2008.


Lucy, 17, knows that her mother is a crazy woman who wanders the streets, but Lucy is well cared for by her loving foster parents. Also, Lucy’s best friend from childhood, Zach, has returned to town and Lucy has started to see him with new eyes. The night of prom however, something terrible happens to Lucy, and whether she wants to believe it or not, she is caught in an age old curse that may lead her down the same path as her mother. Only the love of her fosters and her man will save Lucy and her descendants from continuing the chain of enslavement.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Werlin has crafted a finely tuned novel that will delight fantasy fans and romance readers alike. Kudos to her for this fine tale.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner - OPTIONAL

Gardner, Sally The Red Necklace, 372 p. Dial (Penguin), 2008.


Over the backdrop of the French Revolution, a young Gypsy boy, Yann, and his dwarf protector, Tetu, are caught in the plot of Count Kalliovski (as he calls himself now), a madman who is fleecing the rich of French of all he can before their world crumbles. While Yann escapes to England, a girl, Sido, daughter of an aristocrat, is left behind as France descends into chaos. Yann is putting his life on the line to return and rescue her, but he also has found his powers, which he will need to survive the journey.

While there is action and plot, this book lacks depth to its story or meaningful growth for any of its characters. It might make good filler material for a large collection.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Eleanor: Quiet No Moreby Doreen Rappaport - ESSENTIAL

Rappaport, Doreen Eleanor: Quiet No More, illustrated by Gary Kelley. PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHY. Hyperion, release: 2009. 


The life of Eleanor Roosevelt is laid out simply and yet movingly, in this powerful picture book. Called ugly by her own mother and browbeaten by her mother-in-law, Eleanor still manages to find her strength and her passion and the power to do what she has to do. An excellent resource for an elementary student or an excellent addition to a middle or high school lesson on biography.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Secrets, Lies and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman - OPTIONAL

Lichtman, Wendy Secrets, Lies and Algebra. pgs. 188 Greenwillow (Harper).

Content - G


Tess loves algebra. She uses it as a secret code in her journal. When different problems are thrown at her she uses her secret code to help solve them. Tess is in a tight spot.

I liked this book, but I wouldn't read it over and over again. I think it is kind of confusing the way the author uses algebra as a code.

Student Reviewer: SH

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Geek Magnet by Kieran Scott - OPTIONAL

Scott, Kieran Geek Magnet, 308 p. G.P. Putnam’s (Penguin), 2008.


KJ is pretty, smart and organized and the stage manager of her high school’s spring musical. You’d think she had great control over everything in her life. Unfortunately, instead of gorgeousness surrounding her, instead the boys in her life are all geeks – a friendly geek, a needy geek and a creepy geek. When the star of the play starts paying attention to her, the crush of KJ’s life notices her too, sending her school life into a tail spin. And her dad’s drinking has reached a point where her family is tearing apart. KJ needs to take back control of her life, but what she needs to fix it may not be what she thinks.

KJ’s life is complicated whacky and has some great themes and advice – regrettably, it is marred by a heavy dose of “OMG” (can there be a more trite exclamation – how overused can it be in current YA lit) and more than four dozen other assorted swears. On the bright side, there is no “f”. You’d better decide how much tolerance you have for swearing.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

The Devouring: Sorry Night by Simon Holt - NO

Holt, Simon The Devouring: Sorry Night, 231 p. Little, Brown and Company, September 2008.


Reggie reads what she thinks are rambling mumblings of a crazy person and dares to not follow the advice contained within. Horror and evil possession ensues and Reggie is stalked by danger in the guise of someone she loves. Her best friend Aaron and, oddly, her boss Eben, may be able to help her unlock the mystery of Sorry Night and uncover a much deeper problem.

 While the premise is interesting, the graphic violence factor is pretty high. There are no “f’s”, but there are about 50 other assorted swears. This one takes the horror genre and brings it to teens, but I would leave it to the public libraries.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima - ESSENTIAL

Chima, Cinda Williams The Dragon Heir, 512 p. Hyperion, September 2008.


While Seph, Jack, Ellen and Madison were able to stop the wizards from taking control of all of the Anawizards, but that doesn’t mean that their vigilance can slacken. Seph is stretching himself thin monitoring the wards protecting Trinity. Jack and Ellen are training an army of ghosts to protect the town. Madison is convinced that she is poisoning Seph with her very presence and her siblings are in trouble back in Coal Grove. Then Jason Haley comes back to town with a pack full of amulets and a magical opal of untold powers – and every wizard around the world is drawn to it in a monumental struggle to possess it.

Not a stand alone text – you need to and you NEED to own all three books in the series so far – at least I HOPE there are more! Chima’s books are an excellent example to writers of fantasy for the YA audience - great descriptions, depth of character, plots moving forward. This is core fantasy for any size collection.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Me, In Between by Lauren Baratz-Logsted - OPTIONAL

Baratz-Logsted, Lauren Me, In Between, 201 p. Mix (Simon), 2008.


Lacey Underhill, 12yo, is well endowed and has been so since she was ten. Now twelve and entering 8th grade at their private school and the older boys are noticing and being added to the cheer squad just makes her more noticeable. On one hand Lacey wants to be noticed, especially by a cute older boy who doesn’t know she’s only 12. On the other hand, Lacey doesn’t want the attention from the males around her, especially her friend from childhood, Sam, who has just come back to town. Problems at school and with her grandmother bring the different parts of Lacey’s life colliding together and force her problems out in the open.

For a book about a 12yo there are more than enough swear words, including a bunch of “OMG’s”. Swearing aside, something about the whole book just doesn’t work for me. There are too many issues for any of them to be well-rounded and satisfyingly concluded.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund - OPTIONAL

Osterlund, Anne Aurelia, 246 p. Speak (Penguin), 2008.


Even though she doesn’t know it, Aurelia’s life is in danger. As the crown princess, her job is to look good and marry well. But then her childhood friend returns from the frontier and the knowledge comes out and the danger increases. And the mastermind is closer to her than Aurelia thinks.

The best part of this book is its cover – definitely a draw for girls who love mystery, romance and danger. Unfortunately, the accompanying story doesn’t fulfill the promise of the cover. There’s nothing obviously wrong with the writing – it’s not clunky; it’s not illogical. It just lacks depth, description and real character development. It may gain some fans with girls who need an easy, shallow book, but I doubt it will generate a lot buzz.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

The Resistance by Gemma Malley - ADVISABLE

Malley, Gemma The Resistance, 320 p. Bloomsbury, September 2008.


Peter and Anna have escaped Grange Hall and the life of a Surplus, saving Anna’s little brother along the way. Now they are adjusting to a world with no teens, no children and danger still awaits them. In order to aid the resistance, Peter goes to work for his enemy – his own grandfather – the man who made people virtually immortal and children unnecessary. Just when Peter seems to be losing his opposition to his grandfather’s manipulation, a horrible secret is revealed within the pharmaceutical factory – one that may end his grandfather’s dominance permanently.

I have not read the first book in this series – The Declaration, but I didn’t have any problem following the plot and guessing at the previous contents. Three swear that mean absolutely nothing in light of the great discussions a teacher could have about ethics, morality and end of life.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Pandora Gets Vain by Carolyn Hennesy - NO

Hennesy, Carolyn Pandora Gets Vain, 256 p (approx.). Bloomsbury, September 2008.


A young Pandora has already let the evils from their box and is set the task of recapturing them all. Her quest to reclaim vanity is filled with obstacles and dangers and an encounter with the pre-teen Cleopatra.

 Talk about revisionist history and revisionist mythology! I couldn’t find one thing in this book that was back on established folklore or historic timelines. Yuck! Keep this away from your young students if you want them to have a single chance of learning the true patterns of the Greek mythos. Distract them with Mary Pope Osborne’s retellings instead.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

By Venom's Sweet Sting by Tiffany Trent - OPTIONAL

Trent, Tiffany By Venom’s Sweet Sting, 291 p. Mirrorstone, 2007.


Corrine may have survived the fire that destroyed her school, but she is still not safe. She is just beginning to learn about her magic, but she has no real passion for the learning. Her journey to Scotland with her mentors and her two best friends is fraught with danger. There is no way for her to now whom she can actually trust; every person she comes in contact with has hidden agendas. It may just be too easy for the Elf Prince to get his hands on Corrine and manipulate her into doing his bidding.

It looks like there are ten titles planned for this series. I can only hope that Corrine gains some guts, brains and heart - and pretty quickly. So far I am alternately intrigued (I love books about evil fey), bored (the books lack description – throw some backdrop here, maybe even some wardrobe or weather), and annoyed (Corrine needs a backbone and why is she so uninterested in learning the magic that can save her life?). I am going to give this series one more chance – I have the next title on hand and things has better improve! On the other hand, it is a pretty quick light read for those who like Libba Bray, plus it is in paperback already.

Cindy Mitchell – Library-Teacher

Hiss Me Deadly by Bruce Hale - ADVISABLE

Hale, Bruce Hiss Me Deadly, 118 p. Harcourt

Content - G


Chet Gecko, Elementary detective, has solved a case or two in his time, and now another has come to his door. When his little sister reports a stolen pearl necklace, Chet takes the case only to find that a multitude of other items have been snatched as well! Will he be able to solve the case before it's too late?

I have no doubt that this story was aimed towards elementary students, but I still loved it. This story was light hearted and full of witty comparisons that kept even me entertained. Though rather predictable, this story is a great, light-hearted read that I would recommend to anyone that wanted to smile.

Student Reviewer: KH

Origins by Kate Thompson - ESSENTIAL

Thompson, Kate Origins, 313 p. Bloomsbury -

Content: G


Nessa is a cat that has been exiled to protect her from the war with the neighboring dogs. When she meets up with another exile, a dog named Farral, they set off to uncover the truth about the origins of dogs and cats. Meanwhile, a boy living in a secret community keeps a journal on how these secret genetic engineers may have found the missing link they were looking for.

This book was amazing. When I read the first one I was hooked on the series, and the ending to the series was breathtaking. Although I was lost when I first started the book, as the story started to fill out I couldn't put it down.


Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf - OPTIONAL

Holm Jennifer L. Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf. pgs. 117. Atheneum.



There is not much I can say for a summary for this book. Over 90% of this book is pictures and it is a diary told through a girls stuff. In my opinion, this book would be a lot better if it was more of a book than a diary.

Student Reviewer: SH

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer - ESSENTIAL

Meyer, L.A. Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady, 496 pgs. Harcourt, Inc.;

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG; Violence~PG


After her perilous encounter with the dread pirate Le Fievre and her discovery as a girl, Jacky is put off the Dolphin and sent to a finishing school funded by her shares from the spoils of capturing the pirates loot. Under the stern thumb of the infamous Mistress Pimm, Jacky discovers just how far she is from becoming the fine lady Jaimy would like her to be. Jacky soon realizes that the social rules and etiquette of Boston is much stricter that that of London. With her tendency for impulsiveness and her temper, Jacky soon finds herself demoted to a household servant at the school. There she finds friends and forms the dreaded sisterhood.

Many adventures await Jacky in this next volume of her story. Readers will want the next volume close at hand as they reach the end of this story.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy - ESSENTIAL

Meyer, L.A. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy, 320 pgs. Harcourt, Inc.

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG-13; Violence~PG-13


Life in the 18th century England was not kind to many. Poverty, sickness, violence, and filth abounded. Mary Faber lost her mother, father, and little sister to the pestilence one summer and was drafted into a gang of street urchins. Thus begins Mary’s life of crime and begging. After the violent death of her gang’s ring leader, Rooster Charlie, Mary decides to try her fortunes away from the horrible streets of London. Due to her small size and immature body, Mary easily passes for a boy and is taken on as a ship’s boy for H.M.S The Dolphin and newly christens herself Jack Faber. Jacky quickly finds she loves this life on the sea, but must be careful to keep her true identity a secret.

Written in first person, with cockney slang, this tale is captivating. The reader easily connects with Jacky and fears for her plight. The language is rough as expected for the station of the main character and the time period. There is an attempted rape scene and sexual inferences in the story. The war violence while not graphic is frequent due to Jacky’s presence on a war ship. Written in first person, with cockney slang, this tale is captivating. The reader easily connects with Jacky and fears for her plight. Highly recommended!

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Monday, July 14, 2008

School Spirit by Elizabeth Kimmel - ADVISABLE

Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit, 316 pgs. Little Brown and Company



Kat thought she was a normal teenager until she started seeing them. Yes, like that kid in the movie, Kat sees dead people. She is a medium. It began soon after she turned thirteen. Her mother also is a medium, practicing out of their home. At school, those who know about her mother taunt Kat relentlessly. At the head of this group is Brooklyn, one of the queen bees ‘satellites’ or entourage. Kat does make one friend, Jac. Jac is constantly lugging around her cello. Kat finds out that Jac used to be a very famous prodigy cellist. However, not long ago she suffered from an extreme bout of stage fright and hasn’t been able to play since. One day while in the library, a book falls off the shelf on its own. When Kat returns it, it falls again. Then Kat sees her, a young teen ghost with a flute. This girl needs Kat’s help and Kat must find out what she needs and how to help her.

This story is a delightful jaunt into the world of a young teen that is also a medium. While slightly creepy, the ghost are not demonic or frightening, they just are there. The friendship between Kat and Jac is honest and real. Fans of Jennifer Allison’s Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator will enjoy this new series and look forward to more from this author.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes - OPTIONAL

Hawes, Louise Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand, 211 pgs. Houghton Mifflin Company

Language~G, Sexual Content~PG-13; Violence~PG


At first glance, this title appears to be the telling of some dark faerie tale. Unfortunately the cover is very misleading. Hawes takes 7 known fairy tales and retells them in a non-traditional way, while intriguing to the fairytale connoisseur; the stories are far from scary and are often full of disturbing images with underlying sexual inferences. This collection will leave most readers slightly disappointed.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen - ADVISABLE

Dessen, Sarah Lock and Key, pgs.432 Penguin Group-Viking Juvenile.

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG; Violence~PG;


Seventeen-year-old Ruby knows how to take care of herself. She has been doing it for the last 10 years ever since her older sister Cora left for college. This left Ruby alone with her mother who is a habitual drug user and alcoholic. With a mother like hers, Ruby has been mostly on her own, even with her mother in the next room. Ruby's mother recently abandoned her, disappearing without a trace. Ruby hasn't heard from or seen her sister Cora, until Ruby is picked up by social services after their mother disappears. Cora takes Ruby into her home and life. Now Ruby has a new home, a new school, and a new life, none of which she really wants. In an unsuccessful attempt to run away, Ruby meets Nate. Slowly, Ruby begins to settle into her new life, however, in everyone’s life there comes unexpected issues that must be dealt with and Ruby isn’t so sure she can.

This novel about family problems, while a unique storyline, seems all too similar to Dessen’s last novel, Just Listen. Fans of Dessen’s work will enjoy this read, but it doesn’t stand out in the field of Young Adult Literature. The main character is sexually active, however, there are no described sex scenes. She also is a recreational drug user and she becomes wasted after binging on tequila and drugs. There is some swearing, but it is minimal.

 Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Library

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Climbing The Stairs by PAdma Ven katraman - ADVISABLE

Venkatraman, Padma Climbing The Stairs, 247 pgs. G.P. Putnam’s Son (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Language~G, Sexual Content~G; Violence~PG


Throughout world history, women have always struggled for a voice, a place in a society of men. In some small circles, in some families this wasn’t the case. However, independent and strong women were looked upon as unfit to be in society. Fifteen-year-old Vidya lives in British-occupied India. She dreams of going to college and doing more than marrying and having children. Her immediate family encourages her in this dream, especially her father. Vidya’s life is turned upside down when her father is injured and their family is forced to move in with her uncle’s family. Vidya’s uncle is very orthodox in his beliefs. At her uncle’s home women are seen as second class. The women and men live on different floors of the house, they do not eat together, and a woman’s opinion is of no worth. Vidya does find an ally but one decision threatens to tear her already fragile family apart.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen - ADVISBALE

Van Draanen, Wendelin Confessions of a Serial Kisser, pgs. 294 Random House-Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Language~G, Sexual Content~G; Violence~G;


Evangeline Logan,16, is your average “A” student at Lakemont High. After stumbling on her mother’s hidden stash of trashy romance novels she comes across one that speaks of a ‘crimson kiss.’ Then at breakfast, she stumbles upon her mother’s self-help book that promises to make your fantasies real by following these steps “1.Speak your fantasy 2. See your fantasy 3. Live your fantasy.” Evangeline decides to make her fantasy of receiving her own crimson kiss come true. Thus begins her career as a serial kisser. Evangeline starts out by planning her kissing rendezvous, but eventually resorts to just taking what she wants without thinking of the consequences. These consequences get Evangeline in to hot water with the school, her grades, and her best friend.

Van Draanen has given readers a fun, quirky, and at times serious novel about a girl on the edge of adulthood who is trying to find out who she is and what her life should be.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Library