Friday, October 31, 2008

Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby - ADVISABLE

Rorby, Ginny Hurt Go Happy, 267 p. TOR, 2006. $5.99. 


Joey has been deaf since she was six, so being on the outside is nothing new to her. Then she meets Dr. Mansell and his sign-language-using chimp. Even though her mother has forbidden her to sign, Joey is drawn to the means of expression and to Sukari the chimp. When Dr. Mansell dies, Joey is in agony over what may happen to Sukari. She will have to be bold and determined in order to secure a safe future for herself and for Suakri. 

Rorby manages to pack several different threads into her novel without over dramatizing or skimming over any of them. The drama between Joey and her mother about whether she should be a lip-reader or a signer and the options available for chimps who have been abandoned are just two of the themes. 


Accidentally Fabulous by Lisa Papademetriou - ADVISABLE

Papademetriou, Lisa Accidently Fabulous, 187 p. Scholastic, 2008. $5 


Amy has always had an easy time getting to know people. All of her skills are put to the test, however, when she enters new, ultra-rich, ultra-fancy Arlington Academy. She thinks she has a friend in Jenelle, but Jenelle is a member of the League, a group of prima donnas, ruled by mean girl extraordinaire Fiona. And if Amy doesn't do things Fiona's way, Amy may have no social life to talk about. 

While I had a hard time stomaching (or believing) the description of the Academy, the rest of the book was just fine. The Candy Apple series, written by various authors, makes their point without resorting to profanity, drugs, violence or sex. The subjects are the kinds of things tween girls think about all the time. 


Floods by Mary Winget - ADVISABLE

Winget, Mary Floods, 32 p. NON-FICTION. Lerner, 2008. 


Floods is a quick little tutorial for younger readers on the causes, the kinds and what to do in case of a flood. While it isn't a true picture book, each page has a colored picture to supplement the accompanying text. Early readers will grasp the information easily. It also includes books and websites for further learning. 


Eli Manning by Matt Doeden - ADVSIABLE

Doeden, Matt Eli Manning, 106 p. NON-FICTION. Twenty-First Century (Lerner), 2008. 


Eli Manning has broken out of the shadow of his famous father and older brother and become a football powerhouse in his own right. 

 Doedon's biography is well researched and is a good balance between personal information and intriguing football action. My only complaint is that all of the pictures are clumped together in the middle and none of them are in color. But don't let this detract from your purchasing decision; it does help keep the purchase price down (schools and libraries: $21.95). It is very up to date and will be appreciated by Manning fans.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sweat and Blood by Gloria Skurzynski - ADVISABLE

Skurzynski, Gloria Sweat and Blood: A History of U.S. Labor Unions, 107 p. Twenty-First Century (Lerner), 2008.


Don't let the page count fool you; this is a deep, detailed look at the history of labor unions in the US. There is enough information here for a student who needs the book to write or a report, yet it is fluid enough for a student who may just be looking for something to read. If your school teaches Lyddie by Patterson, Out of the Dust by Hesse, or any other novel about the Great Depression or unions, this would be a necessary supplement.


The Year my SIster Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman = OPTIONAL

Friedman, Aimee, The Year My Sister Got Lucky, 415, Point,

Language - PG; Violence - G; Sexual content - PG;


Katie and Michaela are two ballets dancers in New York living the life. They are forced to move to a town near Canada that had a population of about how many people were in their high school. Katie has a hard time adapting while Michaela becomes part of the in-crowd. Their used to be close relationship gets separated by secrets and lies. Katie begins to snoop and finds the biggest secret of all. Within days she spills the beans and becomes a social pariah not only in school but in her own home as well.

This book was more about the relationship between the two sisters than anything else. I liked it because it definitely had many things that separated it from other books.

Student Reviewer: AA

Necks Out for Adventure by Timothy Basil Ering - ADVISABLE

Ering, Timothy Basil Necks out for Adventure. Candlewick, 2008. PICTURE BOOK.


The wiggleskins know that it is safest to keep their necks tight within their shells. But when all the other wiggleskins are scooped up by a predator, Edwin heads out on an adventure and rescues his family with his new "heads out" philosophy.

Smaller children will appreciate Ering's silly illustrations and the smart youngest wiggleskin.


Jessie's Mountain by Kerry Madden - ADVISABLE

Madden, Kerry Jessie's Mountain, 304 p. Viking (Penguin), 2008.

Content: G


When Livy Two's grandmother gives Livy her mother's journal, Livy Two decides to read it out loud to all her brothers and sisters. Livy Two wants to go to Nashville to audition for the Music Man; she is in for a huge surprise when her sister Jitters tags along. Their parents are furious and angry and Livy Two loses her job on the bookmobile. Then Livy Two gets her whole family to buy an empty store front and they start to perform music there.

I really liked this book and it had a good story line.

Student Reviewer: JG

The True Meaning of Smek Day by Adam Rex - OPTIONAL

Rex, Adam The True Meaning of Smek Day, 423 p. Hyoerion, 2007.

Content, G


Gratuity has to do a report on what Smek Day means to her. She explains what happened and her own story of that terrible day. she even makes friends with some of the aliens and has to help save the world from mass destruction. When her mom is abducted, Gratuity sets out to find her. Can she save her before it's too late? 

I really liked this book and thought it was really well written. 

Student Reviewer: JG

George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy Hawking - OPTIONAL

Hawking, Lucy and Stephen George's Secret Key to the Universe, 297p. Simon and Schuster, 2007

Content, G


George is very excited when he gets a pig for Christmas and he loves his pig. One day George's pig goes through a hole in the fence into his neighbors yard. The house hasn't been lived in since the man who lived there disappeared a year before. He goes over to the house and finds a scientist and his daughter living in the house. He discovers that his teacher has hunted them down for a long time and he has to save a very special computer.

I didn't really like this book it was kind of boring.

Student Reviewer:JG

Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco - ESSENTIAL

Polacco, Patricia Christmas Tapestry. Puffin (Penguin), 2002, paperback, 2008. PICTURE BOOK.


A young man is heartbroken when his preacher father takes a job in a rundown church in Detroit, far from his home of Tennessee. The family is busy with preparations for the Christmas program, but a trip to town on a snowy night throws them together with a little old lady who recognizes a tapestry the pair just purchased. On Christmas Eve the plasterer arrives to help repair the church and also recognizes the tapestry as the one his young bride made for their wedding, but they were separated during the Holocaust. Suddenly, Jonathan understands why his family moved when they did.

Sorry that I gave the whole thing away, but I didn't want to be mysterious. This is a perfect little Christmas story to add to a collection.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Angel Girl by Laurie Friedman - ESSENTIAL

IMPORTANT UPDATE: This book has been revealed to be fiction - it is NOT based on a true story, and thus should be treated as such, severely weakening its appeal. Too bad the man and his wife didn't tell the truth from the start.

Friedman, Lauire Angel Girl, illustrations by Ofra Amit. Carolrhoda (Lerner), 2008. PICTURE BOOK.


Based on a true story. A young man is separated from his family and thrown into a concentration camp during World War II. He only manages to survive with apples given to him by a girl from the other side of the fence. After liberation, he leaves for America, leaving his angel girl behind forever. Then one day he is set up on a blind date with a young woman who may just be his angel girl.

I dare you to read this book without tearing up. There are so many Holocaust stories which need to be told and this one is packaged perfectly fir any age to appreciate.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

The Queen of Style by Caralyn Buehner - ESSENTIAL

Buehner, Caralyn The Queen of Style, pictures by Mark Buehner. Dial Books (Penguin), 2008. PICTURE BOOK.


Queen Sophie is utterly bored, so she enrolls ina mail-order beauty education. Her subjects are very patient - to a point - and then they tell Sohpie that they have had enough. Sophie figures out how to serve her subjects and still have fun with style.

The Buehners have combined their talents again to create another fabulous children's book. Hidden pictures in vividly colored drawings are a supplement to Caralyn's fine tale with its wise end.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

The Battle Against Invasive Species by Sneed Collard III - ESSENTIAL

Collard, Sneed B. III Science Warriors: The Battle against Invasive Species, 48 p. NON-FICTION. Houghton Mifflin, 2008.


Sneed Collard takes us through the world of invasive plant and animal species, focusing on fire ants imported to America from South America and the paperbark tree brought from Australia. With only those two focuses, however, he manages to bring perspective to the entire scope of the problems. Though the book is short, it will provide plenty of background information for a student doing research or a teacher looking for inspiration for a unit of study.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Things That Are by Andrew Clements - OPTIONAL

Clements, Andrew Things That Are, 167 p. Philomel (Penguin), 2008.

Content: G


It's been two years since invisible Bobby met blind Alicia during his mysterious disappearance. Alicia is afraid that Bobby is drawing away from her, even before they had a chance to grow together. Her new seeing-eye dog has given her more freedom around the city, but she is still pretty insecure. Now Bobby is back in town, but someone else has come along with him - William, the still invisible man, who has brought danger along with him.

I didn't enjoy Alicia as a narrator as much as I did Bobby or Gwen from the second book. Alicia is much more insecure. But then again, I don't know anything about going blind, either. I doubt that this one will ever be as popular as the first.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass - NO

Mass, Wendy Every Soul a Star, 322 p. Little, Brown, 2008.

Content: G.


Ally has lived most of her life on a distant campground with her family, surround by the beauty of nature and of the stars, but she doesn't kow that her family is selling the campground and moving to the city. Bree lives in a family immersed in studying the stars, but has filled her life with fashion, popularity and spends her time trying to look good; she is stunned to find out that her family is buying the Moon Shadow campground and moving away from all things civilized for several years. Jack has pretty much no one for a friend and either has to take summer school to make up the classes he failed, or he can accompany his science teacher on a trip to the Moon Shadow campground to view a solar eclipse. All three will meet up at Moon Shadow and will learn some important lessons about life and about themselves.

As good as I seemed to have made this novel sound, its biggest downfall is that the story doesn't start rolling until 200 pages in- that is not good. If I weren't reading this for a review, I would have put it down 150 pages earlier. Each main character makes a profound change in themselves, but it comes so late that the reader will give up much earlier. Remember Criss Cross? Can you actually find a kid who found the book on their own and said they loved it? Exactly!

Cindy, Library-Teacher

The Disappeared by Gloria Whelan - OPTIONAL

Whelan, Gloria The Disappeared, 133 p. Dial (Penguin), 2008.

Violence: PG-13.


1970's Argentina was a scary place - one where a person could disappear in the middle of the night, dragged off by the military, never to be seen again. Silvia's brother Eduardo is one such person - dragged away because he got too deeply involved with radical protestors. Silvia thinks that she may have found a way to free Eduardo, but it involves putting herself in danger too.

Gloria Whelan usually writes beautiful books. Homeless Bird is still one of my all time favorites. This, however, is not. The odd way that the story is told is very stilted and choppy and off-putting. I have a hard time imaging that the two main characters are educated teens. Too bad, because the material is fascinating.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aunt Nancy and the Bothersome Visitors by Phyllis Root - ADVISABLE

Root, Phyllis, Aunt Nancy and the Bothersome Visitors, 56 pgs. Candlewick Press



Aunt Nancy lives by herself and life is just fine until there is a knock at her door. Four visitors set out to drive Aunt Nancy batty, but it seems that Aunt Nancy is just to smart for her four bothersome visitors.

This collection of four trickster tales is enjoyable, but seems to be marketed to the wrong audience. The book is formatted as an easy read with larger print and short chapters, but the vocabulary is for more proficient readers. The Appalachian slang could also be distracting and confusing for beginning readers. That said, it is a hilarious telling of some wonderful trickster tales. This title would be excellent to have in your library’s collection for a read aloud or for a curriculum based projects on folk tales, but not as a beginning reader.

Allison Madsen~Youth Services Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Robe of Skulls by Vivian French - OPTIONAL

French, Vivian., Robe of Skulls, 208 pgs. Walker Books Ltd



The infamous Lady Lamorna is dying to get her hands on a new dress embroidered with cobwebs and studded around the hem with skulls. The only problem is she can’t afford it! Sorcery isn’t paying what it used to and Lamona is broke. She comes up with a money making scheme involving turning princes into frogs. An unlikely hero appears in an orphan runaway named Gracie Gillypot. Full of slapstick comedy and depressing situations, French has written a mediocre tale that doesn’t do much to excite the reader.

Allison Madsen~Youth Services Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Monster Mash by Jennifer L. Holm - ESSENTIAL

Holm, Jennifer L. Monster Mash (Babymouse #9), 96 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers



It’s Halloween and Babymouse loves scary costumes! She can’t decide whether to be a mummy, a zombie, or a werewolf. She is super excited about her Halloween costume party, but then Felicia hears about it and invites herself. Babymouse is again stuck between being herself and being what the ‘popular’ girls say she should be. If you haven’t experience Babymouse, jump right in and join the fun. This special Halloween edition differs from the black, white, & pink coloring of the previous Babymouse books, replacing the pink with orange for a spooktacular read!

Allison Madsen~Youth Services Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

To Dance by Siena Cherson Siegel - ESSENTIAL

Siegel, Siena Cherson, To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel, 64 pgs. BIOGRAPHY GRAPHIC NOVEL. Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books

Language G, Sexual Content~G Violence~G


To Dance is a beautiful autobiographical graphic novel about Siena Cherson Siegel. As a young girl in Puerto Rico she loved to dance. Her doctor told her mother this would never happen due to Siena’s feet having no arch, her feet were flat. Siena’s mother refused to have her daughter’s dreams end here. She began by enrolling Siena in young children’s movement classes and then as she got older ballet dance classes.

The graphic novel continues on to tell Siena’s story culminating in her being accepted in to the prestigious New York City Ballet. The draw of this graphic novel is the pictures. The illustrations literally dance across the page. Girls who have ever wondered about the life of a ballerina will be enthralled by Siena’s story. However, it is also the story of a girl going after her dream and discovering herself in the process.

Allison Madsen~Youth Services Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon - ESSENTIAL

Varon, Sara, Robot Dreams, 208 pgs. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second



We all have dreams, things we want to become, strive to do, or want to try. Who would’ve thought that robots do too? In her newest book, author/illustrator Sara Varon tells the story of a dog and his robot. This wordless story begins with the dog sending in a mail order form for a robot. When the robot arrives, Dog quickly assembles it and they immediately go to the municipal library where they check out a movie starring robots. The next day, after returning the movie to the library like good library patrons, Dog checks out a book on dog beaches and the two set off for a day at the beach. This adventure turns out disastrous for Robot who, after spending time in the salty sea water, stiffens up and cannot move. Dog not knowing what to do, leaves Robot on the beach. Robot unable to do anything but think begins to dream of what the day could’ve been if he had not gone into the water, end of chapter one.

Varon continues the story for several more chapters alternating between what is happening to Robot and what is happening to Dog. It is a sweet story that will resonate with kids at several different levels. This would be an excellent choice as an introduction to graphic novels for younger audiences

Allison Madsen~Youth Services Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Thursday, October 23, 2008

T4 by Ann LeZotte - NO

LeZotte, Ann Clare T4, 105 p. Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Content: G


Exposed to German measles in the womb, Paula is born deaf and creates her own language to communicate with the world. Germany in 1939 is not a safe place for imperfect people, so Paula's family allow a priest to take her into hiding, to a place where a kind woman teaches Paula sigh language.

Too bad this book is one of those books pretending to be poetry. All it is, is a very sparse narrative broken up into pieces in chunks to look poetic. While Paula's story is interesting, this form does not allow the story enough depth to make it compelling and the poems themselves are not interesting or creative enough to make them worth studying.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Bayou Dogs by Tony Abbott - ADVISABLE

Abbott, Tony Bayou Dogs (The Haunting of Derek Stone #2), 144 p. Scholastic, March 2009.

Violence: PG


Derek is being pursued by the dead - a legion of evil souls who want to return to the living world and take control. Years ago Derek almost died in a desolate swamp. Now he is being pursued straight back to the swamp for a violent confrontation with the spirits.

Derek gets not a single minute to breathe in this fast-paced action-packed ghost story. While I don't think it is as strong as the first in the series, I think it hits the right note for its audience.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Reminder by Rune Michaels - OPTIONAL

Michaels, Rune The Reminder, 182 p. Atheneum (Simon), 2008.

Content: G


Daisy's mom a couple of years ago, when her little brother was only two. Daze hasn't dealt well with the death and she is afraid that she is forgetting Mom and that Ryan will never remember her. Then one day she hears her Dad talking to Mom and when Daze investigates, she finds something really strange - something that may help her hold onto her mom forever.

Ms. Michaels has given us a unique way to look at death and grief. It doesn't always read smoothly and I am afraid that even that the cutting edge technology distracts from the novel's deeper meaning.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Raining Cats and Dogs by Will Moses - ESSENTIAL

Moses, Will Raining Cats and Dogs. Philomel (Penguin), 2008. PICTURE BOOK.


Moses' book is crammed with more than 40 idioms that are defined correctly, but illustrated with clever drawings that emphasize the literal interpretation. My only gripe with the book is that I wish each saying has its own page and that the book were more over-sized. A teacher really needs a document projector in order to use this text well.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

The Frog Bride by Antonia Barber and Virginia Lee - ADVISABLE

Barber, Antonia The Frog Bride, illustrated by Virginia Lee. Frances Lincoln, 2007.


The youngest of three princes has reluctantly found a frog for a bride. When he has already won the transformed girl's heart, he ruins it and must undergo a journey to regain her hand in marriage.

This version of the Russian fairytale is beautifully illustrated and lovingly retold. It is an instant classic.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

The Night Children by Kit Reed - OPTIONAL

Reed, Kit The Night Children, 234 p. Starscape (TOR), 2008


Jule was just blowing off steam, hiding from her aunt. But now, she's stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel in the Castertown MegaMall. Help is on the way (or is it harm?) in the form of the Night Children - lost or runaway kids who have turned the mall's every-increasing confines into their new homes. Jule is not only the pawn between two rival factions, but her presence is the beginning of the end of the insane Mall owner's ultimate plan - a man who calls children vermin who need to be exterminated.

My favorite mall story of all time is Richard Peck's Bel-Air Bambi and the Mall Rats; this book was close to replacing it, until the rants of the mall owner just drove ME crazy. The story was totally working for me until he came into the picture with a literal vengeance. He is so over the top that the book goes from fantasy into farce, but not far enough over the top to make it a work of genius. If this book were a paperback, I would feel more kindly towards it.

Cindy - Library-Teacher.

Mousetraps by Pat Schmatz - NO

Schmatz, Pat Mousetraps, 191 p. Carolrhoda (Lerner), 2008.

Language: R (30+, four "f"), Violence : R; Sexual Content: R; Drug Use: PG-13.


Maxie Hawke hasn't seen Roddy Nash for three years - since the disastrous occurrences of 7th grade. Now he is back and Maxie finds herself missing their old friendship, but still reluctant to engage herself with Rick, as he's know calling himself, emotionally. Those terrible times come flooding back, in the actions and taunts of the students around Rick and while Maxie wants to stay out of it, she also realizes she owes Rick for the friendship that they used to have.

Because of its mature themes, Mousetraps is best suited for the mature high school students or for the public library's collection. It is the kind of book that most kids need to read - tolerance for GLBT teens, bullying based on looks, drug use as an escape from reality. It is extremely well-written, but the drawings make the kids in the novel look younger than they are, giving the book a middle school look, without the accompanying middle school appropriateness. Even though there were a couple of harsh reminiscences in the beginning, I held out hope, until the "f's" started appearing.

Cindy - Library-Teacher.
As a school librarian, you need to know that the book describes a scene where Rick was raped with a broom handle and had his testicles ripped.

Superior Saturday by Garth Nix - ADVISABLE

Nix, Garth Superior Saturday, 278 p. Scholastic, 2008


Arthur is in trouble. The Lower House is about to be completely engulfed by Nothing and there doesn't seem to be a way out. He must do the impossible and find his way into an extremely well-guarded Upper House in order to find the next part of the Will and challenge Superior Saturday for possession of the 6th key.

You would think that 278 pages would be enough to create a deep, satisfying story, but I really felt that almost everything got short-shrift in #6 of The Keys to the Kingdom. Leaf was in grave danger on earth and her fantastic challenge was barely given any room. Arthur overcomes insurmountable obstacles, but his battle with Saturday in anti-climatic and disappointing. I know the books are geared towards younger readers, but even they deserve a bit more than this. Exciting? YES. Excellent plot structure? NO. But any fan of the series will be chomping at the bit in order to read this one, so you'd better have it on hand. I will be happy to wait longer for #7, if MR. Nix will do a better job of crafting it.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

Alfred Kropp: The Thirteenth Skull by Rick Yancey - ADVISABLE

Yancey, Rick Alfred Kropp: The Thirteenth Skull, 297 p. Bloomsbury, 2008.


Alfred is off on death-defying adventure again. This time, not only the Company is after him. Someone new is after Alfred's head and after revenge.

Yeah - finally Alfred has received the book covers that he deserves. I want to throw away my old copies of the previous titles and get all new ones! Is this book intricate and thought-provoking? Not really. The action is fast and furious and the danger is palpable. No heavy thinking required, but your nerves had better be fortified!

 CINDY, Library-Teacher.

Eye of the Forest by P.B. Kerr - ADVISABLE

Kerr, P.B. Children of the Lamp: The Eye of the Forest, 432 p. Orchard Books (Scholastic), January 2009.

Content - G


The twins' mother is not herself, literally, since she took over the body of their deceased housekeeper. So, she has taken a vacation to Braxil, where the best djinn plastic surgeon in the business can fix her. The twins, meanwhile, are headed straight into mortal (or djinni) danger, as they race off to the Amazon to thwart an evil plot to awaken forces that have slept peacefully for hundreds years and steal the power. The twins are joined by their Uncle and by a classmate, who has unkind ulterior motives.

While Kerr has written another fine adventure for the djinni twins, she needs to be careful, because the subplots are becoming many and complicated - even Dybbuk makes an appearance - giving those characters short shrift. Fans of the series will still gobble it up and not be disappointed.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

Hershey Herself by Cecilia Galante - ESSENTIAL

Galante, Cecilia Hershey Herself, 330 p. Mix (Simon), 2008.

Violence - PG


Years earlier, Hershey was almost blinded when her mother's boyfriend shattered a glass on the wall behind her. Now Hershey has embarked upon a campaign to make Slade so mad that her mother will be willing to leave him for good - instead of running back to him like she did the last time. But, actions have consequences and Hershey will have decide if she can live with the consequences of her actions and of Slade's.

While the books in the Mix imprint look light, this particular novel covers some hard hitting life scenes - in an honest way, without resorting to in-your-face language or violence to get the point across. Yeah for Simon and Schuster for supporting this kind of writing.

Cindy - Library-Teacher.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney - ESSENTIAL

Delaney, Joseph, Wrath of the Bloodeye(The Last Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles, Book 5), 528 pgs. Greenwillow (Harper)

Language G, Sexual Content~G Violence~

"I've already drunk my fill of blood, so live a little longer. Breathe for a while and watch what's about to unfold."

Tom, Alice and the Spook, Mr. Gregory, have just returned to Chippendon after barely escaping the clutches of the Fiend. But they are not out of the woods yet. The Fiend who has broken free of the witches’ summoning spell is now free roaming the county looking for Tom. Mr. Gregory decides it will be best to send Tom away to spend six months with a former apprentice, now Spook, Bill Arkwright. Training with this new Spook doesn’t sit well with Tom, but he does learn much from him, especially about water demons. The Fiend tracks Tom down and sends his daughter Morwena, the bloodeye witch, to finish him off. Will Tom’s training do him any good or is all his work for naught.

Delany’s new novel in the Last Apprentice series is a perfect/horrific read for the Halloween season. This tale is the spookiest so far in this series of Dark against Light and the reader will eagerly await the next installment!

Allison Madsen~Youth Services Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Wings: A Fairy Tale by E.D. Baker - OPTIONAL

Baker, E.D., Wings: A Fairy Tale, 320 pgs. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books



Tamisin loves to dance. She has ever since she was a little girl. The compulsion to dance gets stronger as the moon waxes full and on the eve of a full moon, nothing can stop her. Her parents have even had to lock the door to keep Tamisin from dancing in her pjs in the moonlight. So, it should be no surprise that Tamisin auditions and makes the dance team at her school. But the compulsion to dance is not the only thing odd about Tamisin. She can see things . . . goblins and fairies and the goblins are after her. Tamisin soon learns that there is more to her past than she thought and that she has an essential role to play in the world of the Fey.

This story had such potential, but the author dropped the ball. After her wings grow in the conflict in the world of Fey and its resolution fall flat.

Allison Madsen~Youth Services Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Friday, October 10, 2008

Snow Falling in Spring by Moying Li - ESSENTIAL

Li, Moying Snow Falling in Spring, 164 p. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008.

Content - G


Moying was originally raised by her grandparents in a small neighborhood in Beijing. When she turned twelve, she was off to boarding school and her life at school and at home became embroiled in the events of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The Red Guard, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution all molded Moying's teenage years. And by the time she was 26, it was all over and Li was off to the US for a university education.

This memoir is the first that I have seen for the YA audience that addresses the events of the end of Chairman Mao's rule over China. It would be an excellent classroom novel for discussion and exploration, whether in Language Arts or in Geography, at the middle school level.

Cindy - Library-Teacher.

The Ghost Machine by E.L. Young - ESSENTIAL

Young, E.L. Storm: The Ghost Machine, 297 p. Dial (Penguin), 2008.

Content - G


Andrew, Will and Gaia are off for Italy - the canals of Venice, specifically - to help a young lady who is sure that a precious family heirloom was stolen by a ghost. The intrepid trio is plunged right into danger involving micro-bots, a cult, sharks and a menacing figure from their past.

Peril and action inhabit every page of this tightly written page-turner. This new breed of spy/detective novel for teens has enthralled me.

Cindy - Library-Teacher.

Party Games by Whitney Lyles - ADVISABLE

Lyles, Whitney Party Games, 284 p. Simon Pulse, 2008. 

Language: G (four swears). 


Sara loves being a party of her mother's party-planning business, usually. But Mom has fallen in love and now its up to Sara to plan the details of the glittering sweet sixteen bash of the most spoiled diva in town. Not only has a new cute boy caught Sara's eye, but diva Dakota also has her on Ian and wants Sara to include him in the birthday package. How far will Sara go to make her mother's business a success? 

The Romantic Comedies are a pretty cute series - not just mind-candy. 


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crocodile Safari by Jim Aronsky - ADVISABLE

Aronsky, Jim Crocodile Safari. Scholastic, March 2009.


Jim Arnosky and his wife took a trip to the Florida Everglades to research and film crocodiles for this book. Their adventures become the centerpiece for the facts about crocs in America; it adds that spice to what could have been just a traditional non-fiction book. The pages are packed with facts, and Arnosky's paintings complement the text with an earthy feeling.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

Be Mine by Sabrina James - ESSENTIAL

James, Sabrina Be Mine, 328 p. Point (Scholastic), January 2009.

Rating - G.


North Ridge High has decided to have a Valentine's Day contest - who is the most romantic couple in all NRHS? Mean Girl Claudia is sure that she and her Dumb Jock boyfriend Chase have the whole thing in the bag. Claudia's sidekicks, Eden and Natalie, however, are having not only boy problems, but are seriously questioning their loyalty to their "leader". Meanwhile, Jessica, Claudia's arch-enemy, has to produce a boyfriend out of thin air, because of an impetuous remark she made to Claudia. She picks the school heartbreaker as her prospective date; is it even possible to tame him long enough to be a pretend boyfriend?

Ms. James has written another hilarious, but oh-so-true, look at the foibles of high school relationships.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

FYI: I couldn't find a cover shot of this title. It is a great, very pink cover, perfect for Valentine's Day displays!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore - ESSENTIAL

Cashore, Kristin Graceling, 471 p. Harcourt, 2008.


Some people in Katsa's homeland have what's called a 'grace". Unfortunately, Katsa's grace is for killing; she has been trained since she was eight to be used as a weapon for her uncle, the king. As she has grown, however, she has, along with her cousin and some other trusted advisors, formed a secret Council to perform good deeds, also. On her mission to rescue an old man who was being held prisoner, Katsa meets a man with a gift that almost rivals her own. When they meet during the light of day, the two intrigue each other and they train together. Someone, however, is such a large threat that the pair must risk their lives to take out the ultimate enemy.

Graceling will impress older middle school and high school students, while it can easily crossover into the adult fantasy market.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

The Lab by Jack Heath - ADVISABLE

Heath, Jack The Lab, 352 p. Scholastic, November 2008.

Language - PG; Violence - PG


Agent Six of Hearts has been on many dangerous missions, escaping unscathed from impossible circumstances and as such, he is a very important part of the Deck, a secret organization dedicated to bringing down ChaosSonic, the group that has as stranglehold on everyone and everything on this island of civilization surrounded by a poisonous fog. No one can match Six's expertise on a mission, until one day, he meets his match in an enemy, or is he a friend - OR is he a brother?!

Danger and mystery abound in this action-packed thriller. The suspense is intense and even at the end you are left hanging with tension and ready for book number two.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

The Death of Jayson Porter by Jaime Adoff - NO

Adoff, Jaime The Death of Jayson Porter, 259 p. Hyperion, 2008.

Language - R (100+ swears, including 20+ "f's"); Sexual Content - PG-13; Violence - PG-13 (abuse).


Jayson Porter has a love-hate relationship with his mother and a love-hate relationship with life. Living in the projects is disheartening and enervating. His only outs are his best friend Trax and his scholarship to a local private school (paid for by a friend of his mom). Mom is either drunk or high and Jayson never knows if she is going to hug him or hit him. When Trax dies, Jayson is ready to give up too, especially when his estranged father drops a huge bombshell - a secret so devastating that Jayson is willing to launch himself over the railing of his building. This is not the end.

I have so little life experience with this aspect of life that I can't judge it on its realism. Its seems like the first part is very true to life for a young man in such a life, just barely able to hang on. My gripe is with the copious amounts of swears and the sexual content. This alone makes it inappropriate for every school that I can think of. 

Cindy - Library-Teacher

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar - ADVISABLE

Qamar, Amjed Beneath My Mother's Feet, 198 p. Atheneum (Simon), 2008.


Nazia loves her schooling and is looking forward to a better life than her parents and not the life of a girl married young and at her mother-in-law's mercy. Then her father is injured, her oldest brother disappears (after stealing Nazia's dowry) and Amma will do what she must to keep the family alive. Even if that means taking Nazia out of school to help her clean the houses of the rich in their Pakistani city. As their financial straits worsen, Nazia loses hope - hope in her father, hope in her brother and hope in her own future. She will have to be bold and direct in order to get what she wants so desperately for her life.

There have been many beautiful books written about life on the edge in East Asian countries and this one is not a disappointment. Try showing this one to a Geography teacher as a read aloud or part of a World Literature list.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

Philippa Fisher's Fairy Godsister by Liz Kessler - ADVISABLE

Kessler, Liz Philippa Fisher's Fairy Godsister, 256 p. Candlewick, 2008.


Philippa is devastated when her best friend moves away. Now she feels like a third wheel at school. Daisy is a fairy who needs a lesson on how to interact with humans. At the great age of 12, Philippa is too old to believe in fairies, but she really does need a little magic in her life. Daisy thinks that Philippa is too uncool to have any actual value. Together, the two must come to terms or Daisy's very life will be over, a failure.

Was that a happy coincidence in your life? Or was it a fairy at work? After you read this book, you may just be ready to believe.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

Maggie Bean Stays Afloat by Tricia Rayburn - ADVISABLE

Rayburn, Tricia Maggie Bean Stays Afloat, 316 p. Mix (Simon and Schuster), 2008.


Maggie has worked really hard at her Pound Patroller meetings and managed to shed forty pounds - the right way. Now Pound Patrollers is creating a program for kids based around Maggie and Arnie's success - and they want the kids to be an important part of it. To top it off, she has taken a job at a local day camp - as a an assistant in the water activities. The college aged kids who work there have no idea that Maggie used to be an overweight lump. Instead, one of the boys thinks that Maggie is pretty cute. Maggie is basking in popularity and acceptance - but it may just be too easy to forget those who have loved Maggie no matter what her size.

Rayburn keeps right on going with Maggie's story. Maggie may have lost the weight, but now she has to learn that though she may feel better, being thinner may not be the only problem. I like Maggie.

Cindy - Library-Teacher

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau - ESSENTIAL

DuPrau, Jeanne The Diamond of Darkhold, 285 p. Random House, 2008.


The refugees from Ember and the towns people of Sparks are just barely holding to life as they eke out an existence during the harsh winter following the Emberites (?) return to the surface. Lina finds the remnants of a book that seem to point to a gift that was left for the people of Ember. She and Doon are determined to follow the clues back to Ember and hopefully to something that can help them survive. Their exploration may also reveal valuable foodstuffs and supplies they left behind during the evacuation. In the fourth book in the series, DuPrau returns to the main action and back to the best part of the story. Skip number three and buy several copies of this one!

Cindy - Library-Teacher

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - ESSENTIAL

Doctorow, Cory Little Brother, 365 p. TOR, 2008.

Language: R (90+ swears, no "f"); Violence: PG-13; Sexual Content: PG-13.


San Franciscan Marcus and his friends have skipped school to get a jump on a clue-following game they play. Instead of having fun, however, they find themselves in the midst of a terrorist attack and then are swept up with hundreds of others by the local police. Marcus and his friends are treated harshly during detainment and are sworn to secrecy upon their release. Now however, the group decides to fight all of the new Department of Homeland Security restrictions using the Xnet to spread their goals. For every coup the group makes, the government pushes back, until Marcus decides its time to tell someone the truth of what happened on Treasure Island and get so help to expose the DHS tactics once and for all.

This book is absolutely fabulous. It's full of action, tension and really great computer work. Sometimes the information was a bit over my head and sometimes the author went a little far back to explain something in the narrative, but none of that stopped me from having a great time reading. Doctorow addresses the issue of national security vs personal freedom in a no-holds-barred, in-your-face story that needs to be read by everyone you know right now. Someone get this guy on The Daily Show right now!

Cindy: Library-Teacher.

Night of the Moon by Hena Khan - ADVISABLE

Khan, Hena Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Chronicle Books, 2008.


Yasmeen, a Pakastani-American girl, is too young to fast during Ramadan herself, but that doesn't stop her from sharing the holiday with her school friends and participating in her family's celebration.

The bright illustrations are a perfect compliment to the text in this picture book. While Yasmeen is a little girl, she still gives a good look at this Muslim holy month. Even high school geography teachers could read this to their students as a quick ways to explain how Ramadan works.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

What the World Eats by Faith D'Aluisio - ESSENTIAL

D'Aluisio, Faith What the World Eats, photographed by Peter Menzel, 160 p. Tricycle Press, 2008.


From the creators of Material World and Hungry Planet comes this knockout book about what25 families around the world grow, make and buy to feed themselves for a week. Each family is photographed with all of the makings for their weekly meals. Full of details about nutrition and lifestyle without ever being boring. This book is utterly fascinating and I really want posters of all of the family portraits and the ingredient lists for a fabulous display! I hope that Tricycle comes up with some related materials for this must-have title!

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Madam President by Lane Smith - ESSENTIAL

Smith, Lane Madam President. Hyperion, 2008. PICTURE BOOK.


A little girl looks at her day as if she were the President of the USA.

While the premise is pretty basic, Lane Smith makes it into a treat that can not be enjoyed with words alone. Each page is visual delight that needs to be thoroughly explored. And it really puts the President's job into perspective, while giving it that Lane Smith twist.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke - ESSENTIAL

Funke, Cornelia Inkdeath, 704pgs. Scholastic, 2008.

Language: PG-13, Sexual Content: G, Violence: PG


A bookbinder or the Bluejay? Mo has taken on the role of the Bluejay; defending the people and battling by the Black Prince. The Adderhead was made immortal by the Bluejay, yet his health is failing him. Blaming the Bluejay, he sets a price on his head. He wants the Whitebook to be restored by the Bluejay. While the Adderhead's health was declining, so was the book's. Will the Bluejay chirp his last chirp or will the Adderhead finally die?

An exciting conclusion to the Inkheart trilogy! If you loved the first two books, you can't miss this one! Brilliant and perfect for the last book!

Student Reviewer: CW

Charlie Bone and the Shadow by Jenny Nimmo - ESSENTIAL

Nimmo, Jenny Charlie Bone and the Shadow, 464pgs. Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2008.

Language: G, Sexual Content: G, Violence: PG


Count Harken will stop at nothing to get Charlie Bone for what he did to him. One day, Charlie's grandmother brings home a mysterious painting. Having his endowment, he was tempted to just have one look at the painting. One look and that was all it took to drag him into a land he didn't want to be in.

This in one of my favorite series. If you read Harry Potter, you should read these books. I love Nimmo's books. They mystify you and make you tense until you realise it is the end. I can't wait for the next book! Seventh in the series.

Student Reviewer: CW