Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Galileo’s Leaning Tower Experiment by Wendy MacDonald - ADVISABLE

Macdonald, Wendy Galileo’s Leaning Tower Experiment, illustrated by Paolo Rui. Charlesbridge, 2009. $8 PICTURE BOOK.


A young boy who is dropping his uncle’s lunch to him from a bridge, catches Galileo’s attention and leads the two to experiment. Based on a legend (never documented) of Galileo throwing things from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in order to disprove Aristotle’s teachings about falling objects.

Share this one with your science teachers, but be careful – if you read this one to your students, they will probably start dropping all manner of things from all manner of heights!

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela by Bill Keller - ADVISABLE

Keller, Bill Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela, 128 p. NON-FICTION. Kingfisher, 2008.

Black and white and full-color photos and ever-changing colored watermarks highlight the life of Nelson Mandela in this visually stunning work of non-fiction. The basic biography lasts only 90 pages, but several articles from the New York Times, many of them by the book’s author, add some important source material to the book. Student’s looking for a Mandela biography will enjoy this one.

MS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library-Teacher.

City of Time by Eoin McNamee - OPTIONAL

McNamee, Eoin City of Time, 336 p. Wendy Lamb Books, 2008

Language: G; Sexual Content: G; Violence: PG.


Owen and his friends, Cati and the Professor, make an astonishing journey to Hadima, a desperate move in order to save their planet from totally being destroyed from lack of time. On this journey Owen begins to understand his great responsibility as the Navigator.

This was an OK book. It had a very interesting storyline, and interesting characters, but the book just wasn't that fun to read. It held out scenes and jumped through others so fast, it didn't flow smoothly, which made it difficult to read.

Student Reviewer: KH

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Season of Eden by J. M. Warwick

Warwick, J.M. A Season of Eden 248pgs. Grove Creek Publishing

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


“He's my teacher. I shouldn't be alone with him. But I can't help that he's irresistible.” taken from ARC’s back cover. Eden is looking forward to her last semester in high school and takes Chorus for an easy ‘A.’ What she didn’t expect was a new teacher, Mr. Christian, who was not much older than her and h-o-t! Eden falls fast and hard and knows she shouldn’t but can’t resist. Living in a ‘palace,’as she calls her multi-million dollar home, life is not so good. Her father and step-mom have all but ignored her since they got married. She lost her mother to cancer and not 2 months later she had a new young step-mom. Now 10 years later her father’s marriage is on the rocks and Eden just wants to ignore the whole thing. Meanwhile at school it is obvious that Mr. Christian is in to her and they begin to meet at a Starbucks away from school. Will they ever be able to be together in public?

Warwick has given readers a semi-believable novel about what can happen when a young teacher let’s down his guard and a senior goes after what she wants. Surprisingly, I only counted 1 swear an ‘h.’ There is heavy petting and lots of passionate kissing, but no sex. The relationship of teacher/student is disturbing and the story is mediocre and since the senior is 18, legally they have done nothing wrong. I would save this for public libraries.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Library

First Stop, New York by Tracey West and Katherine Knoll - NO

West, Tracy and Katherine Knoll First Stop New York 144 pgs. Grosset and Dunlap

EL, MS – NO 

There are no ratings for this book, because I couldn’t get past the first ten pages without being absolutely turned off by how poorly written this book is. I highly doubt there are any swears or even hints at sexual anything. I was insulted at the pedantic and relatively stupid dialog. The writing is so ‘lame’ no teen would stick with it beyond page 1. Needless to say, I didn’t read the book in its entirety. I skimmed it and seeing that it didn’t get any better, I tossed it. I wouldn’t waste my time or money on this series.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Library

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Certain Strain of Peculiar by Gigi Amateau - NO

Amateau, Gigi A Certain Strain of Peculiar, 261 p. Candlewick, 2009. $17

Sexual Content: R, Language: PG.


Mary Harold Woods is only 13 years old, but she is fed up with life in her Virginia town, being ostracized and criticized by everyone in the whole school, and sick of her mother’s resistance to moving back to their hometown. So, she takes matters into her own hands and drives herself to Alabama. There she hopes to find herself, and maybe a friend and a place.

Mary Harold is okay and I mostly enjoyed her story, BUT – there is one scene that, were this a movie, would make this rated “R”, easily. It’s kind of similar in thought to Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, but much more descriptive. I wasn’t charmed enough to ignore that. And doesn't it bug you when the cover of a book, especially a characterization of the protagonist doesn't match the author's description?

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Story of Samson by Kathleen Duble - OPTIONAL

Duble, Kathleen Benner The Story of Samson, illustrated by Alexander Farquharson. NON-FICTION. Charlesbridge, 2008. $8. PICTURE BOOK


From its creation in 1885 and on through its destruction in 1953, the sailing ship Samson lead a varied and wild life of rescue, exploration and exhibition. The most disputed part of the Samson’s tale is that it might have seen the sinking of the Titanic, but did nothing to help. Told through the reminiscing of an old man as he retells the various pieces of the story to his grandson.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I am a little stumped on how it should be used, or what audience it would appeal to. Any suggestions?

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Elvis and Olive by Stephanie Watson - OPTIONAL

Watson, Stephanie Elvis and Olive, 224 p. Scholastic, 2008

Content: G


Natalie Wallis's summer is turned into an adventure one day when she meets the new girl in her neighborhood named Annie. Soon they decide to spy on their neighbors using secret code names, Elvis and Olive. But are some things better kept secret?

This book was OK. I prefer more of a thrilling adventure and this really wasn't very captivating to read in the slightest. The story was good and the characters were well formed, but the ending was a little rushed.

Student Reviewer: KH

March Toward the Thunder by Joseph Bruchac - ESSENTIAL

Bruchac, Joseph March Toward the Thunder, 298 p. Penguin, 2008

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


Louis Nolette is an Abenaki Indian from Canada. When he joins the army for the final years of the Civil War, he learns that war is never what you expect. He also discovers prejudice, acceptance, courage, and cowardice in the most surprising places.

I really liked this book. I've never really been into historical fiction, but this book was really interesting and kept me entertained to the very end. It was very well written and a good viewpoint into what war was like in those times.

Student Reviewer: KH

Attack of the Growling Eyeballs by Lin Oliver - ADVISABLE

Oliver, Lin Attack of the Growling Eyeballs (Who Shrunk Daniel Funk, book 1), 146 p. Simon, 2008.

Content: G (some body humor).


First he’s eating goulash and then he’s no bigger than a toe. Then Daniel finds out that he has a tiny twin brother who his grandmother has kept hidden all these years. The twins set out to create some more-than-pint-sized mischief. If Daniel can work out the goulash mystery, then maybe he could go back and forth between normal-sized kid and Paulo-sized playmate whenever he liked.

The Hank Zipzer crowd has another friend to enjoy. Daniel and Paulo are lots of fun!

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman - OPTIONAL

Friedman, Aimee Sea Change, 304 p. Scholastic, June 2009. $17

Content – G (one sexual innuendo)


Miranda and her mother are headed off to Selkie Island for the summer to cloean up the family summer home and sell it off. Miranda has never been to Selkie, had never met her grandmother, and Mom hasn’t returned since high school. Miranda meets an intriguing local boy, but there are secrets hidden on Selkie Island and they aren’t all just family secrets.

The only thing I don’t like about this book is the cover – it looks hot, sexy and romantic, but the romance is probably the least of the parts of this story. Plus I can’t tell which is the girl and which is the boy (too much makeup!). This would be a better buy if it were coming out in paper.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle by Alison Inches - ADVISABLE

Inches, Alison The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle, illustrated by Pete Whitehead. Little Simon, 2009. $4 NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK


Join a thick ooze of crude oil as it journeys through life as plastic, into bottles, and recycled back into the system.

The information in the book is very good and aimed right at the younger students. They will enjoy the fun, upbeat graphics and easily follow the bottle’s path.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Take the Reins by Jessica Burkehart - NO

Burkehart, Jessica Take the Reins, 249 p. Aladdin Mix

 Language R (says “G” way too many times), Sexual Content G, Violence G


Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, have been accepted into the elite Canterwood Crest Academy. When they first arrive things start off disastrous! Canterwood is so big and spacious she is at first overwhelmed. On her first day she loses her horse, and causes trouble with her trainer and another girl in her grade. She makes an enemy on her first day. After she settles in, however, she begins school and makes some friends. She also meets this hot new guy named Jacob and makes some girls jealous.

This book was a pretty good book overall. I liked how it involved horse competition as well as normal everyday life. The only thing I did not like about it was how much it swore. It was hard to enjoy while trying to overlook all the swearing. Interest Level:

Student Reviewer: AR

Marvels in the Muck by Doug Wechsler - ADVISABLE

Wechsler, Doug Marvels in the Muck: Life in the Salt Marshes, 46 p. Boyds Mill Press, 2008. $17.95. NON-FICTION.


Explore the flora and fauna of the salt marshes in this non-fiction title. Beautiful photographs on each page accompany detailed in formation on life cycles, food webs, and the interdependence of the species of the marsh. A classroom teacher could pick out certain pictures and pages to share with their students, but also any student doing biome research will find exactly what they need for their reports.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi - ADVISABLE

Uehashi, Nahoko Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, 272 p. Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2009.


When Balsa was just six, she had to flee for her life with the help of her father’s friend, Jiguro. He protected her from the wrath of eight assassins and trained her in the fighting arts. Now, Jiguro is dead and Balsa feels the need to return to her homeland and meet his family and seek out what might be left of her own family. But though the evil king has died, Balsa does not know that danger and possibly death awaits her on the other side of the mountains.

What a very different story from the first in the Moribito series – and what a great one! Balsa is a fabulous fighter, but a also a great human being; her homeland is well-fleshed with mythos and culture and exciting people to meet. I know that my students enjoy Hoobler’s Asiatic books, so I think they will enjoy these also.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Independence Hall by Roland Smith - ESSENTIAL

Smith, Roland I, Q: Book One: Independence Hall, 293 p. Sleeping Bear Press, 2008. $9

Content: G


On the day of their parents’ wedding, Angela and Q are forced to help each other find their way through the treacherous path of step-sibling-dom. But more dangerous paths await the pair, because Angela’s real mother was a Secret Service agent, killed in the line of duty – or so everyone thought. It’s much more complicated than that! It involves international espionage, an unknown twin sister and a private firm of bodyguards who are willing to die in order to keep Angela from being kidnapped!

WOW! What a rollercoaster ride! Perfect for all of those students who are digging fast-paced detective novels right now.

 Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Mama Says by Rob D. Walker - ESSENTIAL

Walker, Rob D. Mama Says: A Book of Love for Mothers and Sons, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Scholastic, 2009. $17 PICTURE BOOK


Mothers from all around the world give their sons advise as they make their way into adulthood. Every beautiful illustration in this book is accompanied by text in English and text in language of that country.

This would be a fabulous book for the beginning of the year in any geography class to talk about cultural clues and identity. I showed this to one of my teachers and she went and bought her own copy that night. Oh, and it’s a great book for a mother to give to a son or vice versa.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Backtracked by Pedro De Alcantara - OPTIONAL

De Alcantara, Pedro Backtracked, 249 p. Delacorte (Random), 2009. $16

Language: PG; Violence: PG.


The World thinks that Tommy’s older brother Jimmy was perfect, especially since he was killed Turing the 9/11 attacks. Tommy copes by rebelling and spread his graffiti all over New York City, but an especially dangerous prank turns deadly and Tommy finds himself thrown back through time – first to 1918, working in the original subway tunnels; then to 1932 and the midst of Prohibition; and finally to 1942 where he gets caught up in World War II. Aong the way, Tommy learns a lot about himself and what making good choices in life actually means. But will he ever return intact to his former life so that he can put this change of heart to use?

There is no lack of action and tension in De Alcantara’s book, but I am afraid that this one will need help to find its audience.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb - OPTIONAL

Whitcomb, Laura The Fetch, 379 p. Houghton Mifflin, 2009. $17.


For centuries, Calder has existed as a Fetch, a spirit who appears to someone who is dying and escorts them through a Door, down the Hall and on to their afterlife. But twice now, Calder has seen a beautiful girl/woman and is certain that they are meant to be together. So, he defies all Fetch wisdom and commonsense in pursuit of a woman who is not what she seems to be. Now he is stuck in the body of Rasputin, his love is the now dead Queen Alexandra and Calder must cross the world with two of Alexandra’s children in tow in order to find his Key and his Door in order to escort the two to their destiny.

Should I mention that Rasputin is causing (or preventing) a rebellion in the Land of Lost Souls? Students who know something about the Russian Revolution and about Rasputin will understand this book much more than those who happen upon this. While this is aimed towards the YA audience, I think adults will enjoy it much more than teens.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Bell’s Star by Alison Hart - ADVISABLE

Hart, Alison Bell’s Star (Horse Diaries), 144 p. (including appendix). Random, 2009. $6

Content: G


Bell’s Star is a beautiful Morgan Horse, bred to work hard, but longing to run free with his beloved human Katie. Then one day Kate and Bell rescue a runaway slave girl and Bell and Kate must out themselves in danger to save her from the slave catchers. These books are very cute, have good back information on the specific horse breed in the book and horse-crazy little girls, who aren’t quite ready for Black Beauty, will love them.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - OPTIONAL

Grahame, Kenneth The Wind in the Willows, illustrated by Inga Moore, 182 p. Candlewick, 2003, 2009. $13


Inga Moore’s abridgement of Grahame’s classic work is now out in paperback. The illustrations have lost none of their charm (Toad in a dress is adorable). The only thing I don’t like is that it an abridgement – less than half of the original text – so best suited for younger readers.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

On Rough Seas by Nancy L. Hull - ADVISABLE

Hull, Nancy L. On Rough Seas, 261 p. Clarion, 2008.


In 1940’s England, Alec is determined to make something of himself and sneaks aboard a boat going that is heads across the English Channel. Unfortunately, that boat is part of the rescue effort at Dunkirk, during one of the many dangerous missions during WWII.

If I had judged this book by the cover, I would have never picked it up. I hope that the paperback version is much more exciting to go along with a valuable historical fiction novel.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan - ADVISABLE

Tan, Shaun Tales from Outer Suburbia, 96 pgs. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008

Language – PG. Sexual Content – G. Violence – G


This collection of 15 short stories – some very short, only a paragraph or two long – are combined with illustrations that relate stories about events and characters in a most unusual suburb. There is a water buffalo that offers directions, stick figures whose presence confuses the other residents, an amnesia machine, and a missile in every back yard. Brothers travel to the end of the map; a family takes in a foreign exchange student; grandpa relates the events of his wedding day.

From curious to thought-provoking, these stories offer interesting reads. Useful to discuss relationship between text and images, or to practice predictions.

Reviewer: P.K. Foster, MS teacher-librarian.

Here’s How I see It; Here’s How It Is by Heather Henson - OPTIONAL

Henson, Heather Here’s How I see It; Here’s How It Is, 264 p. Atheneum (Simon), 2009. $17


Something is wrong with Junebug’s summer – her mom has moved across the property and Dad is running their summer stock theater by himself. To add insult to injury, a gorgeous actress from New York seems to be taking up her dad’s attention and a strange young man, who June nicknames Thespis, seems to want to take over her place in the company.

Turning 13 is hard enough without all of this other turmoil. Each short chapter starts with June’s observation on how she wishes the world would be and then goes on to explain what is really happening. I have a feeling that adults will be charmed by the format and characters – and I think most students will give it a pass.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

The Diamonds by Ted Michael - OPTIONAL

Michael, Ted The Diamonds, 342 p. Delacorte (Random), 2009. $9

Language: PG-13. Sexual Content: PG, some alcohol content.


For three years, Marni has been a proud member of the Diamonds, the rulers of Bennington School since their freshman year. This year Clarissa, the leader of the Diamonds, has decided to cement their supremacy by taking over the school’s mock trial group and turn the whole process as a way to humiliate their enemies – or anyone else they feel like taking down. And after helping create this system of oppression, Marni has set herself up as a target by dating Clarissa’s ex behind her back. Now that she is no longer a Diamond, will Marni be able to create a life for herself? Or is revenge on the horizon?

I was more entertained by this book than I thought I would be; I am, for the record, not a supporter of “Mean Girl” books as a rule, nor books about spoiled rich girls who get everything that they want. SO, while this is not a fine piece of literature, it was a good read, with a tip of the hat to the American Revolution in the process.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry - ESSENTIAL

Berry, Julie The Amaranth Enchantment, 306 p. Bloomsbury, 2009. $17

Content: G


Lucinda has been a virtual slave in her uncle and aunt’s jewelry shop since the night her parents left for a grand ball and never returned. Then one day a suspected witch with a wondrous gem walks into the shop and nothing will ever be the same again. Soon thereafter, a handsome young man appears and so do a sneaky thief and a goat named Dog. When the jewel disappears, Lucinda must make amends and put herself in danger in order to solve much more than a simple theft. Berry’s writing flows so smoothly that I was surprised to find myself at the end of the book; and I was surprised to find that she is a first time author.

The book may feel like a light fairy tale or fantasy, but when the twists appear, and they will startle you when they do, they fit perfectly with what you should have been paying better attention to! I hope Berry has more ideas in her head, because she should become major competition for Shannon Hale!

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson - OPTIONAL

Ibbotson, Eva The Reluctant Heiress, 325 p. Speak (Penguin), 2009, 1982. $10

Content: G


Guy was a rough and tumble youngster who grew up challenging and protecting everything around him with equal fierceness. Now, at the end of WWI, he has a made a fortune and the woman of his dreams, for the last ten years, is a widow and ready to accept his hand in marriage. As a wedding present he has bought her a castle near Vienna and brought in a theater company to perform for all of their guests. What he doesn’t know, however, is that the castle’s princess, now impoverished, is working for the company, and she is the one who is destined to be his love.

In the 1980’s, Ibbotson wrote several romance novels basically variations on the same theme – impoverished royal girls who are in dire circumstances who will fall in love and be rescued and restored to their former glory. The books and easy on the eyes and while romantic, do not contain the trashy romance that is usually associated with the genre. At $10 each, they are a good way to satisfy the romance lovers in your crowd.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Things Change by Patrick Jones - ADVISABLE

Jones, Patrick Things Change, 216 p. Walker, 2004 (new in paperback), $7.95.

Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13


Johanna was a perfect, straight-A student, but happy-go-lucky, charming Paul has caught her attention and she is willing to overlook a wide variety of faults in order to be within his circle. Even the fact that he is dominating, controlling and abusing her. Joanna’s wakeup call may come too late- she will have to face facts and reach out to get the help she needs to break the cycle.

This book is so powerful and so moving that I totally champion its place within the shelves of high school libraries. Your copies will probably be stolen – so be ready to replace them as needed.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson by Deborah Hopkinson - ADVISABLE

Hopkinson, Deborah Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. Peachtree, 2009. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK.


This very dense picture book contains a wealth of information about Matthew Henson and his trip with Robert Peary to find the North Pole – first. Whether for Black History Month or for a unit on Scientists and Explorers. This is not a book that could be read in one day – instead using only parts of it would be best in a classroom situation.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Silksinger by Laini Taylor - ESSENTIAL

Taylor, Laini Dreamdark: Silksinger, 441. Putnam (Penguin), September 2009. $19

Content: G


Whisper Silksinger is the last of her clan and has been charged to protect their most precious burden – the ember containing Azazel, one of the most important creatures in the world. Hirik, however is a Mothmage – the clan most despised by all the faeries, for allowing the destruction of an entire city; he is determined to tell the true story behind the treachery and restore his clan’s honor. They will need to join forces with Magpie Windwitch and her friends in order to fulfill both their goals and learn to trust each other. Blackbringer (#1) was great and Silksinger lives up to the challenge spectacularly.

Point this series at your fantasy readers and prepare for an onslaught!

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Dinosaur by Stephanie Stansbie - ESSENTIAL

Stansbie, Stephanie Dinosaur, 40 p. Little, Brown, 2008. MOVABLE BOOK.


You really need to get your hands on this book! Stansbie has distilled the new information about dinosaurs and added amazing graphics and all kinds of flappable flaps and foldout pages that will fascinate anyone who picks it up. If you have dinosaur books that are older than three years, its time to replace them – the whole realm of dinosaur classification has changed and this book contains a wealth of facts, figures and pictures. Yes, you may lose a few of the removable pieces, but what is left is still well worth having. And any dinosaur crazy child would love this as the perfect gift.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Robert Smalls: The Boat Thief by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - OPTIONAL

Kennedy, Robert F. Jr. Robert Smalls: The Boat Thief, illustrated by Patrick Faricy. PICTURE BOOK. Hyperion, 2008. $17. NON-FICTION.


In 1862, a small group of slaves stole the fastest gunship in the Confederate arsenal and made an audacious escape to freedom. Robert Smalls, the mastermind, went on to captaincy in the Federal Navy and remained an activist all his life. Though this may look like a picture book, there is a huge amount of content on every page and not as many pictures as you would expect.

This would be daunting for young student to read for enjoyment. But, that means it has a wealth of information for older students who might be writing a report. Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang & Derek Kirk Kim - ADVISABLE

Yang, Gene Luen and Derek Kirk Kim Eternal Smile 176 pgs. First Second

Language~G; Sexual Content~PG Violence~PG


In three entirely different stories, Yang has presented another masterpiece that will cause readers to pause and think. The first tale is of a young boy who is battling demons on the inside. The story shows his struggles through dreams. The second tale is of a character absorbed by the need to obtain wealth. It is odd and yet poignant. The third tale is of a young woman disappointed by her life and its outlook. All three stories center on the need to look outside of oneself and see the bigger picture. These stories are a quick read and would make excellent classroom discussions.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Library

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yes, I Know the Monkey Man by Dori Hillestad Butler - ADVISABLE

Butler, Dori Hillestad Yes, I Know the Monkey Man, 196 p. Peachtree, 2009. $16.95.

Content: G


First Sam discovers that the twin sister she never knew she had (and that everyone else thought had drowned) is alive. Now Sara – who goes by the name T.J. - is supposed to be coming for their mother’s wedding. But T.J. doesn’t want to leave her luckless father, nor her sickly grandmother and resists the idea all together. When she gets pushed into going, however, T.J. starts unraveling the carefully constructed house of lies and self-deceptions that she and her father have built around themselves all these years.

I like this sequel even better than I liked “Whatever Happened to Janie” all those years ago. The strange title makes this one a little harder to sell, but the readers I have talked to were excited to find out there was a sequel.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Lucy Long Ago by Catherine Thimmesh - ADVISABLE

Thimmesh, Catherine Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From. NON-FICTION. Houghton Mifflin, 2009. 61 p.


Through photographs, diagrams and charts, Thimmesh coalesces the discovery, research and discussion about Lucy into a coherent whole. Though the book is short, the information is detailed enough for a well-written research presentation by any level of student. There is actually too much here for most elementary students, but older students and Science teachers at higher levels should read this text.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap - ADVISABLE

Dunlap, Susanne The Musician’s Daughter, 317 p. Bloomsbury, 2009. $17


It’s Christmas Eve and Theresa, 15, finds out that her father has been murdered and his violin is missing. In 18th century Vienna, life if difficult for those without wealth or connections. Luckily, Theresa’s godfather and her father’s former employer, Franz Joseph Haydn, is concerned for the family and helps Theresa and she puts her own life in jeopardy in order investigate the murder, even if means disobeying her mother and exposing the treachery of someone important to the family.

This is not technically historical fiction, as it does not explain a moment from history. Instead, Ms. Dunlap uses history to create a charming setting for a murder mystery. Theresa makes many new friends along her way – and even finds time for love.. But she is no pushover – she doesn’t need love in order to win the day.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger - OPTIONAL

Meminger, Neesha Shine, Coconut Moon, 253 p. McElderry (Simon), 2009. $17

Violence: PG; Language: PG. Sexual Content: PG.


Samar may be Indian, but her mother has raised her alone and always taught her to blend in. Then, four days after the events of 9/11, Sam’s turbaned uncle shows up on their doorstep, setting Sam on a rocky path of introspection and self-discovery. How is it that one day everything can feel perfect and then the next day you look around and it seems like it was all a lie? Samar is no longer sure about the loyalty of her best friend, she no longer trusts her mother and she doesn’t feel so sure about her boyfriend either.

This author’s first novel clunks occasionally with situations or dialogue that don’t ring true and it does have a weird side story of Sam and her best friend collecting trashy lingerie in anticipation of their eventual “first time”. But the feelings and sentiments surrounding the aftermath of 9/11 are spot on.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Elska by Catherine Hapka - OPTIONAL

Hapka, Catherine Elska (Horse Diaries), 113 p. (including appendix). Random House, 2009. $6

Content: G


Elska is a Icelandic filly, gorgeous with her silver dappled coat, very frisky and devoted to the girl human Amma. But, a powerful neighbor takes notices of Elska and she must go with him. Not understanding, Elska does her best to return to her first friend.

Horse crazy little girls will adore this young readers series that anthropomorphizes horses’ thoughts and actions.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Miss Match by Wendy Toliver - ADVISABLE

Toliver, Wendy Miss Match, 275 p. Simon Pulse, 2009. Content: G. $7


Sasha Finnegan has a talent for helping people catch the eye of a secret interest, so much so that she has started herself a little business. Then a Hot New Guy, Derek, comes to school and he wants Sasha to set him up with her hot older sister Maddie. Sasha’s not sure about this one, because she thinks that Derek may be perfect for herself, instead. Can’t she just be greedy this one time?

I love the Romantic Comedies series from Simon and Schuster. This one is s perfect fit with the rest.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Meltdown by Andy McNab - ESSENTIAL

McNab, Andy and Robert Rigby Meltdown, 248 p. Penguin, 2007

Language: PG-13; Sexual Content: G; Violence: PG-13.


Danny and his grandfather are back to working in the field again. Only, now the missions are getting even more dangerous. They are now trying to stop a deadly illegal drug called "meltdown" from being produced by two rich brothers with too much time on their hands. Will they fail if the only ones they can really trust are each other? This book was very good! I've really been into action books and movies lately, and this was a very good one. There was lots of suspense and lots of twists and turns. It was a very interesting book and fun to read.

Student Reviewer: KH

Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson - ADVISABLE

Wilson, N.D. Dandelion Fire, 466 p. Random House, 2009. $17

Content: G


All seems to be back to normal on Henry’s uncle’s farm until the day that Henry is struck by lightning (or is he?) and loses his sight. Blind, he is kidnapped and taken through the cupboards. His family decides to follow them in, along with a couple of neighbors stuck with them in some sort of alternate Kansas. Adventures ensue until all are reunited.

I actually liked this one better than the first – the picture of the cupboards and the various universes become somewhat clearer and Henry becomes a stronger character. I am so VERY glad that his cousin Henrietta gets a good figurative spanking, because she was way too smug in her supposed cleverness for my taste.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Dracula Madness by Mary Labatt - ESSENTIAL

Labatt, Mary Dracula Madness, 95 pgs. CHAPTER BOOK. Kids Can Press Ltd., 2009.



Sam has just met a new friend named Jennie. It turns out that she can "hear" her thoughts. Together, they get wound up in a mystery about a man in a haunted house that they assume to be Dracula. Is he really Dracula though? And what is going on in that "haunted" mansion? I liked this book. I enjoyed all of the pictures in it (of course, it is a comic!). I also enjoyed the mystery of it. I would highly recommend it.

Student Reviewer: MB

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes - ADVISABLE

Hughes, Langston The Negro Speaks of Rivers, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Jump at the Sun (Disney), 2009. PICTURE BOOK.


Langston Hughes wrote his poem exploring the collective soul of all Negroes during the Harlem Renaissance. Now E.B. Lewis adds evocative pictures to the simple words.

Any class that touches on the Black Experience could easily use this book as a jump start for a lively discussion. Actually, I find it too mature for elementary students – instead it rightfully belongs in middle schools, high schools and colleges.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Chancey of the Maury River by Gigi Amateau - ESSENTIAL

Amateau, Gigi Chancey of the Maury River, 246 p. Candlewick, 2008.

Content: G


When Chauncey is left abandoned in a field, he is sold to a lady in the Blue Mountains by the Maury River. He helps to heal a girl whose parents are goig through a divorce. In turn, she helps him overcome his rough past and they learn how to let love into their lives again.

I really enjoyed this book. It was easy to get into and had some really good morals. It’s a book I would call “good and clean”.

Student Reviewer: AR

The Devil on Trial by Phillip Margulies - ESSENTIAL

Margulies, Phillip and Maxine Rosaler The Devil on Trial: Witches, Anarchists, Communists and Terrorists in America’s Courtrooms, 201 p. Houghton Mifflin, 2008. NON-FICTION. $22.


Five famous trials are explored in this look at the path of justice role of courts in American history. The Salem’s witches, the Haymarket bombing, evolution in schools, Alger Hiss and one of the 9/11 conspirator. Each of these trials seized the attention of the people of that day and most of them are still discussed in classrooms all over America.

This would be a perfect book for a teacher to do background research, an American government class, or civics.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Jackson and Bud’s Bumpy Ride by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff - ADVISABLE

Koehler-Pentacoff, Elizabeth Jackson and Bud’s Bumpy Ride: America’s First Cross-Country Automobile Trip, illustrated by Wes Hargis. Millbrook Press (Lerner), 2009. $17. PICTURE BOOK.


The automobile was still pretty new – well out-numbered by horse-drawn conveyances – when Horatio Jackson, his mechanic and their acquired stray dog Bud, work their way across the USA from West to East, all for a $50 bet that Jackson never collected. With only 150 miles of paved road in the entire country, no such things as road maps and with the help of a few friendly horses, the trio drove their way in to the history books.

Kids are used to cars today that this is a great way for them to get a look at the auto in the 1900’s. It’s extremely cute.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sword of Waters by Hilari Bell - ESSENTIAL

Bell, Hilari Sword of Waters (The Shield, Sword, and Crown #2), 363 pgs. Simon and Schuster

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


The Falcon has just recovered the shield and is now lord commander of the army. Arisa, the Falcon’s daughter, is thrown into palace life. Usually every girl loves to be pampered; not this girl. Her life before was one of a bandit’s. How could her mother change from leader of bandits to lord commander of the army? Arisa could hardly believe it herself. Now Arisa is put in charge of finding the sword that goes with the legendary shield. But, that is not her only mission. She has to get to know Prince Eldoran, who she thinks is obnoxious, and figure out what is really going on with the conspirators around the kingdom. Can Arisa do it all?

This book was a great thrill throughout the entire book! IT was juicy with mystery and had a ton of twists and turns. What happened towards the end surprised me so much; the author really made it suspenseful. A great trilogy for anyone who likes a little treachery. The first book is Shield of Stars.

Student Reviewer: CW

One Beetle Too Many by Kathryn Lasky - ADVISABLE

Lasky, Kathryn One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin, illustrated by Matthew Trueman. Candlewick, 2009. PICTURE BOOK. $18


Fun, quirky illustrations complement the text in this short bio on Charles Darwin. While pictures would be fun to show to a class, any teacher would want to choose which text to read, as there is more detail than you might expect. If I were still in elementary, this is the kind of bio that I would want to read.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

North of Beautiful by Justina Headley - ESSENTIAL

Headley, Justina Chen North of Beautiful, 373 p. Little, Brown, 2009. $16.99.

Content: G


Everyone thinks that Terra is beautiful, until they see the large port wine stain on her face, then the odd glances and whispering begins. Her father’s verbal abuse towards Terra and her mother is almost unbearable, and her brothers rarely come home because of it. Then Terra meets a Goth boy who challenges her very ieas about herself, her family and everyone around her. Mom and Terra take a bold step and join the boy, Jacob, and his mother for a once in a lifetime trip to China – mapping out a whole new future for everyone.

Fans of Sarah Dessen will eat this book up. Girls will choose it just by its cover and then want more. Personally, I love that Headley makes her point without resorting to gratuitous language or sexual content.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford - ESSENTIAL

Bradford, Chris The Way of the Warrior (Young Samurai #1), 353 p. Hyperion, 2009. $16.99.

Violence: PG


First a young boy is murdered in his bed by an evil ninja to make his father tow the line. Now, a young English boy, Jack, on a journey to Japan with his father, is the only survivor when a horde of pirates attacks their boat, kills almost everyone on board and then sets the ship on fire. The father of the murdered boy rescues Jack and adopts him into his household and finds in Jack the makings of a samurai, even if it causes his remaining son extreme jealousy. But, Dragon Eye, the ninja mastermind, wants something that Jack has and will stop at nothing to get it. The book is based in Japan of the 1600’s, before most white peoples knew of its existence.

I was sucked in from the first scene and remained enthralled to the end. It’s a perfect companion to the Moribitu series or Hoobler’s novels.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce - ESSENTIAL

Pierce, Tamora Bloodhound (Beka Cooper #2), 534 p. Random House, 2009. $19

Violence: PG


Beka Copper has survived her puppy days and graduated to Dog. But, there are Dogs and then there are DOGS and Beka wants to be one of the good, or great, ones, so she is having a hard time finding a partner she can respect. Now she is back partnering with Tunstall and Goodwin – just in time for Tunstall to beak both his legs in a bread riot. Goodwin and Beka must go to the town of Port Caynn, masquerading as bad Dogs, in order to flush out the source of fake money that threatens to ruin the economy of all Tortall. There is some bad business afoot and Beka will need all of her resources – her magic talents, her new bloodhound and her pigeon friends to escape this assignment alive.

There are 16 books now in the Tortall universe and I think they just keep getting better.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.