Friday, September 30, 2011

The Back Door of Midnight by Elizabeth Chandler - ADVISABLE

Chandler, Elizabeth. The Back Door of Midnight, 299 pgs. Simon Pulse, 2010. $9.99. Sexual Content-PG; Language-G (couple swears); Violence-PG. Anna (adopted) is invited to spend the summer after her senior year with her biological uncle and aunt. When she arrives, she learns that her uncle’s body was found in the trunk of a burned car. She meets a really cute guy from next door, but isn’t sure if he is interested in her or stopping her from finding out the truth. Her aunt Iris is delusional at best, dangerous at worst. She starts to question the unsolved murder of her mother from years before. Anna knows one thing, in her real family you are either psychic or psychotic. And someone out there is killing people. Anna is an interesting and spunky character that will definitely appeal to girls interested in paranormal romances. They will root for her as she tries to discover the truth about her past and who she will become in the future. The other teen characters are stock cliché characters without personalities. The mystery has several good twists that will keep readers guessing. MS/HS – ADVISABLE. Samantha, Public Librarian.

BEST NOVELS - July 2011

Yes, I am running a little behind here on the monthly updates.  But here are the best novels we read in July.  Click on each caption to read our review!
Divergent by Roth

Sing me to Sleep

Taken by Storm

Her Evil Twin 

Tighter by Adele Griffin

The Royal Treatment

The Dagger Quick by Eames
Keep Sweet by Greene

Always Neverland

A Long Walk to Water

I Pledge Allegiance by Lynch

Last Sacrifice by Mead

The Magnolia League


What picture books did we mark "fabulous" this July?  Click on each caption to read our review!
Man Gave Names to all the Animals

Penguin by Polly Dunbar

Hide and Sheep by Beaty
Cat Secrets by Czekaj 
One Foot Two Feet by Maloney 
How do you Hug a Porcupine?

Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet

What's in the Egg, Little Pip?
Betty Bunny Loves Cake

Goldie and the Three Hares

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently - ADVISABLE

Bently, Peter.  King Jack and the Dragon, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.  Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011. $17.99. PICTURE BOOK.  Jack, Zack, and Caspar head out to play and create a den for King Jack and his men.  Thy gather materials like a box, some sticks, and some trash bags in order to make this den.  FInally, they end up with a castle, but then they must defend it from dragons and beasts.  When two giants (adults) come and collect two of the children, Jack is left by himself as the day turns to night.   Will he be brave, or will a dragon attack?  I like this book.  It does allow for younger readers to learn more about playing imaginatively.  But I couldn't help thinking while I was reading that the book is trying too hard to be imaginative.  It felt a little forced.  Still, it is a good book, and I liked the illustrations.  Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL - ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund

Lund, Deb. All Aboard the Dinotrain Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2006 $7.99 Content G-Picture/BOARD Book.   Written in rhyming couplets this colorful board book chronicles a group of dinosaurs that set off on a train ride full of adventure. It’s been said that the journey is more important than the destination and that is certainly true in this book. Dinosaurs and trains: what little boy wouldn’t love this book? It’s great for any little reader that loves dinosaurs or trains. There are also companion books called Dinosailors, and Dinoplane. OPTIONAL Pre-k, HOME. Shauna, Reading teacher.

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman - OPTIONAL

Freedman, Deborah.  Blue Chicken Viking, 2011. $15.99. PICTURE BOOK.  When one of the chickens in a partially painted picture tries to help paint the picture, she ends up spilling the blue paint and it gets all over.  Is the picture ruined?  Can the chicken fix her mistake?  She certainly tries to clean up her mess.  This is an extremely simple book.  It's all about the pictures more than the words.  And the pictures really are beautiful, but I feel that the book as a whole is still lacking.  After I read it I thought, "That was okay."  Nothing special.  Pre-K - OPTIONAL.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

My First Book of Color by Margaret Rey - ESSENTIAL

Rey, Margaret and H.A. My First Book of Color Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2011 $8.99 Content G-Picture/BOARD Book.  This Curious George book is actually two books in one. One book has a color highlighted on each page: red, orange, blue, green, and purple. The other “book” folds out to show very simple black and white pictures, which are the first colors babies can distinguish. This book is sturdy and will last with a growing baby to toddler reading picture books. The pictures are bright and feature Curious George on each page. PUBLIC, PARENTS, ESSENTIAL. Shauna, Reading teacher.

The Boy with Pink Hair by Perez Hilton - OPTIONAL

Hilton, Perez. The Boy with Pink Hair Celebra Children's Books 2011. $17.99. PICTURE BOOK.  The Boy with Pink Hair was born that way--with pink hair.  His parents let him explore with his food, and he discovers that he is a great chef.  But his parents also warn him before he starts school that some of the children might make fun of him.  But when The Girl with the Ponytails is nice to him, he "wows" her with his amazing cooking skill.  Even though the illustrations are absolutely phenomenal, this was just an okay book.  I felt like the ending tried to push a moral too much--I hate it when books do that (like in The Giver).  But there is still enough of good to it that I think it is all right to have on the shelf.  For one, it opens up discussions about treating different people kindly.  And also, it talks about making a difference in the world--even if it does work extra hard to drive the point home.  Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL - OPTIONAL.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

Tallulah's Tutu by Marilyn Singer- OPTIONAL

Singer, Marilyn.  Boiger, Alexandra.  Tallulah’s Tutu, 40 pgs.  Clarion Books, 2011.  $16.99.  Inside cover: “Tallulah just knew she could be a great ballerina, if only she had a tutu.  So she starts ballet class.  But she does NOT get a tutu!  Is it still somewhere in Paris? Did the delivery truck break down in New Jersey? Will she EVER get her tutu?  Or could it be that ballet is about MORE than what you wear? Meet a new star named Tallulah and find out!”  This would be a perfect gift for any little ballerina!  The story is sentimental and explores the life and imagination of a little girl and her perception of reality. I can’t picture reading it to a classroom with boys in the class. It is definitely a girl’s book and I would buy it as a gift for any little girl I knew.  Although the story is adorable, the illustrations incredible, it wouldn’t be a first choice when using curriculum money because of its lack of application in the classroom.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL.

Love, Mouserella by David Ezra Stein- ESSENTIAL

Stein, David Ezra.  Love, Mouserella, 32 pgs. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2011.  $15.99.  

Inside cover: “This is my letter I wrote to Grandmouse because I miss her.  She went back to the country and I’m in the city.  Mama said why don’t I write her a letter, so I did.  I drew pictures too.  I’m about to mail it, but you can read it first.  Just don’t tell Grandmouse it’s coming, ‘cause it’s a surprise.  OK?  Promise? Good! P.S. I took all the photos.  P.P.S. Maybe you could write a letter to someone you love too?”  

We loved this book!  We liked how the book reads top to bottom, like a real letter.  We enjoyed the drawings, the humor, and the tenderness in the relationship between Mouserella and her Grandmouse.  This book could be used in a unit on families, grandparents, letter writing, and feelings or emotions.  

Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

Welcome to the World by Valerie Wyatt- OPTIONAL

Wyatt, Valerie.  Newell, Lennette. Welcome to the World, 24 pgs.  Kids Can Press, 2011.  $14.95.  Inside cover:  Many wonderful things await a newborn baby: the sensation of raindrops on skin, the warmth of the sun, the smiles of friends and family and the comfort of a loving embrace at nightfall.  Pairing charming photographs of babies with striking images of the natural world, Welcome to the World present all these wonders and many more.  The warm, poetic text and the memorable engaging images introduce babies and their parents to all the joys they will discover together, delivering a simple and heartfelt message of welcome and love.”  This is a wonderful book for parents and families, I just don’t see a lot of application to the classroom.  The photos are babies are adorable!  Pre-K.  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

Brownie & Pearl Take a Dip by Cynthia Rylant- ADVISABLE

Rylant, Cynthia.  Biggs, Brian.  Brownie & Pearl Take a Dip, 24 pgs  Beach Lane Books, 2011.  $13.99.  Back cover: “Brownie and Pearl are ready for a soak in their small blue pool.  But when- WHOOPS!- Pearl takes a surprise spill into the water, can Brownie dry off her pal’s sopping wet spirits?”  This is an enjoyable series for all to read.  We have loved every Brownie & Pearl book. The illustrations are unique, fun, and bright.  The story is simple and easy to read.  These books would probably be geared more towards toddlers and preschool age kids. Pre-K.  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL.

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce- ESSENTIAL

Joyce, William. The Man in the Moon, 56 pgs. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.  $17.99.  

"Up there in the sky. Don’t you see him? No, not the moon.  The Man in the Moon. He wasn’t always a man. Nor was he always on the moon. He was once a child. Like you. Until a battle, a shooting star, and a lost balloon sent him on a quest. Meet the very first guardian of childhood. MiM, the Man in the Moon.”  

This is an incredible story that we read over and over!  The illustrations are breath taking.  The story is tender and engaging.  This is a must have for every home and classroom.  

Pre-K.  EL (K-3) EL.  ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer: SL.

Big City Otto:Elephants Never Forget-ADVISABLE

Slavin, Bill. Big City Otto (Elephants Never Forget), 80 pgs. Kids Can Press, 2011. $16.95. This story is about an elephant who had a monkey friend named Georgie.  Georgie was captured to go to a zoo.  Otto, the Elephant, and Crackers, the bird, go on a lot of wild adventures to find Georgie.  I liked this book because it was a comic book and it was easy to read.  I liked that the people didn’t know that Otto was an elephant, they thought he was a big man.  This book would be very enjoyable for all ages. Some kids might not like it because it’s a little childish.  EL.  ADVISABLE.  Student Reviewed:  JL- age 8. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater - ADVISABLE

Pinkwater, Daniel Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, 268 pgs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. $16.00. Language-G, Violence-G; Sexual Content-G.  Audrey is a character who originally appeared in Pinkwater's The Neddiad and The Yggyssey.  She comes from another plane of existence and comes into our "world" and ends up in Los Angeles.  After hitching a ride with Marlon Brando, she can't handle his bongo playing and she gets out in Poughkeepsie, NY.  There she meets a myriad of people and ends up discovering that there is another person who looks exactly like her but who lived over one hundred years ago.  Oh, and did I mention that Audrey has cat whiskers?  This is not my first Pinkwater, but it has been a few years.  The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death was my first experience with Mr. Pinkwater.  I love him.  I think that he is one of the funniest authors around, and I really liked this book.  At first I did not think I was going to like this one nearly as much as Avocado of Death, but I found myself really getting into as time went on.  And it was much less predictable than many of the YA books out there.  Obviously, if you know Pinkwater then you know that he is not for everyone, but I still think it is a good idea to have his books on your shelf because there are weirdos like me who love his sense of humor and want to read something that is different than a book with a black cover and a girl in a dress on the front (I don't think I can stomach anymore of those kinds of books).  MS, HS – ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher.

Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long - OPTIONAL

Long, Loren. Otis and the Big Tornado Philomel Books, 2011. $17.99. PICTURE BOOK.  Otis is a tractor.  He and the other farm animals often go marching around the property, playing Follow the Leader.  But when they come to the bull's pen, they must endure snarls and snorts.  He glares at them while he flares nostrils; he doesn't like anyone.    I cannot say strongly enough just how disappointed I was with this book.  The illustrations are wonderful and it looks like it is going to be a great book.  But then I read it, and I said to myself, "Where's the dialogue?"  It's not there.  Only one sentence of dialogue in the entire picture book.  I don't know how Ms. Long expected us to see the characters clearly.  Without dialogue, I found the book boring and forgettable.  Some might like it; so I will say it is optional to buy, but you might spend your money elsewhere--there are a lot of books out there.  Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL - OPTIONAL.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith - ADVISABLE

Smith, Lane.  Grandpa Green Roaring Book Press, 2011. $16.99. PICTURE BOOK.  A young, unnamed, boy takes the reader through his grandpa's beautiful, Edward Scissorhands-like garden and explains about his grandpa and how he became such a great gardner.  For example, Grandpa grew up on a farm, and then got the chicken pox in the fourth grade.  That is when he read "stories about secret gardens..." and then after high school he studied horticulture.  This is a departure from the zany, funny books that Lane Smith often creates, and I enjoyed the variation.  It is sweet and, as is always the case in his books, the illustrations are amazing and it offers the opportunities to discuss loving and caring for grandparents.  It is a good book to have in your collection.  Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL - ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

The Last Best Days of Summer by Valerie Hobbs-OPTIONAL

Hobbs, Valerie, The Last Best Days of Summer. Frances Foster Books, 2010. Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G

Every year, during the last week of summer, Lucy spends time with her grandmother at her cabin across the lake. It’s there that she can forget about her popularity-obsessed friend, the upcoming school year, her worry-prone mother, and the special needs boy in her neighborhood who likes to spend a lot of time playing with her. When Eddie, the special needs boys, shows up at her grandmother’s cabin, however, things take an interesting twist. Her grandmother suddenly seems more fragile and less able to remember things. As Lucy watches her solid center in life seem to crumble, she worries that her life is changing faster than she can handle. Can Lucy find herself again amidst the chaos of life?

A really slow-paced book. It took until I was almost done with the book for the main part of the plot to occur. Although the story was touching and the characters were likable enough, I wouldn’t recommend it to most readers. EL (4-6). OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Kira Moody, Youth Services Librarian, Whitmore Public Library.

The President’s Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth -PUBLIC ONLY

Farnsworth, Christopher The President’s Vampire (Nathanial Cade Book 2), 352 pgs. Putnam Adult, 2011. $15.21. (Language-R –SWEAR COUNT: 20), Violence-R; Sexual Content-R.)
Nathaniel Cade is a powerful weapon for the United States government, and they don’t hesitate to use him. Not only is he oath bound to help out but he is a lethal vampire. When a rogue government official tries his best to release a mutant snakehead virus on the world, its up to Cade and his more personable handler, Zach to stop the madness.
Only appropriate for public libraries due to its content, this book is a fast paced action adventure. I found the characters to be boring and listless and was unable to become attached to the outcomes. There was an over the top weave of political intrigue, scandal, and secrets to the point of oozing cheesiness. The writing style featured introducing a new character viewpoint at most of the chapter beginnings (who then would most likely be dead by the end of the chapter). This was interesting and creative, but since I knew they were likely to die by the end of each short chapter, I stop engaging in the reading. Overall I would recommend for the adult section of a public library.
Adult –PUBLIC ONLY Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace-OPTIONAL

Wallace, Sandra Neil, Little Joe. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G

When the newest bull calf, Little Joe, is born at Windswept Farms, Eli and his father don’t see eye to eye. As Eli trains the calf and gets him ready for the big fair, he realizes he is getting attached to the animal. If he sells the calf at the fair, Little Joe is meaty and is likely to be turned into beef. His father says the family needs the money, but Eli doesn’t want to lose his friend. Will Eli be able to make his father see his point of view and be able to keep Little Joe?

A touching story about a boy and his dog without the dog. The characters are one-dimensional and the plot is slow and thin in places, but the cheesiness makes it a fairly decent book. It’s not fast enough for a reluctant reader, but animal fans might enjoy reading it. EL (4-6). OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Kira M, Youth Services Librarian, WHI Public Library.

The Last Best Days of Summer by Valerie Hobbs-OPTIONAL

Hobbs, Valerie, The Last Best Days of Summer. Frances Foster Books, 2010. Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G

Every year, during the last week of summer, Lucy spends time with her grandmother at her cabin across the lake. It’s there that she can forget about her popularity-obsessed friend, the upcoming school year, her worry-prone mother, and the special needs boy in her neighborhood who likes to spend a lot of time playing with her. When Eddie, the special needs boys, shows up at her grandmother’s cabin, however, things take an interesting twist. Her grandmother suddenly seems more fragile and less able to remember things. As Lucy watches her solid center in life seem to crumble, she worries that her life is changing faster than she can handle. Can Lucy find herself again amidst the chaos of life?

A really slow-paced book. It took until I was almost done with the book for the main part of the plot to occur. Although the story was touching and the characters were likable enough, I wouldn’t recommend it to most readers. EL (4-6). OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Kira M, Youth Services Librarian, WHI Public Library.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld-ESSENTIAL

Westerfeld, Scott GOLIATH  (Book Three of Leviathan Trilogy), 560 pages, Simon Pulse, 2011, $19.99. Violence-PG.

Having assisted the rebels in the Ottoman revolution, Alek, the heir to the Austrian-Hungry Empire, and Deryn, a female midshipman masquerading as a boy in the British Air Service, barely make it back to the airship, Leviathan, as it turns east and heads across Russia in this alternative-reality of World War I. 

As they travel from one end of the world to another, Deryn and Alek encounter real-life characters like Nikola Tesla, William Randolph Hearst, and Pancho Villa. Battles are fought, secrets unraveled, and plots revealed as Alek and Deryn try to watch each others’ backs and remain allies as their pasts and futures collide in Westerfeld’s satisfying conclusion to the Leviathan Trilogy. If you have the first two books, you will definitely need this riveting conclusion in your collection; if you do not, I recommend the whole series. Easily the most accessible steampunk written for middle school and high school readers, Westerfeld  uses Clanker technology and Darwinist fabricated animals to represent the two opposing ideologies of early 20th century Europe. Illustrator Keith Thompson’s pencil drawings are beautiful and essential to realizing Westerfeld’s vision of man, beast and machine. With an independent, fiery female hero, this grand adventure of a series will appeal to both female and male readers.   

MS, HS- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Gretchen

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eye-Popping 3-D Bugs by Barry Rothstein - ESSENTIAL

Rothstein, Barry and Betsy Rothstein. Eye-Popping 3-D Bugs Chronicle Books, 2011 $19.99. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. This is an entertaining and educational book at the same time. Included in the book are two pairs of 3-D glasses and each page has a 3-D picture. With each picture is a description of the insect and other interesting details. This book would be perfect for an insect unit or little one that is interested in bugs. EL (K-3), EL - ESSENTIAL.  Shauna, Reading teacher.

The Ascension by Michael Carroll - OPTIONAL

Carroll, Michael The Ascension (Super Human #2), 377 p. Philomel (Penguin), 2011.  $17.  

Violence: PG-13 (like Transformers violent).  

The supers thought they had succeeded in ridding the world of the evil Krodin, but in the blink of an eye, their world has changed and Krodin seems to have taken control, instead.  Some of the supers are on Krodin’s side, while others are still the opposition.  All of them will need to fight in order to have a chance at taking this SUPERvillain down.  

Time travel is always tricky – and Carroll just barely skirts throwing us down a hole we can’t understand.  The action/fight scenes will probably be enough to keep fans of the superhero genre going.  

MS – OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

One Love by Cedella Marley - OPTIONAL

Marley, Cedella.  One Love Chronicle Books, 2011 $16.99. PICTURE BOOK. This book is based on Bob Marley’s song, One Love. The text of the book is the same words as the song. The illustrations are what makes the words come alive. They have people of all walks of life coming together and enjoying life. This would be great for a die-hard Bob Marley fan, but it’s too abstract for small children. They wouldn’t get much out of the text, but would enjoy the pictures. OPTIONAL, PUBLIC. Shauna, reading teacher.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart - ESSENTIAL

Kephart, Beth You Are My Only, 256 pgs. Egmont USA/Laura Geringer Books, 2011. $16.99. Language – PG; Sexual Content – PG; Violence - PG.

You Are My Only tells the intersecting stories of Emmy and Sophie. Emmy is a young mom whose daughter is kidnapped when she turns away for a moment. The resulting breakdown lands her in a mental hospital. Sophie and her mother have been constantly on the move, escaping from the No Good for as long as she can remember, but the boy living next-door to her new house reaches out to her. For the first time Sophie is ready to defy her domineering mother to form a connection with someone else. Will Emmy find her kidnapped daughter? Will Sophie solve the mysteries in her past?

The story is lovely and heartbreaking and bittersweet, filled with moments both tragic and beautiful. Both Emmy’s and Sophie’s stories are suspenseful, and many readers will appreciate Kephart’s poetic voice.

HS – ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka - ESSENTIAL

Raczka, Bob Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word illustrated by Nancy Doniger 48 pg. Roaring Book Press, 2011. NON-FICTION. $16.99. After reading the introduction and figuring out what this book was all about, I was amazed! The premise of this book is to take one word and create a poem using only the letters in the word. To prove that only the letters in the word are being used, the author lines up each letter in the poem with each letter in the title. So not only is each poem aesthetically unique, it is also intensely clever. I was astonished to find that real, legitimate poems could be created using this technique. This would be the perfect book to use with a poetry unit. I found myself trying to create my own one-word poem...but it is hard! Here is just a teaser of one of the clever and puzzling poems within: 




Fabulous. EL/MS/HS- ESSENTIAL. Whitney, Library-Teacher. 

Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas - ESSENTIAL

Thomas, Jan Pumpkin Trouble 40 pg. Harper Collins, 2011. PICTURE BOOK. $12.99. Darling picture book. Duck gets ready to carve his pumpkin when things go awry. Using text bubbles and bold illustrations, this is a perfect fall/Halloween read-a-loud for young readers. It is silly and humorous with just a touch of Halloweenyness. EL(K-3) -ESSENTIAL. Whitney, Library-Teacher. 

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with Chimps by Jeanette Winter - ESSENTIAL

Winter, Jeanette The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with Chimps 48 pg. Schwartz & Wade, 2011. PICTURE/NON-FICTION. $17.99. This is a wonderful biography about the life of Jane Goodall and her life with the chimpanzees. Without being too wordy and without being too skimpy, this biography highlights Jane's life as an avid observer. Although other aspects of her life are mentioned in the authors note, the main text of the book focuses on Goodall's accomplishments with the chimpanzees. It is a fascinating story that will intrigue students. With vividly colored illustrations and simple text, this would be a perfect book to introduce young students to biographies, the power of observation, or simply to the life of Jane Goodall. EL-ESSENTIAL. Whitney, Library-Teacher.