Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Jewel of Kalderash by Marie Rutkoski-

Rutkoski, Marie, The Jewel of Kalderash. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011. Pgs. 320.

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

In the previous book, The Celestial Globe, readers are left with the knowledge that Petra’s father has been turned into a Grey Man, Prince Rodolfo’s blood-seeking creatures. We find the main characters, Petra and her friends Neel, Astrophil the tin spider, and Tomik, on board the gypsy ship, Pacolet, and are on their way to Vatra, the Roma’s stronghold. Using the Celestial Globes to travel faster, the four friends find themselves the center of attention, good and bad. To make things more interesting, when they arrive, Neel discovers that he is the rightful heir to the Vatra throne and his estranged mother is dying. As he takes over the throne, he gets word from Bohemia that his sister, Sadie, is in danger and he himself is also the victim of some death threats. To make matters worse, Prince Rodolfo is making plans to conquer his father’s empire and use his Gray Men to inflict untold horrors. The four friends’ only hope to save their families is to go back to Bohemia on a life or death mission back to Bohemia to not only find the cure for Petra’s father, but also to stop Rodolfo. With war becoming more and more the only way to stop the evil prince, can Petra and her friends save her father? Will Neel be able to figure out who is trying to kill him as well as save his distance-estranged sister? Will the four be able to save the empire?

 A complex, engrossing adventure. Although there are parts of the book that drag on, the action is entertaining and the mystery is intriguing. Although the characters only minimally grow in comparison to what the reader would expect, they are enjoyable and still fairly well-developed from the previous books. Readers who like fantasy, adventure, magic, and good versus evil books will enjoy reading this final book in the series.

EL (4-6), MS. ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Kira M, Youth Services Libraran, WHI Public Library.

Pretty Princss Stories and True Love Stories by Laura Bergen-ESSENTIAL

Bergen, Laura, Pretty Princess Puzzles and True Love Stories. Disney Press, 2012. PICTURE BOOK.

This puzzle book contains 7 24-piece puzzles. Each beautifully done puzzle is accompanied by a well-written one page version of that princess’ story. Although more suited for homes and classrooms, this book is sure to entertain all little princesses as they read and learn about true love. PreK, EL (K-3). ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Jessica Moody, Library Media Specialist, Olympus Jr. High.

5 Minute Disny Pixar Stories by Disney Enterprises-ESSENTIAL

Disney Enterprises, 5 Minute Disney Pixar Stories. Disney Press, 2012. PICTURE BOOK.

These 12 short bedtime stories are sure to thrill boys and girls alike. They illustrate children’s favorite Disney/Pixar characters in bright vibrant detail. The stories are the right length for readin gout loud. Each adventure will have little ones begging for more. 

PreK, EL(K-3). ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Library Media Specialist.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan - ESSENTIAL

Riordan, Rick  The Serpent’s Shadow, 406 p. Disney/Hyperion, 2012. $20.  

Content: PG (LOTS of danger). 

The Kane siblings are in trouble.  Not only is Aphosis determined to plunge the entire world into darkness, but there is major dissension among the House of Life magicians – in fact, there may be treason.  The siblings best bet, besides their trustworthy friends, is a ancient, evil magician, who has ulterior motives for helping them.  And we can’t forget, Sadie Kane is faced with major heartbreak – no matter whether she chooses the god or the boy, someone will probably get hurt.  The Kanes have TWO days to save the world.  

Riordan manages to weave danger, suspense and humor together into a rollicking ride.  My favorite is the giant hippo tossing, however, I snorted out loud many times during the reading.  Sadie is not nearly as insufferable as she was at the beginning and there are lots of great surprises. 

EL, MS, HS – ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher


Night, P.J. Best Friends Forever, 144 p.  Simon, 2012.  $6.  Content: G.  Amy feels left behind when her best friend moves across the country.  Whitney, the new girl in town, seems eager to be friends, however and the girls start spending time together.  Whitney, however, seems to be overly fond of her old doll collection – and overly possessive of Amy’s time and friendship.  Maybe Amy should get far away – or maybe Whitney has other plans.  Ok – I thought this one was truly creepy!  I had a hard time finishing it – that creepy! EL – ESSENTIAL; MS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher

Night, P.J. Is She For Real?  141 p. Simon, 2012.  $6.  Content: PG (creepy, not bloody).  Even moving to a new town, Bethany’s life is pretty perfect.  She has a new 7th grade crowd, she has a boyfriend and Nate, the boy, has even given her a beautiful old ruby ring.  But there is a mysterious evil in Warwick and it seems to have attached itself to the ring – and to Bethany.  Who will ultimately be in control?  Night’s books are delightfully creepy!  EL – ESSENTIAL; MS – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis - OPTIONAL

Burgis, Stephanie Kat, Incorrigible, 295 p. Atheneum (Simon), 2011.  $7.  Content: G.   
Now that she knows she has magical powers, Kat, 12, is determined to use them.  Her sisters seem equally determined to keep her from learning.  Her eldest sister is betrothed to a thoroughly despicable old man, in a society that sees absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Kat’s new, yet to be mastered powers may save the day, but make some enemies and imperil the family name.  I wanted to love Kat, really I did, but it just didn’t come together for me.  The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards magic and the Victorian manner-isms just grated on my nerves.   

EL – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender - OPTIONAL

Alender, Katie From Bad to Cursed, 442 p. Disney/Hyperion, 2011 p.  Language: PG, Violence: PG-13.   

You would think Alexis would know better.  She just managed to save her little sister Kasey from an evil ghost.  Now Kasey is part of a club of girls who seem to have unnatural beauty and popularity.  When Alexis joins the club in order to investigate, she promptly forgets her purpose, being manipulated by an evil spirit – one who has been around for generations.  This one pushes all of my boundaries – ordinary girls channeling evil spirits with spells and such makes me very uncomfortable.  Plus I was really angry with Alexis for being dragged right back into a supernatural mess again and thinking she can brave it on her own.  It just makes her look stupid in my eyes.  This one is much more personal and evil than the first.   

HS - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Great Molasses Flood by Deborah Kops - OPTIONAL

Kops, Deborah The Great Molasses Flood, 97 p. Charlesbridge, 2012.  $19.  Content: G (some historical violence).   

Boston, 1919 – things are looking up after the Spanish Influenza and the Red Sox had won a pennant.  Life on the waterfront becomes mayhem, however, when what sounds like a explosion bursts forth on the quiet day and 2.3 million gallons of molasses (used in making rum) are unleashed upon people, buildings and streets.   

Years ago I read Joshua’s Song by Joan Harlow and thought this an interesting anecdote in history.  I loved that someone has now written a thoughtful, well-researched juvenile non-fiction book on the subject.  I am sure this will be popular with schools in Massachusetts, but I am definitely buying one for our non-fiction projects here.   

EL, MS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer - ADVISABLE

Mazer, Harry and Peter Lerangis Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am, 148 p.  Language: PG-13 (22 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 Violence: PG.  Simon and Schuster, 2012.  $16. 

Ben Bright has a sparkling future in front of him, but in his heart he wants to join the military and defend freedom around the world.  Leaving his family, his fiancée and his friends behind, he walks into the Middle East and a roadside bomb attack.  Now everyone who knows Ben must figure out how to pickup the pieces of their hearts left behind, as the Ben who comes back to them resembles the Ben who left only superficially.   

Mazer and Lerangis have done an excellent job of crafting a book that shows absolutely normal people in an awful situation.  They strike a delicate balance of presenting harsh honesty without resorting gratuitous violence, swearing or mature content.  For example, while it mentions the presence of internet porn, it does not describe anything.  This would be  excellent paired with Ruth Emerson White’s The Road Home, too.   

HS – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Diviners by Libba Bray –PUBLIC ONLY

Bray, Libba The Diviners  608 pgs. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012 (Sept). $12.82.  (Rating: PG-13: Swear Count: 0)
Evie O'Neill has been getting into trouble, so she has to go live with her Uncle Will in New York City. She couldn’t be happier, it’s the 1920’s and NYC is a happening place to be. Her Uncle runs a creepy museum, and coincidentally creepy stuff starts to happen in the city. In fact, Evie herself seems to have an usual gift. When the police come to her Uncle with help solving an occult murder mystery- Evie is determined to get involved. But to do so, would put her right in the killer’s path, and he might be supernatural.
I am not going to say that this book was not entertaining, despite being over 600 pages, I found the pages flying. The setting feels authentic and it’s stuffed with interesting characters. But it’s gruesome, overly full of foreshadowing of doom (at least 25% of this book is made of these ridiculous passages!), and there is so much drinking that I felt half-drunk myself ugh! I think that all adds up to a book that’s not so great for a school library but perfect for a public library.
HS –PUBLIC ONLY/ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Diva (The Flappers Book #3) by Jillian Larkin –ADVISABLE

Larkin, Jillian Diva (The Flappers Book #3)  320 pgs. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012 . $12.23.  (Rating: PG-13: Swear Count: 1b)
Set in the 1920’s of prohibition, speakeasies, and glamour –this is the story of three female flappers whose live intertwine. Clara and Lorraine are both in love with Marcus. But Marcus is marrying someone else. Although the women hate each other, they must work together to stop Marcus from making a horrible mistake. Because Gloria defended her fiancé, Jerome, she had been in jail. To get out, she must act as a spy, finding out more about the rich and handsome Forrest Hamilton. But Forrest is a dangerous guy. Jerome has his own problems, his future father in law has threatened to ruin his career in music if he should seek out Gloria.
This book was downright over the top cheesy –but still somehow very entertaining and likeable. This is the final book in a series, and halfway functions as a stand-alone. I think students will enjoy reading about the mischief that the 1920’s had to offer.
HS –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

The Girl is Trouble (Book 2) by Kathryn Miller Haines –ADVISABLE

Haines, Kathryn Miller The Girl is Trouble (Book 2)  160 pgs. Simon Spotlight, 2012. $10.98.  (Rating: PG)
Iris is finally getting to help her Pop out with his investigations! She has a case of her own –the Jewish students at her school are being harassed. When some photo’s of her mother’s dead body stir up her questions about her death, Iris has another case to solve. Things seem to be pretty bad when she suspects her best friend, Pearl in the first mystery, and her Uncle Adam in the second. Complicating matters is her crush on rebel Benny and her Pop’s dangerous investigation.
I am LOVING this series! (see my review of  Book#1 in thisseries: The Girl is Murder). I love the historical setting (1950ish), and the characters are memorable and fun. The plots are interested and complex without being confusing. Students will have a great time following Iris’s investigations!
MS, HS -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Racing the Moon by Alan Armstrong –NOT RECOMMENDED

Armstrong, Alan and Illustrated by Jessell, Tim Racing the Moon 224 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. $11.98.  (Rating: PG)
Set in the 1940’s –this is the story of a pair of siblings who love space. Alexis idolizes her older brother Chuck, who has a loose sense of responsibility and doesn’t follow the rules. When a new neighbor reveals she is part of the US space program, she offers to help them in the pursuit of their interest in space travel. Captain Ebbs wants to bring out the best in the children, and has some adventures in mind that will allow to take their experience with space up a notch. But Alex and Chuck are used to making their own way, and soon take off on a dangerous journey.
The characters in this book are well rewarded for stealing, disobeying rules, and putting themselves in danger. The same could be said for the Harry Potter books, but this book fails to justify it. I just couldn’t buy in, everything was too coincidental, and there is no way a helpful neighbor keep trying to connect with these kids, when they are determined to undermine her. There was also the introduction of a German space scientist, with suggested Nazi connections -who visits their home. Since this is poorly explained, students will find very confusing. 
EL - NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Love, Amalia by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel Zubizarreta –OPTIONAL

Ada, Alma Flor and Zubizarreta, Gabriel M. Love, Amalia 144 pgs. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012. $12.47.  (Rating: G)
Amalia has a close relationship with her grandmother, and she learns so much from her: from cooking, family stories, and life advice. A situation arises when it’s up to Amalia to help bring the family together and she falls back on her time with her grandmother, and her amazing box of family letters.
This is a complex and wonderful book, but it’s going to take a teacher to help tease out the best from this book for students. I highly recommend as an in-class reading assignment, where the cultural references, themes, and plot elements can be better understood by students.
ELEMENTARY–OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Magic Treehouse #48: A Perfect Time for Pandas by Mary Pope Osborne –ADVISABLE

Osborne, Mary Pope  Magic Treehouse #48: A Perfect Time for Pandas 128 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. $9.35.  (Rating: G)
Jack and Annie need to collect a final object to help save Merlin’s penguin. They are sent off to China, with clues to guide them. They find themselves at a Panda reserve. After they spent a wonderful day volunteering, they decide to get back to their search. But an earthquake derails those plans, and Jack and Annie are frantic with worry about the Pandas. They have to decide if they should go back and help or continue with their quest.
Companion Fact Tracker Book: Pandas and other Endangered Species: Offers information on Pandas, and other species that need our help!
Although this book was part of a larger adventure (Merlin Mission), it easily functioned as a stand-alone. The plot line was based on real-life events. The book was creative and wonderfully crafted. I really enjoyed this book, and I am willing to be students will too!
EL - ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle –OPTIONAL

Engle, Margarita The Wild Book 144 pgs. Harcourt Children's Books, 2012. $12.74.  (Rating: G)
Fefa has trouble reading and writing, “word-blindness’, in fact she is downright afraid of it. Her mother knows better, and gives Fefa a blank book –called the Wild Book. It takes a bit of time, but Fefa finally gets the courage to start writing. There is danger in her part of Cuba, children are being kidnapped, and held for ransom. Fefa’s Wild Book might be more important than Fefa could have imagined.
I think this would be difficult sell for students to read by choice.  The entire story is told in poetry format, each page with its own title. The lyrical format, cultural references, and time-setting elements require either an advanced student or teacher directed learning. I really like the books by this author, but I think it an adult reader to fully appreciate her skill. I recommend this be used for in-class, teacher directed, reading.
ELEMENTARY–OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Secrets from the Sleeping Bag (Series) by Rose Cooper –ADVISABLE

Cooper, Rose Secrets from the Sleeping Bag (Series) 208 pgs. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012. $7.21.  (Rating: G)
Sofia and her best friend Nona are off to summer camp –Camp Krakatow. When they end up in separate cabins, Sofia must deal with an evil counselor, grumpy fellow campers, and a giant prank contest between cabins. 
This book is in an illustrated journal format, but the main character frequently refers to her blog. Its quirky and silly, and a was an incredibly fun read. Students will love this book, and I intend to purchase the series.
ELEMENTARY–ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Alexis Cool as a Cupcake (Cupcake Diaries Book 8) by Coco Simon –ADVISABLE

Simon, Coco Alexis Cool as a Cupcake (Cupcake Diaries Book 8) 160 pgs. Simon Spotlight, 2012. $5.99.  (Rating: G)
Alexis is the brains behind the Cupcake Club, and she is tired of being the only who cares about their success. She does the paperwork, organization, and finances. The other girls are too busy planning costumes and dates for a parade. Will Alexis find the nerve to ask her crush to the parade? The girls better learn to appreciate Alexis, before Cupcake Club is making cupcakes for free!  
I reviewed the first couple books in this series, and really liked them. I can’t believe the series is already on book 8, and at this point the books aren’t functioning well as read-alones. I think still tudents will love this wholesome series with distinct characters and fun age appropriate adventures. These books always make me hungry for cupcakes.
ELEMENTARY–ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Sailing to Freedom by Martha Bennett Stiles -ADVISABLE

Stiles, Martha Bennett Sailing to Freedom 256 pgs. Henry Holt and Co, 2012. $10.19.  (Rating: G)
Ray wants nothing more than to go to sea with his father. But instead his dad gives him a monkey, Allie, and goes to sea without him. Ray ends up getting his wish anyway, sailing with his Uncle Thad’s crew. When Ray finds out that the ship is carrying a stowaway, he wants to help but knows they are all in danger. In the meantime a young slave boy named Ogun and his mother are escaping by land, trying to find freedom. The two stories eventually meet up in a wonderful way.
This book has a very authentic historical fiction feel, including complex language. At time I had a hard time following Ogun’s story part of the time because of this. So I think that might make this book a better read for older elementary students. I loved the character of Allie the monkey, she made the story as far as I am concerned! Not a pirate story, but will appeal to those students interested in that genre.
ELEMENTARY–ADISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Can I Bring Woolly to the Library, Ms. Reeder? by Lois Grambling - ESSENTIAL

Grambling, Lois G., Can I Bring Woolly to the Library, Ms. Reeder?, Charlesbridge, 2012. $16.95. Content: G. PICTURE BOOK.  

A boy wants to bring a Woolly Mammoth to the Library.  He tells the Librarian that Woolly has the potential to be a great library helper because he’s familiar with all the library rules and he can reach the high shelves with no problem but fitting between shelves could be a big problem!

I really enjoyed this book.  I loved how the story told how the Woolly Mammoth could be a great library helper but it was the artwork that showed what would REALLY happen if a Woolly Mammoth came to the library! It would be a great book to open a discussion with children about perspective and also a great introduction to library etiquettes. I can see this being a #1 choice for summer reading time.

Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL-ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: MJB

Nikki & Deja: Wedding Drama (Series) by Karen English -ADVISABLE

English, Karen and Illustrated by Freeman, Laura Nikki & Deja: Wedding Drama (Series) 112 pgs. Clarion Books, 2012. $11.69.  (Rating: G)
All the girls in Nikki and Deja’s third grade class have wedding fever after they find out that their teacher, Ms. Shelby, is getting married. They even form teams and make wedding planning a competition. Deja isn’t sure she can attend the wedding since her Aunt has been laid off from her job. But Nikki won’t stop talking about the wedding, which causes a rift in their friendship.
I really like this series. The plots always revolve around a realistic school environment, but the author includes the two girl’s home lives, as well as life lessons like friendship. They are a simple read, and very appropriate for school libraries. I think 2-3rd graders will enjoy reading about Nikki and Deja lives.
EL, ELEMENTARY–ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Muskrat for Supper by Kenny Salwey -OPTIONAL

Salwey, Kenny Muskrat for Supper 160 pgs. Scholastic Press, 2012. $11.01.  (Rating: G)
River Rat, Kenny Salwey offers his advice and opinions regarding living with and exploring nature. He talks about his experiences and promotes preserving wild spaces. He makes suggestions such as keeping a nature journal.
I loved this book, because I am a nature lover and appreciate the knowledge that the author is recording.  Here’s the part I am dreading: this book is just not appealing for students. The cover and black and white photographs look dated. I think even a student who was interested in nature would be bored, like listening to a lecture by a grandparent. But I would be willing to bet that students would go nuts over this author as a guest speaker though!
ELEMENTARY – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen - OPTIONAL

Hellisen, Cat When the Sea is Rising Red, 296 p. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2012.  $17.  Language: R (10 ‘f’, 40 other); Mature Content: PG-13 (implied and light description).  Felicita’s family has enjoyed a position of privilege, even among the society of a city which is dying.  As a girl, however, she is subject to the orders of her oldest male relative – in this case, her very much absent brother.  When her best friend Ilven throws herself off a cliff to escape an arranged marriage, things in the town literally turn for the worst, as an ancient evil comes to exact a price.  Felicita chooses to follow her friend’s example, faking her death and hiding among the poorest in the town.  Layers upon layers shift and twine as Felicita tries to figure out to save both herself and her town.  While this book was pretty good, it is also very dark.  I have a feeling there will be a sequel if it sells well enough.  HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Troubletwisters: The Magic (Book 1) by Garth Nix and Sean Williams -OPTIONAL

Nix, Garth and Williams, Sean Troubletwisters: The Magic (Book 1) 304 pgs. Scholastic Press, 2011. $12.62.  (Rating: G)
When Jaide and Jack move in with their mysterious Grandmother X, their lives take an interesting turn. They find out that things aren’t always what they seem, and that they have some magical abilities. When an evil force threatens them both (with its scary use of taking over the bodies of bugs, birds, and more), they must experiment with their newfound abilities, talk to cats, and find a creative solution.
This starts out pretty intriguing but quickly falls into that magical trap of ‘anything can happen’, which makes it difficult to connect to caring about the characters, since you know ‘something magical will happen’ to save them –no matter what. There was a ton of foreshadowing, which started to get annoying. I am a sucker for Garth Nix but come on, (Spoiler Alert), “The Evil” seriously? You couldn't get more creative than that!!? That all being said, I think students will like this series since magical powers books are still so popular. I am willing to give the next book in the series a trial run!
ELEMENTARY – OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

One White Dolphin by Gill Lewis -ESSENTIAL

Lewis, Gill and Illustrated by Aparicio, Raquel One White Dolphin 352 pgs. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012. $9.43.  (Rating: G)
Kara’s life has been in upheaval for the past year; her mother has gone missing, her dad might lose his job, and they are selling their beloved family boat. Worst of all- the ocean by her house, and its reef, something her marine biologist mom was passionate about preserving, is in danger. When Kara finds an injured white dolphin, the community takes notice. When she makes a new friend named Felix, together, with the help of the dolphin, they start to rally the community to protect the reef.
I love this author (see my review of Wild Wings)! This was an excellent, multifaceted book that is both realistic and inspiring. The save the environment theme is popular and necessary. I really like how the characters use technology to aid in their campaign. I like the inclusion of a disabled character, Felix, who has cerebral palsy, being shown accomplishing his goals and making a difference. Students will love to read about how much power they actually have to affect change. I am excitedly anticipating future books from this author.
ELEMENTARY – ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

The Templeton Twins (Book 1) by Ellis Weiner -ADVISABLE

Weiner, Ellis and Illustrated by Holmes, Jeremy The Templeton Twins: Have an Idea (Book 1) 232 pgs. Chronicle Books, 2012 (Aug). $9.43.  (Rating: G)
When John and Abigail’s father, a professor, is accused of stealing an invention idea –they are really mad. The accuser, some guy named Dean D. Dean, is a real creep, and he keeps coming around. When Dean kidnaps the twins, they get creative and work together to escape and prove their fathers innocence.
That description sounds boring –when this is actually a really creative and quirky book. It is the strongest example of the Intrusive Narrator that I have ever come across. At first it was distracting, even annoying, but eventually it was just silly and fun. The unique illustrations and ‘questions for review’, are pretty funny. I was blown away by the inclusion of a full recipe for meatloaf –so so hilarious. I think students will love this book, and I intend to follow the series closely.
ELEMENTARY – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith -ADVISABLE

Smith, Greg Leitich and Illustrated by Henry, Blake Chronal Engine 192 pgs. Clarion Books, 2012. $12.13.  (Rating: G)
Max and his twin siblings Kyle and Emma are sent to live with their Grandfather that they hardly know. When their Grandfather has a heart attack, they find out about a time machine in the basement. When Emma is kidnapped by another time traveler, the boys and a new friend Petra, must use the time machine to find her. They end up in the very distant past –full of the dangers of Dinosaurs. The kids have a lot on their plate, and must survive while they problem solve.
Students that love dinosaurs will hands down love this book. I thought it was intriguing and fun. Some of the Dino names are a challenge, they are well described and interesting. While some of the time travel parts get confusing, I think students will still really enjoy this read.
ELEMENTARY–ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Escape from Zobadak by Brad Gallagher –OPTIONAL

Gallagher,Brad Escape from Zobadak 332 pgs. Mackinac Island Press, 2011. $13.22.  (Rating: G)
Billy and his sister Sophie are upset when they find out that their favorite Uncle Gary has disappeared. When a nightstand from his Uncles house makes some strange noises, Billy finds out that it’s a secret entrance to a vast building that stores world treasures. Billy hopes that his Uncle might be hiding in there, so Billy, Sophie, and their friends start their search. In the meantime, some strange men come searching for his Uncle, and kidnap Billy & Sophie's parents!
Being a fan of secret lands in furniture, I was pretty excited about this book. The characters are great, and the plot starts out being incredibly intriguing. But it takes some funky and strange turns, that I think students will have a hard time following and they won’t like the limited explanations. The ‘bad guys’ are really bizarre and not explained well at all –they keep referring to John Wayne, a person who a majority of today’s students won’t relate to at all.  
ELEMENTARY -OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Once Upon a Toad by Heather Vogel Frederick - ESSENTIAL

Frederick, Heather Vogel Once Upon a Toad, 262 p. Simon and Schuster, 2012.  $17.  Content: G (danger, but no violence).  

Cat Starr’s mom is off to the International Space Station, so Cat is relegated to her dad’s house across the country.  Not so bad, really – except for her wicked step-sister Olivia, who is out to ruin Cat’s life for daring to step on her turf.  When Cat sends a plea to her mother for help, it comes in the form of Great Aunt Abyssinia, who Cat finds out is really her fairy godmother.  Only Olivia is sprouting flowers and diamonds, while Cat is stuck with toads – every time she makes a sound.  If the two girls don’t stop arguing long enough to stop cooperating, something really bad will happen – worse than the kidnapping of the girls’ little brother Geoffrey.  

Frederick has definitely channeled E.D. Baker in her latest novel.  Cute and fun are high praise in this case.  EL, MS – ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

Bambino and Mr. Twain by P.I. Maltbie - ADVISABLE

Maltbie, P.I., Bambino and Mr. Twain, Charlesbridge, 2012. $15.95. Content: G. PICTURE BOOK.   Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain but do they want to see sad Samuel Clemens? Grieving the death of his wife, America’s favorite author shuts himself up in his house abandoning his writing.  Family and friends try to console him, but nothing seems to work until his cat, Bambino disappears.  Sam is determined to find him and posts announcements everywhere.  In the process of searching for Bambino, he discovers something more powerful than grief: the will to live.  I enjoyed this book.  It teaches how tragedy can affect you and others and how important it is to find a way to move forward.  The book would also be an excellent choice to open up a discussion how some authors choose to use a pseudonym rather then their given name.  EL, MS, HS,-ADVISABLE; Reviewer:MJB

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Survive by Alex Morel - ESSENTIAL

Morel, Alex Survive, 259 pgs. Razor Bill Books, August 2012. $17.99. Language: R (10 'f'); Sexual Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.

When suicidal Jane boards the plane heading from her residential mental health facility to her mother's home for Christmas, she never intends to make it there alive. But as she prepares to swallow a handful of pills in the airplane's bathroom, the plane goes down in a blizzard in the middle of the wilderness. She and Paul, an annoying, callous older boy are the only survivors. After she saves Paul's life, the two of them set out to search for help. As they journey through the treacherous wilderness, Jane not only finds love, but the will to survive. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that only one of them will make it back to civilization alive.

A haunting, suspenseful, bittersweet book, this story is just as much a tale of inner growth as one of survival. Especially good for those pondering the deeper questions of life. Why did suicidal Jane live while others died? What keeps us going day to day - and why? What is our responsibility to others? Although the love between Jane and Paul is rushed and a bit contrived, and the wilderness survival premise has been used in many other books (Touching Spirit Bear, Hatchet), the female point-of-view, emotional journey, and fearless ending set it apart. Would make a good read for teen book clubs.

HS - ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Monday, July 16, 2012

Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador's Gate by K.S.R. Kingworth - ADVISABLE

Kingworth, K.S.R., Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador’s Gate. Rawle and Windsor, 120. Pgs. 475. Language: G, Violence: PG, Sexual Content: G

Each hoomin is born with a secret speaker behind their Adam’s Apple. They see everything you see and record your life. In this novel, Fair’s secret keeper and many others are retelling a tale of great importance. Many eons ago, the gods placed the hoomin in Grave to learn like you were in a school. Selador chose to help teach them and lead them the right direction back towards the gods. His brother, Relathin was cast out for his lack of cooperation as well as all of his followers. They seek to retake Cloven Grave and control all the hoomin. To do so, we see Harrold King, the evil king of Cloven grave who taxes to the hilt to feed his fat, ugly self.

Fair has been in hiding for the last nine years. Nine years ago, the king took her brother, Hale and all the other children around her age due to a dream the king had of someone her age usurping his evilness and being the right ruler, a Zothiker. Now, Fair has turned thirteen and believed to be untouchable by the king. When Harrold comes to her village in Cloven Grave, Fair has his first encounter with him. There, she barely escapes with her life and the king takes her beloved dog. She and Harrold also have an encounter with Telthrys, the head goddess. Fair is told that if she can find Selador and his gate, she can find her missing family and dog, save her people and restore the right power to the throne, but Relathin is backing Harrold and wants the throne for himself. Can Fair save her people from the evil king and restore balance to Cloven Grave?

The language of the Secret Speakers is hard to understand at first, but becomes easier throughout the book. The characters are well-developed and likable, even the evil king. The plot moves slow at first and drags in places, but is adventurous and filled with lots of things that will hold the reader’s interest. Readers who like fantasy, adventure, and mythology will enjoy reading this book.

EL, MS. ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Kira M, Youth Service Librarian, WHI Public Library.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce and Laura Geringer - ADVISABLE

Joyce , William, and Geringer, Laura, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. Athenueum, 2011. Pgs. 560. Lanugage: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G

When a master wizard named Ombric and the families around them are under attack, Nicholas St. North comes to the rescue. But, they have only fought off the first round with Pitch and his ancient evil henchmen. More help is needed. Will their village survive.

The illustrations are amazing and detailed. Book one of the guardians is packed with adventure and ancient lore as we are introduce to some of the characters we already love and just don’t know it. Readers who like magic, fantasy, and hero books will enjoy reading this book.


Circus Galacticus by Devan Fagan

Fagan, Deva, Circus Galacticus. Houton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Pgs. 291. Language: PG-13 (21 swears, no “f”s), Violence: PG, Sexual Content: G

Trix feels like an outcast. She’s an orphan on scholarship at an elite boarding school. She makes one wrong move and loses her only chance to get a gymnastics scholarship. Then a man with a silver mask shows up and tries to steal the one thing her late parents told her to protect. With more questions than answers, she ends up visiting the Circus Galacticus. Soon she finds herself on an intergalactic adventure with the man in the silver mask close behind.

This story about finding oneself has a limited audience due to language and a narrow plot that drags on in places. Would not recommend for most libraries. MS. NO. Reviewer: Jessica Moody, Library Media Specialist, Olympus Jr. High.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Zahra's Paradise by Amir and Khalil-OPTIONAL

Amir and Khalil, Zahra’s Paradise. First Second Books, 2011. Pgs. 270. Language; G, Violence: PG-13, Sexual Content: PG-13.

 In June 2009, Tehran, Iran became a bloody place. After an election, as many as 3 million people protested in the streets of Tehran. 73 people were killed during the protests. They were the lucky ones. Hospitals and homes alike were raided for protestors.  On August 11th, the government announces that 4,000 people were arrested since the elections. 115 were executed. As many as 100 cases of rape were filed, but the Speaker of Parliament dismissed them. Some protestors were never seen again. This book follows the story after the disappearance of the fictional character, Mehdi, and his family’s attempts to find him and shed light on the government’s injustices. Although the characters are not real, they are a compilation of many protestors and their families’ stories.

A gruesome, but accurate depiction of a dark part of Iran’s history. The illustrations are detailed and add a lot to the text. The text is complex and well-written. The additional resources in the back are informative and useful. Although some of the more indigestible violence is not depicted in the illustrations and the book was eye-opening as well as enjoyable to read, I recommend this book only to those who have a strong stomach when it comes to violence. Older readers who like history, historical fiction, graphic novels, and war will like reading this book. HS. ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Jessica M, Library Media Specialist, Olympus Jr. High.

The School for the Insanely Gifted by Don Elish-ADVISABLE

Elish, Don, The School for the Insanely Gifted. HarperCollins, 2011. Pgs. 289.

Content: G

Daphna Whispers and her best friends Harkin and Cynthia are insanely gifted. They attend the Blatt School for the Insanely Gifted. Their school is run by an eccentric inventor who announces the “Insanity Cup” to find the most insanely gifted among them. But Daphna’s missing mom could be the key to a bigger mystery. Join Daphna and her friends for an unbelievable technological adventure sure to blow your mind. 

With characters who are likable and a humorous plot full of twists and turns, this book is a good read for young fans of the Mysterious Benedict Society.

EL, MS - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Jessica Moody, Library Media Specialist, Olympus Jr. High.