Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Charlie Goes to School by Ree Drummond –NO

Drummond, Ree and Illustrated by deGrout, Diane Charlie Goes to School 40 pgs. HarperCollins, 2013. $14.15.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G ; Violence: G.
Charlie the dog tries his best to help out around the ranch. After seeing the ranch kids being home schooled, he decides to teach classes to the farm animals. They don’t take well to the lesson’s and Charlie gives up.
I don’t think this book works well for a school library, especially since it features home schooling. Furthermore, Charlie doesn't make an effort to actually help others, gives up when the going gets tough and finds that laziness is the answer. Cute illustrations and an appealing cover.  

EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale –ADVISABLE

Hale, Bruce, Illustrated by Francis, Guy Clark the Shark 32 pgs. HarperCollins, 2013. $11.99.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G ; Violence: G.
Clark the Shark is a lot bigger and bolder and louder than all the other kids at school. Which is fun, but doesn't result in many friends. His teacher Mrs. Inkydink inspires him to figure out a way to ‘Stay Cool’. Clark takes the idea and runs with it, finding out that bringing things down a notch is more fun for everyone.
This was a enjoyable read! I think students will like to read about this very enthusiastic happy shark, who is a bit over the top. The cover is appealing and should result in a ton of circulation. Great for a lesson on how to tone down and calm down.
EL -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Ballpark Mysteries #7: The San Francisco Splash by David A. Kelly- OPTIONAL

Kelly, David A. The San Francisco Splash. Illustrated by Mark Meyers. 98 pgs. Random House, 2013. $4.99. CHAPTER BOOK: Content: G.

Mike and Kate are in the San Francisco Giant’s ballpark bay hoping to catch a fly ball when they hear a much larger splash.  The splash didn’t come from a baseball, but someone falling in! That “person” was the famous retired Giants pitcher Ray Reynolds.  In his fall, he lost his World Series ring. Mike and Kate know this was no accident and have a mystery to solve!

This book was fairly well written, but had some cheesy humor that not even a young child would enjoy.  It cracked un-relatable jokes too many times.  The story was also very predictable.  I pretty much knew how the book was going to end after the first chapter.  There were a few twists, but nothing that affected the story line.  The illustrations were well done and helped the visual aspect of the book greatly.

EL.  OPTIONAL.  Student Reviewer: JL

A Tale of Two Centuries by Rachel Harris -- ESSENTIAL

Harris, Rachel A Tale of Two Centuries 320 pgs. Entangled Publishing, Aug. 6, 2013. $9.99.

Language: PG-13 (27 swears, no 'f'); Sexual Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.

In this sequel to My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, Cat's cousin Alessandra is tired of her quiet life of obedience in sixteenth-century Florence. She longs to speak out. Even more, she wants the rush she felt when acting out a play with Cat two years before -- something good girls in her time are not allowed to do. But when she has the chance to time travel to modern-day L.A., she discovers that being brave is not as easy as she expected. Still, she is determined to make the most of her scary but exciting journey. Good thing she has a little help in the form of her audacious cousin Cat and her government class partner, the obnoxious but undeniably attractive Austin.

This is a wonderful, uplifting tale of friendship, romance, and making your own destiny. It was a lot of fun to experience modern-day life through the eyes of a timid sixteenth-century girl, and my curiosity about how it would all work out kept me turning the pages.  The chemistry between Alessandra and Austin is undeniable, especially once they get to know each other, but what I appreciated most was that, ultimately, it wasn't Austin who saved her in the end. It was Alessandra's own strength, confidence, and willingness to speak up. Note: Does contain one instance of drinking, where Cat steals a shot glass in a bar and suggests Alessandra drink the liquor to calm her nerves. When Alessandra overdoes it, however, the results are unpleasant for her and the characters around her.

HS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Hooray Parade by Barbara Joosse-OPTIONAL

Joosse, Barbara Hooray Parade.  Illustrated by Heywon Yum, 40 pgs.  Viking Juvenile,  2013.  $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK. Grandma is coming to visit.  She often brings a surprise and this time is no exception.  With the help of a shadow-puppet guessing game, her granddaughter (and young readers alike) are thrilled with guessing which animal shows up behind the curtain: an elephant, ostrich, rhino and monkey.  On the last page, all the animals come from behind the curtain and join the grandmother and granddaughter in a parade. The colors in the illustrations are bright and inviting.  The story is simple but will thrill young readers.  Pre-K.  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL

Happy Birdday Tacky by Helen Lester- ADVISABLE

Lester, Helen Happy Birdday Tacky! Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, 32 pgs.  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013. $16.99. PICTURE BOOK.  It’s Tacky the Penguin’s Birdday and his friends want to make it the best birdday ever!  They spend hours working on cards, songs, presents, ice cream and cake.  They even book a surprise entertainer, Twinklewebs theDance Queen from Iglooslavia. While all of the birdday preparations are going on, Tacky invents another one of his quirky and hilarious dances: The Flapwaddle Dance. While practicing his new dance, Tacky is summoned to the party.  It seems that anything that can go wrong at the party does go wrong. But Tacky takes no notice and begins to show his friends his new dance and he eventually saves the day.  This is another great addition to the Tacky series.  I am partial to the first book.  Sequels, including this one, are funny, colorful and bright, but Tacky the Penguin is simply one of the best books out there. Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE. Reviewer: SL.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde - OPTIONAL

Fforde, Jasper  The Last Dragonslayer, 287 pgs.  Harcourt, 2012.  $16.99  

Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG. 
Jennifer Strange is a fifteen year old who runs an employment agency for magicians.  She is an orphan, and now an indentured servant working off her years to freedom by manning the company.  The previous manager disappeared while doing magic and Jennifer is the only one who knows how to keep the business afloat.  The magicians help with home repair and delivery services, but magic in the world is dwindling and magical services are no longer used by the public at large.  One of the magicians has a premonition that the local dragon is going to die and soon the whole nation is moving in to take over the dragonlands.  Jennifer attempts to understand the connection between magic and the dragon and comes across the old dragonslayer.  He hands the responsibility over to Jennifer, making her the last dragonslayer, and she finds herself in a precarious situation. 
This book is confusing.  Anytime I found myself getting into the story of Jennifer and the dragon, a minor character would go off on a random dialogue that would last a couple of pages and I didn’t feel like it helped the plot move along at all.  Also there would be references to old wars and battles throughout that really had nothing to do with the overall story.  At times I felt like the book was geared more towards adults and was trying to make environmental statements and anti-war sentiments.  It didn’t feel like a kid book and I wouldn’t recommend it to my students which is sad because I liked the character Jennifer Strange and I wanted to like the story. 
MS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Just One More Pet by Mercer Mayer- ADVISABLE

Mayer, Mercer  Just One More Pet HarperFestival, 2013.  $3.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G. 
Little Critter finds a lost dog in the woods on his way home.  He takes the dog home, but his mom says that they have too many pets, so he can’t keep him.  However, his mom lets him put the dog in the backyard on a leash until Little Critter’s dad gets home.  They decide to take care of the dog until they can find its owner.  While the dog is staying with them it has puppies and the owner shows up to take the dog.  She offers one of her puppies to Little Critter and his parents tell him that he can keep it.  He is excited. 
This is a typical cute Little Critter book.  The story shows that keeping and caring for pets is a lot of work, but they are also fun.  The illustrations and quick story will hold little reader’s attention. 
 PREK, EL (K-3)-ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Saving June by Hannah Harrington - PUBLIC

Harrington, Hannah  Saving June, 322 pgs.  HarlequinTeen, 2011.  $9.99  

Content: Language: R (126 swears; 27 F; 27 God); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13. 
Harper’s seemingly perfect sister, June, committed suicide and Harper doesn’t know how to deal with it.  She finds a mix CD that her sister was listening to when she died and decides to investigate who made it for her.  That is how Harper finds Jake.  Harper isn’t sure how June and Jake knew each other, but Jake is willing to help Harper get to California where she hopes to throw June’s ashes into the ocean.  Harper’s best friend Laney also joins them for their crazy road trip where Harper and Jake help each other deal with June’s death. 
 I actually enjoyed this book and I liked the characters.  The mature content (drug use and sex) and language are a bit much for a school library, but I think this book has value because the characters learn how to find strength within themselves even when they feel like there isn’t any hope.  Overall, watching the character growth was worth wading through the inappropriate content.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

I Scream Ice Cream by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - OPTIONAL

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse  I Scream, Ice Cream  Illustrated by Serge Bloch  Chronicle Books, 2013. $16.99  PICTURE BOOK Content: G. 
This picture book is page spreads that have groups of words that sound the same.  The first page will say something that sounds the same as the second page but means two different things.  For example, “I Scream” and “Ice Cream” as well as “I see” and “Icy”.  Some of the words groups make more sense than others and are entertaining for young readers, but others seem random and don’t really make sense, such as “Sorry, no more funnel cakes” and “Sorry, no more fun…elk aches.”  The pictures are a bit abstract and not my favorite, but they represent the word phrases well.  This picture book doesn’t have a story and it is just phrases throughout.  Kids might find it interesting to think of different meanings of words that sounds the same and the author asks the reader to guess what the second page might mean before you turn the page. 
EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Dog, My Cat by Ashlee Fletcher -- OPTIONAL

Fletcher, Ashlee My Dog, My Cat 32 pgs. Tanglewood Press, 2011. $13.95. PICTURE BOOK.

A very simple picture book comparing the narrator's dog and cat. For example, the dog barks while the cat meows, and the dog enjoys steak while the cat prefers tuna. In the end they do have two things in common: they both love pepperoni pizza and the narrator.

A very quick read with bright, clipart-style illustrations. Although the book doesn't detail anything revolutionary, many children will enjoy the discussion of the differences between cats and dogs.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Caryn.

If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor -- OPTIONAL

Kantor, Melissa If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? 320 pgs. Hyperion Books, 2007. $8.99. Language: (19 swears, no 'f'); Violence: PG; Mature Content: PG-13 (some making out in cars, though it goes no further than kissing; some underage drinking and one drug reference, neither of which is condoned).

Ever since Lucy's father remarried, her life has been upended. First she had to move from Los Angeles to New York to live with her new family, which meant a new school, new rules, and no friends. Then her father began traveling back to California to work, leaving Lucy alone with her stepmother and two vacuous stepsisters. Lucy decides it's not fair; after all, even Cinderella got to have a prince. Instead, Lucy spends the first seven months at her new school being completely ignored. Then an ill-advised remark about basketball earns her the attention of the hottest guy in school. Too bad Cinderella may be getting to know her real Prince Charming in the form of a standoffish boy in her art class.

This was a cute read with a hopeful ending -- rushed and tidy though that ending was. As much as I wanted to enjoy the story, however, it was a struggle at times. Lucy often came across as self-centered, judgmental, and snotty, and her snide comments were often unearned by the other characters -- especially her stepmother and stepsisters who, while not perfect, were far from evil. Honestly, many of their problems could have been cleared up with one nice, calm discussion -- something Lucy refused to do because she had already written off her brand new family. It was also difficult to suspend disbelief at times. For example, Lucy is not only unpopular, but completely unknown. Yet with one comment about basketball, this quiet sophomore suddenly has a boyfriend in the form of the hottest guy in the senior class. Almost immediately the two of them start going on dates, making out in his car, and planning their prom. Lucy even has big aspirations toward winning Prom Queen. While the wish fulfillment there is sweet, their relationship is so rushed, and Lucy's turnaround from unknown to Miss Popular so sudden, that it's hard to have much stake in it. When the true romance happens in the end, the payoff is nice but very short-lived. All in all a fun but not particularly memorable story.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Caryn.

Nighty Night ZooBorns by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland –OPTIONAL

Bleiman, Andrew and Eastland, Chris Nighty Night ZooBorns 24 pgs. Simon Spotlight, 2013. $12.38.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G ; Violence: G.
This book describes how 10 different zoo animal babies go to sleep. It provides the specific type of animal they are, along with their given name, like Pepe. It feature’s images of them looking cute or sleepy.
Of course students will love the images, but I can’t understand why a level 1 early reader would include such very specific names of animals that will throw up road blocks for beginning readers, for example instead of just plain Wolf, its “Maned Wolf”. The book didn't really show the animals really sleeping either, which is kind of misleading. The repetition of Nighty, Night was cute though, and might make for a calming story time.

EL –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Go, Jade, Go by Tony and Lauren Dungy –ADVISABLE

Dungy, Tony and Lauren, Illustrated by Newton, Vanessa Go, Jade, Go 32 pgs. Simon Spotlight, 2013. $13.00.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G ; Violence: G.
Justin’s whole family cheer’s on his big sister Jade as she runs track. Justin feels down, and doesn't know what to do to earn some cheers himself. When his big brother Jordan reminds him they each of them is special in their own way –Justin thinks he knows just what to do.
A sweet early reader story about celebrating what makes each person unique. Students will be drawn to the action packed cover art, and find the story easy to relate to their own lives.

EL -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse - ADVISABLE

Stasse, Lisa M.  The Forsaken, 375 pgs.  Simon and Schuster, 2012.  $16.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (34 swears; 5 God); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13. 
Alenna has been considered an orphan since she was ten and the UNA government took her parents.  The government tests all sixteen year olds to see if they are “unanchored souls” or deviants in society.  Since Alenna has been raised by the government as an orphan, she isn’t worried about being an unanchored soul, so she is surprised to wake up from her test on the wheel, an island where the banished teenagers are sent if they don’t pass the test.  When she wakes up she finds an ally in a boy named David, who saves her life from two warring factions on the island.  They are separated and Alenna finds herself in the blue sector with other teens who are trying to survive the island.  The island is full of secrets and violence and Alenna doesn’t know who to trust, until she finds a familiar face in a warrior named Liam. 
This book is hard to put down because I couldn’t wait to find answers to why she was on the island and who was in control.  Throughout the book there are plausible twists and turns and the minor characters are just as interesting as the main character.  The story reminds me of Maze Runner by James Dashner, but it’s better because the characters find answers to their questions.  The ending is satisfying overall, but it does leave some characters fates unanswered because there is going to be another book in the series.  I can’t wait to read it. 
MS, HS-ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Emeraldalicious by Victoria Kann - OPTIONAL

Kann, Victoria  Emeraldalicious HarperCollins, 2013.  $17.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  
Pinkalicious and Peter are going for a walk when Pinkalicious falls and breaks her wand.  She decides to make a new one out of a nearby twig and it holds magical powers.  Peter and Pinkalicious are able to make cool things out of garbage, such as a throne a castle and new outfits.  They also are able to create birds and flowers.  Eventually the magical wand gets taken up by the wind and Peter is sad because they won’t be able to make anything new, but Pinkalicious tells him not to worry because they can make things with seeds and love. 
The pictures in this book are as bright and colorful as other Pinkalicious books, but the storyline is random and it’s unclear whether or not the characters are actually able to do magic or if it’s their imagination.  There are also poems that they use as spells and they are random and don’t feel thought out.  This isn’t my favorite book even though my daughter loves other Pinkalicious books. 
EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

When we Wuz Famous by Greg Takoudes - - ADVISABLE

Takoudes, Greg When we Wuz Famous, 310 pgs. Henry Holt and Company; 2013. $16.99. Language: R ( 100+ Swears 17 Fs); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13.  

When basketball star Francisco gets a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in upstate New York, he leaves his friends, his girlfriend and his “Krew” behind.  But when trouble shows up when he comes home for a long weekend, Francisco must decide between staying in school and being loyal to his friends.  

Based on Takoudes film “Up with Me”, this gritty look at the inner-city youth of Spanish Harlem shows how hard it is to break away from the life there. The violence is mild without losing the feel for the danger.  Although quite sweary, High School students would really enjoy this novel.  
HS ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus by James Dean-OPTIONAL

Dean, James Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus, 32 pgs. Harper Collins, 2013.  $9.99. PICTURE BOOK. This book is about a cat named Pete.  The book is patterned after “The Wheels on the Bus” but with a different twist. Some of the verses are the same like “The driver on the bus says, “Move on back!”.  Other verses are different like “The kitties on the bus say, “Come on, Pete!”.   I didn’t really like this book.  The story wasn’t interesting.  The pictures were alright but I didn’t love them either.  Pre-K.  EL(K-3).  OPTIONAL.  Student Reviewer: JL- age 10.

Ball by Mary Sullivan-ADVISABLE

Sullivan, Mary Ball 40 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013. $12.99 PICTURE BOOK.  This virtually wordless book (the only word is ball) is a humorous story about a dog and his need for someone, anyone, to play ball with him.  After his best friend in the house heads to school, he hits up mom, the baby, and even the pet cat in hopes for a quick game of ball.  When no one takes him up on his offer, he ends up playing a one-sided game of fetch.  The dog eventually tires out and has a nap, but the ball playing continues in his dreams.  The story is adorable with perfect detailed illustrations.  We loved the creativity and imagination in this book.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: SL. 

Bella's Rules by Elissa Haden Guest-ESSENTIAL

Guest, Elissa Haden Bella’s Rules. Pictures by Abigail Halpin. 32 pgs.  Dial, 2013.  $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK. This book is about a girl named Bella who sometimes struggles with being a good girl.  Her grandmother buys her a dog to show Bella how it feels when sometimes the thing you are taking care of is bad.  Will Bella learn lesson?  I really liked this book.  I really liked the illustrations a lot.  I liked the story and the moral to the story.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ESSENTIAL.  Student reviewer: JL- age 10. 

Cute & Cuter by Michael Townsend-ADVISABLE

Townsend, Michael Cute & Cuter, 40 pgs.  Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. $15.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  This book is a very cute story about a dog and his owner.  One day they get a cat.  The dog does not like the cat.  He tried every way he can think of to get rid of the cat.  He eventually drops the cat out the mail slot in the door hoping the owner won’t notice.  The owner becomes sad and she starts to worry.  This wasn’t going at all how the dog had hoped.  Will the owner find the cat and will they all become friends?  Read to find out.  I really liked the illustrations.  I thought they were really cute.  I liked the story line and what happened in the book.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  ADVISABLE.  Student Reviewer: JL

Dare You To by Katie McGarry -- PUBLIC

McGarry, Katie Dare You To 480 pgs. Harlequin Teen, 2013. $17.99. Mature Content: R (drinking; drugs; physical intimacy, although final acts occur behind closed doors); Violence: PG-13 (several fights; references to child abuse); Language: R (150+ swears; 23 'f')

When Beth covers for her drunken mother -- yet again -- her rich uncle gives her an ultimatum: come live with him and his wife, or he will tell the police the truth and send Beth's mother to jail. But moving in with her uncle means going to a new high school, where she has daily contact with Ryan, a promising baseball player who seems strangely drawn to her.

What Beth doesn't know is that Ryan is determined to break through her tough exterior for one big reason: his friends dared him to ask her out, and she turned him down. Ryan doesn't lose, and now he has a chance to redeem himself. But soon there's something more important at stake than winning a dare: winning skittish Beth's heart before she disappears from his life forever.

Dare You To is a wonderful romance between two realistic teens who both have some growing up to do and some major decisions to make. Their love is hard-won, and it helps both of them become better people. Although brash, tough Beth may be difficult to like at first, her tumultuous past and growth throughout the book endear her to readers. Ryan's ultra-perfect jock exterior is also peeled away to show that, like all teens, he has some struggles of his own. While Dare You To could be a difficult addition for schools due to the strong language, drug use, and other mature content (the scene where several characters shop for condoms together comes to mind), it would find a guaranteed audience in many libraries because of its unflinching realism, romantic themes, and ultimately happy ending. It may in fact be just the book for some students -- especially those who have difficult pasts or families who are either torn apart or are too perfect. Would also be great for fans of Simone Elkeles. Note: This is a companion book to Pushing the Limits. While I did not read Echo and Noah's story and it was not essential to the plot of Dare You To, it would be beneficial to read them in order.

HS -- PUBLIC ONLY. Reviewed by: Caryn

Wetlands by Cathryn Sill -- ESSENTIAL

Sill, Cathryn and John Sill About Habitats: Wetlands 48 pgs. Peachtree, 2013. $7.95.

An illustrated introduction to various wetlands ecosystems, ending with a call to protect these important habitats. Written for young children, each spread contains one to three simple sentences in large print, highlighting a particular aspect of the wetlands. A full-color painting on the opposite page complements each section of the text. The last few pages contain further details on each of the preceding illustrations, a glossary, and a list of resources for further study.

An excellent introduction to an essential habitat, especially for younger children. Although I did learn a few things while reading it, older children who are conducting more in-depth research may need something more detailed.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say - - ADVISABLE

Say, Allen The Favorite Daughter, 32 pgs. Arthur A. Levine Books; 2013. $17.99. Content: G.  

When Yuriko stays with her father, she is angry that the children tease because her blonde hair does not look Japanese, and the art teacher says her name wrong.  Now she wants to be Michelle, so her father takes her to Golden Gate Park and a Japanese garden to get inspiration for her art assignment.  

In this sweet story about appreciating your heritage and being creative, Say balances Japanese traditions with American culture and shows how a little creativity can make an ordinary assignment a special piece of art.  

EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers - - ESSENTIAL

Myers, Walter Dean Invasion, 224 pgs. Scholastic Press; 2013. $17.99. Language: R (86 Swears 17 Fs); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13.  

Woody is part of the 29th Infantry Division which invaded France against the Germans on D-Day suffering heavy casualties.  This is the story of the Invasion and the weeks following D-Day.  

Walter Dean Myers gives us another war story; this time, WWII. Billed as a prequel to Fallen Angels and Sunrise over Fallujah, Myers shows the horrors of war without being too graphic and sends the message that war is not the answer to the world’s problems.  Although the swear count is high, I would certainly recommend this on a Middle School level.  


Friday, July 26, 2013

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton -- ESSENTIAL

Jordan-Fenton, Christy, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and Gabrielle Grimard When I Was Eight 32 pgs. Annick Press, 2013. $9.95.

An autobiographical account of the author's childhood adapted for children from the book Fatty Legs. When Olemaun was eight, she convinced her father to let her leave their Inuit island and travel far away to the outsiders' school so she could learn to read. Victorious, Olemaun arrives at school ready to learn. Things are not easy for her, however. The nuns take away her native clothes, replacing them with an ill-fitting uniform. They rename her Margaret and order her to do chores. When she makes an enemy of her stern nun of a teacher, Margaret wonders if she will ever be allowed to learn to read. But her determination is stronger than all the things thrown at her, and in the end she teaches herself.

This is a wonderful story about the importance of education, as well as perseverance in the face of obstacles. I found myself worrying and cheering right along with Olemaun. Because of the cultural and historical references, some children may require a little extra explanation from adults to help them understand the context of the story and the significance of Olemaun's achievements. Would make a good companion to lessons on the culture and history of the Inuits. May also make a nice library read-aloud due to its emphasis on the power of reading.

EL -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Meaty Main Dishes by Jennifer S. Larson -- ESSENTIAL

Larson, Jennifer S. and Brie Cohen Meaty Main Dishes 32 pgs. Millbrook Press, 2013. $26.60.

A beginner's guide to cooking. Includes ten different meat-based recipes, some with vegetarian alternatives.

While the recipes themselves are serviceable, the main appeal of the book is its information on basic cooking skills. The first few pages include an introduction to cooking, along with safety tips, illustrations of various kitchen tools, and an introduction to basic cooking techniques -- all written in a clear but friendly and encouraging voice with a nice, easy-to-read typeface and bolding in appropriate places. The recipes themselves include lists of ingredients and equipment, estimated preparation and cooking time, step-by-step directions, pictures and illustrations, and helpful hints -- many of which encourage children to get creative with their cooking by substituting different ingredients or arranging food in new, appealing ways. The last few pages contain a glossary of unusual ingredients, an index, and a list of websites for further reading.

Meaty Main Dishes is an excellent resource for beginning cooks. Although some of the recipes do require adult supervision, many steps can be done by children, helping them to gain confidence in the kitchen. While some high school students may find it slightly young for them, those who are interested in becoming self-sufficient -- such as those who come home to an empty house or who are about to go off to college -- may be willing to overlook the tone. The main downside is the hefty price tag, though the book does include a solid library binding.

EL, MS, HS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wyatt Burp Rides Again (The Adventures of Jo Schmo #2) by Greg Trine -OPTIONAL

Trine, Greg Wyatt Burp Rides Again (The Adventures of Jo Schmo #2) 112 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013. $12.98.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Jo Schmo is bored, impatient that there are no big crimes to solve. Little does she know that the means girls at school have decided to become super villains! Jo decides to build a time machine and go back in the past to fight the evil Wyatt Burp. His burping powers are going to present a big challenge!
This the second book I have read in this series, and I am not sure that it’s growing on me. The language is choppy and stilted, often really corny too.  I think the cover is unappealing as well.  I wouldn't purchase this one for my school library, I just think there is better options.

EL –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The End of the World (Icky Ricky #2) by Michael Rex –NO

Rex, Michael Toilet Paper Mummy (Icky Ricky #1) 128 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013. $4.99.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Here we find Icky Ricky and his friends trying valiantly to re-deliver a pizza mis-delivered to them. But its raining, and they drop it, and they try to remake it. Well it’s a mess and they boys decide to have a funeral. We also meet Icky Rickys toenail collection. Then the boys have some adventure’s on a Cleanup day.
Although this book is better than the first one, I still would choose not to spend money on this series. I wish the author would take the great banter between the boys, the sense of fun, and his creativity –then take it down a notch.

EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Toilet Paper Mummy (Icky Ricky #1) by Michael Rex –NO

Rex, Michael Toilet Paper Mummy (Icky Ricky #1) 128 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013. $4.99.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Icky Ricky is a boy who very creative when it comes to using food in a variety of ways, many of them really messy, gross, and of course, fun. Will Ricky be able to turn in his homework on cheese slices? Will a half watermelon helmet really work? Is Ricky going to take the fall for the bully Dean’s lost RC car? What about all that canned cheese?
I didn't care for this book. It was like a giant collection of ideas on how to waste food by making a giant mess with it. Although there was some continuing plot lines and decent vocabulary, I didn't feel like they justified purchasing this for a school library –even as entertaining filler.

EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

It Jes' Happened by Don Tate -- ADVISABLE

Tate, Don and R. Gregory Christie It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw 32 pgs. Lee & Low Books Inc. 2012. $17.95.

A biography of self-taught artist Bill Traylor. As a former slave, then sharecropper, husband, and father, Traylor saw a lot in his lifetime. Without knowing it, he saved up all his experiences and emotions inside until one day, when he was alone and eighty-five, he sat down and poured everything out in a series of drawings and paintings. Although he saw little to no fame in his own lifetime, and eventually lost heart, his work has recently been rediscovered and finally appreciated.

This is a nice reminder that artists must live life in order to have a creative well to pull from, and an inspiration for those who begin to draw either late in life or without formal training. The text-heavy pages make this one more suitable for older students, perhaps ones who are themselves budding artists. While the illustrations mimic Traylor's style, and his artwork is described several times, the book itself contains only one piece of his work, a small painting on the very last page.

EL, MS -- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by: Caryn

Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School by Barbara Park –ESSENTIAL

Park, Barbara Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School 144 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, 2013. $9.35.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

In this book the famous first grader, Junie B, reveals all her secret school survival advice from school supplies, how to deal with teachers, how to stay out of trouble, homework, and even information about the best color clothes to wear to avoid stains from school lunch!

Students love this series, and reprints are great –since they avoid the older style covers. The glossy pages are fully color illustrated over notebook style paper that students will find very appealing. Junie B.’s quirky personality doesn't fail to come across in her eclectic advice.

EL (K-3), EL –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Matt and Dave Yuck: Yucks Big Booger Challenge by David Sinden –NO

Sinden, David Matt and Dave Yuck: Yucks Big Booger Challenge 112 pgs. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2013. $13.09.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Yuck is obsessed with boogers, especially his own. His mom really wants him to stop picking and eating them and also, to wear clean socks. Yuck comes up with a recipe for the stinkiest stink imaginable. Features many black and white illustrations.
I honestly don’t care if students might love this book, I am the one making the purchases, and this book made me want to vomit. Give me Captain Underpants any day of the week. This book was just trying to top itself over and over again on the gross out factor. I don’t want to give impressionable students any ideas that I or their parents, or both as I get yelled at, will live to regret –especially when it comes to boogers and stinky socks.

EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery –OPTIONAL

De Saint-Exupery, Antoine The Little Prince 112 pgs. HMH Books; Reprint edition, 2013. $8.99.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
A 2013 reprint of the classic story of a downed pilot stranded in the desert who meets an unusual little prince.
I can’t for the life of me figure out what makes this re-print necessary. I already have multiple copies of this story in my library, like many of you probably already do.  Just contains the original illustrations, like many editions.

EL, MS –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Stuck in the Middle of Middle School: A Novel in Doodles by Karen Romano Young –NO

Young, Karen Romano Stuck in the Middle of Middle School: A Novel in Doodles 112 pgs. Feiwel & Friends, 2013. $11.02.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

This is the continuing story of Doreen, a middle schooler with ADHD who loves to doodle. She is trying to adjust to her new school, liking boys, and some upheaval between her parents. She is having some trouble with her school work.

I found this book to be almost unreadable –small print, font and formatting so varied that it gave me a headache. I think it might even be a bit to cluttered for students. I feel like I may have caught ADHD from this book! Seriously, there is one real reason why I won’t recommend this for a school library –Doreen write’s a paper about kiddie porn –and she also calls it kitty porn. I just can’t cross that bridge with an angry parent.

EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Cookie (Bean Dog and Nugget Book #2) by Charise Mericle Harper –ESSENTIAL

Harper, Charise Mericle The Cookie (A Bean and Nugget Book) 48 pgs. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. $4.49.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

A little graphic novel featuring incredibly simple characters, Bean Dog and Nugget, having little conversations and incidents. In this book, the two of them argue about an invisible donut then about how to split a last cookie, everything coming to a awesome conclusion.

Wow, that was hard to describe. For the record, I am now officially obsessed with this author. I laughed out loud reading the hilarious banter between these two characters. This book is smart and witty while being totally silly and goofy!! I think students will love Nugget and Bean, relating to their friendship and their quirks. Told in a graphic novel format that is a great introduction to early readers.

EL (K-3) –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Ball (Bean Dog and Nugget Book #1) by Charise Mericle Harper –ESSENTIAL

 Harper, Charise Mericle The Ball (A Bean and Nugget Book) 48 pgs. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. $4.49.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

Here we meet Bean Dog and Nugget as they lose Bean Dog’s ball into a scary bush at the park. They come up with some wild schemes to get it back. Including throwing in their shoes, dressing as superhero’s, and more.

I about died laughing reading this book. I think students will adore these simple quirky characters. As with Captain Wedgieman, by this same author, wasn't funny enough –I think she topped herself. I can’t wait to introduce students to this series. I am preparing for a few brawls by buying multiple copies.

EL –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Lost Princess (Mermaid Tales Book #5) by Debbie Daley –OPTIONAL

Daley, Debbie The Lost Princess (Mermaid Tales Book #5) 128 pgs. Aladdin, 2013. $13.03.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

The students of the Trident academy are shocked to find out that a real princess is a student at the school. Will this princess discovery go to her head, shocked as she is herself, or will she be able to find a way to use her new status for good? What about the secret part? Why would her grandfather lie to her? Can this new princess be herself or is she just a typical princess?

To be brutally honest I have really disliked this series, it came off as sickly sweet and candy coated. But it has been so popular with the students, that I gave it another shot. Once my grown-up brain got past all the slangy ocean converted words, this was a fun story with even some character building included. Add this series if you need some safe entertaining filler.

EL –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Meanest Birthday Girl by Josh Schneider –ADVISABLE

Schneider, Josh The Meanest Birthday Girl 48 pgs. Clarion Books, 2013. $12.27.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Dana is a bit high and mighty about her birthday. She acts mean, takes things, and calls people names. When she receives a wonderful pet elephant as a birthday gift, she is elated. But things don’t work out quite the way she expects, and Dana starts to change in unexpected ways.
This story has a sly sense of humor and an intriguing way of teaching. I was pleasantly surprised and thought this was a fantastic book. Students will find this an interesting read as they see a bully make a real change. The artwork is varied and is laid out in an interesting and eye-catching way. Quirky to boot!

EL –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Squish Game On! (Book #5) by Holm, Jennifer and Holm, Matthew –ADVISABLE

Holm, Jennifer and Holm, Matthew Squish Game On! (Book #5)  96 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013. $6.29.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Squish’s best friends are into a new video game called Mitosis. Squish becomes addicted, giving up sleep, and ignoring his homework. Readers also get the continuing story of Squish’s favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba, who is fighting black mold.
I have to admit that I really didn't like Squish when I read another book from this series, but it has grown on me. It’s a popular request from students, 3-4th grade boys. I loved this one because Squish comes to his own conclusions about what excess is doing to his life. I also think students will relate to the video game and comic inclusions as well. Very entertaining!

Elementary –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Martha Speaks: Funny Bone Jokes and Riddles by Karen Barss –OPTIONAL

Barss, Karen Martha Speaks: Funny Bone Jokes and Riddles 24 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013. $11.34.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
A joke book for Fans of the TV show Martha Speaks. Many of the jokes are animal themed. Geared for Early Readers.
I thought this book felt really short and fell short too. It felt more like a promotional item than a book to purchase for a library collection. The jokes weren't that great, and some of them would be confusing to early readers.

EL –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.