Monday, September 30, 2013

A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund -- OPTIONAL

Hedlund, Jody A Noble Groom, 369 pgs. Bethany House Publishers, 2013. $15. Content: PG-13.

German Pioneer Annalisa Werner finds herself widowed, pregnant, and destitute in the 1881 Michigan wilderness. If she doesn't work her land, she'll lose her homestead, but the feat is impossible without a husband, so her father writes to his brother in Europe, requesting a match for Annalissa. In the meantime, she's stuck with Carl, a stranger who seems, well, a lot more noble than he claims.

Rich, entitled Carl von Reichert will soon face execution for a crime he did not commit. But Annalisa's uncle saves him on one condition: he will travel across the ocean to America, a land of peasants, and help Annalisa work her homestead until her real husband arrives. While noble-born Carl has his misgivings -- after all, what does he know about the backbreaking work of farming? -- it's his only choice. Tough as his new existence is, however, it has unexpected perks. Not only is the exhausting and stressful life of a farmer intensely rewarding, but he's beginning to fall in love with Annalisa. Too bad she's totally inappropriate. After all, she's poor, uneducated, and far from the noble bride his father would have approved of. Not to mention she's promised to another man. Of course, Carl's not perfect either. He's got a secret so huge that if Annalisa discovers it she'll never choose him over the stranger to whom she's promised.

Although written for an adult audience, the voice, language, and characters in this inspirational would be approachable for a number of teens, especially those who are ready to move toward adult novels but aren't mature enough for the more risqué scenes in many books. There are some references to bedroom happenings, but the constraints of the inspirational genre mean such incidents occur behind closed doors and are limited to married couples. The romance is sweet, respectful, and well-developed, and Hedlund did an admirable job of making the poor immigrant settlers' experiences come to life. Giant swaths of introspection -- especially with the main characters asking themselves question after question -- lend the book a melodramatic feel in some spots and seem to push readers toward particular conclusions instead of letting them arrive there on their own. Still, the characters' reactions do deepen the emotional resonance, and the quick pacing and action-packed plot outweigh the excessive ruminating. The religious element does come into play, although it is not preachy and seems fitting for the time period and backgrounds of the characters.

HS, Adult -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman -- ESSENTIAL

Eddleman, Peggy Sky Jumpers, 290 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013. $17. Content: PG.

Twelve-year-old Hope lives in the post-WWIII town of White Rock, where the citizens prize inventing above any other skill.  After all, how else will they return to the pre-war conveniences humans once had? Too bad Hope is completely inept at inventing. But when a group of bandits raid their town, threatening the lives of all the citizens of White Rock, Hope discovers that some things are more important than being a good inventor, and that there's more than one way to contribute to society. Only she and her friends are brave enough to sneak away through the cloud of deadly toxins the WWIII bombs left behind -- and smart enough to emerge alive. Together they set off to find help and save the town. Along the way Hope discovers that just one person can make a huge difference in unexpected ways.

Utah author Peggy Eddleman tells a wonderful and heartwarming story that had me rooting for the aptly-named Hope and the citizens of White Rock the whole time. After an exciting start things slowed down a bit, but once they picked up again it was nonstop action and adventure, especially in the second half. The well-developed characters and thoroughly-imagined world brought even more life into the story. Sky Jumpers is the first in a series, and some loose ends do hint at future story lines, but the book stands on its own quite nicely. The ending is satisfying and left me teary-eyed and smiling.

MS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat by Kann - ADVISABLE

Kann, Victoria Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat illustrated by Victoria Kann. PICTURE BOOK. Harper Festival, 2013. $4.99. Content: G.

When the power goes out in Pinkville, Pinkalicious worries that it won’t come on in time for trick-or-treating that night. She comes up with a plan that the mayor agrees to so the children can still celebrate Halloween. It’s a must have for Pinkalicious fans and it even comes with a “Pinktastic” sticker page. 

Pre-K, ELK(k-3) - ADVISABLE. reviewer: SM

Trouper by Meg Kearney - ADVISABLE

Kearney, Meg Trouper , illustrated by E.B. Lewis.  Scholastic Press, 2013.  

A dog tells the story of his life on the street and his long wait before his is chosen by a little boy to be his dog.  Be careful with this sweet story of pet rescue – it would probably send your entire class home to their parents begging to head to the nearest shelter!  I must admit that it is pretty adorable.  

EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher.

Opposites by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert –NO

Schubert, Ingrid and Dieter Opposites 32 pgs. Lemniscaat USA, 2013. $14.01.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK.
This book presents one-word opposites, with large illustrated pages. It features tons of animals to create the events for each scene. Examples are asleep and awake, normal and crazy, brave and scared.
The illustrations are muted and very odd. The Sad scene shows what appears to be a dead Owl and a little open grave! The Brave scene features a raccoon with a club waiting to hit something hiding in a cave. It also shows a pig hold two crocodiles with their mouths tied up so that his pig friend can run on their backs. Some of the other scenes are just confusing. Wet is pretty good, but Dry features a river and a bucket of water! This book is just flat out not clear enough for the students that need these concepts presented very clearly.

PRE-K, EL (K-3) -NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Ouch! by Joe Rhatigan –ADVISABLE

Rhatigan, Joe Ouch! 80 pgs. Imagine Publishing, 2013. $12.75.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
This large book is a fun and informative look at common childhood ailments. The reader finds out what is happening in the body, what to do, when to see the doctor, and the healing process. Its covers topics from Blisters, to Burns, to stings, to the flu. Includes many illustrations and photographs.

This is a really fun book and students will really enjoy reading it. The best thing the author did was choosing ailments that all students will have heard of and can relate to.  The worst thing was that the content can be a bit advanced, its at about a 5th  grade + reading level, though I know younger students will be interested. The illustrations and photographs really add to the book, it’s incredibly bright and colorful!

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

The Unkindness of Ravens (Bigfoot Boy #2) by J. Torres–ADVISABLE

Torres, J. The Unkindness of Ravens (Bigfoot Boy #2) 100 pgs. Kids Can Press, 2013. $12.92.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Rufus is so excited to spend a weekend back at Grammy’s. He is thrilled to see his friend Penny and run through the woods as the Sasquatch! But the Ravens want the ancient totem he uses to change into Bigfoot. They think it would be fun to play tricks with and they decide to go after it.
If your students loved the fun and interesting first book in this series, they will love this one too!! My students have been asking for it non-stop and I think that this book would not disappoint. The artwork is top notch and trickster ravens are always fun! I would recommend this for any elementary librarian looking to build a graphic novel collection.
EL -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Big Top Otto (Elephants Never Forgot Book #2) by Bill Slavin –NO

Slavin, Bill Big Top Otto (Elephants Never Forgot Book #2) 128 pgs. Kids Can Press, 2013. $12.20.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

Otto is an elephant who is searching for his monkey friend named Georgie. After seeing a circus poster with an monkey, he seeks out the circus. Together with his parrot friend Crackers, they get into continuous mischief –at a football game, a parade, and more. When the pair find animals in big time danger they know they have to help out.

Although the artwork is bright and varied in presentation, something about it just feels dated to me, like comics in old newspapers. The plot was extremely fast paced. This book faces a demographic problem –the language is too old/dated slang for elementary students, but I think middle schoolers won’t find animals capers very interesting. On top of that the historical heroine Harriet Tubman is portrayed in this book as a fat pig named Harriet Tubby. Escaped farm animals were the ‘slaves’ on the underground railroad. I found the entire scene extremely offensive.

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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Risked by Margaret Haddix - OPTIONAL

Haddix, Margaret Peterson Risked, 320 p. Simon and Schuster, 2013.  $17. 

Violence: PG-13 (graphic deaths of Romanov family described).  

Brother and sister, Jonah and Hannah, are still trying to figure out the puzzles created by their time-traveling and rescuing of children snatched from all over history – including the mystery of who Jonah actually is.  Along with their friend Chip, whom they just rescued from 1400’s England, and two new snatched children, they are sent backward through time to Russia – just before the death of the ruling family – the Romanov’s.  The new children are Princess Anastasia and Crown Prince Alexis – and if they don’t all learn to cooperate, all of them will die in this time period, not just the royals.  But Alexis (Gavin, in the modern world) has been corrupted by Jonah’s enemies; there just might not be any way to save this situation.

I guess Jonah and Hannah need some kind of closure, but I was happy after the end of the last book.  This one is much bloodier than the rest of the series – I mean REALLY bloody.  I wouldn’t buy this for an elementary school at all.  Unfortunately, it just makes me hopeful that there won’t be too many books left in the series – this is not a good way to learn about some of history’s mysteries.  Exciting, but not informative.  

MS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher.

Hiding Phil by Eric Barclay - ADVISABLE

Barclay, Eric Hiding Phil.  Scholastic Press, 2013.  $17.  PICTURE BOOK.  

Three little friends are wild about the elephant they find just sitting on a bench.  They take him home to play, but realize that mom and dad might not be too excited, so they try as hard as they can to find a creative way to hide him.  They pictures and the enthusiasm of the little kids are the big draws for this picture book.  The end is kind of weird for an adult reader, but absolutely perfect for any child who has ever dreamed of owning an inappropriate pet!  

Pre-K, EL(K-3) – ADVISABLE. 

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce - OPTIONAL

Pierce, Tamora Battle Magic, 440 p. Scholastic, 2013.  $18.  Content: PG (battle violence, non-detailed deaths).  

Rosethorn, Briar and Evvy are just about to head home after their long journey when they receive an invitation from the Emperor of Yanjing to visit his world renowned gardens.  While the trio are eager to go, they find they are just as eager to leave when the Emperor proves to be greedy, sadistic and capricious.  In fact, they need to quickly escape, find their allies and prepare for the most important war of their lives.  If they lose, the Emperor will be free to conquer their whole world.  All three, but especially Evvy, will hidden depths and creative uses for their magics – uses that they should have never had to discover.  

As much as I love Pierce’s every word, they require enough of a reader that they will never be as popular as Riordan and Mull.  She has also taken many years to create a universe with much depth to it.  Only your absolute best readers who adore non-derivative fantasy will appreciate these.  

MS, HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher.