Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech - ADVISABLE

Creech, Sharon The Great Unexpected, 226 pgs. Harper Collins Children; 2012. $16.99. 

Language: G; Violence: G; Mature Content: G


Orphans Naomi and Lizzy are best friends, but when a boy named Finn falls out of a tree, things begin to change for them.  Intriguing and mysterious, Finn makes Naomi jealous and Lizzy excited; and who is the Dingle Dangle man everyone is talking about?  There’s also a mysterious woman in Ireland who is the feature of occasional alternate chapters.   

The parallel stories may confuse the elementary reader, however, the mystery keeps the story going, the stories connect beautifully and I was happy with the satisfying ending.  

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise (Series) by Wendelin Van Draaden–ADVISABLE

Van Draanen Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise 336 pgs. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. $12.92.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.
Sammy is going on a cruise to Mexico! She will have a chance to get to know her newly discovered dad, a rockstar, and have a last bit of fun with her best friend Marissa, who is moving away. But right away she is intrigued by the Kensington family. They are having a sort of family reunion to sprinkle their grandfather’s ashes as sea. They aren't a happy family, but they are rich. When they start to go missing, Sammy can’t help but get involved.
First off, the covers of the books in this series have got to go, they have zero kid appeal. I have almost the whole series at my library, untouched, and I am here to say –its not because of the content. This was a fun multifaceted plot with authentic banter and silliness which will resonate with students. Sammy is a fun character who is smart, down to earth, brave and sometimes really stupid! The author does a great job of setting the scene as well –felt like I was really there..minus the seasickness this time!

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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who Needs Magic? (Book #2) by Kathy McCullough –ADVISABLE

McCullough, Kathy Who Needs Magic? 320 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2013. $12.67.  Content: Language: G (1 (B) swear); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G.
Delaney is a spunky, once reluctant, fairy godmother. Without a client. She is getting desperate. Even worse, at her summer mall job, she meets another fairy godmother, Ariella is sparkly and sickly sweet, and successful. When Delany finally gets a client, Jeni, she will do anything it takes to grant her wish. Including going head to head with Ariella and even maybe even losing her own boyfriend.
Wow, want a dip in the teen angst end of the pool? I am still recovering. Teens will relate to this main character and all her brooding. The cover and the magic will help drawn in readers as well. I thought the book was a bit long but I think once a reader is hooked into the story, they won’t mind. Here is my review of Book #1 Don’t Expect Magic.

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

The Nameless Hero (Joshua Dread #2) by Lee Bacon –ADVISABLE

Bacon, Lee The Nameless Hero (Joshua Dread #2) 304 pgs. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013. $12.18.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.
When Joshua received a special invitation for Gyfted & Talented program, he is a bit nervous. But his two best friends, Sophie and Milton are going, so it can’t be that bad. This secret training program creates teams of kids with superpowers. After one scary incident, Joshua finds himself a surprise hero! Luckily he has a mask, because he is all over the news. Will his Super Villain parents find out that Josh is now a hero? Worst yet, an old nemesis waits in the wings, and Joshua is his target. Will his new found fame alienate his friends just when he needs them the most?
This second book in a series was a fast paced fun read. Here is my review of the first book, Joshua Dread. Joshua is at the stage where he is learning how to stand up for himself, so its interesting to see him develop as a character. Students will love this book and the cover is dynamic and eye catching. Superhero's have been having a resurgence for years, so students will love to have some new hero's their own age, to read about. 
EL, MS –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil –ADVISABLE

Keil, Melissa Life in Outer Space 320 pgs. Peachtree Publishers, 2013. $12.84  Content: Language: PG (1 swear: but many Australian slangy swears); Mature Content: PG-13 (Gay character and Porn references), Violence: G.

Sam’s dream girl is Princess Leia, but honestly his mind is mostly on surviving school. He and his geeky friends are constantly bullied, and can no longer even eat in the lunch room. When a gorgeous quirky new girl named Camilla, starts at his school, Sam doesn’t even consider the possibility that he might have a chance. To his shock, they become friends, and Camilla presence is more like magic than anything else. Once he realizes he has feelings, Sam will do anything to crush them.

This is a well written book with multi-faceted plot elements, realistic characters, and various setting and plot points that will resonate with a teenager. However, it is pretty unrealistic, in the exact way that every Michael Cera movie is; the geek that catches the attention of the most amazing girl. Also that confessing your love to a “friend” is ever a good idea; one that ends well, sure.  Lots of great life lessons thrown in the mix too.

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

Francis the Little Fox by Veronique Boisjoly –NOT RECOMMENDED

Boisjoly, Veronique Francis the Little Fox 92 pgs. Kids Can Press, 2013. $13.84.  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Francis is a little fox who loves to go the Laundromat with his dad. They go every Sunday. Although it’s better than home with his little sister Lola, there is a little girl there who likes to play tricks, which mild mannered Francis doesn't like. Today is going to be no different, lots of tricks and even a rescue.
I was smitten by the illustrations, featuring an adorable fox. The artwork is simple, clean, and has a harmonious color palate. The story, though quirky, was kind of oddly boring. For example Francis says “what could be better than freshly washed clothes and bedsheets”; I think students will have trouble relating to both the content and wording. This kind of goes for the whole book. I know that the ending is supposed to be funny, but the rest of the book is so sweet and wholesome that it actually jarred me.  

EL (K-2) –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Calvin Coconut: Extra Famous by Graham Salisbury - ADVISABLE

Salisbury, Graham Calvin Coconut: Extra Famous, 161 pgs. Wendy Lamb Books; 2013. $12.99. 

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

4th Grader Calvin and his friends have the opportunity to be extras in a zombie movie.  Benny’s uncle is a real life movie producer and he’s filming on their local beach.  But Benny is such a liar, can the kids trust that everything he tells them is true?  

Book 9 in the series brings the friends together again for another fun adventure.  Well written for the elementary boys, this series (and this story) will not disappoint.  Wanna make a movie?  

EL - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech - ADVISABLE

Creech, Sharon The Boy on the Porch, 151 pgs. Joanna Cotler Books. 2013. $16.99.  Language: G; Violence: G; Mature Content: G;  

When John and Marta find a small boy left on the porch of their remote farm, they take him in.  Although the boy, Jacob, doesn’t talk, he communicates through art and music.  The longer he stays, the more they love him, but will his parents return to claim him as they promised in the note?  

Another beautiful short read by Creech, it seems more an adult read than a book for children.  No content issues or anything, but the story is more about how the adults are changed than about what happens to the boy. Perhaps kids need to learn this too.  I think the teachers would love it! 


Lisa Librarian

Friday, October 25, 2013

Annoying Orange: How to be Annoying: A Joke Book adapted by Brandon T. Snider - OPTIONAL

Snider, Brandon T. Annoying Orange: How to be Annoying: A Joke Book, 112 pgs. Harper Festival. 2013. $7.99 Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.  

Adapted from the YouTube sensation, this scripted jokebook is right out of the series.  Rude (not raunchy) humor, fart jokes, and plenty of puns, this will keep the Annoying Orange fan laughing and everyone else rolling their eyes.  

Fully illustrated, the format gives the appearance of watching a TV episode of all the dumbest jokes.  EL - OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

Me Too! by Valeri Gorbachev -- ADVISABLE

Gorbachev, Valeri Me Too! PICTURE BOOK. Holiday House, 2013. $14.95. Content: G.

One snowy day, Bear and Chipmunk go on a series of fun adventures. They get along so well and have so much in common that, throughout the day, no matter what Bear says, Chipmunk chimes, "Me too!" At the end they go home to a cozy house for a nice evening together.

This is a quick, easy read. Even non-readers can catch on to Chipmunk's "Me too!" chorus and join in. The illustrations have an old-fashioned feel to them and capture the vibe of a snowy day well, and the cozy scene of the warmly lit house in the end leaves the book on a positive note that makes it perfect for a bedtime read.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Señor Pancho Had a Rancho by René Colato Laínez -- ADVISABLE

Laínez, René Colato Señor Pancho Had a Rancho, illustrated by Elwood Smith. PICTURE BOOK. Holiday House, 2013. $16.95. Content: G.

One side of each page spread contains the familiar lyrics to "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," complete with roosters, sheep, and cows, along with their respective sounds. The opposite side tells of Señor Pancho and his rancho, which is filled with gallos, ovejas, and vacas, all making their Spanish-language sounds. In the end, everyone finds common ground as the animals and farmers come together and dance.

The cartoony illustrations are a lot of fun, as is the refrain, "Señor Pancho had a ranch, cha-cha-cha-cha-cha." In addition, the Spanish translations of the animals and their sounds is informative, and the back-and-forth between the farmers -- as well as their ultimate dance party -- sends a positive message about celebrating differences while still embracing unity. Could be especially helpful in a classroom suffering from racial tensions. The Spanish translation does throw the rhythm off in quite a few places, making it difficult to sing, but practice helps.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Come Back, Ben by Ann and John Hassett -- ADVISABLE

Hassett, Ann and John Hassett Come Back, Ben. PICTURE BOOK. Holiday House, 2013. $14.95. Content: G.

Ben grabs onto the string of a giant red balloon. Together, they travel through the window and up, up, up, past mountains and rainbows until they reach the moon. Once Ben returns, his pockets filled with moon rocks, it is time for the balloon to go on a new adventure.

A simple, cute story that is especially good for beginning readers. While the illustrations are rough and simplistic at times, they have some cute details and the story itself is fun -- especially the twist at the end.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry -- NOT RECOMMENDED

Hartry, Nancy Watching Jimmy, 152 pgs. Tundra Books, 2009. $16.95. Language: PG-13 (20+ swears); sexual content: PG-13 (threatened molestation of a child); violence: PG-13.


When Jimmy suffers severe brain damage, everyone believes Uncle Ted's story about him falling off the swing when it was at its peak. But Jimmy's friend Carolyn knows the whole truth because she was there. Rather than telling on the scary Uncle Ted, however, the 11yo grits her teeth and helps care for the damaged Jimmy. But the world is filled with good people, and she soon finds that others can be just as altruistic as she.

This was a short but disturbing read that could interest some fans of dark realistic fiction. Although some of the twists were far-fetched -- especially the good luck that fell in Carolyn's lap several times -- the message that there are good people in the world is comforting. Unfortunately, finding an audience for the book could be difficult, as the topics are far too advanced for an elementary school crowd, and many high school students will be turned off by the use of an 11yo character's perspective. In addition, the choice of setting -- 1958 Canada -- means many of the references will be obscure for a modern American audience, especially since little to no background is given for any of them.

In truth, the above made the book OPTIONAL all the way up until the end, when Carolyn made the conscious decision not to report Uncle Ted's attempted sexual molestation of her because she felt her loved-ones shouldn't be burdened with that knowledge. Instead, she decides it would be most noble to simply get over it and move on. Not an encouraging or helpful example for students who may be in a similar position. Also, Uncle Ted is never truly punished for what happened to Jimmy. Instead, he simply disappears, and the other characters shrug him off with a comment that he may come back but they can handle him this time for certain. Alas, there is no evidence that they can, and the lack of resolution without the promise of a sequel leaves the reader with an uneasy feeling, as does the fact that Jimmy has only a slim (and expensive) chance of being cured. Perhaps the addition of an epilogue would have helped.

Reviewer: Caryn

The Worm Whisperer by Betty Hicks - ADVISABLE

Hicks, Betty The Worm Whisperer, 186 pgs. Roaring Brook Press. 2013. $16.99 Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G. 

Class Clown Ellis loves animals.  On a school field trip, he meets a woman who is a Horse Whisperer.  Now Ellis thinks he might be able to talk to animals, too.  With his father out of work, and his mother holding down 3 jobs, Ellis tries to help the family by finding and training the perfect Wooly Worm for a race that could win him $1,000; enough to get dad the surgery he needs to be able to go back to work.  

Ellis is a really nice kid, helpful funny and genuine. Hicks addresses bullying, family issues and friendship without getting sappy.   This book would appeal to both boys and girls EL - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Keeping Safe the Stars by Sheila O'Conner - ADVISABLE

O’Conner, Sheila Keeping Safe the Stars, 394 pgs. Putnam’s, 2012.  $16.99.  Language: G; Mature Content: G;  Violence: PG.  

13-year-old Pride is left alone with her younger sister and brother when their grandfather, Old Finn,  takes himself into town to the hospital because of a fever.  When he is admitted to the hospital and the children realize they are fending for themselves (and taking care of the elderly Miss Addie who lives on the property) they decide to go into business and offer pony rides and popcorn to strangers.  In order to keep her family safe, Pride starts telling people lies and soon everything is out of hand. 

Historically placed the summer Nixon resigned there’s plenty of background for kids not familiar with the time period.  A sweet book (reminded me of Where the Lilies Bloom) about secrets, lies and family.   It’s not just another “orphans on their own” novel.  MS ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall of Harvest Shapes by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky - ADVISABLE

Chernesky, Felicia Sanzari.  Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall of Harvest Shapes. Illustrated by Susan Swan.  PICTURE BOOK.  Albert Whitman & Co., 2013.  $16.99.  Content: G.  A family’s trip to the pumpkin patch becomes a delightful search for shapes.  The rhyme and rhythm make this a natural read aloud.  The illustrations are a standout with tons of colors, shapes, and patterns. 

Pre-K, EL(K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks - ADVISABLE

Jinks, Catherine.  How to Catch a Bogle.  Illustrated by Sarah Watts.  308 pages.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.  $16.99.  

Violence-PG (creature that eats children); Language-PG (couple of religious swears); Mature Content-G


The setting is Victorian England with a magical twist—bogles: demon creatures that haunt chimneys, wells, or other dark places and they prefer to eat children.  Birdie is a young orphan girl with the voice of an angel.  She is also an apprentice to a bogler (a person who catches/kills bogles), Mr. Alfred Bunce.  Birdie is the bait that brings the bogles out of their hiding places.  Mr. Bunce and Birdie are summoned by a wealthy lady named Miss Eames.  She offers to pay to watch them kill a bogle.  Meanwhile young street thieves are disappearing.  Miss Eames is shocked to discover that bogles exist and even more shocked to realize that Birdie’s life is in jeopardy each time she assists Mr. Bunce.  Miss Eames is determined to find a new way to catch bogles that doesn’t require a child as bait.  She offers Birdie a chance to become a singer, but before Birdie can make up her mind they discover the house where the boys have been disappearing.  

Author Catherine Jinks is a first-rate storyteller and the plot moves quickly with a couple of surprises.  Birdie is a likeable and caring character.  The secondary characters are also well developed.  Sarah Watt’s illustrations look as if they were made by a quill and are creepy without being scary.  Recommend to fans of The Last Apprentice series. 
Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

Ruins by Orson Scott Card - OPTIONAL

Card, Orson Scott Ruins, 530 pgs. Simon Pulse, 2012. $18.99. Language: G (O Swears);  Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG; 

Rigg, a trained survivalist, finds himself fatherless in a futuristic world with walls that section off society.    With his newly made friends in Umbo, Loaf, Param, and Olivenko, Rigg has pushed through a “wall” into another section of society. There he meets Vadesh, an exact copy of his pseudo father. Treachery awaits this small band at every corner. Rigg and his friends, some who possess super powers, must sort through all the new information being thrown at them in order to survive and fulfill their destinies. 

This second book in the “Pathfinder” series becomes even more complicated than the first.  It is a must to read the first book in order to fully understand and follow this second book.  Although this world concept is a great idea, the details of life on this planet are confusing. It’s a challenge to keep up with Card’s racing mind. 


On Little Wings by Regina Sirois - ADVISABLE

Sirois, Regina On Little Wings, 418 pgs. Viking, 2013. $ 17.99.

Language: G (O Swears), Mature Content: PG, Violence: PG. 


A Nebraska teen, Jennifer, lives a normal life with her father and mother, who claim to be orphans without siblings.  When Jennifer stumbles across an old photo of a girl that looks like her, her father confesses that it is the photo of her aunt, Sarah, her mother’s sister.  This photo propels Jennifer to Maine with all the romance, adventure, and love to be found in a quaint seaside town. Jennifer learns many things about her herself and her heritage as she comes of age. 

Sweet and heartwarming describe this novel of forgiveness, love, and wisdom. Sirois uses delicious, descriptive words, such as: “Almost as imperceptibly as the stars steal into the dark sky, Nathan slipped away with a simple, unassuming, “good night”. “  The first person approach to this story draws one into Jennifer’s deepest feelings about herself and her world. The title of this story has double meaning, richly illuminated throughout the story. 

Reviewer: MOMMAC

Laugh With the Moon by Shanna Burg - ESSENTIAL

Burg, Shanna Laugh With the Moon, 256 pgs. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012; $16.99. Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G

Clare’s mom has recently died of cancer.  If things aren’t bad enough, her father, a doctor, takes her to Africa for a couple of months to do a service project.  In the beginning, Clare hates living in Africa and feels sorry for herself -- that is, until she meets Memory and her six-year-old little brother, Innocent.  Memory and Innocent lost both mom and dad to sicknesses.  While Clare is going to school, the school master asks Clare to teach English to Innocent’s class because they don’t have enough teachers. One day Clare and her friends decide to go to a lake.  While on the trip, Innocent gets sick. They are unable to make it to the hospital and he dies. Memory is very upset at her brother’s death and Clare feels it is her fault.  At the end of the story, Clare asks Memory how she keeps going when she has lost both parents and her only brother.  She tells Clare “Even the mourner must stop and laugh with the moon.”  By the end of the book, Clare has undergone a lot of personal growth.  

I enjoyed this book. By reading this book, the reader will learn the way African children live, about their education, what they eat, health care, and family life.  I think this book would be good for middle schools and high schools. Because it is easy to read, I recommend it to readers that struggle and ELL students. 

MS – ESSENTIAL, HS-ADVISABLE. Reviewed by M. Duncan