Saturday, May 31, 2014

Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson - - ADVISABLE

Wilson, N.D. Boys of Blur, 195 pgs. Random House 2014. $16.99.  

Language: G (0 swears 0 Fs) Violence: PG; Mature content: PG. 

12-year-old Charlie Reynold’s stepdad is a former professional football player, but when Big Mack’s former coach dies, and the high school asks him to coach in his place, the family relocates to Florida where Charlie and his cousin Cotton stumble into a violent otherworld, complete with monsters, ritual sacrifices, and a desecrated grave. Can the monsters of the past fight the monsters in the swamp and get the town of Taper back to normal?  

This is a great boy book, combining sports, adventure and zombies.  The merging of the two worlds is seamless and believable.  There is just enough danger and tension to keep the reader engaged and the sense of urgency will keep them reading until the very end. 

EL MS - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart –ESSENTIAL

Stewart, Melissa Feathers: Not Just for Flying 32 pgs. Charlesbridge, 2014. $7.95 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.

A presentation on 16 different ways that feathers are not just used for flying. Each type is compared to a common object, for example feathers for keeping warm like a blanket or soak up water like a sponge. Fully illustrated with feather close-ups, objects of comparison, and images of the birds.

This was a fantastic eye-opening book. I think students will broaden their perspectives on the function of feathers and learn a ton. Although the artwork, especially of the feathers, was top notch and beautifully presented, I still found myself wishing for some actual photographs, so as to better ID some of the birds with.

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

The Patchwork Torah by Allison Ofanansky –ADVISABLE

Ofanansky, Allison The Patchwork Torah 32 pgs. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014. $7.95 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK.
A family of Torah Scribes works incredibly hard to hand write the Torah. They keep inheriting damaged Torahs with a variety of interesting backstories. As the fourth generation of Torah scribes finds himself with yet another damaged Torah, he decides to combine the least damaged parts of all of them to present it for Simchat Torah.  
I usually find that this publisher is creating works for those already familiar with the Jewish religion and culture. This book is no exception, nothing is explained. However the story, regardless of the lack of understating on my part, was still powerful and incredibly interesting. It was a short book but it was packed with meaning as the generational continuance of the family scribe job and the way the story comes together is very power.
EL –ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns –ESSENTIAL

Burns, Loree Griffin Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey 32 pgs. Millbrook Pr Trade, 2014. $24.99 Content: G. 
In Costa Rica there is a unique farm, a butterfly farm. There butterflies are carefully raised and protected, through every stage of their life. Readers find out the whole process and why a butterfly farm is needed.
This was an incredibly interesting book. The photography was stunning. Its pretty much a given that elementary students will learn about the butterfly life cycle, but this book would be a fresh and welcome companion. It presents the life cycle process to life with a whole new spin and is told in a fun and quirky way.

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

Grandfather Gandhi by Auran Gandhi –ADVISABLE

Gandhi, Auran Grandfather Gandhi 48 pgs. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014. $16.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK.
In this non-fiction recounting, we meet Arun, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He and his family are living at his grandfather’s asram. Arun feels like there is a lot to live up to, tests to pass, to prove he is like his peaceful grandfather. One day when Arun feels very angry, Gandhi teaches him an important lesson.
I think students will relate to the grandsons perspective in this recounting. There is a valuable lesson about anger and peace, which might accentuate a unit on Gandhi. Or for older students, about coping with emotions. The illustrations of collage style and are vibrant, full of texture, and at times, beautiful.

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

Abuelo by Arthur Dorros –ESSENTIAL

Dorros, Arthur Abuelo 32 pgs. HarperCollins, 2014. $17.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK

A boy and his grandfather, Abuelo, spend time together in the country. They ride horses together, exploring the beauty of nature and learning life lessons. When the boy moves to the city, he those memories and lesson infuse his daily life and make it better.

This book is special. It’s inspiring, sweet, and profound. It’s a fantastic addition to any collection, especially for grandparents day. I like how the boy is able to transfer his knowledge and his grandfather’s memory into new parts of his life. The artwork is stunning and unique.

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

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya –OPTIONAL

Elya, Susan Middleton Little Roja Riding Hood 32 pgs. Putnam Juvenile; Bilingual edition, 2014. $16.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK.
A re-telling of little red riding hood infused with Spanish culture and words. Roja is sent to grandmas with some hot soup and a warning to avoid anything furry or wild. When she meets up with a wolf, he takes her cape, and goes off to trick her Abuelita. Will Roja save the day?
While I am a fan of re-tellings, I found the plot of the version to be a bit confusing. I like the infusion of culture and Spanish words and think this book would be very fun for a ESL student. I didn't like that the mom was watching a soap opera featuring a man and a woman in an embrace, being caught by another woman.

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

Hooray for Hat! By Brian Won –ADVISABLE

Won, Brian Hooray for Hat! 40 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014. $16.99 

Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK

Elephant is cheered up from his grumpy mood by a timely gift, a big stack of hats. He finds all of his friends and cheers them up by giving out the hats one by one. A catchy repeat of Hooray for Hat is featured prominently.

This is an absolutely adorable book, with unique and perfect illustrations. What didn't jive with me is that it takes a present to cheer up each character. That’s nice sharing and all, but no one gives me a nice gift every time I am in a bad mood. I think younger students would love repeating Hooray for Hat, and it could make for a fun hat party. I could see a teacher using this to have a cheer up hat, something really special, for a student to wear when they get hurt or don’t feel too great.


Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra by Chris Raschka –OPTIONAL

Raschka, Chris The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra  40 pgs. Candlewick, 2014. $15.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK.
A short quirky biography of Sun Ra, the famous Jazz Musician. Details about changing his name, learning music, and performing. Featuring flowing blurry bright illustrations.
I can see how a music teacher doing a unit on Jazz music could make use of this book. But as a biography it would be confusing and unappealing for children to read on their own. It makes the supposition that Sun Ra is from Saturn, which children would buy into as fact. There are no photographs, which can be off putting when students are interested in an adults life, they want to see them as kids.

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt -- OPTIONAL

Leavett, Lindsey The Chapel Wars, 304 pgs. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2014. $17.99. Language: PG (5 swears, no 'f'); Sexual Content: PG; Violence: PG.

When Holly's beloved grandfather dies, she has a hard time coping. Good thing she has a distraction: the Las Vegas wedding chapel her grandfather spent his life running, and which he left to her in his will. But taking over Rose of Sharon is not easy. For one thing, the chapel is in debt. For another, Holly has employees, including her best friend and her recently-divorced parents. And, finally, there's a boy. Dax is cute, and sweet, and loving, and he understands what it's like to lose a loved-one. Unfortunately, he's also the grandson of her rival, which makes him pretty much the least perfect boyfriend ever. Holly will never forget her grandfather, but at least she has plenty to do while waiting for the pain to fade a bit.

Holly is a likable character with enough quirks to keep her realistic. The Las Vegas setting is wonderfully rendered as well, and the exploration of the wedding chapel industry adds an interesting touch. As a heads-up, while the cover and blurb paint this one as a cute, fluffy read, the first 15-20% is heavily mired in Holly's grief over her grandfather's death, making it a better match for those wishing to explore life-and-death questions as opposed to those searching for a light, fun romance. Either way, I would recommend this book more highly, but I had trouble with the fact that Dax's response to emotional distress was to get extremely drunk. It was an issue to the point where Holly was afraid to upset him because he might go on another bender, and he continued even after he admitted his alcoholic grandfather was a mean drunk. With not even a hint of resolution to this particular issue, I found myself rooting against the two of them, instead of for them. In addition, it felt like there were so many other plot points and characters that none of them could be fully explored or resolved, giving the book a more scattered feel.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sons of the 613 by Michael Rubens - - PUBLIC ONLY

Rubens, Michael Sons of the 613, 307 pgs. Clarion Books 2012. $16.99. Language: R (100+ Swears 33 Fs)  Violence: PG; Mature Content: R (nudity, sexual situations, teen alcohol use) With only a few weeks left until his bar mitzvah, Isaac is beginning to panic because he's not ready. His tutor hasn't shown up in weeks, and his parents have gone to Italy for 2 weeks leaving his brother Josh in charge.  Josh is a rebel and decides to take this opportunity to make a man out of Isaac. But will a series of late nights, early mornings and quests be enough to change this honor student into a man? 

You don’t have to be Jewish to get the humor, and the message about what it really means to be a man makes this poignant and heartfelt novel a worthwhile read, however, it contains quite a lot of swearing, crude language and very mature content.  PUBLIC ONLY -- Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Treasure of the Viking Ship (Thea Stilton Graphic Novel #3) by Thea Stilton –OPTIONAL

Stilton, Thea The Treasure of the Viking Ship (Thea Stilton Graphic Novel #3) 56 pgs. Papercutz, 2014. $9.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. GRAPHIC NOVELThe Thea sisters are beautiful mouse girls who go to a school at an academy. They are part of the discovery of an ancient Viking Vessel, maybe that of first settlers of Whale Island, where they live. The girls recreate an ancient perfume and try to sell, so the proceeds can go towards the restoration and study of the ship. But when bad guys try to break in and steal the formula the girls come up with a plan.
The Thea Stilton and Geronimo Stilton books are very popular with my first and second graders, so I was excited to see a fully graphic novel version. I really think this book and the Thea series have the plots and vocabulary for older readers, but the artwork appeals more towards younger students. Think Barbie Mice! I wish the author would go one way or the other, preferably catering to lower grades with geared down vocabulary choices and clearer plots.
EL –OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza by Jame Kochalka –OPTIONAL

Kochalka, James The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza 112 pgs. First Second, 2014. $12.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. GRAPHIC NOVEL
The adventures of an alien and his laser shooting talking backpack. When the pair get a wrong number call to order a pizza, the Glorkian warrior decides to make the delivery. They snag a half eaten pizza from the fridge and head out. The backpack doesn’t think it’s a great idea, and it does its best to keep his friend out of trouble!
This is a fun and goofy book that reluctant readers will adore. The pages are large, bright, and colorful. I would rather a student read this than captain underpants, but it doesn’t quite meet my school library graphic novel criteria of a quality story and top notch artwork.
EL (K-3), EL–OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Flirt: Lessons in Love by A. Destiny and Catherine Hapka - OPTIONAL

Destiny, A.  and Catherine Hapka  Flirt: Lessons in Love, 221 pgs.  Simon Pulse, 2014.  $17.99  Content: Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.  

Bailey is an intellectual sophomore in high school with big plans for MIT and an unusual focus for academics.  So it is confusing for her when she starts getting distracted by the cute new boy in town, Logan.  Bailey and Logan hit it off, but Bailey’s friends start competing for Logan’s attention, so Bailey tries to back off.  Bailey eventually has to figure out what she wants for herself.  

This is a clean, super basic romance story without a big conflict.  Although the character is a sophomore in high school, it would do better among the middle school crowd because of the uncomplicated story line.  Bailey is so clueless at times that it can be a bit frustrating, but the sweet relationship between Bailey and Logan will keep readers interested.

MS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Woods Beyond (The Never Girls #6) by Kiki Thorpe –ADVISABLE

Thorpe, Kiki The Woods Beyond (The Never Girls #6) 128 pgs. RH/Disney, 2014. $5.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Lainey is having a bad day, its just gets worse when the girls go to Neverland and she almost steps on a fairy! When she runs off to think, she ends up being caught by the Lost boys. They have so much fun, she doesn't want to come home!
The author is really getting into her stride with this series, and each book gets better and better. We finally get to meet the Lost boys in this book! I think students would enjoy this series, and the covers are especially charming, all glittery.

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

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee by Laurie Cinotto –ADVISABLE

Cinotto, Laurie The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee 128 pgs. Roaring Brook Press, 2014. $12.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Author Laurie runs a kitten fostering service and has raised hundreds of kittens. There are also tons of interesting stories about kitten personalities, adventures of raising kittens, advice on raising kittens, and finding the right homes for them. This book is also stuffed with wonderful bright photographs of kittens!
Students will LOVE this book! They will enjoy the large pages full of pictures, but also the stories as well. I particularly loved the easy to make how-to’s for cat blankets, toys, and houses. I also really liked the focus on re-homing, fostering, and adoption.

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Babymouse (Babymouse #18) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm –ADVISABLE

Holm, Jennifer and Holm, Matthew Happy Birthday Babymouse (Babymouse #18) 96 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014. $6.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. GRAPHIC NOVEL
Babymouse is determined to have a wonderful birthday party, better than the disasters of birthdays past. But when a classmate plans an even better party and sends out invitations sooner, Babymouse tries to go to extremes to persuade her classmates to choose her party. Will anyone show up?
Students can’t get enough of Babymouse. It’s fairly wholesome and a quick read. Although I am a big fan of graphic novels, I don’t really gel with Babymouse (though I like Squish by the same author duo much better). My opinion, in this case, is totally irrelevant, Babymouse is beloved at my school by 2-3 grade girls, and I wouldn’t dream of not adding it to my collection.
EL (K-3) ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez –OPTIONAL

Mora, Pat and Martinez, Libby I Pledge Allegiance 40 pgs. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014. $16.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Libby’s learning about the Pledge of Alliance at school. It really comes to life for her as she follows her great Aunt Lobo through the process of becoming an American citizen.
They practice together and both learn a lot.
This is a beautifully illustrated book! I love this illustrator! Absolutely charming! The story has a wonderful flow and the author really brings the pledge to life through storytelling. Why is it just optional? Not all schools participate in the Pledge, as the inclusion of God can be controversial.
EL (K-3) –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Zoobots: Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals by Helaine Becker –ADVISABLE

Becker, Helaine Zoobots: Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals 32 pgs. Kids Can Press, 2014. $17.95 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Robot designers, called Roboticists are inspired by real life animals and creatures to create new and innovative robot designs. This book explains what is so special about the real life creature and how its best attributes are then used to create a robot. The role of the robot is then explained, like whiskers for searching for disaster victims. Bright bold artwork is included.
This is an extremely fun book for students that love robots, a very popular topic for younger students at my school. Its full of interesting and creative facts. It could easily be used for a lesson with students on researching and coming up with their own design. My only complaint is the actual robot is just a computer generated image, which leads me to believe that they are fictional and question the integrity of the book, real photos would have been preferred.
EL (K-3) ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

This is a Moose by Richard Morris –ADVISABLE

Morris, Richard This is a Moose 48 pgs. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014. $18.00 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK
When a movie director decides to make a movie about Moose in their wild natural habitat, things don’t go as planned. Turns out that Moose and other animals have their own ideas about what is normal! In fact, this Moose wants to be an astronaut.
This was an adorable book. It sort of reminds me of M is for Moose since there is a director calling out commands. The art was wonderful! I think it would be great for a lesson on breaking free of preconceived roles, like gender roles.
EL (K-3) –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Love Reborn by Yvonne Woon - ADVISABLE

Woon, Yvonne  Love Reborn, 358 pgs.  Hyperion, 2014.  $16.99  Content: Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

Renee is in love with Dante, an Undead whose life is coming to an end, so they are searching for the eternal life.  Since Renee and her friend Noah have found the Cartesean map which shows them the location of five places that will lead them to eternal life, Dante and Renee start on their journey.  They find themselves torn between the leaders of the Undead and the leaders of the Monitors (those whose job it is to bury the Undead) and being led with clues by an ally named Monsieur.  Whether they will find what they are looking for in time for Dante to maintain his humanity or Renee will lose her life for Dante is the question throughout the book.  

This is the third book in the Dead Beautiful trilogy.  Renee and Dante’s love story is brought to a satisfying conclusion with good character twists throughout.  At times the monotony of the journey slowed the story down, but the threat of the Undead and Renee’s grandfather propels the reader to find out what happens in the end.  This was a good series because it’s clean, with interesting characters and story line.  It is easy to recommend to young adults who like supernatural books.  

MS, HS-ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters - OPTIONAL

Winters, Cat  In the Shadow of Blackbirds, 387 pgs.  Amulet Books, 2013.  $16.95  Content:  Language:  14 swears; Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13 (torture).  

Mary Shelley is in love with Steven, a young man who recently left for World War I.  She is moving to San Diego because her father is in prison for helping others avoid the draft and she now has to live with her Aunt Ava who works in a manufacturing plant.  Mary Shelley and Aunt Ava are friends with a photographer who is well known for capturing spirits in his photographs, and he is Steven’s brother.  But after Mary Shelley survives a lightning strike she is visited by Steven’s tormented ghost.  As Mary Shelley investigates what happened to Steven, she uncovers many frightening truths about Steven’s brother and the spiritualist photographs.  

I was pulled into this ghost story and couldn’t put it down.  The historical setting of 1918 was full of fascinating insight into World War I veterans and the Spanish Influenza making the reader learn what it felt like to live during those historical events.  Up until the end, this book was advisable because of the great mix of history and fiction, but the mystery of what happened to Steven ended up being human caused violence and torture which was grisly to read pushing the rating between rated R and PG-13, and moving it to optional.  

HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

The Smurfs Anthology by Peyo –NOT RECOMMENDED

Peyo The Smurfs Anthology 192 pgs. Papercutz, 2013. $19.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
A large yearbook size collection of original Peyo Smurf comics, all in publication order. Presented in full color with explanation, history tidbits, and information about the author.
I loved the Smurfs cartoon as a child, so I was eager to read this book. I am now officially smurfed the smurf out. I certainly didn’t remember how often Smurf is used in the stories to replace regular words. It’s cute once and while, but after reading this book I am at my absolute limit. The stories are actually not very conducive to younger children, with much subtly to plot, to be appreciated more for adult readers. Also some of the explanations about war and race issues included in the book would be inappropriate for children. I think older students like 4-6 grade would find themselves getting on overdose of smurf just like I did.
EL–NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Gustav Gloom and the Four Terrors (Book #3) by Adam-Troy Castro –NOT RECOMMENED

Castro, Adam-Troy Gustav Gloom and the Four Terrors (Book #3) 232 pgs. Grosset & Dunlap, 2013. $12.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Gustav is half shadow boy who lives in a gloomy house full of shadows and terrors. The first two books he has adventures with the neighbor girls, sisters Fernie and Pearlie. Gustav has a plan to bring back his father from the Dark county and needs the girls help. When things go awry will Fernie lose everything dear to her, just like Gustav did?
I know there is a playful spirit of whit and an almost sarcasm to this book that is meant to make things lighter, but I found it to be too dark all the same. Just look at the first two titles in the series, The People Taker and The Nightmare Vault. This book was dark, sad, depressing, and extremely claustrophobic. It was overly long and drawn out as well. I wouldn’t add this book to my school library.
EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel - OPTIONAL

Oppel, Kenneth The Boundless, 332 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. $17. Language: PG (4 swears); Violence: PG (shooting); Mature Content: G.  

After saving the railroad baron for whom he works, Will’s father becomes an important figure on the railroad and is intimately involved in the construction and launch of The Boundless - the world’s longest train.  WIll is more concerned about the circus girl who long ago stole something from Will and there is a good chance that she is also on The Boundless.  Willis, however, surrounded by people with ulterior motives and plenty of danger.  

Its the danger and the mystery that hold the book together.  The descriptions and use of the train does not always make sense and dropped me out of the action occasionally.  

EL, MS - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend - ESSENTIAL

Santat Dan The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend, PICTURE BOOK, Little Brown and Company, 2014. $17. CONTENT G. 

Beekle was born on the island where imaginary friends wait to be imagined.  After waiting forever and never being imagined, Beekle sets off for the real world in order to find his own friend - the one he imagined was waiting for him.  LOVE IT!  One of my favorites so far this year.  Can’t wait to share it!  

Pre-K, EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL.   Cindy, Library Teacher