Monday, June 30, 2014

The Star-Spangled Banner by Peter Spier -- ADVISABLE

Spier, Peter The Star-Spangled Banner. Doubleday Books, 1973. (Reprinted, 2014.) $17.99.

Contains the full text of Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner," accompanied by colorful illustrations. The sheet music follows, as well as a copy in Key's own writing, a history of the anthem, and other related facts. Endpapers show 100+ different flags, including historical reproductions from a variety of states, sections of the military, and government entities.

This book, or something similar, would be useful for classes or individual students working on research reports or projects related to American independence. Because this is a reprint with a new cover and a few updates, librarians and teachers may want to check their collections before ordering a new copy.

EL, MS, HS -- ADVSIABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

We the People: The Constitution of the United States by Peter Spier -- ESSENTIAL

Spier, Peter We the People: The Constitution of the United States. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 1987 (reprinted 2014). $17.99.

Contains the preamble to the Constitution, with a number of small illustrations giving context to each phrase, followed by pictures of each of the signers with his name, date of birth, and position. Also contains a history of the Constitution, as well as the document text, amendments, and footnotes.

This book, or something like it, would be very useful for classes studying the Constitution, and especially for those students who are writing reports or doing other research projects on American independence. The many tiny illustrations in the preamble section are helpful and interesting, although they would be much better for up-close studying than for whole-class sharing. Because this is a reprint with a new cover, librarians and teachers with extensive collections may want to make sure they do not already have a copy before ordering a new one.

EL, MS, HS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Sleepytime Me by Edith Hope Fine -- ADVISABLE

Fine, Edith Hope Sleepytime Me, illustrated by Christopher Denise. PICTURE BOOK. Random House, 2014. $17.99. Content: G.

All over town, it's time for bed. Farm animals are settling down to sleep, workers are heading home under street lamps, and last-minute tidying is being done. And then, finally, it is time for sleep. This comforting, sweet book is perfect for pre-bed lap reading, especially for toddlers and preschoolers, although some older children may enjoy it as well. Both the lilting text and lovely illustrations work together to lend a sense of warmth and coziness to the simple story, and many tired parents will appreciate the briefness of the text.

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

Fourth of July Mice! by Bethany Roberts -- PUBLIC

Roberts, Bethany Fourth of July Mice!, illustrated by Doug Cushman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004 (reprinted 2014). $12.99. Content: G.

Four mice celebrate the Fourth of July with a parade, a picnic, and a swim by the river -- followed, of course, by a round of fireworks and sparklers. While this is a cute, fun story with a bit of adventure mixed in, it actually has very little to do with the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, it is just relevant enough to not work at any other time of year. Since many schools are out of session during the summer, and the book isn't strong enough to add to the curriculum to the school year, it would most likely work best in places that are active around the Fourth, such as daycares, public libraries, or homes.

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

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken - ADVISIBLE

Bracken, Alexandra Never Fade, 507 pgs. Hyperion, 2013. $17.99. Language: R (100+ swears 19 Fs); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13

Never Fade is the second book in the Darkest Minds series. The story picks up with Ruby working for the Children’s League acting as “Leader” over other kids. She has been trained to run missions for the League in order to gain intelligence on the government and bring light to their corruption and abuse. Her newest mission will send her out to recover information that could be used not only to explain the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left the rest with unique abilities, but will also bring her back to Liam. The boy she loves is now the boy who will have no memory of her or their time together. Crossing the country in a desperate attempt to save those still trapped in the rehabilitation camps will bring new friendships, discovery of old loves, and a chance at redemption.

The second book in the Darkest Minds trilogy is a solid if overly long read. The characters from the first book are back as well as some additions that work surprisingly well as the cast list continues to grow. Ruby is a strong lead character who is flawed, but is interesting to watch as she matures and begins to change from a young naïve refugee to a smart daring fighter who is learning about her abilities and how to use them both supernatural and otherwise. Some readers who are disturbed by violence may be put off since it primarily involves children, but it is never graphic or superfluous.


Hysteria by Megan Miranda - OPTIONAL

Miranda, Megan  Hysteria, 323 pgs.  Bloomsbury Teens, 2013.  $17.99  Content: Language: R (62 swears; 18 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Mallory killed her boyfriend Brian, and got away with it.  Brian’s mother keeps harassing Mallory, so Mallory’s parents send her to Monroe, a boarding school where she will hopefully have a fresh start.  At Monroe, everyone knows her past, because the headmaster’s son, Jason, has spread it around, but Mallory has an old friend in Reid.  The mean girls at Monroe manipulate Mallory using her past and Mallory is having a hard time remembering the night Brian died, so she feels haunted by him.  

This is a good creepy book that has a hidden story on top of a mystery.  The characters aren’t well developed and at first that bothered me, but then the story sucked me in so deep that I didn’t care.  It’s sad that there are so many “F” words because this would have been a good spooky addition to middle school or high school libraries.  

HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp - OPTIONAL

Kemp, Anna  The Worst Princess  Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie  Random House, 2012.  $16.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

Princess Sue is waiting for her Prince Charming.  She has read all of the books on how to be a princess and just when she thinks there isn’t going to be a prince for her, Prince Charming shows up.  Prince Charming has plans for Sue, where she is his traditional sit in the castle looking pretty type of princess, but Princess Sue wants some adventure.  She teams up with a dragon that Prince Charming has been fighting and flies off with him to have her adventures.  

There are better girl power books out there that encourage girls that they can have adventures too and don’t have to conform to what a man wants them to be-such as The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch.   The illustrations aren’t great and the story was a bit predictable, but little girls might like the independent princess.  

EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Like Fish by Margaret Wise Brown -- OPTIONAL

Brown, Margaret Wise I Like Fish: A Sticker Book, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. PICTURE BOOK. Random House, 1952. (Reprinted 2014.) $3.99. Content: G.

This very short, very simple poem celebrates all kinds of fish -- old ones, young ones, silver ones, and gold ones. Includes a sheet of stickers in the back, derived from the illustrations in the book. Because of the author, I expected something more lyrical and interesting, but the only things that set this book apart from the many other simple rhyming books are the stickers at the back and the cute illustrations. It would be a handy addition to a set of leveled readers or a classroom library, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend going out of one's way to purchase it.

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

Celebrating Massachusetts by Marion Dane Bauer -- ADVISABLE

Bauer, Marion Dane Celebrating Massachusetts (50 States to Celebrate), 36 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014. $3.99. Content: G.

In this illustrated guide to Massachusetts, history teacher Mr. Geo takes students on a tour of the state, teaching them about everything from its history as one of the original 13 colonies, to its tourist attractions, to its sports teams. Contains a cartoonish map of the state, a list of "Fast Facts," important dates in state history, suggested activities, and a glossary.

The titles in this series are perfect for reports on the fifty states. The creative approach may make it more accessible for students who find straight-up nonfiction very dry. Although the back mentions an interest level of grades 1-4, the illustrations and text should work for many struggling middle school students, too. The only things missing are actual photographs instead of illustrations, but supplementation from other sources should help with that.

EL, MS -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jack the Castaway (The Bernson Schemes #1) by Lisa Doan -OPTIONAL

Doan, Lisa Jack the Castaway (The Bernson Schemes #1) 240 pgs. Feiwel & Friends, 2014. $17.95 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Jack loved living with his Aunt while his parents go through crazy and dangerous money making schemes all around the globe. But when his aunt passes away and his parents come to collect him, he is so worried. The first thing they do is spirit him off to the a Caribbean island and tell him he doesn't have to go to school any longer. Then they teach him how to drive a boat. Jack isn't happy at all and worried for them all. He wants stability and school, not freedom and danger. Will Jack survive?
I actually like this book, from an adult perspective. I can see how Jack changes and finds balance in his life. But I think most students wouldn’t relate at all to Jacks disappointment to travel the globe, be given tons of freedom, and no schooling. I also have this pet peeve about books where the parents are total numbskulls and the kids have to raise the parents and themselves. I didn't care for the cover and thought a book about sharks and adventures on islands could have been easily presented in a more appealing way.

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

My Life as a Joke (My Life #4) by Janet Tashjian – OPTIONAL

Tasjian, Janet  My Life as a Joke (My Life #4) 272 pgs. Henry Holt and Co, 2014. $13.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Derek is twelve and his life seems to a be a series of minor disasters, mostly accidental. When he vows to be more mature, he decides to express this through volunteering for a charity drive. He naturally, gets put on collecting all the donated dolls. When he decides to keep one and sell it for money, it starts of series of more disasters. Will Derek ever learn his lesson? Is be mature not all its cracked up to be?
I thought this book was very readable, but overly long for its target audience of reluctant readers. I didn't find any of the foibles funny in the slightest though. Its easy to see that lessons were learned and the main character grew, but the biggest lesson was totally ignored; stealing. I think students will be drawn to the Wimpy Kid like cover and the mini illustrations for vocabulary words.

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kate the Great (Except When She's Not) by Suzy Becker -- OPTIONAL

Becker, Suzy Kate the Great (Except When She's Not), 273 pgs. Random House Children's Books, August 5, 2014. $12.99. Content: PG.

Fifth-grader Kate is having a tough year. Her parents are scoring way high on the Cringe-O-Meter. Her older sister has suddenly become perfect. Her younger sister is way too cute. Her art teacher has no appreciation for her individual artistic style. Worst of all, she's supposed to become friends with Nora, the weird, unfriendly girl who sits in front of her on the bus. But thanks to an awesome best friend and an outlet in the form of doodles (spread throughout the book), Kate may make it to her tenth birthday after all.

Although the illustrations interspersed throughout were a fun touch, the story itself did not feel special enough to stand on its own without them. It was also confusing in a number of spots, both because the text did not always read smoothly, and because the handwriting in many of the doodles was difficult to decipher. As a result, I felt like I missed out on a lot. That said, it may be fun for girls in grades 3-5 who are navigating friendship issues or who enjoy the illustrated style.

EL -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Victories by Lackey and Edghill - ESSENTIAL

Lackey, Mercedes and Rosemary Edghill Victories (Shadow Grail 4), 254 p. TOR Teen, 2014.  $12.  

Language: PG (5 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (fighting without graphic bloodshed).  

Muirin sacrificed herself in order to give Spirit and the others a chance to run and a chance to regroup and defeat Mordred.  Spirit and the others won’t waste their chance, but they have no idea who they can trust orwhat in this world or in their remaining time that they can do in order to defeat an enemy who has had hundreds of years to prepare for the battle.  Now the former Oakhurst Academy students know that they are reincarnated from Mordred’s original enemies – Arthur, Gueneviere and the Knights of the Round Table.  As they learn from their past lives, they can find the clues they need to give themselves a greater chance at victory.  

Lackey and Edghill have crafted a heroic tale that is a nice mix of legend and present, without being too weighty for most teens.  It is a great introduction to Arthurian legends – maybe it will prompt a resurgence in their popularity.  I do know that students who go on to read more by Lackey will love her – she is one of my top 4 personal favorites that I re-read time and time again.  

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher.

Zoomer’s Out-of-This-World Christmas by Ned Young - ADVISABLE

Young, Ned Zoomer’s Out-of-This-World Christmas.  PICTURE BOOK.  Harper, 2013.  $18.  Content: G.  

The pups Hooper, Cooper and Zoomer are excitedly awaiting Santa’s arrival when the spaceship lands in their backyard instead.  The pups have a great time with the alien family, but when it comes time to leave, Zoomer realizes that he will have to give up a treasured possession in order to repair the spaceship.  

This book would have been just as adorable without any references to Santa or Christmas.  The illustrations are delights for the eye.  I would love a whole line of Young’s aliens as toys, personally!  

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker - OPTIONAL

Baker, Ken How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love, 269 p. Running Press, 2014.  $10.  Language: PG-13 (45 swears, 1 ‘f’); Violence: G;  Mature Content: R (self-pleasuring, body parts, off-page sex).  

Emery Jackson is fat.  Her mother and sister starve themselves in order to be supermodel thin and heap scorn and ridicule on Emery in order to shame her into losing weight.  Emery’s father is cold and focused on anything but his family. But Emery’s family needs a lot of money – their life-style is expensive and without a large cash infusion, they are going down.  But a Hollywood producer has a deal for them.  If Emery agrees to be the center of a reality show where she submits to losing 50 pounds in 50 days and loses the weight, then her family will get a million dollars.  Emery may agree to the show, but she will not be anyone’s puppet.  She is happy say anything that comes to mind and will fight for what she wants – while trying to save her family.  But every family member has secrets – some of them personally devastating for Emery.  Is her sanity, her dignity, worth the humiliation of a reality show? 

I don’t know what it is about Ken Baker, but he writes just like a teenaged girl.  His voice is authentic.  Plus, he gives a sharp inside look at consumerism and life inside the Hollywood reality fish bowl from his work on E!  This book will make most people who read it uncomfortable (including me), because Emery does not pull her punches; the subject matter that she covers is frank and varied (read the content ratings again). I was not very satisfied with the ending, because it did seem a little contrived.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Skeleton for Dinner by Margery Cuyler - ADVISABLE

Cuyler, Margery Skeleton for Dinner, illustrated by Will Terry.  PICTURE BOOK.  Albert Whitman, 2013.   $17.  Content: G.  

Little Witch and Big Witch have made a tasty stew for dinner and they want to share it with a few friends.  Their invitations lead to a major misunderstanding, however, and their would-be guests think that they are on the menu, instead.  This is a VERY cute, not-quite-Halloween book that I will be happy to add to my personal collection.  

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

The Secrets of Tree Taylor by Dandi Mackall - ADVISABLE

Mackall, Dandi Daley The Secrets of Tree Taylor, 282 p. Alfred Knopf (Random), 2014.  $17.  Content: G.  

Summer of 19 63 – the Vietnam War is going on, but Tree Taylor is more concerned about getting her first kiss from the very hot Ray, starting high school, and winning the coveted freshman spot on the school newspaper.  When shots are fired across the street and her reclusive neighbor is taken to the hospital, Tree is sure she has a story to win that spot – but first she has to find out the story – and no one is talking.  Not her Dad, who was the first one over there, and not the neighbor’s wife, who has always been very quiet and unassuming.  The drama at the local pool where she works is also a distraction for Tree.  This summer could be a glorious turning for Tree, or a disaster.  

This novel reminds me a lot of “A Jury of Her Peers”, a short story by Susan Glaspell from 1917, one of my favorites.  And its hard to believe that books about the 1960’s are now old enough to really be historical fiction.  And I am a major fan of Dandi Mackall.  All of these things created a perfect storm for me.  Mackall deftly addresses more than one tough issue within the novel, but I don’t want to give them all away.  Girls who like Sarah Dessen may be persuaded to read about a girl who could be their grandmother and hopefully they will go on the read more of Mackall’s books.  

MS – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud & Divided a Nation - ADULTS

Walker, Sally M.  Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud & Divided a Nation, 182 p. NON-FICTION.  Candlewick, 2014.  $25.  Content: G.  

Boundaries are artificial lines that divide friends, neighbors, enemies and countries.  Religion and boundaries are irrevocably intertwined in most of the disputes (all of the disputes?) that have driven conflict around the world.  Walker details the boundaries and the religious disputes that lead to the creation of the Mason-Dixon Line and the divide between the North and the South in America, and a major part of the American Civil War.  

Walker’s book is just way too much for most students to care about or read.  Too much detail, too much text, not enough illustration.  I have loved a raft of non-fiction books, but a child will never read this one from cover to cover.  The only use I can see for this in school is for a teacher for background information, who might use a few excerpts about drawing boundaries and the complications caused by them.  It is brilliant, it is well-written, it is extremely informative and it is just too much book.  

ADULTS.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Edgy Fashion and Hipster Fashion - OPTIONAL

StJohn, Amanda Edgy Fashion (What’s Your Style?), 45 p. and 
Kenny, Karen Latchana Hipster Fashion (What’s YourStyle?), 45 p. NON-FICTION.  Lerner, 2013.  Content: G.  

Searching for your style?  Lerner has created a short series of books about modern style trends and how to be part of them.  The information is detailed, without being overwhelming and contains a lot of photographs and how-to’s.  The only drawback to the series is the covers – the drawing on the front is underwhelming and may not draw teens in.  A good optional purchase.  

MS –OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Allies and Assassins by Justin Somper - OPTIONAL

Somper, Justin Allies and Assassins, 479 p. Little, Brown Company, 2014.  $18.  

Language: PG (9 swears); Violence: PG (non-graphic deaths); Mature Content: G (hints of an affair).  

The Prince (king) is dead and now as appointed successor for his brother, Jared is Prince of Archenfield.  He has a Council of Twelve to advise him, but he isn’t sure if he can trust them all.  If he doesn’t find his brother’s assassin, if he doesn’t find someone he can trust, if he doesn’t find the strength to be his own person, his own period of ruling will be much, much shorter than his brother’s two years.  

There are a lot of pages in this book, this is action and danger and betrayal.  There are some good bits of detective work – and there is a fine scene right at the end when Jared shows his spine.  When you compare this to some thing like Brandon Mull, however, it just doesn’t stand up.  Its ok, its good – but it isn’t great.  

MS, HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Nil by Lynne Matson - OPTIONAL

Matson, Lynne Nil, 374 p. Henry Holt (Macmillan), 2014.   $18.  

Language: R (10+ ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

Charley only wanted to return some bad fashion choices to the mall.  Suddenly she finds herself transported to deserted beach – not only naked, but also something seems to be trying to kill her.  She survives for several days on her own, until she finds the other inhabitants of the island – other teens who have also been yanked out of their lives and summarily left to survive or die.  Then Charley finds out the worst thing of all – if you don’t catch a gate out by the time you have been there a year, you die.  And gates only appear at noon, in random places around the island.  Charley’s only hope is to band together with the other teens (and the very hot, compelling Thad) and try to catch their gates. 

I totally bought into the fantasy of life on Nil’s island.  I let any thoughts of unrealistic expectations and all just fall by the wayside because I was so wrapped up in Charley and Thad and the other stranded teens.  The only thing I didn’t like was when a British teen was dropped in and his only purpose seemed to be to ramped up the “f” count.  Totally unnecessary!  I felt robbed of a great book.  Otherwise, I was totally immersed and was biting my nails until the very end.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher.

Numbers (My Turn to Learn) by Marshall - ESSENTIAL

Marshall, Natalie Numbers (My Turn to Learn).  BOARD BOOK.  Little Brown, 2013.  $7.  

Meet the numbers 1-5 and a very cuddly bear in this great little board book with chunky tabs.  It can be chewed on and still survive.  No way little hands can rip this apart, either.  Pre-K – ESSENTIAL.  

Cindy, Library Teacher.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare - ESSENTIAL

Clare, Cassandra City of Heavenly Fire, 725 p. Margaret McElderry (Simon), 2014.  $25.  Language: PG (5 swears); Mature Content: PG-13 (leading up to off page sex); Violence: PG (non-graphic violence). 
Sebastian Morgenstern is certifiably crazy – and you can not argue or reason with crazy.  Not only that, he has the Immortal Cup and is ambushing Shadowhunters and staling their souls, turning them into a loyal, evil army, with no hope of ever regaining their humanity.  The Clave, however refuses to listen to Clary, Jace and their friends. This inaction may lead to every Shadowhunters’ destruction, unless the teens take matters into their own hands. 
The adult Shadowhunters do not come off well in this final book in Clary’s series.  In fact, they act like cowards instead of heroes, which made me question their entire right to be called Shadowhunters at all.  Of course the focus is on the teens and how much smarter, braver and ingenious they are.  Fans will be happy with the action, the romance and the tied up ends.  It took me about half the book to really start getting involved.  Also, Clare sets things up very neatly for a new generation of Shadowhunters and a new enemy to fight. 
MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher.