Thursday, March 31, 2016

Whoppers: History’s Most Outrageous Lies and Liars by Christine Seifert - ESSENTIAL

Seifert, Christine Whoppers: History’s Most Outrageous Lies and Liars, NON FICTION 223 pgs. Zest Books, 2015. $13.99. Language: G ( 0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.   

There have been some pretty great lies told throughout history, and some of the best have been compiled and explained in this fun and enlightening book.  Divided into 4 sections with 3 or four chapters each, the reader learns about well known people like P.T. Barnum and Washington Irving and lesser known people like Pope Leo X and George Hull (who played the Cardiff Giant prank). You read about poop burgers (yuck) and Listerine. Religious scams, Ponzi schemes and pretenders like Anna Anderson - was she the missing daughter of the Russian Czar? There’s even a section on aliens, ghosts and monsters - BigFoot and Loch Ness monster lovers, beware.  

The chapters are concise - 3-4 pages each, giving just enough background knowledge to get you into the story and then unmasking, explaining, disproving.  This was a very fun read.  Full of “did you knows” and “you’ll never believe whats.”  Highly recommended for middle school and high school readers, and I’m not lying!  

MS, HS - ESSENTIAL  Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dare to Disappoint by Ӧzge Samanci - OPTIONAL

Samanci, Ӧzge Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey, Graphic Memoir. 190 pgs. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears) Mature Content: PG13 (mature teen conversations) Violence: PG13 (some disturbing graphic novel images)  

Ӧzge is so excited to start school and be like her sister, but, in Turkey in the 1980’s children needed to be incredibly dedicated and intelligent to get into the best schools and attend the best colleges.  Unfortunately, Ӧzge is more interested in theater, deep sea diving and the arts than in more practical studies and is not successful at school.  Much to the disappointment of her father.  

The political and religious turmoil of Turkey sets an interesting backdrop for this coming of age memoir.  I’m not sure if this is a story about how difficult it was to get an education (or even survive) during this turbulent time in Turkey, or if it is about the inner struggle of a young girl trying to find her place.  Too violent and disturbing for the middle school students, however, this text offers a concise historical context that may be helpful and interesting to the older readers.  

HS - OPTIONAL  Lisa Librarian

The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson - ADVISABLE

Johnson, Jaleigh The Secrets of Solace (Solace #2), 371 pages.  Delacorte (Random), 2016.  $17.  

Content: G (mild danger).

Since the Merrow Kingdom and Dragonfly Kingdom have been at war, life has become more difficult in the Archivists’ Stronghold.  While they have pledged their neutrality, their caverns are filling with refugees from both sides.  Lina is an orphan and an apprentice of the archivists, but her master is always coming with excuses to leave Lina to her own devices.  So Lina spends her free time – all of it – exploring the lost and hidden passageways around the caverns.  She has found something very special, but she needs help in order to fully explore her new treasure.  Then she finds out about a very secret guest in her home.  Together they may be able to solve Lina’s mystery.

Meet a whole new cast of characters in Johnson’s world.  I’m hoping this is a quartet like Diana Wynne Jones Dalemark series.  I certainly enjoyed this as much as the first book even if I had a hard time discerning the ages of the main characters.

EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare - ESSENTIAL

Clare, Cassandra Lady Midnight, 668 pages.  McElderry (Simon), 2016.  $25.  Language:  PG-13 (25+ swears, 0 ‘f’); Violence: PG-13 (lots of blood); Mature Content: PG-13 (sweat and then implied sex; homosexual kissing).

It has been five years since the Dark War and the establishment of the Cold Peace, which stripped all Faerie of their wealth and power and forbids any Shadowhunter contact with them.  The younger Blackthorn children and Emma Carstairs were taken to the Los Angeles Institute, but the not two older Blackthorns, with their half-fae blood.  Helen was banished to a remote island and Mark was taken by the Wild Hunt.  Every adult dismissed Emma’s parents’ deaths as casualties of the War, but now new bodies, killed in the same manner, are appearing around LA.  Not only do the kids not want to ask for help because no one believed Emma the first time around, but they also don’t want the other Institutes to know that they have been fending for themselves for five years because their guardian is basically insane and their tutor has too many secrets from everybody.  When the Wild Hunt deposits Mark on their doorstep and insist that they have just a few days to solve the new deaths, they don’t know where to turn except to each other.

Get ready for a wild ride.  Clare still crafts a gripping read, even though it weighs in at almost 700 pages.  I just wish she would abandon romance as her secondary plot device.  Her obsession with parabati and love triangle relationships, including steamy sex on the beach scene, detract from the greater story for me – almost making this a romance disguised as a fantasy instead of the way it should be.  Be a fantasy writer, not a romance writer, Cassandra Clare.

MS – ADVISABLE (see ratings); HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Taste Something New! By Jennifer Boothroyd -OPTIONAL

Boothroyd, Jennifer Taste Something New! Giving Different Foods a Try 32 pgs Lerner, 2016. $20.00 NONFICTION
A bright simple book with information of food variety, the different ways food is stored and prepared and how that affects taste, and starting a food adventure. It includes modern and appetizing photographs of food, colorful pages, and text color variety.
I wish this book had more of a focus on trying new foods but that was a smaller chapter near the end. Of course food storage and preparation will affect taste, so its worth mentioning, but this was the focus of the book. I would have liked for students to read more about the adventure and maybe ways to set a challenge for themselves to try something new every so often.
EL(K-3) –OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Why doesn’t Everyone Eat Meat? By Jennifer Boothroyd -ADVISABLE

Boothroyd, Jennifer Why doesn’t Everyone Eat Meat?: Vegetarianism and Special Diets 32 pgs Lerner, 2016. $20.00 NONFICTION
This bright simple book features chapters about food choice, vegetarian diet, vegan diet, and other special diets like gluten free, religious, and more. Each page is a different bright color and presents a variety of photographs of food and children. It includes basic tidbits about nutrition.
This book could be used with young readers learning about nutrition or for a teacher to explain a special diet a student in a classroom may follow. The cover is so appetizing that students may check it out thinking it’s a cookbook.
EL(K-3) –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Best Friends For Never by Adrienne Vrettos - OPTIONAL

Vrettos, Adrienne Maria Best Friends For Never, 240 pages.  Scholastic Press, MAY 2016.  $17.  Content: G.

Hattie moved from New York City to small town Massachusetts over the summer and manages to find a new group of friends.  Problem, however, because in order to fit in, she is not quite being herself.  No cat t-shirts, no fantasy books, no socks worn inside out.  She’s done a pretty good job of hiding the changes, but at the town’s annual Harvest Festival, Hattie’s lying catches up to her and she gets caught by a town jinx.  Now none of her friends remember who she is and the only person talking to her is former mean girl Zooey, who got frozen out of her own clique and is Hattie’s partner for a major research project.  Sixth grade is hard enough without a jinx to complicate things.

I wish, I wish that Hattie’s problems hadn’t been caused by a jinx.  Even though she and Zooey grow over the course of the book, having magic make someone be your friend again is just not my cup of tea.  I do feel that young students will have fun with this and maybe they will understand the value of being your own person instead of hanging with the crowd and not get the message that a magic spell is what will make things better.

EL, MS - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Boggs Waller - OPTIONAL

Waller, Sharon Boggs The Forbidden Orchid, 378 pages.  Viking (Penguin), 2016.  $19.  

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (mention of naked man, sexual innuendos); Violence: PG (hazing).

Elodie has played the dutiful daughter for too many years.  When her plant hunter father returns home from a disastrous trip hunting orchids in China and refuses to come home or talk to her father, Elodie is the only one willing to go to his hiding place and confront him.  Even though she convinces her father to re-attempt his trip, because if he doesn’t their family will bankrupted and forced into a work house, she decides to sneak on board his ship and follow him in order to help him on his quest.  Along the way she meets a handsome sailor and ends up married to him in order to protect her reputation when she is discovered.  When she steps onto Chinese soil, however, her challenges really begin.

For girls how like historical fiction such as Charlotte Doyle, with strong female characters breaking stereotypes, Elodie’s story is a natural continuation.  I do like that Elodie wasn’t trying to rebel from her life – it was to save her nine younger sisters and her mother that she made the desperate choices that she did.  A good optional choice for a library where girl books or historical fiction are strong sellers.  I personally loved learning more about plant hunting and the early years of Chinese-English relationships.

MS, HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Elephants Never Forget (Big Star Otto #3) by Bill Slavin -NO

Slavin, Bill Elephants Never Forget (Big Star Otto #3) 95 pgs Kids Can Press, 2015. $17.00 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G GRAPHIC NOVEL
Otto the elephant and his best friend Crackers the Parrot have made it to Hollywood where they hope to find their other best friend George the chimpanzee. But they quickly get caught up in a tug a war between the film studios and the animal’s rights activists. To top it off when they finally find George, he has changed for the worst.
I reviewed the first book in this series and vehemently did not care for it. This one is not quite as bad (for example it didn’t make fun of historical figures that it shouldn’t) but I still wouldn’t add it to my library because I wouldn’t touch the first book in the series with a 10 foot pole and this is the conclusion. Besides its just too dated all around, the art style, the language, and pretty much all of the references. The artwork is bright and the plot is fast paced, featuring a ton of slapstick comedy.
EL –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.