Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice by Jack & Holman Wang -- OPTIONAL

Wang, Jack & Holman Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice (Cozy Classics). Chronicle Books, 2016. $9.95. Content: G.

In this very abridged board book version of Pride and Prejudice, felted characters illustrate turning points from the classic story. The photographs are accompanied by twelve simple words (e.g. "sisters," "mean," and "dance").

As a huge fan of Pride & Prejudice, I find the idea of the book delightful. The felted characters must have taken a lot of work to make, the photographs are unique and fun, and it's always entertaining to relive the plot. However, it's hard to imagine the audience for this one. It's a board book with extremely simple language, which implies that it is targeted toward babies and toddlers. Unfortunately, it's not exactly a toddler-friendly story, even with a grownup filling in the gaps. Without that background knowledge, however, the book will likely come across as a bunch of random words and images. In addition, while the illustrations are lovely -- and lovingly created -- many use muted tones and shadows, which are less likely to interest babies and toddlers.

In the end, I think the audience for this one is actually literature-minded parents -- or adult friends or relatives attending a baby shower -- who either want to "get the child started early" with the classics, or who are fans of Pride & Prejudice themselves so they like the idea of sharing it with others. In the end, that makes it a bit self-indulgent, even if it is a fun indulgence (for the adults in the scenario, at least).

Pre-K -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

The Girl Who Fell by S.M. Parker - OPTIONAL

Parker, S.M.  The Girl Who Fell, 356 pgs.  Simon Pulse, 2016.  $17.99  Content: Language: R (87 swears; 17 F); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13.   

Zephyr is a successful lacrosse captain and has two great best friends.  Her parent’s marriage is strained ever since Zephyr’s dad left them, but is now trying to come back.  When the new hottie, Alec, starts to pay attention to Zephyr she loves the way he makes her feel understood and loved and she starts to choose Alec over the things that have been most important in her life up until him.  

If you read the back cover, inside flap or the 1st chapter of this book, there is no need to continue reading as far as the plot is concerned.  Because a bulk of the book is already known, it makes reading it predictable and boring.  Alec is manipulative, dark and creepy and the amount of emotional abuse is hard to read.  It’s hard to watch Zephyr give up her drams and hide the abuse.  The message of this book is important and it helps give young love a warning, but the content was rated R.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

I Won a What? by Audrey Vernick - ADVISABLE

Vernick, Audrey I Won a What? Illustrated by Robert Neubecker PICTUREBOOK. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. $17.99. 

When a boy’s parents give him permission to try his luck at the carnival’s goldfish booth, he wins the biggest prize of all - A Whale!  Good thing they have a huge swimming pool to put him in.  

Although improbable and not environmentally appropriate, this story of a friendship between a whale and a boy is hilarious and sweet. I fun read, reminding me of Danny and the Dinosaur.  Suspend disbelief and buy this book.  

EL  (K-3) - ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

Punk Skunks by Trisha Speed Shaskan - ADVISABLE

Shaskan, Trisha Speed Punk Skunks, illustrated by Stephen Shaskan PICTUREBOOK. Harper Collins, 2016. $17.99. Content G.  

Kit and Buzz are best friends - they do everything together, but each in their own way. They play at the park; Kit plays hopscotch, Buzz paints.  They play in a band; kit on the drums, buzz on the guitar.  But when they can’t agree on what to write their next song about, they get into a huge fight!  

Delightfully full of onomatopoeia - bang, rattle, clickety clack, this is a fun read aloud.  Even best friends argue sometimes, and compromise is a good way to solve this problem.  

EL  (K-3) - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Great Bone Game by Lisze Bechtold - ADVISABLE

Bechtold, Lisze Buster the Very Shy Dog in the Great Bone Game, 32 pgs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013/2016 reissue. $12.99. Content: G.  

Phoebe has a large collection of bones.  When another dog, a puppy named Buster comes to live at Roger’s house, Phoebe “teaches” Buster how to train his bones to stay (and takes some for herself).  When Buster grows up, Phoebe uses Buster to distract the dog next door so she can try to steal the biggest bone of all.  

A level 3 reader, this fully illustrated, 2 chapter story is a great lesson in inference.  The illustrations are adorable and help the reader just enough.  

EL  (K-3) ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson - ADVISABLE

Stevenson, Noelle Nimona GRAPHIC NOVEL, 266 pgs. Harper Collins Publishers, 2015. $12.99. Language: PG ( 5 swears 0 fs); Mature Content: PG13 (crude references); Violence: PG13. 

Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain without a sidekick.  He didn’t think he needed one, but a young girl named Nimona shows up and insists he needs her.  She’s a shapeshifter, and can change at will into almost anything.  But Blackheart is concerned with her level of violence (she kills often and easily) and she’s always ready to cause mischief and mayhem.  But when they uncover an evil plan by the institution (championed by Ambrosius Goldenloin), Lord Blackheart and Nimona must turn the tables and be the good guys.  

This novelization of the award winning web comic is irreverent and exciting.  A mix of magic and science, it’s both fantasy and science fiction, set in a time that is both medieval and futuristic.  Some of the humor may go over the middle schooler heads, but overall, it would make a good addition to your graphic novel collection. 

MS, HS - ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes - ADVISABLE

Noyes, Deborah Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original "Girl" Reporter, Nellie Bly, 122 pgs.  Viking, 2016.  $18.99  Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.   

Nellie Bly, known as Pinkie Cochran as a child, was a star newspaper report in the late 1800s - early 1900s.  But she fought her way to that level of fame.  A woman in the workforce was unheard of - unless she was a teacher or a maid or a stenographer.  Nellie was wanting to do the same job as a man, and had to prove herself at every report.  From masquerading as a crazy woman to expose the abuses in the asylum on Blackwell’s Island, to traveling unaccompanied around the world to test Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 days (she did it in 72) Nellie Bly became the darling of the day, the favorite reporter of the New York World and other papers.  

Nellie’s early life is also chronicled, along with the backstories for many of the jobs and people of her life. Although designated in blue paper, this was not my favorite part of the book as it broke up the action and felt like I was reading 2 different biographies. Complete with photos, period illustrations, source notes, bibliography, webliography and an index, this is an informative nonfiction read that is appealing on both the middle school and high school level. 

MS, HS ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli - ADVISABLE

Cossanteli, Veronica   The Extincts  Illustrated by Roman Muradov. 230 pages. Henry Holt Co., 2016. $16.99. Language: G; Mature Content: G ; Violence: PG

When his bike is stolen, and he realizes that he must earn the money himself if he wants to replace it, George Drake sees a curious green-penned Help Wanted sign in the Candy Shop window and feels confident he is the right person for the job. He's interested in wildlife, like the sign requests, and though he doesn't know what a squamophobe is, he's pretty certain he is not one, like the sign requests. Thus begins his time at Wormestall Farms where the most unusual animals reside. It turns out, though, that he is not the only right person for the job. The new girl from school, Prudence, also follows the Help Wanted sign to the farm. Unfortunately, her stepmom is a crazed taxidermist who is determined to stuff the most amazing creature ever, even if she has to steal rare animals to do so.

This story has three main plot strands: the work at the farm, learning about and caring for the unusual animals (which are thought by others to be either extinct or mythological); George's home and school life, including a budding friendship with Prudence; and thwarting the stepmother's evil schemes. A British import, this is a quirky, imaginative book with lots to recommend it.

EL - ADVISABLE. Reviewed by P.K.Foster, teacher- librarian

All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse - NO

Cranse, Pratima All the Major Constellations 316 pages. Viking Penguin Random House 2015. $17.99.  Language:  R (100+ swears, 60 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R.

Andrew’s two best friends couldn’t be more different – Marcia is seriously smart and shy, and Sara is gorgeous, flirtatious, and hardworking - but the three of them have been inseparable all through high school.  A week before their graduation in 1995, Sara is severely injured in a car accident, prompting Marcia to attend to her full-time in the hospital, and causing Andrew to withdraw in uncertainty.  Andrew’s long-time romantic obsession, Laura, invites him to join her fundamentalist church youth group after she hears of the accident, and though Andrew doesn’t believe in God, he decides to go so he can get close to her.  Is the comfort he is feeling a sign from above?

I wish this book had done better justice to the religious questioning and exploration that is common to many teens.  This book is all over the place, lacking balance between Andrew’s moments of inquiry about religious belief and his mockery of it.  He gets a distant view of Laura’s harmonious family life (a stark contrast to his own), but does he interpret this as false in the end because of how their church “counsels” one of their homosexual members?  Nothing is treated adequately, not the critical situation of his friend, not Andrew’s haphazard soul-searching, not the supporting characters and personalities, and definitely not the meaningless sexual encounter (for which there are zero consequences).  Rated R for foul language and behavior, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use, with few satisfying resolutions to all that is thrown at us, this book does not present a meaningful whole for the reader.

HS – NOT RECOMMENDED.  Reviewed by JA, High School Librarian

Mission: New Baby by Susan Hood - ADVISABLE

Hood, Susan Mission: New Baby.  PICTURE BOOK.  Random House Children’s Book 2015 Language: (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content-G; Violence: G;

 The book begins Congratulations! Headquarters is about to get a brand new recruit.  Since you’re the big brother or sister, your mission is to train the new kid on the team.  It’s a Big job.  Are you ready?  Using military terminology it teaches a sibling how to be the best big brother ever.

EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Emilee Teacher Librarian