Sunday, July 31, 2016

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather - ESSENTIAL

Mather, Adriana How to Hang a Witch, 350 pages.  Knopf (Random), 2016.  $18.  Language: PG-13 (23 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (mild sexual innuendo); Violence: PG (bullying, danger).

With her father in a coma, Samantha Mather is forced to leave New York City move back to his hometown of Salem with her stepmother to save money.  As soon as she arrives in town, she attracts the ire of The Descendents, the five students who are direct descendants of families whose ancestors were killed for witchcraft back in the 1600’s.  Then people start getting hurt or dying and Samantha finds herself the focus of the blame.  Samanatha is going to need help, not only from her hot next door neighbor and his mother, but also from the ghost Elijah, who was present before the Trials and who has key information Sam needs if she is going to break the 300+ years old curse on herself and the town.

Mather (yes, she is a descendant of Cotton Mather) skillfully weaves a tale of centuries old grief and anger.  She doesn’t make anything easy for main character, not even romance.  Whether you are a fan of the Salem Witch Trials or just like a good haunting mystery, you will enjoy reading this.

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Three Magic Balloons by Paul Margulies -OPTIONAL

Margulies, Paul Three Magic Balloons Random House, 2016 $17.99.  PICTURE BOOK
This book features three kindhearted little girls. After a trip to the zoo, they are rewarded for their kind deeds with magical balloons. After they tie the balloons to their bed that night, they are awaken into a magical journal.
This book just didn’t come together for me. Its nice that the girls fed zoo animals rather than buying themselves gifts, but that moral doesn’t tie into the story very smoothly. Overall I thought the story was quiet odd and felt like one of those crazy dreams you have when you eat too much sugar. As a family story, the adult children who made this book in honor of their fathers story obviously  have a personal connection to the story, but I wouldn’t add this to my library.
EL(K-3)  –OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

It was so Quiet I could hear a Pin drop by Andy Goodman -ADVISABLE

Goodman, Andy It was so Quiet I could hear a Pin drop Princeton Architectural Press (McEvoy Group), 2016.  $15.95.  PICTURE BOOK
A child in a tree swing listens to the breeze. At first s/he hears noises that are possible, like Kites and bees, and a watch. But the sounds increasingly become less normal, like elephants, cannons, and more.
After a read-through I thought this book was very strange, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. First off, there just aren’t enough books that focus on sounds, which is a great lesson for younger readers in a school library. Second its really interesting progression from identifying the sounds you hear to making up guesses for what sounds you don’t recognize could possibly be. I like that the answers get creative at this point, which is a great example of an exercise that would be fun to do with students, outside maybe. I bet they would come up with some very funny and creative answers. Great for lessons on sounds, imagination, creativity, and listening.

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

The Kidnap Plot by Dave Butler - ADVISABLE

Butler, Dave The Kidnap Plot (The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie #1), 326 pages.  Knopf (Random), 2016.  $17. Content: G (some mild fighting).

Charlie’s father rarely lets him out of the house, and never off his dark, noisy, little street.  Then comes the night when mysterious men invade his father’s clockwork shop and kidnap his father away.  Now Charlie must turn to strangers for help – two boys from the streets or London, a hulder (troll), a pixie, and a kobold.  Together they must track down the Iron Cog and unmask an evil plot involving danger to the Queen of England and rescue Charlie’s father before the shadowy group puts all of England at risk.  Along the way, Charlie will learn some important secrets about himself.

Butler’s steampunk tale is fun fantasy addition, with lots of menace and more than one betrayal.  Kids who like a mystery tied up with a historical-ish setting with have a grand time.

EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hare and Tortoise by Alison Murray -ADVISABLE

Murray, Alison Hare and Tortoise Candlewick, 2015. $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK
A re-telling of the classic Aesop fable, this features a super high energy Hare taking on the slow and sweet Tortoise. If you are not familiar, they pair are going to race, it should be obvious who is going to win, but you never know what might happen.
The artist does a great job showing the energy level of the Rabbit. I like the ultimate downfall that the author has chosen. Its bright, simple and easy to share with a group. I wish there were more like this so I could do a unit for younger readers, some of those embedded lessons if fables are challenging for them. (Though its totally fun to hear what they think the moral of the story is)
EL(K-3)  –ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

A Whale in the Bathtub by Kylie Westaway -OPTIONAL

Westaway, Kylie A Whale in the Bathtub Clarion (Houghton Mifflin), 2016.  $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK
A little boy is sent to take a bath but can’t complete his chore as he discovers a whale in the bathtub. He tries to reason with it numerous times and keeps trying to tell his family, who don’t believe him. Will he ever get a bath or will his family finally believe him.
This is a cute book that features a determined boy, but there isn’t really a point to the story. Now that being said, a story for entertainment is totally great, but this one wasn’t very funny or  interesting. Its not a boy who cried wolf story, nor does it have any kind of lesson that I can discern. The artwork feels very 1950s-1960ish, which I don’t care for.

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

The Black Dragon by Julian Sedgwick - OPTIONAL

Sedgwick, Julian The Black Dragon, 343 pgs.  Carolrhoda Books, 2016.  $18.99.  Language: PG (one use of deity swearing); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.  

Hong Kong sounds like a great place to vacation, but for twelve-year old Danny, it is anything but.  Danny is half Chinese, half British and he is excited to see where his mother came from.  Unfortunately, Danny’s parents died in an accident that to Danny seems less like one all the time.  Danny is traveling with his Aunt Laura, who is investigating a dangerous gang called the Black Dragon. Laura is kidnapped almost immediately, leaving Danny and his traveling companion, Zamora, to rescue Laura while avoiding getting killed.  Danny is never sure whom he can trust and must rely on skills learned during his circus days to survive.  

If you are a fan of action, this book is loaded with it.  For me it was almost too much action.  I don’t think Danny ever had time to go to the bathroom or get a drink in between assassination attempts.  Escaping from one attempted murder would freak me out, but Danny kept on going without ever going into shock or getting a little sick to his stomach, even after coming across a dead body.  Since Danny is only twelve, it seemed odd that his traveling companion, who was much older, deferred to Danny’s judgment and that Danny manages to pull off circus tricks that it seemed he hadn’t had to use before Hong Kong, but pulled off like a champ. 

EL/MS-OPTIONAL.  Michelle in the Middle 

The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennett by Natasha Farrant - OPTIONAL

Farrant, Natasha The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennett, 336 pages.  Chicken House (Scholastic), OCTOBER 2016.  $18.  Content: G.

Lydia Bennet is tired of being the youngest of Bennet sisters.  When she sees a chance to hie off to Brighton and spend quality time around the militia, which has been relocated there.  In Brighton, she finds a wider range of people than she has ever seen, delights in taking the waters (swimming),  and a new romantic interest in a French √©migr√© and his fashion designer sister.   When the relationship turns south, she turns to Wickham to help her salvage the situation.

Farrant’s Lydia is as shallow as we have become acquainted with from the source material, but when she arrives in Brighton, something changes, just a little.  Even though Farrant stays true to the resulting events from the novel, she adds new motives to Lydia and Wickham’s subsequent marriage.  I am conflicted by this new twist on the story – it makes Lydia’s marriage to Wickham more sordid-feeling than when we regard her as madly in love with him, or at least madly in love with the thought of him.  I’ll have to think on this.  I would love other people’s thoughts on Farrant’s twist.  It is only really worth reading if you are familiar with the source.

MS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hello, Hippo! Goodbye, Bird! By Kristyn Crow -OPTIONAL

Crow, Kristyn Hello, Hippo! Goodbye, Bird! Alfred Knopf, 2016. $15.99.  PICTURE BOOK
In this story a noisy annoying bird is determined to become friends with a solitary hippo. The hippo desperately just wants to be left alone and when he does manage to ditch the bird, he is perfectly joyously happy. The bird proves itself useful and in the end the two become friends.
I am not sure the ‘lesson’ here works for students, the annoying student that keeps pestering another student for friendship, doesn’t usually end in friendship. I think it would be different if the hippo needed a friend, but he seemed perfectly fine alone. The illustrations are bright and engaging.

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