Monday, July 31, 2017

But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure - ESSENTIAL

Laure, Estelle  But Then I Came Back, 310 pgs.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.  $17.99  Content: Language: R (54 swears; 6 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.  

Eden fell into a river and almost died.  She spends a month in a coma and when she wakes up she has a hard time getting a grasp on reality because the things she saw while asleep seem so real.  When she meets a boy named Joe, who is visiting his best friend, Jaz, in the hospital room next door Eden starts to think that maybe the things she saw while in her coma were real.  

This is a creative and poetic book.  I loved the writing style and the author made me love the character.  The theme of life after death or the “in between” was philosophical and well done.   The mature content is make out sessions and except for the language this would be essential for middle school as well.  

MS – OPTIONAL.  HS – ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.      

Tornadoes by Seymour Simon - ADVISABLE

Simon, Seymour  Tornadoes  HarperCollins, 1999 (updated 2017).  PICTURE BOOK  $17.99  Content: G.  

This book about tornadoes includes the different names of tornadoes and how they form.  It also explains how the Enhanced Fujita Scale works and explains the different levels on the scale.  A few of the worst tornadoes are described and it explains the areas that are most often hit by tornadoes.  In the end the author gives advice on what to do if you are caught in a tornado.  

There is a glossary at the back to describe some of the terms used throughout.  There is also a reference to an online source that can provide a teacher guide and other resources.  The pictures in this book are beautiful and fascinating.  Storms and natural disasters are a hit with the young boys at my house, so they loved looking at the pictures, but the amount of text and high vocabulary was a bit daunting for them, which makes this book more appropriate for older elementary or middle school kids.  As far as a simple and brief understanding of these beautiful storms this was a great read.  

EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Robins! How they Grow Up by Eileen Christelow -- OPTIONAL

Christelow, Eileen Robins! How They Grow Up. PICTURE BOOK. Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2017. $16.99. Content: PG.

Two young robins tell the story of how their parents met, how they were born, and how they survived to become juveniles. Endnotes give more information about the lives of robins.

The story format adds interest to this nonfiction picture book and encourages children to empathize with robins. Unfortunately, that makes it all the more difficult when two of the four baby robins are eaten by other creatures. While some children may not particularly care, sensitive readers and those with strong imaginations will likely take it hard. At 48 pages, this picture book is on the hefty side and takes longer than usual to read.

EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Friday, July 28, 2017

Stitched: The First Day of the Rest of her Life by Mariah McCourt –OPTIONAL

McCourt, Stitched: The First Day of the Rest of her Life 45 pgs. Charm Z ((Papercutz) Macmillan), 2017. $14.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears) Mature Content: G; Violence: G GRAPHIC NOVEL
Crimson wakes up and can’t remember anything. It appears she is in a crypt in the cemetery. She starts to wandered and explores a haunted house, meets a friend that might be a werewolf, and even meets a couple of interesting boys. Crimson would like to know more about herself, but it appears that she is a Frankenstein. When a friend makes a big mistake, its up to her to help out.
This weird, quirky, and off-kilter story is just a bit too strange for the collection at my school library. Fans of Nightmare before Christmas may enjoy this style. There are parts that are vaguely intriguing but I had trouble buying into the world and caring about the main character, as the full memory loss plot element is a pet peeve of mine.

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley -- ADVISABLE

Manley, Curtis Shawn Loves Sharks, illustrated by Tracy Subisak. PICTURE BOOK. Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan), 2017. $17.99. Content: G.

Shawn is crazy about sharks -- the way they swim, the way they hunt, and especially the way they chomp. If there's a shark movie or book out there, he's got it -- and he knows it by heart, too. So when his class studies predators, and someone else gets to learn about sharks while he has to learn about lowly leopard seals, Shawn is devastated. But maybe, through research into both seals and what it takes to be a friend, Shawn can learn a whole lot more than he'd expected.

This is a great story about a bully-turned-friend, about discovering new interests, and about sharing. Children who love sharks with a die-hard passion will understand Shawn's obsession, but it's the illustrations I particularly adore. The pictures are expressive and dynamic, adding so much to the story. I also appreciate that they represent a wide range of diversity among the students, which feels very true-to-life. I will likely use this one in a class lesson this year to show how to use illustrations when inferring character emotions and reactions.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith - ESSENTIAL

Smith, Jennifer E.  Windfall, 416 pgs.  Delacorte Press, 2017.  $18.99  Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.  

Alice decides to buy her best friend, Teddy, a lottery ticket for his eighteenth birthday.  Although Teddy and Al have been friends for nine years, in the last couple of years Al has been crushing on him.  When Teddy wins the lottery and becomes an instant multi-millionaire, Al wishes she would never have bought him the ticket because she doesn’t want him to change.  At the same time that Teddy is struggling to come to terms with this much money, Al is trying to decide where she wants to go to college.  Will there future be together or will the lottery ruin their friendship?  

At first I was worried that this book was going to be all about the downfall of lottery winners, but it developed into a great coming of age story.  I enjoyed the characters and I enjoyed contemplating what happens when someone wins the lottery.  I loved that it’s a clean romance but also explores other themes of friendship, wealth and family relations.  Good read and easy to recommend.  

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport - ADVISABLE

Rappaport, Doreen  42 Is Not Just a Number, 128 pgs.  Candlewick Press, 2017.  $14.99  Content: Language: PG (“n” word); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  

Jackie Robinson was the youngest of six kids and his mother moved them to Pasadena, California to try and give them opportunities.  Jackie was a good athlete in many sports, but Branch Rickey saw not just his athleticism but that he was a good candidate to desegregate major league baseball.  Jackie was an amazing baseball player, but he also helped the country in a lot of ways to move past segregation.  His baseball jersey number, 42, was permanently retired from baseball to honor him.  

This book read like a bunch of short stories about Jackie Robinson from different times in his life.  The stories that Rappaport chose were interesting and fascinating, but at times it was confusing because she would use the word “today” in reference to the time period she was talking about instead of the today for the reader.  This is a simple and brief overview of the life of a revered historical figure, and there are better Jackie Robinson biographies out there, but this is a good introduction for the younger crowd.  

EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.              

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Leaky Story by Devon Sillett -- ADVISABLE

Sillett, Devon The Leaky Story, illustrated by Anil Tortop. PICTURE BOOK. Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd, 2017. $17.99. Content: G.

J.J.'s book is tired of sitting on the shelf, unopened and unloved. So the tale inside begins to swell and drip out onto the carpet. Soon there's an entire story swirling around J.J.'s house, bringing with it pirates and sea creatures and more than a little ocean water. When J.J.'s parents realize what is going on, they join the fight to shove the story back inside. But are they too late?

This is a colorful, imaginative take on fiction coming alive, and it begs for a class discussion on what stories students would most like to realize. Because it is Australian, there are a few very slight variations in language and punctuation, but these are easily explained.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Brave New Girl by Rachel Vincent - OPTIONAL

Vincent, Rachel Brave New Girl (Brave New Girl, #1), 254 pgs.  Delacorte Press, 2017.  $17.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (15 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13. 

Dahlia 16 has been raised by a government system to become a gardener.  She is one of 5,000 girls who look exactly the same and perform manual labor for their city.  When Dahlia 16 is called to the administrator’s office and asked if she would like to become a teacher, she ends up trapped inside an elevator for an hour with a boy named Trigger 17.  Although it is against all rules to communicate with someone from another sector, they begin a friendship that will get them in all kinds of trouble and make them question their world.  

The dystopian idea of this book is very similar to Divergent and the concept isn’t new.  The characters are likable and the story is interesting so if your students love the dystopian genre this is a good addition.  The ending is not satisfying and completely open, but it is the beginning of a series.  The violence is reference to the mass murder of almost 5,000 girls.  It isn’t graphic or descriptive, but it is upsetting.  Other than that it’s clean.  

MS, HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

A Map Coloring Book by Natalie Hughes - OPTIONAL

Hughes, Natalie  A Map Coloring Book Henry Holt, 2017.  $12.99  Content: G.  

This is a detailed coloring book that has parts of a map of the world.  Each page is a different part of the continents of the world.  The major states or countries are listed with pictures of the animals and plants that are known in that area.  There are upwards of twenty animals/plants to color on each page and they are labeled.  This is a fun book that might appeal to kids’ love of animals and extend that to geography.  

There is a lot going on in this book and it takes a close look to distinguish all the many animals and plants.  There isn’t any further information about the animals or the countries provided throughout the book.  Because of the amount of detail it seems overwhelming for the younger crowd.  

GIFT – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.   

Monday, July 24, 2017

Outrun the Moon by Stacy Lee - ADVISABLE

Lee, Stacy Outrun the Moon, 391 pgs. Penguin Random House, 2016. $17.99. Language: PG (5 swears, 0 “f”) Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.  

15 year old Mercy Wong graduated 8th grade at the top of her class, but it’s 1906 and she is Chinese, so her public education stops there.  Determined to make a name for herself anyway, she negotiates a trial admission into the prestigious St. Clare’s Girls’ School in San Francisco, but the rich privileged girls can’t see past her race and things are only going to get worse if they discover that her father owns a laundry in Chinatown and her mother is a fortune teller.  But when the great earthquake of 1906 strikes, Mercy discovers something she didn’t see before - in herself and her friends.  

A beautiful slice of history, this exciting look at turn of the century morals, education and racial relations is also a bit romantic and nostalgic.  Reminiscent of modern disaster stories (Katrina) it is hopeful and sad. It's well written and exciting enough to keep the reader engaged to the end.  

MS, HS - ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme -- OPTIONAL

Brun-Cosme, Nadine Daddy Long Legs, illustrated by Auriélie Guillerey. PICTURE BOOK. Kids Can Press, 2017. $15.95. Content: G.

A young boy wonders what will happen if his father's old green truck doesn't start when it's time to be picked up from kindergarten. In reply, the father lists the many different ways he can come for the boy, including driving his neighbor's big red tractor or being carried by all of the birds in the nearby trees.

This book, translated from the French version, addresses a common concern among many children who are just starting school. Because it is aimed at kindergarteners but is not necessarily a new-to-school story, its audience may be limited, but it's a cute tale nonetheless.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lucky in Love by Kassie West - OPTIONAL

West, Kassie  Lucky in Love, 333 pgs.  Point, 2017 (Scholastic).  $17.99  Content: Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.  

Maddie has always been a hard worker and been very determined. One day she buys a lottery ticket not even hoping to win. To Maddie’s surprise, she wins. When everything that comes from being a millionaire kicks in Maddie isn’t sure she wants to tell her friend and coworker Seth about the lottery. She enjoys being around him and being herself without the glitz and glam of being a millionaire. Will Maddie ever tell him or will he find out? 

I thought that this book was well written and interesting, but I have read books from this author before and I must say this was my least favorite so far, I was disappointed.  I didn’t like how the main character lost track of who she really was and everything she had ever worked for.  

MS, HS -OPTIONAL.  Student Reviewer, Isabelle.

Babymouse Tales from the Locker by Jennifer L. Holm

Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm Babymouse: Tales from the Locker, 195 pgs.  Random House, 2017.  Content: G.  

Babymouse wants to be in a club at school.  She finds out about the film club and she signs up.  She writes a script and the teacher likes it, so she makes Babymouse the director.  Babymouse learns life skills and has fun while directing the film.  

I like the pictures in this book.  I think that Babymouse is funny and a lot of people can relate to her.  I liked the story line, and although it says middle school in the title, it will be enjoyed more in upper elementary.   There are a lot of pictures in this book, but it is not a graphic novel.   

EL – ADVISABLE.  Student Reviewer, Isabelle.

Libby and Pearl the Best of Friends by Lindsey Bonnie - OPTIONAL

Bonnice, Lindsey Libby and Pearl the Best of Friends. PICTURE BOOK. Harper (Harper Collins), 2016 $14.99.

  Libby and Pearl the piglet have an unlikely friendship. Despite being very different in appearance, they have a lot in common where it counts.  Libby and Pearl play, share, and go on adventures together.  

This book is filled with cute color photographs of Libby and Pearl but it feels more like a blog rather than a book.  Children will enjoy looking at the pictures of the piglet all dressed up doing different activities and wish they had a piglet friend too.  It is definitely a cute idea, but not one I would put on my favorites list.  

Pre-K--OPTIONAL Gina, Media Specialist

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor - optional

Taylor, Janet B. Sparks of Light, 435 pages.  Houghton, 2017.  $17.  

Language: R (90+ swears, 4 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (sexual abuse, rape mentioned); Violence: PG-13 (deaths, medical torture)

Celia Alvarez and her minions are on their way to the past again – this time to con Nikola Tesla into creating a special device for them – one that will allow them to go back to the same point in time as many times that they like.  Hope Watson and the Viators have to stop them now, otherwise they will be helpless to thwart Celia moving forward.  So back to 1890’s New York they go – a time which has its own dangers for biracial Doug and for Hope, who can easily be accused of being a hysterical, unnatural woman who needs correction.

When the team goes back into the past, they only have 72 hours to complete their mission.  Taylor chooses to place Hope in a situation where rescuing her becomes the focus, instead of working on the mission.  While that makes sense in the first book where we were just beginning to meet Hope and the crew, I would have liked a book where she was part of the work, instead of a distraction.  So much of their time is spent on Hope, that the resolution to the mission is rushed and treated like an afterthought.  Taylor does reveal interesting new threats and enemies, but I wonder if she will take the time to explore them or if they will fall by the wayside in pursuit of focusing only on Hope.  And there is one big question I have, with the ensuing change in the timeline, but I can’t mention it here because it is a gigantic spoiler.

HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott - ESSENTIAL

Elliott, Kate Buried Heart (Court of Fives #3), 465 pages.  Little Brown, 2017.  $18.  

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (implied sex); Violence: PG-13 (some torture).

In a bold move, Jessamy’s life is upended when she, with aid from her General father, help Kalliarkos ascend to the throne of Efea.  Her life gets even worse when she is captured by Lord Gargaron and left as a prisoner in the company of the priests working one of the gold mines.  Jessamy’s fate and the fate of Efea are as complicated as a Fives court.  She will have to anticipate every move of every enemy and trust others as she has never trusted before.

I was a little worried that the story would become bogged down in the Kal/Jessamy romance, but once Jessamy is captured by Gargaron, the plot explodes into action in a very satisfying way.  The rush to the end is heady and intricately plotted and ultimately very satisfying.

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell - ESSENTIAL

Ferrell, Sean The Snurtch, illustrated by Charles Santoso.  PICTURE BOOK. Antheneum (Simon & Schuster), 2016 $17.99. 

Ruthie's got a problem.  There is a Snurtch that keeps getting her into trouble at school.  It throws pencils, makes rude noises, and forgets questions.  It even tears up others drawings in art class.  Ruthie, decides she has got to do something about the Snurtch.  She focuses really hard and begins to draw the Snurtch.  She even shares her drawing with the class so they can see the Snurtch too. Then very bravely, Ruthie apologizes for her bad behavior and tries to do better at controlling her inner Snurtch.  

This is a great story for teaching children about appropriate behavior in school.  When Ruthie realizes all the children in her class have a  Snurtch of their own that they struggle with, it lets her know she is not alone.  Children will love the illustrations and the book will spark a great discussion about good behavior strategies for being successful in school.  

EL (K-3), EL --ESSENTIAL Gina, Media Specialist