Saturday, June 23, 2018

Roses and Radicals by Susan Zimet - ADVISABLE


Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How Amercican Women Won the Right to Vote by Susan Zimet. 149 pages. NON-FICTION. Viking (Penguin), 2018. $20.

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  
BUYING APPEAL: MS, HS – ADVISABLE.  
KID APPEAL: LOW.  
In 1840, a World Anti-Slavery Convention was held in London which was attended by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. That convention had rules that women had to sit in a separate gallery than the men and that didn’t sit right with Elizabeth Stanton, so she slowly became involved in fighting for women’s rights.  Over time, as the anti-slavery movement grew, it became obvious that there were many rights women didn’t have as well.  Women were not protected by any laws and their property was considered their husband’s property.  Women were also denied entrance to most schools and jobs.  This book follows the strong women who pushed the Women’s Rights Movement until women were eventually given the right to vote.  
I found this historical account fascinating.  The history starts with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1840 and ends with the women’s right to vote in 1920, but throughout there are little biographies of the many women who helped gain rights for women.  The text is dense, but well done and I couldn’t put it down.  This could be used in a classroom to supplement lessons and history lovers will enjoy it, but I’m not sure the average student will pick it up and dive in.  
C. Peterson

Journey Beyond the Trees by Alexa Pearl -- OPTIONAL

Pearl, Alexa Journey Beyond the Trees (Tales of Sasha #2), illustrated by Paco Sordo. CHAPTER BOOK. Little Bee Books (Bonnier), 2017. $6. 9781499803914

The morning after finding out that she can fly, Sasha tells her sisters. They ask her many questions about her abilities, but she can't answer any of them. To learn more, it seems Sasha will need to journey into the forest and beyond. The only problem? No horse from their valley has ever ventured into the trees before.

This is another cute installment to the series. The glittery, colorful color is likely to appeal to sparkle-lovers, and the short chapters and many illustrations make it approachable for newer readers. As for the story itself, well, it's fun but it feels like a larger book chopped down to make a shorter one, especially with the rather abrupt ending.

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

The Hollow Under the Tree by Cary Fagan - OPTIONAL

The Hollow Under the Tree by Cary Fagan, 105 pages. CHAPTER BOOK. Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press). 2018. $13. 
Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

EL (K-3), EL – OPTIONAL

There’s a monster in High Park!
Well, that’s what 1925 Toronto newspapers report, as an assortment of squirrels, dogs, and even a peacock go missing. But Sadie Menken, daughter of a local pie-maker, knows differently. The “monster” is really a young, timid, and hungry lion that has escaped from a circus train. Sadie, with the help of a rich but lonely boy named Theodore, bring food to the lion and try to keep him a secret. But soon the authorities are on the hunt, and Sadie knows she needs help. Can she find a happy ending for the wild animal she has come to love?

I found this book to be an enchanting little story—once you get past the first chapter, which is a ponderous and rather old-fashioned beginning. The writing is succinct and understated. The characters in the book are nicely defined and very likeable, and the fact that these are real people (this story is based on a true event which happened to the author’s grandmother) makes them all the more enjoyable. Overall, this book would make a lovely read-aloud to elementary students. There will be some children who will plod through the first chapter on their own to discover the sweet story that follows, but the slow opening will be a deterrent to many readers.

Chris, K-8 Librarian

Alexander Hamilton by Barbara Lowell - ESSENTIAL

Alexander Hamilton by Barbara Lowell, illustrated by George Ermos. EARLY READER. Penguin Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2018. $15. 9781524787745

This level 4 reader covers the life of Alexander Hamilton and the contributions he made to American history. This book includes realistic and bright illustrations and the reading level is most appropriate for first and second grade readers. 

Hamilton is having a moment in pop culture, so it’s a great idea to capitalize on that and get kids reading about history. The book is a little dry, but will be pulled off the shelf by Hamilton the Musical fans. 

EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL. Jen Wecker 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Nate the Great and the Wandering Word - OPTIONAL

Sharmat, Andrew and Marjorie Weinman Sharmat Nate the Great and the Wandering Word, illustrated by Jody Wheeler, 64 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2018. $13. 9781524765446. Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL(K-3) - OPTIONAL

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Nate the Great, the kid detective, is at it again with another mystery to solve. When local smart girl, Esmeralda, loses a word she wrote down--she can't remember it and can't find the paper she wrote it on!--Nate the Great is called on to solve the case. Following the usual format, Nate brings along his dog, Sludge, goes after a few dead ends, and eventually solves the case.

I was a fan of Nate the Great when I was younger, so its nice the publisher has continued to publish new stories for this generation. This is a fine easy chapter book choice for beginning readers and kids will probably enjoy trying to solve the mystery along with Nate. I found the story in this particular mystery to be a little dull and the vast majority of the story was told in conversation which bothered me somehow. Overall its not my favorite Nate the Great, but still a solid series.

Reviewer: TC

All Summer Long by Hope Larson - ADVISABLE


All Summer Long by Hope Larson. 172 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018. $22  
Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  
BUYING ADVISORY: MS -ADVISABLE.  
KID APPEAL: HIGH. 
Bina is having a boring summer because her best friend Austin is away at soccer camp.  After exhausting herself for a week watching a British TV series, she befriends Austin’s sister, starts to realize her passion for music and relishes in becoming a new aunt.  When Austin returns home from soccer camp he has changed and Bina starts to realize that they like different things but can still be friends.  
This graphic novel is a look into one girl’s summer experience.  Nothing really spectacular happens, but Bina is a likable character and sometimes it’s the small life experiences that really define who we become.  I liked that Bina was true to herself.  The illustrations are orange, white and black which is a bit bland, but they depict the story well enough.  The front cover is appealing and the back cover makes it look like it’s going to have romance, but it doesn’t.  
C. Peterson

The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristin Levine - ESSENTIAL

The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristin Levine, 354 pages.  Putnam (Penguin), 2018.  $18.
Content: PG (see spoiler alert below, though)

EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

After the last day of the school year, Claudia, 12, and her mother expected Dad to return home exhausted but happy.  But he doesn’t.  Instead, he has disappeared.  It takes a couple of days, but the police find evidence of him withdrawing money from his bank and heading to the bus station– leaving his wife and daughter devastated, knowing he ran out on them.  Now Claudia has to go stay with her Papa (grandfather), Dad’s father, because Mom has to go to her conference in Switzerland.  Then she receives an envelope with a puzzle piece – from one of the over 100 puzzles from Dad’s younger days – and what seems to be a clue. 

Long explanation, but there is so much more to know!  Levine again shows herself to be a master of her craft.  The story is told through a book of artifacts that Claudia collects, but Levine chooses just the right ones that I always felt like I as reading a narrative, not watching a home movie or reading receipts!  The interplay between Claudia and her Papa, and with Papa struggling with the loss of his wife is poignant.  
SPOILER ALERT: 
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.The book plot ultimately revolves around coming out of the closet and coming to terms with a family breaking apart and figuring out how make a new kind of family. It is all exactly what kids should have available for them to read – no missteps here.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Grizzly Boy by Barbara Davis-Pyles - OPTIONAL

Grizzly Boy by Barbara Davis-Pyles, illustrated by Tracy Subisak. PICTURE BOOK. Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch Books), 2018. $18. 9781632171689

Theo, a young boy, decides he is wild and free and wants to be a grizzly bear.  This gets him in trouble at school and he doesn’t realize the consequences of his actions until his mother also decides to act like a grizzly bear.  Finally, they decide to just be part grizzly, the best parts.

The plot is a little hard to follow in this book and there is one bare bum image to be aware of.  I like the idea of giving young readers some language for the feelings of not wanting to be controlled, but I’m not sure it works all that well in this book.

EL (K-3) - OPTIONAL. Jen Wecker

Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep by Eleanor Farjeon -- OPTIONAL

Farjeon, Eleanor Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep, illustrated by Charlotte Voake. CHAPTER BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2017. (Reprint from 1937.) $12. 9780763690557

Elsie Piddock is a born rope-skipper, and with the local fairies' help she becomes even better. Her legendary skipping starts traditions in her town -- traditions that continue long after she outgrows rope-skipping, moves away, and becomes forgotten. But when a local lord threatens the town, there is only one person who can help: Elsie Piddock, skipping champion.

This is a charming story that grew on me the more I read. With its nostalgic feel and slow-burning plot, I think it would appeal more to adults than to children, and is unlikely to find a huge audience in a school classroom or library. It is, however, a pleasant read.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Science Comics: Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future - ADVISABLE


Science Comics: Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future, by Mairghread Scott, illustrated by Jacob Chabot.  121 pages. NON-FICTION/GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second (Roaring Brook Press), 2018. $13. 
Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  
BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE.
KID APPEAL: HIGH   
This is an interesting explanation about robots and their history.  A robotic bird takes the reader on a tour of how robots have historically evolved.  Then there is an explanation of what composes a robot.  The ethics of robots and where they will fit in our future is covered as well.  At the end there is a four page glossary with definitions as well as 25 robots that are well known.  
I usually really like the Science Comic graphic novels, but I didn’t enjoy this one as well.  I felt like it briefed over subjects that I thought were interesting like military drones, but spent a lot of time on the make-up of robots.  That said the explanations were basic and made complicated ideas easy to understand.  The illustrations were well done and helped with the text explanations. I think most kids understand a lot about drones and robots already, so either that will draw them to this book or they will feel like they already know the information and be bored.  
C. Peterson

The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz - ESSENTIAL


The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines (UnicornSociety, #1) by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly.  167 pages. CHAPTER BOOK. Dutton’s Children’s Books (Penguin), 2018. $15.
Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  
BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL – ESSENTIAL.  
KID APPEAL: HIGH
Elliott’s first day at his new school is unique and amazing.  First he meets a spunky girl named Uchenna, and they fast become friends.  Then while on a field trip to the Pine Barrens, Elliott and Uchenna help a mythical creature who is in trouble.  When the mythical Jersey Devil becomes more than Elliott and Uchenna can handle they have to turn to the seemingly crazy Professor Fauna for help.   

My nine year old and I loved this book.  The story line moves quickly and is intriguing.  The characters and their dialogue are endearing and funny.  The illustrations are simple but help the reader visualize the magical parts of the story.  Each night when it was time to close the book, my son would beg me to read just one chapter more.  Great new series.  
C. Peterson

Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray - ADVISABLE


Gray, Claudia Leia: Princess of Alderaan, 409 pages.  Disney, 2017.  $18.  Language: PG (9 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS-ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: HIGH

With the “Solo” movie out at the theatres, Star Wars fans are obviously interested in more backstories about their favorite characters. So, if you’ve ever wondered what Leia was like before she met Han, here is a book for you. The book starts when Leia is just sixteen-years-old and not yet a part of the rebellion. Her parents are keeping secrets from her and she fears that they don’t think that she is capable of ruling. She joins the Apprentice Legislature where she sees for herself how bleak life can be on other planets. She learns how to be tough and survive through the different tasks they are given, and also how to work as a team. She discovers what her parents are hiding from her could cost her life, her planet, and even the boy she’s starting to love.

Leia is younger and less kick-butt than in the original movie, but it makes sense that she is a teenager and unsure of herself. The reader gets to watch her character development as she becomes more confident and a true leader. Star Wars fans will be happy to see several familiar faces from the popular movie series and new characters they’ve never met. School Librarians: May the Force be with You.

Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

The Chosen Ones by Scarlett Thomas

The Chosen Ones (Worldquake #2) by Scarlett Thomas, 374 pages.  Simon & Shuster, 2018.  $18.
Content: G (2 swears, 0 ‘f’).

EL, MS – ADVISABLE

Effie and her friends managed to avert danger and each of them has at least one magical boon and a special power.   As they learn more about magic big threat is looming on the horizon.  They are distracted by troubles at home and school, though, and it may almost be too late when they realize who their enemy is and what they are trying to do.  If they can’t rally themselves and prevail, it is the worlds on both sides of the divide that will be in danger.

While Effie’s story and the enemy are a heroic tale, but the first half of the book seems to be scattered and confusing and Thomas takes the time to give each of the group a storyline of their own.  The rival school team is a weird bit of inclusion – same with the guest author at school who then stalks Effie.  Tighter editing would have done wonders for this. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Hedgehog Needs a Hug by Jen Betton - OPTIONAL

Hedgehog Needs a Hug by Jen Betton. PICTURE BOOK. G. F. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), 2018. $17. 9781524737122

EL (K-3) - OPTIONAL 

Hedgehog wakes up and starts unsuccessfully looking for someone to give him a hug.  He runs into danger with a fox and in his fragile state after that encounter, finally finds a friend who also needs a hug. 

The illustrations in this book are cute, old fashioned watercolors and the story is sweet.  That said, there just isn’t much depth or nuance to the book and it fell a bit flat for me. 

Jen Wecker

News of the World by Paulette Jiles - ADVISABLE

News of the World by Paulette Jiles, 209 pages.  William Morrow (Harper), 2016.  $16.
Language: PG (9 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULT – ADVISABLE

Since his wife passed away, Captain Kidd has occupied himself by wandering through northern Texas entertaining small town folks by charging a dime per person for dramatic readings of news of the day.  But then he is approached by some acquaintances, offering him $50 to deliver a little girl to her surviving family in the deep south of Texas.  She was kidnapped by Indians in 1866, now four years later she has been released and needs to be returned.  Southern Texas is still pretty unsettled, so there will be some danger, but the biggest danger may be to Kidd’s heart as her gradually draws the girl out of her shell, teaches her how to communicate, and coaxes her back to the world of the white man.

This was pure indulgence for me as a reader.  Whether you are a fan a Texas, love reading stories about children who lived with Indians, or just like a new piece of historical fiction, there is something for you to love in this.  

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

My Grandfather’s War by Glyn Harper - ESSENTIAL

My Grandfather’s War by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper.  PICTURE BOOK.  EK (Exisle), 2018.  $18.  9781775592990

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Jenny knows that her grandfather limps because he was hurt during the Vietnam War, but her father told her not to ask him about it and there are no books about it in her school library.  One day she decides to ask him anyway, so she takes a deep breath and begins.

The Vietnam War is virtually unrepresented in picture books.  Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner talks about going to visit the Memorial and Maya Lin by Jeanne Walker Harvey talks about building the Memorial.  I’ve love to hear about others.  So this is the first picture book that I know of that actually discusses a little bit about what being in the war was like.  Harper deftly handles sensitive topics without glorifying or unduly horrifying young readers.  Harper’s voice is spot on for his intended audience.  It also shows a young person having the courage to address a problem with someone they love.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Marty Frye Private Eye: The Case of the Stolen Poodle & Other Mysteries by Janet Tashjian, illustrated by Laurie Keller - ADVISABLE

Tashjian, Janet Marty Frye Private Eye: The Case of the Stolen Poodle & Other Mysteries, illustrated by Laurie Keller, 88 pages.  Christy Oviano Books (Henry Holt), 2017.  $16.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL-ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Marty Frye is a rhyming guy and also a private eye. The first case he solves is: The Case of the Angry Nurse. Nurse Laughlin’s on a rampage because someone stole all of her tongue depressors. The second case is: The Case of the Stolen Candy. Someone had stolen over $100 of hot jawbreakers. The final case is: The Case of the Stolen Poodle. Darlene the poodle belongs to their neighbor, Jackie, and she’s missing. It takes the poet detective all day, but he squares all three mysteries away.

Book Two of Marty Frye Private Eye is just as charming and full of rhymes as the first. The mysteries are simple enough to solve quickly, but complex enough for children to be intrigued and entertained. The black and white cartoon illustrations give the book a mystery noir feel and are perfectly coupled with the text. Put it on your shelf to read next.

Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

Forest's First Day of School by Tara Zann -- OPTIONAL

Zann, Tara Forest's First Day of School (Wild Child #2), illustrated by Dan Widdowson. CHAPTER BOOK. Imprint (Macmillan), 2017. $6. 9781250103871

It's time for Forest, the wild child Olive and her family found in the woods two weeks before, to start school. To complicate things, on the first day they discover they will be doing a class play of The Wizard of Oz. Forest has enough difficulty handling real life; how can he possibly handle the pretend world of a performance?

Like the previous book in the series, this one has a cute premise. It's just so over-the-top that I found myself constantly distracted by thoughts of, "That would never happen!" and that made it difficult to get into the flow. From a spaghetti-and-meatballs fight at lunch (where the only adult in a cafeteria full of kids is a lone lunch lady), to the idea that social services hasn't yet come knocking on Olive's door to investigate this abandoned child they took home, to the fact that Forest was simply dropped into a regular classroom with no extra support at all, it was difficult to suspend disbelief.

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

Ozland by Wendy Spinale - ADVISABLE

Ozland by Wendy Spinale, 288 pages.  Scholastic Press, 2018.  $18.

Language: G, Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (deaths, some blood)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

The survivors of the destruction of Everland and Umberland are desperate to stop the Bloodred Queen and save the world from the Horologia virus. It will take each one of them, plus a few new characters and a lot of sacrifice, to triumph.

With the introduction of a third world and more characters, Spinale overloads her slim book with just too much.  I was distracted with keeping track of everyone and couldn’t really enjoy the deft inclusion of the Oz characters as much as I had meting the other worlds. Spinale really does a great job of adding in the people and action from the classic novels – I think she deserved more than 300 pages to give full play to the ambitious scope of her world. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Dream a Rainbow by Carlotta Penn - ADVISABLE

Dream a Rainbow by Carlotta Penn, illustrated by Joelle Avelino.  PICTURE BOOK.  Daydreamers Press, 2017.  $12. 9780999661307

BUYING ADVISORY: Pre-K - ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

A mother uses the colors of a rainbow to celebrate the love she has for her child and her wishes for that little girl.
The exuberance of the colors and love shine through the illustrations.  I wanted to sing the words, and wished that I could hear the tune I could feel within the pages.  This would make a great board book.  I hadn’t heard the term Rainbow Baby before – it means a child born soon after another baby is lost.  But whether you are celebrating a new beginning or just the gift of any child, you will feel the joy here.
Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Argos: Now in paperback!

Reprint of the student reviewer's original post:

Hardy, R.K. Argos: The story of Odysseus as told by his Dog, 382 pages. HarperCollins, 2016. $7.99.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

ARGOS is a noble and courageous dog and is very loyal to his master Odysseus. The master has been gone for a long time and his family is worried.  So Argos takes it upon himself to find his master. He gets help from a few of his animal friends to tell him where his master is.  He asks a Gull, 2 Turtles, and a Vulture. But even with all the stories he has heard from the animals he is still not sure where his master is.

The author uses the dog in such a unique way to tell the story, and after reading it you would surely feel the same sympathy that the dog feels for his master.  But not only that he makes sure to show both sides of all the characters, including the Mom, Son, and Dog. And so over all I think that the author know what he is doing and knows what people like. So I would highly recommend this book to anyone in 5-7 grade.

EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  Student Reviewer.  AM, 7th grade

Marty Frye Private Eye: The Case of the Missing Action Figure & Other Mysteries by Janet Tashjian, illustrated by Laurie Keller - ADVISABLE

Tashjian, Janet Marty Frye Private Eye: The Case of the Missing Action Figure & Other Mysteries, illustrated by Laurie Keller, 76 pages.  Christy Oviano Books (Henry Holt), revised edition, 2017.  $16.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL-ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Marty Frye is a rhyming guy and also a private eye. He solves three mysteries in this book, if you’d care to take a look: The Case of the Missing Diary, The Case of the Action Chuck, and The Case of the Mixed-Up Flour. Marty Frye searches for clues and makes a list of suspects for each mystery. He makes a few mistakes, but in the end he always solves the mystery.

Solving crimes with rhymes is an excellent combination. Author Janet Tashjian makes Marty Frye both likable and smart (and obviously a good rhymer). The illustrations in the book are expressive and eye-catching; and sure to catch the imagination of early chapter book readers. The format combines cartoon word blurbs, pictures, and formal text to tell the story and they work seamlessly together. If kids are interesting in catching crooks, they should try out these rhyming books.   

Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

The Big Secret by Alexa Pearl -- ADVISABLE

Pearl, Alexa The Big Secret (Tales of Sasha #1), illustrated by Paco Sordo. CHAPTER BOOK. Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing), 2017. $6. 9781499803891

Sasha is an energetic pony who wonders why a horse would ever walk when it could run. Unfortunately, her inability to stay still often gets her in trouble. But it turns out that there's a reason for Sasha's restlessness.

This is a cute beginning to the series. Short chapters and ample illustrations make it accessible for chapter-book readers, and many children will both understand Sasha's need for activity and delight in her secret.

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

Dream Gardens Podcast Episode #37 with Kiss the Book

Jody Lee Mott, the host of the Dream Gardens podcast contacted me  awhile back about chatting with him about my favorite middle grade book.  As you know, that is almost impossible for me narrow all of my children down to one favorite.  But, we settled on the Accelerati Trilogy by Neal Shusterman, so I could talk about one of my favorite middle/YA authors and about THREE books instead of just one.

So, if you want to hear me wax poetic, follow this link.

I tell you - Jody makes me sound intelligent.  He had great questions to ask, showing that he had read and thought about the books before the interview.  I could not do what he does.  Plus, he has 36 other episodes it he bank, so you can hear from some of your favorite book bloggers and librarians.

Thanks for the opportunity Jody!

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis - ESSENTIAL

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis, 464 pages.  Penguin, September 2018.  $18

Language: PG (19 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (bloody zombie attacks)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL, HS – ESSENTIAL

KID APPEAL: HIGH

Nedra, her twin sister Ernesta, and their parents live a quiet life in a small village, but Nedra dreams of more.  A strange sickness, the Wasting Death, has started to spread and she wants to study to become a medicinal alchemist and return home and save those she loves. She has been admitted to the Yugen Academy on Lunar Island, but her arrival as a scholarship student is not warm. Her mentor, Professor Ostrum, however, is brilliant, and he is just as interested as tin the Wasting Sickness as she is.  She also catches the eye of Grey, who should be her rival, but is fascinated by her instead.  As Nedra and Ostrum study the disease, they realize that may actually be a curse – a necromancer’s curse.  As the disease starts to spread, and as a rebellion against the Empire starts to gain traction, Nedra may be the only one with the fire and the power to combat the disease and the hidden enemy.

Wow!  Even with the teaser at the prologue of the book, I had no idea it was going to ramp up to where it did.  There is so much more I could have told in the summary, but I want you to discover it for yourselves.  I probably should have rated it and R for the zombie action, but I was so caught up in my reading that I didn’t track it with the detail I could have. This reminds me more of Garth Nix’s finessed necromancy books rather than, say, Charlie Higson’s slasher zombie books.  PLEASE tell me there will be a sequel!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian


Americans by Douglas Wood - OPTIONAL

Americans by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles.  PICTURE BOOK.  Simon & Schuster, 2018.  $18. 9781416927563

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – OPTIONAL

KID APPEAL: LOW

Wood creates a tapestry of all of the different things that are part of being Americans. Sayles illustrations add depth and interest to Wood’s narrative.  Besides traditional qualities that you might expect, he does include ideas like Americans disagree and Americans fight and Americans make mistakes.  If you need another patriotic book or a book to start a patriotism discussion, here is a decent option.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Case of the Smelly Sneaker by James Preller - ADVISABLE


Preller, James The Case of the Smelly Sneaker, 76 pages.  Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2001.  $5.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL-ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

The boys are going playing a football game against the girls right before Thanksgiving and Jigsaw Jones is going to be the referee. Before the game, Bigs Malone’s stinky sneakers have been stolen. Jigsaw and his partner, Mila, are on the case; showing that boys and girls working together make an amazing team on and off the field.

Jigsaw Jones mysteries are great for early chapter book readers. There’s a good mix of boy and girl characters and there’s just enough mystery to keep the reader guessing. A perfect introduction to the mystery genre for young readers.

Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

The Key to Every Thing by Pat Schmatz - ADVISABLE

The Key to Every Thing by Pat Schmatz, 208 pages.  Candlewick, 2018.  $17.
Content: G (3 swears, 0 ‘f’).

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Tasha, 12, is off to summer camp, but she is not happy about it and she makes sure everybody knows. Her Uncle Kevin, who she has lived with since she was five and their neighbor Cap’n Jackie, who has also cared for and loved Tasha, are her targets.  When Tasha returns from camp she is remorseful, but she she runs next door to see Cap’n Jackie, she’s not there.  Where is she? Cap’n Jackie fell and broke her hip and she is laid up in a rehab facility. When Tasha goes to apologize and check on her friend, Cap’n Jackie is unresponsive and silent.  What is going on with Cap’n Jackie?

Schmatz look at love and loss is heartfelt and tender.  It is nice to see a book about a 12-year-old girl who is not neurotic.  The cover, however, is not very enticing, so you will have to hand sell this to readers, or perhaps convince a teacher to read it aloud.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Jabulani by Jonathan Stotler - ADVISABLE

Jabulani by Jonathan Stotler, illustrated by Beth Restrick.  PICTURE BOOK.  WestBow Press, 2017.  $14. 9781512776386

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Jabulani lives with his aunt and uncle in a small South African village.  While he goes to school each day, he also works hard at home, helping both and aunt and uncle to produce the things they need to sell to keep their home running and the family fed. While everyone works hard, there is also friendship and joy to be found.

Stotler’s book simple – telling Jabulani’s life story without added drama, but in a way that gives a satisfying look at typical village life.  I felt like I really got to know Jabulani’s way of life.  Stotler also integrates Jabulani’s language into the narrative, including definitions when needed, although there is also a glossary included in the back.  I would want to share this with a wide variety of students to help them peek into another life.  It would easily lead into discussions about how Jabulani’s life differs from my students’ lives. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - ADVISABLE

Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, 352 pages.  Harper, OCTOBER 2018.  $18.
Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS – ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Evie, 15, has a pretty good life working as an apothecary, herbalist, healer.  She takes care of her mother and her best patient, Wormy, is also her best friend.  When Wormy suddenly proposes marriage to Evie, however, the fairy Lucinda comes to watch.  When Evie says no, Lucinda punishes her by turning Evie into an ogre.  Evie has only 62 days to receive a marriage proposal and accept it.  But who can love an ogre?  
The fairy Lucinda is meddling again.  I love that Levine has revisited the character, no matter how frustrating I find her.  I think Levine was one of, if not the, first to twist familiar fairy tales in such funny, wicked ways.  I still have all of her books in my library, and they still do well.
Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Flip Flap Ocean by Axel Scheffler - ADVISABLE

Flip Flap Ocean by Axel Scheffler.  INTERACTIVE BOARD BOOK.  Nosy Crow (Candlewick), 2018.  $12. 9780763699420

BUYING ADVISORY:  Pre-K – ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

Scheffler has taken 11 ocean creatures and made a clever flap book that allows the reader to mix and match different tops and bottoms.  Each remix brings a new “name” for the combined creature and also an 8-line poem. As a parent, I would get quicklt tired of re-reading the new poems, so hopefully the youngsters would want to know the creature names and not want me to read the poem every time.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Matylda, Bright & Tender by Holly M. McGhee - ADVISABLE

McGhee, Holly M. Matylda, Bright & Tender, 210 pages. Candlewick Press, 2017. $17.
9780763689513.

Language: G (0 swears); Violence: G; Mature Content: PG (death, shoplifting)

BUYING ADVISORY: 
EL - ADVISABLE, MS - OPTIONAL.

KID APPEAL:  EL - MEDIUM, MS - LOW

Sussy and Guy are in the 4th grade and have been best friends for years. When Sussy's dad finally gives in to their pleadings, they go together to buy a leopard gecko and name her Matylda; she lives with Sussy but its Guy that holds Matylda's heart. When Guy is suddenly taken in a terrible accident, Sussy finds herself completely lost except for Matylda--a small piece of Guy that Sussy still has. As she desperately tries to make a real connection with Matylda--a connection like Guy had--Sussy also has to figure out how to deal with her grief and find a way to carry on. 

This is a fantastic little book with a story that really resonates on a variety of levels. The characters are believable and the story is simple yet profound. I found myself very moved by how a young girl might grieve over a devastating loss, and I think the story does a great job of tackling a difficult subject. That being said, this also strikes me as a book that adults might love more than kids. Its definitely still a great book for upper elementary, but I do not know if young readers will fully appreciate the great message of this story without some parent or teacher guidance.

Reviewer: TC 


Friday, June 15, 2018

The Secret to Success by Sheila Greenwald -- ADVISABLE

Greenwald, Sheila The Secret to Success (Bossy Flossie #2), illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby. CHAPTER BOOK. Penguin Random House, 2017. $16. 9780451534316

In the second book of the series, Flossie tries to assemble a team to make crafts for a fair. Their goal? Earn money for Christmas presents for children who wouldn't otherwise receive them. But when she encounters a girl who's just as bossy as she is, things go downhill fast.

The large type and frequent illustrations make this chapter book a pretty quick read, and some of the pictures are quite funny. The feel-good ending will likely leave many kids with a smile. All in all, a fun story.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE.

Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Suspect Red by L.M. Elliott - ESSENTIAL

Suspect Red by L.M. Elliott, 291 pages.  Disney (Hyperion),  2017. $17. Language: PG (11 swears,  0 'f');  Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

KID APPEAL: HIGH

Living in Washington DC at the beginning of the cold war, 14-year-old Richard is not looking forward to his 1st year in high school. A loner at school - his former best friend is now his bully; so, Richard plans to spend his summer reading. But then he meets Vladimir, the son of a American and Czechoslovakian, and they become fast friends. They have a lot in common, both boys have dads who work for the government, and they have similar reading interests, although some of Vlad's books are controversial. But when Richard feels suspicious of some of the talk by some friends of Vlad's mother, Richard tells his dad, an FBI agent.

 Each chapter is introduced with photographs and descriptions to put that month in context. Brief and interesting, it supplies just enough background knowledge. Richard's dad suffers from PTSD from the war (not recognized as such yet) and his intensity is sometimes over the top, but the characters ring true and the plot is gripping. This is an incredible book about a short but important chapter of our country's history.

Lisa Librarian

The Pretty Brilliant Experiment Book by Jade Hemsworth - ADVISABLE

The Pretty Brilliant Experiment Book by Jade Hemsworth, 170 pages. NON FICTION MacMillan, 2017. $13.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: HIGH 

This book of "do it yourself" experiments are introduced by the stars of Project Mc2 (a Netflix series): McKeyla, Adrienne, Bryden and Camryn. Each experiment includes a list of materials needed - stuff you'd have around the house or could easily pick up at the grocery store - and well explained instructions - including which experiments or steps require adult help or supervision.

I'm not familiar with this show - but it didn't matter. This was a great workbook of experiments anyone could try at home. Each experiment comes with a graphic organizer to record observations and an explanation of the results. There's a experiment where you can actually pull the DNA from a strawberry! Includes experiments with food, circuits, light, sound, chemistry, astronomy, density and more. Make a simple rocket and let it blast off! Includes 20 blank pages in the back to continue your own observations. It does not include what your experiments should look like, but as I reflect - maybe that's a good thing, it leaves more up to the reader. The adult supervision makes me wonder what the target audience is, but I would place this clearly in middle school - younger I guess if parents are helping.

Lisa Librarian

Travels With Walt Disney by Jeff Kurtti - ADVISABLE

Travels With Walt Disney: A photographic voyage around the world by Jeff Kurtti, 152 pages.  Disney Editions, 2018.  $30.  Content: G.

GIFT – ADVISABLE

From his early beginnings, Walter Elias Disney was always a man on the go.  From his short time is a “news butcher” on a railroad to welcome famous guests from all over the world at his Disneyland Park, Walt Disney managed to travel to many countries and continents for rest, business, and inspiration.

Fans of the Disney world will love the insider information and the large amount of never-before-seen photographs in this extensive book.  Personally, I loved the reminder of Disney’s early days of live-action films – before it seemed like only animated films would do.
Cindy, Middle School Librarian

A Tangle of Brungles by Shobha Viswanath - ADVISABLE

A Tangle of Brungles by Shobha Viswanath.  PICTURE BOOK. Karadi Tales Company, 2018. $16.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE

KID APPEAL: MEDIUM

When a witch decides to marry the Brungle, she and the rest of her coven put together a witch's brew to summon him This is a terrific book about collective nouns! The witches need all sorts of ingredients and everyone wants to watch - A parliament of owls, a mess of iguanas, a bevy of swans, a banner of knights etc. 

The illustrations are comical and chaotic (much like a witches brew I suppose) This is a super fun read at Halloween and what a great way to teach collective nouns. 

Lisa Librarian

Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton - OPTIONAL

Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton, 464 pages.  Harper, AUGUST 2018.  $19.

Language: PG (14 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (attempted rape); Violence: PG-13 (murders, blood)

HS - OPTIONAL

Mia Rose dreams of avoiding her fate by escaping the castle with her younger sister Angelyne.  On the day that she is forced to marry Prince Quin, in fact, during the ceremony itself, Quin almost dies when he is shot with an arrow. The pair barely escape and Mia uses previously unknown powers to heal him.  Now there is really trouble, because magic is forbidden in their country – in fact the women who are found with magic are killed and their hands are hung as trophies by the King.  Mia and Quin must flee, but is there anywhere safe?  Are they headed to salvation or betrayal?

For me, the journey while they are fleeing drags on at least twice as long as it needed to.  While I understand the pair need a chance to get to know each other and fall in love, 15 chapters is quite a bit.  The rest of the story is the danger, intrigue,  and action that will keep a reader’s attention, along with plenty of character development.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

What Do They Do With All That Poo? by Jane Kurtz - ESSENTIAL

What Do They Do With All That Poo? by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Allison Black. PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION. Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2018. $18. 978-4818-7986-8

EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL

This book is all about the poo in a zoo, from who makes what kind, to what happens to it at the end of the day. The book includes a rhythmic and rhyming text paired with a section on each page that offers more in depth information. 

Do not be put off by the stinky subject matter! This book has bright and engaging illustrations with interesting and fact packed text. Readers will enjoy learning about the animals and animal care through reading about their poo. 

Jen Wecker

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Out of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee - OPTIONAL

Out of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee, 320 pages.  Sourcebooks Fire, 2018.  $11.

Language: R (100+ swears, 5 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (implied sex, mention of bisexuality); Violence: PG

HS – OPTIONAL

Sara Fox watches as her best friend, Cody Kinski, gets hits with a violent pitch by his rival, Santino Acardi, and breaks his arm.  Cody’s pitching may be over for the year – just before the post-season tournament, but Cody has an idea – Sara should take his place.  She may have bailed on softball her freshman year, but she has been kicking butt at sandlot ball her entire life.  Success, however, will require her to secretly make nice with Santino – who is also about to become her cousin through marriage.  Add in Sara’s growing feelings for Cody and we have a heady recipe for possible disaster.

Its an interesting blend of sport novel and romance: for me, the romantic entanglements sometimes threaten to take over the other very interesting dramatic points of this novel. For the author, I think the romance is actually the end point.   In this case, I wish it had been one or the other.  Plus the language is unnecessarily, really jarringly crude. Had it been mostly limited to the reactions of the boys on the teams to a girl pitching, it would have worked, but instead it was all throughout.

Cindy, Library Teacher