Sunday, December 16, 2018

Eliza Bing is (not) a Star by Carmella Van Vleet - ADVISABLE

Eliza Bing is (not) a Star by Carmella Van Vleet, 249 pages. Holiday House 2018 $16.99.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL,  MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Eliza Bing has started middle school. She and her best friend Annie are keeping a list of "how to survive 6th grade", which is proving difficult as Eliza has already caused a rainstorm and flood in the science room and kids are calling her Nimbus. Resilient Eliza is trying to negotiate being best friends as Annie is really her first. So, she decides to be the best best friend and tries out for the play with Annie who wants to grow up and be an actress. Turns out, Eliza is good at acting, which threatens the 8th grade star and complicates the show. 

Finally, a sequel to Eliza Bing is (not) a Big Fat Quitter! There is a lot going on, school drama, family drama, drama drama . . . but Van Vleet has done a masterful job of neatly tying everything together. Eliza has grown up a little and so have the issues, (family conflict) but the lessons (friendship, confidence, resilience) are important on any level. 

 Lisa Librarian 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What's the Big Deal About Elections by Ruby Shamir - ESSENTIAL

What's the Big Deal About Elections by Ruby Shamir, illustrated by Matt Faulkner. NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK. Philomel Books (Penguin), 2018. $18. 9781524738075

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: EL, MS - AVERAGE

Voting in America is seen as a fairly ubiquitous right at this point, but the actual who/what/when/where/why can be a bit more complicated. This easy-to-read picture book explains the details of voting in the United States. Each page has fun illustrations, answers an important question about voting (How do we know who to choose in an election?), and includes a few interesting tidbits or stories. The basic heart of the book encourages young readers to get involved and get educated on the important subject of voting.

This is a fantastic nonfiction picture book that checks all the boxes for me. The information is accurate and important, the text is detailed but still written in a way kids can understand, and the illustrations are on point. This is the sort of book middle readers could handle on their own, and elementary age readers could utilize with a teacher's guidance. I think its a book that should be used in elementary social studies classes, for sure! Overall a great book that covers all your bases when teaching students about voting in America.

Reviewer: TC

Friday, December 14, 2018

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka - OPTIONAL


Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 300 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL  Graphix (Scholastic), 2018.  $25.  

Content: Language: R (49 swears; 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH  

Jarrett was born to a teen mother who falls into drug addiction.  Jarrett’s grandparents, Joe and Shirley eventually intervene, and Joe adopts Jarrett.  Jarrett’s grandparents love him but they each have their own quirks and problems, including alcoholism and verbal abuse.  Jarrett sees his mom on and off again throughout his childhood and his aunts and uncles are like siblings.  Jarrett’s unconventional upbringing is something he has to come to terms with, and although his family has it’s share of problems, he realizes that he is loved.  

I loved this book.  It’s a very touching memoir about growing up among addiction and letting people love you the best they can, even if sometimes it’s not perfect.  Jarrett Krosoczka wrote the Lunch Lady graphic novels, but this book is high school and adult because of the amount of content.  The content includes graphics of drug use, creepy/disturbing monster nightmares, bullying and it eluded to sleeping around.  Jarrett’s grandparents fight and there is a lot of crass name-calling.  Also, Jarrett gets his hand stuck in the escalator and it's a bit bloody.  The ending has an author’s note that explains what Jarrett has done since he moved out of his grandparents’ house and it’s a great addition to the story.  

C. Peterson   

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti and Scott Wegener - OPTIONAL


Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti and Scott Wegener, 82 pages.  Workman Publishing, 2017.  $13.  

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL – AVERAGE  

Sergeant Victor Dowd helped lead a group of men, called the Ghost Army, throughout World War II as they set up fake armies to throw off the enemy.  Using blow-up tanks, props and sound effects they would set up close to the enemy’s lines and try to distract the enemy while the real army moved into better position to surprise the enemy.  Dowd and his men would attract enemy fire, even though the army wasn’t equipped with real guns and their strategies worked to help win the war.  

This is such a fascinating unknown facet of World War II history.  I loved the illustrations and the simple, but fact-based telling of this Ghost Army.  My only issue with this book is it comes with a mystery hidden in the pages and an envelope of “spy-craft tools” to uncover the mystery (making it feel like an activity book) and I feel like it takes away from the story which is amazing on its own.  

C. Peterson   

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Totally Middle School edited by Betsy Groba - ESSENTIAL

Totally Middle School : Tales of Friends, Family and Fitting in edited by Betsy Groban 178 pages. SHORT STORIES Penguin Random House, 2018 $16.99

Language: PG (4 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL -ESSENTIAL,  MS -ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

13 different authors have penned 11 stories about Middle School. This wonderful collection includes stories by Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Gary Schmidt and Karen Cushman who have written stories about Family: Katie's Language Arts teacher is her aunt, and she is trying to avoid embarrassment; twins Beulah Mae and Margaret Mary have been assigned different middle schools; a boy takes care of a soldier's dog when he is drafted for Vietnam; and moving to a different state the first year of middle school is really hard. Hena Khan, Mary Downing Hahn and Margarita Engle write about friends: Raniya, only 3 months in America, is going on a 3 day sleep away field trip; Cassie is forced to choose between best friends; and a girl counts down to her first school dance. Joyce Sidman, Katherine and Jordan Paterson, Linda Sue Park and Anna Dobbin, and David Wiesner write about fitting in: Band Class; Facetime conversations to help navigate Middle School; Joining a school club; and feeling really out of place in the building.

After each story, there is a middle school picture of the author and a short bio. That was my favorite part. The Top 10 Things to do Before Middle School list at the end is on point. These stories are so engaging, so well written! Totally Middle School is essential for the student about to start middle school and would make a great gift for the graduating 5th or 6th grader.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

If Da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold - ESSENTIAL

If Da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold, pictures by Greg Newbold PICTURE BOOK Tilbury House Publishers 2018, $17.95. 0884486672

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE,  MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

In this sequel to "If Picasso Painted a Snowman" Amy and Greg Newbold introduce, well, dinosaurs into classical art, as though the masters themselves had incorporated them. We see dinosaur ballerinas a la Dega, dinosaurs incorporated into the works of Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo and Grandma Moses, we even see what Andy Warhol might have tried and many others. 20 different takes on painting a dinosaur. 

The Newbolds present another great introduction to art and artists! Includes an appendix about each artist and their style, a list of which dinosaurs were in what painting, and the illustrator's advice to new artists. I loved the blank canvas at the end, inviting the reader to draw a masterpiece of their own.

Lisa Librarian 

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn - ADVISABLE

The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn, 193 pages. Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2018, $17.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH

Jules is a 13 year-old girl who is dragged from place to place so her dad can restore old buildings. While not happy about being uprooted constantly, their new destination, Oak Hill seems immediately foreboding to her. Jules and her family sleep in a new addition built to the side of the house, where Jules thinks she sees something in the upstairs window of Oak Hill.  

The chapters alternate between Jules’ story and that of a lonely girl who has been in the house for over 100 years.  Gradually their stories begin to creepily intertwine. 
Hahn has done it again with a ghost story that is, as Goldilocks would say, “Just right.”  It’s a cool page-turner that should appeal to young readers.  I liked how the chapters gave different perspectives from two different time periods. I couldn’t put it down till I finished. 

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The 91-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths - OPTIONAL

The 91-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton. 363 pages, Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2017. $14.

Language: G (9 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Andy and Terry are back again, with an even bigger treehouse.  It comes fully loaded with its own desert island and a submarine sandwich shop that makes sandwiches the size of actual submarines.  There is also a mysterious big red button that could be disastrous, or not, because no one can remember what it does.  Andy and Terry are babysitting Mr. Big Nose’s three grandchildren for the day and of course things get pretty dicey, because how much trouble can three children be?

If you are fans of the Treehouse series, then this one won’t disappoint. The pictures and text are fun and go together well.  If this is your first Treehouse book, then think random storylines on acid strung together.  Young kids will probably love the random weirdness, though it may leave adults scratching their heads.

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Girl Who Married a Skull edited by Kel McDonald - OPTIONAL

The Girl Who Married a Skull and other African Stories edited by Kel McDonald, 205 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL. Iron Circus Comics, 2018, $15.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This book is a collection of 15 short stories done in graphic novel format.  The art varies with the stories.  These are cautionary fables and fairytales to help the reader see why you should listen to your parents, not marry strangers, not steal wisdom, or marry a lion if you are human.  All good lessons.  

The stories are fun, most with a sense of humor.  If you like legends and myths from other cultures, this is a fast and fun read. Some of the stories are a but uneven, but an overall good read.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Friday, December 7, 2018

Penelope March is Melting by Jeffrey Michael Ruby - OPTIONAL

Penelope March is Melting by Jeffrey Michael Ruby, 310 pages.  Delacorte (Random House), 2017, $17.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Penelope March seems like an ordinary girl, living an ordinary life on an iceberg.  Yep, iceberg.  This iceberg has a town with roads, cars, and houses, (though I wondered where the cars came from).  Anyway, ordinary Penelope discovers through an eccentric ice-sculptor named Buzzardstock that her town of Glacier Cove is in grave danger from an ancient evil. Penelope also discovers she may have the unique skills to save her town so they don’t have a meltdown. Literally.   

Read this book with a cup of hot chocolate or a blanket, because Glacier Cove is cold.  Although the premise seems truly weird, Penelope is a likeable character and Glacier Cove is a unique setting that plays well into the storyline.  I liked the story more than I thought I would because it addresses some universal themes of fitting in, family issues, and relationships, though the storyline gets pretty bizarre as it wraps up.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? by Ally Carter - ESSENTIAL

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? by Ally Carter, 336 pages. NON FICTION. Scholastic Press, March 2019.  $19

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS, HS- ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH   

Every author is constantly asked about writing books and publishing books.  Ally Carter has decided to take this a step further and write a book about the craft and the logistics of writing and publishing.  She has enlisted about 30 of her author friends to help her along the way.           

Whether you are harboring the desire to write a book or are just an avid reader of books, you need to read Ally’s advice.  Even though it is aimed towards kids, who will definitely eat it up, it is also a primer for adults.  I am going to recommend that any creative writing classes start using this as their textbook.  My only regret is that this isn't coming out before Christmas 2018, so I can't gift it to everyone who I think needs a copy!            

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

                                              

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari - ADVISABLE

The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari, 310 pages. Hyperion (Disney) 2018. $18. 

Language: PG13 (10 mild swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Amber’s mother is a witch who runs a shop for the supernaturally inclined. Amber is a partial witch. Her only supernatural ability is that of matchmaker. She can see a person’s perfect match. This poses a problem when she sees her boyfriend matched to her friend. When they start hanging out, Amber’s jealousy gets the best of her. In other matchmaking ventures, Amber’s siren nemesis desperately seeks her help to save her sister from marrying her mermaid girlfriend.

This is a cute book with other supernatural beings. A vampire. A werewolf. A sea witch. Take away the minor brushes with mature content and it would have a Disney feel. It tackles teen dating in a way that is so much more fun than your typical realistic fiction novel. I love the lesson Amber learns about taking control of her “fate,” but not thrilled with the secondary plot about changing who you are to be with the person you love. Rarely good advice in the real world.

Valerie McEnroe, Media Specialist

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Spooked! : How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow - ADVISABLE

Spooked! : How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow 139 pages. NON FICTION Calkins Creek 2018 $18.95 Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

On October 30, 1938 Orson Welles' Mercury Theater presented a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells novel the War of the Worlds. Setting it in the real town of Grovers Mill New Jersey, and presenting the action through realistic sounding news broadcasts caused people to believe the reports were real and danger was imminent. But the story of wide spread panic doesn't end there. The aftermath of the broadcast with a possible investigation by the FCC and threats of government controlled radio programming may ruin careers or make Welles and his associates celebrities. 

Jarrow tells the whole story of the broadcast, including the writer's challenges with shortening and updating a classic novel, the rehearsal process where the actors felt the show was going to be dumb and boring, and the production itself, choreographed by the masterful directing of young Orson Welles. Well documented with captioned photographs, side bar information and quotes, as well as an appendix including sites to listen to the broadcast itself, interviews and documentaries; sources to find out more about Mars, Hoaxes, and Old Time Radio; a bibliography and index. This is a great resource for a classroom learning about fake news, propaganda, or World War II. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, December 3, 2018

Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat - ESSENTIAL

Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat
PICTURE BOOK Disney Hyperion, 2018 $17.99. 1484767608 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3,) MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When a young boy is dropped off at his grandfathers house, he quickly realizes that the language barrier is insurmountable, so he gets out his paper and markers and starts to draw - that's when grandfather gets out his brushes and ink, and the two spend the afternoon communicating through their artwork. 

Such beautiful illustrations, the mixed styles blend so well together and the art makes the story take on a life of its own. A great idea, well executed. A great art lesson as well.

 Lisa Librarian

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Dead Endia by Hamish Steele - ADVISABLE

Dead Endia : The Watcher's Test by Hamish Steele, 216 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL No Brow 2018 $14.95. 

Language: PG (14 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: PG (Dating, Partying) Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE AUDIENCE 

APPEAL: HIGH 

Dead End is a haunted house attraction at Pollywood Amusement Park. At night, however, it is a portal to Hell. When a demon king possesses Barney's dog Pugsley, Norma and Barney destroy the demon, but this is only the beginning . . . Pugsley now has the gift of speech and they seem to have started a war - between Angels and Demons. 

Hamish Steele is an animator, and Dead Endia reads like a cartoon movie. Just enough weird bad guys, young adult drama and gross action. His world builds fast, and is believable and exciting. Readers who loved his Dead End short will appreciate this graphic novel version. 

 Lisa Librarian 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Friday Night Stage Lights by Rachele Alpine - - ADVISABLE

Friday Night Stage Lights by Rachele Alpine, 333 pages. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2018 $17.99. Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Brooklyn loves Ballet, and she is very good. When her mother remarried, and they moved to Texas, they built a dance studio in the basement for her. She'll be going to high school next year and wants to get into the prestigious Texas School of the Arts, but when her partner in the pas de deux breaks his leg, she asks one of the middle school football players to learn the dance and be her partner. He agrees only if she will let him try to make her a football fan. Brooklyn HATES football! Her new stepbrother is the hero of the high school team and the whole town seems obsessed with football, but Brooklyn is desperate, so she agrees. Maybe ballet and football have more in common than she thinks. 

So many of these Aladdin mix books are girl centered, it's great to see one I can recommend to the boys as well. A great mix of football and ballet with lessons learned on both sides, especially, "When you give people a chance, they end up surprising you!" I think the same thing applies to books.  

Lisa Librarian

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig - ADVISABLE

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig, 311 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2016 $16.99

Language: G (silly elf swearing) Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (ala "Home Alone" people slipping on butter, getting hit with frying pans, Troll danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Amelia Wishart was so full of hope that first year Father Christmas delivered presents she was really all the magic he needed. But now, two years later, her mother has died and she is in a workhouse laboring for the cruel Mr. Creepers. Back at the North pole:Father Christmas missed Christmas altogether last year because of a vicious Troll attack, and this year there is barely enough hope to lift the sleigh off the ground - he's got a letter in his pocket from Amelia and needs to find her - maybe her hope can work it's magic again! 

Haig has written a much more serious Christmas Story in the Girl who Stole Christmas. Still silly with Blitzen up to his old toilet humor, but a story about a world that needs to find hope must be fraught with sadness and doubt and tears. I enjoyed it, very Dickensian. 

Lisa Librarian

The Bigfoot Files by Lindsay Eagar - ADVISABLE

The Bigfoot Files by Lindsay Eagar, 371 pages. Candlewick, 2018. $17

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Miranda is the middle school student body president and is looking forward to the summer leadership camp she has worked so hard for. There is just one thing standing in her way - her mom. Her mom keeps pulling her out of school to go on cryptozoologist expeditions and if Miranda misses any more school she will have to do summer school and miss her camp. Miranda hatches a plan to get her mom to stop looking for big foot and be more responsible. This plan involves going on one last expedition. 

I enjoyed this book, especially the relationship between a type-A daughter and free-spirited mom. I didn’t enjoy the writing though. It was lovely, but much to descriptive for a book that hung mostly on the plot. You get a good feel for the inner-landscape of Miranda, but it really slows down the book. Miranda copes with her stress by pulling out her hair, which may open dialogue for some students who have self-harm habits, but it is never resolved in the book.  


Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

The Story Collector by Kristi O'Donnell Tubb - ADVISABLE

The Story Collector by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, 233 pages. Henry Holt (MacMillan), 2018 $16.99. Language: G (0 swears, 0'f') Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL,  MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11-year-old Viviana Fedeler lives in the New York Public Library! It's 1928 and her father is the library Superintendent, so Viviana and her family live in an apartment in the beautiful building. She is a story teller, and at recess entertains her friends in the school yard, but when a new girl moves in, she doesn't appreciate the stories and calls Viviana a liar! Viviana wanted to be friends! Oh dear, this is certainly a bad beginning. 

Tubb has crafted an exciting, mysterious, nostalgic story. Based on the true life experiences of the Fedeler children, the writing and illustrations are vivid, and the time period is well researched. I hope to see further stories featuring her brothers and their friends. Includes an afterward and a time line, plus links to visit the library online to see the rooms for yourself.

Lisa, Librarian

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw by Todd Calgi Gallicano - ADVISABLE

Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw by Todd Calgi Gallicano, 373 pages.  Delacorte (Random), 2017.  $17.

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G (some violence, without being graphic)

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Sam London has been dreaming about a gryphon – over and over.  When he pursues the dream to Death Valley, he finds not only a gryphon, but gets involved with a whole secret world of what he thought were mythical creatures.  With Dr. Vance Vantana, Sam sets off on adventure to save the Gryphon’s Claw – the object that stops most humans from seeing magical creatures – from the evil creatures who want to rule over humans.  

Sam’s first adventure is a whole lot of fun.  And danger. Kids who like Brandon Mull or Chris Colfer will also enjoy this.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington - OPTIONAL

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington, 264 pages.  Candlewick, 2018.  $18. 

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (mentions of deaths and cruelty, nothing graphic)

BUYING ADVISORY:  HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

One moment Ella was walking home from school, the next she has been rounded up by the Nazis because of her yellow star and transported to the concentration camp  Birkenau, or Birchwood, as the author calls it. Luckily she is a superb seamstress and is able to get a job in the Upper Tailoring Studio where they makes clothing for the female officers and the wives of the camp overseers.  But life under Nazi rule is cheap – one little slip and anyone can be out on their ear in a heartbeat.  The girls of the Studio try to form a family, but the only person Ella really trusts is Rose – a former member of an upper class, who is now also only trying to survive.  

I rated this optional only because the audience for it will be small.  Excellent writing, an intriguing peek into a little seen part of the Holocaust – even a look at the Department Store, where Nazis of all kinds “shopped” through the belongings of the victims.  For that alone, I know adults will love this.  There are some very subtle lesbian overtones – so slight, most teens will miss them.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything by Ian Lendler - ESSENTIAL

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb. PICTURE BOOK. First Second (Roaring Book Press), 2018. $18. 9781626722446.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Starting with the appearance of a simple dot, that then got so excited it burst into lots of other dots, that then joined together and made light, and eventually...the world as we know it came to be and we all exist. This is a simplified--and fantastic!--explanation of evolution, taking the readers from the very beginnings all the way to their own life on earth today. The author leaves us with the one thing no one can agree on or explain today--where that first dot actually came from.

I liked this the first time I read it, and loved it the next time I gave it a go. The illustrations are colorful, artsy, and perfect for the material. The way a somewhat complex topic like evolution is simplified down here is great and I can see many a science teacher using this book. This should be in every school library and science teacher's bookshelf.

Reviewer: TC

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan - ESSENTIAL

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan, 472 pages. Little Brown and Company, 2018. $19 

Language: PG-13 (6 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Leigh is a sophomore in high school when her mother commits suicide on an afternoon she is away with her best friend Axel. Leigh soon starts seeing a large red bird and is convinced it is her mom trying to get a message to her. The bird leads her to make a trip to Taiwan to visit her estranged grandparents. There, through mystical experiences, she learns about her mother’s past and her experiences with depression. Leigh emerges from these experiences with a better handle on her grief, her sense of guilt, and her relationship with her dad and her friends. 

This is a brilliantly crafted book. Leigh describes the world around her and inside of her through colors; this adds a beautiful layer to the text. While the nature of suicide makes the content of this book mature, the author has handled it very gently and compassionately. The romantically shifting relationship between Leigh and Axel will be familiar to many maturing readers and I would confidently put this in the hands of most high school students.     

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made The Modern World by Steven Johnson - ESSENTIAL

How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made The Modern World by Steven Johnson, 152 pages. NON-FICTION. Viking (Penguin), 2018. $20

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This book is a young reader adaptation from a New York Times bestseller and covers the discoveries and innovations surrounding glass, cold, sound, cleanliness, time, and light. Each chapter covers one of these topics and includes a comprehensive history with the logistical details embedded in the timeline. The chapters also contain a number of photographs and illustrations. There are a lot of attention grabbing anecdotes in each section.  

My entire family loved this book. We jumped around the book, each taking a turn picking a topic, and learned a lot in the process. One of the anecdotes that we have retold to other people we read in the chapter on light and it tell the story of how whale oil was used to make cheaper candles. To get the oil, or spermaceti, they had to send a small person, often a child, inside the body of the whale to scoop out gallon after gallon of the substance. Gross. This would be a fun informational text to read aloud in a science, history, or English classroom.        


Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Mist, Metal, and Ash by Gwendolyn Clare - ADVISABLE

Mist, Metal, and Ash (Ink, Iron, and Glass #2) by Gwendolyn Clare, 336 pages.  Imprint (Macmillan), Feb 2019.  $19

Language: PG-13 (33 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (some blood and bodies)

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Elsa and the others were left behind and betrayed when Leo went off with his brother Aris and the edit book.  While Elsa’s heart hurts, she is determined to regain control of the editbook; if Aris learns how to use it, he and Garibaldi could destroy all the worlds. As she leaves on the hunt, she doesn’t realize that she is leaving the children in danger – something is wrong with Casa, too.

Things get a bit more complicated in the second book of the series.  Not unexpected, of course.  Elsa spends her whole time trying to thwart Aris and Garibaldi and she unearths more complications.  I am wondering about the purpose of Casa going off the rails – hopefully that will weave in during the 3rdbook.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

She Dared: Malala Yousafzai by Jenni L. Walsh - ADVISABLE


She Dared: Malala Yousafzai by Jenni L. Walsh, 128 pages.  Scholastic, 2019.  $7.  

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Malala lived in Pakistan with her parents and two brothers.  She dreamed of becoming a doctor and loved everything to do with school.  When the Taliban leaders start to infringe on the rights of the people in her community, Malala starts to speak out against the oppression.  She is targeted by the Taliban and shot while taking the bus home from school.  She received medical care in England and has used her experience to try and bring attention to the needs of girls around the world.  

This is a great succinct biography about Malala’s life.  I especially enjoyed the ending that includes all the ways that she has reached out and helped since this experience.  Her story is inspiring and courageous and this version of the story is well done without being scary.  

C. Peterson

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper by Manuela Santoni - ADVISABLE

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper by Manuela Santoni, 95 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphic Universe (Lerner), 2016. 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This is the story of Jane Austen’s family dynamics, the discovery of her writing talents, and her romantic experiences. This graphic novel hinges on the axis of her relationship with Mr. Lefroy, who enters Jane’s life as an arrogant character. Jane falls in love with him, and he her. When he leaves town, they continue corresponding and get engaged, but when Jane visits him after their time apart she realizes she does not love him anymore. This relationship is suggested to inform much of her writing. 

I want to love anything that even mentions Jane Austen, but this was only okay for me. I thought the lack of color, all the illustrations are black and white, was a little monotonous and boring given the high emotions of the story. It is interesting to learn about Jane’s romantic adventures, but I think the only audience that will enjoy that are those who have read Jane Austen previously. So, while the writing is appropriate for elementary aged readers, not many of them have read Austen’s work and will likely have no interest in this story.  


Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Coco Chanel by Susan Goldman Rubin - ESSENTIAL

Coco Chanel : Pearls, Perfume and the Little Black Dress by Susan Goldman Rubin, 133 pages. NON FICTION Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018 $18.99. 

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Susan Goldman Rubin gives us a well researched biography of the famous designer. Beginning with her childhood, mostly spent in poverty, living with relatives or in an orphanage, through her schooling and eventual rise to fame as the designer for the rich and famous in Paris. 

 Rubin does a great job of separating fact from fiction; telling both Chanel's story and the researched history. Well illustrated with captioned historical photographs, includes a list of museums with artifacts, fashion firsts introduced by Chanel and an extensive bibliography. 

 Lisa Librarian 

Her Right Foot by David Eggers - ESSENTIAL

Her Right Foot By Dave Eggers, Art by Shawn Harris, 104 pages. PICTURE BOOK, NON FICTION Chronicle Books 2017 $19.99 1452162816 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

The Statue of Liberty has been welcoming people in the harbor for over 125 years. But there's more to her than we think. Eggers describes the construction in Paris, the transportation and reassembly in New York, even why she is green. but then, he goes on to tell about the symbolism of her right foot - have you noticed, she's in stride! Where is she going? 

Eggers writing style makes the reader feel smart! Full of "you probably know" and "you may have noticed" the text practically begs the reader to share the information they just learned (or already know but had forgotten). Harris's illustrations are the perfect companion to this amazing quick read about acceptance. I'll never see the statue of liberty the same way again. Includes a bibliography for further reading, and a list of sources. 

Lisa Librarian

Deceiver’s Heart by Jennifer Nielsen - ADVISABLE

Deceiver’s Heart by Jennifer Nielsen, 384 pages.  Scholastic, Feb 2019.  $18

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kestra accepted her role as the Infidante and tried to use the Olden Blade to kill Lord Endrick. When her plan fails, Endrick takes her memories to warp her into his puppet.  When she is again kidnapped by the Coracks, she has no idea who she was, nor who Simon is to her.  In order to restore her memories, she must dare to claim her magic.  But if she does, then she will lose Simon forever.

Things get quite complicated in this second book.  I must admit I felt betrayed when Endrick took Kestra’s memories.  I know Kestra couldn’t just kill Endrick in the first chapter, but it felt like a trick.  I think I just have to accept that the magic and the danger takes a back seat to the romance - very convoluted romance.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Monday, November 26, 2018

Tangled in Time: The Portal by Kathryn Lasky - OPTIONAL

Tangled in Time: The Portal by Kathryn Lasky, 384 pages.  Harper Collins, March 2019.  $17

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content:G ; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Rose’s life has been turned upside down by her mother’s death.  Now she is surviving the mean girls in her new sixth grade class who are jealous of her online fame as a fashion vlogger.  Her new guardian, her grandmother, is forgetful, except when the two of them are working in the greenhouse.  Something is strange, though, and one day Rose finds herself going back in time to the court of King Henry VIII, in the household of the princess Elizabeth.  Rose has no control over when she moves between one realm or the other, but she does have a goal – to find the father she has never met.

Lasky knows everything about historical princesses and courts – its when Rose is in the past that the book really shines.  Magic, however, is not her strong suit.  Magic needs even a few simple rules and there are none here to regulate Rose’s movements. If they are coming in a sequel, that’s just a cheap trick on the reader.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall by Drew Weing - ADVISABLE


The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall (Margo Maloo, #2) by Drew Weing, 120 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL  First Second (Macmillan), 2018.  $16.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Charles is fairly new to Echo City, but what he has learned of the place is that there are monsters hiding throughout the city and not many people know they are there.  Charles had to get help from Margo Maloo for a problem he was having in his own home and ever since he has decided that he wants to alert all the kids in Echo City of the monsters in their midst.  Margo agrees to let him shadow her as she mediates between the humans and the monsters, so that Charles can get information to share with others so that everyone can get along.  Charles and Margo concentrate on the abandoned mall that has a lair of vampires.  

What a fun read! Margo is a capable character who is cloaked in mystery and Charles is a cute nerd who is being introduced to this new way of looking at the world.  The illustrations are fantastic and this is a read that will be enjoyed by graphic novel lovers.  

C. Peterson   

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Story of My Face by Leanne Baugh - OPTIONAL

The Story of My Face by Leanne Baugh, 228 pages. Second Story Press, 2018. $13.95

Language: R (115 swears, 17 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Abby had an accident last year that has left her scarred—inside and out. As she tries to go back to school for her senior year and figure out how to put back the pieces of her life, insurmountable obstacles seem to come around every corner. How can Abby move forward when she doesn’t even know which path is safe to walk?

Aside from the crudeness that came up frequently through this book, I enjoyed reading the journey Abby takes and helps readers to take with her. Her story is about the struggle of knowing who you are amid the pressures of who you should be and who you want to be. Abby shows those readers who may also struggle with self-esteem and self-confidence—which is most of us—that there is help and support from different avenues waiting to cheer you on if you will look for them and allow them to help. You have what you need to move forward so just take a courageous step.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton - OPTIONAL

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton, 368 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books), 2018. $18.99

Language: R (42 swears, 9 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Dayton put together a book made up of six stories of our possible future. With scientific advances and discoveries, some of Dayton’s ideas seem not to be very far off. However, extremist behavior may become our downfall.

Some of the stories have a lot of sexual content, and some of the stories are really creepy, but all of them are intriguing. While most of these sci-fi stories are outlandish, I like the questions that Dayton poses through them—how far will we go to improve the human race? And what defines “human”? We get to choose what we do with our bodies and our lives.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

LGBTQ+