Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau - OPTIONAL

Charbonneau, Joelle Time Bomb, 340 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. $18. Content: Language: R (93 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

Six students are at their high school the week before school starts for various reasons, but when a bomb goes off at the school they are quickly brought together as some of the only survivors.  As the kids are trying to help each other, they realize they are all trapped on the third floor and bombs keep going off at the school, causing smoke and fire to hinder their escape.  They are all suspicious of each other and their background stories make them all the possible bomber, but as events escalate one student comes forward as the perpetrator.  

This is an intense read that covers topics like rasicim, bullying and judging others.  I liked the development of the plot and I also liked the characters.  It’s a hard book to read because violence in schools is realistic and I also felt like the perpetrator needed to show remorse but did not.  The swear count is high, and the violence was upsetting but not overly graphic.  I would put it as advisable except for the language.  

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

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayrel - ESSENTIAL

Sayrel,  April Pulley Best in Snow 40 pages PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION Beach Lane Books (Simon and Schuster), 2016. $18 9781481459167   

The cycle of a snowstorm, from freeze, to breeze and where it falls -  on a squirrel's nose! Told in few words and beautiful photographs of wildlife, nature, snow and ice, this is an amazing introduction to snow.  

An appendix explains the science (or secrets) of snow, taking each page's text and explaining.  A great primer for a weather unit in a classroom.  The illustrations are so beautiful!  Well worth re-reading. 

EL (K-3) EL ESSENTIAL Lisa Librarian

Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates by April Jones Prince -- OPTIONAL

Prince, April Jones Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates, illustrated by Steven Salerno. PICTURE BOOK.  Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), 2017. $17. 9780374300746

This retelling of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" takes place on a pirate ship. In this case, the mama pirate has burned their morning gruel, so she, the papa, and the baby row ashore for fresh water while it cools. They come back to discover that Goldenlocks has sneaked onto their boat, repaired many of their worn items, and fallen asleep on the baby's hammock.

This is an amusing and colorful fractured fairytale, and I love that Goldenlocks leaves things better in her wake instead of worse. I do, however, have an issue with the gender roles in this story. The papa's main job seems to be standing around and blustering. The boy just unhelpfully follows his father. The mama, however, is expected to cook, sew, fix broken furniture, and row the dinghy back and forth between the shore and the ship. At one point, the papa and boy complain about Mama's cooking skills and, rather than stepping in to do it themselves, they suggest hiring someone. And at the end, when the boy hangs off the ropes with a sword and the father steers the ship, mama is reading a book (Ye Bonnny Cook, to be precise, so not only is she supposed to cook and sew and repair and row, but she's also supposed to be beautiful while doing it.)

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Nothing Happens in this Book by Judy Ann Sadley - OPTIONAL

Sadley, Judy Ann Nothing Happens in this Book, illustrated by Vigg 40 pages. PICTURE BOOK. Kids Can Press, 2018. $17. 9781771387378

A little man is very sure this book will be boring.  But then he (and a little bear) start finding things - A large shoe, a ball, a bright red nose, a trumpet a little car, balloons - all the things that make up a circus, but no one to use these things. Then he finds a sad group of circus performers and returns everything to them.

This was quite an unusual book.  The story was a great idea, but I didn’t love the execution.  The illustrations were very old fashioned, which on the surface isn't a bad thing, but it was too unusual. The owners of the items weren’t obvious, and not everyone wanted their item back.   A young reader would have a difficult time with this book, especially if circus or parade aren’t part of the background knowledge.

EL (K-3) OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

Immortal Reign by Morgan Rhodes - ADVISABLE

Rhodes, Morgan Immortal Reign (Falling Kingdoms, #6), 391 pages. Razorbill (Penguin), 2018. $19. Content: Language: PG-13 (27 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

The royalty of the three kingdoms of Mytica have gathered together to try and regain control of their kingdom against the Kindred.  The Kindred’s power of earth, water, fire and air have each found a host and are trying to combine their powers so they can rule the earth, but the hosts in which they inhabit are trying to resist the Kindred’s power and they try to work together to destroy the Kindreds access to their world. 

I adore this series.  An attempt to explain the basic story line doesn’t do this book any justice.  The world of Mytica and the magical forces at play are very well explained.  This is the final book in this series (there is the companion series Spirits and Thieves) and it was as satisfying as I had hoped.  I wish this series could keep on going because I love the characters and the chemistry they have with each other.  The violence is gruesome and torturous-it’s borderline rated R, which is the only thing that holds me back from an essential recommendation.  

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

Middle Grade Stories About Disabilities

Some people's challenges are more visible than others. 

Imagine a world where you can’t talk, walk, or feed yourself. Imagine a world where you want desperately to be understood, but fail miserably. Imagine a world where you are the smartest kid in the class and everyone thinks you are the dumbest. This is the world of 11 year-old Melody Brooks. Trapped in a body that can barely function, Melody must find a way to convince people that there is more to her than they can see.

10-year-old Auggie has been homeschooled his whole life, and now his parents have decided that it’s time for him to attend school. There’s one problem. Auggie has a severe facial deformity that many surgeries have not been able to correct. Little kids are scared of him and big kids bully him. Through it all, Auggie is one brave boy with parents who have his back at every turn.

Catherine has a problem. Her autistic brother, David, has a hard time following rules. Don’t put toys in the fish tank. Late doesn’t mean not coming. Catherine struggles with the social ramifications of having an autistic brother. When a girl her age moves in next door, she becomes more determined than ever to teach David the rules. If only her brother could be normal.

England is on the brink of a German invasion. Ada, born with a clubfoot, is forbidden from going outside by her abusive mother. As children take shelter in the countryside away from the bomb threat in London, Ada and her younger brother use it as an opportunity to escape. They are reluctantly taken in by a woman who ends up transforming their lives. Ada finds the person she was capable of being all along if only she had had a mother who loved her.

Rose is a fifth grader with autism and a father who doesn’t understand her. When he unexpectedly brings home a dog on a rainy night, she names it Rain, and the two become instant companions. When Rain goes missing during a hurricane, she will stop at nothing until she finds her dog. Excellent man’s best friend story with an autistic voice.

Ally is always getting in trouble. No one understands her, even her teacher. Other kids tease her and the other “different” kids relentlessly. Then Mr. Daniels arrives to sub for the regular teacher. He suspects an underlying cause for Ally’s behaviors and soon realizes that she has dyslexia. This story shows the power of a teacher to change the trajectory of a kid’s life.

12-year-old Heidi knows very little about herself. All she knows is that she showed up on Bernadette’s doorstep with her mentally handicapped mother when she was only a few days old. Her mother only speaks 23 words and can’t tell her anything. When she discovers some pictures that might offer clues about her family, she decides to follow the clues across the country to a mental hospital where her mother might have been a patient.

This is a graphic novel about the author’s childhood dealing with hearing loss brought on by an illness. She doesn’t like being different so she refuses to learn sign language. Instead she wears a huge amplifier box that picks up the sounds from the teacher’s microphone. Since she can pick up conversations the teacher has when not in the room, this gives her a “superpower” other kids don’t have.

by Valerie McEnroe, The Chattering Librarian

My Pillow Keeps Moving! by Laura Gehl -- OPTIONAL

Gehl, Laura My Pillow Keeps Moving! Illustrated by Christopher Weyant. PICTURE BOOK. Viking (Penguin Young Readers), 2018. $18. 9780425288245

A stray dog sneaks into a pillow store and pretends to be a pillow. But the man who buys him quickly realizes he purchased a pet instead. The dog runs off to try again. His attempts at a footstool are equally disastrous. Same for pretending to be a jacket collar. Can the dog finally trick its way into a forever home?

This story is adorable and fun with a sweet ending and hilarious illustrations. Unfortunately, it doesn't totally come together for me. It's a little hard to believe that the man and the salespeople don't realize that he's buying the same dog each time, and the plot could use just a bit more clarity. That said, the pictures are likely to make many children chuckle, and the ending will earn some smiles as well.

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

How Many Hugs? by Heather Swain -- NOT RECOMMENDED

Swain, Heather How Many Hugs? Illustrated by Steven Henry. PICTURE BOOK. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2017. $17. 9781250066510

This rhyming picture book explains how many hugs different types of animals can give based on the number of arms and legs they have.

The topic lends a sweet feel to the story, which would make it nice as a bedtime book, and the pictures are adorable. Unfortunately, the rhyme scheme is extremely awkward to read silently, let alone aloud. The rhythm varies on each page, lines are broken at odd points, and sometimes incorrect grammar is used (e.g. "discreet" instead of "discreetly") in order to create rhymes. While rhyming is very pleasant when done well, in this case it feels jangly and awkward and just generally frustrating.

In addition, many scientific names and other large words are dropped in with no explanation, and in most cases the context does not make the word obvious. (e.g. "And down in the ocean an / octopus waits / to wrap up its loves in two / fours, which is eight. / That's eight arms like the / spider, but here it gets odd. / An octopus is not an / arachnid -- it's a cephalopod.") I love when books provide animal facts or other scientific information, but in this case such info is more likely to confuse than to, well, inform.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- NOT RECOMMENDED. Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mummies at the Museum by Wong Herbert Yee - ADVISABLE

Yee, Wong Herbert Hammy and Gerbee: Mummies at the Museum, 107 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt), 2018. $13. Content: G.  

Gerbee and Hammy are best friends, so they are excited to find out that they are in the same class with Miss Capybara at school.  They are not excited that the twins, Hanna and Anna, are in their class.  When Miss Capybara takes the class on a field trip to see the mummies, Gerbee and Hammy try to play a prank on the twins, but in the end they help catch some thieves.  

This cute graphic novel was a quick read with simple text and basic graphics (blue, black and white).  I enjoyed the story and I think Gerbee and Hammy would be easy characters for elementary age boys to relate to.  The story made me laugh and it was unpredictable and fun.  

EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller - OPTIONAL

Levenseller, Tricia Daughter of the Siren Queen (Daughter of the Pirate King, #2), 338 pages. Feiwel and Friends, 2018. $18.  Content: Language: PG-13 (47 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: R.  

Alosa has managed to accomplish her secret mission for her Pirate King father, but when she goes to his keep after her mission she is surprised to find a huge secret that breaks her loyalty to her father.  Alosa takes her crew of mostly women and her newest crew member, Riden, and in an act that will cause the wrath of her father, decides to hunt for the hidden treasure on her own.  Alosa has to learn how to control the part of herself that is a Siren, so that she can keep her crew safe and away from her father. 

I love this pirate adventure.  There’s action, great banter and good chemistry.  Alosa is a great main character and the plot line is quick moving and entertaining.  The violence is an awful cannibalistic scene and the deaths are bloody, moving this from advisable to optional.  The mature content is some steamy make out sessions.  

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

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller - ADVISABLE

Levenseller, Tricia Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King, #1), 308 pages. Feiwel and Friends, 2017. $18. Content: Language: PG-13 (27 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Alosa has allowed herself to be caught by the enemy pirate ship Night Farer in an attempt to find part of a treasure map that her father, the Pirate King, is in need of.  Alosa is surprised to find that she likes the captain’s brother, Riden, even though they spend most of their time together arguing.  As time runs out for Alosa to find the map, she has to tap into her Siren powers to try and control the men on the boat, but she feels mixed up about her feelings for Riden.  

This book starts out with lots of action and I enjoyed the spunky pirate princess.  I loved the banter between Alosa and Riden and their chemistry is a fun part of the story.  Because of the pirate setting, there is a lot of death with slit throats and torture.  The violence isn’t graphic, but death is handled casually.  The mature content is make out sessions.  

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

Good Night, Planet by Liniers - ADVISABLE

Liniers Good Night, Planet 32 pages. PICTURE BOOK/Graphic. TOON Books, 2017. $13 9781943145201 

Planet is a little toy deer. After her little girl goes to bed, Planet gets up and plays with the dog - who shakes her quite violently, but she seems to enjoy it. They meet a little mouse and go outside to search for the biggest cookie ever - the moon!

Beautifully illustrated in a graphic novel format, this early reader is a great transition from picture books. Strange though - the dog always acts like a dog, but the mouse and the doll can talk.   

EL (K-3) ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian

Duck’s Ditty by Kenneth Grahame - ESSENTIAL

Grahame, Kenneth Duck’s Ditty, illustrated by Alex Willmore. BOARD BOOK. Flower Pot Press, 2018. $13. 9781486713868

Ducks love being tipsy in the water with their tails up. This is a first-person account of ducks in their habitat.

Such a cute voice given to the joy of being a duck. The illustrations are as wonderful as the bouncy rhyme.


Thunder Horse by Eve Bunting -- OPTIONAL

Bunting, Eve Thunder Horse, illustrated by Dennis Nolan. PICTURE BOOK. Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan), 2017. $18. 9781626724433

A little girl receives a tiny, mysterious pony as a gift from her aunt. As her pet grows, he develops wings and a love for Greek yogurt. As much as they love each other, however, the girl knows that one day she will have to let Pegasus go. Will he ever return?

This is a sweet story with a melancholy feel to it. The wordy text and quiet plot-line make it less suspenseful than it could be, but it will likely find some popularity among horse-lovers, especially girls who enjoy the romantic color palette and enjoy living vicariously through the protagonist's experience.

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

What Does Bunny See? by Linda Sue Park - ESSENTIAL

Park, Linda Sue What Does Bunny See? illustrated by Maggie Smith. PICTURE BOOK. Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2005. $7. 9781328886118.

In a cottage garden, bunny is learning about colors and flowers.  She sees all the colors of the rainbow on her walk.

This beautifully illustrated picture book teaches children not only colors, but flower names in a fun rhyming pattern. It is an easy reader where each section begins with “in a cottage garden”. An enjoyable read for both child and parent.


Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon -- ADVISABLE

Gordon, Gus Somewhere Else. PICTURE BOOK. Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan), 2017. $18. 9781626723498

While most birds fly elsewhere for the winter, George stays put. He's too busy to explore -- or so he tells everyone. But when a friendly bear stops by, George finally confesses the truth behind his reluctance to leave home. Can the bear help George discover new places, or is this bird destined to be a homebody forever?

This story is adorable and filled with warmth and humor. The reveal about why George stays home is likely to amuse children, and many will probably relate to his feelings. It's the illustrations that really stand out, however. They are a quirky, colorful mixed-media experience designed to delight readers.

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

Fossils (Rock Explorer) by Claudia Martin -ADVISABLE

Martin, Claudia Fossils (Rock Explorer), 24 pages.  NON-FICTION. Quatro , 2018.  $20.
This book features large print and many short chapters including what is a fossil, how do they form, and how they help teach us information about the past. Lots of creative layouts with well chosen photographs and interesting facts.
This is an excellent book that will catch readers attention. Perfect for 1-2 grade and could be read aloud for K. I learned quite a few things reading this and it has very fresh and modern feel.

EL(K-3) – ADVISABLE Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

Minerals (Rock Explorer) by Claudia Martin -ADVISABLE

Martin, Claudia Minerals (Rock Explorer), 24 pages.  NON-FICTION. Quatro, 2018.  $20.
This book features large print and short chapters including: What is a mineral, how they grow, finding minerals, types of minerals, and more. It features creative layouts, well-chosen photographs and lots of fun facts.
Sometimes minerals and rock books can overwhelm readers with too much information, but this book was just perfect. This book would be a hit with 1-2 graders, especially after they learn about this topic in class, I get a lot of requests. I would buy this series for the library.

EL(K-3) -ADVISABLE.  Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

Game of Gnomes by Kirsten Mayer -- ADVISABLE

Mayer, Kirsten Game of Gnomes, illustrated by Laura K. Horton. PICTURE BOOK. Imprint (Macmillan), 2017. $17. 9781250123947

Ginger longs to be known for her deeds, not for her looks -- specifically, her long, curly red hair. So when the Winter Gnome Games arrive, Ginger happily signs up. Unfortunately, she spends too much time showing off rather than following the rules, and ends up being disqualified from every competition she's in. But when a friend is in peril, it turns out Ginger is the only one who can save him. Can Ginger finally be known for her heroic deeds rather than her unique looks?

This cute book will likely resonate with children who are tired of being referred to by their height, or their dimples, or their hair, or any other physical features that they can't control, instead of their personalities. It would work especially well during the Olympics or as the snow is just beginning to fall and children are looking for fun outdoor activities. The illustrations are lively, colorful, and fun. The references to Game of Thrones ("Winter is coming" and the title itself) are perhaps a bit self-indulgent, since children young enough to enjoy the book are -- I would hope! -- not super familiar with the GOT franchise. Still, it will likely amuse adults who are sharing the book with kids. Overall a fun story with humor, personality, and a clear goal and conflict.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

For Everyone by Jason Reynolds - GIFT

Reynolds, Jason For Everyone : A poem.  A nod. A nothing to lose. 101 pages. POETRY. Atheneum, 2018. $15

In a poetic letter, Jason Reynolds reflects on his own experience from the past 7 years for the dreamers of the world.

This book of poetry - very short, was inspiring.  Several verses were quotable, and the whole piece is memorable.  This would be a great graduation gift or for someone making a big life change.

HS - GIFT  Lisa Librarian

Summer A Pop-up Book by David A Carter - ADVISABLE

Carter, David A Summer A Pop-up Book, PICTURE BOOK. Abrams Appleseed (Abrams) 2018. $15. 9781419728327

Through a simple verse and pop-up illustrations, the child is introduced to the sights of summer including bugs, flowers, animals, plants, and birds.

This is a pretty sturdy book for a pop-up.  There is only one page that worries me around toddler hands.  While the page count and the verse denote this book for pre-k, the things identified are pretty specific like the Pileated woodpecker, California Sister (a moth?), foxglove and horsetail (a plant, not a horses tail)  which make the text more appropriate for an older reader.

Pre-K ADVISABLE Lisa Librarian