Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge

Partridge, Elizabeth Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam, 201 pages. Viking, 2018. $23. NON-FICTION. Language: PG (14 swears, 0 'F'); Mature Content: PG-13 (racial slurs, discussion of drugs and suicide); Violence: PG-13 (War violence). 9780670785063.

Telling the story of America's involvement in Vietnam is a complex task and one Partridge chooses to tackle through personal stories of eight individuals. Each person gets a chapter--or two--to tell their story. From soldiers and nurses serving in Vietnam to those involved in the creation of the Vietnam Memorial, the stories run the gamut and give a wonderful holistic view of this war. Interspersed with these stories are short chapters about the US Presidents who were in power during the Vietnam years. 

I really liked this book and felt it gave a new life to my understanding of the Vietnam War. The book is really well written and the way the author incorporates real quotes with the stories was great. The photographs included throughout the book are a huge bonus and add so much to the piece. This is a fairly slim volume, but there is so much quality history here I would recommend it highly to anyone. Is must be noted there is discussion of violence, drug use, suicide, as well as the mention of racial slurs so the material is a little more mature than the average middle reader book but I think this should still find a place in middle schools as well as high schools.

MS - ADVISABLE, HS - ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: TC

The Case of the Million-Dollar Mystery by James Preller - OPTIONAL


Preller, James The Case of the Million-Dollar Mystery, 92 pages. Feiwel and Friends, 2013 (2017 reprint).  $5.  Language: G (o swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
When Jigsaw’s classmates all start receiving cryptic notes stating ‘I saw what you did’ –he and Mila take the case, well numerous cases. On top of that, his class has been studying inventors and one of his classmates claims to have a really amazing top secret idea –when the sealed envelope for that idea goes missing –Jigsaw lands another case. Even the principal lands on the list of suspects this time and Jigsaw has a lot on his plate.
Dated cover art, dated language, and a boatload of characters –this book (series) could be a hard sell for its target audience of younger readers. But that being said the story is wholesome and the mystery never gets scary. I think if a teacher did a read-a-loud to get students liking this series, you might see some circulation.
EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis -OPTIONAL


Curtis, Christopher Paul The Journey of Little Charlie, 256 pages. Scholastic, 2018.  $17.  Language: G (o swears); Mature Content: G Violence: PG13 (Torture, Shooting).
This is the story of a 12 year old boy named Charlie, a white boy living in the south during the time of legal slavery in the south. After his father dies in an accident, its revealed that he owed a debt to a local slave owner.  Now Charlie is forced to pay off the debt by traveling with the man to obtain runaway slaves and the money they stole from him. As Charlie learns more about Capn Buck during their journey, his conscience starts to bother him. There will come a point where he has to decide what is technically legal and what is right.
This book is rated 9-12 years old, but I thought the authentic accented language would be very challenging for this age group (I found it challenging myself). Additionally the content is quite upsetting to read –as you are put in the position of having to endure the perspective of the bad guys. There is some animal violence, talk of slave torture, and the fear of what Capn has done and will do. While many books offer the perspective of the escaping slaves, this is a new spin, one I could have lived without. There were some odd moments too –like Charlie’s obsession with Cap’n’s cleanliness and spying on him bathing.
MS – OPTIONAL Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

If Wendell Had a Walrus by Lori Mortensen - ADVISABLE

Mortensen, Lori If Wendell Had a Walrus, illustrated by Matt Phelan. PICTURE BOOK. Henry Holt and Company, 2018. $18. 9781627796026.

Wendell is a young boy with a great imagination and today he's imagining how great life would be if he had a pet walrus. They would tell jokes together, ride bikes, build forts and more. So Wendell heads to the seaside and writes a letter to a walrus--throwing it out to sea in a bottle--inviting him to come live at Wendell's house. While he waits for a response, Wendell notices another boy also waiting nearby. Merrell is hoping/waiting for a whale friend, so while the boys wait for responses from their sea mammals they begin to play--telling jokes, riding bikes, building forts and more. They both come to see that there is no rush for a walrus or whale because they have a great friend right now. 

This book checks all the boxes--sweet message, wonderfully written, fantastic illustrations, and a few great jokes kids and adults will appreciate. I loved it. 

Pre-K, EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: TC
https://www.perma-bound.com/ViewDetail/152667-if-wendell-had-a-walrus

Pele: King of Soccer by Eddy Simon – ADVISABLE


Simon, Eddy Pele: King of Soccer, 139 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second, 2017.  $20.
This is the graphic novel story of the life career of Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, the famous Brazilian soccer player, famously nicknamed Pele. Readers learn about his childhood in poverty, but rich in family and a love of soccer. We learn of his dedication and overwhelming love of the game that led him to a skill level rarely seen and once recognized -his amazing career. We also learn about the Brazilian political scene, and Pele’s work with children, and reforms to soccer. The artwork is small but clear and easy to read and recognize characters.
I think soccer fans will love this book. It covers a huge part of his life, though with the emphasis on soccer, does not leave out his personal life or the society he was experiencing. Due to the complexity of the politics, and some personal life content, I think this book would be better suited to Middle and High School.
MS, HS –ADVISABLE Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman - OPTIONAL

Heiligman, Deborah Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers, 409 pgs. Henry Holt (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2017. $19.99 Language – PG (7 swear, 0 “f”), Mature Content - PG; Violence - PG

 Vincent Van Gogh was the oldest living child in his family, followed by Theo. The brothers’ relationship was not smooth, and through their letter correspondence—or lack thereof—we see how they grew apart and returned to each other through the years. As they tried to navigate life with their careers, their love lives, and their family drama, Vincent and Theo were there for each other in times of need. This book illustrates the true story of two brothers who would do anything for each other.

One reason I was really excited to read about Vincent van Gogh is because the impressionist movement that he was part of is my favorite art movement. I enjoyed reading about his interesting life, and the success that Vincent and Theo found despite numerous setbacks in both career and love pursuits gives me hope for my own life. There are parts that can be dry, but I think that Heiligman kept their stories more interesting by summarizing the letters that the brothers wrote instead of including all the letters word for word. 

HS – OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Jabberwalking by Juan Herrera - NO

Herrera, Juan Felipe. Jabberwalking, 137pgs. Candlewick Press, 2018. $22.99 Language – G (0 swears, 0 “f”), Mature Content – G; Violence – G.

Herrera talks directly to readers in this book of jabberwalking poems. As he talks with readers, Herrera also teaches his readers how to jabberwalk and write poems like he does. Hurry! You’ll get left behind if you can’t keep up.

The poems and narrative told through those poems are very disjointed and confusing. I didn’t understand what was going on in the first couple of chapters, then I thought I understood what was going on, and then I was lost again as Herrera continued with his half-baked ideas. If I learned anything from this book it’s that anyone can write a book. 

MS, HS – NO. Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Zoo is Not For You by Ross Collins - ESSENTIAL

Collins, Ross  This Zoo is Not For You.  PICTURE BOOK Nosy Crow (Candlewick), 2017. $17. 9781536200157

A platypus with an invitation shows up at the zoo, where the front gate is advertising for interviews.  As the platypus makes his way through the zoo and is interviewed by the different animals, they decide that he isn't going to be a good fit for their zoo for various reasons mostly regarding his appearance.  When the platypus leaves, the monkey finds his invitation and the animals realize their mistake: that really the platypus had come to invite them to a party.  The animals join the platypus in his party bus with all his friends, where the platypus quickly forgives the zoo animals.

This is a great book for many reasons, not the least is that Ross Collins is a great author/illustrator-I love There's a Bear in My Chair.  First, the illustrations are fantastic. I loved the body language and facial expressions of the animals.  Second, it makes for a great read aloud because of the rhyming text which has a sing-song rhythm.  And third, what a great lesson about not judging someone for their appearances and their intentions.

EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.   

A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale by Penny Parker Klostermann - ADVISABLE

Klostermann, Penny Parker  A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale, illustrated by Ben Mantle.  PICTURE BOOK Random House, 2017. $18. 9781101932322

William lives in the land of fairy tales, but he is more interested in cooking than in princesses and kingdoms.  He dreams of becoming a chef, but finds difficulty in serving the characters from the fairy tales, such as the picky three bears.  One day a food truck drops a box of food on the side of the road from the Fairy-Tale headquarters and William decides he's going to improve the foods used in different fairy tales.  He bakes Snow White's poisoned apple into a fabulous desert, cooks Cinderella's pumpkin into a pie and makes bean soup out of Jack in the Beanstock's beans.  Everything eventually happens as it should, but William's cooking is appreciated across the kingdom.

This is an adorable spin on the fairy tales.  William's love of cooking mixed with the quirky fairy tale characters makes for a fun read.  Kids will recognize most of the fairy tales and have fun finding the way the stories have changed.  The illustrations are bright and attractive with cute facial expressions.

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

How Sweet the Sound by Carole Boston Weatherford - OPTIONAL

Weatherford, Carole Boston  How Sweet the Sound, illustrated by Frank Morrison.  NON-FICTION/PICTURE BOOK Atheneum Books (Simon and Schuster), 2018. $18.  9781481472067

This book tells the history behind the hymn "Amazing Grace".  John Newton is the author of the original lines of Amazing Grace, but over time through the struggles of African Americans, Cherokee Indians, Civil War soldiers and anti-war protests the song has evolved, taken on new meaning and lyrics have been added to the original.  The first part of this book explains a sea-faring Newton who was almost killed in a storm, and it was the turning point for his conversion to God.  The last part of the book shows those since Newton who have transformed the song and sung it for comfort in hard times.

The illustrations in this book are fantastic and tell the story better than the text with the expressive facial expressions as well as use of color.  Too bad the illustrations aren't enough to carry the story.  The text is written like a disjointed poem, which comes across as incomplete sentences, so as an exposure to Newton and his history it's confusing until you get to the author's note to read the actual history.  That said, the author's note gives a fascinating history and I wish that would have been the text for the pictures.

EL (K-3) - OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen - ADVISABLE

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen.  400 pages. Scholastic, AUGUST 2018. $18.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Holocaust)

EL, MS - ADVISABLE

Chaya Linder is only 16, but she has lived a life of danger for the last three years working as a courier for the anti-Germany resistance in Poland.  When she was pushed out of the Krakow ghetto, she went to the farm of her Jewish scout leaders and from there they all decide to join the war efforts. Chaya is more than willing to risk her life, but Esther, another courier is a constant thorn in her side.  Chaya is going on her most dangerous mission ever and Esther has joined her.  Esther insists that the pair make their way to Warsaw – the most infamous ghetto of them all.

Go Jennifer – thank you for showing us that you can write about danger, violence, and life’s worst situations without filing the narrative and the characters’ mouths with swearing and graphic violence. Chaya’s journey through between Poland’s ghettos is a compelling read.  Add this to any Holocaust display to help students understand this awful time.

Cindy, Library Teacher

The Magic is In You by Colin Hosten and Brooke Vitale - OPTIONAL

Hosten, Colin and Brooke Vitale  The Magic is in You, illustrated by Grace Lee.  PICTURE BOOK Disney Press, 2018. $17  9781368024617

Eight different Disney movies are illustrated in this book about finding the magic within yourself.  One page spread says something about how life can be hard or challenging and then ends with the sentence, "Just remember..." and when you turn the page the second page spread shows an inspirational part of the movie and a quote about how you can find the good in yourself and in life.

The illustrations are great and are paintings, not frames from the movies.  My fourteen year old daughter loves all things Disney and she thought this book was adorable.  My younger sons thought it was boring and "dumb" because it repeats itself, has no story line and the quotes seemed too cheesy.  This is best as a gift for Disney lovers.

EL (K-3), GIFT - OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas - ADVISABLE

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas.  320 pages. Swoon Reads (Macmillan), JULY 2018. Language: R (56 swears, 2’f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.

MS – OPTIONAL, HS – ADVISABLE.

It's bad enough that Abby lives her superhero brother, Conner aka Red Comet, and has to keep his secret even from her Red Comet-fanatic best friend Sarah.  Now Abby’s life was saved by a new superhero in town, she thinks she might like this mysterious guy, AND he may actually be a villain.  Is this new super Isaac, the dreamy new guy who is the leading man to Abby’s leading lady in the school musical?  Or it is someone else – Rylan, the shy guy from the background of Abby’s high school days who suddenly is looking hotter than ever? Be involved with supers was never more complicated than when hearts are also involved.

Banas has written a superhero novel that is sure to draw in many fans of the genre.  Superhero books are a little harder sell in my library than the movies are in the theaters, but I have confidence in this one.  The romance is the front and center plot point and that will definitely help sell it.

Cindy, Library Teacher

Meet Cindy Sherman by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan -- NOT RECOMMENDED

Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist, Photographer, Chameleon. NONFICTION. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 9781626725201

This biography introduces photographer Cindy Sherman, tells a bit about her background and the inspiration behind her artwork, and shows examples of her various self-portraits.

I have to admit, I did not read all of the text. The pictures alone were disturbing enough, but the one on page 48, which shows a woman in a naked suit -- complete with her various body parts -- was the final straw. Perhaps some will enjoy this exploration of Sherman's work, but I could not see putting this book in a school library.

EL (4-6), MS, HS -- NOT RECOMMENDED.

Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer - OPTIONAL

Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer, 336 pages.  Scholastic Press, OCTOBER 2018.  $19.
Langauge: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some deaths)

EL, MS – OPTIONAL. 

Snub lives the normal life of a silverback gorilla with Mother, Brother, Wrinkled, Teased, and their leader, Silverback.  First a new baby is born to mother, and Snub calls him Breath.  But then violent shaking and wildfires destroy their home. Snub and Breath are alone after Mother is attacked by a strange new group of beings – Snub calls them not-gorillas because while they have arms and legs and kind of move like Snub, they have no fur and their actions are incomprehensible. Snub even adopts one young not-gorilla who is abandoned by the group and calls it Orphan.

Schrefer reaches far back into history to look at the first interactions between man and gorilla. Because of the difficulty of writing through the eyes of a gorilla, the narrative is less compelling – less able to draw the reader into the story.  The interactions between Snub and the not-gorillas are short.  I applaud Schrefer’s bold choice  - to see through Snub’s eyes, but it is less likely that students will talk this one up with each other.

EL, MS – OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas - ESSENTIAL

The Scroll of Kings (Lost Books #1) by Sarah Prineas, 304 Pages.  Harper, JUNE 2018.  $17. Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some fighting danger)
EL, MS - ESSENTIAL.

After running away from his family of sword masters, Alex has found a place as an apprentice librarian. When he finds his master dead – and apparently killed by a book, Alex takes off again, this time carrying a letter from the Queen, asking for his dead master to come take over as Royal Librarian.  Alex figures he can pretend he is Librarian Farnsworth, but the Queen is not completely taken in and gives him just two weeks to get the library in order.  The Royal Library is an even worse mess than Alex thought – there are many more dangerous books within its shelves and every book is upset and scared.  Alex must fight a war on two fronts – against the rogue books and against Lord Patchedron – the kingdom’s former regent who is hiding something deep and dark, even if the young Queen won’t see it.

Hooray!  I had so much fun reading this!  And not just because it was about books and librarians. Prineas has brought all of her considerable talent o bear on her newest book.  Swashbuckling danger surrounds a story of personal growth and revelations.

Cindy, Library Teacher

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Gabriel Finley and the Lord of Air and Darkness by George Hagen - ADVISABLE

Hagen, George Gabriel Finley and the Lord of Air and Darkness, 288 pages. Random House, 2017. $17 Language: PG (3 swears 0 ‘f’) Mature Content: PG (smoking); Violence: G.

11 year old Gabriel Finley and his three friends, Abby, Somes, and Pamela, set out to find the magical torc. It's black magic caused his mother to vanish when he was a baby,  as well as the dreaded Corax with his soul trapped inside the torc. He now must free his mother with his friends and his amicus, Paladin. Will he find a way to free his mother, or will Corax rule the world?

This book didn't have much action, and the action didn't start until very late in the book. Otherwise, it was a good book. It was interesting over all having tear jerking moments as well as an amazing story line and a lot of laughs.

EL - ADVISABLE 7th Grade Student Reviewer KG

The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz - ADVISABLE

Hurwitz, Gregg The Rains, 352 pages.  Scholastic Inc. 2016. $9 Language: PG (16 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: R. (zombies, graphic violence)

Only a week ago Creek’s Cause was one of the most quiet, peaceful towns on the East coast. After Chance Rain and his brother Patrick’s parents died in a drunk driving car accident nothing was the same it was the biggest struggle of their lives… or so they thought. When a raging meteor shower hits the town and strange things take over the adults they trusted and knew nobody is safe. Well that is if you are younger than 18. Chance will do anything to save his town, and his brother who turns 18 only about a week after the massacre. Determined, Chance leaves the safety of the school where the survivors have stayed hidden and goes on a tough quest to save his brother’s girlfriend Alex and possibly the world from what seems like a not so human being.      
I like this book a lot because it has a high impulse level and a lot of action. Although at first it was a bit confusing few chapters in I fully understood. This book is a mildly scary book and made for a really exciting feeling while reading.  

HS - ADVISABLE  7th grade student reviewer AH
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GIFT IDEA - Notecards and Journal

Walt Whitman Notecards (9781616896775, $15) and Emily Dickinson Blank Journal (9781616896867, $19) Princeton Architectural Press.

A ready made gift for any literary minded recipient - The cards each have a inspirational quote on the front (4 quotes, 3 each) and blank inside.  The quotes are a great inspiration for a handwritten thank you or note of encouragement on the blank inside - instead of an impersonal text or email.

The notebook has replicas of Dickinson’s own pressed-flower collection on the covers and interspersed throughout.  It not only would be great as a journal, but also as a place to record gardening and travel notes.

GIFT - OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu - ADVISABLE

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu, 291 pgs. First Second (Macmillan), 2018. $24.99 Language – PG (9 swears, 0 “f”), Mature Content – PG (heterosexual and homosexual content); Violence – PG; 
MS, HS – ADVISABLE. 

Bagieu tells brief biographies of little-known influential women in history—including musicians to activists and scientists to writers. These women come from different time periods and different places around the globe, but they all have a common desire to be themselves. As these women illustrate in their lives, being themselves helped them to look outside of themselves to do good based on what they excelled at. All twenty-nine women highlighted went through trials, but following their hearts led them to make great contributions to the world. Through the lives of these amazing women, Bagieu teaches her readers that you are you, and the world needs you the way you are because you have a unique contribution to make.

While I wish that the women had been put into chronological order, that is my only complaint. I love all the women highlighted here and how the message of having the courage to be yourself is evident throughout the experiences shared. I was shocked that I had only heard of one of these women prior to reading this book, and some of these women are still alive! We have a need to discover the wonderful female role models in the world to help expand the good that women can do when they believe in themselves. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The War Below by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch - ADVISABLE

The War Below by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.  256 pages. Scholastic, 2018.  $18.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Holocaust deaths, fighting)
EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  

Luka may be young, but he has already survived one trip to hell – life in a German work camp, where the main goal seems to be killing off as many people as possible.  Pretending to be a corpse helped him escape, but he is in no less danger.  His goal is to hide in the mountains until the war is over.  While he encounters some help along the way, even meeting Martina, another young survivor who joins him on his journey, the pair just going from the frying pan to the fire.  They’ve been taken in by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, but they are caught between Hitler and Stalin – and both are happy to kill all of the insurgents.

While most of the danger will be familiar to anyone who has read Holocaust books, the information and danger encountered by the UIA will probably be totally new.  Students who enjoyed reading Making Bombs for Hitler will also enjoy this.  

Cindy, Library Teacher

The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas - ADVISABLE

Tougas, Shelley The Graham Cracker Plot, 278 pages. Roaring Brook Press, 2014. $17. Language: PG (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

The story starts out with a girl who likes to go by "Daisy". Her dad is in prison for something that wasn't his fault. She misses him very much and doesn't really like her new step dad. She makes a plan to break him out of prison. With her friend and a couple others, she goes on a mission to save her dad. They call the mission the Graham Cracker Plot. 

 I thought the book was a funny and exciting. It doesn't take long to get into the "action" in the book. I never find myself bored while reading it. It can grab your attention and keep it all the way through the book. 

EL, MS - ADVISABLE 7th grade student reviewer DA
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel - OPTIONAL


Pimentel, Melissa  The One That Got Away, 356 pages.  St. Martin’s Press (Penguin), 2016.  $27.  Content: Language: R (100+, 42 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Ruby’s sister is getting married in England and Ruby’s ex-boyfriend, Ethan, is part of the wedding party.  From the first time she sees Ethan again, Ruby realizes that she still has feelings for him even though their break-up was hard on both of them.  Throughout the wedding planning and partying, Ruby tries to assess if Ethan could possibly still have feelings for her as well.  

The characters in this book are in their late twenties and the large amount of distracting swearing and off page sex as well as sex talk makes this an adult novel.  I didn’t mind Ethan and Ruby, but I felt like the ending was abrupt and a bit underdeveloped compared to the amount of detail the rest of the book was afforded.  The timeline goes back and forth between Ruby and Ethan’s time dating each other and the time at the wedding.  I got a bit frustrated with the “secret” that was referred to throughout and then dropped at the end and it wasn’t really shocking at all.  

ADULT – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheaney - ESSENTIAL

J.B. Cheaney I Don't Know How the Story Ends, 270 pages. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2015. Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

Isobel Ransom goes to visit her aunt in California with her younger sister and her mother. Her father is away at war and hasn't sent letters home for a while. She in anticipating that all it will be is homesickness and boredom. Instead she is in for a funny, action packed, and touching experience. While she is there she meets her cousin Ranger who is making a movie. He asks for Isobel and her sister, Sylvie, to be in it. Ranger didn't know what his movie was going to be about, until Isobel's father comes home injured.

I liked all the action of the book. I like how the idea of Hollywood was incorporated with the book. Another thing I enjoyed was her father went away to war and she described the memories of the laughter he gave her.

 MS - ESSENTIAL 7th grade student reviewer AO

Camp Panda by Catherine Thimmesh - OPTIONAL

Thimmesh, Catherine  Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild, 60 pages.  NON-FICTION Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. $18. Content: G.  

Human encroachment is the main cause for Giant Pandas growing extinct.  This book explains what scientists are doing to help increase the panda population as well as their environments which will help other endangered species.  The book explains reintroduction training that the scientists implement on the pandas and the ways that they try to take human interaction out of the panda’s experiences.  The Giant Panda is a much loved animal and it helps draw attention to other endangered animals as well.  

This informational text has lots of interesting and detailed facts about pandas being reintroduced into the wild.  The reading level and vocabulary as well as amount of text is higher than elementary, so this book would fit better in a middle school in maybe an animal biology unit.  The photographs are interesting and at the back of the book there is a glossary as well as what efforts the reader can make to help conservationists.  This would need a teacher guided discussion because I’m not sure many kids would pick it up to read for fun, even though I found it very interesting and well done.   

MS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Escape from Vodran by Ben Blacker - ADVISABLE

Ben Blacker Star Wars Join The Resistance Escape From Vodran, 327 pages. Disney, 2017. $13. Language: G (0 swears) Mature Content: G. Violence: PG.

It begins with some of the main characters, Mattis, Lorica, Joe, and AG-90 on the planet Vodran, getting captured by stormtroopers, and being put in a prison camp on Vodran. Joe immediately turns on the main characters, and AG-90 gets reprogrammed. Mattis and Lorica are in a cell with another character, Cost, who is crazy, and the three of them then meet Ymoss, a huge Gigorian, that does NOT like Mattis. Everyone is being forced to work, while above Vodran, some of the main character's friends try a rescue but fail, and come across a "ghost moon" filled with droids serving a new character, Harra the Hutt, whose palace was turned into the prison camp on Vodran. Harra decides to try to take back her palace. While on Vodran, Mattis, Lorica, and Cost try several different escape attempts, all of which fail. Eventually, everyone comes together for one final, desperate, escape plan that the First Order believe will fail, but everyone might just prove them wrong.

I like the vast array of characters. However, at first, they didn't seem interesting, possibly because I believe this book is in a series of books. Fortunately, the book got really good really quick. All in all, a good book, but not great. 

MS - ADVISABLE  7th grade student reviewer  JA
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Super-Duper Summery Doodle Book by Ryan Sias - OPTIONAL


Sias, Ryan  Super-Duper Summery Doodle Book, 96 pages.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. $10. 9781328810175  

Fourteen different characters make up this activity book that revolves around the beach.  Every couple of pages there is a step-by-step guide on how to draw one of the characters-including a pig, monkey pirate, octopus, etc.  Then that character is in a hidden picture puzzle, story starter and other pictures that you fill in with drawings or designs.  This is an activity book with many pages to color, activities to complete and some stickers at the back.  

GIFT – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes - OPTIONAL

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes.  240 pages.  Scholastic Press, 2018.  $17. Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some danger)
EL – OPTIONAL.  

Paloma, a 7thgrader, is in Mexico City with her mother for the month this summer.  With her limited Spanish, she is not particularly excited, but it is her father’s hometown and she is kind of hoping being there might help bring back her memories of him.  Instead of a boring summer, Paloma finds a cute boy and a strange brother and sister who need her help solving a mystery.    The mystery involves Casa Azul, the home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera – the same house-now-museum that Paloma’s mother is there to study.  

There was a little too much going on and a few too many characters here for me to find enough to grab onto and love.  And there was not near enough Frida and Diego, either.  The danger involved in the mystery was nicely done, but there was not enough of that to shore up the other lacks for me.  

Cindy, Library Teacher

The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection: Volume One by Various – NOT RECOMMENDED

Various The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection: Volume One by Various, 208 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic, 2018.  $15.
This is a collection of a variety of comics by different authors. The reader is cycled back to the continuation of a story a few times over the course of the book. Trail Blazers is the story of a group of friends who discover a master artificial intellect is taking over their worlds computer/power systems- they must take their space craft and discover what is going on. There are numerous Bunny vs Monkey stories as well as quite a few Doug Slugman PI, and Evil Emperor Penguin.
This book is quite a hodgepodge. I can’t image the same students who would like reading and could understand sci-fi Trail Blazers story–having the same affinity for Bunny vs Monkey –which is just slapdash and annoying to read. Same goes for age- half of this book is for 2-3rd graders and Trail Blazers is better for 4-6th. I would add a full graphic novel of Trail Blazers to my school library –but absolutely none of the others. They are just junk food comics. Oddly enough, the advanced copy I have has Trail Blazers on the cover –but the release cover does not –and I am wondering if they did pull it in order to create a more cohesive collection and allow it to shine on its own.  

EL (K-3), EL –NO Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

I am Gandhi by Brad Meltzer - ESSENTIAL

Meltzer, Brad I am Gandhi, illustrated by 25 different artists.  GRAPHIC NOVEL/NON-FICTION  Dial Books (Penguin), 2018. $19. Content: G.  

Gandhi wasn’t a very good student when he was little, but his father was a successful political leader with a good job.  Gandhi went to London to become a lawyer, but when he returned to India he found that he didn’t like arguing cases.  He decided to move to South Africa and try working as a lawyer there, but was surprised to find prejudice, discrimination and injustice towards his fellow Indian people.  Gandhi gathered the Indian people and came up with an ideal called Satyagraha in which his people would peacefully protest against their unfair treatment.  He lived out his life drawing attention to prejudices through peaceful strikes or marches and his ideals later inspired great leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.  

This is an interesting simplified biography of Gandhi’s influential life.  Each page spread is illustrated by a different artist but all are very appealing and well done.  At the back of the book there is a timeline and real photographs from Gandhi’s life, as well as short biographies about all the artists who contributed.  I do think the different kinds of art caused some inconsistency and distraction to the timeline of the story, but the art is expressive enough that it tells the story in its own way.  

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

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Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies by David Lubar - ADVISABLE

Lubar, David Strikeout Of The Bleacher Weenies, 205 pages. Tom Doherty Associates, 2016. Language: PG (16 swears, 0 ‘f’) Mature Content: PG (crude language) Violence: G. 

This book is a collection of short stories. In Same Bird brother and sister, Isabel and Avi go on a hiking trip. They find body parts from the same bird, saying "Same bird," each time, however when put together, the bird cuts them down. In Haunting Your thoughts Ruthie and his family move into a new house. The house focuses on each of the family members' fears. Ruthie is afraid of monsters, which ultimately leads to his and his family's doom. 

I liked the different stories, along with the various points of view. My favorite chapter is Parasites, however I enjoyed many of the stories. The sort of mysterious element in the book kept me very interested. However, I wish the chapters were longer. 

EL, MS - ADVISABLE 7th Grade Student Reviewer NJ

A Bandit's Tale by Deborah Hopkinson - OPTIONAL

Hopkinson, Deborah A Bandit's Tale: The Muddled Misadventures Of A Pickpocket, 304 pages. Steven Malk, 2016. $17. Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG. 

Rocco is an eleven year old boy who has been taken away from his poor family in France to earn in America. While being taken away from his abusive Padrone, Rocco learns how to pickpocket. On the streets of New York City, Rocco is supposed to play a metal triangle to earn at least $1 a day. While his Padrone isn't looking, Rocco pickpockets many people who aren't paying attention to their valuable belongings. Rocco is very dirty and can only take a bath once a month and he never gets new clothes. In the streets of New York, Rocco doesn't know how to speak English and only French. 

I didn't like how the book doesn't explain things very well and makes you feel very confused. I liked how the main character, Rocco, doesn't give up and keeps pushing forward to earn money for his family. 

EL, MS - OPTIONAL 7th grade student reviewer CK

The Saturday Cooking Club : Kitchen Chaos - by Deborah Levine - ADVISABLE

Levine Deborah Kitchen Chaos (The Saturday Cooking Club #1), 319 pages. Simon & Schuster,  2015. $8 Language: G (0 swears 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

Liza and Frankie are two seventh graders who have been best friends since they were little. They were the best team for school projects until their social studies teachers , Mr. McEnroe, asked all the students to be in groups of three for their big immigration project. The third person of their team is a girl named Lillian whose parents came from China. They take a Saturday cooking class with a famous cooking show host named chef Antonio to learn about american cooking for their project. After six weeks of taking the class. They have learned all they need for their project and maybe even more.  

I really liked this book. It was full of lots of drama, and I really learned a lot about American cooking. I would definitely recommend this to all those seventh graders who love cooking. 

MS - ADVISABLE 7th grade student reviewer MZ

Longburrow: Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood - ADVISABLE

Larwood, Kieran Longburrow: Podkin One-Ear, 244 pages. Clarion Books, 2017. $17. Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG. 

Podkin was living his dream of lounging around the burrow free of worry when tragedy strikes. The Gorm attack his home! With no more than a dagger to defend themselves, Podkin and his siblings, Paz and Pook, try to find shelter from the Gorm´s spies. Soon, they learn the sad truth; no one is who they seem to be. Listen as the bard tells the tale of Podkin One-Ear.

I was not expecting the book with rabbits on the cover to be as gresome as it was. And the violent acts shocked me a little. However, I liked how the characters interacted and how the author was able to smoothly transition from the storyteller to the main story. 

EL, MS - ADVISABLE 7th Grade Student reviewer AM

Do You Know the Monkey Man? By Dori Butler - ADVISABLE

Do You Know the Monkey Man? By Dori Hillestad Butler.  201 pages. Peachtree, 2005, 2018.  $8. Content: G.  REPRINT
MS – ADVISABLE.  

When Samantha was three, her twin sister drown in a boating accident. Ten years later, a psychic tells her that her sister is very much alive. Now Samantha wants to track down the father she hasn’t heard from for so long and clear up this mystery. 

Wow – has it really been thirteen years?  While I still not fond of the chosen title, I like this new cover so much better than the original.  If you can get students to pick it up, they will still love reading about Samantha’s mystery.

Cindy, Library Teacher

The Last Panther by Mitchell Todd - ADVISABLE

Todd, Mitchell The Last Panther, 241 pages. Delacorte Press, 2017. $20 Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

Eleven-year-old Kiri has always loved the wild. In her jungle home, she becomes really good friends with a fugee named Palo. Everything changes when they find a "once were" creature. Kiri and her da get kicked out of the village and are to never return. All she wants is to be accepted as a fugee and not a "waller girl."

I liked the description of the "once were" creatures. It was really fun trying to figure out what they were. I like how she runs into many problems and how she is able to solve them. Another thing I liked was her descriptions of her surroundings. I didn't like what the fugees did to the devi of the sea, or that Kiri and her da got kicked out. Overall, it was a good book.

EL, MS - ADVISABLE 7th Grade student reviewer RG

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Five Little Monkeys 5-Minute Stories by Eileen Christelow - OPTIONAL

Christelow, Eileen Five Little Monkeys 5-Minute Stories, 253 pages.  PICTURE BOOK  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. $13. 9781328453594  

This is a collection of eight books about five little monkeys and their antics.  The books included in this single volume include: Five Little Monkeys… Jumping on the Bed, Sitting in the Tree, Bake a Birthday Cake, With Nothing to Do, Wash the Car, Play Hide-and-Seek, Jump in the Bath and Reading in Bed.  The monkeys are adorable and their mom patient and kind.  

Each page spread has 2-3 short sentences and colorful illustrations.  My kids loved these books growing up, so it’s nice to have them all in one collection but at the same time the size of the book is a bit big for little hands.  So these books are advisable as far as the stories in them, but the actual book collection is not ideal for little readers.  

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

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Teen Hyde by Chandler Baker - OPTIONAL

Teen Hyde by Chandler Baker, 257 pgs. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2017. $17.99 Language – PG13 (65 swears, 0 “f”), Mature Content – PG13 (heterosexual and homosexual); Violence – PG13.
HS – OPTIONAL. 

Cassidy has not been herself since that night several months ago, and, when she gets a taste of her old self again after taking a drug called Sunshine, she wants to be that old Cassidy again. But only part of her wants to make that change. The other part of Cassidy calls herself Marcy. And Marcy lives for revenge.

I found this retelling of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to be captivating, and I loved being kept on my toes over every page. However, this book does very much live up to its promise of horror. This is not a book for the light-hearted, as in Teen Hyde is at times creepy to the point of needing to sleep with the lights on. This is not to say that I did not enjoy it, but I did read it while the sun was still shining. Also, this book is part of a series, but can be read as a stand-alone. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Fania’s Heart by Anne Renaud - ADVISABLE

Fania’s Heart by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Richard Rudnicki.  PICTURE BOOK.  Second Story Press, 2018.  $19. 978177260575
EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  

Sorale finds a tiny book shaped like a heart hidden in her mother’s drawer.  Her mother tells her finally about her time in Auschwitz and the women who made the heart for her as a birthday gift in that hateful place. Based on the true story of Fania and the heart book she managed to hide and take with her when she was finally liberated.  

Writing this as a picture book makes it a hard choice for which library collection.  If your elementary school teaches the Holocaust in 5thor 6thgrade, then you definitely need this.  It is too wordy for any younger grade, plus no child will understand it without some background knowledge.  Picture books in the middle school are a harder sell, but if your school teaches The Diary of Anne Frank, then try to talk your teachers into a day or two of picture book reading for a wider perspective of the Holocaust.

Cindy, Library Teacher

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy - NO


Petro-Roy, Jen.  P.S. I Miss You, 310 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2018. $17. Content: Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.  

Evie misses her sister Cilia, who has gone to live with their aunt in a remote town because of her teen pregnancy.  Evie feels like her parents forced Cilia to go away because they are strict Catholics.  Evie is developing romantic feelings for her best friend, June, but is worried what her parents will think if they find out.  Evie has to figure out why Cilia isn’t coming home and what to do about her relationship with June.  

This book was not my favorite.  First of all, the letter format felt forced, especially because Cilia doesn't reply out of the whole 310 pages of letters from Evie.  No teenager is going to write someone for an entire year if they don’t get answers.  Second, I felt like the author was pretty judge-y about the Catholic religion and not very respectful of their beliefs, and June causes Evie to question her beliefs because she is an atheist.  Which also makes this book hard to place because the character is 12-13 years old, but teen pregnancy and challenging religious beliefs seems older.  Third, (spoiler alert) the sister died in childbirth (which is hard to believe with modern medicine and seemed like a manipulated plot twist) and the parents didn’t tell Evie for almost a year, but when Evie finally finds out all of a sudden her parents are okay with the idea of June and Evie together, Evie forgives her parents, and the family is happy again-not believable at all.  

MS – NOT RECOMMENDED.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.