Monday, June 18, 2018

The Case of the Smelly Sneaker by James Preller - ADVISABLE

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



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

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

Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

The Key to Every Thing by Pat Schmatz - ADVISABLE

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



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

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

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Jabulani by Jonathan Stotler - ADVISABLE

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



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

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

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - ADVISABLE

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



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

Flip Flap Ocean by Axel Scheffler - ADVISABLE

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



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

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Saturday, June 16, 2018

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

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

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



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

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

Reviewer: TC 

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Secret to Success by Sheila Greenwald -- ADVISABLE

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

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

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


Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Suspect Red by L.M. Elliott - ESSENTIAL

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



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

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

Lisa Librarian

The Pretty Brilliant Experiment Book by Jade Hemsworth - ADVISABLE

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



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

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

Lisa Librarian

Travels With Walt Disney by Jeff Kurtti - ADVISABLE

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


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

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

A Tangle of Brungles by Shobha Viswanath - ADVISABLE

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



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

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

Lisa Librarian

Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton - OPTIONAL

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

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


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

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

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

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

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


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

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

Jen Wecker

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Out of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee - OPTIONAL

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

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


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

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

Cindy, Library Teacher

I Am Me by Jennifer Francis - OPTIONAL

I Am Me by Jennifer Francis. PICTURE BOOK. Girl Empowerment, 2017. $10. 9780692914229


Descriptions of what a girl can be are paired with the definition of that descriptive word in this simple book.  The pictures are of an 8-12 year old African American girl. 

While it is always notable to see any children of color depicted in picture books, this book fell a little flat due to its simplicity. The illustrations are very cute and the content is potentially confidence building, there just isn’t a lot of depth to it. 

Jen Wecker 

Wildcard by Marie Lu - ESSENTIAL

Wildcard (Warcross #2) by Marie Lu, 352 pages.  Putnam’s (Penguin), SEPTEMBER 2018.  $19
Language: PG-13 (27 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13


Emika Chen did what she had to help Hideo Tanaken in the Warcross game, but has she set him up to become the controller of the world through his NeuroLink algorithm.  While she may love him, she will also do anything she has to in order to stop Hideo. 

I am seriously not going to tell you more than that.  Not going away any secrets so that you can enjoy the unfolding of Lu’s epic tale. You will love the rollercoaster of emotions as you weave your way to the finale!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

The Sasquatch and the Lumberjack by Crix Sheridan - ADVISABLE

The Sasquatch and the Lumberjack by Crix Sheridan.  PICTURE BOOK. Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch Books), 2018. $15. 978-1-63217-161-0


For such a mouthful of a title, the text is surprising sparse with one word per spread.  This books covers the relationship, from strangers to friends, of a sasquatch and a lumberjack over the course of four seasons. 

This book is delightful, with little details that make the illustrations come to life.  For example, I loved that the Sasquatch had a camera on or near him at all times, documenting their adventures.  And who doesn’t love an unlikely friendship story? 

Jen Wecker

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Biz Whiz by Sheila Greenwald -- ADVISABLE

Greenwald, Sheila Biz Whiz (Bossy Flossie #1), illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby. CHAPTER BOOK. Penguin Random House, 2017. $16. 9780448488868

Flossie swears she isn't bossy; she's just full of great ideas, and she lets everyone know it. Unfortunately, it's hard to make friends when you're always telling people what's what. Even the new kid at school won't hang out with Flossie, which is a problem because she has decided he would be the perfect partner for their upcoming group project. Can Flossie convince him to give her a chance?

The bossy, know-it-all girl is definitely an overused character type, but it works fairly well here, since Flossie has enough confidence and contrition to pull it off. The large type and frequent illustrations make this chapter book a pretty quick read. A fun story.

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


Surprisingly, there aren’t as many great survival books as I thought. Boys especially like a good adventure packed with thrills, suspense, and survival curveballs. These books are the best I’ve read and are guaranteed to appeal to all adventure enthusiasts, both boys and girls.

Brian is a teenager flying in a 4-person prop plane when the pilot has a heart attack. Brian successfully ditches the plane in the Canadian wilderness and for the remainder of the story fights to stay alive. He must defend against predators and find/catch food for two months. All this he does with the help of his only tool—a hatchet.

Peak loves to climb. When he gets caught climbing a skyscraper in New York, the judge agrees to let him off if he leaves the states with his dad, a famous extreme mountain climber. He takes Peak to Mt. Everest where he is leading an expedition to the summit. The book successfully describes the preparation, treachery and time it takes to acclimate in order to arrive at Everest’s summit.  The newest book is Ascent.

Cole is a juvenile delinquent who is the worst kid you can imagine. Instead of going to a juvenile jail, he is accepted into the Indian Circle Justice program. Cole thinks it’s a joke and goes along with it. The program exchanges a year of living alone on a remote Alaskan island for jail time. Though he sabotages his first attempt, he goes back a second time and finds the good he has within himself.

Jake and Taylor decide to search for their dad in the Wyoming wilderness after their mother is beaten to the point of unconsciousness by her abusive boyfriend. They travel across country in a train car, with a motherly truck driver, and in the luggage compartment of a bus. Once in the wilderness, they successfully employ all kinds of survival skills and find their dad using the mysterious clues he wrote to his mother over the years.

Cort lives with his dad on a houseboat just down the hill from his best friend Liza. When a deadly hurricane hits Alabama, the adults get stuck on the other side of a flooded bridge. As bad luck would have it, Liza and Cort have to go on a rescue mission to save Liza’s younger sister. When they trudge through the flood to get to higher ground, they end up sharing a tree with deadly snakes and trapped by a raging boar below.  You might also look at Hideout by Key and his newest, Deep Water

When Jonathan arrives at the Alcatraz-like reformatory facility for boys, he quickly realizes that he may as well be in Hell. The Admiral rules with an iron fist. When all the adults get electrocuted in a freak lightning storm, the boys decide to hunker down and deceive the delivery boat driver into believing everything is normal. What follows is a Lord of the Flies type scenario where the boy who takes charge isn’t much better than the admiral.

12-year-old Toby is on his own hiking the Appalachian Trail to complete the last item on his summer list. Everything that can go wrong does, but one good thing is his new companion, a scraggly dog he names Moose. He overnights at shelters, encounters large animals, runs low on food, nearly gets kidnapped, loses his dog, and meets many interesting people along the way.

Jack wakes up in a Maine campground to find that his mother has abandoned him. He sets out with his sleeping bag and a little money to make the long trip back to Boston. At every turn he must make decisions about where he will get food and where he’ll eat. But his priority is making sure no one realizes he’s on his own, so he won’t be taken from his mother who suffers from a mental illness.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Relative Strangers by Paula Garner - NO

Garner, Paula Relative Strangers, 360 pages. Candlewick Press, 2018. $18. Content: Language: R (41 swears; 50 “f”)  ; Mature Content: R; Violence: G. 
Jules asks her mother for a baby picture for her senior yearbook, but is confused by the lack of baby pictures.  She decides to snoop and discovers that when she was a baby for a year and a half she was in foster care because her mom was an alcoholic.  The family who cared for Jules loved her and wanted to adopt her, but Jules mother cleaned herself up and since Jules was a baby never told her she was in foster care.  Jules decides she wants to connect to the family who cared for her and in the process she falls for her foster brother Luke. 
I hated this book.  If I had to describe it in one word it would be-yuck.  The overall premise was super frustrating because Jules couldn’t see how courageous her mother had to be to overcome addiction to raise her, instead Jules wanted a family who knew her for a short time when she was a baby.  Jules spent most of the book comparing her life to everyone else’s -at one point she calls herself a “chronic malcontent” and that is an understatement. Then she obsessively crushes on her foster brother who sees her as a sister which is just awkward and weird and she has zero self control so she kisses him.  Also Jules’ best friends talk Jules into drinking and smoking pot when they know both of her parents struggled with addiction (Jules father actually died from an overdose). I could go on and on, but story line wise that’s what I didn’t like about this book.  The other half of my dislike is the content which is out of context overuse of the ‘f’ word; underage drinking and drug use; technical and descriptive explanations about sex and penises. And my very least favorite part of the whole book is an explanation of young kids exploring each other’s bodies which was just yuck.  Hard pass on this book. 
HS – NOT RECOMMENDED.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.       

Monday, June 11, 2018

Journeys: Tales of Travel and Trailblazers by Jonathan Litton - OPTIONAL

Litton, Jonathan Journeys: Tales of Travel and Trailblazers, 96 pages.  Illustrated by Chris Chalik, Dave Shephard, Jon Davis and Leo Hartas.  NON-FICTION 360 Degrees (Tiger Imprint), 2018. $25 9781944530136 
This book is about the different kinds of journeys that humans make on this planet.  The book is broken into four different sections: water, land, ice/snow and man/machine.  Each page spread is a different explanation about an exploration that took place in that type of landscape. or mode of transport.  A small history is given and the people involved is accompanied by an illustration. 
The illustrations in this book are fantastic and make you feel like you are looking through a book of old discoveries.  The information left me wanting more, especially more maps.  There was just enough facts to make me curious, but it also left me feeling dissatisfied.  It is a simple summary which could have been better if it had one wow fact. I’m not sure what kid would slog through this book.  It is oversized and feels like a coffee book. 
EL, MS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Fandom by Francesca Davis DiPiazza - ESSENTIAL

Fandom: Fic Writers, Vidders, Gamers, Artists, and Cosplayers by Francesca Davis DiPiazza, 97 pages. NONFICTION.  Twenty-First Century Books, 2018. $36.99 

Language – G (0 swears, 0 “f”), Mature Content – G; Violence – G


Fandom gives a brief history of the doings of those obsessed with something, usually considered nerdy, to the point that they express their passion, specifically in the forms of the written word, video, costume making, visual art works, and game development. DiPiazza also explains common jargon that fans use and how fanfic works have evolved with further advances in technology.

The information put forth by DiPiazza is amazing and had me exclaiming, “No way!” the entire time. In reading about how passionate people can be and about their openness to express their love, I have both been inspired to do things that I have always wanted to and realized that I have made fanfic without even knowing that I have been. I promise that this book is more interesting than my synopsis makes it out to be—people and their imaginations are so cool! I loved reading Fandom and will probably be rereading it soon to continue learning how I want to learn to express myself. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Blink by Sasha Dawn - OPTIONAL

Blink by Sasha Dawn, 333 pages. Carolrhoda Lab, 2018. $18. 

Language: R (100+ swears, 50+ ‘f’); Mature Content: R (drug use, sexual activity ); Violence: PG-13 (physical abuse)


Josh spends most of his time split between football practice and taking care of his 4-year old twin sisters, Margaret and Caroline, until he meets Chatham Claiborne and then all he wants to do is spend time with her.   She’s new in town and says she’s looking for her sister who she believes ran away. Josh wants to jump in with both feet to help her, but her story doesn’t quite add up. To further complicate his life, his stepfather is hanging around again, despite the restraining order, and it looks as though his mom is going to fall for his so-called charms again.  Josh doesn’t want to stick around for the fallout but feels the need to protect his sisters.

This was a pretty gloomy read and the abuse was hard to take.  I didn’t like the characters much and found it difficult to connect with them. Overall it was an average read, at best.    Initially the mystery caught my attention but the resolution was clear early on, and at times, it was overly dramatic. It does wrap-up nicely though, and if you have students that like realistic fiction, with some intense romance, they may enjoy this read, but know your audience because the language is over the top and the mature content is treated casually.  (see ratings). 

Reviewer: RB 

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner -- ADVISABLE

Messner, Kate Over and Under the Pond, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. PICTURE BOOK. Chronicle Books, 2017. $18. 9781452145426

A boy and his mom canoe along a pond, contemplating the creatures that live above the water and lurk below -- as well as how they all connect. An afterword gives more detail about many of the animals mentioned in the book.

The illustrations are lovely, and the ecological balance between living things in and around a pond is a good thing for children to know and understand. I could see using this one for Earth day, in a lesson on comparing/contrasting, before going on a field trip into the wilderness, or as an opening to any number of science lessons.

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

The Superstar by Chris Kreie - OPTIONAL

The Superstar by Chris Kreie, 91 pages. Darbycreek, 2018. $8.  Language: G (0 swears, 0 "f"); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.


Daniela and Rinad are best friends and play on the Bay Park Rams high school soccer team. When another team loses their funding, its star player, Kennedy transfers to Bay Park. Daniela likes Kennedy and respects her soccer skills, but Rinad is worried about losing her starting spot on the team and her best friend to the new girl who everyone loves. Drama ensues as the three girls try to adjust to the changes and Daniela feels torn between doing what’s right and standing by her best friend.

This book is full of soccer action and the story mostly plays out on the field with only a few scenes elsewhere. There seem to be many soccer books for middle readers with female protagonists, so I was a bit disappointed to find that was also the case here. The players are supposed to be in high school but the drama and interactions feel very middle school. The plot was simple, but focused and the characters were all relatable. This book suits reluctant readers who like sports action.

Reviewer: Stacee S., Reading Teacher

The Recruit by K.R. Coleman - OPTIONAL

The Recruit by K.R. Coleman, 97 pages. Darbycreek, 2018. $8.  

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


Tessa Hobbs loves playing soccer and is wondering what the future might hold as her parents’ farm is struggling and college may be out of the question. When Tessa’s friend, Ellen’s older sister, Sadie brings her college coach to watch Tessa play, she thinks things might turn around for her. As she learns more about Sadie’s need to control everyone and everything around her, she questions if that is the future she wants. The worst part is that Sadie wants Tessa to ditch her farm boy boyfriend, Ben, so she can fit better into sorority life at college. Tessa has to decide what she wants for the future on her own terms.

This book was easy to read and kept me interested enough to finish in one sitting. The soccer action was fast-paced and would interest many young athletes. Though the characters were in high school, it read more like a middle grade novel with its simple story line and lack of mature content. It would be a nice fit for reluctant teen readers. Tessa’s willingness to not let others dictate her decision making is admirable and realistic.

Reviewer: Stacee S., Reading Teacher

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by the Pinkneys - ESSENTIAL

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea and Brian Pinkney, 121 pages.  Scholastic Press, 2018. $15.  

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (mild description of riots and MLK's assassination)


This beautiful book of poems details the last months and days of Martin Luther King Jr’s life. It is divided into three sections called “Daylight,” “Darkness,” and “Dawn.” The first few poems are about this great leader’s birth, family, and potential, including a metaphorical bird named Henny Penny which is explained in the author’s reflections at the end. The poems in “Darkness” highlight Martin’s struggles with fear and the burden of leadership. The poems at the end of this section depict his last days and moments, then the mourning after the world’s great loss. “Dawn” features Coretta and other great leaders of the movement continuing on in Martin’s spirit.

The poetry and images in this book were breathtaking.  Use of alliteration, repetition, and pieces of King’s speeches make these poems come to life beautifully. I learned a lot about Martin’s last days and seeing more of his humanity made me respect this great man so much more and once again mourn his loss. This book is a perfect addition to any middle school or high school classroom and library. Some poems could be read aloud to elementary students. It would work best as curriculum, but many older teens may choose to read it own their own as well. It is very well researched. It connects the weather and words from his speeches with his impending death in such a way as to see him as a true visionary who bravely saw his own death approaching and chose to march on.

Reviewer: Stacee S., Reading Teacher

Seeker of the Crown by Ruth Lauren - ADVISABLE

Seeker of the Crown (Prisoner of Ice and Snow #2) by Ruth Lauren, 288 pages.  Bloomsbury, 2018.  $17.  

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some fighting)


Valor may have saved her sister Sasha from the unbreakable prison, but Princess Anastasia is on the loose and determined to take the kingdom of Demidova as her own.  When the queen is kidnapped, the new regent doesn’t seem to be any better than having Anastasia on the throne.  Valor, Prince Anatol, and few others are the only ones standing between the throne and complete disaster.

Fans of the first will still enjoy the further adventures of Valor et al.  There is no resolution at the end – only more problems, so brace yourself for the next in the series.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dragon Dancer by Joyce Chng - ESSENTIAL

Chng, Joyce Dragon Dancer, illustrated by Jérémy Pailler. 32 pages. PICTURE BOOK Lantana Publishing, 2018. $18.

Although Yao is just a boy, he has loved the beautiful ancient dragon Shen Long since he was a little boy and his grandfather was the dragon dancer, now his grandfather is gone and he is the Dragon Dancer. For Chinese New Year, he dances the dragon at the shopping mall, bringing good luck and getting rid of the bad luck. His grandfather would be so proud. 

There is a beautiful mix in this story of realism and fantasy. The sounds of the dragon talking are mesmerizing, and Tao's imagery of flying into the sky with the bad luck as he and the dragon do their job is both wondrous and beautiful. This is a great story to read at or about Chinese New Year. Includes an author's description of her childhood experiences at Chinese New Year and an explanation of the tradition of the dragon dancers.

Lisa Librarian

You're Safe with Me by Chitra Soundar - ADVISABLE

Soundar, Chitra You're Safe With Me, illustrated by Poonam Mistry, 32 pages. PICTURE BOOK Lantana Publishing, 2018. $18. EL (K-3) ADVISABLE 

The baby animals are afraid to go to sleep - the sounds of the jungle keep waking them. But when Mama Elephant comes and holds them in her trunk, she explains how all the sounds are really comforting. 

The illustrations are traditional and so detailed. This comforting bedtime story is perfect for a stormy night, and the illustrations are so intricate the book can be enjoyed slowly. So calming and sweet. 

Lisa Librarian

Twilight of the Elves by Clark and Eliopulos - ADVISABLE

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (lots of fighting undead creatures)


After the elves fled the evil necromancer who raised their dead and destroyed their city, they have uneasily settled into the former marketplace in Freestone.  Zed, Brock, and the others have saved Freestone once, now the elves want them to save Llethanyl, too.  But things are more complicated now that they aren’t just trying to find their place within the Adventurer’s Guild.  Zed and Brock are both keeping dark secrets from each other. These secrets may not only destroy their friendship, but also the world.  The journey to Llethanyl will be filled with danger, but between grit, luck, and skill, the Adventurer’s may have a chance.

Kids who have read the first book will enjoy this one just as much.  The action alone will keep young readers coming back for more.  The author pair has a good chance to become as beloved as Brandon Mull.  In the future, however, I think they need to spare a little time for more character development – while there is a bit, it is pretty shallow.  They also need to stop setting up the next book at the end of the last one.  If the writing is strong enough, you don’t need to shove your story arc in your readers’ faces.  They will come back for more because you gave them a strong, complete story to love. Rant over.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian 

Legends of the Lost Causes by McLelland and Sylvester - OPTIONAL

Legends of the Lost Causes by Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester, 325 pages.  Henry Holt (Macmillan), 2018.  $17.  

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


Keech has a nice life in the Home for Lost Causes, but when Pa Abner sends him to down with an important message, he has a bad feeling.  Not only is the town attacked, but Keech and Sam don’t return in time to save their family from being destroyed from a mob of the undead.  Now Keech is on the run from Bad Whiskey and his gang of undead thralls.  He falls in with a small group of kids who are also on the run – towards Bad Whiskey for their own vendettas.  But Keech has information that Bad Whiskey wants – maybe if he can find the answers first then they can stop the evil from taking over.

A zombie western book is definitely a first for me!    Zombies still have some popularity, but westerns are a bit harder sell.  You will have to handsel this to students, but once they read, they will enjoy the action and danger.  

Cindy, Middle School Librarian 

Once a King by Erin Summerill - ESSENTIAL

Once a King (Clash of Kingdoms #3) by Erin Summerill, 448 pages.  Houghton Mifflin, DECEMBER 2018.  $18.  

Language: PG (19 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some blood)


After saving her friend Orli from the clutches of the evil regent of Malam and helping King Aodren gain control of his throne from said regent, Lirra is ready to go back to Shaerden and work with her father as an information gatherer, or spy.  But her father is off on a highly sensitive assignment that involves Aodren, who is in Shaerden for the All Kingdom’s Summit, a once every five year’s meeting that involves shows of strength, displays of Channeler powers, and negotiations between kingdom’s.  But there is danger in Shaerden – someone has a created a counterfeit Sanguine oil, an oil which normally heals.  This oil makes the taker feel powerful for a time, but it then addicts and eventually kills them.  Malam and Aodren will be blamed if the evil plot isn’t stopped and Lirra can’t stop herself from becoming involved – both with the problem and with Aodren.

I think my summary skills escaped me in writing this review.  Feel free to comment if you want to help me do a better job explaining. But really, once you make the mental switch to the new characters and scene, you will love this book as much as I did.  Summerill’s writing keeps getting better; I hope she has many more tightly plotted and delightfully populated novels in her writing quiver. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian 

Saving Fiona by Thane Maynard - ADVISABLE

Saving Fiona: The Story of the World's Most Famous Baby Hippo by Thane Maynard. NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. $20. 9781328485137.


Everybody loves hippos and a book about a baby hippo is sure to be a hit. Fiona is a baby hippo that was born prematurely at Cincinnati Zoo in 2017. This picture books tells the story of how Fiona arrived early and the great efforts that were made on her behalf to help her survive. Fiona's story was shared heavily on social media and this is a good summary of the entire story. 

This is a great little picture book telling a true story--and using photographs rather than illustrations! Its a real-life story so the text is a lot longer than you'd find in a normal picture book, but I think it works here. The details of what #TeamFiona did to help her survive is really cool and I think readers of all ages will appreciate this one. It will be a little above the heads of the younger readers, but they can still appreciate the fun pictures of Fiona and her family!

Reviewer: TC

Outcast by Taran Matharu - OPTIONAL

Outcast by Taran Matharu (Summoner: Prequel), 384 pages.  Feiwel (Macmilan), 2018.  $19. 

Language: R (55 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: R (lots of fighting and danger)


Arcturus is desperate to escape is abusive slave labor job in a country inn.  When he finds a summoning spell in an arrogant young nobleman’s bags, he uses it and summons a demon.  Now he’s been kidnapped and taken off to the capitol – because summoning the demon can only mean that he is the bastard son of a noble, and though he is a discard, he is still needed in the kingdom’s battle against the orcs. Arcturus manages to make a few friends in his new situation, but he gets caught up in a plot by the king to brutally suppress a group of rebels. 

An interesting look back at the Summoner world.  It brings some depth to Taran’s back story.  A definite must for fans of the series.  I hope that from here, however that the series jumps forward again to Taran or beyond him.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian 

TOMO: Adventures in Counting by Trevor Lai - ADVISABLE

Lai, Trevor TOMO: Adventures in Counting. BOARD BOOK. ImprintReads (Macmillan), 2018. $8. 9781250119896.


One day, two friends go on an adventure and find a variety of creatures in the appropriate number to count up to ten--3 bears, 4 frogs, etc. By the number 10 they have made their way home again. 

This is a pretty basic/classic counting book for the youngest readers. I like the illustrations and the bright colors. There is sporadic rhyming and I'd have preferred it was consistent or not there at all. Imperfect rhyme in children's books is just a pet peeve of mine. The fact that the two characters are a boy and a girl makes it delightfully gender neutral so it works for all kids. Overall this is not a bad choice for counting board books. 

Reviewer: TC

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Company's Going by Arthur Yorinks - ADVISABLE

Yorinks, Arthur Company's Going illustrated by David Small, 40 pages. PICTURE BOOK  Disney (Hyperion), 2018 (originally published in 2001). $17.


In the sequel to Company's Coming, the aliens enjoyed their visit with Shirley and Moe so much, that they've asked the couple to come back to their planet (Nextoo) to cater for their sister's wedding. 

You've gotta buy both books! What a fun story that comes full circle, in Company's Coming, the aliens visit the Earth (with consequences) and in Company's Going, the the Humans visit the aliens. I love the message that everyone is more afraid about what they don't know than what is actually happening. 

Lisa Librarian