Sunday, July 15, 2018

She Love You Yeah Yeah Yeah by Ann Hood - ADVISABLE

She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood, 252 pages. Penguin Random House, 2018. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

6th grader Trudy Mixer is the president of the Robert E. Quinn Beatles Fan Club, the first one in Rhode Island and the most popular after school club . . . for a while. Now the membership of 23 has dwindled to 4. Even Michelle, Trudy's best friend is now attending the Future Cheerleaders Club. When Trudy's dad buys 4 tickets to the Beatles concert in Boston, Trudy begins to make plans to meet Paul McCartney and regain her popularity! But when Trudy's dad goes to Japan on business and her mom breaks her leg and can't drive to Boston, Trudy has to rely on the club members to help make her dreams - and theirs - come true. 

This story had many layers - it's about the drive to be popular, the changing relationship with your parents, the 60's, growing up, and seeing people in a different way. Everyone has problems, some hide them better than others. There's a little background knowledge necessary to really appreciate the Beatles - song lyrics are quoted but without the tune it just isn't the same.  

Lisa Librarian

Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein - OPTIONAL

Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein, 214 pages. Scholastic, 2017. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Yonder’s mom has died four years earlier and her dad has withdrawn into his room and the bottle. She knows that even her screams would not bring back her mom and has decided to stop using her voice completely. Now, however, bullies are riding her mercilessly at school, and the teachers do not see the abuse, blaming her for the ensuing disruptions. When she encounters a shaggy, fat, one-eyed Shetland pony who’s wandered into her yard from the neighbor’s to eat the pumpkin off her porch, she's found a soulmate. By week’s end, they are fast friends. The pony seems to be the only one who can hear her inner voice and respond to her needs. When Yonder is removed from her home by Child Protection Services, she is more determined than ever to save her pony from an awful fate.

This is an intriguingly quirky but emotionally sad story. Inviting your best friend into your home, even though he is a fat pony, is quirky. Being removed from your home due to neglect and malnutrition is sad. Despite such heavy circumstances, there are moments of humor and interesting freshness. It is a gritty realistic fiction book without gritty language. The violence comes in the form of bullying, and mistreating animals. While most of the characters are not very fully developed, Yonder's adventure is crazy, showing extraordinary effort, ingenuity, and courage in the service of her animal friend. 

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Lulu Is Getting a Sister by Judith Viorst - ADVISABLE

Lulu Is Getting a Sister by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Kevin Cornell, 178 pages.  CHAPTER BOOK. Atheneum (Simon and Schuster), 2018.  $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lulu is NOT too old for tantrums, as she clearly demonstrates when she hears that in a few short months, she will be getting a baby sister. She has been the only child for a long time now, and likes it that way, thank you very much. Her parents have anticipated that Lulu might not be totally thrilled with the news, and so are ready to bribe her to attend Camp Sisterhood for two weeks where she has been signed up to practice being a big sister with a “temporary” younger sibling assigned to her. When her first temporary sister ends up being a set of identical twins who beat her at Scrabble and swimming, she is assigned another temporary sibling, a little boy who is completely opposite and demanding in his own way. Along the way, she actually learns some important lessons.

This is the fourth book featuring Lulu, a character who is stubborn, spoiled, and conceited, and yet endearingly resourceful and pragmatic as well. This is a stand-alone story with short chapters, a larger font size, expressive spot art, and a narrator that makes wry comments throughout. The prospect of getting a younger sibling is shared by many young readers, and Lulu’s antics at Camp Sisterhood will tickle many funny bones. 

P K Foster, teacher-librarian

Goldie Blox Rules the School by Stacy McAnulty - ADVISABLE

Goldie Blox Rules the School by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Lissy Marlin, 124 pages. CHAPTER BOOK. Random House, 2017.  $13. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Goldie’s small school, owned and operated by her mother, has been closed by the mayor due to safety concerns after Goldie accidentally sent the top floor into orbit. After spending just a few days at a new school known as HiBo, Goldie has disastrous encounters with three students and decides she must figure out a way to reopen her mom’s school as soon as possible. By enlisting help from her BFFND Li (best friend from next door) and these same three students (they are the ones most interested in having her leave), Goldie devises a plan that will work only if they pool their expertise. But it doesn’t work out like she, nor her helpers, expect. 

Different ethnic groups are represented by the friends, as well as different STEM skills, such as inventing and computer programming. While this is definitely a chapter book with a straight-forward storyline and uncomplicated characters, it contains lots of outrageous fun as well as moments of honest interactions, and a plot that will keep new readers moving along. Don’t let the fact that this series is based on a line of successful STEM toys scare you away from recommending it widely to your younger or more reluctant readers. 

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Goldie Blox and the Three Dares by Stacy McAnulty - ADVISABLE

Goldie Blox and the Three Dares by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by, 120 pages. CHAPTER BOOK. Random House, 2017. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Goldie is always up for a challenge or dare. Next to her favorite thing, which is inventing stuff, this is what she loves the most. One day, after consuming a hot chili pepper, speed-eating an ice cream sundae, and sending her BFFND (best friend from next door) Li soaring on a rocket-powered skateboard of her own design, she is back at her BloxShop (workshop) with her friends, the Gearheads. Rummaging through boxes for some needed materials, she comes upon a locked journal that belonged to her late gran. It lists close to a hundred dares that her grandmother mostly completed. When Goldie learns that her gran wanted to finish the last three before her seventy-seventh birthday, and that this birthday is only three days off, she resolves to finish them in her gran’s place.

This is the second book in the Goldie Blox series. Five have been published since 2017. Similar to the first book in the series, this one features outrageous inventions, a close group of interracial friends, and silly humor. It sure makes inventing, problem-solving, and extreme risk-taking look like loads of fun. Don’t let the fact that the series is based on a successful toy line prevent you from feeling good about giving these to your students. The writing is solid for its intended audience without being completely unbearable for the adult reader as well. 

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife by Sarah Grace Tuttle - ADVISABLE

Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife by Sarah Grace Tuttle, illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford. PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION. Eerdmans, 2017. $17. 9780802854599

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Tuttle presents 28 short poems about plants, insects, and other animals that inhabit many North American cities and suburbs, but are often ignored by their human neighbors. You will find poetic descriptions of various rodents (mouse, bats, raccoons, skunk, squirrel, rabbit), insects (inchworm, ants, harvestman, ladybugs, moth caterpillar, cricket), birds (sparrow, pigeons, red-winged blackbird, mallard ducks, Canadian geese, horned owl), and plants (dandelions, moss, mushrooms, wild flowers, sunflowers, elm tree). And let us not forget the ubiquitous (at least in my neighborhood) feral cats, earthworms, and snails. Each poem describes one aspect, characteristic, or behavior of the featured plant or animal, while back material offers an additional fun fact for each.

Accompanied by digital collages that cover each page, and often the entire spread, these poems work great for introducing young elementary school students to the poetry genre and to start them thinking about the wildlife they can find all around. I think the title is a little misleading since some of the wildlife are more likely to be found in a suburban setting rather than an urban one, but the illustrations are very inviting and I can forgive this small misdirection. This is a solid purchase for your poetry section. 

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Pikiq by Yayo - ADVISABLE

Pikiq by Yayo.  PICTURE BOOK.  Tradewind, 2017 (English translation; 2015 French edition).  $17. 9781926890050

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

In the far north, Pikiq, a rosy cheeked, hooded child, is pulling his red sled across a wide expanse of snow with his friends Kri, a crow, and Bou, a snowy owl, when he comes across a half buried old box. Inside he discovers pencils, papers, and paints along with a book filled with pictures of trees and animals he’d never seen before. He spends all day drawing them, on paper and then on the snow. The next day he sets out to find these trees and animals, and experiences many other fanciful wonders along the way, such as playing hide-and-seek with upside-down trees, fishing for the moon, or playing around an inukshuk with animals from faraway countries.

This is a simple story with unique illustrations that celebrate imagination, art, and exploration by combining the Arctic landscape with tropical colors and creatures. The author was born in Columbia and resides in Montreal. The message that we can explore our world no matter where we find ourselves is an important one for all children. 

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Leo: Dog of the Sea, 1519-1521 by Alison Hart - ADVISABLE

Leo: Dog of the Sea, 1519-1521 by Alison Hart, 165 pages. Peachtree, 2017. $13. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

About to begin his fourth sea voyage, Leo is scrappy, wary of humans, a fine ratter, and partial toward a scrawny stowaway he finds hiding in his nest. Thus begins a year-and-a-half voyage under the command of Captain Magellan from the perspective of a canine. Magellan is determined to find a new route to the Spice Islands, and must push through several hardships on the way, including storms, depleted supplies, mutinous sailors, fearsome superstitions, sickness, uncertain routes, lost ships and men, hostile natives and battles, ultimately losing his life. Leo shares the horror and wonder of it all, including finding friendship along the way.

This historic journey is brought to life through Leo’s narration. It moves along quickly, providing vivid details without getting bogged down. The last 20 pages contain non-fiction information about various aspects of Magellan’s historic journey and the facts behind the fiction, as well as a glossary, ship diagram, bibliography, and further reading suggestions. This is a very solid historical fiction read, and would be a great addition for most collections. There are three other Dog Chronicles titles which cover the historical periods of coal mining during the first part of the twentieth century, the Alaskan Gold Rush during the same time period, and World War I.

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

I Love a Book by Joe Rhatigan - ADVISABLE

I Love a Book by Joe Rhatigan, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov. PICTURE BOOK/NONFICTION. Moon Dance (Quarto), 2017. $17. 9781633222267

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This is a rhyming love poem dedicated to books, narrated by the boy on the cover. He is absolutely enthralled with the mystery, magic, and curious facts you can find in books. So many on the shelves, just waiting for us reach out and take them in our hands, open up the covers, and let their ideas fly!

Kids will enjoy pouring over the pictures: they are loads of fun, with each spread depicting a different scene made possible when a book has fired up our imagination, has used its “magical net” to “capture stories” that we’ll “never forget”, as the boy says. They can take us from pirate ships to space ships, from a cow in a tree to sharks in the classroom, from trains to dogs to pyramids. This is an advisable purchase for your poetry section.

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Grace & Katie by Susanne Merritt - OPTIONAL

Grace & Katie by Susanne Merritt, illustrated by Liz Anelli. PICTURE BOOK. EK Books (Exisle), 2017. $18. 9781925335545

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Grace and Katie are twins who share the love of drawing. But while Grace favors straight lines, squares and angles, Katie favors patterns, squiggles and swirls. One day, Grace decides to draw a map of their house. When Katie wants to help, Grace bluntly refuses, so Katie draws a map of her own. As they stand back to admire their own work, they both realize that something is missing, but it takes the other’s critical eye to spot what. Ultimately they realize that the best pictures are the ones drawn together.

Living in an apartment with a balcony that has an urban view and neighbors of various skin tones, Grace and Katie are fortunate enough to own markers and pens of all sizes and colors, rulers and protractors, large sheets and rolls of paper (plain and graph), and spacious flat surfaces on which to work. Their father is in the background in a few scenes working at his own drawing desk. The map and legend that Grace draws could be used to introduce a mapping lesson. This Australian import is visually delightful, the illustrator doing a good job capturing the two different styles of the girls, but it is less exciting narratively. I would recommend this as an optional purchase, to support your art curriculum or to illustrate different artistic styles.

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

South by Daniel Duncan - ADVISABLE

South by Daniel Duncan. PICTURE BOOK. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. $18. 9781419722998

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

A big-bellied, bearded fisherman hears a sudden noise and discovers an injured bird on his boat. He splints the bird’s wing, and then waits. There is nothing more to do. Even though he comes to love how the bird sings along with his banjo and tastes the fish each day, the weather turns cold and he knows his boat is no home for the bird. So he heads south.  

While most pages have few words, and some have none, they all have detailed illustrations full of hints about how this man’s solitary existence on a small boat contrasts to a huge ocean teaming with life. His gentleness with the wounded bird, and his willingness to go out of his way to take him somewhere safe, testify of his kind heart, but many things are left unanswered, and the ending is ambiguous. The story of friendship is clear, but the mood is more soberly pensive than joyfully relieved. Where is he heading now? Where is home? How long has he been away? Why has he stayed away? Questions such as these would start interesting conversations that could incorporate clues from the illustrations and the students’ imaginations.

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel by Charise Mericle Harper - ADVISABLE

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel by Charise Mericle Harper, 120 pages. CHAPTER BOOK. Houghton Mufflin Harcourt, 2017. $16.

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

June is the only one who can hear Sammy talk (her best friend who also happens to be her family's pet dog). Today they have their first ever mission – to find a new friend. When she receives a package from her grandmother containing a spinning wheel, and starts following the instructions for the first of six weeks of wondering activities, June finds new confidence. She reaches out to the new girl, Mae, who has moved in next door, and is determined to not let a classmate, April, intimidate her, even though April seems to want to keep Mae all to herself.

This making-a-new-friend story is narrated in June’s believable voice and has some unique details, like a dog only she can hear and understand. From her eye-rolling teenaged sister to her interactions in the classroom, this is a solid addition for your younger chapter-book readers. And since June only made it through the first week of suggestions on the Wonder Wheel, the door is open for future adventures with April, Mae, and June.

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

Escape from Funland by Bill Doyle - OPTIONAL

Escape from Funland by Bill Doyle (The Prize Winners of Peidmont Place, book 2), 200 pages. Random House, 2017. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cal has set up a mini fun house in his home’s leaky basement as part of his plan to convince his parents that their family should enter the Funland Fun House Makeover Contest. The Talaskas’ beloved family home is in serious need of repairs, but they don’t have the means to fix it, and are even considering selling it. Cal’s plan doesn’t go as planned, but gets the job done. His parents decide that the family should go for it. Working together, Cal, his younger sister and brother, and their parents first scrape together the required signatures, even when unexpected competition shows up. Then they spend a week at the Funland Amusement Park searching for a hidden treasure.

There are some funny scenes in this book that made me laugh out loud, but it’s a bit uneven. The plot moves along quickly, except when it doesn’t, and the multiracial Talaska kids are endearing, if a bit too precocious. Buy it if you have the first book in the series, have a strong demand for puzzle-solving stories, or want to add to a large humor collection.

P. K. Foster, teacher-librarian

NOW IN PAPERBACK: Next Wave and Beetle Busters = ESSENTIAL

NOW IN PAPERBACK

The Next Wave by Elizabeth Rusch and Beetle Busters by Loree Griffin Burns.  Houhgton Mifflin Harcourt.  REPRINT

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Two more of the Scientists in the Field series are now available in paperback.  At $10 each, that is a bargain!  You can read the original reviews using the links in the titles above.  I finally talked a couple of our 8thgrade science teachers to actually sit down with a couple of them and they fell in love.  Luckily I have the entire series in my school library so they could concoct and execute an entire class activity immediately!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

How to Be a Lion by Ed Vere - ESSENTIAL

How to Be a Lion by Ed Vere. PICTURE BOOK. Doubleday (Random House), 2018. $18. 9780525578055

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Everyone thinks that lions have to be a certain way, but Leonard is not fierce like excepted, instead he is gentle and thoughtful. He makes friends with a duck and likes to take quiet walks and think deep thoughts.  He even likes to write poetry.  When challenged for his way, he writes a poem that just may have the ability to change the world.

Leonard is a character to love.  He is gentle and has an important message to share with readers about just being ourselves. The illustrations are all monochromatic and stylized so they probably appeal more to a mature reader than a young reader.  

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah Ohora - ESSENTIAL

Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah Ohora. PICTURE BOOK. Dial (Penguin), 2018. $18. 9780735227910

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Two neighbors have cats that look the same and those cats are secretly friends. One day the cats get stuck in each others’ apartment when they intended to visit each other. Their owners suspect they don’t have the right cat now and go looking for them and end up finding not just their cats but a friendship in each other. 

This book has a little bit of everything is such a short story. It is a friendship story, an adventure story, a love story, and an animal story. This book also features apartment living, a single mom and a single dad, and main characters of color.     

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Team Players by Mike Lupica - ADVISABLE

Team Players by Mike Lupica, 291 pages. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Cassie Bennett is heavy into sports.  She is good at a lot of sports, but her favorite is softball.  She is a natural leader and her team, coached by her dad, could make it the play-offs and be on television.  Enter Sarah Milligan, an autistic girl who, while she has some mad skills, is also difficult to play with.  Cassie is sure she can make everyone on the team get along, but Sarah’s presence and Cassie’s involvement fracture the team.  Cassie’s friends, Teddy, Gus, and Jack are having problems with their team as well.  It would seem that team players don’t always play as a team. 

There are some great themes here, like inclusion, and differences, and what makes a friend. This book may give readers some exposure to autism and some of its manifestations, though autism varies wildly from kid to kid.  It is refreshing to see characters sincerely trying to do the right thing even if it costs them.  Though Cassie and her friends sometimes seem wiser than most adults, they have some great insights.  The book seemed a bit long, but probably because I was following the team drama instead of the softball plays.   All this book needs is the smell of popcorn to go with it.

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs - ESSENTIAL

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs, 272 pages.  Bloomsbury, October 2018. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

When Timber’s resident bullies send Nico’s drone off the cliff into perpetually foggy Still Cove, Nico is desperate to get his very expensive drone back.  When he braves the cliff, he falls and his friends follow Opal, who used to be Nico’s friend, over the edge to rescue him.  What they all find, however, is much more mysterious – a hidden island, with a central lake and a decrepit houseboat.  Even weirder, at the bottom of the houseboat is a slowly stirring pool.  When Emma touches it the strangeness factor goes through the roof!  

I don’t think you need to compare this to Stranger Things to get kids excited about this book.  They already like creepy, scary things, so they will be drawn in.  A good alternative to Goosebumps, with much better storytelling and a sequel, I am sure, is on its way.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

This Makes Me Angry by Courtney Carbone - ADVISABLE

This Makes Me Angry by Courtney Carbone, illustrated by Hilli Kushnir. EARLY READER. Rodale Kids, 2018. $14. 9781635650723

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE. 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

A young boy is having a rough day.  His little brother is bugging him and he spilled his milk at school. Not knowing what to do with his anger, he yells at his classmates and is sent to the principal. The principal teaches him how to draw a picture in a journal when he is angry and it works at calming him down. 

I have found that students tend to enjoy reading about other kids feeling strong emotions, making bad decisions, and then learning how they deal with it.  Anger isn’t a bad emotion, but what we do with it can be, making this an important topic for young readers. My only wish for this book is for it to have a few more suggestions on how to deal with anger.  One tool is good, but rarely enough.  

Reviewer: Jen W.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Pride by Ibi Zoboi - OPTIONAL

Pride by Ibi Zoboi, 304 pages.  Balzer + Bray (Harper), September 2018.  $18.

Language: R (67 swears, 8 ‘f’); Mature Content:G  ; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY:  HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Zuri is anxiously awaiting her older sister’s arrival home from college, but is distracted by the new occupants of the finally restored mansion across the street.  The brothers, Darius an Ainsley are fine specimens of manhood and their arrival has all 5 Benitez sisters, along with the entire Bushwick neighborhood in an uproar.  Zuri is not sure where these interlopers will fit in - their posh clothes and manners don’t seem real for this ‘hood and their white friends look down on everything around them.  But fate keeps bringing them together.

Oh Ms. Zoboi – how I wish you had just gone for your own story without being quite so faithful to the original.  Especially the names – Why keep the name Darcy? That jolted me right out of the story and every time I tried to reimmerse myself, it jolted me out again. While a student who has never read Pride and Prejudice may have an easier time of ignoring the reference, I think they will also not be as interested in actual story. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

This Makes Me Silly by Courtney Carbone - ADVISABLE

This Makes Me Silly by Courtney Carbone, illustrated by Hilli Kushnir. EARLY READER. Rodale Kids, 2018. $14. 9781635650754

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

A young girl goes to the zoo with her family.  In her excitement she starts to feel and act silly, sometimes disturbing the animals and others.  Her parents and the zoo keeper help her realize she is being disruptive and teach he some strategies for calming down. Ultimately she recognizes when she is too silly and uses her new strategies. 

This books is fun to read because of the bright illustrations and the comparison between the kids and the animals in the zoo. This book has breathing and counting strategies and demonstrates a child learning empathy.  While the characters and lessons are clear, the plot is a little circular and it is a bit of work to follow.

Reviewer: Jen W.

The Collectors by Jacqueline West - ADVISABLE

The Collectors by Jacqueline West, 384 pages.  Greenwillow, October 2018.  $17.

Content: G (some danger)

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Van, 12, has been pretty content following his opera diva mother around the world for her profession. One day, however, he runs into an abrasive girl, accompanied by a squirrel of all things, stealing coins from a fountain.  The next day he sees the same girl and squirrel – this time they seem to be working with a spider to steal a wish from a birthday party.  How can Van even see that wish?  He makes the quick choice to follow them and find out exactly what’s what. He doesn’t realize, unfortunately, that he is entangling himself in life and death circumstances.  
There are two sides to this particular quandary and neither side wishes to give Van all of the information that he needs in order to make good choices – choices that will either save the world or doom it.

Welcome Van to the list of reasonable heroic young boy main characters.  He’s no Alfred Kropp, but he compares favorably to Wayne Batson’s Door Within series or Jacqueline West’s Books of Elsewhere series.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon - ESSENTIAL

I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon. PICTURE BOOK. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. $18. 9781534410329

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

A little monster is so sad because he just ate his friend.  He goes on a hunt to find another friend but nobody (or rather no monster) fits the bill. He finally finds just the right friend and the result will make you laugh out loud. 

This is a short book with very few words and the second we finished it my kids wanted to read it a second and third time.  It’s funny in a slightly dark and quirky way that young reader love.  The illustrations are minimalistic like the text, but bright and welcoming.

Reviewer: Jen W.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray - ESSENTIAL

Defy the Worlds (Defy the Stars #2) by Claudia Gray, 465 pages.  Little Brown, 2018.  $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS – ADVISABLE; HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Noemi and Abel are separated by the universe and she tries to find a place again among Genesis’ protectors, even though no one trusts her, and Abel is always staying one step ahead of Burton Mansfield’s forces who are trying to capture him.  When Earth unleashes Cobweb on Genesis, Noemi is the only one immune, so she is sent to tender Genesis’ surrender – instead, Mansfield kidnaps her as bait for Abel.

You have to have read Defy the Stars in order to fully appreciate this next one.  It’s a bit more complicated, but the danger is as palpable.  The ending a bit obviously leads to a sequel, but I certainly don’t mind another!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

The Emerald Sea by Richelle Mead - ADVISABLE

The Emerald Sea (Glittering Court #3) by Richelle Mead, 479 pages  Razorbill (Penguin), 2018.  $20.  

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (some steam); Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Tamsin has pinned all of her hopes on going to the New World as the star of the Glittering Court and finding a rich husband who can also bring over her daughter Merry.  First though, she is betrayed when her roommate Adelaide wins the position of Diamond.  Then on the journey over the ship she is in is wrecked and it will take more than three months for the girls to make it to overland to Cape Triumph. Tamsin seems to be the only girl willing and able to organize things in their favor.  In order to succeed, however, she must make nice with the trader Jago, whose only interest is profit.  When things between them start to heat up, she will have decide how much of her dream she is willing to sacrifice.  Who actually holds the key to her heart.

While Mead’s Glittering Court world is entirely fictitious, its odd having a fantasy book without any sort of magic.  For your students who love The Selection series, however, this is a next great choice. Tamsin is resourceful, clever, and ore than willing to defy man or woman in order to do what is right – not just what is expected.  It does drag a bit in some places, but the action in other parts more than makes up for it.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Walrus in the Bathtub by Deborah Underwood - ESSENTIAL

Walrus in the Bathtub by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Matt Hunt. PICTURE BOOK.  Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18. 9780803741010

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3) - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

This book is written in a very creative list form.  For example, the first line is, “Best things about our new house: 1. Big yard 2. Cool seagull nest 3. Giant bathtub.” The story is about a family who moves to a new house and finds a walrus in their bathtub. The walrus causes all sorts of trouble and after unsuccessfully trying lots of different ways to get the walrus out of the bathtub, they decide to move again. Before they have a chance to move, the walrus communicates that all the trouble he caused was just his way of trying to make them feel welcome, leading to a truce and ultimately a fun living situation. 

The illustrations in this book are pitch perfect with fun details, bright colors, and lots of energy. I loved the list formate of the book, although I think this lends itself better to kids reading it to themselves rather than being a read aloud book. The book also shows the entire family working together and collaborating through the whole thing, which is fun to see.  

Reviewer: Jen W.

The Starlight Slippers by Susan Maupin Schmid - ADVISABLE


Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Princess Mariposa is eagerly awaiting her real wedding day to her true prince, but in order to make everything special, she insists that she wants the Starlight Slippers described in Magnificent Wray’s writings.  Darling Dimple, however, would like to leave the slippers wherever they are, because she is sure that there is something magical and dangerous about them.  Only with the help of 100 dresses, and a bit from her friends,  will she be able to forestall dragon disaster.

Girls who love E.D. Baker will also love Darling and company.  I imagine that there is  at least one book coming, because Darling still has the mystery of her inheritance to solve. This would be a fun one as a bedtime family read!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian

Water Land by Christy Hale - ESSENTIAL

Water Land by Christy Hale. PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION. Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan), 2018. $18. 9781250152442

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Each page of this book has one word on it that corresponds to the type of body of water illustrated. The illustrations have physical cut outs that connect one page to the next. The bodies of water illustrated are a lake, bay, strait, system of lakes, gulf, island, cape, isthmus, archipelago, and peninsula. At the end of the book there is a fold out map that points out bodies of water around the world.  It also includes a more detailed description of each type. 

I thought this book was so cute and the information useful. I feel like I learned something new by having each body of water illustrated in this way. The educational value is high, but this book would have little interest beyond a formal learning situation. Illustrated in mostly yellow and blue, the lack of other colors may decrease reading enjoyment for some young readers, although this color scheme is appealing for adults.

Reviewer: Jen W.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett -- ADVISABLE

Mac Undercover (Mac B., Kid Spy #1) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Mike Lowery. 150 pages. Scholastic, September 11, 2018. $13.

Content: PG (several illustrations of beheaded historical figures)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (4-6) -- ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

When Mac Barnett was a kid, he entertained others with stories of his totally-true-and-not-made-up-at-all exploits as a spy. This is a recreation of one of those stories, complete with KGB operatives, a Game Boy, and karate-themed birthday parties. (It does, after all, take place in 1989, during Barnett's own childhood.)

The tale is zany and fun, filled with crazy exploits and humorous details. It would work well both for silent reading and as a whole-class read-aloud (with a projector to share the amusing illustrations).

Sydney G., K-6 Library Media Specialist

Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell - ESSENTIAL

Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell, illustrated by Richard Jones. PICTURE BOOK. Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House), 2018. $18. 9781524715182.

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Wednesday the Whale lives in a fishbowl in the middle of a city. Its the only place she has ever known and while life is fine, she occasionally catches sight of a bit of blue when she leaps high out of her fishbowl. The blue draws her in a way she can't explain. With the encouragement of a little girl, Wednesday finally leaps high enough to find her way out to sea and a home where she really belongs.

I really loved this story. Its simple, heartwarming, and has a beautiful ending. The illustrations--and especially the blue grey color palate--have a great artistic flair but perhaps will not be immediately appealing to young audiences. I imagine there are a lot of ways to use this book--the animal rights idea of whales belonging in the sea, the impact of one child on somebody's life, Wednesday taking charge and making a difference in her own life, etc. I also think it could be a great pick as a gift book to adults in your life who understand homesickness to any degree. It is an overall delightful book and one I will recommend highly to family and friends.

Reviewer: TC



Good Morning, Harry - Good Night, Daddy by Katy Beebe - OPTIONAL

Good Morning, Harry - Good Night, Daddy by Katy Beebe, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev. PICTURE BOOK. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2018. $16. 9780802854506.

BUYING ADVISORY: PRE-K, EL(K-3) - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

As Harry heads home for the night with his grandma, mother and younger brother, his dad is headed off to work in London. Their stories run parallel as Dad goes through his working hours and Harry gets ready for bed and sleeps through the night. When the morning comes, Harry is ready to start his day and Dad is home!

This is a nice, but unremarkable, story. The setting in England is fun for Anglophile parents, but will also make some of the story feel unfamiliar to American kids. I imagine the story could be a good pick for children who have a parent working a graveyard shift, but otherwise its fairly forgettable. The illustrations are very nice and I'd love to see more from the illustrator but this isn't a book you need to rush off and get for you library.

Reviewer: TC

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Button War by Avi - ADVISABLE

The Button War : A Tale of the Great War by Avi 240 pages Candlewick Press 2018 $17.

Language: G: (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 War Violence 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12-year-old Patryk lives in a small village in Poland in 1914. One boy, Jurek, is a bully and a trouble maker, after stealing a button off a Russian Soldier's uniform, he convinces Patryk and the other boys to have a button contest with him. Who can get the best button? The winner is the king. But when their village is attacked by the Germans, and war comes to their town, the stakes get higher - is a button worth risking your life for? 

This took a bit to get into - it never really said it was at the beginning of WWI, and perhaps some historical background knowledge would have been helpful. The action is intense and scary - much of it happening at night; young boys doing dangerous and stupid things, but once the story was established, it was hard to put down. I'm not sure about the cover - I will have to recommend this to the right kids to get it read. I really enjoyed it, I hope the kids will. Maybe too graphic for elementary - lots of dead body descriptions.

Lisa Librarian

Food Truck Fest! by Alexandra Penfold - ADVISABLE

Food Truck Fest! by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Mike Dutton. PICTURE BOOK. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018. $18. 9780374303181.

BUYING ADVISORY: Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

There is a food truck festival planned in town and chefs and families alike are excited to attend. As the family readies themselves for a day out, the chefs are prepping their trucks and getting ready to roll out. Once arrived, everybody has a great time trying different foods (falafel! waffles! kimchi tacos!) from the plethora of food trucks gathered.

This is the most hipster picture book I have reviewed this year and I didn't hate it. The rhyming text is solidly written and makes this a really fun book to read aloud. The pictures are brightly colored and the story is simple enough for any kid to follow and enjoy. Its a very timely book with the explosion of food trucks all around the country, but I don't feel like its got the staying power of a classic. Still, it could be a big win for hipster parents and elementary kids who want to be hipsters too.

Reviewer: TC

Monday, July 9, 2018

Geeky F@b 5: It's Not Rocket Science by Lucy and Liz Lareau - OPTIONAL



Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (bullying). 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL – OPTIONAL. 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE.  

Lucy and her sister Marina are new at Earhart’s Elementary.  When Lucy falls off the monkey bars because they are broken, the school has to shut down the playground because it is unsafe.  Lucy makes three new friends and together with her sister Marina they have a fundraiser.  When the friends use their different talents together they are able to raise enough money and build a new playground.  

I liked that this book showed it’s possible for kids to get behind a cause and work together to make a change.  The friends are kind to each other and are positive examples.  The illustrations are comic book style and appealing, which is what will draw most kids to this book.  That said, the overall story line was kind of boring. The characters aren’t very memorable and I’m okay if I don’t read anymore about this group.  

C. Peterson.

Almost Paradise by Corabel Shofner - OPTIONAL

Almost Paradise by Corabel Shofner, 293 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. $17. 

Language: G (1 swear); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ruby Clyde is a twelve-year-old who has been uprooted from her home by her mom’s boyfriend, Catfish.  Ruby Clyde wishes that her mom would stand up to her boyfriend, and take them back home, but her mother hasn’t been much of an adult for most of Ruby’s childhood.  When Catfish robs a convenient store, Ruby’s mom is arrested for being an accomplice.  Ruby Clyde hides in the bushes and has to find a way to her mom’s sister Eleanor, who is a nun, so she won’t get taken to an orphanage.  

This story has a unique and unpredictable story line that I enjoyed.  The minor characters are great and Ruby Clyde’s mature look on imperfect relationships is endearing.  I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen to Ruby, her mother and her aunt Eleanor.  I think kids would like this book if they could get pass the cover which seems geared towards much younger readers.  Ruby is twelve, but her voice isn’t consistent with her age-sometimes she seems younger and sometimes older.  The violence is PG because Catfish is shot in the leg during the armed robbery.    

C. Peterson.