Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Hotel Between by Sean Easley - OPTIONAL

The Hotel Between by Sean Easley, 352 pages. Simon Schuster, 2018. $16.99. 

Language: G, Mature Content: G, Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS – OPTIONAL.

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Walking home from school Cam happens upon a glamorous hotel in an otherwise empty strip mall. The emblem on the door matches the coin given to him by his father before disappearing many years ago. Cam knows there’s a connection between the hotel and his father’s disappearance. When Nico, the bellboy, invites him into the Hotel Between, Cam has no idea what awaits him. The hotel itself is an intricate layout of corridors and doors that enable guests to move between countries instantly. But the hotel is losing its magic and doors are disappearing. Cam wants to help, but he doesn’t know who he can trust. He must go with his gut and take a risk, if there’s any chance of finding his father.

The book cover alone will make you want to read this book. It’s gorgeous and the first few chapters will capture your interest. However, once the hotel becomes the focus, things get confusing. The hotel layout, hinge and pin doors and a concept called binding never did sort themselves out in my mind. This is one of those books that requires you to pay attention. Middle grade readers may have a tough time with the abstract concepts.  

Reviewer: Valerie McEnroe, Media Specialist

More Deadly than War by Kenneth C. Davis - ESSENTIAL


More Deadly than War by Kenneth C. Davis, 291 pages.  NON-FICTION  Henry Holt and Company, 2018.  $20.  

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

This book takes a look at how the Spanish Flu affected the outcome of World War I.  The Spanish Flu was called many different names as it affected people throughout the world, but the death toll was the highest since the Black Plague.  As soldiers were going off to war, they infected each other in training camp and as people came to celebrate in parades.  Within the cities in the United States, people didn’t know how they were spreading the disease, so it continued to grow.  The flu came in three different waves and the world since has learned many ways to help prevent the spread of epidemics.  

I couldn’t put this book down.  It has fantastic illustrations and reads quickly.  The author explains not only what happens here in the United States, but in other places as well.  He includes human interest stories, comparable epidemics throughout time and predictions as to how specifically the flu effected the end of the war.  The mature content is the descriptions of death and other war violence.  

C. Peterson    

Trouble Never Sleeps by Stephanie Tromly - ADVISABLE


Trouble Never Sleeps (Trouble is a Friend of Mine, #3) by Stephanie Tromly, 300 pages.  Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin), 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (30 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Zoe and Digby are still trying to find Digby’s sister who was kidnapped.  They have made a deal with a man who claims to know where Digby’s sister is, but first Zoe and Digby will have to break federal laws to trade information to get the location of Digby’s sister.  Also, there is a carryover problem with the football steroid situation and Digby and Zoe manage to find themselves in trouble again.  

I enjoy this series because of the funny dialogue and kooky behavior of the characters.  I like that this final book had resolve but wish there were going to be more books in the series because they are so entertaining.  The mature content is make-out sessions and the violence is physical fighting and impending violence.  

C. Peterson

Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species: Young Reader Edition adapted by Rebecca Stefoff - OPTIONAL

Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species: Young Reader Edition adapted by Rebecca Stefoff, illustrated by Teagan White, 170 pages. NON-FICTION. Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018. $26

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

The text of this long format book is an adaptation of Darwin’s writing, while the captions and notes in the columns are outside of Darwin’s voice and explain the concepts on that page. There are a lot of subheadings that break up the text and at least one illustration per spread. 

I have not read the original text, so I may not be the best judge of this adaptation, but I found it very interesting and readable. The text is appropriate for a fifth grade reading level - there are not a lot of big words, but there are a lot of big concepts. My main concern with this book is its size. It will take some time and work for a young reader to get through this book, but unfortunately it is not easily portable or easy to hold because of it’s size and shape. I also found the illustrations on the muted and bland size. 




Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly - ADVISABLE


Trouble Makes a Comeback (Trouble is a Friend of Mine, #2) by Stephanie Tromly, 298 pages.  Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin), 2016.  $18.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (38 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Zoe misses Digby ever since he disappeared after their kiss a few months ago, but she has decided to move on and has a jock boyfriend, two new besties, and a “normal” high school experience.  Except, Digby comes back and Zoe can’t help herself, she gets drawn into Digby’s mystery again.  Zoe and Digby along with their friends also come across a steroid drug problem within the high school football team and find themselves in the middle of that mess as well.  

In typical Digby and Zoe fashion, this book is full of laughs, suspense and a bit of romance.  I love this series because it makes me laugh and the story line is quick and unexpected.  Zoe and Digby are mini-Veronica Mars type teens and they manage to uncover the secrets others are trying to keep hidden.  The mature content is make out sessions and drugs and the violence is fist fights and attempted murder.  

C. Peterson  

Checked by Cynthia Kadohata - ADVISABLE


Checked by Cynthia Kadohata, 404 pages.  Atheneum Books (Simon and Schuster), 2018.  $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Eleven-year old Conor lives with his dad, who is a police officer, and a Doberman named Sinbad.  Their lives revolve around Conor’s AAA hockey practices and games and both Conor and his dad love it.  When Conor’s much loved Sinbad is found to have cancer, Conor tries to help pay for his treatment by picking up odd jobs.  Also, Conor’s dad seems sad a lot lately and Conor tries to figure out what that is all about.  Conor’s big dream is to play for the NHL and this book gives a glimpse into the amount of time, money and dedication an eleven-year old can put into sports.  A big part of the story is dedicated to Conor’s obsession with hockey but there are the side stories of his dad’s job and his dog’s sickness.  

I enjoyed reading this book because the characters were likable and the story was unique.  The violence includes recounting some of the police calls that his dad responds to.  I think boys who are into sports would enjoy this read.  

C. Peterson  

Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan - ADVISABLE

Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan 270 pages. Candlewick Press, 2018 $15.99.

Language: PG (6 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL , MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

On the night Mup's aunty dies, everything changes. A bunch of Raggedy Witches follow her and her mother home from the hospital. With no Aunty to protect them - even though she's hanging around as a ghost, strange things happen, like Mup's father disappears on his way home from work. The witches are certainly involved because Mup's mother is heir to the witch throne and they are trying to lure her back to that world. So, Mam bundles up Mup and Tipper (her baby brother) and they return to Witches Burrough to find dad and save the people from the tyrant queen (Mup's grandmother). 

Keirnan has created a great world - people can change into animals, magic is a group effort and it's hard to know who are the good guys and who to beware of. The action is exciting without getting too violent, it's a wonderful adventure with the children doing most of the on-page activity. Perfectly appropriate for upper elementary, middle school students will enjoy this as well. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Strange New World by Rachel Vincent -ADVISABLE


Strange New World (Brave New World, #2) by Rachel Vincent, 357 pages.  Delacorte Press, 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (12 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Dahlia 16 and Trigger 17 have escaped Lakeview, a cloning facility, and learned that outside of Lakeview clones are used as servants.  Dahlia also quickly learns that she wasn’t meant to be a clone, because there is a girl named Waverly who is considered an “individual” but is Dahlia’s clone as well.  Waverly is famous and Waverly’s mother will do anything to protect her daughter, but for health reasons Dahlia could be useful.  A bargain is struck that if Dahlia will help Waverly, then Waverly’s mother will protect Dahlia’s clones back at Lakeview, but as Dahlia becomes entrenched in Waverly’s life she realizes that not only are her clones not safe but neither are all clones.  

This sequel to Brave New World was well done and I enjoyed all the characters.  The dystopian situation of clones made me think about the value of being an individual.  The content is mild make-out sessions and the threat of violence.  Make sure you read both books in order, or this book will not make sense. 

C. Peterson        

Losing the Girl by Marinaomi - NO

Losing the Girl by Marinaomi, 269 pages. Graphic Universe (Lerner), 2018. $18. 

Language: R (5 swears); Mature Content: R (sex, pregnancy); Violence: PG-13.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – NOT RECOMMENDED

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

This graphic novel is written in four parts, each from the perspective of four classmates trying to navigate the awkward world of teen dating. Nigel wants to date Emily, but Emily is more interested in Ben. Ben doesn’t have much in common with Emily, but he goes out with her anyway. They awkwardly have sex and Emily gets pregnant. Emily encourages Paula not to break up with Darren, even though he doesn’t treat her well. On the periphery is the story of a missing classmate and speculation about what may have happened to her.

The cover suggests a sci-fi story. The four main characters look like aliens on the cover, but the alien theme is very much in the background. Each chapter has a different illustration style which is creatively interesting, but for me it felt disjointed and sloppy, especially Paula’s chapter. The characters are shallow and the plot leaves much to be desired. There’s no character growth or redeeming message at the end.

Valerie McEnroe, Media Specialist

Like Never and Always by Ann Aguiree - OPTIONAL


Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre, 335 pages.  Tor Teen (Macmillian), 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (125+ swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS- OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Liv and her best friend Morgan are in a serious car accident and when Liv wakes up she is inside Morgan’s body.  Liv’s own physical body is dead and Morgan is gone as well, so Liv has to figure out how to be Morgan.  Soon, Liv realizes that Morgan was keeping a lot of dark secrets as she was trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s death, so if Liv can’t keep ahead of the clues she doesn’t know what will become of her new life.  

I couldn’t put this book down.  At first it’s a little weird that they traded bodies, but the author does a great job building this story.  I enjoyed Liv, the mystery, and the romance.  The content is a high swear count, heavy make-out sessions that border on rated R content, drunk driving, suicide and a creepy relationship between a young teen and an older man.  

C. Peterson

The Sinking of the Vasa by Russell Freedman - ESSENTIAL

The Sinking of the Vasa by Russell Freedman illustrated by William Low, NON FICTION Henry Holt (MacMillan), 2018. $19. 9781627798662 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE;  MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

In 1628, the King of Sweden built a massive warship. At the time, Sweden was the most powerful country on the sea, so a ship of epic proportions was essential. But when the biggest sailing ship ever cast off on its maiden voyage (with over 100 sailors and their whole families on board) it barely made it out of dock before it tipped over and sank. 

Well told with a nice transition to modern day and the discovery and restoration. So beautifully illustrated. A great read for middle school, too. 

Lisa Librarian

Grump by Liesl Shurtliff - ADVISABLE


Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff, 295 pages.  Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2018.  $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE  

Borlen has always been drawn to the surface, unlike other dwarves who like to burrow deep into the earth’s surface.  Borlen always feels like a black sheep among other dwarves and it becomes more evident as he starts to work with a crew of miners, so when Borlen gets a chance to go to the surface he takes it.  Although there have been many warnings about the dangers of humans, Borlen is befriended by a queen who values his take on her kingdom.  As their friendship grows, however, Borlen realizes that the queen is wicked and he needs to try and keep other’s safe, even if the queen has an unforeseen power over him.  

I enjoyed this fun twist on Snow White.  Grump is an endearing character and to take the story from his perspective was entertaining and humorous.  I’m a bit annoyed with the rabbit on the front cover though, because Grump’s best friend is a bat and he’s adorable.  The best part of this book is the way the characters are seen from a different point of view and it would be fun to teach parts of this book in an English class. 

C. Peterson

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan - ADVISABLE

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. PICTURE BOOK. Calkins Creek (Highlights), 2018. $18. 9781629797182.


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: EL, MS - LOW

Lorraine is a young girl in 1968 Memphis when her father and other sanitation workers go on strike. The strike quickly becomes another piece in the Civil Rights movement taking place and Martin Luther King, Jr. even comes to hold a march and draw attention to their cause. While in Memphis for speeches and marches, Mr. King is assassinated by James Earl Ray. Shortly thereafter the federal government sends an official labor representative to negotiate an end to the strike.

This historical fiction picture book is based on the memories of an actual witness to the events of 1968 Memphis, and I liked the way the story was told from the perspective of a child. This is one of those picture books that is generally too long for a good read aloud but has a great story in it. I imagine this would be useful in social studies classes covering the Civil Rights movement--this is a story not as well known as Rosa Parks or Selma but just as important. Teachers might need to tell the story rather than read it as written, but the book would still be useful in a well thought out history lesson.

Reviewer: TC

Monday, October 29, 2018

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Hackl - ESSENTIAL

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Hackl, 240 pages. Random House, 2018. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Cricket’s grandmother died. Then her depressed mother left town. Then her father died. Now her aunt has conveniently forgotten her at Thelma’s Cash n’ Carry. There’s only one thing to do. Find her mother. She takes a few things from the store and hikes out to the treehouse her dad built near an old, abandoned town. She puts her survival skills to use and searches for clues that will lead her to a mysterious room of paintings her mother stumbled on many years ago.

This book covers many topics that will appeal to middle grade kids. It has adventure and survival on one hand, but a sentimental mother/daughter relationship on the other. Cricket’s mother is mentally ill, but Cricket still finds many things about her to admire. Despite all the tragedy in her life, Cricket is a strong, independent girl, a great role model. This author has a writing style similar to Leslie Connor and Sheila Turnage.

Valerie McEnroe, Media Specialist

Pass Go and collect $200 : The real story of how Monopoly was invented by Tanya Lee - ESSENTIAL

Pass Go and collect $200 : The real story of how Monopoly was invented by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno PICTURE BOOK, NON FICTION, Henry Holt (MacMillan), 2018. $19. 162779168X 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Who really invented the game "Monopoly?" Some say Elizabeth Magie did when she patented her game in 1904, others say Charles Darrow as he designed the current board and convinced the Parker Brothers to distribute it. Why is the board about places in Atlantic City? How has the game changed over the years? Everyone has played it, or at least heard of it, but do you know the history? 

Tanya Lee Stone has told a succinct and interesting history of the world's most famous game. A lot of text for a picture book, it still reads quickly. The illustrations are great and look like something out of the 1930s. Includes a list of trivia (do you know the name of Mr. Monopoly?) some Monopoly math questions, authors note, and sources. I've already shown this to my math teachers! A great non-fiction addition to your library. 

 Lisa Librarian 

Out of the Ice by Claire Eamer - ADVISABLE

Out of the Ice : How Climate Change is Revealing the Past by Claire Eamer, Illustrated by Drew Shannon, NON FICTION Kids Can Press, 2018. $18. 1771387319

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Global warming is melting the glaciers and permafrost revealing long frozen artifacts. Tools, clothing, animals and even ancient people are being revealed as the ice recedes. Radiocarbon dating helps us place the age of organic material, and tools and weapons found along side bodies and animal remains are rewriting history. 

 Short chapters make this so easy to read, illustrations are provided alongside photographs, and boxed text of "additional information" ties everything together. Includes a glossary, timeline, index and bibliography. This is a great springboard for a report on archaeology, climate change or global warming. 

 Lisa Librarian 

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes - OPTIONAL

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes, 267 pages. Random House, 2018. $16.99. 

Language: G, Mature Content: G, Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY:   EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

June loves to read. When her strict parents find her reading a book about witches, they take all of her books away and complain to the school. The school has the librarian and half the collection removed. Then the principal decides that all students must have their books approved and all books not approved will be confiscated. June begins borrowing books from the Little Free Library she passes on the way to school. Other kids find out and before you know it, she has her own library operating out of an empty locker. She's eventually caught and realizes it’s time to stand up for what she believes.

This book had a lot of potential. It tackles the issue of censorship, but loses the argument by exaggerating the case. There are three likable characters: June, her friend Matt and Ms. Bradshaw the librarian. The actions of all the others are so illogical or deplorable that it makes for a frustrating read. June is an admirable girl and is able to redeem the book. 

Reviewer: Valerie McEnroe, Media Specialist

FROM CINDY:  If you want to read an excellent version of this exact topic, try Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Sunday, October 28, 2018

If Polar Bears Disappeared by Lily Williams - OPTIONAL

If Polar Bears Disappeared by Lily Williams PICTURE BOOK, NON FICTION Roaring Brook Press, (Holtzbrinck), 2018. $18.00 9781250143198

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The sea ice is melting because of climate change. Polar bears depend on the sea ice for hunting, traveling, and caring for their young. Less sea ice means less habitat for the plants and animal that live in the polar regions; climate change affects all of them, seals, whales, shrubs, caribou, even lemmings. 

Williams text seems a little heavy handed - it has a disclaimer "The information in this book is a simplified description of a complex process", so be sure to read the author's note. Includes a bibliography, acknowledgements and additional sources. 

Lisa Librarian

Brooklyn House Magician's Guide by Rick Riordan - ESSENTIAL


Language: G(0 swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G; 

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Enter the fantastical realm of Egyptian mythology with Carter Kane and the magicians at Brooklyn House. Quizzes, stories and more about the Egyptian deities will prepare you for what is to come in the dangerous times ahead. I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun way to look at things considering I have read the Kane Chronicles series itself. 

Student Reviewer: Julia M.(10th grade)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

We Rise We Resist We Raise our Voices - OPTIONAL

We Rise We Resist We Raise our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, forward by Ashley Bryan. PICTURE BOOK. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018. $19. 9780525580423

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This book is offered, per the forward, as a safe place to unpack what it means to be a young person of color. The introduction makes reference the 2016 elections and how it was confusing to young listeners to hear speeches about “taking our country back” and how this book can offer hope in that confusion. The book then contains over twenty short pieces by a variety of authors, each accompanied by a piece of art by different artists. Some of the pieces are essays, some poetry, some lists and instructions, and some music. 

I want to clarify that the buying advisory may shift if you have a large population of students of color - it will appeal to those readers and offer community. It is a book that is politically charged, which is neither good or bad, but is something to be aware of. The art is appealing to younger readers with most of the illustration depicting elementary aged children, but a majority of the writing, especially the poetry, is a for a slightly older reader. 


Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

The Legend of Greg; An Epic Series of Failures by Chris Rylander - ADVISABLE

The Legend of Greg: An Epic Series of Failures by Chris Rylander, 338 pages. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018. $16.99.  

Content: Language: G (no swears; no f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVIOSRY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Greg thinks he is just unlucky. In fact, as far back as his family can remember they have been unlucky - especially on Thursdays. He lives in modern Chicago, just a normal kid who somehow got a scholarship to a high class private school. He rides the city bus and lives a life of quiet drudgery. Greg thinks it is just bad luck until his father is snatched out of his specialty tea shop in downtown Chicago by a strange man and a mountain troll. Then Greg is taken underground and informed he is a Dwarf. His only friend at his snobby private school is an elf, sworn enemy of the Dwarfs.  Greg sets out on a quest to find his dad, and maybe destroy civilization.  

This is a fun book, Rylander has introduced a well-crafted world and it’s a refreshing change to read about an unlucky hero from an unlucky bunch of negative attitude dwarves. I carefully read the introduction and didn’t start reading the book on Thursday, so maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Older elementary and Middle school readers will enjoy it, just don’t start it on Thursday!

L. Moeller English Teacher and Librarian

Lights! Camera! Alice! by Mara Rockliff - ESSENTIAL

Lights! Camera! Alice! : The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Simona Ciraolo, PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY, Chronicle Books. 2018. $18. 1452141347

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Alice Guy Blaché is one of the world's first movie makers. She worked for a camera company and was allowed to make movies after hours which she used to demonstrate the new motion picture camera. Soon her films became a huge success in France. One of the first pioneers of motion pictures, she is little known - mostly because she was a woman. She made hundreds of films in America and even more in France. 

Formatted like a silent movie, in frames and short ideas - sprinkled with French and title cards this was a delight to read. I want to know more about Alice! Good thing the author has included a short author's note, bibliography, articles and movies. A fun read for a theater or film study class, or a lesson in social justice. 

 Lisa Librarian 

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - ESSENTIAL

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave,  235 pgs, Alfred A. Knopf (Random), $16.99 

Language: G(0 swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Amihan grew up on the Philippine island named Culion Island, a leper colony. Her own mother is a leper, but Ami is immune herself. When the Philippine government comes to the island and sets up a new system of government there, Ami is taken away to the mainland. It is there she meets Mari and they form a plan to get back to Culion. Will they find a way back, or be forever lost in the turmoil of life?

I loved this story is was a touching story about the value of home and the meaning if family. Mature content is PG because it dies talk about leprosy a lot and children being taken from parents. 

Student Reviewer: Julia M(10th grade)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Raise the Flag: Terrific Flag Facts, Stories, and Trivia! by Clive Gifford - ADVISABLE

Raise the Flag: Terrific Flag Facts, Stories, and Trivia! by Clive Gifford, illustrated by Tim Bradford. PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION. QEB Publishing (The Quarto Group), 2018. $15. 9781682973387

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This book is divided up into bite size pieces of information on flags. No topic in this book takes more than a two page spread, making all the information short and concise. Some pages tackle the design of the flag, while others cover the history of certain symbols used on flags. There are pages on the history of flags and pages with geography and corresponding flags. The book contains some photography, but mostly illustrations. 

This reads like a basic trivia or fact book, but with more depth, given it is all one topic - flags. My favorite pages were the pages on flags that look similar and why that is and what sets them apart. I never felt like I got a handle of the organization of the book since the maps and corresponding flags are spread out and interspersed with history and descriptions. That inability to organize myself was not a deal breaker for enjoyment. Since it reads so much like a fact book, that flow was unnecessary.  


Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Picturing America by Hudson Talbott - ADVISABLE

Picturing America : Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art By Hudson Talbott PICTURE BOOK, Biography, Penguin Random House, 2018. $18. 9780399548703

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Thomas Cole loved to draw. He and his sister walked all over the hillsides in England drawing everything they could see. In 1818 his family moved to America, and Thomas learned to paint, making beautiful landscapes. No one painted like Thomas Cole. 

This picture book biography is stunning. Talbot has incorporated Cole’s art, and seamlessly tells the story while introducing and explaining his works. So accessible to young readers, I’m showing this to my art teacher. 

Lisa Librarian 

Everything Else in the Universe by Tracy Holczer - ESSENTIAL

Everything Else in the Universe by Tracy Holczer, 252 pgs, G. P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin), $16.99 

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

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lucia Mercedes Evangeline Rossi and her father have always been a team, until he is drafted to Vietnam and comes back with no left arm. Lucy is determined to do anything for her father, but he has become moody. In her loneliness, Lucy meets Milo, a boy with a secret, and together they dig up a Purple Heart in Lucy's backyard. What follows is the unraveling of a mystery. The biggest mystery, however, is the question as to whether Lucy’s father will ever come back to her. 

This was a sweet story of family cares and issues. Lucy's courage to push forward while her best friend, her father, is distant is admirable. Mature Content is PG because there is talk of the issues of an amputee war returner. 

Student Reviewer: Julia M(10th grade)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

An Assasin's Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker - OPTIONAL


An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker, 373 pages.  Little Brown and Company, 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (27 swears; 5 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVIOSRY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Katherine’s life is turned upside down when her father is caught, and killed for practicing Catholicism in England during Queen Elizabeth’s Protestant reign.  Fleeing for her life, Katherine goes to London and connects with other prominent men who have secretly worshiped and she agrees to be a player in a plan to assassinate the queen.  Toby is a spy for the queen and catches word that there is going to be an attempt on Elizabeth’s life, so he devises a way to lure the assassins out through a carefully written play by William Shakespeare.  Toby and Katherine are both caught off guard when their paths cross and they realize their similarities and differences.  

My favorite part was the historical setting in this well plotted adventure.  Elizabeth and Toby were easy to like, and their predicament was like watching a trap close and you can’t figure out how it is going to end.  The violence is torture and gruesome deaths and the mature content is make-out sessions. I found the “f’ words a bit ridiculous as they don’t flow in the context at all.  

C. Peterson         

Persuading Miss Doover by Robin Pulver - ADVISABLE

Persuading Miss Doover by Robin Pulver, illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson, PICTURE BOOK Holiday House 2018 $18.00 978-0-8234-3426-8

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jack and Samir are in trouble again. Besides drawing a picture of the principal (which he found) they put a whoopee cushion on Miss Doover's chair. Now they don't get to sit together anymore. But wait! For writing workshop, Miss Doover has assigned a 4 sentence persuasive essay. Maybe the boys can revise their essay until it's perfect and persuade Miss Doover to reconsider the seat change.

Pulver has created great characters - the boys are delightful and I just love Miss Doover, always correcting their grammar, using fun vocabulary words like frivolous, and guiding them to write the perfect paper. Full of great writing advice, I'm handing this to my Language Arts teacher. Also, a fun shared read, because it is told in dialogue bubbles.

 Lisa Librarian

The Spirit of Cattail County by Victoria Piontek - ESSENTIAL

The Spirit of Cattail County by Victoria Piontek, 275 pgs, Scholastic Press, $16.99 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS - ESSENTIAL; EL - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Sparrow Dalton is the odd one out in her neighborhood. However, she is not friendless. She has The Boy to keep her company, a spirit that only Sparrow can see. So, when her mother dies, Sparrow believes she can bring her mother’s spirit back. When Sparrow is confronted with a difficult choice, she will have to choose between her happiness, and the happiness of another. 

I loved this book. It was a beautiful story of what it means to lose someone close and still find your footing in life. Mature Content is PG because it does talk about getting over personal loss and being alienated by those around you. 

Student Reviewer: Julia M(10th grade)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Holes in the Sky by Patricia Polacco - ESSENTIAL

Holes in the Sky by Patricia Polacco PICTURE BOOK, G. P. Putman's Sons ( Penguin Random House, 2018. $18.99. 978-1-5247-3948-5

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

After Patricia's beloved grandmother passes away, her mother moves the family to San Francisco. Patricia misses Babushka terribly, and is always looking for the promised sign that she is watching over her from heaven. San Francisco is in the middle of a draught, so when a boy her age (Steven) shows up on her porch with fresh flowers, she's excited to help him make may baskets and meet all the neighbors selling them with him, but still no sign from heaven, Steven's  grandmother, Miss Eula, gets the neighborhood involved in a community project - maybe Patricia will find her Babushka's sign as she helps revitalize an old garden. 

Patricia Polacco has the best stories! Remember Miss Eula from "Chicken Sunday?" Grieving is a sensitive subject, and Holes in the Sky has a beautiful message. An appropriate read through middle school. 

Lisa Librarian

Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty - ESSENTIAL

Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty, 327 pgs, G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin), $16.99 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH

Only Fallow believes lies to be beautiful. She has been able to see lies for as long as she can remember, but she has kept this talent of hers a secret. Until one night when her best friends were kidnapped and the kidnapper took that information back to the king. The events that follow take Only to the high court, a place full of deceit and those who know how to cover up a lie. 

This book was a lot of fun to read. I really enjoyed the small plot twists and the hint of romance. 

Student Reviewer: Julia M(10th grade)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The People Awards by Lily Muray - ESSENTIAL

The People Awards by Lily Muray, illustrated by Ana Albero, 76 pages. PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION. Lincoln Children’s Books, 2018. $20. 9781786030641

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

This book is a collection of more than thirty mini biographies of men and women who have had a positive impact on the world. The people range from athletes to inventors to teachers and most are well known figures from history as well as contemporary conversations. Each person is represented on a two page spread and has a short biography, four or five illustrations of important moments from their life, what award they are being given, and why they are being given that award. 

This book is effective because it is highly engaging aesthetically. The illustrations are cartoons, but realistic and done in muted colors. The part I predict will hook the most readers is the description of the award they are given and why. I was a little frustrated that the table on contents has page numbers for the different people, but the book doesn’t actually display page numbers throughout. I also thought the award for Beethoven was a mismatch for the tone of the book - “the bad-tempered musical genius award.” I’m not sure why they are awarding his ill temperament.  


Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

The Unwanted : Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

The Unwanted : Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown, 105 pages. NON-FICTION, GRAPHIC NOVEL Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. $18. 1328810151

Language: G (0 Swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: G Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS,  HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

The plight of the Syrian refugees is chronicled in this well researched, age appropriate graphic novel. Spanning from 2011-2018 we see that violence and fear has caused these people to abandon their homes and leave at great personal loss. Taken advantage of by smugglers, and unwanted by the countries they pass through and into, the families are living in refugee camps, hiding along the way, and drowning in the ocean with only a lucky few landing in a place they can live and work in peace. 

Don Brown is a master at taking something super complicated and paring it down to the essentials without losing the impact of the message (see Drowned City).  There were a lot of numbers thrown at us, but there are a lot of refugees. Brown is careful to not make it political or religious. A wonderful introduction to this terrible situation. Includes source notes and an extensive bibliography plus a dedication that made me cry.

Lisa Librarian