Sunday, December 8, 2019

More to the Story by Hena Khan - ESSENTIAL

More to the Story by Hena Khan, 257 pages. Salaam Reads (Simon & Schuster), 2019. $18. 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Little Women gets a makeover in this modern adaptation about four Pakistani-American sisters growing up in Atlanta. Jameela is the second oldest sister, reprising the main role of strong-willed Jo. The other sisters are responsible, kind Maryam, shy, sweet Bisma, and messy, bratty Aleeza. Jameela has a lot to contend with. Her father has taken a job overseas and her British male cousin has moved in with her aunt and uncle. She throws herself into her leadership role with the school newspaper, but even that has complications since she and the editor don’t see eye to eye. Then comes Bisma’s cancer diagnosis which forces everyone to come together for something bigger than themselves.

This is a well-written book. The characters have distinct personalities that are clearly modeled after the original Little Women sisters. This would be an excellent selection for a compare/contrast study of a classic and its modern adaptation. The need for school libraries to provide books for their immigrant populations and enlighten all students about cultures around the world make this book a must. It effectively provides a glimpse of the Pakistani heritage, culture and religion, and what it's like to be of non-European descent in America.

Reviewer: Valerie McEnroe, MLIS

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Small Zombie Problem by K. G. Campbell - OPTIONAL

A Small Zombie Problem by K. G. Campbell, 229 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2019. $17. 

Language: G Mature Content: G Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

August DuPont lives with his Aunt Hydrangea in a dilapidated house in a Louisiana swamp. His aunt's phobias have kept him inside his whole life. He's never spoken a word to anyone other than his aunt. This all changes the day he receives a letter from his Aunt Orchid requesting a visit. Traveling to her house, he ventures into a graveyard where a tremendous racket erupts from one of the tombs. He hightails it to his aunt’s house where she recounts the story of a missing family heirloom with unusual powers. She wants his help finding it. Walking home, past the graveyard, he encounters the aftermath of the earlier ruckus. He has unknowingly created a small zombie problem.

Campbell is a definite talent. August DuPont is like no other character out there. I love how strange and unusual this story is. The illustrations are worth mentioning too. So delightful. The overall "feel" of the story is similar to The Inventor's at No. 8 and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. The characters represent the ultimate in quirkiness. Consider this book for avid readers who go for the unusual.

Reviewer: Valerie McEnroe, MLIS

Friday, December 6, 2019

CATCH UP ON THE PODCAST

CATCH UP ON THE PODCAST:

A new episode of the podcast is available now on iTunes and Spreker.

Start at the SHOW NOTES page and listen to our favorite 30 books from August and September. We found some cute new board books with interactive parts, a couple of new Christmas picture books, several non-fiction gems for all ages and novels of all sorts of genres and age levels.

Memento Mori by John Esposito - OPTIONAL


Content: G (mildly scary)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Amicus Arcane is ready to retire from his position as librarian in the Haunted Mansion, so he decides to invite a dry special guest - Prudence Pock, a horror writer who doesn’t actually realize that she is already dead.

If you have students who have devoured the other Haunted Mansion books, then by all means buy this to, hopefully, complete the set.  Otherwise, I have become pretty tired of the inside jokes and my husband will tell you that I LOVE the Haunted Mansion.  This has gone on long enough.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad - OPTIONAL


The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, 416 pages.  Scholastic Press, 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVEARGE  

Fatima was rescued as an orphan and infused with djinn power, which goes unrecognized by her adoptive human family.  When a new ruler is established in the city of Noor, a shift of magical power happens among the djinn who protect the city, and Fatima finds herself in possession of fire power.  The leader of the djinn, Zulfikar, is drawn by Fatima and her power and together they must try and protect the many different people in the city of Noor.  

Fatima is a lovable, strong woman whose sad story is infused with power and magic.  The story includes familial bonds, romance and political intrigue within a world of desert magic.  I was satisfied with the telling, but sometimes got lost among the Muslim names (one character sometimes had multiple names) and terms (there is a glossary at the back).  The violent content includes poisoning, deaths and a sword fight.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.   

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Murder at the Rockport Limited (The Adventure Zone #2) by Clint McElroy et Al. –ADVISABLE


Murder at the Rockport Limiited (The Adventure Zone #2) by Clint McElroy et Al.
215 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second, 2019. $27 Language: PG13 (6 swears); Mature Content: PG13 (Discussion of a Pleasure Room); Violence: PG13 (Murder).

BUYING ADVISORY: HS- ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

This series is based on a Dungeons and Dragons Podcast and is adapted here for a graphic novel format. In the second book the heroes and companions Taako, Magnus, and Merle are sent to retrieve a powerful artifact and find themselves on a railroad murder mystery. They meet a host of suspects from a grumpy wizard, a know it all kid, and a female wrestler with an ax. They must use their special abilities, their brains, and just luck to figure out the who done it and retrieve the artifact. They also have to fight monsters, deal with the narrator and mostly just deal with each other.

I am positive D & D fans would adore this book. Its filled with comedy, D&D references and game play style (like the narrator) and characters. I didn’t get to read the first book so I found this second book a bit confusing. I think the murder on a train thing with magical comedy is a great combo. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and would be a hit if your library has a group that loves D & D.

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Glitch by Sarah Graley –ADVISABLE


Glitch by Sarah Graley, 192 pages. GRAPHICNOVEL. Scholastic, 2019. $15 Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: MEDIUM

Izzy is a 14 year old who gets a new video game called Dungeon City and discovers that she can travel into the game. There she meets a new friend, a robot named Rae. There are a couple of problems with this new discovery; first of all, Izzy promised her best friend Eric that she wouldn’t play the game without her. Second, her new friend Rae is in danger, and only she can help. Now Izzy spends all night in the game and sleeps all day at school. Her friend Eric has certainly noticed the change, and when she decides to find out what is going on once and for all, she may be in worse danger than Izzy.

I think readers will be fascinated with the concept of being sucked into their favorite game. I liked that real time passes while she is there and that it has real world consequences –a great lesson for all gamers.  My favorite part was the friendship between the two girls, which felt very authentic. The adventure is engaging, fast paced, and interesting. The artwork isn’t my favorite but seems on par for what I see in many scholastic graphic novels, bright and expressive.

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal –OPTIONAL


We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. 472 pages, Farrar Straus Grioux, 2019 $19
Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG13 (implied intimacy); Violence: PG13 (mental/physical abuse, fight violence).

BUYING ADVISORY: HS  –ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Zafira has the ability to withstand the magical cursed forest called the Arz, there she hunts for food for her village. But the Arz is spreading and no one can withstand it but her. Also her hunting is not done by woman, so she must disguise herself.  Nasir is the Prince of Death, is the Sultan’s own assassin, but he is life isn’t his own, and he must deny his humanity in order to keep killing. A witch comes to both of them and offers them the chance to restore long last magic to the kingdom, which would destroy the Arz. A ragtag group gathers of would be heroes gathers on the island of Sharr, they face danger without and within their group.

Set in an ancient middle eastern style culture the author does a great job world building with cultural words, foods, and legends. With the character of Zafira, the modern oppression of women is addressed as she must hide that she is a woman in order to accomplish her hunting. The feeling of an epic hero adventure is presented, along with a love story. The only thing I did not enjoy was how long the story took getting to the actual adventure, I wish the portion that took place on the island of Sharr had been longer, especially getting to know the other heroes. The cover is very appealing and would certainly draw in readers.

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life by Kay and Moriarity - OPTIONAL

Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life by Jonathan Kay and Joan Moriarity, 180 pages. NON-FICTION. Sutherland House, 2019. $18.

Language: R (8 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jonathan and Joan are both passionate about board games. They have written and compiled a collection of independent essays about different lessons that we learn about society, history, economy, ourselves, and more from the games we play.

I found about half of the fifteen essays to be dry and difficult to read, but I enjoyed the others. Chapters 3 and 12 were my favorites because they discussed games that I loved growing up. While I am not as avid of a board-gamer as the authors of these essays, reading the last couple chapters about their favorite games makes me want to try new board games -- maybe I can still find a game that calls to me. The mature content rating is for mentions of rape and sexual abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons - HIGH

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons, 311 pages. PUBLISHER: Abbie Emmons, 2019. $8. 9781733973311

Language: R (95 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

What happens when life as you knew it is taken away from you? Weston and Tessa have both had this experience because of accidents that have taken away quintessential parts of themselves that made them who they are—legs and sight, respectively. But it’s during these points of life that they must make a difficult choice: how hard will they fight to live the lives they want?

Honestly, the romance is a little cheesy, and, at times while I was reading, I felt that Emmons was skimming over time and details that could have been expounded upon, but the meat of the story—the message—has hit me hard. Reading about Weston’s and Tessa’s experiences helps me feel like I can conquer the world—I want to be like them, to pinpoint the obstacles I let hold me back so that I can attack them head on. Right now, having just finished reading their story, I am seeing and feeling the world differently, and I never want that to go away. Emmons’s writing has changed me—and I hope it’s permanent. The only reason that this book is “optional” instead of “essential” is because of the swear count. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Princesses by Jeremy Whitley - HIGH

Princesses (Princeless Volume 8) by Jeremy Whitley, 128 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Action Lab Comics, 2019. $15. 9781632294852

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Princess Adrienne might be having amazing adventures, but her sisters are doing good in their spheres of influence, too! This graphic novel shows what each of Princess Adrienne’s sisters are up to and the various ways they are able to use their talents for the good of those who need their help.

This is the first volume I’ve read of the Princeless collection, but, after enjoying this one so much, I plan on going back to read the others. While I didn’t understand the occasional reference to Princess Adrienne, this volume can be read as a stand-alone to the rest of the collection. Whitley wrote fun stories for each of these characters, and several different illustrators kept the story visually engaging as well.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tell Me Another Story: Poems of You and Me by Emmy Marucci - OPTIONAL

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019. $20.

Language: R (9 swears, 9 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Marucci shares her thoughts on herself and others. She starts off talking about her thoughts on death and she loses loved ones, but her writing become poems about life, inspired by the loss of life she witnesses.

There were a couple of poems in the collection that I liked, but most of them just didn’t speak to me, which made it a chore to read through. I like the juxtaposition of life and death next to each other, being reminded of everything we have while we still breathe.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Not Hungry by Kate Karyus Quinn - ADVISABLE

Not Hungry by Kate Karyus Quinn, 200 pages. POETRY. West 44 Books, 2019. $20.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

June has a secret, one that makes her lie every day to keep hidden. One day, she isn’t as diligent about making sure she’s alone, and her new neighbor becomes witness to her secret. June’s world starts to change after that not-so-secret moment, but are things getting better or worse?

I love that June’s story is told through poems. I felt like I understood her thoughts better, that I could relate to her more, and that her emotions were better conveyed through poems than they would have been through a traditional novel style. This story is one of secrets and lying, of perception and judgement, and of courage and love. I was surprised by how much I like it, not expecting it to touch my heart like it has.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, November 29, 2019

Overview YRE by Benjamin Grant and Sandra Markle - ESSENTIAL

Overview: A New Way of seeing Earth: Young Reader’s Edition by Benjamin Grant and Sandra Markle, 148 pages. NON-FICTION. Crown (Random), 2019.  $25. 9781984832023

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Grant, with the help of Markle, has brought us a beautiful book of satellite images, showing the amazing world in which we live. If this is the young reader’s edition, I need to get my hands on the original version also! I will be showing this to our geography teachers.  I can imagine showing a picture each day and having the students speculate what they are looking at - simple, but powerful.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Deborah by H.B. Moore - ADULTS

Deborah by H.B. Moore, 232 pages. Covenant Communications, 2019. $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULTS

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Deborah was the fourth -- and only female -- judge of Israel and is called a prophetess in the Bible. With so little known about her life, Moore offers this book as a suggestion of what Deborah’s life might have been like as she was prepared to help the Israelites battle the Canaanites for their freedom.

Moore brings these little known historical figures to life in this captivating story that makes readers remember that Bible characters were real people, too. While it’s very possible that none of Moore’s imaginings really happened, I found myself very invested in Deborah’s and Barak’s lives as they faced fear and difficult choices. Even knowing how the battle would end, I was hanging on to every word of the story. Reading the Biblical account and believing the Bible to be true are not prerequisites to enjoying the hopeful tale of Deborah and her people. The mature content rating is for mentions of rape.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

You Do You: Figuring Out Your Body, Dating, and Sexuality by Sarah Mirk - ESSENTIAL

You Do You: Figuring Out Your Body, Dating, and Sexuality by Sarah Mirk, 120 pages. NON-FICTION. $38. Twenty-First Century Books (Lerner Publishing Group), 2020. $38 (library binding).

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

The changes that our bodies go through are uncontrollable, and there are more options and opinions about those changes and sexuality today than has been socially acceptable before. In this book, Mirk discusses the topics that have been stigmatized to the point that those going through changes (or are years past it) are afraid to even ask questions like “what is normal for my body?” and “how much intimacy do I have to give in a relationship?” However, Mirk tells her readers that their first questions need to be “what are my values?” and “what am I comfortable with?”

Years past puberty myself, I still felt empowered by the knowledge and encouragement Mirk gives readers. Mirk does a good job of giving all the facts without opinion or judgement, simply giving readers the knowledge they need to make choices that are best for them. That being said, this book has a very liberal outlook that is not pushed but is definitely in the background -- and that’s a good thing. A conservative book about sexuality would leave readers, especially those still struggling with changes, with more questions. Mirk’s approach feels like a safe place to have questions and learn.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith - OPTIONAL

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith, 320 pages. Inkyard Press, 2020. $19.

Language: R (142 swears, 43 swears); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

For Divya, video games aren’t just for fun -- streaming for her channel and sponsorships help her and her mom pay rent. Even though she has been very careful not to put personal information online, Divya is being attacked by trolls both online and in real life. How do you fight back against anonymous and dangerous foes?

Smith raises a lot of issues through this story that we all need to be more aware of, including how online safety is huge and you can take precautions to protect yourself as well as the seriousness of online harassment and hating. I loved reading this book because the characters felt so real with legitimate concerns and rationalizations that make sense, and they illustrate how much people can be hurt by what goes on online. The people online are people in real life, and no one has the right to hate on them, drag them down, or hurt them. I would more highly recommend this book if there wasn’t so much unnecessary swearing because I think most people would benefit from reading a new perspective of how online actions impact real life. That being said, I don’t feel like the ending gave very much closure to the issues; I was left wondering if everything was really resolved, which could’ve been purposeful to create discussion about what happened but seems unnecessary after everything that happened in the story, if that is the case. The mature content and violence ratings are for both sexual and non-sexual harassment and for malicious intent.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Traitor's Kingdom by Erin Beaty - ADVISABLE


The Traitor’s Kingdom (The Traitor’s Circle, #3) by Erin Beaty, 391 pages. Imprint (MacMillan), 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (43 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Ambassador Sage has more experience and knowledge of the Demora and surrounding kingdoms than most of its political advisors.  So, when there is an assassination attempt on a new queen, Sage must use her experience and trust her instincts to protect the different kingdoms from going to war while at the same time flushing out those who wished the queen dead.  Sage also has to work through her relationship with her fiancĂ© Major Alex Quinn and decide if what they have can work with each of their political positions.  

I really enjoyed this entire series, and this is a satisfying conclusion.  Sage is strong and smart and trusts herself even when others push her buttons.  The well-paced plot and mystery kept my attention and the fun romance between Alex and Sage was entertaining.  The content includes off page sex and battle fighting.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Frankly in Love by David Yoon - OPTIONAL


Frankly in Love by David Yoon, 406 pages.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin), 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: R (100+ swears; 100 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Frank Li falls in love with a girl from school named Brit.  Brit is fantastic, the model girlfriend, but the only problem is that she is white, and Frank can’t bring her home to his Korean parents.  Frank’s parents have disowned Frank’s sister because she didn’t marry a Korean, so he can only imagine what they would think if he brought Brit home.  Frank hatches a plan with his Korean friend, Joy, and they pretend to date each other so their parents will let them go out with their real boyfriend and girlfriend.  Frank and Joy start to build a relationship, and they both start to realize that they can’t always control who they love.  

I enjoyed how Yoon explores the cultural complexities of Frank’s character.  Although Frank seems desperate for a girlfriend, I did like his character and his banter with Joy was hilarious.  The main reason I can’t recommend this book for school libraries is the over-the-top swear count.  It’s distracting and consistent.  Other content includes crass sexual discussions, potty humor and off page sex.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Antiquity’s Gate: Three Days till Dawn by R. F. Hurteau - OPTIONAL

Antiquity’s Gate: Three Days till Dawn by R. F. Hurteau, 432 pages. Publisher: R. F. Hurteau, 2019. $14.

Language: PG (8 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Therans, an elflike race, rule the colony Sanctuary, a dome located in Antarctica that makes living possible for the Therans, humans, and Halfies. Though the people are currently surviving, the humans and Halfies are not living. Several humans and Halfies are ready for a change, and the opportunity to do something is now but as risk of their lives—will they even try?

The story was not nearly as interesting as I wanted it to be when I started, and reading became a chore. Eventually, about halfway through, the story became more interesting and engaging, and the last chapter was definitely the best—though not knowing if I was moving forward or backward in time with each new chapter often disoriented me. In the end, I’ve decided that it was a good read because I enjoyed the last half as well as the discussions of humanity and who deserves to be treated like a person that this book inspired.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

I’m Stretched by Julia Cook - OPTIONAL

I’m Stretched by Julia Cook, 30 pages. PICTURE BOOK. National Center for Youth Issues, 2019. $10.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Between school and family drama and piano lessons and soccer tryouts, Henri is always in a flurry of motion. She’s stretched too thin and moving too fast; Henri knows that she isn’t doing her best in everything, but she also doesn’t know how to fix it! Help!

This is a book with an agenda: teach readers how to handle stress effectively. I love how I could feel the stress and anxiety through the illustrations of the first half of the book and how those feelings were soothed and resolved as Henri’s mom taught both Henri and readers how to work with their stress. This short story is a great tool for proactively teaching stress management.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Lettering for Absolute Beginners by Danielle Stringer - NO

Fox Chapel Publishing, 2020. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Stringer was a beginner at lettering not too long ago herself, and she’s never taken a class in lettering. Her love for and success with lettering drives her desire to teach others who may want to learn how to write more creatively.

I love how encouraging and upbeat Stringer is throughout her instructions. However, I feel that Stringer was very repetitive, going over the same tips and processes with each project she suggested. Furthermore, teaching a skill takes a lot of practice, and I appreciate examples to see what I’m supposed to be practicing; Stringer did more telling than showing as she directed readers in the art of lettering, making it more difficult for me to follow along and want to practice.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Snug by Catana Chetwynd - AVERAGE

Snug by Catana Chetwynd, 129 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2020. $15.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Catana and John’s relationship is one that will have you fawning over each page -- sighing awwws aloud and making mental notes of #relationshipgoals. Each page is different glimpse into their cute and romantic relationship.

Each page of small and simple moments captured in comic form is adorable, and I enjoyed reading them as they made me smile and laugh and long for some of those elements in my own life. However, once I finished, I was a little disappointed that there was no story, no character development. This is simply a record of cute moments in a relationship.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Escape Manual for Introverts by Katie Vaz - AVERAGE

The Escape Manual for Introverts by Katie Vaz, 139 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL; ADULTS

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Vaz is an introvert, so she understands the struggle of maintaining relationships while minimizing social activity. In this humorous manual, Vaz gives both realistic and absurd suggestions for escaping unwanted situations where social interaction is necessary. Apply at your own risk.

This book was funny both because of the increasing ridiculousness of Vaz’s suggestions and because I recognized strategies that I have applied in my life. The struggle for introverts is real, and I think this book can elicit laughter from most readers, whether introvert or extrovert. What you see is what you get with this one: a quick read for a little laugh.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy - ESSENTIAL

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy, 336 pages. Balzer and Bray (Harper), 2019. $17

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Rahul, 12yo, spends his days as normally as he can - hanging out with his best friend Chelsea, avoiding Brent, the bully who enjoys tormenting him, being over-loved in a good way by his mom and all his Indian aunties, and dancing to old Bollywood movies with his Baha’i (grandfather). While he would rather be an athlete so that he could be popular like Justin (or maybe just be close to him), he is much more a mathlete, no matter how much he tries to avoid it.  Everyone around Rahul seems to have Rahul all figured out.  But how can they when Rahul himself has no idea, or isn’t ready to admit it.

I read this as an E-ARC, so I was surprised to find out that it is 300+ pages – it read super fast. Pancholy writes from his own heart and it shows on every page.  Rahul’s earnestness, his engaging family and friends, and the all too common bully shine through.  But, the heart of the novel – Rahul’s befuddlement at what people around him are referring to and his own final acknowledgement of his self are spot on. When Rahul admits to himself, his friends, his family, and even to his bully that he is gay, it is a sweet and tender moment that no one should object to.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Shuren - OPTIONAL

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Shuren 420 pages. Penguin Publishing, 2019. $15. 

Language: R; (minimal swearing, 5 Fs) Mature Content: R (cults, violence, forced marriage, suggested prostitution, underage sex); Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Miriam and Caleb, both 16, are members of a religious group that live off the grid in the California desert and devout their whole lives to their spiritual leader, Daniel. On the night of their Matrimony Celebration, the boys call out the girl’s name God has given them dreams to marry. Caleb is to call out Miriam, but newcomer, Aaron does first and everything goes wrong. Caleb begins to doubt his leader, Miriam begins to find her own voice, and Aaron and his family may have their own agenda entirely. 

The inner workings of a religious cult that Shuren creates are fascinating and I couldn’t put the book down. Miriam goes from one dimensional to complex and relate-able over the course of the book. The book switches back and forth between Miriam and Caleb and their confused perspectives as they try to work out what is going on. From Miriam’s perspective, all of the women in the book are suppressed and told they are without value and. slowly, slowly as she discovers that isn’t true and that people will try to silence and control things that scare them. As the mystery of  Daniel and what he has been doing behind the backs of his people for years comes out, the question of what will Miriam, Caleb, Aaron and the rest of the community do next and  will they be alright in the outside?

Dina W. - ELA teacher

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett - ADVISABLE


The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett, 370 pages.  Simon Pulse, 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: R (84 swears; 3 ‘f’); Mature content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Seventeen-year-old Theo has had an unconventional upbringing because her father, Richard Fox, is a treasure hunter, but when Theo’s mother passed away, Theo’s father became overprotective and now leaves Theo behind while he goes on adventures.  When Theo's old boyfriend, Huck, shows up and tells Theo that Richard Fox has sent Huck to protect Theo from dark happenings from his latest treasure hunt, Theo and Huck find themselves on the run.  The duo tries to uncover mysteries surrounding Richard’s whereabouts and the artifact he’s researching.  

I got totally pulled into this romantic adventure.  The artifact they are chasing is a ring that has history with Vlad the Impaler, making it dark and supernatural.  I loved the quick pace and the chemistry between Theo and Huck.

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Thurgood by Jonah Winter and Bryan Collier - OPTIONAL

Thurgood by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Bryan Collier NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Schwartz and Wade (Random), 2019.  $18. 9781524765330

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE; MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Together, Winter and Collier bring us a look into forces that shaped the life of Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. We also see the ways that he shaped the entire country as a civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court justice. 

While the circumstances are obviously simplified for the picture book format and audience, the author and illustrator still portray Marshall’s life and career with amazing depth. More for upper elementary, but would easily supplement a variety of middle school or high school classes.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian - OPTIONAL

How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian, 352 pages.  Algonquin Young Readers, 2020. $18.

Language: R (129 swears, 0 “f” + Spanish swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Izzy puts up a strong front to keep her home life and outside life separate, but she can’t keep it up forever. The carefully constructed partitions start to fail as good things enter Izzy’s life. Which is more important: her image or her happiness?

Readers have to get used to Padian’s fluid manipulation of the timeline, which I got annoyed with for a while in the middle of the book, but it all works out if readers stick with it. The ending tied up all the loose ends, but I wish that Izzy had been written to face the music regarding the last loose end that was tied up so that she could continue her character development. I felt like her arc was cut short by the easy out that Padian gave her.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe by Stacy King - ADVISABLE

Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe by Stacy King, 308 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Udon Entertainment, 2017. $24. 9781772940213

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This collection includes four short stories and one poem by Edgar Allen Poe, each illustrated by a different artist. These classics have new life breathed into them as the illustrators skillfully help readers visualize Poe’s works.

I feel like my mind is blown and my understanding is expanded every time I read a Manga Classic. My favorite of the works in this collection is The Raven because it was a poem that I had a hard time relating to in high school. Reading it in this context, I feel like I understand Poe and he understands me – separated through time as we are. The mature content and violence ratings are for the Poe-ness of the stories, including murder and ill intent that is presented as a solution to problems.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Watch Over Me by Mila Gray - NO

Watch Over Me by Mila Gray, 352 pages. Simon Pulse, 2019. $19.

Language: R (140 swears, 17 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Growing up in an abusive home taught Zoey to be paranoid and defensive all the time to take care of her loved ones. But she let her guard down because they were supposed to be safe – there was no warning that her father got out of jail early on parole. Running from him once more, Zoey wonders if her family will ever be safe and if she’ll ever be free from fear.

Zoey’s story is fine, though a little predictable. Watch Over Me has the tells of being a standalone romance in a series of connected characters with background information alluded to as Easter eggs for those who read the books in order (it is not necessary to read the others to follow along in this one). I’m not a fan of the execution of Zoey’s story because of the unnecessary foul language and the detailed sex scenes, but, even without those parts, this book isn’t one that needs to read. The mature content rating is for sex, other sexual activities, and sexual assault; the violence rating is for domestic violence, gun violence, and attempted murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Manga Classics: The Jungle Book by Crystal S. Chan - OPTIONAL

Manga Classics: The Jungle Book by Crystal S. Chan, 327 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Udon Entertainment, 2017. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Despite the impression given by Disney’s movie with this same title, The Jungle Book is about more than Mowgli and his jungle adventures. Seven stories are contained between these covers, with three about Mowgli and the other four about different animal heroes.

I was disappointed to not be as enchanted by this manga classic as I have been with the others I’ve read. While I did like learning about the original story of Mowgli, I found several of the other stories to be confusing, especially regarding their main points. Also, this classic adaptation has a different illustrator than the other adaptations I’ve read, and I don’t like the style of these pictures as much. Overall, I like the opportunity to read a classic in the more approachable context of a graphic novel, but, in reading this version, I’ve decided that reading the original is unnecessary -- which is the opposite experience I’ve had with other manga classics.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Homerooms and Hall Passes by Tom O’Donnell - ESSENTIAL

Homerooms and Hall Passes by Tom O’Donnell, 352 pages. Balzer and Bray (Harper), 2019. $17

Content: G (some violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

When Vela (paladin), Thromblurr (barbarian), Sorrowshade (assassin), and Devis (thief) aren’t busy out on adventures defeating evil doers and discovering treasure, they can be found once a week playing Homerooms and Hall Passes with their Hall Master, Albiorix (apprentice wizard).  Each week he takes them through the halls of J. A. Dewar Middle School where they have to game their way through such challenges as pop quizzes, study hall, and lunch. Midway through their latest game, however, Albiorix has a hiccup of mismanaged magic and the five friends find themselves propelled through a dimension - into JADMS as their middle school characters - Valerie (overachiever), Douglass (nerd 8th class), Melissa the loner, Stinky (background unknown), and what character should the Hall Master be? He doesn’t even have a character sheet!  Now they must play their way to success for real.  And they have no idea what the consequences will be if they don’t succeed.

You should buy this book and also The Game Masters of Garden Place by Denis Markell – they are two of a great kind. Fun all around, especially for budding Dungeons and Dragons fans who may have watched Stranger Things and become hooked. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS