Thursday, February 28, 2019

North To Benjamin by Alan Cumyn - NO

North To Benjamin by Alan Cumyn, 291 pages. Atheneum (Simon), 2018. $18.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (Description of sex, sounds and smells); Violence: PG-13 (implied violence, reference to a "bloody knife" and other physical abuse)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NOT RECOMMENDED    

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Edgar and his mom move a lot. Sometimes he does not go to school because they are not in one place long enough and it is not convenient for his mom to sign him up for school and do all the required paperwork.  Edgar is abused and very frightened. He becomes so frightened of the new lives his mom will certainly ruin in their new city of Dawson, on the Yukon, that he loses the ability to talk. The only one he can communicate with is the dog, Benjamin, which he is looking after. When he starts school, his teacher is kind to him and really tries to help him. Caroline, his new friend, is still willing to be a friend and stands up for Edgar and tries to help him when he is severely bullied. Will Edgar be able to speak again in time to save him and his mother from the disaster that is coming?    

I had a hard time getting through this book - it goes on and on. However, the last part of the book finally sees something happening, other than Edgar being so frightened. Edgar meets some nice people, and his new teacher realizes something is wrong and she tries to help him. When help finally arrives, it is from an unexpected source. 

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

Powers of a Girl by Lorraine Cink - ADVISABLE

Powers of a Girl by Lorraine Cink, 141 pages.  Marvel Press (Disney Book Group), 2019. $16.99

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cink has put together mini biographies of super women found in the Marvel universe in a nonfiction style. Descriptions for each character share just enough information to make me want to read the comics to know these superheroes better. We often connect with superheroes because they are people, too, who make mistakes and experience hardships that require hard work to overcome. Each hero has lessons to teach us; lessons that, if taken seriously, help us to become heroes ourselves—everyday heroes. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Only Living Boy Omnibus by David Gallaher - ADVISABLE

The Only Living Boy Omnibus by David Gallaher, 416 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Papercutz, 2018. $24.99

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

After running from the hard things about his life that he didn’t want to face, Erik wakes up to find himself in a new world, one that is inhabited by many different humanoid species. In this new, motley world, Baalikar is intent upon destroying everything—and everyone—in pursuit of the knowledge and power he wants. Erik and his allies must decide whether to try fighting Baalikar and what is even worth fighting for.

As I read Erik’s story, I felt encouraged and empowered, even if the story didn’t feel like it flowed from panel to panel very well through the book. Trials are found in every life, though in different forms, and there comes a time when each of us has to decide whether to keep going no matter what or else let hardships overcome who you are. I find a lot of strength in the words that help Erik decide to not let his circumstances determine who he is: “Life is tough. But we are tougher.” (Also, the illustrations by Steve Ellis are stunning.)

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - HIGH

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 361 pages. Novel in Verse HarperTeen (HarperCollins) 2018 $18

Language: R (31 swears 2 'f'); Mature Content: R (teen sexual situations); Violence: G.

HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Xiomara Batista thinks no one hears her. Her mother only cares if she behaves and studies religion, her twin brother is busy with homework and school, she doesn't talk much and has few friends, so her teachers have few expectations.  But her junior year things start to change; she sits by a boy in biology, Aman, and they start to like each other - but Mami doesn't allow Xiomara to have a boyfriend and keeping that secret proves nearly impossible. Her Language Arts teacher has a Tuesday night poetry group - but Xiomara has to take confirmation class at the church that night, so Xiomara writes about her frustrations in a leather journal Twin gave her, but will she be brave enough to ever share her poetry with others? 

Oh my! Sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases, this amazing debut novel is poetry at its best. Although in occasional free verse, the cadence and rhythm begs to be read aloud. Elizabeth Acevedo is a slam poet and really knows her craft.  A beautiful read.

Lisa Librarian

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson - HIGH

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson 435 pages. HarperCollins Children's Books, 2018 $18.00

Language: R (97 swears, 29 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (Teen drugs and alcohol, sexual encounters) Violence: PG13 (abuse)

HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Claudia and Monday have been best friends since 1st grade, making up dances, spending time together, Monday even helps Claudia with her homework - Claudia doesn't read or write very well, but with Monday's help, no one knows, and now they are about to start 8th grade. But when Monday doesn't show up on the first day of school, Claudia is beside herself with worry. How could she just disappear? Weeks later, her parents are tired of Claudia asking about Monday, Monday's mom won't tell her anything, and no one seems to care - Claudia is breaking all kinds of rules trying to find her friend but is getting nowhere. 

Told in a mix of before and after chapters which could confuse a less sophisticated reader the story is gripping, and tragic. A well written debut novel, the shifting time perspectives help add to the suspense and tension, but I feel I need to read it again to get the time line figured out. I'm haunted by the story and am excited to recommend it. Although Claudia and Monday are 8th graders, the content advisory as well as the literary structure makes this a much better fit for a high school student.

Lisa Librarian 

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott - HIGH

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, 281 pages. FICTION.  Simon & Schuster, 2018.  $18.99 
Language: R (Multiple F's) ; Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Stella Grant is hard-working, optimistic, kind, computer-coding 17 year old girl with Cystic fibrosis (CF), a terminal condition that is slowly deteriorating her lungs. The whole story takes place in the hospital as Stella is checked in for another month long stay to undergo an extensive set of treatments  hoping for the news that a new set of lungs for her have finally been found to get a transplant. Stella has spent the majority of her childhood in and out of hospitals so she immediately reconnects with her friends Barb and Julie, the nurses, and Poe, another CF patient she has grown up with. However, this time, there is a new patient: Will the handsome and mischievous, and rebellious 17 year old boy. Their attraction and opposite personalities immediately create trouble and sparks all over the hospital.

Five Feet Apart is a traditional teenage love story, but with the modern twist of terminal illness. Although I am wary of these stories the message they are sending to teenage readers, this book tried to overcome the girl as the McGuffin and show more complex topics like hardship, sacrifice, and empathy. The medical condition and treatments of CF were written with great accuracy and the focus on the disease and how it destroys health and futures of the teenagers, but also the nurses, doctors, and their friends and families was enlightening. The hope and positivist for the future was sincere and the characters genuine.  I got to know Stella as a girl and not just a romantic interest and not just as a sick and dying girl, but one with CF.  I also saw what that really meant for her and her family, friends, and for her romance with Will. The love story is there, but so is education about something new and expanding my knowledge about another person’s perspective and their life struggle. Reading Five Feet Apart for that shift in perspective is reason alone to read this book and pass it on to a young reader. The mature content is a non-touching stripping scene.

Dina W - ELA Teacher

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix - ESSENTIAL

The Strangers (Greystone Secrets #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix, 416 pages.   Katherine Tegen (Harper), APRIL 2019.  $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Finn, 8, Emma, 10, and Chess (Rochester), 12, live with their mother; their father died several years earlier.  Their life is quiet and loving – until the day they here about three children who were kidnapped – named Finn, Emma, and Rocky (Rochester) – the exact same names, the exact same birthdates, and even the exact same mother -- ? Now Mo has to go away for work and the children are staying with strangers – Ms. Morales and her angry daughter Natalie.  The kids can feel that something is wrong with their mother.  They are determined to unlock the secrets she left behind and Natalie insists she can help.  When they do figure out the first secret, they could have never anticipated where it would lead them.  

Even without the #1 in the title, you knew this had to be a series!  And you will be on tenterhooks until #2 is published.  Haddix brings high energy and excellent mystery-solving to the table.  

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Clockwork Dragon by James R. Hannibal - ESSENTIAL

The Clockwork Dragon (Section 13 #3) by James R. Hannibal, 422 pages.  Simon & Schuster, 2019.  $18.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some danger and fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Now that Jack and Gwen know who is behind all of their problems and Jack’s Dad’s coma, all they have to do is prove it.  And escape from the Ministries in order to do it.  A trip to China comes first, along with a new ally and learning much more about his powers.  Defeating Ignatius Gall will take all of them and a lot of courage.

Jack finally really comes into his own in the third book.  I was sucked in and couldn’t leave until I was finished.  I am so hoping that there are more adventures for the Section 13 kids!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans - ADVISABLE

The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans, 258 pages.  Carolrhoba LAB (Lerner), 2019.  $19. 

Language: G (4 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Riley, the only Manic Pixie Dream Boy, lives in TropeTown with all of the other stock character as they wait for their bit parts in creating books by whatever author needs them at the time.  Only Developed characters remain with the books after they are finished.  Riley has been ordered to therapy, because he has been talking back to his Authors and ad-libbing his lines.  There he finds Zelda, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that he just met and fell in love with.  How can he declare his love for Zelda, complete his therapy satisfactorily so that he can continue existing, and save the Manic Pixie Dream trope from being retired? That’s a lot to do from a group of characters that thrive on being positive inspiration.

I admit it, I had no idea what a Manic Pixie Dream trope character was before I started reading this. I loved the “behind the scenes” look at the life of stock characters – especially since most of them were referred to by only their trope name (New Age Therapists, Mopey Mallrats).  Will kids love this is they have no idea what a trope is?  I don’t know. A little googling will give them enough information for further enjoyment.  That’s why at least middle school  - they need to know more about the world of writing before they can plunge in.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo - OPTIONAL


The Game Can’t Love You Back by Karole Cozzo, 312 pages.  Swoon (Macmillan), 2018.  $18.

Content: Language: R (219 swears; 21 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


When a fire at Eve’s school leads to Eve’s school having to share with their rival school, nobody is happy with the change.  Soon baseball season starts up, and Eve, as one of the best pitchers from her school, tries out for the team.  Being the only girl on the team, she is underestimated and challenged a lot by the other players, especially the handsome yet annoying team captain Jamie (who is also a pitcher).  Will Jamie and Eve be able to work out their differences and form an alliance to ultimately help the team? 

I loved that through the game and their teammates, the characters learned who they were and what they wanted to become.  I think the author did a good job making the world feel real and I felt like I was there with them.  I liked Eve’s friends and the character development of the minor characters.  The mature content includes teen partying, vandalism, hanging out in underwear in public and mention of a friend having unprotected sex.  

Student Reviewer, Isabelle, 9th grade.       

A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause - ADVISABLE

A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause, 400 pages.  HarperTeen, AUGUST 2019.  $18. 

Content: G (mild danger)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Emmaline Watkins may work in her mother’s bar, but she has always dreamed of designing fashion. When Madame Jolene , the director of the capitol’s only couture creator – The Fashion House.  Only 1 or 2 girls are taken as apprentices each year.  If she can survive the Fashion House Interview – a competition with only 6 contestants, she can fulfill her dream. But no one really wants to give Emmaline a chance, not only is she kept to busy to give her heart to the contests, but someone is actively sabotaging her. Maybe there is a different way for her to follow her heart.

Students will be drawn to the cover and anyone who loves Project Runway will be sucked in.  Its hard to take how much the deck is stacked against Emmaline, but her fashion game is on point and a delight to read about. If your school has the Luxe series, or any of the many YA books with gorgeous dresses, it would make for a great display.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Science Comics: The Brain by Tory Woollcott - OPTIONAL


Science Comics: The Brain the Ultimate Thinking Machine by Tory Woollcott, illustrated by Alex Graudins.  118 pages.  NON-FICTION/GRAPHIC NOVEL  First Second (Macmillan), 2018.  $13.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Fahama and her sister are out selling cookies door to door when Fahama is kidnapped by a scientist and his zombie.  The scientist wants to dissect Fahama’s brain, and in an attempt to buy herself more time Fahama gets the scientist to answer all sorts of questions about the parts of the brain and its processes.  

I am not a science person, so I enjoy these science comics.  This book has a lot of information that is super interesting, but also can be overwhelming and has a high vocabulary.  If students are interested in the brain and it’s function they will enjoy this or if you have a science teacher who wants to use parts of this book to supplement their teaching it would work fantastic.  Your average graphic novel reader will be overwhelmed by the amount of information.  Also the violence includes some nasty cartoonish pictures of times in history when people experimented on the brain.

Reviewer, C. Peterson

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir - OPTIONAL


A Reaper at the Gates (Ember in the Ashes, #3) by Sabaa Tahir, 458 pages.  Razorbill (Penguin), 2018.  $20.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

The three main characters are up against their own foes.   Helene is the evil Emperor Marcus’ military leader and every step she takes, whether good or bad, effects Helene’s sister who is married to the Emperor.  As Helene tries to walk the fine balance between what is right for the kingdom and obeying the Emperor, she must face her true enemy the cunning Commandant, who passes herself off as loyal to the Emperor while creating conflict throughout the kingdom.  Elias starts to realize what it means to be the Soul Collector, a responsibility he took to help Laia, whom he loves.  As the magic of being a Soul Collector starts to build up in Elias he must choose between his human side and the magical side, or all of humanity will suffer.  Laia, doesn’t want to be a leader, but if she doesn’t take care of her people the evil Nightbringer will reap destruction on them all.  Each character has their own story, but they all connect as they are trying to do the right thing for their kingdom.  

Here’s the thing about this book- I have read through all the violent dark despair of three books now in the hopes that my three main characters, who I’ve totally fallen in love with, will make it out okay.  The ending builds up to a big cliff hanger and I’m annoyed-I wanted an ending-a happy one.  This is a well done series with lots of development, but now I must wait until next year to find out what happens next and I just want it to be over and the kingdom to be saved.  The violence is over the top brutal, gruesome and tortuous and the mature content is a heavy make-out session.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

Romanov by Nadine Brandes - OPTIONAL

Romanov by Nadine Brandes, 352 pages.  Thomas Nelson, MAY 2019.  $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Nastya (Anastasia) Romanov and her family have been removed from the throne of Russia and moved to six rooms in a home in a small village, heavily guarded by Bolshevik soldiers, with very few privileges.  As they try to carve out some happiness, Nastya is obsessed with the tiny Matryoshka doll left for them by the spell master Dochkin.  She pins all of her hopes that the magics inside it will save her family from the predations of the revolution.  When the day of crisis comes, however, she has only herself and her little brother Alexi to save – everyone else is gone for good.  With the help of a soldier, Zash, there is a small chance that they might survive.

Your liking of this book will depend upon how much you like the Romanovs.  For the most of the book, it is pretty straightforward Romanov history, revealing the cluelessness of the princesses about their life of riches and privilege.  There is plenty of pathos, but it isn’t until Nastya accesses the first bit of magic, finally, that the book comes into its own.  Well-written, but with a small audience.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Fourth Ruby by James R. Hannibal - ADVISABLE

The Fourth Ruby (Section 13 #2) by James R. Hannibal, 403 pages.  Simon & Schuster, 2017.  $17

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Jack’s father has been in a coma for a year now, and Jack is losing control over his newly discovered powers.  Jack and Gwen are framed for stealing the Crown Jewels.  Why would his mentor do that to them?  In order to clear their names, Jack and Gwen must escape the clutches of all of the Ministries and track down a famous missing ruby – heading straight into danger and deceit.

Exciting adventures and mystery await young readers.  A great addition to a collection where fantasy novels checkout well.  Similar to Chris Colfer’s and Derek Benz’s series in flavor.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy - ADULT

The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy, 368 pages.  Harper Perennial, 2017.  $16.  

Content: Language: R (31 swears; 3 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R.  

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULT - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Jacob Koopman is a Dutch boy in his teens when World War II breaks out in Europe.  Jacob adores his family (especially his brother Edwin) and friends in his Dutch town of Delfzijl where his father runs the lightbulb factory.  Jacob also loves helping his Uncle Martin on his fishing boat.  As the war starts to encroach on Jacob’s world his family and friends are drawn into the battle between right and wrong.  

This story is compelling, and I found the Dutch perspective interesting and unique.  I have never contemplated what it must have felt like to lose family and friends from the supposedly friendly fire of the Allies.   This book has a teen character but is an adult novel with upsetting and gruesome violence and frequent graphic sexual references.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir - OPTIONAL


A Torch Against the Night (Ember in the Ashes, #2) by Sabaa Tahir, 452 pages.  Razorbill (Penguin), 2016.  $20.  

Content: Language: R (117 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: R.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Elias and Laia have run away from Blackcliffs and plan on rescuing Laia’s brother from prison, but they are being hunted by Elia’s best friend Helene.  Helene has to capture Elias or her family will be killed and although she doesn’t want to bring him in, she has sworn fealty to Emperor Marcus.  Helene is also certain that the commandant is brewing up war and that she is on a fool’s errand chasing Elias.  Behind the actions of both the good and the bad is an other-worldly presence that is threatening to put the whole kingdom into war.  

This series completely pulls me in and this book was even better than the first book.  I love the chemistry between Elias and Laia and the action is non-stop.  My biggest complaint about this book is the brutal, hopeless violence that usually involves torture, making it hard to recommend to young adults.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Garden by Meghan Ferrari - ADVISABLE

The Garden by Meghan Ferrari, 109 pages.  Red Deer Press, 2018.  $13. 9780889955684.

Language: G (0 swears, 0‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 9bloody deaths, torture mentioned

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE (hi/lo)

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

When their village is invaded by the Syrian Rebels, Elias and his little brother are captured and threatened with torture.  In the present day, Elias and his parents are in Canada, and Elias can barely hold his rage inside.  Only the kindness of a couple of classmates helps him navigate the minefields of the bullies at his new school.  A patient counselor draws out Elias’ story of escape and terror.

I am going to recommend this to a couple of my Language Arts teachers as a class read.  It feels spot on about the terror of life in Syria and life capriciousness of life in a refugee camp.  I think this author could very easily write a much longer book (another 100 pages) on the same subject – I’d love to read it if they did.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Don’t Tell the Nazis by Marsha Furchuk Skrypuch - ADVISABLE

Don’t Tell the Nazis by Marsha Furchuk Skrypuch, 240 pages.  Scholastic, DECEMBER 2019.  $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Krystia, her mother, and her younger sister live in a small Ukrainian village in 1941.  After the Soviets move out, they briefly think they are free, but then the Germans start moving in.  First military, but quickly many more Germans occupy homes that used to belong to the villagers.  Now the Germans want food and labor to be supplied by the villagers also.  Slowly but surely the Ukrainians feel their lives slipping away - anyone who even looks the wrong way might die, and if you happen to be Jewish, death will probably be sooner.

What I love about this is the intimate look at the insidious policies of the German military during World War II.  I bet Skyrpuch has several more WWII novels in her quiver, because the ones she has released recently have been on point.  

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Falling Between Us by Ash Parsons - OPTIONAL


The Falling Between Us by Ash Parsons, 283 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin), 2018. $18. 

Language: PG-13 (15 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Roxanne and Joshua have been friends forever, long before Joshua became famous.  Now everything has changed and his manager, Artie, controls everything. She’s decided it’s time for him to have a new girlfriend, she’s decided who he can talk to and what questions the media can ask, and now she’s telling Roxanne what to do.  Roxanne and Joshua just want things like they used to be but everything is complicated now and Roxanne doesn’t know how much more she can take. She has also noticed Joshua isn’t looking so great. Is it just the fame taking its toll? Or is there something else wrong?

This took longer to read than I thought it would.  Roxanne’s actions and thoughts began to bug me as the story unfolded, the writing seemed off, at times, and I lost interest about halfway through.  The ending, however, was a pleasant surprise, and I finished thinking it wasn’t so bad, afterall. While the book deals with serious topics; the realities of fame, prescription drug use, mental issues, and suicide, it is not done with great detail, and I think it will appeal to those that want realistic fiction but aren’t quite ready for a deeper, harsher look at the heavy topics involved.       

Reviewer: RB

Briar and Rose and Jack by Katherine Coville - ADVISABLE

Briar and Rose and Jack by Katherine Coville, 368 pages.  Houghton Mifflin, JUNE 2019.  $17.  

Content: G (some danger)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVSIABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When the twins Briar and Rose were born, Briar’s disfigurement alarmed her royal parents, who then pretended that she was the daughter of another couple.  Rose, the younger twin, on the other hand, was exactly what a princes is “expected” to look like and she was presented to the fairies for their blessings.  And, of course, the one cursed by the angry Gray Fairy to prick her finger and die on her 16thbirthday.  The girls are raised with no knowledge of their twin-ness.  A giant started terrorizing the kingdom when the girl were young, and together with a village boy named Jack, the girls vow to one day take the giant down.

While the story seems quite complicated, Coville manages to bring everything together in the end, even giving the evil Bishop his well-deserved comeuppance.  Those students who love retold fairy tales will certainly enjoy this.  It is much more in the classic fairy tale mein, as opposed to imposing a modern aesthetic on the tales.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen - OPTIONAL

Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen, 336 pages.  Scholastic, OCTOBER 2019.  $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Audra and her parents live a poor, but loving life in a small village in Lithuania near the border with Prussia in 1893.  Her dad is away a lot with his peddling and Audra overhears her parents talking about secret plans the same night that the Russians arrest them and send them off to Siberia. Audra escapes and finds refuge with a group that secretly smuggles Lithuanian language books from house to house, village to village, and across the border, after Russia tries to abolish the language.  The Russian soldiers are vicious, and they are caught, they will probably pay with their lives. 

Nielsen writes with her normal aplomb.  The only reason this is rated optional and low is that the time period is obscure that will need to hand sell to help this find its audience.  I loved this look at a part of history that I have never read about before.  I hope all of us librarians can help it find its audience. There are some dangerous situations and some non-graphic deaths.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Live in Infamy by Caroline Tung Richmond - ADVISABLE

Live in Infamy by Caroline Tung Richmond, 294 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), 2018. $17.99

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Ren lives in a world where the Allies lost WWII, Germany and Japan split America in half, and Americans are oppressed—a world where America is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. There is a resistance made up of those who remember what America used to stand for, and Ren’s mother was executed in front of him for trying to bring that America back. Now the resistance is asking for Ren’s help, and he has to decide what he wants to stand for.

There are so many wonderful elements to this book that I don’t even know where to start my review. Richmond crafts an engaging story that is about more than good versus evil—Ren’s story is about the courage to sacrifice for what you believe to be right, the love of parents and children for each other, and that each individual matters. I was enthralled from the beginning, though I have not read the other companion stories; they are not required to understand Ren’s story, but I am planning on reading them because I enjoyed Richmond’s writing so much.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Skyward: Claim the Stars by Brandon Sanderson - ESSENTIAL

Skyward: Claim the Stars by Brandon Sanderson, 510 pages.  Delacorte Press (Random), 2018.  $19.99  

Language: PG (5 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Referenced Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Spensa, 17, lives on the planet Detritus which has been under attack by a mysterious alien race for hundreds of years. Everyone lives underground and the planet is orbited by a debris field that falls to the earth without warning. Spensa has always dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot and reclaiming her family’s reputation. Right now, they are labeled as cowards because her father fled the most famous air battle, The Battle of Alta, and was unceremoniously killed. Spensa is a loner and a rebel from the poor caverns near the ground, but wants to fit in. She struggles to find her way when her father’s old wingmate allows her to attend his flight classes, but does she really want to discover these long hidden secrets about herself, her father, and her world as she learns to fly and soar amongst the stars?

Sanderson’s world immediately engaging and his heroine Spensa is complex and relatable. Sanderson uses a few predictable young adult tropes, but they not used to full over-dramatic effect. No full blown love story, no self harm, and no full government overthrow. Instead, there are hints to Spensa softening to others caring about her and not always having to be alone; her seeing that hurting herself or putting herself in danger is not courage; and a long crumbling government beginning to finally fall and everyone being there to help pick up the pieces. This is going to be a series and I am excited to read the next installments. No blood or gore, but people do die in air raids and plane fights, but the effect of death on the people left behind is explored and I appreciate that as a reader. All in all, this is an engaging and well written book and the pages fly by. 

D. Wecker, ELA Teacher