Friday, May 31, 2019

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - ESSENTIAL

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, 294 pages.  Delacorte Press (Random), 2019. $18. 9780525582168

Language: G ; Mature Content: PG-13 (spouse abuse); Violence: PG-13 (shootings, blood, beatings, references to other violence)



Trevor Noah, the host of the Daily Show, grew up dirt poor in the homelands, ghettos, and secretive spaces in South Africa - near the end of apartheid and as it was being demolished.  Born to a white father and black mother, Trevor’s existence was a crime and he had do be hidden as much as possible. And even when he had more freedom, he still had ignorance and few chances to make a better life.

If I were teaching high school World Geography or anything that touched on apartheid and South Africa or a class about race identity, I would have my students read this book.  Noah’s breezy writing style makes for easy reading, especially for a subject matter that usually lacks a personal element for students to connect to. The only thing missing is Trevor’s final journey from small time con and DJ to the host of a TV show in America!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Rescuing Rialto by Lynda V. Mapes - ESSENTIAL

Rescuing Rialto: A Baby Sea Otter’s Story by Lynda V. Mapes, photographs by Alan Berner.  PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION. Roaring Brook (Macmillan), 2019. $19. 9781250147646



In 2016, people found a lost sea otter pup along the coast in Washington state.  His rescuer took him to the Seattle Aquarium, where he was named Rialto, and the caretakers raised him until he found a permanent home at the Vancouver, Canada aquarium.

What great timing -- for elementary students you can pair this with Pup 681 by Jean Reidy, using some of Rialto’s story to supplement the shorter Pup681.  All grades need the information in this book about keystone species and how Washington state ruined their coast, almost permanently, when they hunted the last local sea otter in 1911!

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd - ESSENTIAL

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd, 297 pages. Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin), 2019. $17. 9780525428459.

Content: Language: PG (7 swears, 0 'F'); Mature content: PG (talk of suicide, PTSD); Violence: PG (fighting, suggestion of gun violence)



Lyndon Baines Hawkins (Lyndie for short) is an 11-year old amateur historian who loves her life in small town Tennessee. But its 1985 and her father, a Vietnam vet, is struggling with unnamed PTSD and loses his job, forcing the family to move in with Lyndie's grandparents. Lyndie and her very proper grandmother, Lady, butt heads from the get-go and Lyndie is forever being told how a proper young lady should act. Lady is especially vehement that family loyalty trumps all, but Lyndie is a bit lost as to when secrets should be kept and when it is best to reach out for help.

This is by far the best YA novel I have read in 2019 so far, and a wonderful take on the coming-of-age genre. The characters, the setting, the story are all fantastic and realistic in all the best ways. The topic of PTSD is treated fairly and realistically here, as is really the entire story; nothing felt like it was tossed in to fit a YA trope or expectation. This is a total MUST READ for middle readers, though I will note that the mature content might not make it suited for all upper elementary readers. Overall, I loved it and I'm raving about it to anyone who will listen at the moment.

Reviewer: TC

Spin by Lamar Giles - ADVISABLE

Spin by Lamar Giles, 387 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), 2019. $17.99

Language: PG13 (22 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13



Both at the scene to discover their friend’s, DJ ParSec’s, dead body, nemeses Kya and Fuse throw dirt on each other to prove who the better friend was. Unforeseen consequences quickly make them both regret their actions, but it’s too late—they must work together to find the murderer as demanded by extremist ParSec fans. Or else.

The overall mystery was exciting to read, but my favorite thing about this book is that there were multiple compelling secrets to uncover other than the main one. However, I was disappointed that the big reveal seemed to be something that I, as the reader, would never be able to solve on my own because Giles did not give me the clues I would need to do so. While the violence has a rating of PG13 for multiple descriptions of the murder scene and threats with various weaponry, Giles does not go into the gory details.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy - ADVISABLE

Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy, 231 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2019. $17.

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



11yo Carolina and her family just moved from Puerto Rico to Upstate New York and are living with their Aunt and Uncle. Carolina's cousin Gabriela is 13yo, and both girls are enrolled in a farming summer camp which is a day camp comprised of farm chores, hiking, arts and crafts and playtime. Carolina misses her life in Puerto Rico very much, but is surprised to meet a kindred spirit in Jennifer, whose dad is an artist. Carolina used to take painting classes and draws all the time, maybe New York isn't so bad after all! 

I loved the different perspectives of the family regarding the move - Carolina's frustration with leaving her familiar world behind, her mother needing her daughter to fit in, Gabriela worried that her cousin's friend choices would affect her social life, little brother Dani's easy transition, dad's difficulty finding a job. A nice summer read without too much drama or danger.

Lisa Librarian

Death Watch by Ari Berk - OPTIONAL

Death Watch by Ari Berk, 523 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2011. $17.99

Language: R (46 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Silas’s father has been missing for over a year. While his mother is moving on and Silas receives pressure to do the same, Silas knows that there is more to know and understand about his father’s disappearance. What questions will be asked and answered when he is forced to his father’s hometown of Lichport?

Throughout the entire book, I was trying to figure out whether or not I liked it. There were parts that I found intriguing and had me on the edge of my seat, and then I would start falling asleep and skimming pages until Silas’s story picked up again. The book had a great ending, so I suspect that my satisfaction with the book has been skewed by a ending on a high point. The PG13 ratings for mature content and violence are for alcohol abuse and the gruesome descriptions of grave robbery, murder, and drowning.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, May 27, 2019

Little Monsters of the Ocean: Metamorphosis under the Waves by Heather L. Montgomery - OPTIONAL

Little Monsters of the Ocean: Metamorphosis under the Waves by Heather L. Montgomery, 56 pages. NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK. Millbrook Press (Lerner Publishing), 2019. $24. 9781541528987



Many of us have heard of metamorphosis, but assume its limited to c
aterpillars turning to butterflies or tadpoles to frogs. In this slim but packed volume, Montgomery introduces readers to the vast styles of metamorphosis that happen to creatures of the sea--from jellyfish to blue crabs. And as with all great science books, she leaves us wondering about some of the questions science still has yet to discover.

To begin with--this book was fascinating and offered loads of information I didn't even know I wanted to know. That being said, this book is so jam packed with information it also ends up feeling really long. There are great graphics and photographs but the overwhelming foundation of this nonfiction book (that sort of purports to be a nonfiction picture a way) is lots and lots of text. The topic is also so niche, I think it will be hardpressed to find a ready audience in the age-group its aiming to reach.

Reviewer: TC

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon - OPTIONAL

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon, 295 pages. Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin), 2018, $17.

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



Brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene are having a pretty boring summer until Styx Malone shows up.  He is a 16yo that seems suave and sophisticated.  Styx is full of ideas and seems to know how to achieve his goals, which is to pull off the Great Escalator Trade so the boys can engage in a grand adventure.  Caleb, who thinks his older brother is too much like their dad, dreams of not being ordinary and latches on to Styx.  As the summer progresses though, it seems that Styx isn’t being completely honest with Caleb and Bobby, and his secrets might ruin everything. 

This was a nicely written book that captures summer, friendship, family and finding yourself. It was engaging and fun and I found myself wanting to know more about Styx.  This is a great summer read. 

Michelle in the Middle/Teacher

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene - OPTIONAL

Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene, 359 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic), 2018, $19.

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



Orphaned, Sylvie has lived at the edge of the Dusklands, and has been brought up by the Sisters of Scion who reluctantly took care of her before she ran away to find her destiny. Sylvie believes she can fit in at the court of the Amber Princess because she has magic.  Sylvie takes on a new name, Mirage, and works to master her magic at peril of her life.  Sylvie discovers that life at court is ruthless and cruel, and fitting in might cost her dearly. 

This story is well written and makes Mirage’s world believable.  Mirage is a driven, if not totally likeable character, and the court, while cruel, is intriguing.  There is a wealth of secrets that begin to work themselves out.  This it the first in a trilogy and the ending will be less than satisfying, unless you have book two ready to go.  

Michelle in the Middle/Teacher