Thursday, August 22, 2019

Epic Athletes: Stephen Curry by Dan Wetzel - ESSENTIAL

Epic Athletes: Stephen Curry by Dan Wetzel, illustrations by Zeke Pena, 160 pages. NON-FICTION  Henry Holt, 2019.  $17.  

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



Stephen Curry was not a very big kid throughout his childhood and teen years, but he loved basketball.  Steph spent a lot of time playing the sport with his father who was a former NBA star and they learned to adjust his shots even though he was at a height-disadvantage.  Steph performed so well that he was picked up by Davidson for college and later signed on with the Golden State Warriors.  Steph is a humble team-player who also loves his family and God.  

I read this book with my nine-year old son who loves basketball.  He couldn’t wait for bedtime to read it, so sometimes we had reading time in the middle of the day.  Steph’s story is inspiring because he is a hard worker and overcomes hardship and injuries.  My son loved the descriptions of the games and the stats.  The illustrations are few and far between, so there is a lot of reading material, making it work for both elementary and middle school.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan - ADVISABLE

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan. 330 pgs. Blink. $17.99 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13 



Kateri, a desert warrior princess, must win a series of fights against men chosen by her father in order to prove her fitness to rule Achra, a desert kingdom whose water supply has nearly run out.  If Kateri loses a fight, she will be forced to marry the man who beat her and he will rule in her stead. When her father chooses Rodric as her next opponent, she knows she cannot marry him and flees to the desert.  Here she meets Cion and the Desert Boys, a band of robbers who steal water from the rich and give it to the thirsty people of Achra. From them, she learns that there is actually a huge underground reservoir of water and that her father and Rodric are hiding it to control the people.  Kateri must find a way to beat Rodric and release the dam holding back the water in order to keep her kingdom from crumbling back into the desert. 

I had a hard time deciding if I like this book. Kateri, Cion, and the other protagonists have no faults and Rodric and the King are completely evil with no redeeming qualities. This makes all of the characters feel unreal and flat to me and I had a hard time relating to any of them.  However, the world-building and action scenes were well done and kept me reading to see how Kateri would eventually defeat Rodric. A romance develops between Kateri and Cion with a few mild kissing scenes. There is plenty of swordplay, as well as two tigers that kill people as punishment for disobeying the king. 

Dona Wilson--Teacher Librarian

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig by Don Zolidis - OPTIONAL

Language: R (3 F); Mature Content: PG-13 (referenced - Sex, Drinking), Violence: G



Craig is a nerdy 16 year old boy who accidentally finds himself with his first girlfriend, Amy. He is instantly head over heels and oblivious to Amy and her needs which leads her to break up with him six times. Each time, Craig manages to somehow win her back and each time, he seems more and more confused as to what is going on inside their relationship.

The great thing about The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig is that it is a love story of sorts, from a teen aged male perspective. Craig is a comic book reading, Dungeons and Dragons playing, social outcast, skinny, geeky boy that wears his heart on his sleeve and shares how it feels to be a teenaged boy in love. This isn’t a perspective that is always shown. I love the idea that boys can read about other male love experiences in a positive way the same way that girls can. 

Dina W. - ELA teacher

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser - ESSENTIAL

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden (The Vanderbeekers,#2) by Karina Yan Glaser, 327 pages.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.  $17.  

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



Josie and Mr. Jeet are the Vanderbeekers beloved upstairs neighbors, so when Mr. Jeet has a stroke and is rushed to the hospital the Vanderbeeker kids are upset.  Josie and Mr. Jeet, who love plants, always encouraged the kids to make use of the garden next to the church, so the kids decide they want to surprise their neighbors when the return from the hospital.  The Vanderbeekers, with the help of some friends, secretly work on beautifying the garden.  

I love these sweet Vanderbeeker kids and their lovely neighbors and friends.  If you have readers who enjoy the Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, then they will adore the Vanderbeekers as well.  The Vanderbeekers kids range in age from 5-13, and this is a great read.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.    

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell - ESSENTIAL

Sky Without Stars (System Divine, #1) by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell, 582 pages.  Simon Pulse, 2019.  $20.  

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



Chatine is a thief, who tries to collect items so she can one day escape the bleak planet of Laterre.  Chatine dresses like a boy and once while stealing from the dead, she runs into a wealthy ruling-class boy named Marcellus.  Their chance meeting later turns into Chatine spying on Marcellus for his grandfather.  Marcellus is trying to be brave and carry out his government position in a manner pleasing to his grandfather who is the general, but he receives an encrypted message from the rebellion the night he visits his father’s dead body, and Marcellus begins to doubt the system of government he has been trained to guard.  One night, Marcellus is caught in the rebellion's crossfire and injured, so a sweet girl named Alouette, who Marcellus learns is a defector, tends to his wounds and helps him translate his encrypted message. These three characters’ lives become critical to each other’s salvation and the future of their planet.  

I could not put this book down.  I loved all the characters and the setting.  The plot is a reimagining of Les Miserables and moves quickly with lots of action.  The ending isn’t complete, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.  If you liked the Cinder series by Marissa Meyer, then you will enjoy this.  The violence includes dead bodies and a beheading.

Reviewer, C. Peterson.      

Friday, August 16, 2019

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman - OPTIONAL

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman, 373 pages.  Simon Pulse, 2018.  $19.  

Content: Language: R (47 swears; 17 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.  



Rumi loves to make music, especially with her best friend, her little sister, Lea.  Rumi has always felt like a second parent to Lea, so when Lea dies in a car accident Rumi is devastated.  What amplifies Rumi’s devastation is that their mother can’t cope with her grief and care for Rumi, so Rumi is sent to Hawaii to live with her aunt.  Rumi feels like she has been abandoned by the two people who she loved, so she wallows in her grief and confusion, until Rumi meets her two neighbors who help Rumi navigate her music and her grief.  

This book is depressing and heartbreaking, but I felt like the author helped me to understand what grief would look and feel like.  Rumi’s character is not kind and is judgmental about her mom’s grief, and her selfishness lasts a long time, but I loved the neighbor characters and their contribution to Rumi’s healing.

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - HIGH

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas 447 pages. Balzer + Bray, 2019. $19. 

Language: R (600+ swears 51 'f') Mature Content: PG (kissing) Mature Content: PG13 (Gun Violence, Gangs, Rap lyrics about violence) 



16-year-old Bri wants to be a rapper, and she's good! She wins her first Rap battle at "The Rink" and everyone says she's gonna be a famous rapper just like her dad - Lawless. Bri's father was a victim of gun violence, shot down by a rival gang and her family is struggling to get by. Her mom was a drug addict, but has been clean for a while now - but holding on to a job is difficult, and Bri and her older brother are more worried about their present than their future. If Bri can hit it big as a rapper, she'll be making a lot of money and can help her family - but at what expense? 

Angie Thomas tells a great story. We see Bri think through her rap, figuring out the rhymes and then delivering a great performance. I would have loved to hear more of her poetry. Her community was great, school friends fighting the system, adults who are both part of the problem and desperately trying to break the cycle of poverty, gang affiliation and drug abuse. At over 400 pages, it looks like a daunting read, but the action moves fast and the story is engaging. High school kids will love this!

Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb - ADVISABLE

The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century by Neal Bascomb, 288 pages.  NON-FICTION  Scholastic, 2018.  $19.  

Content: Language: (3 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  



During World War I, captured allied forces were kept in POW camps throughout Germany.  Those who were captured felt it was their responsibility to escape and rejoin the effort, but the men’s attempts to escape were often foiled.  When prisoners were caught, they were sent to a camp called Holzminden which was run by a mean commandant named Neimeyer.  This book follows different prisoners and how they ended up at Holzminden and then details their combined effort to attempt their escape.  

What a great read.  The men who escaped Holzminden were easy to cheer for as they made brave attempts to escape.  I enjoyed the information at the beginning of the book that explains the “Rules of War” and how POW’s were supposed to be treated as well as the ending of the book that explained how this escape was used as an example to other soldiers, so during World War II, more prisoners were able to escape.  There pictures throughout that enhanced the story.  The violence is there are soldiers who were murdered or shot and the abuses in the POW camp, nothing too graphic, but still upsetting.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.       

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The End of the World and Beyond by Avi - ADVISABLE

The End of the World and Beyond (Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts, #2) by Avi, 328 pages.  Algonquin (Workman Publishing), 2018.  $17.  

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



Oliver Pitts was convicted of being a thief and his punishment is to be sent to America.  After surviving a stormy crossing, with now chance of escape he arrives in Annapolis.  Oliver’s luck doesn’t improve when nobody wants to buy a scrawny indentured servant and he finds himself in jail.  When a man buys him from the jail, Oliver hopes his luck has changed, but he quickly realizes that his owner is abusive and his only saving grace might be a fellow slave who has an idea for escape.  

This book is action-packed and gives a good view into what life might be like for an indentured servant.  I enjoyed Oliver’s character and the fast-moving plot.  The cover isn't great, but if you can get your readers to pick it up they will enjoy it.  This book makes more sense after reading the Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell and gives a satisfying ending to Oliver’s two book story.  The content includes abuse, mention of deaths and a rotting body.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Monday, August 12, 2019

A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney and Martin Gayford - ESSENTIAL

A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney and Martin Gayford illustrated by Rose Blake, 128 pages. NON FICTION Abrams/Amulet, 2018. $25.

Content: PG. (One painting includes naked male child) 



David Hockney and Martin Gayford are friends and they talk about art a lot. Hockney is an artist, Gayford is a critic and author. Together they have a lot to say about the history of pictures - from cave drawings to ipads, they discuss the elements of art that helped create and establish what we see today. Using classic pictures, they explain the elements that were groundbreaking and compare with something modern (sometimes Hockney's work) or familiar (like Disney animation). They discuss light and shadow, use of space, mirrors, photography, moving pictures and much more.

 A fun coffee table book, the art selected is beautiful and the text is written for upper elementary/middle school so the whole family can enjoy this wonderful art history book. Includes a timeline of art inventions, a glossary, works cited, a bibliography and a full list of the illustrations used. A must have in the art classroom.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Science Comics: Cars: Engines that Move You by Dan Zettwoch - OPTIONAL

Science Comics: Cars: Engines that Move You by Dan Zettwoch, 121 pages.  NON-FICTION/GRAPHIC NOVEL  First Second (Roaring Brook), 2019.  $13.  

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



This book covers all sorts of facts about cars.  There is a history of how cars were developed as well as the different types of cars.  There is an explanation of combustion and how cars work with detailed illustrations of the inside of cars.  There is also a lot of illustrations of many ways that cars have evolved over time.  

This book has so many details that it would require a more advanced reader to understand the content.  The illustrations are overwhelmingly detailed and for some odd reason most of the people illustrated have one of their eyeballs popping out of their heads.  If you have a car lover, they might be interested in this book.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Last Seen: The Murderer Next Door by Sara Shepard - HIGH

Last Seen: The Murderer Next Door (Amateurs, #3) by Sara Shepard, 295 pages.  Freeform (Disney), 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (81 swears; 5 ‘f’); Mature content: G; Violence: PG-13.  



Seneca and her friends, Maddox, Madison and Aerin, are happy that they helped solve a missing persons case, but are upset that they let the murderer Brett get away.  Just as they are about to go home, Brett kidnaps Aerin and the group has to follow Brett’s instructions, or they may lose Aerin forever.  Brett sends Seneca and her friends on an errand to solve another kidnapping and missing person’s case, but this time the clues lead them to Brett’s past, but will it be in time to save Aerin.  

This is the best book in the series and has a satisfying ending with a great twist.  I enjoyed all the levels of this book, as it has multiple mysteries that need to be solved.  The content includes kidnapping, abuse and murder.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Follow Me: The Killer You Know by Sara Shephard - HIGH

Follow Me: The Killer You Know (Amateurs, #2) by Sara Shepard, 261 pages. Freeform (Disney), 2017.  $18.  

Content: Language: R  (33 swears; 3 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13;  Violence: PG-13.   



Seneca has not given up on finding Brett, the guy who has gotten away with two murders that Seneca knows of.  As Seneca follows a missing person report for a Chelsea Dawson, Seneca gathers her sleuthing friends, Maddox, Aerin and Madison, and goes to the scene of the crime because she is certain that Brett is to blame for the missing girl.  Past murders and other clues connect to lead the friends on a path laid out by the serial killer, Brett, but they hope to get to Chelsea before it’s too late.  

I enjoyed this quick read that is creepy, but also entertaining.  The characters are just out of high school.  The clues keep the story moving at a fast pace and Brett is a disturbing bad guy.  The ending is a cliffhanger, so plan on reading the next in the series.  The violence is not descriptive or gruesome, but it is upsetting and there are sexual references.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon by Susanne Slade - ESSENTIAL

Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon by Susanne Slade illustrated by Thomas Gonzales 144 pages. NON FICTION Peachtree Publishers 2018 $23.

Content: G.




On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy wanted to put a man on the moon before the decade was out. Because another country was trying too, this became known as the Space Race. Nearly half a million people worked together over the next 2979 days to make this dream come true. Each Apollo mission is covered including the astronauts on board and the lessons learned from each mission. 

 Suzanne Slade's poetry tells the story in a beautiful way - a quick read full of emotion. Each mission is followed by photographs of the astronauts, their stats and other pictures of the mission. The poems are brilliantly illustrated by Thomas Gonzales. Includes more information about the contractors and teams involved on the designing and construction of the rockets and spacecraft; an "afterward" (about the return and retrieval of the astronauts); author's and illustrator's notes; sources and a bibliography. A memorable read, appropriate for elementary and middle school.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Too Young to Escape by Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk - ADVISABLE

Too Young to Escape by Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, 142 pages.  NON-FICTION Pajama Press, 2018.  $17.  

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



When Van is only four years old, she wakes up and goes to school like every other day, but she soon realizes that her mother and siblings have all left to escape Vietnam.  Because Van is so young, Van is left to live at her aunt and uncle’s house under the care of her grandmother.  Van learns that her mother and father escaped to Canada with her other four siblings because Van’s father fought for the South Vietnamese army and when they lost the war, the soldiers were sent to rehabilitation camps where they were brainwashed.  After five years of living apart from her family, it is finally arranged for Van and her grandmother to join the rest of Van’s family.  

I found this book fascinating, mostly because I didn’t realize this part of Vietnam’s history, and it gives a unique perspective from history.  I realize that a four-year old doesn’t have very detailed memories, but this book is very well written and was interesting.   I also enjoyed the pictures at the back of the book.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab - ESSENTIAL

Tunnel of Bones (City of Ghosts, #2) by Victoria Schwab, 304 pages.  Scholastic Press, 2019.  $18.  

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



Cass is in Paris with her parents while they continue their tour to film haunted cities.  Ever since Cass almost died but was saved by her now ghostly best friend Jacob, she has been able to see the ghosts of the dead.  While in Paris she comes across a child ghost named Thomas, who has powers and causes mischief.  Cass has never had to help a poltergeist crossover before, but if she doesn’t help Thomas on his way, she’s afraid she will lose those she loves.  

I love the City of Ghosts books.   They are creepy without being gruesome and Cass is a fun heroine.  These are clean and easy to recommend to your readers who like to be spooked.  I hope there are more in this series.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Freedom Fire by Daniel Jose Older - OPTIONAL

Freedom Fire (Dactyl Hill Squad #2) by Daniel Jose Older, 304 pages, Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2019, $17.

Language: PG (2 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence PG-13



Magdalys and her friends are flying south into the war zone to find her brother, who has gone missing during a battle.    Magdalys can wrangle dinosaurs, and flies atop a dactyl.  The Confederacy is doing a better job of wrangling dinosaurs, and in one showdown, Magdalyse, a twelve-year old black girl, battles Elizabeth Crawbell, a white 16 year-old turncoat, who is sitting side saddle on her archaeops, wearing a ball gown and pink and white raptorskin boots. Magdalys may be the key to helping the Union, though she’s not wild about it.

Using dinosaurs in the Civil War is an intriguing premise.  I liked that Magdalys and her varied ethnic group of associates are those perhaps too often overlooked or under represented in history books.  I wanted to like this book more.  The Civil War is pretty grim stuff for a twelve-year old protagonist, especially when she sees her friend take his first life and when she kills for the first time.  She also sees people blown up next to her.  Besides dealing with the horrors of war, Magdalys is an orphan, her brother is missing, and she is deeply into the injustices of slavery coupled with the oppression of other minorities, such as Native Americans.  I’m not sure how a twelve year old is supposed to process all of that and still get up in the morning, let alone feel like the burden of winning or losing battles falls on her young dino-guiding shoulders.   There were a lot of names to process, which made the book confusing.  I also struggled with having the fate of the Civil War rest on an angry teenager.  The ending seemed to be tied up in an implausible bow that sets up the next book.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Disaster Strikes! by Jeffrey Kluger - ESSENTIAL

Disaster Strikes! The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time by Jeffrey Kluger, 218 pages. NON-FICTION. Philomel Books (Penquin), 2019, $19.

Language: PG (2 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence PG



Space can be beautiful and terrible, peaceful yet deadly.  This book tells the story of disasters in space during the height of the space race from both Russian and American astronauts.  Some disasters were averted and while some ended tragically. There are twelve chapters, each with a photo and the name of the craft involved. 

This book was an intense read with well-chosen details, so I learned something new even from stories I knew, but they were succinct.  The dialogue comes directly from transcripts and recordings and is well researched. The result is a fascinating look at ingenuity, courage, and what it must be like to face the most amazing yet terrifying journey of a lifetime.  This is a riveting must-read for anyone who has ever wanted to be an astronaut or been fascinated by the vastness of space.   

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens

The Guggenheim Mystery (London Eye #2) by Robin Stevens. 316 pages. Knopf (Random), 2017. $17.

Content: G 



Tad Spark’s Aunt Gloria works at the Guggenheim Museum in London. Ted is autistic and thinks about things differently than other people. He is very smart and a deep thinker. While Tad is in London with his mother and sister, Aunt Gloria is accused and arrested for the theft at the museum. Can Ted and his special brain help find the person(s) responsible and free Aunt Gloria?            

I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. It was awesome. It was a page turner and I loved getting a "peek" inside Ted's brain and the way he thinks. It helped me understand his thinking and his reactions. This was well written, captivating and enjoyable. I loved the book I highly recommend it.            

Ellen-Anita, Librarian                                                                       

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes - ESSENTIAL

The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes, 230 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2019. $17  
Content: G 



Gideon moves cross country with his family form New Jersey to a small town in Nevada. It is hot and dusty and the only person his age is the strange girl next door. She rides roller skates with a cape made from a towel around her neck. Her name is Roona. Together they embark on a quest to locate Roona's long lost father.  
I really enjoyed this books. the characters are very believable and Shaunta Grimes writes 11 -12 year old children really well. As the two of them set out to find Roona's father, Gideon constantly thinks of how his actions will effect his parents and his sister, and his relationship with them in the future. The book was a fast read and gave me lots to think about. Things are rarely what they seem like at first glance; this story is like that; it is much deeper and much more far reaching than I first thought. I really recommend this book.       

Ellen-Anita, Librarian