Sunday, July 12, 2020

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater - OPTIONAL

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team (The Derby Daredevils) by Kit Rosewater, 151 pages. Amulet Books (Abrams), 2020, $15.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Fifth grader Kenzie has dreamed of being on a roller derby team as long as she can remember.  Together with her best friend, Shelly, they want to try out for a derby team.  In order to stay together, they need to put together a team of five girls before tryouts.  This causes some changes in the girls’ friendships as they go from being besties to team players. 


Yay, a book for roller derby girls!  Though sadly, there isn’t a whole lot of plot besides the title.  Kenzie puts together a team and she struggles with putting Bree on the team because she has feelings for her.  Fifth grade seems a little young to be thinking of relationships, though there isn’t anything beyond feelings and brushing fingertips. The ending leaves the book open for a sequel, yet wraps up the storyline.  This is friendship/relationship angst with a dose of derby. 


Michelle in the Middle


Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon - OPTIONAL

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon, 308 pages. Scholastic Press, 2020. $18.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Justin has had a rough year.  His mother died and his best friend, Zee, went missing.  Zee suddenly shows up a year later, but he is changed.  At Zee’s welcome home party, things go from weird to horrifying when Justin and his sixth grade friends play hide and seek.  As Zee begins to spout strange riddles in rhyme, they realize that their game has dire consequences, especially as they begin to disappear one by one into a world of nightmares.


When Justin ends up in Nowhere, it is a lot like the Down Under in Stranger Things.  The kids in Nowhere are in a dark mirrored world below their real world as they are beset by their greatest fears.  I wanted to like this book more.  The rhymes were too simplistic and if I were terrified I don’t think I’d remember them anyway.  There just wasn’t a lot of tension and the consequences for not following the rules of hide and seek seemed pretty harsh for little kids. 


Michelle in the Middle


Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos - HIGH

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, 147 pages. NON-FICTION. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers (Macmillan), 2019. $18.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


Mexican author Villalobos gives insight on eleven teenagers’ immigration experiences as they risk their lives working their way from dangerous homelands across Mexico to try and find a safer life and often family in the United States. 


These stories are brief but compelling.  This quick read should build empathy into the immigration process and gratitude for what the United States offers.  My only problem with the book was that the stories weren’t more fleshed out.  These haunting stories will stay with you. 


Michelle in the Middle


City Spies by James Ponti - ESSENTIAL

City Spies by James Ponti, 378 pages. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division), 2020. $18.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


12yo Sara Martinez is in the foster care system.  Her foster parents are horrible, so she hacks into the juvenile justice system to expose them.  Unfortunately she faces juvenile detention until Mother, a British spy recruits her and she joins a team of youth spies living in Scotland.  At a youth summit in Paris, Sara and her team go undercover to stop a villainous plot that would endanger lives.


Although it was a bit of a stretch to have a 12-year old hacker who can get into any system, this story rocks.  Sara and her crew are likable with some mad skills and the story was engaging and well paced.  There are nice twists as Mother and his teen spies get closer to the truth.  Once you start reading, you will want to finish, and the locales make you wish you were there.  James Ponti has blended fun with danger brilliantly.


Michelle in the Middle


Friday, July 10, 2020

The Knights of Mars by Alex Alice - ADVISABLE

The Knights of Mars (Castles in the Stars #3) by Alex Alice, 54 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second (Macmillan). 2019, $20.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Seraphin, Hans, and Sophie return from the moon in 1869 with aetherite, a miraculous substance that defies gravity.  Unfortunately, they must remain hidden to keep it safe from the Prussians.  The Knights of Aether must rescue King Ludwig and Professor Dulac on the farthest reaches of the Prussian empire-Mars!


You will want to read the first two volumes before jumping into this one.  Translated from French, the storyline would make more sense to readers who have a basic grasp of European history.  The art is visually stunning. The size of the book is one of its strengths and weaknesses.  It is picture book sized, which allows the art to really shine, but is not the standard size to fit on your shelf.  The storyline is intriguing, but much too short.  There are many threads left dangling at the end, so with a deep sigh, I will just have to wait for book four. 


Michelle in the Middle


The Invasion by K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant - ESSENTIAL

The Invasion (Animorphs Graphix #1) by K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant, adapted by Chris Grine, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic, 2020. $13.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS –ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


The Animorphs begin their adventures in this graphic novel adaption.  Five teens are on their way home through a construction site when they meet up with a wounded alien who gives them morphing powers before dying.  He wants to keep them safe from bigger badder invading aliens who want to use humans for hosts for their race. 


Whether or not you have read the Animorph series, you will probably enjoy the graphic novel version.  It’s a great way to be introduced to the series, and an awesome visual if you are already a fan.  Each of the teen’s personalities are brought forth, as well as the creepiness of the aliens they face.  I’m betting you won’t be able to stop at just book one. 


Michelle in the Middle


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon - HIGH


Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta’s Academy, #1) by Sandhya Menon, 361 pages.  Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $19.  

Content: Language: R (39 swears; 14 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Princess Jaya and her little sister, Isha, have been sent away to St. Rosetta’s Academy to disappear out of the public eye in India after Isha’s scandal. Isha and Jaya are under the impression that a rival family, the Emersons, were the ones to slander Isha in the press, so when Jaya realizes that the heir to the Emerson’s, Grey Emerson, is at her school, Jaya plots her revenge. Jaya and Grey are caught up in a long-standing curse between their families and they start to realize that maybe they should be allies, not enemies.  

I liked this twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.  I liked Jaya and she didn’t drag out her revenge, so the storyline moved at an enjoyable pace. I’m not sure why there are so many “f” words-it was a bit distracting and moved the book from advisable to optional. Grey is the perfect brooding love interest and the other minor characters and their drama were just as entertaining as the main story.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Standing Against Hate by Mary Cronk Farrell - ADVISABLE


Standing Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell, 196 pages.  NON-FICTION  Abrams Books, 2019.  $18.  

Content: Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

This non-fiction book concentrates on the African American women who joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during World War II.  Similar to the prejudice and discrimination that African American men suffered, the women in this book enlisted to help the United States win the war against oppression from Hitler but suffered from the oppression in their own country. Charity Adams was one of the main people highlighted throughout the book and she led her battalion as they sorted packages in England that were backlogged and not reaching the troops.  Adams ran a tight system that enabled troops to receive their mail and showed the Army that African American women were as capable as the rest of the Army.  

I loved the women in this book, and they were courageous and unstoppable.  It’s not easy to read about the poor treatment and discrimination suffered by African American women and the violence includes police brutality.  There are historical photographs which make the story easy to visualize.  This is a great perspective to add to your Black History or World War II collections.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi - OPTIONAL


Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes (Pandava Novel, #3) by Roshani Chokshi, 386 pages.  Disney Hyperion, 2020.  $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Fourteen-year old Aru and her Pandava friends are on a quest to find the tree of wishes. At first they need to locate a clairvoyant Pandava and her twin sister, in an attempt to prevent the Sleeper from hearing her prophesies. Aru is convinced that in order to keep the Sleeper from causing a war, she needs to get to the tree of wishes and ask for help from the wish-granting tree.  Of course the quest is long and crazy with lots of hiccups along the way, but Aru and her band of friends have each other’s backs.  

Aru is an great heroine and her sidekicks have their own stories that make them equally as interesting.  I enjoyed the Sleeper elements to this story, as the Sleeper is Aru’s father.  As with the Pandava novels, there are a lot of names and a lot of little side stops along the quest that can get overwhelming, but the banter between the characters makes them easy to read and the characters lovable.  There is an extensive character glossary at the back of the book to help keep track of all the characters and terms.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson     

Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi - OPTIONAL


Aru Shah and the Song of Death (Pandava, #2) by Roshani Chokshi,  381 pages.  Disney Hyperion, 2019.  $17.  

Content: G  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Aru and her best friend, Mini, are drawn into an Otherworld crisis when Aru is accused of stealing the God of Love’s arrow.  With the arrow, someone is turning human men into zombies and the only way to return them to themselves is to steal the arrow and pierce the heart of the thief.  Aru works with Mini, Brynne (another Pandava) and Aiden (Aru’s across the street neighbor) to follow the clues to the thief and stop the thief while clearing her name.  

I am torn on this review because I love Aru and think she is hilarious.  She has a younger feel to her, maybe twelve, and her humor and banter is laugh out loud creative and funny.  I’m not sure younger readers will be patient with the amount of names and terms constantly thrown out about Indian mythology.  It is hard to keep track of them and some of the characters have multiple names with multiple powers or other terms.  Also, Aru moves from adventure to adventure throughout the quest and sometimes it feels like too much crammed into one story.  Overall, I like the Aru Shah series, but I think it will take a determined reader to stay with the story.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao - OPTIONAL


Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao, 453 pages.  Delacorte Press (Penguin), 2019. $19. 

Content: Language: PG-13 (44 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: R.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Ana is the princess to the Cyrilian Empire.  She has the magical affinity of blood which keeps all the magic in the land in balance.  When Ana is framed for killing her father, she has to escape the empire and find the killer.  What she finds along the way is Ramson Quicktongue, a notorious criminal.  Ramson and Ana have to work together to figure out who is behind the overthrow of the Cyrilian Empire and keep the magic in balance.  

So maybe the story idea isn’t a new one, but the characters are easy to love and I got caught up in the action.  The magical elements to the world are easy to understand, but Ana’s blood affinity is gruesome and pushes the book rating to optional.  I loved the banter between Ana and Ransom and their friends who join them along the way add to the fun.  I can’t wait to read more from this series.  The violence is death, blood and gore, murder and torture.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Between Burning Worlds by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell - ESSENTIAL


Between Burning Worlds (System Divine, #2) by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell, 670 pages.  Aladdin (Simon and Schuster), 2020.  $20.  

Content: PG-13 (14 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Three different characters are linked to the revolution brewing in Laterre.  Chatine is now a prisoner on Bastille but sees signs of revolt and a chance to escape her prison. Marcellus tries to help the resistance by spying on his grandfather, the general, but is found out and loses his position of government power, narrowly escaping death to later join up with the revolutionaries.  Alouette is hunting for the truth of who her mother was and who the women were who raised her, and the answers lead her to the resistance and to the knowledge of her father.  As all the characters find themselves joined in a common cause against the regime, they strengthen friendships and find romance.  

I adore this series.  If your readers liked the Cinder series by Marissa Myer they will eat this series up too.  I love all the characters, and the twists. This book has an open ending and I can’t see when the next book is going to be released, but I can’t wait.  The violence does include dead bodies, a beheading and people being manipulated to fight to the death.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The One and Only Bob (The One and Only Ivan #2) by Katherine Applegate - ESSENTIAL

The One and Only Bob (The One and Only Ivan #2) by Katherine Applegate,
352 pages. Harper Collins, 2020. $19 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When Bob was just a puppy, he was abandoned along the side of a road. He found shelter and companionship in a mall with a lowland gorilla named Ivan and a baby elephant Ruby - who were the central exhibit in the arcade there. When Ivan and Ruby are finally moved to a zoo, Bob, who is perfectly capable of taking care of himself, finds a real home with Julia, whose father works at the zoo. This allows Bob to still visit his friends on a regular basis. But on one visit, rain turns into a hurricane, damaging the zoo, endangering the animals and separating Bob from Ivan, Ruby and even Julia. 

 I am so glad to see this sequel! Picking up a few months after The One and Only Ivan ends, Bob fills in the gaps, reminds us what we need to remember and then takes us on an exciting adventure. I listened to the audiobook expertly narrated by Danny DeVito and am also buying the audiobook for my library. Thrilling, touching and very funny I know my students who love Ivan will be waiting in line for my copies.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 4, 2020

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks - ADVISABLE


From the Desk of Zoe Washington By Janae Marks 304 pages. Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2020. $17

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

While looking through the mail on her birthday, 12yo Zoe finds a letter from her birth father, Marcus. Her birth father! She isn’t even allowed to talk about him, he is in prison - serving time for murder and Zoe has never met him. She has a photograph which she hides in her journal, but she keeps this letter secret from her mother and writes him back. He seems so nice. When her grandmother finds out she’s sent 2 letters and received 2, she agrees to help. Grandma has a hard time believing he is guilty - he was such a nice and responsible boy, and when Zoe asks him, he tells her he is innocent. Zoe doesn’t know if he’s lying - after all, he is in prison, so she decides to try to find out the truth herself. 

I loved Zoe’s attitude - the stares she receive getting out of a car with her white step-father that elicit loud “Hey Dads” made me laugh. Loved her library search of print sources where she found some great information. "From the Desk of Zoe Washington" is a great read; timely, age appropriate and thought provoking. The kids baking championship subplot will appeal to many readers as well, they will enjoy the recipes and also learn something about racial inequality.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, July 3, 2020

Mermaids Fast Asleep by Robin Riding and Zoe Persico - ADVISABLE

Mermaids Fast Asleep by Robin Riding, illustrated by Zoe Persico. PICTURE BOOK. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2019. $18. 9781250076359


BUYING ADVISORY: Pre-K - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


Mermaids Fast Asleep is a bedtime story.  It reads like a lullaby—way down deep, way down deep, are there mermaids fast asleep?  A young girl wonders if mermaids down under the water have bedtime like humans.  And if so, do they count fish instead of sheep?  The illustrations are whimsical and colorful.


A perfect bedtime story for a mermaid enthusiast.  The illustrations feel soft and muted, like night is falling.


Diann, Media Specialist


Nature’s Light Spectacular by Katy Flint and Cornelia Li - ESSENTIAL

Nature’s Light Spectacular by Katy Flint, illustrated by Cornelia Li. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Wide Eyes Editions (Quarto), 2020. 9780711251977


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Flint and Li explore 11 natural light-based phenomenon. Li sets the scene with gorgeous illustrations; Flint embellishes with a case study from around the world, a simple scientific explanation, and some pop-out boxes with extra details. Any school that teaches Earth Sciences could use this easily.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Investigators by John Patrick Green - ADVISABLE

Investigators by John Patrick Green, 208 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second (Macmillan), 2020. $10.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


Two sewer-loving alligators, Mango and Brash, are members of S.U.I.T. (Special Undercover Investigation Teams).  They go undercover at a bakery when world famous Chef Gustavo Mustachio goes missing just before the big reveal of his newest culinary masterpiece.  At the same time, the Science Factory is about to reveal their latest scientific breakthrough.  Why, yes, these seemingly unrelated events are related and it’s up to investiGATORS to unravel the clues.


If you think a mustache is enough of a disguise for an alligator to infiltrate a bakery and that a doctor can turn into a helicopter, you will enjoy this book.  If you wanted something more cerebral you wouldn’t have picked it up.  The plot kept adding in side stories like the helicopter/doctor or a Crackerdile, who wants to be remade after falling into a vat of radioactive dough, that sometimes made the storyline confusing, but the colorful illustrations compensate.


Michelle in the Middle


Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins - ESSENTIAL

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel) by Suzanne Collins, 528 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $28


Language: G (0  swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (deaths same as other Hunger Games novels)


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


Coriolanus Snow, his grandmother, and his cousin are barely surviving in their penthouse apartment of prominence in the heart of The Capitol. Coriolanus has been chosen to be a student mentor of one of the tributes at the 10thHunger Games. He hopes to make a name for himself and win a scholarship to the university – otherwise he has no chance to remain with the cream of The Capitol. However, he has been assigned the girl from District 12 – usually to be considered fodder for the others.  It will take a miracle for her to survive even the first day.


I am ever so glad Collins waited so long for another Hunger Games book.  I didn’t; think I wanted this book – who wants to have sympathy for President Snow for heavens sake.  But Collins lays out Snow’s strengths and weaknesses and deftly shows how his weaknesses and insecurities overcome any penchant he might have had to be more understanding or kinder. I listened to the audiobook – twice!


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Becoming Muhammud Ali by James Patterson, Kwame Alexander, and Dawud Anyabwile - ESSENTIAL

Becoming Muhammud Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile, BIOGRAPHY 320 pages, jimmy patterson (Little, Brown and Company). 2020. $17

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Cassius Clay grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. He had a bunch of great friends, including Lucky - who helps narrate this story.  Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, Cassius wasn't allowed to hang out wherever he wanted, couldn't go to the cool amusement park with his brother Rudy, or even look at a new bike outside a shop in town without getting chased away by the owner.  More than anything, though, Cassius wanted to box - on TV.  Patterson and Alexander tell a gripping story of perseverance  and focus, as they recount the childhood of world famous boxer Muhammad Ali.


James Patterson's prose - the perspective of Cassius' best friend Lucky, and Kwame Alexander's poetry as the voice of Clay is outstanding. Even kids with no prior knowledge of Muhammad Ali will be engaged and excited as they watch this young boy focus everything on his boxing.  The illustrations are incredible, black and white drawings by The Crossover graphic artist Dawud Anyabwile capture the 1950's perfectly.


Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone - ESSENTIAL

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone, 240 pages. Crown Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2020. $17.

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When 11yo William (Scoob) gets suspended for fighting he is sent to spend some time with his grandma over spring break. Turns out, she has sold her home and purchased an RV, and she has planned to take Scoob with her on a road trip she and his grandfather took back in 1968. The original trip was fraught with trouble as grandma is white and her husband was black, and they had to use the Green Book to be sure they were staying in places that were safe - but as a mixed race couple, even those places weren't always welcoming. Scoob knows very little about his grandfather -his father has told him he was thief and spent the rest of his life in prison - but on this trip he gets a first hand account from his grandma about him.  Except, Grandma is acting very strange and is not answering his dad's phone calls. Might Scoob actually be in danger?

I loved seeing the civil rights era put into perspective with the Grandma's retelling of her first hand experiences with racism. Nic Stone's "Dear Martin" is popular and "Clean Getaway" will really appeal to the younger readers who aren't ready for the intensity of Martin. Fun cover picture, too.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp - ESSENTIAL

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, 198 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL, DC Comics, 2020, $17.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


Barbara Gordon is a high school master hacker, but her life changes after a gunshot leaves her paralyzed.  She is sent to the Arkham Center for Independence for physical and mental therapy.  Barbara is less than thrilled by this, but she begins to notice that things are not all they seem at Arkham.  Strange noises and missing patients force Barbara to reach outside her limitations to figure out what’s going on.


If you like a graphic novel a bit on the dark side, this is for you.  I could not put it down.  Barbara Gordon is a great character.  Her frustration at being in a wheelchair and a sudden switch of circumstances and friends mixed with a creepy mystery makes for an engaging read.  The illustrations add to the feel of the book.  I’m hoping for book two.


Michelle in the Middle


Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey - ADVISABLE

Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey, 352 pages. Inkyard Press, 2019. $18.


Language:  PG-13 (46 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: ; Violence: G


BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


17yo Darcy is counting the days until she turns 18 – not so that she can leave her home, but because then DCFS can no longer take her from her mother.  And she knows that they would if anyone from outside her very small circle of friend (yes, just one) ever saw their apartment – the apartment that is full of all the things her mother hoards. Darcy lives most of her life inside the books that she inherited from her long-absent father and even works in a secondhand bookstore. Then Asher starts coming into the store - the handsome recent high school graduate, who had a promising future as a pilot, only to have his dreams crushed when he was in a terrible car accident. As their relationship starts developing, Darcy has to decide how much of herself she wants to share – especially since there are parts of that story she only thought she knew.


I thoroughly enjoyed Namey’s look at a child living with a hoarding parent (though the books that I have read always have the mother as the hoarder). She adds more dimension to the psychology of hoarding and recovery from hoarding. Darcy is a sympathetic resilient main character and her ability to recognize and deal with her own problems is solid and satisfying. The romance is a nice addition and I love that is just that – not the focus of the narrative.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Monday, June 29, 2020

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - ESSENTIAL

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, 384 pages. Little Brown, SEPT 2020. $18


Language: PG-13 (43 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some danger)


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


Creeped out by her sister Libby’s boyfriend, 17yo Avery Kylie Grambs has moved back into living in her car. That is until the stranger appears at her school and tells she is mentioned in the will of a very rich man, Tobias Hawthorne – a man Avery has never met.  The reading of the will leaves more questions than it gives answers, especially because Tobias left very little to his actual heirs and the bulk of his $46 billion dollar estate to Avery. And Avery soon finds out that Tobias has also left Avery and his four handsome grandsons a game of riddles and puzzles – the kind the boys have grown up playing. Thankfully Avery is smart enough to hold her own, to help peel back the layers of mystery Tobias let behind, and kind enough to help heal the wounds that each of the boys carry – if she can survive long enough to see the game to the end.


I originally thought this might be similar to The Westing Game, but it so completely not.  Dangerous in parts and very intense, but instead it hits more at the heart. Barnes has woven an intense mystery that holds your attention all the way through. And while some questions will be answered, other questions will arise – so I deeply hope that book #2 is on schedule to be released next year! Sooner, rather than later. I will be rereading this one – probably more than once!


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Born to Run by Jason Walz - OPTIONAL

 

Born to Run (Last Pick #2) by Jason Walz, 236 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second (Macmillan), 2019. $18. 9781626728929


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Twins Sam and Wyatt are separated by aliens.  Sam is kidnapped and taken to a distant galaxy, while her brother Wyatt is left with those whom the aliens thought worthless: the old, too young, and disabled.  Wyatt is working on a rebellion on earth, while Sam is caught up in an alien civil war where she is threatened from both sides. 


Last Pick’s strength is its diversity.  There is a deaf character who signs, crippled people, old people, different ethnicities and Sam and her friend Mia share a kiss.  The artwork is colorful and fun and the story dives right in.  However the storyline jumps back and forth from earth and Wyatt, to space and Sam pretty quickly so sometimes it’s a little confusing.  The storyline didn’t advance the story as much as I’d hoped, but that is the peril of middle books in a trilogy.  If you’ve always been pulling for geeks to triumph, this could be your book.


Michelle in the Middle

 

Twist by Sarah Cannon - OPTIONAL

Twist by Sarah Cannon, 293 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2020. $17. 


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Three gifted middle school students are thrown together when their combined skills create a doorway from a magical world into their own.  Eli the writer, Neha the artist, and Court the tough problem solver, must protect 1983 Oklahoma from terrifying monsters that follow magical creatures through the gateway and still manage to complete a group presentation for school.


Though the premise was fun, after almost 300 pages, it was too drawn out.  If magical creatures were constantly making a mess in my house and eating my donuts, I’d be for getting rid of them, especially if no adults can see them.  There are so many weird creatures and monsters it’s as hard to keep track of them as it is Eli’s little sister Lisa. But at least in Oklahoma you can blame devastating monster destruction on the weather. 


Michelle in the Middle

Chirp by Kate Messner - ESSENTIAL

Chirp by Kate Messner, 240 pages. Bloomsbury, 2020. $17.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (sexual harassment); Violence: PG (mild self harm).

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Mia has moved back to Vermont with her parents so they will be closer to her aging grandma. Mia has recently recovered from a broken arm and has spent the last several months watching television, so she is not thrilled that her parents are making her enroll in 2 different summer camps. Mia is excited to help her grandma at her cricket farm, but it seems that someone may be sabotaging? Can Mia and her new friend Clover (who is in both of her summer camps) solve the mystery and save the farm. Mia is healing both physically and emotionally; while she hasn't shared what happened, Mia was subjected to a gymnastics coach's inappropriate touching and contact and is living with the secret.

I loved the #metoo aspect - not only was Mia's story there, so were the stories of other women - framed for a middle school reader. The content is perfectly appropriate - the harassment in gymastics as well as an experience of her friend Clover are related sensitively. I also appreciated the mystery - it was fun to try to spot the clues and red herrings. Some fun cultural references to books and Broadway show tunes makes this so easy to recommend to 7th grade girls.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, June 28, 2020

More Than a Game: Race, Gender, and Politics in Sports by Matt Doeden - ADVISABLE

More Than a Game: Race, Gender, and Politics in Sports by Matt Doeden, 64 pages. NON-FICTION. Millbrook, 2020. $26.


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS  – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


Divided into three chapters as suggested by the subtitle, this book introduces the reader to some historical and current events that illustrate how sports in the U.S. intersect with race, gender, and politics. The first chapter moves from the Great White Hope to Black Lives Matter, and includes some American Indian and Muslim stories too. The second chapter covers the fight for equality for women athletes, and also touches upon fights for equality for gay and transgender athletes, and issues related to the MeToo movement. The last chapter includes examples of sports being used as a platform both to protest against war as well as to express patriotism.


Current events can be challenging to understand. By using the lens of sports, a subject that many kids are familiar with and interested in, this author encourages readers to reflect on some complicated issues in our society. Though this volume is relatively thin, and thus only lightly touches upon some very complicated issues, it provides a place for students to begin. Some of the book’s topics may make it more appropriate for a middle-school setting. Interspersed among the text are many engaging full-page photos, and the back matter includes source notes, glossary, selected bibliography, and index.


P.K.Foster, MLS, school librarian


Posted by John David Anderson - ADVISABLE

Posted by John David Anderson 384 pages. Walden Pond Press, (Harper Collins), 2017 $17.00

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

At Branton Middle School cell phones are banned.  This is no problem for Frost, he doesn't have a cell phone. He usually communicates with his buddies Bench, DeeDee, and Wolf with post it notes.  These four boys are their own tribe - each quirky enough that as a group they are generally left alone - except for a couple of bullies - boys on Bench's football team who can be pretty cruel. Rose, a new girl suddenly joins their lunch table and she fits right in - she's a gamer like DeeDee, gets along great with Wolf and even Frost finds her a great person to talk to.  When a teacher turns an assignment into posting affirmations on lockers, it's a lot of fun, until the affirmation turn into mean notes and this too, gets completely out of hand.  

It took a while to get to the story. There's a lot of family drama with Frost whose parents are divorced, and background about his nickname (he's a poet). I liked Anderson's use of nicknames - the boys each had one, Rose did not, but Rose is always talking about the names she'd been called in school, most of them mean.  Posted is a story about the power of words and the value of friendship. I can recommend this to the students who like "Wonder."

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel - ADVISABLE

The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel, 332 pages. Chronicle Books, 2019. $17.

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Quijana is in 7th grade, and starting in a new school. She immediately connects with Jayden and Zuri and the three become fast friends. There's a lot going on in Quijana's family - she has a three-year-old brother who is experiencing some sensory challenges; her grandmother Miller, who lives in Florida has recently been diagnosed with cancer; and the family is planning a Christmas trip to Guatemala to visit Quijana's Abuela. Quijana does not want to go - she doesn't speak Spanish and feels like an outsider with her Guatemalan cousins in Texas - what will it be like when she's the only one who doesn't speak Spanish? Even her American mother speaks fluent Spanish. She makes plans to run away to her Grandma in Florida just before the rest of the family goes to Guatemala, so they will have to leave without her.

There were so many pieces of this plot, it felt a bit much: the grandmother's illness, the little brother's problems, the troubles at school and the conflict with her father - who suddenly wanted her to embrace her Guatemalan culture - the music the clothes and the language. I would have appreciated Balcárcel picking 1 or maybe 2 and going into them deeper. I liked her portrayal of 7th graders - they acted like 12-13yo kids. I also appreciated the appendix, with Grandma Miller's advice and science notebook, and the quotes from Don Quixote.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, June 26, 2020

Podcast 19: April #2

Yes -

We are still recording the podcast during this crazy time!  Most of us retreated into reading and reviewing when life changed so suddenly in march, so there were a LOT of reviews in April - enough for three podcasts! You can pickup the podcast anywhere you subscribe, but here is a link to the iTunes site.

Please leave a review and a rating on iTunes - this helps others find the podcast.

This particular podcast is picture books and non-fiction. Here is a link to the shownotes so you can see which books we are chatting about.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt - ESSENTIAL

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt, 217 pages. Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2019. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Carter Jones is a young man who has lost a lot, but in the midst of his despair a traditional English butler shows up at his door. The Butler, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, starts by putting the household in order and then teaches Carter Jones how to play cricket (among other significant lessons), and ultimately helps the family heal. 

I love the formal language in this book used by The Butler and even if young readers don’t understand it all I think they will also find it delightful. It is hard not to compare this to Mary Poppins and consider it a gendered twist tale that works very well. The only complaint I have is that the descriptions of cricket at the beginning of each chapter are too long and hard to follow. 

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley - ADVISABLE

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley 224 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House Graphic, 2020. $13.

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Jen has moved out to a farm in the country with her mom and her mom's boyfriend Walter. Jen is in charge of the chickens and helping with their booth at the Farmers Market, but her math skills aren't great and making change is hard for her. Every weekend, Walter's daughters come. Andy is Jen's age, but she's a know-it-all and bossy. Jen didn't want to move from the city in the first place, Andy is stressing her out and Walter doesn't make the situation any easier.

 My favorite illustrations were Jen's drawings! The reader gets backstory through Jen's comics, and Jen's illustrations at the beginning and end of each chapter were sweet. Jen is talented. I didn't love that Walter wasn't called on being such a jerk - it would have been nice to have that resolved, I don't love that his behavior is excused because "that's just the way he is." I'm sure lots of kids will relate to this story, I'm grabbing a copy for my library.
Lisa Librarian

Monday, June 22, 2020

When the Stars Wrote Back by Trista Mateer - OPTIONAL

When the Stars Wrote Back by Trista Mateer, 187 pages. POETRY. Random House, 2020. $15.

Language: PG (6 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mateer creates poems from words in common and uncommon poetry form as well as through word art. The focus of these poems are on love for self and not needing a partner. Wanting and having a partner is great too, but know that you are happy with yourself as you are.

In these words combined with the simple and beautiful illustrations, self love for the narrator grows until you come to realize that you are worthy of your own love, too. The simplistic style of the entire collection invites readers to put themselves into the emotions and words expressed. I was surprised when a couple of these poems helped heal pieces of heartbreak I thought I had resolved. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use, mention of rape, and sexual assault. The violence rating is for mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Queen’s Peril by E. K. Johnston - ADVISABLE

Queen’s Peril by E. K. Johnston, pages. Disney Lucasfilm Press (Disney Book Group), 2020. $18.

Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

The planet Naboo is electing their new queen, but the unsettling feeling that something is going to happen stretches farther than their galaxy. A candidate is selected, adversaries conspire, and allies are recruited.

We get to read the other side of what happened in Star Wars Episode I (The Phantom Menace), focusing on Queen Amidala and her planet of Naboo. Queen Amidala has always been my favorite Star Wars character, so I was thrilled to read more about her background and motives. This written version of Star Wars keeps the excitement and suspense that draws fans into the movies, but I am disappointed that the book skips over important scenes covered by episode one, assuming that readers have already acquired that knowledge and understand what was going on. Whether or not readers know what is happening, I would have appreciated Johnston giving us a new perspective on the events shown in the movie.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn - ADVISABLE

Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn, 192 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. DC Comics, 2020. $16.

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

She was sent to kill a man, something she had been trained her whole life to do, but, at the last moment, she couldn’t do it. Knowing she couldn’t return, she wandered through Gotham City, making a new home for herself. As she learns the differences between what her life was and what it is now, she will have to decide who she wants to be.

Kuhn captures the feelings of being lost and uncertain through the main character, Cassandra, who can’t even speak when we meet her. As the story unfolds before readers visually, readers get to experience the inner commotion with Cassandra until the triumph comes from self-discovery -- with the help of her friends. I love how easy it was to put myself in Cassandra’s shoes through that process, which helped me end the book feeling that I, too, can figure out my life. The violence rating for fighting, blood, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths by Padraic Colum - ADVISABLE

The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths by Padraic Colum, 271 pages. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2011. $19. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE   

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Jumping right into the plot rich stories of Norse mythology, the author skips the basics and simply orients the reader to the characters and places as needed. Stories about the gods of Asgard encompass the first section, with a heavy focus on Loki. Each story is linked to the next through at least one character, but all of the stories also work as stand alones. 

I am inclined to say that the dated language style of these stories will lose a lot of readers, but this was the first full length book that my son has read cover to cover and stayed engaged the entire time. Norse mythology has that effect, but the short length of these chapters and the way the author connects one story to the next and provides some chronological sequencing to a complicated timeline was helpful. Worth noting is that one of the illustrations at the beginning of a chapter does have a woman with her breasts exposed.   

Jen W.