Friday, May 1, 2020

2020 Top 50 for Elementary and Secondary!

Did any of your favorite books make the lists?  How many have you already read?  Which ones will you add to your collection?

I had so much fun presenting my choices for my favorite books that KTB's reviewers and I read from March 2019 to February 2020.

Here is the link to the lists that I presented.  I will add cute graphics in a longer post later.  But please feel free to print and share these lists far and wide.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

How to Win the Science Fair When You’re Dead by Paul Noth - OPTIONAL

How to Win the Science Fair When You’re Dead (#3) by Paul Noth. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 184 pages, 2019, $14.

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Happy Conklin Jr. is back in his third adventure.  As the book opens, Hap is being held prisoner by his evil Grandma, who has plans to take over the universe and destroy Earth, and also has a terrible punishment planned for him.  Hap knows he has to escape and thwart Grandma’s plan and save his sisters with the help of aliens and Squeep, his pet lizard who communicates through a brain-blending ring. 

If this sounds like a lot going on, it is.  Also, since this is the third in a series, read them in order or you will be totally lost.  The plot was fun, but difficult to follow.  The title didn’t even really fit the book, since the science fair is only in the last few-pages and Hap shows up abruptly whilst the science fair wasn’t mentioned previously in the book.   The pictures are cool and help explain the story, though I still think it’s weird Hap has a beard.  The title and cover will draw readers in, but the ride is convoluted.

Michelle in the Middle

The Blossom and The Firefly by Sherri L. Smith - ESSENTIAL

The Blossom and The Firefly by Sherri L. Smith 310 pages. Penguin Random House Publishing, 2020, $18.

Language: PG; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Taro and Hana are two 15yo seeing World War II from different points of view in Japan in 1945. Taro is a young soldier who is a talented musician who has given it all  up to be a death bomber for his country. Although still a boy, he knows he is ready to complete his duty and die for his Emperor and people. Hana is the young girl who does the laundry and cleaning for his barracks. She has lost her brother and father and all the men in her village and given up hope, until his music brings her back to life.  His violin and passionate playing bonds them together and they each begin to dream of a life that will never be and that they will never have.

The genius of this book is that it has a male and a female voice in a historical fiction novel to engage the whole classroom learning about the Eastern Front of World War II. There are haunting images of Japan before and after the war from both Taro and Hana’s perspective and their viewpoints of the Americans and Japan’s Emperor and the war in Europe and how it differs from their own battle. Although I am not sure how many students would read this book on their own, it is perfect for small book clubs and a classroom read when studying World War 2 and Japan.

Dina W. - ELA teacher

Monday, April 6, 2020

Jackpot by Nic Stone - HIGH


Jackpot by Nic Stone, 343 pages.  Crown (Random House), 2019.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (100+ swears; F-2); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Rico Danger works at a convenient store to supplement her mother’s income and try to provide for their small family.  As a high school student, Rico sees other kids her age coming through the store who seem to have it all, including the cute boy, Zan Macklin.  When Rico sells a lottery ticket to an elderly woman and then finds out that their store sold the winning ticket that has never been claimed, Rico goes on an adventure to seek out the unclaimed ticket.  Rico needs Zan’s skills to help her find the elderly woman, but the more time Rico spends with Zan the more Rico realizes she may be falling for him.  

This fun romance also has some heavier themes such as race, familial obligations, class differences and not judging others.  I loved Rico and her strength, and I also loved Zan and his kind heart.  I couldn’t put this book down and was anxious to see if Rico and Zan could find the lottery ticket.  Nic Stone is a fantastic author and writes lovable characters that are easy to empathize with.  The content includes lots of language and talk of a “wet dream”.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson              

Hilo: All the Pieces Fit by Judd Winick - ADVISABLE


Hilo: All the Pieces Fit (Hilo, #6) by Judd Winick, 210 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House, 2020.  $14.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE   

Hilo and Izzy are robots with feelings.  Razorwar is the “bad guy” who comes to life on earth and Izzy is on Razorwar’s team as they fight Hilo.  Izzy creates a chip that can make a robot human and she gives Razorwar the chip.  When Razorwar puts the chip into Hilo, Hilo explodes and becomes human.  There is a lot more action involving tin-can robots and what happens to Hilo as a human.  

I think people who like the Hilo series will definitely want to read this because it has an important turn in the story.  The twist about Razorwar in the story was good.  The pictures are well done and help tell the story.  I like this whole series.  

Reviewer, Logan, 5th grade  

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Deadly Aim by Sally M. Walker - ADVISABLE


Deadly Aim: The Civil War Story of Michigan’s Anishinaabe Sharpshooters by Sally M. Walker, 288 pages.  Henry Holt and Company, 2019.  $20.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

During the Civil War, American Indians helped fight for the Union Army.  Company K was the largest completely American Indian company and they were composed mostly of sharpshooters.  Their story is a complicated mix of acceptance and segregation during the war, but their stories are like many soldiers at the time-stories full of love, of their family and a need to protect their land.  

Sally Walker does a great job portraying these Union soldiers’ heroic actions and desires for their families.  I enjoyed the pictures and especially the individual stories set against the larger story of the war.  I also love when an author tells little known side stories to the war, and I didn’t know that so many American Indians helped fight the war. I also knew nothing about the horrible prison conditions many Union prisoners of war faced in the Southern prison camps.  One of the Anishinaabe soldiers is fourteen and his story is followed throughout the war. The content includes an amputation that is described, battle injuries, blood and dead bodies, starvation to the point of eating vomit and horrible prison conditions.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer - HIGH


Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer, 384 pages.  Bloomsbury, 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: R (71 swears; 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Rob is a senior in high school who used to be at the top of the social ladder, but is now struggling to get through each day.  Rob’s father stole money from a lot of people in his town and then unsuccessfully attempted suicide, which left him paralyzed and Rob and his mom in charge of caring for his dad’s paraplegic body.  Maegan is a good student, but ever since she tried to cheat on the SAT test and was caught, she is ridiculed at school and her parents don’t trust her at home.  On top of that Maegan’s perfect older sister has returned from college pregnant and leans on Maegan for help.  After they are paired together for a school project, Rob and Maegan learn to share their heavy problems with each other and try to survive their senior year.  

Kemmerer writes empathetic characters and pulls you into their dramas from the beginning.  I enjoyed the plot building and the twist and read this book quite quickly.  Romance, tension, secrets, heartache and familial bonds build a captivating read.  The ending felt abrupt and the content includes a descriptive suicide attempt, teen pregnancy and a student involved with a teacher.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Under the Stars by Carolyn Twede Frank - OPTIONAL

Under the Stars by Carolyn Twede Frank, 272 pages. Covenant Communications, 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Rosie wants the chance to join up with the posse chasing down Ivan’s murderer, but the marshal isn’t taking on any women. With some help from her friends, Rosie becomes Ross and joins the posse anyway. She might have been able to fool the marshal into letting her go along, but Rosie has her work cut out for her if she’s going to keep up the ruse until they catch the outlaw.

I was disappointed to not have as much fun reading about Rosie’s antics as I expected. Frank’s writing was the kind of funny where I understand the humor but don’t actually laugh because I was embarrassed for Rosie as I waited for her careful plans to fall apart. The more I read, the more ridiculous the story became as Rosie tried to discover what she wanted and how to get it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading how everything wrapped up in the last couple chapters.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack - ADVISABLE

Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack, 320 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2020. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Running from their pasts, Sabrina and Harry are looking at futures of uncertainty if nothing changes. When they cross paths, Sabrina and Harry clash over everything, but soon find that the other might just be what they need to move forward.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sabrina and Harry’s story, which is full of hope and forgiveness, strength and perseverance, motivation and confidence to change. The most powerful message is the one that we can all change, that not one of us needs to let our past define who we are today or who we will become tomorrow. Kilpack has dreamed up a unique situation for her characters that is engaging all the way to their happily ever after, though I feel that a couple points were not adequately addressed and resolved.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, April 3, 2020

Nineteen by Makenzie Campbell - OPTIONAL

Nineteen by Makenzie Campbell, 192 pages. POETRY. Central Avenue Publishing (Central Avenue Marketing), 2020. $15.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Campbell opens herself to be vulnerable about love lost and a journey of self-empowerment as she shares her stream of consciousness thoughts with readers. The words feel like poetry because of the emotion fused into them, but the free verse is untraditional and seems more like a memoir.

As I read, Campbell’s words felt calming and comforting to read, and she evoked self-reflection. While not all of her experiences are happy, Campbell is able to create an atmosphere of empathy and encouragement for readers.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

All the King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers - ADVISABLE

All the King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers, pages. Astre Encre, 2019. $15.

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The God-King has ruled for centuries and continues his ruthless rule and expansion. However, not everyone is content to sit back and watch. Though in very different circumstances, several parties are learning that everything the God-King has built is founded on lies and deception -- but how can you commit treason against your God?

With several points of view and magic rules to learn, reading this book starts with a steep learning curve, and I wondered how many new characters Rivers could keep introducing before it got to be too much. The story definitely gets more interesting the farther you read, but it can be hard to want to keep going because of how slow it feels to get the full breadth of understanding. With all of those characters and their differing knowledge of what’s going on, readers must be mentally ready to keep everything straight (meaning that this is not a light afternoon read). The mature content rating is for alcohol use, nudity, mentions of rape, and sexual harassment; the violence rating is for battle gore and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthon - HIGH

The Silver Eyes (Five Nights at Freddy’s #1) by Scott Cawthon, 191 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL, Graphix Media (Scholastic), 2020, $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

If you’ve been living on another planet and don’t know what Freddy’s is, be forewarned-you may not want to take your toddlers there for a birthday party: some people never return.  Ten years after horrifying murders took place there, Charlie and her friends reunite on the anniversary and are drawn back to the old pizza place.  Freddy’s is still standing, covered by an abandoned shopping mall.  When Charlie and her friends break in to explore, they discover that the large animatronic mascots are not as cheery and friendly as one might think. 

Okay, if you’ve played the game you know what’s coming.  You might even be anticipating the fright and gore.  Bring it.  This story works well as a graphic novel.  Gamers who need a storyline behind the game will love the graphics and how they move the plot along.  The art is well done in sober shades.  Blood is kept to a minimum but the creep factor is well intact.  I’m not a gamer, but totally enjoyed the book. 

Michelle in the Middle

Thursday, April 2, 2020

You Won’t See Me Coming by Kristen Orlando - OPTIONAL


You Won’t See Me Coming by Kristen Orlando, 288 pages. Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends), 2019. $18.

Language: R (167 swears, 10 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Reagan finally got her revenge, but it’s come at a high price. Not only is Reagan’s life and future now uncertain, but she has also taken Luke’s life and future away from him. When the mess she made starts to threaten her best friend, Harper’s, life as well, Reagan does everything she can to keep Harper alive.

This trilogy has been a roller coaster for me; I was on the edge of my seat through the first one and disappointed by Reagan’s choices through the second one. I started this third installment with feelings of exasperation towards Reagan because she has been taking action without regard for consequences. As she continued that pattern in this book, I found myself wondering how Reagan has changed over the course of the series, and I feel that she is still immature and not as changed by her experiences as she should be. Nevertheless, an acceptable conclusion seems to have been reached. The mature content rating is for mentioning rape, and the violence rating is for guns and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Dragon Egg Princess by Ellen Oh - ADVISABLE

The Dragon Egg Princess by Ellen Oh 256 pages. Harper Collins, 2020 $17 Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f's) Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Princess Koko disappeared years ago into the Kidahara - a magical forest outside her kingdom. Now, the evil Prince Ruko has imprisoned the King and Queen and wants to rule the kingdom himself. But when a construction company, hired to tear down the forest, begins to unleash the dangers of the magical world, Jiho, a boy immune to magic signs himself on as a guide - only to discover this is a bigger problem than just tearing down the forest. Jiho will need to team up with some unlikely partners to save the kingdom! 

Ellen Oh has given us a fun story with action and adventure, magic and danger all the way through. Jiho, the princess Koko, Micah, the leader of a clan of thieves and ruffians, and the construction workers with Jiho are all teens - an exciting read where the fate of the world is in the hands of the youth. Enough plot for a couple of prequels and a sequel, and so many characters, I was afraid I'd get lost, but I didn't. It all wove together nicely. Wings of Fire readers will enjoy this solid, middle grade stand alone.

Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed - ESSENTIAL

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed 268 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House, 2020 $13

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Omar is a Somalian refugee living in a camp in Kenya with his non-verbal brother Hassan. His father is dead and his mother is missing. Omar has been in Dadaab for 7 years but has never been to school, he's smart, but he cares for his brother every day, so leaving him for the hours of school are difficult. When the opportunity to go to school, learn English and have a chance at a better life comes along, Omar has some tough decisions to make. The camp community is his family now, they've been refugees for over 7 years, and while always hoping to find their mom, it's time to make some plans incase their name shows up on the UN list for possible relocation. 

What an inspirational, heartbreaking story! Omar's memoir is well told, and Jamieson's skills as storyteller and illustrator really come through. Engaging and poignant, this is an important book that will build empathy with my students who aren't refugees and really hit home with my students who are. The graphic novel format is perfect as well - so accessible! 

Lisa Librarian


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pixie Pushes On by Tamara Bundy - ESSENTIAL

Pixie Pushes On by Tamara Bundy, 227 pages. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), 2020. $17            

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS  - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Pixie is sent to live with her grandparents on a farm and she is not very happy about it. She feels that she is bad luck for everyone, and blames herself for her sister getting polio. She has to learn to do chores on the farm and collecting eggs is the worst - one of the chickens always attacks her. New hope springs up in her heart when her grandpa brings home a baby lamb that he wants Pixie to take care of. He warns her that the lamb is a farm animal, not a pet. She names the lamb Buster, and as he grows he follows her everywhere.          

A delightful story set in the 1940's during World War II. Pixie has spunk, and she is very brave, but she is makes rash judgments. I loved how Pixie matured during the book and how she was able to deal with all her inner struggles. She even makes some unexpected friends. I kept cheering for Pixie during the whole book. Such a good read!

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine - ADVISABLE

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine, 370 pages, HarperCollins, 2020, $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Loma is traveling across Spain in the late 1400’s with her grandfather, a Jew of some renown.  Loma is intelligent and together with her grandfather, they try shoring up relations between the Jews and Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who are devout Catholics.  There is intense pressure for Jews to convert to Catholicism, ripping families and traditions apart.  Loma increasingly wants a family of her own, but also feels pressure to help with the greater good in an increasingly dangerous time.

Levine draws upon her own heritage to craft her story. Offering great insight into the lives of Jews during this time period, this book is about family and beliefs, where we call home and what we do when those things are changing or challenged.  Loma is a great character who evolves as she progresses from around age 8 to 16.  I liked that this story is told from a well-to-do Jewish family.  Loma’s traditions and mindset give empathy to her position as a young Jewess whose life is not really her own.

Michelle in the Middle   

Folktales for Fearless Girls by Myriam Sayalero - ADVISABLE

Folktales for Fearless Girls: The Stories We were Never Told by Myriam Sayalero, 212 pages, Philomel Books (Penguin Random House), 2018, $25.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Sayalero has collected folktales from around the world and all feature stories where the girls and women save the day.  Stories include outwitting a devil, shaping your own destiny own, fighting for a country and outsmarting danger, demonstrating  that girls and women are clever, brave, and strong.  These stories come from China, Russian, Persia, India, Armenia, the UK, Spain, France, Southern Africa, Egypt, and Germany. 

I quite enjoyed this book.  The chapters each have a beautiful title page and there are illustrations scattered throughout.  The stories are short and interesting and cover a wide variety of cultures.  This is a great introduction to diverse cultures as well as showcasing women. 

Michelle in the Middle

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman - OPTIONAL

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman, 185 pages. Pajama Press, 2020. $18

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Louisa is headed from her home in Toronto all the way to Tasmania to spend the summer with her eccentric uncle. All she ants to do is practice her violin to prepare for her audition with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra.  Now she is surround by strange animals, strange people, in strange circumstances. She’s back where her mother grew up, but Louisa doesn’t know if being here will help her connect to her mother. And there is a mystery out in the bush – a final farewell her uncle needs to make to an elusive wild creature before the camp he has lived at for his whole life is demolished in the name of progress.

Louisa’s story is not as poignant as Kadarusman’s Girl of the Southern Sea. It is definitely interesting, especially for those who like reading fiction from around the world.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas - ADVISABLE

Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas, 210 pages. Crown (Random House), April 2020.  $17.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Life has been a struggle for Justin, 7th grader, his mom and his older brother since his Dad died. People look at him weirdly because they don’t know what to say and his brother is working at the local KFC to help makes ends meet instead of playing his beloved hockey.  The only person who gets Justin is his best friend, Phuc (pronounced “Fo”, thank you), the only Vietnamese kid at their school. Justin would love answers about his Dad’s death – did he see the local trolley or not?  But sometimes you also have to learn that there may be no answers.

LOVE that there is a middle grade boy protagonist who isn’t a gimmick – not a sports book, not a humorous book – the kind of life’s unanswered question book that is usually reserved for girls.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Beastars by Paru Itagaki - OPTIONAL

Beastars (#1) by Paru Itagaki, 198 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. VIZ Media, 2019. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Tem, an alpaca, is found murdered on campus, all carnivores at the high school are under suspicion. Tem’s friend Legoshi, who happens to be a wolf and a loner, is under as much scrutiny as the other meat eaters. And when Legoshi starts to struggle with his bestial instincts, he is as frightened as the herbivores.

Even having read the whole volume, I still feel confused about what was going on and what the point of the story is, which is odd because I was interested in Legoshi’s story while I was reading it. Some of the confusion may be because of the conspicuous cloud of suspicion that hangs over so many of the characters introduced -- even some of the herbivores. While I am still curious about the loose ends, I don’t feel compelled to search out volume 2. The violence rating is for murder and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, March 30, 2020

It’s the End of the World As I Know It by Matthew Landis - ESSENTIAL

It’s the End of the World As I Know It by Matthew Landis, 307 pages. Dial (Penguin), 2020. $19 9780735228016

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The world is ending in 19 days, but Dee, 8th grader, is the only one who seems to care.  He is determined to finish and furnish his shelter before the day comes.  But the girl next door, who seems familiar, keeps coming around, involving Dee in her hairbrained schemes. And his friends and his family don’t seem to care about the world ending.  And somewhere in his memory is Her – life changed since She left. Dee’s world will definitely change forever in 19 days – but probably not in the ways he thinks.

I love a book that takes me in unexpected places.  You see this cover and think – post-apocalyptic.  But world-shattering events happen every day, just on an individual basis.  Landis writes an ultimately tender book about a boy who needs help, but isn’t getting it – a boy who will finally see that everyone around him loves him very much.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Double Foul by Craig Battle - OPTIONAL

Double Foul (Camp Average #2) by Craig Battle, 272 pages. OwlKids, 2020. $17

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mack and his friends are back at Camp Average (Camp Avalon) for another summer, and things are much better.  There are even girls at Camp this year. Unlike last year, this year the baseball team loses to Camp Killington.  Since Winston was promoted to be the camp director based on the win from last year, he is desperate for a win of any kind.  Mack has been spending his time swimming and playing, but in order to win, Winston needs Mack on that basketball team. Threats to the happiness of all the other campers will do it.  Mack will play along, but he has plans – because there is no way he can let Winston win.

I love a great sports book – a combination of well-written play and human interest is a great draw. This is not that kind of sports book.  It is instead a story of machinations and hijinks – children battling adults (nothing wrong with that per se). Just not satisfying when it is all about manipulation.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

When You Know What I Know by Sonja K. Solter - ESSENTIAL

When You Know What I Know by Sonja K. Solter, 204 pages. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When 1yo Tori tells her mom that Uncle Andy molested her, her mom doesn’t believe her at first. It had to be a misunderstanding. Was it? Tori is filled with shame, anger, and confusion. Her whole life has changed in a few minutes. Her every thought is consumed with the “what ifs”, until finally everyone starts believing her.

Solter writes Tori’s story in poem format; I think it was the perfect way to capture the thoughts of a child who has experienced this type of trauma. I read this from the perspective of someone who has family members who’ve experienced abuse and I would feel comfortable with any of them reading this. It does not focus on the abuse so much as it focuses on the feelings and healing from the trauma.

Reviewer: J. Rosskopf

Kent State by Deborah Wiles - OPTIONAL


Kent State by Deborah Wiles, 132 pages. Scholastic Press, 2020.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (13 swears; 2 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence; PG-13  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW  

An anti-war demonstration at Kent State during the first week of May, 1970 escalated, so the National Guard was brought into Kent to restore order.  After four days of tension and little acts of violence, the National Guard opened fire over the campus and killed four students.  This true event and the many people who witnessed or were involved are represented in this historical prose told by Deborah Wiles.  Five different voices discuss the events building up to the morning of the shooting and they share their opinion and perspective.  

I liked the idea of this historical fiction, but there is too much going on with the format and the dramatic arguing among unnamed voices.  It just came across jumbled and confusing.  The author’s notes could have been helpful but there was a lot of opinion and not enough historical set-up. The reader would have to have a lot of prior knowledge about the time period and the Vietnam War to fully understand the conflict. The content includes graphic shootings of innocent students.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

The Shape of Friendship by Lilah Sturges - OPTIONAL

The Shape of Friendship (Lumberjanes #2) by Lilah Sturges, 144 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. BOOM! Box, 2019. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

The Lumberjanes are great at finding strange things happening in the woods -- much to the dismay of their camp counselor, Jen. When curiosity leads these campers to a cave, they end up trapped by pookas intent on taking their places at camp. Will the girls get back in time to save Jen and the other campers?

While part of a series, no previous knowledge is necessary for this volume. These girls experience some misadventures while also trying to deal with the bumps in their relationships. Readers get to learn truths about friendship with the characters and laugh a little along the way at the silly scenarios the girls end up in. The message is good, but I don’t feel compelled to search out the rest of the series.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Promised by Leah Garriott - OPTIONAL

Promised by Leah Garriott, 368 pages. Shadow Mountain, 2020. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After having her heart broken and her reputation stained, Margaret is looking for a marriage of convenience. This would help alleviate the rumors around her family and restore their status while still keeping her heart safe from future harm. But safety is not happiness, and Lord Williams is determined to make Margaret feel the difference.

Margaret’s story is engaging in a way that makes it easy to read just one more page, though I wanted to shake Margaret half the time (and swoon the other half of the time). I enjoyed putting the pieces together that Garriott makes available to the reader and then see my suspicions confirmed regarding various characters. However, while readers can see the growth in Margaret and find satisfaction in her happy ending, I don’t fully support the main characters’ relationship and the mixed messages it can send to readers.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Girl Who Fell Out of the Sky by Victoria Forester - OPTIONAL

The Girl Who Fell Out of the Sky (Girl Who Flew #3) by Victoria Forester, 328 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2020. $17.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When giant beetles erupt from under the earth, Piper is bit and loses her power to fly. Now that she is no longer super, she feels at loose ends.  The others are off trying to figure out this new danger, while Piper is told to stay home and be safe.  But Piper has bigger plans.  And if her friends with powers won’t help, then she will just have to recruit normals – even if it means bringing in two of the Miller brothers – her nosy, hostile neighbors. With a little help from her AnnA, one of the Chosen Ones, they just might have a chance.

At first I had a hard time Piper whine about her changed status. But once the Millers became involved, it became much more exciting. Max, the villain, is as frustrating as ever.  In fact, I can’t believe this is the conclusion of the series, because Max is still out there working to wreak havoc. I only rate it lower because the beginning drags a bit and the series is not as accessible as other fantasy series.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Stuart Gibbs - ESSENTIAL

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (funjungle #6) by Stuart Gibbs, 321 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2020. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

As if solving mysteries involving live animals isn’t dangerous enough, Teddy’s latest mystery involves a missing dinosaur skull.  The skull was unearthed on the ranch of his friend Sage, but during a violent rainstorm one night the skull disappeared. As a favor to his friend, Teddy gets involved. Not only that, but the Barksdale brothers contact Teddy for help with their (illegal) anaconda has eaten their mother’s cat. Now Teddy has to also track investigate a exotic retile smuggling ring. With his trademark aplomb, Teddy and his extended circle will again need to show local law enforcement  - and the crooks - to take them seriously.

I think the climactic scene in this book is my favorite of any Stuart Gibbs book – and Gibbs is a master at hijinks!  Gibbs fans will have a field day with this.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Caught! Nabbing History's Most Wanted by Georgia Bragg - ADVISABLE


Caught! Nabbing History’s Most Wanted by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, 216 pages.  NON-FICTION  Crown Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2019. $19  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Fourteen different historical figures are compiled in this book because at some point in their illustrious career they were caught by the authorities.  Whether they were guilty or not depends on the person, but their exciting story and outcome are covered as separate chapters.  The following people are included: Joan of Arc, Sir Walter Raleigh, Carvaggio, Blackbeard, John Wilkes Booth, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Mata Hari, Typhoid Mary, Rasputin, Vincenzo Peruggia (he stole the Mono Lisa), Bernard Otto Kuehn (WWII spy) and Al Capone.  

I enjoyed reading the summaries of well-known criminals and at the end of every chapter there are interesting statistics that read like a Genius World Record fact page.  I was shocked and wowed by a lot of the stories that I didn’t know.  The illustrations are cartoonish and add to the story, but sometimes the snarky tone of the narrator was off-putting.  The content does include a beheading, shooting, burned at the stake and killing horses. Mata Hari’s story has abuse and refers to her being molested and that biography felt more hostile than the others.   

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty - OPTIONAL


The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty, 362 pages.  Random House, 2019.  $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Eleanor is a middle schooler whose grandfather is a survivalist and she has been run through drills her whole life, just in case.  When Eleanor reads of an asteroid that is headed towards earth and will crash into the planet in April, Eleanor begins to take her grandfather’s skills seriously.  Eleanor shares her concerns with her best friend, Mac, and together they start a survivalist club at school.  But when Eleanor’s father hears of her obsession and fears, he tries to stop her club and forbids Eleanor from talking to her grandfather about the end of the world.  

I loved McAnulty’s book, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, so I was super excited about this book.  I enjoyed the beginning of the book and the premise of Eleanor’s middle school drama, but by the end I was frustrated with Eleanor’s inability to listen to those who loved her over the rantings of a scientist online.  The ending was hard to read because Eleanor couldn’t get out of her own way and it became too predictable.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Fence by C. S. Pacat - OPTIONAL

Fence (Volume 1) by C. S. Pacat, 112 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. BOOM! Box, 2019. $10.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Fencing is in Nicholas’s blood. Nicholas does all he can to learn and become as good as his father, but his first tournament still doesn’t go as well as he wanted it to. Now there’s more at stake then his pride: if Nicholas doesn’t get on the fencing team -- a team that will only accept three members -- he’ll lose his scholarship.

Everyone likes a good underdog story, and I’m sure that the following volumes will deliver that through Nicholas -- I’m definitely rooting for him -- but I don’t feel like Pacat brings anything new to the typical underdog story. Sob-story background: check. Cocky rival: check. High stakes: check. Seeing all of the familiar tropes without a compelling reason to invest myself in Nicholas’s story makes me feel like reading the series is unnecessary because I know what the ending looks like.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Afterwards by A.F. Harrold - OPTIONAL

The Afterwards by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett, 197 pages.  Bloomsbury, 2018.  $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Ember is a middle schooler and her best friend, Ness, is the only friend she feels like really understands her.  One day, Ness dies unexpectantly and Ember can’t accept the loss.  Ember follows a bunch of weird clues that lead her to the underworld, where Ember tries persistently to lure Ness back to the living.  But the rules that govern the underworld must have a balance and Ember keeps ignoring all of the warning signs.  

The Afterwards has a mystic realism feel similar to a Neil Gaiman novel.  I loved Harrold’s book, The Imaginary, but was disappointed in this read.  Ember’s insistence on breaking the rules and ignoring all the warning signs is what perpetuated the plot and it was frustrating to follow.  I enjoyed the illustrations and felt like the use of black and white or color in the pictures added to the world building.  Creative idea but didn’t love Ember and her unbelievable naivete.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Legend of the Fire Princess by Gigi D.G. and Paulina Ganucheau - OPTIONAL

Legend of the Fire Princess (She-Ra Graphic Novel #1) by Gigi D.G. and Paulina Ganucheau, 128 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL, Graphic (Scholastic), 2020, $13.  9781338538953

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Two opposing forces are looking for the Spirit Ember, a runestone that is supposed to have devastating power.  Glimmer hopes to use the Spirit Ember to give the Rebellion an edge to win the war against the Horde, but the Horde is looking for it too.  Adora (aka She-Ra) is learning to use her powers, so which side will find the runestone first? 

Even though this says it is book one, I felt like I was missing a huge backstory.  If you aren’t familiar with the She-Ra universe, the beginning will be confusing for you.  There is only one male, who sports a bare midriff, and a couple of instances of same-sex attraction.  There wasn’t a lot new here and the storyline didn’t advance very far.  But if you’re a She-Ra fan, dive in!

Michelle in the Middle
https://amzn.to/33EktRf

The Accursed Inheritance of Henrietta Achilles by Haiko Hornig and Marius Pawlitza - OPTIONAL

The Accursed Inheritance of Henrietta Achilles (A House Divided #1), by Haiko Hornig and Marius Pawlitza, 96 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL, Graphic Universe (Lerner), 2020, $10 (pb).  9781541586925

Content G\

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Henrietta Achilles, possibly in her mid teens, has been living as an orphan when she is brought to the village of Malrenard.  There she finds out that as the only living relative of a deceased wizard, she had inherited his bizarre house, which is reputed to have a treasure hidden inside.  As she enters her new home, she discovers it is truly bizarre and over run with soldiers and bandits fighting one another over finding the treasure and even pastries, and yes, monsters. 

I liked the artwork and the premise, but I had to read the back of the book to get the storyline down.  There was so much going on so fast, that it didn’t give me much time to process.  At only 96 pages, all I got out of it was that Henrietta is going to stay and figure out the house.  Good luck to her with so many other bodies in it. Maybe it’s all a ploy to help readers feel as confused as Henrietta.  

Michelle in the Middle 

Waste of Space by Gina Damico - OPTIONAL

Waste of Space by Gina Damico, 396 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $18.

Language: R (181 swears, 2 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Chazz Young arranges a new TV show called “Waste of Space,” the whole world is captivated by a new reality show sending teenagers into space. But Chazz did not reveal the truth to his viewers -- only what he wanted them to see. Now we get the full story from what went on behind the scenes, thanks to this intern-turned-whistleblower.

Damico tells this story unconventionally, through a series of phone calls and video transcripts. The format is difficult to navigate because of the steep learning curve required of readers, though I eventually got used to it. This style allows readers to get all the information from several different points of view, and this complemented the premise well. While Damico wrote a story that is hard to pull away from, I also had a hard time continuing to read through the confusion and chaos that goes on. Waste of Space is well-written; it’s just not my cup of tea. The mature content rating is for innuendo, underage substance abuse, nudity, and implied sex. The violence rating is for threats and gun usage.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen