Saturday, February 29, 2020

My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi - ADVISABLE

My Hero Academia (Volume 1) by Kohei Horikoshi, 189 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. VIZ Media, 2020. $9.

Language: PG (15 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

In a futuristic time when having superpowers is the new normal, everyone wants to be a professional superhero, including 14-year-old Midoriya. Unfortunately, Midoriya is abnormal, having been born without supernatural abilities. Even that fact is not going to keep him from trying, though -- Midoriya can still be a hero, right?

I love that Midoriya never gives up. He has a goal, and he’s determined to make it happen despite all the discouragement and mocking he gets for it. Midoriya simply chooses to be good, and that’s what makes him the superhero he wants to be. We can all be heroes and fulfill our dreams if we can adopt Midoriya’s attitude. I find this story both inspiring and fun to read -- can’t wait to read volume two!

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith - HIGH

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith, 286 pages. Candlewick, 2019. $18.

Language: R (75 swears 19 'fs'); Mature Content: PG 13; (sexual situations - mostly off-page) Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

17yo Louise, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is on the staff of the school's newspaper in a small town in Kansas. Louise is paired up with photographer Joey; together they write the feature section. The drama teacher/director has made a point that this year there will be diversity casting of the school musical - the Wizard of Oz. But, when students of color get the leading roles over the white kids, - including Louise's brother as the Tin Man, an ultra conservative parent's religious group puts up a fuss, with a teacher's job on the line, the paper has a big story to cover, and when the actors' families start receiving anonymous notes, Louise must decide between good reporting, and staying true to her family. 

Hearts Unbroken is an amazing #ownvoices read. Lots of issues - many because of the nature of the journalism class - diversity, racism, sexual bullying, family, relationships, friendship, church, patriotism.  It really made me think about how other cultures must feel when they see themselves represented (often parodied), and the struggle minority kids have getting equal consideration. I'm so excited to put more YA and middle grade novels by and about BIPOC on my shelves and into the hands of my students. 

Lisa Librarian

My Story Starts Here by Deborah Ellis - ADVISABLE

My Story Starts Here: Voices of Young Offenders by Deborah Ellis, 176 pages. NON-FICTION. Groundwood Books, 2019. $17.

Language: PG13 (12 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Here are the experiences of more than 20 young adults and 10 adults who have been in and out of (or have had family members in and out of) the children’s criminal justice system in Canada. These people give the facts as they are -- the ugly truths and buds of hope -- and all of them encourage readers to not repeat their mistakes.

We may all occupy space on the same planet, but we each live different lives. While some details are left out or made vague to protect the identities of those sharing their experiences, enough is shared here to make you grateful for what you have -- people, things, opportunities. Ellis does her best to help every reader relate by asking questions that put readers in the shoes of those they read about and giving application ideas at the end of each experience shared. Whether you are in a bad situation or you know someone who is or you just want to see life from someone else’s point of view, those interviewed want you to read this book and know you are not alone. The mature content rating is for underage drug and alcohol use as well as mentions of rape and sexual abuse. The violence rating is for bullying; criminal activity, including stealing and gun violence; mentions of self-harm, suicide, and murder; and mentions of physical, mental, verbal, and sexual abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Miraculous by Jess Redman - ADVISABLE

The Miraculous by Jess Redman, 306 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019. $23            

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Wunder Ellis is 11yo and he believes in miracles. He keeps a journal of all the miracles happening all around him and considers himself a specialist on miracles, or a miracologist. However, everything changes when his baby sister dies at 8 days old. Wunder is very upset and gets rid of his miracle journal. He meets Faye, a girl who wears a cape and has her own problems. They start exploring, hanging out at a big, abandoned house, meeting an old woman who asks for their help. This leads Wunder and Faye on lots of adventures and eventually to friendship and even healing.          

I liked how Wunder was such a positive and happy kid. He was always smiling and believed in the good in the world. He kept a journal of miracles, small and big, and he believed in all of them. That is, until his baby sister died. Wunder works through his grief and mourning and eventually finds a way to look at the bright side again. I liked that the book shows that life has its good times and  hard times and that we can get through the hard times and be happy again.       

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

Friday, February 28, 2020

Bix by Scott Chantler - OPTIONAL

Bix by Scott Chantler, 252 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL, NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY. Gallery 13, 2020. $30.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

From a young age, Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke was entranced by music -- especially jazz music -- but his father didn’t approve the pursuit of that dream. Bix was sent to school and work, encouraged to give up music. But he would not let go that easily, for Bix was meant to play.

Chantler uses a lot of clever storytelling, opting to tell the story nearly entirely through illustrations (about 90 percent pictures and 10 percent words). This structure makes the life of Bix a quick read, though not an easy one with the ups and downs of emotion. Throughout the triumphs and disappointments, the illustration-versus-word set up made me feel like I could actually hear music in the background. Despite the tragedy of how Bix’s life concludes, I found that the ending was the most beautiful part. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, alcohol abuse, and partial nudity.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Prince Freya by Keiko Ishihara - OPTIONAL

Prince Freya (Volume 1) by Keiko Ishihara, 188 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. VIZ Media, 2020. $10.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Sixteen-year-old Freya just wants to take care of her loved ones in this time of war, which is hard to do when she’s always crying. When Freya tries to warn her friends of what she overheard the enemy say, she ends up central in her country’s new plan in the war. Does she have what it takes to lead?

My favorite thing about this book is Ishihara’s beautiful and emotion-filled illustrations. The premise of Freya’s story has piqued my interest, though I’m still a little confused about everyone’s roles; watching how things unfold in volume two is sure to be interesting. I can’t decide how I feel about Ishihara’s commentary throughout the story; I like the insights, but they felt a little disruptive, and I think they would be better as an author’s note at the end rather than placed intermittently in the book. The mature content is for innuendo, and the violence rating is for gore and death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada - ADVISABLE

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada, 197 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Iron Circus Comics, 2020. $15.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

All Hyun Sook wants is to go to college and continue her education. With protests all over the campus, her mom tries to get her to stay home by saying it’s too dangerous to go. Nevertheless, Hyun Sook enrolls in classes and even looks into extracurricular activities -- only a week into classes, she finds the most important lessons outside the classroom.

While the story is based on true events during South Korea’s military regime in the 1980s, there is relevance to our own politically-charged environment. As Hyun Sook starts to learn about what the political leaders are doing in her time and what her opinions are, readers feel encouraged to know both the issues and the stances of leaders meant to represent them. Kim does a great job of balancing humor and the seriousness of what went on during the time period this is set in. The mature content rating is for partial nudity and implied rape, and the violence rating is for Molotov cocktails, protest violence, and beatings.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

All of Me by Chris Baron - ADVISABLE

All of Me by Chris Baron, 312 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2019. $17      

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ari is dealing with a big move across the country, his parents crumbling marriage, new friends, and body image problems. He is overweight and is constantly reminded of that. His mom gives him a diet book and we see, through Ari's eyes, how Ari comes to terms with who is and how it is OK to be him.

The story is told in verse and is easy and fast to read. It beautifully describes how Ari deals with all the issues in his life. I liked that although the diet book and the diet helped Ari, it could not fix everything. I will book talk this book and recommend it to my students.         

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Adoring Abigail by Chalon Linton - ADVISABLE

Adoring Abigail by Chalon Linton, 197 pages. Covenant Communications, 2020. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mr. Robert Wilkins never met his great-aunt, and, yet, after his time as a Captain, Robert finds himself as the sole heir of her estate, Cattersley. Next door to Cattersley is a cottage where 19-year-old Miss Abigail Rutherford and her grandmother live. Abigail has long suffered because of her speech impediment, leading her grandmother to limit her freedoms for her own good. Does Robert’s new battlefield include saving a damsel in distress?

This is one of those stories that just makes you breathe a deep sigh of contentment when it ends. The whole time, readers hope for the happily ever after while suffering with our clever, but cautious, heroine. By the time everything works out, readers are ready to cheer for our dashing hero and taunt the loathsome antagonist. Robert and Abigail’s story is a cute read, and I enjoyed watching the friendship that grows between Abigail and her neighbors as much as, if not more than, the romance aspect -- everyone needs friends like the Wilkinses.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Beyonce: Queen of the Spotlight by Ebony Joy Wilkins - OPTIONAL

Beyonce: Queen of the Spotlight by Ebony Joy Wilkins, 144 pages. NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY. Random House, 2020. $8.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ever since she was born, Beyonce has been singing and dancing. She doesn’t let insults, mistakes, or depression hold her back from her dreams. Through hard work, Beyonce has become an award-winning singer-songwriter, a loving sister and aunt, an actress, an advocate for what she believes, and a mother.

Wilkins does a good job simplifying the events in Beyonce’s life that has led to where she is now. I enjoyed the quick, short experiences that talk about her, and the fast pace will help keep the attention of young readers, too. The non-fiction narrative was dry at times, but I like how Wilkins gives readers lists, pictures, and explanations of music business lingo and important people in Beyonce’s life throughout the book.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Suncatcher by Jose Pimienta - ADVISABLE

Suncatcher by Jose Pimienta, 217 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Random House Graphic (Random House Children’s Books), 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Beatriz, a high school student, is consumed by music and the need to finish this one killer song. School and even sometimes her bandmates make it hard for Beatriz to figure the song out, but she has to finish it, and no one understands: her grandfather’s soul is trapped and dependent on Beatriz finishing the song. And she won’t rest until he’s free.

With a story mostly about music, I was surprised by how the illustrations helped me feel what I couldn't hear throughout the book and how well the pictures and story compliment each other. Pimienta has woven a story that starts with good intentions and slowly descends into obsession. While not all readers are trying to free the souls of their loved ones, it’s easy to fall down our own slippery slopes. Beatriz’s story doesn’t say not to do the things we love; the lesson from Pimienta is to find balance because that is what will really make us happy. Balance in life and a couple of good friends make all the difference.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder - ESSENTIAL

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder, 291 pages. Walden Pond Press, 2019. $17            

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Leah, 13yo, has felt alone and lost for a year, ever since tragedy struck her family. She feels like her family is just existing, drifting, not connecting anymore. Summer has come and Leah is bored and tired of watching TV. She starts exploring and likes to go to the farm close to her home. One day while exploring the river that runs through the farm she meets Jasper. The two girls really connect and quickly become best friends. They create a place, hidden and overgrown, that only they know about. Then real life catches up to them. Can they navigate the hard times and still remain friends? Will they be able to do the "right thing?

Wow! What a story! I could not put this book down. Leah and Jasper make a great connection, but something is not right and when the storm hits it was great to see how mature the girls were and what great parents Leah has. The characterization is great. Leah and Jasper just came alive in my mind. They had some fun adventures and they could also be serious. The story is fast paced and a real page-turner. It book played out like a movie in my mind.           

Ellen-Anita, Library

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Kerry and the Knight of the Forest by Andi Watson - OPTIONAL

Kerry and the Knight of the Forest by Andi Watson, 288 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Random House Graphic (Random House Children’s Books), 2020. $13.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kerry has the medicine for his parents, now he just has to get home before it’s too late. When a girl tells Kerry that there is a shortcut through the forest, he races in and gets lost. Finding a guide to help him, Kerry should be home in no time -- if he doesn’t stop for every distraction.

While Kerry is a little exasperating with his inability to focus, he is also a genuinely nice person. I love how Watson illustrates -- through both words and pictures -- the message of good triumphing over evil. Distractions got in the way, but this simple story contains truth that will resonate with readers as we, too, understand getting distracted from important tasks.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Witch’s Hand by Nathan Page - OPTIONAL

The Witch’s Hand by Nathan Page, 352 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2020. $18.

Language: R (63 swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After solving a case to find a missing dog, Al and Pete, with their adoptive sister Charlie, are told to take a day off cases and enjoy the summer like normal kids. And they do. Until a suspicious storm incites investigation, leading to magic and witches and a whole lot of trouble.

Like the Hardy boys, these twin brothers find ways to get into trouble and reveal secrets as amatuer sleuths -- Al and Pete just have more fanciful resources. Their story was interesting to read, though a little darker and more dire than I imagined with murder and a remorseless villian. The illustrations by Shannon do a marvelous job of conveying the sinister and foreboding vibe of the story and were my favorite part of this book.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

To Drink and To Eat by Guillaume Long - NO

To Drink and To Eat by Guillaume Long, 136 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Oni Press, 2020. $34.

Language: R (29 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Long animates himself in this graphic novel as he teaches readers his favorite cooking tips, tricks, and recipes. Traveling as a foodie means opportunities to eat new foods, so Long’s cookbook is also part travel log. Good adventure is found both abroad and in the kitchen.

I love Long’s idea of making a graphic novel cookbook -- I’ve never seen anything like it. My favorite part is the creative ways Long finds to illustrate the 20+ different recipes. However, beyond the visual smorgasbord, I found the book difficult to read both because of poor font choices and because I felt like I had to slog through silly stories that I didn’t find very entertaining. The mature content rating is for nudity and a mention of orgasm.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay - ADVISABLE

The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay, 324 pages. McElderry Books, 2018. $18             

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Clarissa, Clarry, looses her mother right after she is born in the early 1900’s. She grows up with a very distant and introverted father and an older brother, Peter. She helps Peter with his schoolwork but is not allowed to go to school herself, even though she longs to. The highlight of every year is summer in Cornwall with their grandparents and her cousin Rupert. When World War I breaks out, Rupert enlists. At first Clarry doesn't realize the gravity of the war, but reality soon catches up to her when Rupert is missing in action.

I liked that Clarry was so kind, positive and that she set a goal and went for it. She worked hard and applied to school, going against the wishes of her father. I really enjoyed reading this book and getting to know Clarry. I recommend highly recommend this book. It was well written and the story flowed easily. Very good reading.          

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Doodleville by Chad Sell - ADVISABLE

Doodleville by Chad Sell, 288 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2020. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When Drew and her friends in art club go to the Art Institute, they take away inspiration to make something new. But Drew’s project quickly takes on a mind of its own, wreaking havoc on the other creations. With her doodles creating so many problems, can Drew recover from losing both her art and her friends?

Drew’s doodles are magical, and I love that everyone in the book takes it in stride as if it’s totally normal -- which makes me wonder what the rest of the world looks like as imagined by Sell. I also love that Drew has a great support system around her. The conflict in this book stems from Drew’s internal battles, and the depiction of depression, or at least a depressive episode, was beautifully done. A message to take away from all of this is when we reach out for help from those who love us, our inner demons can be overcome.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom - OPTIONAL

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom, 275 pages. Poppy, 2017. $18.


Language: R (99 swears, 7 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG


BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mel is holding it together, but it’s been getting more difficult since her brother, Nolan’s, death. Mostly, she ignores the biggest problem to address other issues, and that works for her. Until one secret gets out and starts breaking down the walls Mel has built.

Mel has bipolar disorder, which is a big part of the story (and I love how Lindstrom conveyed her states of mind by writing her stream of consciousness differently depending on the mood), but the book is not just about issues specific to her disorder. As I read, I didn’t know what I liked so much about the book -- it’s pretty unremarkable, story-wise. However, Lindstrom has written about Mel and her loved ones in a way that made me care about them. I wanted to see them resolve their issues and succeed. They felt real to me, and I wanted to keep reading despite not knowing where the story was going. In the end, I felt understood and less alone as I read about how hard life is and about how we all keep going the best we can. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, drug use, and mentions of sex and genitalia; the violence rating is for mentions of death of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen - HIGH

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, 448 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2019. $20.

Language: R (86 swears, 2 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (unmarried pregnancy mentioned); Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Emma’s father has just remarried and she couldn’t be more happy for him. Her mother, Waverly, died 5 years ago, failing to deal with demons from a trauma years earlier. While he and her stepmother are on their honeymoon, Emma is supposed to stay with her best friend, Bridget. But there is family trouble and Emma instead goes to stay with her mother’s family - people whom she hasn’t seen since she was four. Her family has been told to treat her like a guest, but Saylor, as this family calls Emma, is determined to learn her mother’s story and about the other half of her history. It dredges up hard memories for everyone, especially when Saylor makes some poor choices.

Dessen continues to write rich stories - life’s many facets that have a romantic component, but are really about family and self.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Monday, February 24, 2020

Downfall by Inio Asano - NO

Downfall by Inio Asano, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. VIZ Media, 2020. $14.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Fukasawa doesn’t know what to do now that he’s finished his manga series. Without selling more manga, everything starts to fall apart around him. The only solution is to sell more manga -- right?

I found a lot of Fukasawa’s story confusing but especially the beginning and the end. I’m not really sure how everything turned out because there seemed to be some time skipping at the end. Overall, though, this story simply wasn’t fun to read because Fukasawa is an unlikable character. I was sick of listening to him whine after the first chapter, and I only got more frustrated because of the poor choices he was making. Furthermore, the nudity in this manga horrified me; it's basically pornography. The mature content and violence ratings are for prostitution, vaginal and oral sex, and rape.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Super Sisters by Chistophe Cazenove - OPTIONAL

Super Sisters by Chistophe Cazenove, 92 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Papercutz, 2020. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Wendy and Maureen save the world with their powers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get on each other’s nerves. When Maureen develops a new power, she uses it to get her way and annoy Wendy. Luckily, this new power might also be just the thing to defeat the latest villain.

We first meet Wendy and Maureen in a few shorts that come before the main episode. I enjoyed that opportunity to understand their characters before jumping into their adventure. Cazenove cleverly makes this super-sister-duo relatable for readers with siblings and uses their sister dynamic to the advantage of the heroines. The mature content is for revealing outfits on some of the female characters, and the violence rating is for hero and villain battles (without gore).

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - ESSENTIAL


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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Morrigan and Hawthorne join the other 7 new members of the Wundrous Society with their different talents for training and a wundrous education. While the others have intriguing classes, Morrigan is stuck every day in one class - the History of Heinous Acts of Wundrous Acts. But someone is blackmailing the group - threatening to expose Morrigan’s secret if each group member doesn’t complete a task. There is even more to worry about, because people are disappearing, including people close to Morrigan.

I am so late reading this, but I am so glad I finally did. I love the Wundrous creations that Morrigan discovers, even the creepy ones! What a marvelous fantasy world to inhabit!

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowski - ESSENTIAL

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowski, 266 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Random House Graphic (Random House Children’s Books), 2020. $13.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Robin runs away from her princess etiquette class to attend a festival in another part of the kingdom, making friends along the way. After returning to the castle, Princess Robin stumbles upon more adventures near and far. Help her escape evil witches, find her way through mazes, and more, so she and her friends can get safely home -- again!

Princess Robin's adventures are a delight to read! While they don't use much logic, I see their nonsensical nature as a strength. With the book encouraging silliness, readers' imaginations are freed from normal bounds and allowed to accept the unexpected surprises Troianowski offers. My favorite parts are the interactive bits -- I got funny looks for going along with the instructions, but helping the princess and her friends gave me so much joy that I didn't care!

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The White and Gold People by Segun Starchild - NO

The White and Gold People by Segun Starchild, 301 pages. Akasha Publishing, 2019. $10.

Language: R (102 swears, 45 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

When the dress goes viral, the world divides into two kinds of people: black and blue versus white and gold. This divide is all fun and games, until the white and gold people start evolving into a higher race. A silly argument becomes war, and no one can see the end.

Starchild’s idea to take this real event with the dress and turn it into a fantasy novel was intriguing, but I am not impressed with the outcome. Several elements made the story hard to read. Structurally, the fluid point of view was hard to follow and Starchild seemed to struggle with how to get the characters into their next big scene, which gives readers unnecessary, filler details. Content-wise, I was annoyed by constantly having to skip scenes for the inappropriate sexual content. While there is a lead in for a sequel, I will not be subjecting myself to this story any longer. The mature content rating is for nudity, sexting, fondling of genitals, vaginal and oral sex, and threesomes. The violence rating is for battle scenes and persistent murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - ESSENTIAL


Content: G (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (kidnappings, some violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Morrigan is a Cursed Child, and as such she is supposed to die at Eventide, the end of the current Age. But when that time arrives, she is offered a way out and she finds herself in a whole different world and at the Wundrous Hotel Deucalon, run by her savior, Jupiter North. Morrigan also learns that she is special; she is a Wundersmith, able to use Wunder on her own to create. But Wundersmiths are feared, so she must keep this secret, even as she competes for one of only nine spots available each year in the Wundrous Society.

I am SO sorry I hadn’t read these yet! What a great adventure! I’m am right on to reading #2 and I am so excited for #3! There will be a #3, right? Townsend’s world building will delight every fantasy  reader.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh - HIGH

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh, 332 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books), 2018. $18.

Language: R (107 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Seventeen-year-old Sam and his buddies have a product that’s going to make them all rich, as soon they can get a prototype together. Their portable, infallible lie detector is going to change the world. They aren’t wrong, but it comes at a greater price than they expected.

I enjoyed reading this story set in a futuristic America for a few reasons. First of all, Sam’s story includes a lot of action as he and his friends are forced to flee several times before facing the main antagonist, and the excitement of it all makes it easy to stay engaged. But another reason was more alluring: pondering the repercussions of everyone knowing the truth all the time. Sam and his friends run into several unintended consequences of their invention, and the thought experiment it gives to readers was my favorite part. I wonder which of Sam’s friends I most relate to and why; I wonder what this invention might do to our modern-day America. Do you want a world where everyone has to be honest? The mature content rating is for nudity and a peeping tom incident, innuendo, and mentions of sex; the violence rating is for theft, torture, gun violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom - HIGH

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom, 369 pages. Feiwel and Friends Book (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2017. $19.

Language: R (181 swears, 66 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Gwendolyn has lived around the world, but she’s never experienced anything like this before. When her dad doesn’t come home from work, Gwendolyn learns that he’s been lying to her about his government job. Now with him missing and no one doing anything about it, Gwendolyn takes it upon herself to get him back. No matter what.

Reading about Gwendolyn’s story was fun but not in a light-hearted way. I enjoyed reading this book because I was fascinated and intrigued; I couldn’t get enough of it. The premise and how Bergstrom shaped the story felt real -- real enough to be plausible and get lost in. I loved Gwendolyn’s inner conflict, how she resisted the changes to her life but also felt that she had to keep going for her dad. I felt that her slow descent and gradual concessions to become the hardened person she needed to be was more accurate than most YA books tend to portray this intense character arc. Plans to get the sequel into my hands have already been put in motion. The only reason this book is optional instead of advisable is because of the language rating. The mature content rating is for drug use and mentions of pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, rape, and oral sex. The violence rating is for mob violence and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Last Lie by Patricia Forde - ADVISABLE

The Last Lie (The List #2) by Patricia Forde, 288 pages. Sourcebooks Kids, August 2020. $17

Language: G (1 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content:G ; Violence: PG (danger, fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lotta and the Creators may have defeated John Noa, but that hasn’t meant freedom for Ark.Amelia has taken over Noa’s work and is more brutal than he was. When a spy infiltrates the safe house, most of the Creators are captured, but Letta and Marco escape to the forest. There they find out the true depravity of Amelia’s plan -taking babies and raising them without language. She will need to gather and convince allies in order to free both Ark and the babies.

Younger students who want to read the Hunger Games but aren’t quite ready for the brutality will very much enjoy Forde’s duology.  Any teacher will find ripe fruit for discussion along many different paths. It is especially a great place to discuss why slave owners refused to allow their slaves to learn to read. Knowledge, words, hold so much power.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Friday, February 21, 2020

Lola by J. Torres - OPTIONAL

Lola by J. Torres, 102 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Oni Press, 2020. $13.
Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Back in the Philippines for his lola’s (grandmother’s) funeral, Jesse is unsettled to be visiting again. No one knows that Jesse takes after his lola, that he inherited her gift. Jesse would be happier without it, though -- to him, it feels like a curse.

Having personal experience in the Philippines, I love how this book stays true to the culture there and includes words and illustrations that give good insight to the setting. Story-wise, I think the title and cover are somewhat misleading because, while Jesse interacts with ghosts, he does not see his grandmother’s ghost as I expected. Apart from the initial confusion, the story was alluring, and it was fun to learn about Filipino mythology.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Fox and the Little Tanuki by Mi Tagawa - OPTIONAL

The Fox and the Little Tanuki, Volume 1 by Mi Tagawa, 159 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Tokyopop, 2020. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Senzou, a powerful bakemono, has been locked away for 300 years. He plans to continue in his ways after being released, but Senzou didn’t know that he would have to train a new tanuki. His troubles and penitence are just beginning.

Full of cool Japanese mythology, the start Senzou’s story was interesting to read. It’s a simple story about doing good to right the wrongs done and learning to be better from the inspiration of an innocent kid. Being the first volume, the ending is a cliffhanger, and the story is not compelling enough that I feel I need the sequel, but I would read it if it was conveniently available.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte - OPTIONAL

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte, 288 pages. Scholastic, March 2020. $19

Content: G (kidnapping)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mary, 11yo, may be deaf, but her life on Martha’s Vineyard in 1805 is is as normal as everyone’s. In fact, because about one in four people in her village are deaf, everyone uses signs as part of every day conversation. When a stranger, Andrew Noble, comes to town to study them, in order to find the cause of deafness, he says, all welcome him cordially.  After a short time on the island, however, he kidnaps Mary and drags her off to Boston, treating her as a thing, not a human - a specimen for his research.  Without access to pen and paper, Mary has no way to communicate with any one to let them know that inside her deaf body is a human being.

I was fascinated by LeZotte’s descriptions of the whole community on Martha’s Vineyard and their easy acceptance and community-mindfulness of inclusion.  It wasn’t until 1817 that the first deaf school opened in America. LeZotte also delves into relationships with the Wampanoag Nation in a limited way.  Because this is historical fiction, it won’t be picked up by many on its own, but those that do will certainly find it interesting.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Thursday, February 20, 2020

She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think by Emily Arnold McCully - ADVISABLE

She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think by Emily Arnold McCully. NONFICTION. Disney, 2018. $22. 9781368019910

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

A collection of biographies, this book introduces readers to some women who they may never have heard of before. Each woman’s biography includes an illustration and a synopsis of her life, before covering childhood years, contributions to the way we think, and pertinent historical context. 

I have read and enjoyed a lot of similar books of anthologies of women, but the thing that this book offers is a more in-depth look at the woman, her life, and the history that surrounded her. I did not care for the illustrations, which were pastel and depicted the head larger than the body. I think the fact that most of these women will be new to readers is good, but it does have the disadvantage of not providing a comfortable starting place for readers who often look for a familiar name. 

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao - ADVISABLE

Song of the Crimson Flower (Rise of the Empress 2.5) by Julie C. Dao, 288 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin), 2019. $19
                    
Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG (Characters wounded or killed in battle)                       

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE       

Lan stares out the window and dreams of her true love, Tam, and their upcoming marriage.  Being the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, Lan would please her family greatly if she were to marry him for he is the son of the town physician.  Lan soon learns that Tam is not actually the boy who has been playing the flute outside her window, but Bao, the poor physician's apprentice.  When Lan rejects Bao's love, he sails away on his boat until a spell is placed upon him which can only be broken by true love. Bound by the spell, Bao and Lan must journey across the continent while encountering many royal people along the way.  War is raging all around them as they try to break the spell, find Bao's family and stop the war.     

Dao writes a captivating and enchanting fantasy full of love, war and betrayal.  I was drawn into it from the start.  Dao doesn't leave you in suspense long which is why this is such a quick read.  Secrets and deceptions are revealed quickly which keeps the reader eager to find out more.  Forbidden love is always enthralling to read about while the reader is continually wondering how the two characters with ever get together.  Lan and Bao have an exciting ending that could lead to another book.       

Jessica Nelson Librarian      
                                              

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis - ESSENTIAL

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell 211 pages. Lee and Low, 2019. $19.

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

10yo Regina Petit is Umpqua, and has lived on her Grand Ronde Tribe's reservation her whole life. But when the Federal Government terminates her tribe in 1954, Regina's father signs up for the Indian Relocation Program and the family is moved to Los Angeles. Suddenly she is "Indian No More." The other children in her neighborhood have never met a real Indian, and are confused when she isn't like the Indians they've seen on TV. Faced with racism and misconceptions, Regina, her grandmother and her family must now adjust to living as "Americans."

I did not know about this terrible injustice, and am so pleased to see McManis' story. I loved seeing modern day Indian relocation through a child's eyes, I loved that her grandmother was part of the household - a connection to the traditions and stories.  There is an extensive appendix at the end, including a glossary with thorough definitions; an author's note from Charlene McManis complete with photographs and a short history of the Termination Act.

Lisa Librarian

Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno - ADVISABLE

Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno, 225 pages. Knopf (Random), 2018. $16.99.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cora (12yo) and her family are homeless.  Her dad died a couple of years ago and since then everything has been hard.  Cora, her mom, and her sister, Adare, have stayed in several placement houses, and even a few of their friend’s houses, but nothing permanent yet.  Cora’s mom said that Adare was born special so Cora’s main job is to take care of her sister. That means Cora is trying to juggle a new school, remedial math, new friends, and taking care of Adare.  She is also trying to find ways to connect with her dad so she doesn’t forget him and all the things that he loved.  

Such an important topic and so nicely handled.  We get a glimpse of the many emotions Cora has, pressure to succeed in school,  hopelessness, frustration that her mom seems to be making things harder, her inability to fix things, loneliness for her dad, confusion about her sister and so much love.  Although not everything wraps up nicely, Cora does begin to realize there is still hope for the future. While I rooted for Cora and her family and wanted to love this book, it was a little light on plot and I struggled to stay engaged.    

Reviewer: RB