Thursday, April 30, 2020

Light It Up by Kekla Magoon - HIGH

Light It Up by Kekla Magoon, 358 pages. Henry Holt, (Macmillan), 2019. $19.

Content: Language: R (100+ swears 35 'fs'); Mature Content: PG 13; (teen intimacy) Violence: PG 13; (police brutality, attempted sexual assault).

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

While hurrying home from school, 13yo Shae Tatum is shot and killed by an on-duty police officer. The community of Underhill is turned upside down - angry, afraid, confused, and grieving. Told in vignette's, the aftermath is recounted in many different voices - student activists, close friends, the young daughter of the police officer, the police commission, gang members, local and national news transcripts. 

This was a difficult book to read. Not because of the many narrators - I liked that, so many perspectives painted a big picture - but because of the heartbreaking story. Some of the terrible things said by racist characters, I felt bad for this author of color who had to write them. It was uncomfortable, and frustrating. A brilliant follow-up to Magoon's 2014 "How it Went Down" the setting is the same community. While many of the young characters were still in high school - most did not live with their parents, apartments with roommates or siblings - they could have easily been college aged - some were. "Light It Up" is an important book, a great diverse read.

Lisa Librarian

Science Comics: Skyscrapers: The Heights of Engineering by John Kerschbaum - ADVISABLE


Science Comics: Skyscrapers: The Heights of Engineering by John Kerschbaum GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second (Roaring Brook), 2019.  $13.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

A superhero takes his side kick on a tour and explanation of skyscrapers using time travel.  He starts with the history of the tallest buildings and why they were invented.  Then he explains the engineering involved in building skyscrapers and how that engineering has evolved.  Along the way, the side kick makes funny comparisons to the superhero’s run-ins with different villains.  

I enjoyed this explanation and history of skyscrapers and I’m not into engineering.  It’s interesting that we take for granted how complex skyscrapers are even though we live in and among them.  The engineering explanations are simple enough that a beginner can understand them, but detailed so it will take a reader with a higher vocabulary to comprehend.  The superhero and side kick were good comic relief.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson  

Lily the Thief by Janne Kukkonen - ADVISABLE


Lily the Thief (Lily the Thief, #1) by Janne Kukkonen, 280 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL  First Second (Roaring Brook), 2019.  $15.  

Content: Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Lily is a thief and she wants to be given an exciting thieving job by the guild, but they keep seeing her as only a child. In an attempt to further her career as a thief, she steals a missive that has a job to steal a vase.  When she steals the vase, she finds herself in trouble with the guild, the government, her mentor, and the dead. Lily has to use her ability to sneak in and out of trouble to get herself out of this monumental mess.  

I’m torn on my recommendation for this graphic novel for a few reasons.  I loved the artwork and Lily’s a great character with exciting adventures.  The plot moves along perfectly with good twists.  My issue is the question of what is the appropriate age group? Lily looks like a young ten-year-old girl but there is a lot of blood and fighting depicted which is upsetting, making it too violent for an elementary school. The content also includes fighting with zombie-like ghosts and a surprising murder. Lily seems young so I’m not sure if middle school readers will find her relatable, but I think they would enjoy the story line.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson     

Who Did It First? 50 Politicians, Activists and Entrepreneurs Who Revolutionized the World by Jay Leslie - ADVISABLE


Who Did It First? 50 Politicians, Activists, and Entrepreneurs Who Revolutionized the World by Jay Leslie, illustrated by Nneka Myers, 113 pages.  Henry Holt and Company, 2020.  $19.  

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

This is a compilation of 50 different people who have contributed throughout the last two hundred years to politics, humanitarian efforts and firsts in their professions.  Some of the well-known people included are Oprah, President Obama and Lebron James, but there are other lesser known first such as Muhammad Yunus, Ed Roberts and Katharine Graham.  

Most of the summaries are 4-5 paragraphs long and cover a page, but a couple of the people are one short paragraph.  I enjoyed the illustrations and most of the people included would be easy to include in lessons given by teachers.  I’m not sure if a student would pick this book up and read it on their own, but I think that parts of it would be useful in the classroom.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson  

Who Did It First? 50 Scientists, Artists and Mathematicians Who Revolutionized the World by Julie Leung - ADVISABLE


Who Did It First? 50 Scientists, Artists and Mathematicians Who Revolutionized the World by Julie Leung, illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, 113 pages.  NON-FICTION  Henry Holt, 2019.  $19  

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

This is a compilation of 50 different people throughout the last two hundred years who were the first to contribute to their fields.  Some are well known, like Jane Goodall or Ada Lovelace, but others I hadn’t heard of such as Claude Shannon or Thai Lee.  The summaries are usually 4-5 paragraphs long and concentrate on how that person was a first in their field and what they did.  

I love the illustrations in this compilation.  I loved the people that were included as they were inspiring for taking a chance and trying new things.  My only complaint is that I wanted more-more information and more illustrations.  It leaves just a taste of what these people contributed.  This would work best if directed by a teacher and used in the classroom because I’m not sure readers would pick this up and read it from cover to cover on their own.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace - HIGH


All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth, #1) by Adalyn Grace, 373 pages. Imprint (Macmillan), 2020.  $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Amora Montara is the princess who has control of dangerous soul magic for her whole kingdom. She has been practicing her whole life to wield the magic when her time comes so she can take her rightful place on the throne.  The day that she is supposed to demonstrate that magic, she loses control and gruesomely kills a man.  She is sent to prison, but when a young man shows up to offer her escape, in exchange for her help to restore magic to his home island, Amora finds herself on a new mission.  As she tries to escape with her own kingdom chasing her and running towards the unknown, Amora finds people she trusts and loves and begins to figure out secrets of her kingdom.  

I got completely caught up in Amora’s adventure I loved her friends and the rules of the magic are explained well as the story unfolds.  My biggest issue with this book is the disturbingly gruesome descriptions of death, amputation, and torture.  The other content includes mentions of prostitution and a heavy make-out session.  I think readers will get caught up in Amora’s world.  Although it says it's the beginning of a series, it can stand on it's own.

Reviewer, C. Peterson      

Better You Than Me by Jessica Brody - ESSENTIAL


Better You Than Me by Jessica Brody, 424 pages.  Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House), 2018.  $17.  Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Twelve-year-old Skylar is a huge fan of tween star, Ruby Rivera.  When Skylar has a bad day at middle school, with mean girls making her life hard, Skylar hops a bus to nearby Burbank to take a studio tour of Ruby’s TV set.  While on the tour, Skylar sneaks into the prop closet and chances a meeting with Ruby, who is also having a bad day.  While in the prop closet they wish they had each other’s lives and they find themselves in a body switch.  Ruby and Skylar think they are doing a good job living the other person’s life, but then it starts to unravel.  

I read this book in two days.  It was a fun, fast read with good characters and I love the body switch premise.  I also liked the moral of empathizing with other’s hardships and finding your true self.  Great character growth and enjoyable read!  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Princess Who Flew with Dragons by Stephanie Burgis - OPTIONAL

The Princess Who Flew with Dragons by Stephanie Burgis, 216 pages. Bloomsbury, 2019. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Twelve-year-old Princess Sofia of Drachenheim has sworn to never leave the safety of her rooms at the palace ever again. When her sister, the Crown Princess, sends Sofia on a diplomatic mission to Villenne, though, she finds that life has just as many ups as it does downs and adventure appears around every new corner.

Sofia’s world is imaginative, introducing new creatures, like kobolds, among the humans, goblins, and dragons. While the third in a series, the prequels are focused on other characters and are not necessary to read before this one. I had a good feeling about the book only two pages in as the story started off feeling like a fun adventure. Somewhere in the middle, though, the excitement faded, and I had a hard time waiting to get to the point. If you can stick it out, the ending is full of warm-hearted reunions and good feelings.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Shatter by Aprilynne Pike - NO


Shatter (Glitter, #2) by Aprilynne Pike, 375 pages.  Random House, 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (51 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – NO  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Dani is now the Queen of Sonoma Versailles, even though she has no love for her husband the ruthless king Justin.  Dani is in love with Saber, who is a slave to the crooked Reginald, and will do anything to preserve his life, including selling drugs to all of the courtiers.  Dani learns of Justin’s dark plans to keep their kingdom financial wealthy and risks everything to try and free herself and Saber from the court. 

I’ll give it to Pike she writes compelling story lines with engaging characters.  I thought the setting of Sonoma Versailles was fascinating and well described and I wanted Dani to find a way out of all of her troubles.  My biggest issue with this book, which is the same issue I had with the first book, is that Dani hooks people on a drug called Glitter without their knowledge. They think they are just wearing make-up, but the drug seeps into their skin and they are quickly addicted and will give anything for it.  I hate that concept.  Other content from the novel includes a suicide, a gory shooting, off page sex, frequent make-out sessions and a shocking murder.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson  

Glitter by Aprilynne Pike - NO


Glitter (Glitter, #1) by Aprilynne Pike, 367 pages. Random House, 2016. $18.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (56 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – NO  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Dani is seventeen and is engaged to the king of Versailles.  Dani and her mother witnessed the king killing a girl and blackmailed him to marry Dani, in a dangerous power play.  Dani is desperate to get out of the kingdom of Versailles, which honors the eighteenth-century time period, and break into the modern world.  To break out, however, costs more than Dani can afford, so she decides to sacrifice those in the court for her own freedom by selling them make-up laced with drugs.  

I hated this book.  I couldn’t get over the fact that Dani was addicting people without their knowledge to drugs, for her own freedom and at one point she says she is proud of her new business?!?!  Of dealing drugs?!  Content includes drug use, drug dealing, death from drug overdose and death from suffocation during sex.  Dani has no moral compass and is judgmental about her family members, when she is just as self-serving as they are.  The relationship between Dani and her love interest was insta-love and ridiculous.  The characters have no redeeming qualities, even if the setting is a cool idea.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier - ADVISABLE


Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier, 318 pages.  Henry Holt and Company, 2020. $20.  

Content: Language:  PG-13 (26 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Sophie Spark has been hired on as a babysitter at the prestigious and remote Castle in the Clouds hotel.  The spoiled children aren’t always easy, but Sophie is intrigued by the hotelier’s son, Ben, and a handsome guest who is visiting named, Tristan.  Sophie sees all the behind the scenes happenings with wealthy families who are staying at the hotel and soon finds herself caught in the middle of crime.  Sophie doesn’t know who she can trust or if anyone is who they claim they are, but her quick thinking comes in handy.  

I loved Sophie from the beginning and it’s easy to see the hotel through her eyes.  I liked the romantic interests, the setting and the mysteries and especially enjoyed all the action during the last half of the book.  The first half was a lot of setting up of the characters (lots of names to keep track of) and at times felt slow, but overall, it was an enjoyable read.  The cover isn’t my favorite though.  The content includes a shooting, kidnapping, and bullying.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson    

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson - ESSENTIAL


Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Leila Del Duca, 208 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL DC Comics, 2020. $17.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (8 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Diana is trying to measure up to the other Amazons on her home island, and when a ship is seen in distress off their shore the other Amazons don’t want to help the people suffering.  Diana can’t take standing by, so she goes against the rules of her home and starts to help the humans get back on their raft.  Diana can’t find her way back home and quickly finds herself in a refugee camp with those she saved.  Her time at the camp is short when two humanitarians take her to the United States because of her language proficiency in multiple languages. While in New York, Diana sees the effects of poverty in the neighborhood she is staying and what happens when refugees can’t get the help they need.  

I just finished reading Leigh Bardugo’s graphic novel about Wonder Woman and enjoyed that as well, but I can’t help comparing the two.  I loved the story and message of Anderson’s Tempest Tossed and I think it will resonate with what is in the news today. I couldn’t put it down and hope that Anderson has more for this series.  That said, Bardugo’s Wonder Woman had more vibrant and appealing illustrations.  Tempest Tossed had muted colors and wasn’t as visually appealing.  In the end, the illustrations in Tempest Tossed were good enough because the story was great.  The content includes child trafficking and alluding to sex trafficking.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

The Long Ride by Marina Budhos - ADVISABLE

The Long Ride by Marina Budhos, 200 pages. Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin Random House), 2019. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

It's 1971, and 12yo friends Jamila, Josie, and Francesca are starting 7th grade at the new integrated middle school in a black neighborhood - a long bus ride away. Francesca's parents are sending her to a private school instead, so Jamila and Josie will have to make the best of it without her. They've been attending a school where the population is mostly white, so this will be a change for these mixed race girls - they will probably be outsiders here, too.

 Jamila sparks the interest of a boy, right away, and his friend Darren likes Josie, so there's a good amount of middle school drama, (including a teacher taking Jamila's journal and reading it out loud!) I liked that the girls had no obvious racial connection, and in a time where civil rights were such a focus, I liked that it was hard to pigeon hole them. A nice read that may encourage the reader to look for more information about the subject.  The romance was sweet and the friendships felt real.

Lisa Librarian

Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings by Abi Elphinstone - ESSENTIAL

Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings (The Unmapped Chronicles) by Abi Elphinstone, 373 pages. Aladdin (Simon and Schuster), 2019. $18.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril, magical creatures at war)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

11yo Casper Tock likes his lists. It's comforting to know that he has everything planned out - helps him avoid the bullies. But when his plans change, Casper finds himself hiding in a clock, which, like the wardrobe in Narnia, is a portal to Rumblestar, a magical world in the sky - where all the weather is created. But something is amiss in Rumblestar, when Casper is discovered by the brave girl Utterly Thankless (and her dragon friend Arlo), he is mistaken for a criminal, throwing Casper into an adventure and a fight to save the world - both the Unmapped world, and his home - called the Faraway.

More than just a Fantasy/Adventure - Casper Tock's story is also about friendship and how can  change people. It's about facing your fears and being brave even when you are scared. Elphinstone's series was a great fantasy - the world building was just right, I loved all the different magical people, their unique voices, their funny names. The page count isn't as daunting as it looks - the print isn't small. I'm excited to recommend Casper Tock to my middle school fantasy lovers.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Wave, Listen to Me! by Hiroaki Samura - NO

Wave, Listen to Me! Vol. 1 by Hiroaki Samura, 194 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Kodansha Comics, 2020. $13.

Language: R (33 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Minare didn’t know she was being recorded when she ranted to a guy at the bar about her latest dating disaster. However, once she heard her voice on the radio while she was at work, Minare knew exactly who was to blame and ran to confront him at the radio station. And that’s when everything starts falling apart.

I spent most of my time reading this manga in a state of confusion. Not only is the story all over the place, but the speech bubbles don’t make it clear who’s talking and several transitions are so rough I’m convinced panels are missing. Furthermore, Samura has given me no reason to care about Minare and what happens next in her life, so I’m saying goodbye to this series forever. The mature content rating is for groping and mentions of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Quest for the Crystal Crown by Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White - ADVISABLE

Quest for the Crystal Crown by Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White, 267 pages. Random House, 2020. $14.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

The only things 12yo Laura knows about the world outside her village is what she’s been taught -- and what she’s managed to glimpse from the cracks in the north wall. Laura and her people, Lysors, are supposed to be safe in the walls, but, when the walls start to fall, someone needs to leave to find the crystal crown to save them. Laura is willing to go.

On a quest to save her village, Laura’s quest is exciting to read about because of the bizarre problems and solutions it takes to be successful. I never knew what was coming next, and the ridiculousness of some situations was a delight to read. This book isn’t just about Laura, though; the ideas for this story came from an 11yo in New York, and the last third of the book is dedicated to tips, exercises, and encouragement for readers to write their own stories -- no matter your age or experience.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

All the Feels by Heather Nuhfer - OPTIONAL

All the Feels (My So-Called Superpowers) by Heather Nuhfer, 225 pages. Imprint (Macmillan), 2020. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Life is changing for Veronica with new friends, distance growing between old friends, and her dad’s upcoming wedding -- plus she still hasn’t completely gotten the hang of her “stupidpowers.” With everything about her life shifting, does Veronica not fit in her home anymore? What can she do?

This is the third book in a series, but I read it without the prequels and still felt that I understood what was going on. I love the idea of Veronica’s powers that display her emotions in a real and noticeable way because readers can then look at their lives and better identify what is causing their emotions. Reading some of Veronica’s poor choices was hard, but seeing how everything worked out in the end is a good reminder that our embarrassing and bad choices can be made right. Even if things look hard now, things won’t stay that way.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Frozen II: Forest of Shadows by Kamilla Benko - OPTIONAL


Frozen II: Forest of Shadows by Kamilla Benko, 405 pages. Disney Press, 2019. $15.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE; MS – OPTIONAL  
AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Anna wants to be more helpful to Elsa as Elsa runs the kingdom, but feels like Elsa doesn’t need her help.  When a blight starts to destroy the livestock and harvest of their kingdom, Anna thinks she can find help.  Anna finds a magical room with spells in it, and accidentally unleashes Anna’s worst nightmare, instead of finding a solution.  Anna’s nightmare is in the form of a wolf and it will take Anna and all her friends to find a way to stop the wolf from destroying Arendelle and hopefully heal the livestock and harvest.  

I love Frozen and was intrigued by the idea of an original story with this great setting and characters.  The story line is well done and there is a lot of action, but I wished there had been more of my favorite characters like Kristoff and Olaf.  My biggest debate with this book is the audience because I think elementary kids would be drawn to the characters, but the length and storyline is better suited for middle school grades.  However, would middle school kids be willing to read a novel based on Frozen? 

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse - ESSENTIAL


Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, 298 pages. Disney Hyperion, 2019.  $17. Content: Language: PG (2 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Nizhoni is a 7th grader who has always wanted to be the hero, but mostly she just finds herself in trouble.  She knows she can see monsters, even when others can’t seem them, but the monsters haven’t given her any trouble until one shows up at her middle school basketball game.  Nizhoni quickly pieces together that the monster is using her father as bait in an attempt to destroy her powers.  Nizhoni gathers her best friend, Davery, and her little brother, Mac, to go on a quest on the rainbow road to the sun to protect her family and to understand her powers.  

If your readers like Lightening Thief, they will enjoy this fun journey with Nizhoni.  I loved the Navajo legends and all the people who help along the way.  Nizhoni is an adorable character and the quest was exciting, creative and fun.  The content includes a fight and threats on her life.  I hope there is more to come with these characters, but this book can stand on its own.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman - ESSENTIAL

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman, 187 pages. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), 2019. $17                       

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS- ESSENTIAL   

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH   

Realizing that their mom will not protect them, Viji takes her sister Rukku and they run away from home. Rukku feels that they will have a better life on the streets in India that at home with their abusive father. They meet people that are kind and people that at cruel. One shopkeeper gives Rukku a jar of colorful beads. They finally decide to live on an abandoned bridge, under some torn tarps, not realizing that the "home" belonged to two boys, Muthi and Arul. The four children made friends and decided to work together. They scoured garbage dumps for scraps and recyclable items. The sell the scraps to scrap man and get money to buy some needed items. While they hunt through the garbage dumps, rukku makes beautiful beaded necklaces. They sell the necklaces and make more money. Life is tolerable, and at times happy, until the rainy season and Rukku gets very sick.    

I loved this book and I read it in one sitting. I was right there with the four children as they struggled through surviving every day. When Rukku gets sick, they have to decide if there is anyone, they can trust to help them. The descriptions of smells, pounding rain and mosquitos was so vivid, I could "feel" it and "smell" it. I agonized with Viji. I cannot wait for school to start up again so I can Book Talk this book to my students.           

Ellen-Anita, Librarian
  

You Say It First by Katie Cotugno - OPTIONAL

You Say It First by Katie Cotugno, 368 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2020. $18.

Language: PG-13 (34 swears, 44 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Meg is ready to move on from her life in Philadelphia to Cornell University with her best friend Emily.  Meg enjoys her job as a volunteer at a call center signing people up to vote.  One night she calls Colby and they start an unexpected relationship. Colby does not have his life figured out.  He is still reeling from a family tragedy and struggling to hold down a job.  His nightly calls to Meg begin to turn things around for the good and not so good. Colby and Meg form a friendship and possibly more, across phone lines, meeting up a few times.  But are they just too different to continue their relationship?           

The long distance, quirky relationship worked for me.  I enjoyed seeing a new side of the characters through their phone conversations.  I liked how they could look at each other's lives from a different perspective and help solve problems or make suggestions on solving problems.  This book did turned into an addictive read.  I was not sure which way their relationship was going to go, which kept me turning pages to the end.           

Jessica Nelson, Librarian                                                                 

Monday, April 27, 2020

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller - OPTIONAL


When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, 297 pages. Random House, 2020.  $17.  Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In the summer between sixth and seventh grade, Lily and her mom and sister move to live with their ailing grandmother, Halmoni.  Lily loves Halmoni and all of her stories, so when a tiger from one of Halmoni’s stories shows up, and only Lily can see it, Lily has to figure out what the tiger wants.  Lily learns that the tiger has come for Lily’s Halmoni, who is dying of brain cancer.  Lily learns to find her own strength and take all of the things that her grandmother has taught her and be her true self.  

I loved Halmoni and was rutting for Lily throughout the story.  I loved the ending and the last fifty pages almost redeem the slow beginning.  Overall, the book felt slow and the mystical mixed with reality without clear boundaries, so that might confuse some readers.  I loved the author’s note at the end and I really wanted to love the story more.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson    

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay - OPTIONAL

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay, 255 pages. David Fickling Books (Scholastic Inc.), 2019. $19.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ten harvests have passed since Samkad was born, and he is now old enough to have the Cut and become a man. Samkad and his father make an offering at the Tree of Bones the next morning, but something is wrong. When they return to the village, the ancients declare that Samkad cannot become a man until his soul brother Kinyo is brought back to his home, a task that brings more turmoil to their lives than they ever could have expected.

Based on true events and the native people in the Cordillera region of the Philippines, Gourlay tells a story to bring the people and places of her homeland into more books. This is a good book to showcase a culture that most Americans are unfamiliar with and to see that we aren’t always the heroes. Though there are many tragedies in Samkad’s story, Gourlay ends the story with a hope that can fill all readers on difficult journeys.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris - NO

A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris, pages. Saga Press, 2020. $27.

Language: R (79 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Nineteen-year-old Lizbeth has a job to do, and, as a gunnie, she is not afraid to shoot some people to make sure the job gets done. Unfortunately, the job gets botched anyway, and Lizbeth is stuck in the town Sally pretending to be Eli’s wife until she can finish what she started. Or maybe teaming up with Eli will be a fortunate turn of events -- it could go either way.

As the second in a series, readers really need the prequel to understand the relationships and background of what is going on with Lizbeth, Eli, and their jobs in this book. I have not read the first book in this series, and I found that there is a lot of action but not many reasons to care. Maybe Harris wrote the first book to endear readers to the characters, but I didn’t feel compelled to care if Lizbeth and Eli succeeded or not, which made for a lackluster story, especially alongside what I felt like was an inadequate climax. The mature content rating is for nudity, mentions of rape, and sex; the violence rating is for blood, threats, shooting, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein - OPTIONAL

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein, 413 pages. Hyperion, 2020. $20. 

Language: R (55 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG;

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After losing both her mother and father to the violence of WWII, Louisa Adair, a 15yo living in London, must find her own way in the world. As a daughter of an English mother and a Jamaican father, Louisa faces an upward battle with finding work due to discrimination. By hiding her race, she finds a job caring for an elderly German woman in Windyedge, Scotland, but wishes she could do more to support the war effort. Expecting an isolated, unexciting job, Louisa finds herself in possession of an Enigma machine left by a German defector, the instructions for how to use it, and indecipherable messages picked up from radio operators flying from the Windyedge base. Along with Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a pilot; Ellen McEwen, a driver for the Air Force and a Traveller (gypsy); and Jane Warner (Johanna von Arnim), the woman Louisa cares for whose German identity is secret, Louisa uses the machine to help the RAF posted in Windyedge to bring down subs and prevent a number of attacks. But when the codes run out and it appears that the Germans have set a trap, Louisa and her friends must figure out how to proceed.

Those who have read Code Name Verity will recognize Jamie, who is one of the leading characters in this novel, and his sister Julie, who shows up toward the end with a secret identity; however, you don’t have to have read Code Name Verity to enjoy this book. It wasn’t clear how things would turn out so I wanted to read to the end to see how the novel tied up, and especially to find out the result of what the main characters guess was a trap. The characters were likable, and I enjoyed seeing how they solved the riddles of the German messages. It was an enjoyable book, but I was hoping for something I loved as much as I loved Code Name Verity and this didn’t live up to it for me in terms of my investment in the characters or the intensity of the plot. For those history buffs out there, Wein appears to have done her research, which she provides an explanation of at the end. Overall, I liked the book, but it wasn’t a “wow” for me. Ratings were marked PG-13 for mature content because of the characters smoking and PG for violence because the deaths and battle scenes were not described in a violent way.

Reviewer: Marinda, HS teacher

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill - ESSENTIAL

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, 348 pages.  Blink, 2019.  $18.  

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (fighting, shooting and vandalism). 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

It’s World War II, and Evalina and Taichi have to keep their relationship on the down-low as Taichi’s parents are Japanese and Pearl Harbor is still raw in the hearts of all American’s. Taichi and Evalina are torn apart as Taichi’s family is taken away to the Manzanar Relocation Center better known as an internment camp. Taichi is faced with rebellion, war, and fear and finds comfort and hope in Evalina’s letters. As Taichi fights the battle of fear and racism in the internment camps, Evalina fights the same battle on a more public stage, taking political science classes and writing news articles against the suppression of Japanese Americans. As the young couple is faced with some of the most trying situations of their time, it becomes a fight to keep their love alive.

I loved this book because I thought it was very well written. I thought the character development was excellent and the author made it easy to empathize with the characters even though the World War Two era can be difficult to relate to. I would recommend carefully reading the dates before each chapter. I loved this book because it was a topic I haven’t really been exposed to. It was very thought-provoking and interesting.

Reviewer, Isabelle, 10th grade

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha - ESSENTIAL

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha, 228 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins), 2020. $23.

Language: PG (13 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (racist bullies)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

14yo Chuna has always been a good student, working hard in school to get good grades and make her mother proud. It's what is expected in Korea of a respectful daughter. But when a trip to Alabama turns into a permanent move when her mother marries, Chuna finds her self living with a step-family, learning to speak English in school with no ELL program (it's the late 1990's), and struggling to fit in despite bullies and a language barrier. She is good at art, and drawing comics helps her cope and make friends. 

Robin Ha's illustrated memoir is beautiful. Full color illustrations capture her story, and mirror what many new comers to America may be experiencing. We see her adjustment to strange foods, slang, mean kids, new friends, holidays and teachers, both well meaning and difficult. I loved how she differentiated between speaking Korean and English, and what English sounded like to her before she learned. The cover illustration is haunting - I feel like the teacher she has turned around to look at, for help and understanding. An essential middle school read, but I'm sharing this with my teachers, too. They should also see this perspective. Well done!

Lisa Librarian

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman - ESSENTIAL

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman, 340 pages. Viking (Penguin Random House), 2020. $18.

 Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (physical child abuse).

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko are in the same grade at school, but they aren't friends - Valentina is Jewish, and Oksana's father has told her all about how terrible the Jews are. But, in the spring of 1986, a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl explodes sending radiation pouring out into the air. Both girl's fathers worked at the reactor. Oksana's father has been killed and Valentina's father is taken to a hospital in Moscow. Their town of Pripyat, Ukraine has been evacuated and circumstances force them together, alone on a train to Leningrad, without their mothers, they are enroute to Valentina's grandmother, a person Valentina has never met. Oksana is worried - she will be living with Jews. But to her surprise, the things her father has always taught her are not right, Babulya is kind, poor and loves Oksana. Something she realizes she has never really felt - her father was abusive, her mother allowed it and Oksana is still recovering from the festering cigarette burn her father made on her shoulder.

I remember when this happened, Blankman has told a fascinating, powerful and sad story about Soviet society and the continued prejudice against the Jewish people. I loved the regular daily routines, the fear of being reported to the police, how careful Valentina was to not be noticed. While the abuse is included, it's age appropriate, not too graphic but could spark conversation or questions. Told in alternating chapters, the perspectives were well balanced. Both girls are well developed and their growing friendship is natural and essential. So much sacrifice - a heartbreaking story. Includes resources for children experiencing emotional or physical abuse as well as further readings to learn more about Chernobyl or life in the Soviet Union in the 1940s and 1980s.

Lisa Librarian

Short & Skinny by Mark Tatulli - ESSENTIAL

Short & Skinny by Mark Tatulli, 249 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Little, Brown and Company, 2018. $25.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Mark is a short and skinny 7th grader. This makes him the perfect target for bullies, and overlooked by most of the girls. He really likes Lisa Gorman but his self confidence is keeping him from letting her know. While reading a comic book, he see an ad for a "get-big and strong quick" plan, so he subscribes. In the meantime - it's 1977 and he sees Star Wars - what better way to spend the summer than by making a parody of the hottest movie - that'll build his confidence! 

Tatulli's graphic novel memoir about the summer between 7th and 8th grade tells a timeless story. It is a great graphic novel. Nostalgic like Roller Girl and Real Friends but this is about a boy, I really loved it - the references to drive in movies, 7-11, Slurpees and a Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat - took me right back. I hope my readers have enough context about the 70s to appreciate this as much as I did.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Hart and Seoul by Kristen Burnham - ADVISABLE

Hart and Seoul by Kristen Burnham, 256 pages. Mascot Books, 2019. $18.

Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Merri was excited to see her best friend and her boyfriend after a two-month trip to Australia during the summer before senior year, but now they’re ignoring her messages. Instead, Merri is stuck with the jerk nephew visiting his aunt next door who seems just as annoyed at the play dates arranged for them, until his secrets start to be revealed. Maybe Merri should have stayed in Australia -- everything was simpler there.

Burnham was not subtle about her foreshadowing, and I was constantly conflicted as I flipped between excitement for what was going on and dread for the obvious blow up waiting to happen. Merri’s character is engagingly expressive and felt like someone I’d want to be friends with, making the anticipation of what would go wrong that much worse. I was worried about an overly cheesy ending, but Burnham handled it better than I could have imagined; I am immensely satisfied. It was also fun to read the K-pop and K-drama references throughout the book, so those in the know can look forward to those. The violence rating is for discussion of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows by John August - ADVISABLE

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows (Arlo Finch #3) by John August, 314 pages. Roaring Brook (Macmillan), 2020. $17.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Arlo and the Blue Patrol may be camping out, but only because Arlo and the gang are headed through The Long Woods to China to retrieve Arlo’s Dad. While Arlo is gone, however, the worst news possible comes through – Hadryn has escaped captivity.  Hadryn the villain who has harassed the Rangers over two generations.  Hadryn the villain who wants something that Arlo is protecting – something that other also want to possess.  So not only does Arlo have to deal with the vagaries of middle school, now he has to deal with human and mythical forces who want to capture him. Again.

I have a hard time with August saying that this is just a trilogy, because I would be happy to read more Arlo adventures.  I hope this mean that he has another series primed to be published! There is a really sweet scene where a transgender Ranger is mentioned in passing – loved it.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin - OPTIONAL


Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin, 345 pages.  Henry Holt, 2019.  $18.  Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Jake McCauley is a 7th grader who misses his father who disappeared in World War II.  Jake’s school teaches them about fighting communism and his best friend Duane reads spy comics that he shares with Jake.  When Jake’s mom puts a male border in the attic and Jake finds out he’s Russian, Jake starts to suspect the renter, Shubin, of being a communist spy.  Jake quickly finds himself wrapped up with G-men and a top-secret spy case and he doesn’t know who he can trust.  

I enjoyed learning more about what it was like during McCarthyism and the Cold War, so the historical part of this novel was interesting.  The plot however was all over the place and there were so many different characters and possible spies that everyone felt like a suspect before I got to the end.  Jake’s inability to make a good decision was also hard to read, especially when he stole a Top Secret file from someone in the military and kept running away from anyone who tried to help him.  Jake got beat up multiple times and the ending was weird.  The content includes a kidnapping, physical fighting, chocking and shootings.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Your Brain Needs a Hug by Rae Earl - OPTIONAL


Your Brain Needs a Hug by Rae Earl, 273 pages. NON-FICTION. Imprint (Macmillan), 2019. $13.

Language: R (25 swears, 0 “f” + British swears); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Earl is open, vulnerable, and candid as she talks about her experiences with anxiety, eating disorders, therapy, and more. While she does not have any degrees in psychology, Earl has felt helpless, belittled, and worthless. You are not alone, and you are strong enough to overcome whatever you are dealing with.

I enjoyed reading a non-clinical and very real view of mental health and other issues we all struggle with. Earl’s book is easy to read because she writes conversationally, as if she’s in the room with you and not simply talking at an imagined audience. Overall, there is some good advice here as well as things to think about (my favorite chapter is the one on self-esteem), but this is not a guide for everyone because they are based on Earl’s personal experiences. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use, mentions of sex and molesting, nudity on a page of illustration, and a discussion of masturbation. The violence rating is for mentions of violent outbursts, self harm, and abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Hamlet (Manga Classics) art by Julien Choy - OPTIONAL

Hamlet (Manga Classics) art by Julien Choy, 464 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Udon Entertainment, 2019. $18. 9781947808126

Language: PG13 (23 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Hamlet is appalled by how quickly everyone moves on from his father’s, the king’s, death -- even his mother is remarrying when she should be in mourning. Then Hamlet sees his father’s ghost and learns that he was murdered. The need for vengeance consumes Hamlet, and nothing will stand in his way.

The visuals in this graphic novel adaptation are beautiful, as per the standard I have seen with Manga Classics, and they helped convey how dramatic the characters are. I love the clarity granted to the reader from the illustrations that accompany Shakespeare’s words, though I found that this classic is more difficult to understand than other adapted classics, needing other supplements to help me interpret what happens in certain scenes. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mentions of prostitution; the violence rating is for blood, murder, and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke - HIGH


Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke, pages. Flux (North Star Editions), 2020. $15.

Language: R (87 swears, 5 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

An 18-year-old magic wielder who supposedly died nine years ago and is just trying to survive; the 22-year-old son who took on his late-mother’s cause to overthrow the king; the 19-year-old prince who doesn’t fit the mold of what a ruler should look like in his family; a 19-year-old servant to the throne who hopes for a different life. These are only four who aren’t happy with how the kingdom is being run, all doing what they think is best to escape from the horrors of the crown. The question is can any of them succeed alone?

While I was initially a little put off by the constant switch between characters, I learned to appreciate the different points of view. I definitely have some characters I wanted to read about more than others, but seeing the individual actions and imagining how they would all come together -- as well as being awed by the things Gruenke came up with -- ended up being part of the fun. The sequel can’t come fast enough. The mature content rating is for nudity, implied sex and sexual abuse, and  mentions of prostitution. The violence rating is for blood, gore, homicide, and torture (enough to make readers a little squeamish without being graphic).

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter - ADVISABLE


Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. NON-FICTION/PICTURE BOOK Schwartz and Wade (Random House), 2020. $18.  9780449812914  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL – ESSENTIAL; MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Mother Jones was an agitator who spoke up against big business.  When Mother Jones saw children laborers who were being treated poorly, worked long hours and starving, she decided to bring it to the world’s attention.  Because newspapers were owned by the rich, they weren’t publishing her stories, so Mother Jones took a group of children and tried to march to see President Theodore Roosevelt.  The march lost steam and President Roosevelt wasn’t there when they arrived, but Mother Jones helped bring laws into place that protected child laborers.  

I read this book with my 10-year-old son and he was completely engaged the entire time. The narrative has phrases such as “diddly squat” and “riled up” that help describe Mother Jones’ emotions and make for a fun read aloud.  I think kids today can’t conceive of the situations these children laborers endured and this book is done so well.  I think it also encourages readers to speak up against injustices.  Fantastic message for all ages.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson    

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz - ADVISABLE

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz, 384 pages. Putnam (Penguin), JUNE 2020. $19

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jo March may have success with her first major novel, Little Women, but she is arguing with her editor and publisher about the need for a sequel.  But her fans are clamoring – then even send her letters! But just like she has no idea where to send the lives of her fictional family, Jo’s own life is in turmoil. Her heart belongs to her writing – not writing more stories about her life and her family, but the real writing that doesn’t pay the bills.  And Meg seems to be actually interested in Mr. Brooks.  The world doesn’t know that Beth actually is dead, and Teddy is becoming more persistent in romancing her.

I’ll tell you right up front – I am not one of those readers who always wanted Laurie and Jo to be true loves.  I have read all of the books and I have always love Mr. Bhaer and his life with Jo. But Stohl and delaCruz mix together a triple layered narrative that is a lot of fun to read. Like the latest movie, you really need to know the books in order to fully appreciate the many layers these authors have built.  They are so skillful, I didn’t even mind that this fictional Jo March does end up with Laurie. This is NOT a spoiler – it’s right on the cover. The only reason this isn’t ESSENTIAL is that the actual audience for it is small.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS