Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden - ADVISABLE

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden, 256 pages. Sky Pony Press, 2018 $17

Language: PG (3 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (emotional abuse).

BUYING ADVISORY:, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Zoe is in 7th grade. She would like to be a good student but conditions at home are difficult. Zoe, her 3 siblings and her mom are living with Lenny, mom's abusive boyfriend in his trailer home. Zoe's favorite animal is an octopus - if Zoe had 8 arms she could hang on to all three kids and still try to keep her life together. When Zoe joins the Debate club, she begins to recognize how Lenny is manipulative, but can she gain the courage to help her mom do something about it?

The lessons she learned in debate club were great; about discrediting your opponent, and understanding both sides of the argument. I loved Zoe - she is so overwhelmed with caring for the little ones, and trying to do her homework, and worry about her mom - middle school readers will eat that up. I don't love the cover, it will take a bit of hand selling but once it gets some reads, the kids will talk about it. Excited to have it in my collection.

Lisa Librarian

Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett - ADVISABLE

Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett, 244 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2020. $17.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Fifth graders, Paul Marconi and his two friends call themselves the One and Onlys, because they have no siblings.  Even though the town of Bellwood is already strange, things only get stranger when a load of rubber ducks end up on a neighbor’s lawn, a former babysitter sneaks off into the forest at night, and the town gets caught up in the frenzy of the annual Bratwurst Bonanza.  So it’s up to the amateur sleuths to figure out the mysterious happenings.


As someone who dreamed of finding a mystery to solve, I liked this story because the mystery was not so dangerous that it would be out of the realm of fifth graders.  The adults in the story are likeable and Paul even has two competent parents. There is humor and adventure as Paul, Shanks, and Peephole work together and deal not only with the mystery but friendship and change.  And if you like small town festivals and Bratwurst, it’s an even bigger bonus.


Michelle in the Middle


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega - OPTIONAL

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega, 256 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $18.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Twelve-year old best friends, Lucely Luna and her friend Syd, cast a spell shortly before Halloween that could destroy their Florida town, as it unleashes an army of ghosts.  Syd and Lucely visit cemeteries after dark to try and find pieces to a spell that could save their town.


I loved the Spanish words sprinkled throughout and the infusion of culture.  If you liked Coco then you will like that Lucely sees her family’s ghosts and that they protect her.  This book needed more tension.  It was hard to believe that Lucely and Syd would be giggling before going into a haunted mausoleum or that with an army of ghosts facing them they wouldn’t ask for help from Syd’s witch grandmother for fear of getting in trouble and landing dusting duty.  Facing death or dusting?  But if that doesn’t bother you, Grandma Babbette makes a cool addition to the ghost squad.


Michelle in the Middle

 

Friday, May 29, 2020

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner - ESSENTIAL

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner, 274 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers (Macmillan), 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH

Sixth grader Silas Wade is great at baseball.  He loves the sport.  So when Silas does a school report on baseball player Glenn Burke, the inventor of the high five, no one is surprised.  But for Silas, the report means so much more because Glen Burke was also gay, a fact that becomes increasingly more important to Silas. 

Written with humor and sensitivity, this book is a must read for anyone struggling to figure out who they are and how they fit in. It is also great to teach empathy. I loved learning about real-life Glen Burke and Silas is an engaging character. Beautifully written, this book will reel in even reluctant readers, and The Sandlot references are fun.

Michelle in the Middle

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Stranded by Jannette LaRoche - HIGH

Stranded by Jannette LaRoche, 93 pages. Darby Creek (Lerner Publishing Group), 2020. $8.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


Kevin and Jesse are high school friends on their way to spend a weekend at Jesse’s cabin.  When a car accident leaves them stranded in the woods, they have to figure out how to work together to survive.


Part of the Road Trip series, the charm of this book is that for reluctant readers, it’s high interest and a super fast read.  It’s not great literature, but it will pull readers in.


Michelle in the Middle


Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger - ADVISABLE


Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, 158 pages.  NON-FICTION Viking (Penguin), 2020. $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE    

Shortly after the United States had gained it’s freedom from Britain they faced a new threat from North African countries.  Unable to safely trade with Europe, the United States was threatened by pirates as well as a financial burden that they needed the trade to alleviate.  John Adams proposed that the U.S. pay the hefty bounty to the African countries (as other European countries had done) for safe passage, but Thomas Jefferson sent the first United States Navy to negotiate the United States’ freedom on the seas.  

I had never heard of this event in history, so I found this account fascinating.  This adaptation from Kilmeade’s longer novel sticks to the main parts of the story but also gives enough information about the different men to make it interesting. I enjoyed the action and the history.  There are some deaths, but they are not gruesome.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez - HIGH

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez, 348 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin Random House), 2020. $19. 

Language: R (51 swears 26 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (teen pregnancy); Violence: R. (sexual assault, graphic injuries, gun violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Three teenagers - 15yo Pulga, his best friend 15yo Chico and Pulga's cousin, 17yo Pequeña leave their barrio in Guatemala and start the long journey, on their own, to the United States.  They have no choice. Rey, a gang leader is the father of Pequeña's baby, and has forced Pulga and Chico to work for him because they witnessed his gang kill the bodega owner. Pequeña wants nothing to do with Rey or his baby, and the boys know their lives are in danger too, so the only choice is to escape and risk the perils of the impossible journey. Gritty and real, their experiences in the shelters, on the train, in the desert bring to light what many of these immigrants are willing to face to leave their homes and seek safety in the US. 

"...we're dying, literally dying to get as far away as possible from the places we love, but that have turned on us." 

My heart is still hammering an hour after finishing this novel. What a heartbreaking story - Torres Sanchez has given us is an important read, an impossible experience full of trauma and brutality, where hope is all they have. Alternating between Pulga's and Pequeña's viewpoints, it's a character study as well - they are not the same teenagers who left Guatemala. Includes source material and references for more information about refugees and immigrants.

Lisa Librarian 

Spinning Out by R.T. Martin - HIGH

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Spinning Out by R.T. Martin, 93 pages. Darby Creek (Lerner Publishing Group), 2020. $8. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH

Two couples are heading up the canyon their senior year to hit the slopes.  A potentially lethal combination of a fight between one of the couples and a crippling snowstorm makes this winter break a challenge in survival.

Part of the Road Trip series, the charm of this book is that for reluctant readers, it’s high interest and a super fast read.  It’s not great literature, but it will pull readers in. 

Michelle in the Middle

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Wink by Rob Harrell - ESSENTIAL


Wink by Rob Harrell, 316 pages. Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2020. $17.

Language: PG (5 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH

As if being a 7th grader isn’t hard enough, Ross Maloy gets diagnosed with eye cancer.  Ross is the type of kid who wants to blend in, but now that he has eye goo, weird hats and a squinty “winking” eye because of his treatments, being invisible is no longer an option.  Ross also has to deal with bullies, cruel memes and possibly losing both friendships and his vision. 

Based off the author’s real life experience, Ross captures middle school angst perfectly.  Interspersed throughout, are comic strips about Batpig, that 7th grade Ross dreams up to help illustrate his thought processes.  I loved that this book deals with a difficult topic but is both sad and funny, much like life. Ross is relatable, and actually has caring and intelligent adults in his life, a rarity for young adult literature.  This is a great read for anyone whose middle school life was less than perfect (okay, everyone).

Michelle in the Middle

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly - ADVISABLE

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly, 400 pages. Greenwillow (Harper Collins), 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

7th grader Birdie Thomas is so excited to see the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger - she would like to be an astronaut more than anything in the world - she loves every activity, every discussion, every assignment. Her twin brother Fitch, on the other hand is more interested in the arcade, he's amazing at some of the hardest games, but very irritated by Amanda, who refuses to call him Fitch - she wants to call him Henry. No one calls him Henry. Cash, the oldest brother loves basketball - but he's not very good at it - on the team last year but spent most of the season on the bench - until his grades slipped and he got kicked off. In fact, Cash had to repeat 7th grade, now he's in the same grade as his younger siblings; with a broken hand and a bad attitude, Cash is in danger of failing 7th grade again.

Erin Entrada Kelly has written a great character study, 1 month in the lives of 3 siblings (January 1986). These kids live in a fairly dysfunctional family - the parents are distracted by their own drama and they fight a lot, so Birdie, Fitch and Cash are navigating their problems themselves, not even really supporting each other. Knowing the fate of the Challenger mission, I ached for Birdie - her hopeful attitude, her excitement at being able to watch the launch, yet knowing something she didn't yet. Her brothers are also great characters - Fitch has a temper that is difficult to control and when he "flips out" in class he says something he wishes he hadn't - so many kids will relate to him, and Cash - he needs more help than just the threat spending another year in 7th grade. Nostalgic and heartbreaking, I loved it. I do wonder if it will need to be hand sold to the kids because it's not plot driven.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, May 25, 2020

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros - ESSENTIAL


Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros, 272 pages. Harper Collins, 2020. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH
Efren Nava is in 7th grade. He is a great kid; always completes his homework, never in any trouble, he's working on his best friend David's campaign to be president of the student organization. But, he has a big secret - his parents are undocumented. His Ama is amazing - always makes sure he looks his best, and she is the best cook ever.  The worst thing happens - when Ama goes to apply for a better job, she is caught in a raid by ICE and Ama gets deported.  Now Efren is taking care of his twin siblings - kindergartners who are a handful, worrying about Ama, and helping at home as Apa is now working a day job and a night job to try to get enough money to try to get Ama over the border and back home. This takes a toll on Efren - worry keeps him from sleeping, his homework is suffering and he's desperate to help where he can - but is keeping the house clean and caring for his brother and sister enough? They need their mother!

Author Ernesto Cisneros has based his characters on his own life, his students and others. Perhaps this is why it feels so real - so authentic.  My heart aches for my students who may be in similar circumstances and must keep it a secret, or who feel helpless. An engaging read with lots of Spanish - there's a glossary included at the end, but the context is so well constructed that I didn't use it much at all. A must-have for your middle school library.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Day the World Stopped Turning by Michael Morpurgo - OPTIONAL


The Day the World Stopped Turning by Michael Morpurgo, 284 pages.  Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2019.  $17.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

A teen named Vincent finds himself in a small town in southern France, where he meets two people, who have been lifelong friends, who share their experiences during World War II.  The war story of Kezia, a young Roma girl, and Lorenzo, a special boy, is shared with Vincent.  Kezia’s parents ran a carousel in town that Lorenzo and his family would often visit.  When a storm destroyed the carousel, around the same time German soldiers came to their small town, Lorenzo’s family hides Kezia’s Roma family.  

I loved the story of Kezia and Lorenzo, but it was a bit confusing to have the story told to Vincent.  I was never sure what Vincent added to the book.  I think the setting of Camargue, France with the flamingos was portrayed so well and I loved the minor characters (a German soldier, Kezia and Lorenzo’s parents) as much as Kezia and Lorenzo.  I had never imagined what it would be like for Roma families during World War II, so I enjoyed this historical fiction.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Confessions About Colton by Olivia Harvard - OPTIONAL

Confessions About Colton by Olivia Harvard, 360 pages. Wattpad Books, 2020. $18.

Language: R (127 swears, 12 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Elliot, 18-years-old, has been friends with Colton for forever, and Elliot knows that Colton is keeping secrets about what happened when Colton disappeared for a while. With Colton back, Elliot hopes that things will go back to normal. But then Elliot finds Colton dead. And the murderer is giving Elliot clues to learn all the secrets Colton was hiding.

The suspense grates on the reader as much as it does on Elliot -- everyone on edge to see how all the clues will come together. However, all the secrets and intrigue were unsatisfying to me in the end because there was no way for the reader to figure out what happened without the explicit confession of the killer. Yes, the identity of the killer lends understanding to the hows and whys, but I was disappointed that the ending felt so abrupt. The mature content rating is for underage drinking as well as mentions of drugs and sex, and the violence rating is for murder, gun use, and mention of abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, May 22, 2020

Whiteout by Adriana Anders - NO

Whiteout by Adriana Anders, 352 pages. Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2020. $8.

Language: R (426 swears, 44 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Finding blood out on the ice is unusual enough to set Coop on edge, and the nagging feeling that something is wrong won’t leave, even as the summer crew parties and packs to leave the next morning. Meanwhile, Angel isn’t excited to leave Antarctica and the people she’s been around cooking for all summer, but maybe Angel would have changed her mind if she knew witnessing a murder is the reason she gets to extend her stay. Not understanding what’s happening, Coop and Angel are forced to work together or else freeze to death.

While the scienecy stuff goes over my head when I try to reason out how possible the situation really is, Anders effectively continues the story in an engaging manner without losing readers in confusing explanations. If it wasn’t for the several chapters in the middle I skimmed over because of the sexual content, I would have really enjoyed reading this thriller because of the unique circumstances and solutions. Anders ends the book with a cliffhanger, but I won’t be reading the sequel. The mature content rating is for illegal activity, sexually suggestive comments, mention for pornography, masturbation, dry humping, orgasm, and oral and vaginal sex. The violence rating is for assault, blood and gore, gun use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz - OPTIONAL

Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz, 180 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. DC Comics, 2020. $17.

Language: PG13 (16 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Bruce had escaped from his tragic memories when he was sent to boarding school, but being expelled forces Bruce to return, under guardianship of his uncle Alfred. With his return, Bruce is reintroduced to his friend Selina, not recognizing how much she has changed. Facing his past and being confronted with crime once again, Bruce starts to become the vigilante we know.

Even going into the story knowing that it’s a spin off from the typical Bruce Wayne backstory as a reimagining of the later Batman relationships put in a high school setting, some of the changes are disorienting. I had to ask google some questions to make sure my previous Batman knowledge wasn’t all a lie. The illustrations are superb, but I just don’t love how this Bruce is written. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use, partial nudity, implied sexual activity, and illegal activities; the violence rating is for bullying, blood, and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Sunnyside Plaza by Scott Simon - OPTIONAL

Sunnyside Plaza by Scott Simon, 208 pages. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. $17.

Language: PG (1 swear 0 'f') - several instances of "butts"; Mature Content: G; Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULT - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

18yo Sally lives in a group home, Sunnyside Plaza for developmentally disabled adults. She also works in the kitchen there. When a 2nd resident dies unexpectedly and a third suffers a stroke, the police look into it, asking Sally and the others to let them know if they notice anything unusual. But the residents are used to not being listened to, so will their investigation be taken seriously?

Although this is published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers, with the exception of Sally being 18, I didn't see much YA about it, nor do I think my middle school students would be interested. It's an easy read and short - probably too short for adults. It think the audience for this book is NPR fans of Scott Simon. I was underwhelmed with the story, thought the characters felt stereotypical - the funny names of the policeman (London Bridges) and his girlfriend felt contrived to appeal to a young audience. All in all, I was disappointed, not likely to purchase.

Lisa Morey

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez - ADVISABLE

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi #2) by Carlos Hernandez, 432 pages. Rick Riordan Presents (Disney Hyperion), 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Sal Vidon and his best friend Gabi are in a race against time and Sal's Papi. Remember the wormholes Sal created in book 1? Well, his Papi a calamity physicist,  has created a machine to shut them down and fix the wormholes. But it isn't working because a Rogue Gabi from another Universe keeps popping in, trying to stop him - her world has been destroyed and it's all Papi's fault! Now, Sal and Gabi are trying to keep everything under control, but multiple Sals and Gabis (especially Rogue Gabi) are quite a handful - plus, there's the regular drama of being in middle school.

My favorite characters were all the AIs - especially the Artificial Intellligence Toilet. I laughed out loud so many times! Still lots of Cuban culture - the extended description of empanadas was perfect. Lot's of pop culture references - I appreciated the literary ones make this series so much fun. Fast paced with a ton of characters - it matters that you read Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, so start there first. Note: Some of the characters are gender creative.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, May 18, 2020

Not Playing By the Rules : 21 Female Athletes Who Changed Sports by Lesa Cline-Ransome - ADVISABLE

Not Playing By the Rules : 21 Female Athletes Who Changed Sports by Lesa Cline-Ransome, 48 pages. NON-FICTION Penguin Random House, 2020. $19.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ever since Constance Applebee brought field hockey for women to Harvard in 1901, athletic women have been blazing trails, being the first to break into men only sports, and crossing age, race and ability barriers. Each athlete has a 2 page spread - a full page picture with a inspirational quote, and a full page bio/historical contribution. Like Ethelda Bleibtrey who was arrested twice for swimming nude (because she took off her stockings to swim); Nadia Comaneci, first to receive a perfect score in Olympic Gymnastics; Joy Johnson who started running marathons after she retired and continued until age 86; Mia Hamm, soccer sensation; and Ibtihaj Muhammad - first Muslim American to wear hijab while competing for the US Olympic team.

 I really liked this collected biography - it is a great spring board to build interest in an individual and inspire research to learn more about them. I loved the quotes - it reminded me of the teen magazines of the 70s where you could take out the page and put it on your wall. The text is engaging with lots of good information about each woman. Includes an appendix with "just a little bit more" about each athlete.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, May 17, 2020

All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney - ADVISABLE

All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney, 415 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), 2019. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 


16yo Allie Abraham is an all American girl. She gets good grades, has a bright future and a great boyfriend, Wells. Wells' dad is a nationally syndicated ultra conservative talk show host whose distrust of Muslims is no secret. Allie's father is from Jordan, her mother is Anglo-American but they are culturally Muslim. Allie's fair skin and red hair enables her to decide who she tells about her Muslim heritage. While the family is not religious Allie's interactions with her Grandmother and her Muslim cousins have inspired her to want to learn about Islam - and decide for herself, so she joins a study group of supportive girls and even begins to learn Arabic. But she is torn - her father probably won't approve of her religious decisions, and dating Wells is tricky - for both of them.

The opening scene of the book - where she confronts a bigoted passenger on an airplane is gold. I loved this book - Allie is spunky and undaunted, willing to speak her mind when necessary. I loved the glimpse into Muslim society and Islam - there is quite a bit of religious discussion, as Allie is learning about her culture. The romance is sweet - Allie is trying to reconcile dating (and other things). While better suited for High School because of the subject matter and age of the characters, I love to see more diverse titles in the middle school, so I will certainly be putting this on my shelves and recommending it.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, May 15, 2020

Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick - ADVISABLE

Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick, 286 pages. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2020. $18. Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

13yo Frankie is neurodiverse - she is very different from her twin Tess. Frankie doesn't like to be touched, is distracted by noises, has special accommodations in school and has only 1 friend. Colette. But Colette is also friends with Tess. When Frankie overhears Colette say something mean about her, Frankie stops hanging around with them. Now Colette is missing. The police found a clue in her locker, a notebook Frankie, Colette and Tess used to write in years ago. But the only thing Frankie can see is that a page is missing - an important page. Maybe Frankie holds the key to what happened - but no one seems to listen.

I really liked Frankie's voice, I loved being in her head and discovering how she thinks. The mystery was exciting, the friend drama was great.  Their family dynamics were realistic,  supportive mom, but a bit impatient (or so Frankie feels that way.), and the sister relationship was perfect.  Frankie visits a therapist who helps her work through things productively. My middle school girls will love this.

Lisa Librarian

Splintered by Jon McGoran - HIGH

Splintered (Spliced #2) by Jon McGoran, 346 pages. Holiday House, 2019. $19.

Language: R (114 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

It feels like a lifetime has passed since what happened in Pitman a few months ago. Seventeen-year-old Jimi has finally regained her mother’s trust to the point that Jimi and Kevin will be left alone this weekend. Despite all intentions to simply spend time with her chimera boyfriend, Rex, Jimi finds herself once again in a position where she has to stand up for what she believes, even if that means going against what others say she should be doing.

As Jimi’s story continues, it seems somewhat preposterous that a teenager is placed in a position -- again -- to save others who are suffering. However, the more I read McGoran’s gripping series, the more I hope that we can all have a little bit of Jimi in us. All of us, at any age, can stand up for good when we see others wronged. If we each become advocates for good, then there will be less bad to go around. Everyone deserves to be treated as people with worth, as Jimi strives to do despite the hard choices she faces. The violence rating is for blood, illegal activity, gun use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, May 14, 2020

How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody by James Hilt - NO

How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody by James Hilt, 160 pages. NON-FICTION. Moody Publishers, 2020. $12.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Hilt is of the opinion that emulating Jesus Christ is the best way to improve relationships -- with family, friends, spouses, everyone. Each chapter focuses on a principle, giving incorrect examples before gently illustrating to readers what might be a better approach according to the Bible.

While not a riveting read, I do feel uplifted from reading Hilt’s suggestions. Each chapter ends with suggestions for applying the principles Hilt highlights, and I like that he talks about improving our relationships with self not just with others. Overall, it’s a good book for the audience of adult believers in Christ.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel - OPTIONAL

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel, 320 pages. Berkley, 2020. $26.

Language: R (50 swears, 10 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Five years have passed since Patty Watts was put behind bars on charges for aggravated child abuse of her daughter, Rose Gold. Patty still claims innocence, wanting nothing more than to reconcile with Rose Gold. Rose Gold has only ever been able to rely on her mother; should she give Patty another chance?

Reading Rose Gold’s story was painful and sad, like watching a train wreck, and I was ready to put it down and avoid the wreckage a quarter of the way into the book. While the story was hard for me to read, Wrobel wrote it well. Wrobel flips her readers back and forth through time and points of view to invite readers to reach their own conclusions without taking away from the big reveal at the end. As all the questions I had were answered, I couldn’t decide if I was more satisfied or flabbergasted by the conclusion. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol abuse and illegal activity; the violence rating is for child abuse, self harm, and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold - NO


Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold, 361 pgs. Harper Collins, 2020. $19.

Language: R (52 swears, 19 'f'); Mature Content: R (alcohol and drug use and graphic on-page sex); Violence: R (graphic on-page killings)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL - AVERAGE

Since the age of four, Bisou has been living a quiet life in Seattle being raised by her grandmother. That changes on the night of homecoming when Bisou finds herself running through the forest pursued by a wolf. In the course of their confrontation, she is able to deftly dispatch the wolf, much to the surprise of both parties. This experience will end up taking Bisou down a path where she must confront both her past and present in order to understand who she is and what this means for everyone she knows and loves.

In the telling of this tale it is obvious that it is giving a twist on the Red Riding Hood fable. However, the violence, sex, and representation of Bisou’s menses are all unnecessarily graphic rendering it inappropriate for its target audience. The fantasy element could have been compelling, but not enough information is given to explain Bisou’s power or the origin of the wolves. It is never made clear how either group gained their respective powers or why more has not been documented about them. It would seem that if there were werewolves and hunters wandering around Seattle, someone would have noticed at some point. The inclusion of the family being French is an irritating affectation as Seattle is not particularly known as a hub for French speakers, and although Meme spent her formative years in Montreal, she left at 18 and did not have contact with her daughter, so it is confusing why Clara would have given her own daughter a French name and spoken French to her. The final detractor that hurts the story is that it is told in second person. This is rarely done by authors and for a good reason. Reading a story told in second person is uncomfortable for many readers and leads to frustration as it becomes difficult to connect with Bisou.

AEB

Monday, May 11, 2020

Birdie and Me by J. M. M. Nuanez - ADVISABLE

Birdie and Me by J. M. M. Nuanez, 249 pages. Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin Random House), 2020. $17.

Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Jack and her little brother Birdie are moving in with their Uncle Patrick. They are unhappy about it because they were living with Uncle Carl and he liked them. But Uncle Carl is not very responsible, and after missing too many "meetings with the teacher" about Birdie's many absences, and his gender non-conforming clothes, Uncle Patrick takes them instead. He is strict, makes them eat healthy foods, and needs Birdie to dress in ordinary "boy" clothes - which he hates. Everything seems so complicated without Mama.

Nuanez's debut novel is a tender read. I loved sweet Birdie - sad that none of the adults in his life were equipped to help him navigate his feelings. Delightful characters - Rosie and Janet - the voices of reason - and humor as well. The relationship between the siblings was great (both sets! - the uncles have some stuff going on , too). A heartfelt story about figuring out where you belong.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, May 9, 2020

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk - HIGH

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk, 385 pages. Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House), 2019. $18.

Language: R (79 swears 22 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (teen kissing); Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Layla and Cleo have been best friends since middle school and are starting their sophomore year. But when Layla clicks with a special interest friend group - the Chorus Girls - Cleo feels left out and abandoned by Layla. Cleo is also experiencing some trouble at home, her parents have recently separated which makes everything hard, especially when things are strained with her best friend so there’s no one to process this grief with. Then, when Cleo says the worst thing possible to Layla the relationship turns toxic. One of Layla’s new friends, Sloane, who doesn’t like Cleo makes life miserable for Cleo, and Layla stands by and lets it happen. It’s terrible when a friendship ends, even more terrible when that friend was everything.

Ashley Woodfolk has masterfully woven a gut wrenching story of friends lost and missed opportunities. Starting in the middle of the story, when Cleo’s feelings are still raw and desperate, the sections are identified by “then” and “now” so the reader discovers both the aftermath and causes at the same time. The discussions of Shakespeare plays were fantastic, and I loved watching Cleo tutor other students; assigned because she’s been cutting school. The bullying is mostly words but very mean. I keep thinking about it - I like when a book stays with me even after I’m finished. This one will be on my mind for a while. 

Lisa Librarian

I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912: The Graphic Novel by Lauren Tarshis - ESSENTIAL

I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912: The Graphic Novel by Lauren Tarshis, illustrated by Haus Studio, 160 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphix (Scholastic), 2020. $25. 9781338120912

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Told through the point of view of a 10yo boy, Georgie, this is the story of one family’s experience the night the Titanic hit the iceberg. Georgie has a sister and an aunt with him and they make friends with a man and his son. Each survives in different ways - some in lifeboats, and some in the water. The story is woven in with the superstitious idea that a mummy on board was bad luck. 

Students are already drawn to the “I Survived” series and the new graphic novels will engage even more readers. There was a good balance of words to images, providing plenty of opportunities for readers to practice their skills. I found the illustrations tasteful, given it is built around a tragedy, and they made it come alive without making it too scary to be accessible for a wide audience.  

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Friday, May 8, 2020

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner - ESSENTIAL

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner, 250 pages. Atheneum (Simon and Schuster), 2019. $18

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

12 year old Ellie is going through a major transition when her mom and her decide to move from Tennessee to Oklahoma when her grandpa starts to show signs of Alzheimers. Her mom has always been very protective of Ellie because of her cerebral palsy and need for a wheelchair and Ellie finds that with the move she is able to find much needed independence and new friendships.

I really liked the characters in this book, but the plot felt like it was missing a critical climactic moment. The book felt like it was built around the idea of normalizing being in a wheelchair, which I am here for, but I would have liked to have seen more movement in the conflicts of the book.     

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins - ESSENTIAL

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins, 288 pages. Putnam’s (Penguin), 2019. $18.

Language: G (5 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (bar fight)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

After being ghosted by her summer girlfriend, Milli Quint escapes Texas for a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands.  What she doesn’t expect is that her roommate will be an actual princess.  Or that after a very rocky start the two of them might become friends – and maybe more than friends. 

Complete with a high drama big gesture romantic ending, get ready to swoon. Interesting that Hawkins wrote this one with virtually zero swears since the first hurt my eyes a bit. But even better she wrote a great romance!

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan - ESSENTIAL

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan, 251pages.Scholastic Press.2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL - HIGH

Maximiliano Córdoba is a 12yo boy living in a village called Santa Maria in a country also called Santa Maria.  When he has the opportunity to get free elite soccer training in the city with his friends, he feels like his future is bright and anything is possible, even learning about his mom who left when he was a baby. He asks his Papá for permission to go to the fútbol camp and when Papá refuses to let him go, Max is shocked to discover there are many secrets his family has been keeping from him.  A series of events leads to Max discovering the biggest secret, realizing the much-loved stories his Buelo tells him each night hold clues to the way to Mañanaland. Without waiting for his Papå and Buelo, he chooses to guide a young, endangered girl on the journey to a place he has never tried to find, but hopes might hold the answers about his mother that he has been looking for.

Mañanaland is a beautifully written allegory of the plight of the immigrant or refugee.  I loved that the story setting was general enough that it leaves out judgment of any one group and just tells the human side of the story through the people involved. The love, compassion, and sacrifice of many is clear as the human story behind illegal immigration and the reasons behind it are explored and magical thinking helps soften the harsh reality of the journey. This seems to be a great way to talk about illegal immigration and the reasons behind it without focusing on the politics surrounding it.  The writing is beautiful, just like Pam Muños Ryan’s writing usually is, and the cover of the book gives a sense of the beauty and mystery that the story holds.

Reviewer Stacee S. MS teacher

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Digging Up Danger by Jacqueline West - ESSENTIAL

Digging Up Danger by Jacqueline West, illustrated by Hatem Aly, 275 pages. A Yearling Book (Penguin Random House), 2019. $8. 
Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

This is a story built around the idea of a real kid who sent in her idea into the Story Pirates. During the story, the author directs you to the back of the book where it guides the reader through what the author is doing and how the reader can write their own mystery story. The story itself is about Eliza and her mom who move to a giant house to catalogue unique plants and have to solve a mystery around the peculiar effects of a stolen plant. 

I enjoyed both reading the story and learning how to write my own mystery story. I have no doubt this will both spark interest for students to try out mystery writing as well as improve the writing of regular student authors. 

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen - ESSENTIAL

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen, 368 pages. Crown Books (Random), 2020. $18

Language: PG (26 swears,  0“f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Three lives collide in the brutal contest during this year’s race – a fight to the death on phoenix horses – beautiful beasts that need to be resurrected every night and a skilled rider can use the elements to manipulate that rebirth. Pippa is a Ashlord by birth – the beloved daughter of two former winners, destined to win. Adrian is a Longhand – an Ashlord separatist who has been groomed by his father to spark a revolution.  Pippa is a Davidian, the failed conquerors who survive on the scraps left to them by the others – servants. Her video of her skills has caught the eye of the ruling class and earned her spot.  Pippa has plans.

Call this Hunger Games on horses if you’d like. That gorgeous cover will catch many eyes and they won't be disappointed by the tale. The only odd note is that Pippa talks about herself in the second person.  I couldn’t figure out why.  Otherwise it is a breathless rush of action and danger with multiple ulterior motives leading to a sequel I wish I had in my hands already.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Knights Club: The Message of Destiny by Shuky - OPTIONAL

The Message of Destiny (Knights Club #4) by Shuky, Waltch, and Novy, 350 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Quirk Books, 2019. $10
Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

This graphic novel, choose your own adventure, keep track of your score book is the story of a young knight in training who has to deliver a message to another country. Along the way he can increase the power of his weapons and win battles. 

This book requires elements that are single use and will be difficult to share among readers. There are cards at the beginning of the book for logging events, levels, and items along your quest and a punch out spinner at the back of the book. This makes it a complicated addition to a library. 

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park- ADVISABLE

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park, 272 pages. Clarion (Houghton Mifflin), 2020. $17.

Content: G (some racial comments)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Hanna and her Papa have made their way from San Francisco to LaForge in Dakota Territory over the course of several years – really since Hanna’s Mama died. They know that the prairie people aren’t as used to someone like Hanna – half Korean, but Hanna just wants to finish her last couple of courses of school and make her way as a dressmaker like her Mama was. She will have to stand strong in the face of the prejudices of the townspeople.

Park is unabashed in her love of the Little House books growing up. This is her homage to those books, showing the life of other groups who were also looking for homes in America at the same time.  Lovely book – I admire Hanna’s spunk and her ingenuity. The Little House books and other historical fiction is not a big seller at my library, but those who find it will fall in love.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman - OPTIONAL

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman, 339 Pages. SHORT STORIES. Greenwillow Books, 2018. $11.

Content: Language R (10 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

16 stories by Asian writers based on East and South Asian myths, folktales, and legends. There are stories that appeal to every reader. Tales of Samurai, Bollywood dances, RPG's, androids, alternate realities, shape shifters, ghosts, love, revenge, and heartache. This wonderful compilation of short stories contain opportunities for discovery, self reflection, and discussion. If only the mountain spirit had waited a moment longer. What is it that really makes us human? Is revenge as sweet as anticipated? A sister transforms into a bird to escape captivity. A smile can be deadly. There is a reason some woods are forbidden. Perhaps all we need to be, is a fish.

Most stories are appropriate for 7th - 12th grade, however, some stories have references to love-making, “sexed-up” music, harem relationships, and suicide. 1 of the 16 stories contains all the “f” language. Each story has a short afterward by the author describing the original tale. These memorable stories could be read aloud in class and are valuable to teach perspective and understanding of different cultures.

Reviewer: Kara S.