Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp - ESSENTIAL

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


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


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


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


Michelle in the Middle


Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey - ADVISABLE

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


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


BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


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


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


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Monday, June 29, 2020

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - ESSENTIAL

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


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


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


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


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Born to Run by Jason Walz - OPTIONAL

 

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


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


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


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


Michelle in the Middle

 

Twist by Sarah Cannon - OPTIONAL

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


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


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


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


Michelle in the Middle

Chirp by Kate Messner - ESSENTIAL

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, June 28, 2020

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

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


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS  – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


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


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


P.K.Foster, MLS, school librarian


Posted by John David Anderson - ADVISABLE

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

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel - ADVISABLE

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

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Lisa Librarian

Friday, June 26, 2020

Podcast 19: April #2

Yes -

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

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

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

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

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

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley - ADVISABLE

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

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2020

When the Stars Wrote Back by Trista Mateer - OPTIONAL

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

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

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

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

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

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

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

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

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn - ADVISABLE

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

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

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

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

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

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE   

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

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

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

Jen W. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin - OPTIONAL


What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin, 336 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Publishing Group), 2020. $19.

Language: R (212 swears, 127 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Seventeen-year-old Lex is starting senior year just like every other student, but that’s where the similarities end. For the past few months, Lex has been going to therapy to heal from being Poppy, the girl she was forced to be when she was trafficked. Lex still isn’t sure if being rescued from the motel and taken in by her aunt is a good thing, and part of her wants to go back to the life she knows.

I feel like this isn’t a book I can’t recommend to just anyone because it is heavy and heartbreaking. However, I also feel like yelling about this from the rooftops -- everyone needs to know and understand the problem that human trafficking is so that it can be put to an end. Now I’ll get down from my activist soapbox, and some of the feelings that have been stirred up by this powerful book, and simply speak as the reader of a book that addresses difficult subjects. I’ve never experienced the ugly side of the world depicted by McLaughlin, though I know it exists. It was an interesting experience to read a perspective so different from my own and, yet, so relatable. While my trials don’t compare to what Lex and other girls like her suffered through, I feel like I’ve been given permission to not be okay. My hardships are different, but they are still hard. Both Lex and I -- and you -- deserve to be understood, to heal, and to move on. The mature content rating is for mentions of masturbation and orgasm, drug and alcohol abuse, mentions of pornography and prostitution, nudity, human trafficking, sexual assault, sexual abuse, oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, statutory rape, and rape. The violence rating is for fist fights and blood, mentions of self harm and suicide, physical abuse, domestic violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk - ADVISABLE

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk, 368 pages. Dutton Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2020. $18.

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

12yo Ellie moved from the city to the mountains of Maine in 1934 when the depression hit and her father's business -  a tailor's shop - went under.  Now they are living on the land, but several months ago, her father was hurt in an accident. Now in a coma in the bedroom of their cabin, Ellie is desperate to get him to wake up.  Her older sister Esther and her mother are irritated by her crazy attempts, hoping she isn't hurting her father.  Grounded to the outside for putting a snake in his room, Ellie follows a dog up the mountain and she discovers "the hag" hoping she can help, but she is injured as well, and certainly not what Ellie expected.  Maybe she knows how to wake up father, but first she'll need Ellie's help.

Well written, urgent, nostalgic - Lauren Wolk is a brilliant story teller.  I could hardly put it down. Wolk examines who we are, who were were, and who we may be, it's about finding yourself. Not as anxious as Wolf Hollow, but just as engaging. There's a great friendship with a mountain boy that I'm hoping shows up in a sequel sometime. Some cringe worthy descriptions of wounds and treatments; necessary for authenticity and reading enjoyment.

Lisa Librarian

Brown by Håkon Øvreås and Øyvind Torseter - ADVISABLE

Brown (My Alter Ego is a Super Hero book 1) by Håkon Øvreås and Øyvind Torseter 128 pages. Enchanted Lion Books, 2019. $17.

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Rusty is staying with his Aunt when his grandfather dies. She lets him take home a can of brown paint for the fort he and his friend Jack are building. But when they go to their fort in the woods, 3 bullies - the minister's son included - are pulling down their fort and chase Jack and Rusty away. That night, Rusty has an idea - dressed in brown with a brown cape, he becomes Brown - a super hero avenging wrongs - and he paints one of the bullies bikes with the brown paint. Rusty joins him the next night with Black paint, and eventually their other friend, Lou, become Blue. But when the minister notices paint on Rusty's hand at Grandpa's funeral, the super heroes may be in trouble.

This Batchelder award winner from Norway is an interesting character study. I loved the illustrations, simple but emotional. I love Rusty and his friends, but as an adult I wonder if they are just getting themselves into more trouble than they think. Rusty has the guidance and support of his dead grandfather, who is sitting on a large rock in the woods, waiting for, well, whatever happens after one dies. Probably not for every reader, but Brown is quirky enough that I think I know some kids who would really enjoy it. It's book 1 in a series - I wonder where it's headed? 

Lisa Librarian

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus - OPTIONAL

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus, 320 pages. Dutt0n Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2019. $18.

Language: R (23 Swears 2 'f'); Mature Content: R (On-Page sexual encounters - Drug use); Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

16yo Audre lived in Trinadad until her mother caught her with her girlfriend and sent her to live with her dad in Minnesota. Broken hearted and in a pretty strange place, Audre is trying to make the best of a terrible situation - the culture is different, the weather is different, and while her dad is kind, it's just not home - but her ultra religious mother doesn't want her around anymore. 16 yo Mabel also lives in Minneapolis, her dad and Audre's dad are best friends, and the girls are immediate fast friends, with Mabel helping Audre navigate school, friends, life in the states . . . soon friendship turns to something more serious - but then Mabel is diagnosed with a terrible illness - suddenly the tables are turned, and it's Audre's turn to care for Mabel. 

A very emotional read, alternating perspectives from Audre to Mabel, it's both a beautiful story and a heartbreaking one. So much tragedy in their lives, so many problems. This book is not only about Queer identity, but also terminal illness, and family traditions. I loved how Petrus facilitated the language of the girls - I could hear each girl's individual voice. So well written - a debut novel even - I look forward to seeing what she writes next. Content warning: some explicit intimacy, teenage drug use, homophobia, talk of suicide. 

Lisa Librarian

Trapped in Hitler’s Web by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch - ADVISABLE

Trapped in Hitler’s Web by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, 240 pages. Scholastic, OCT 2020. $18


Violence: PG (Nazi casual cruelty)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Maria, 11yo,  and her friend Nathan are escaping their village in Ukraine by accepting jobs through the Reich Employment Office.  A kind clerk sends them all the way to Austria as guest workers on Austrian farms, harvesting for the Nazi war machine. Nathan, however, is ordered off at Innsbruck – forced to work on a bridge building project.  Maria continues on alone.  She may be on a farm, but as a foreigner, she the least of the workers. It is a tightrope walk – not only do the Nazis keep a close eye to make sure she doesn’t receive any special treatment, but the daughter of the farmer is a member of the local Hitler Youth – her eagle eyes could cost Maria her life.


Skrypuch has finished the fourth book in her series about little-known parts of World War II.  Each book of the quartet is lightly joined with the others. In this case Maria is the younger sister of Krystia, whom we met in Don’t Tell the Nazis.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Anya and the Nightingale by Sofiya Pasternack - OPTIONAL

Anya and the Nightingale (Anya #2) by Sofiya Pasternack, 416 pages. Versify (Houghton), NOV 2020. $17


Content: G (mild danger)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Anya is determined to travel to Rum to retrieve her father from the danger there.  When she and her friends, Ivan, the Fool, and Hakon, the dragon (yes, really a dragon) step through the door presented to them by ibbur, the female ghost that helped Any when Hakon was in trouble, they find themselves outside of Kiev, instead, and Hakon has been turned into a human! Being a human is not easy for a dragon – Hakon has to practice a lot to control it.  But there is no time, as in order to get the tsar’s help rescuing Anya’s father, they will have to bring him the Nightgale, a being who has been terrorizing all of the travelers on one of the roads to Kiev. Anya is not intimidated; hasn’t she already faced danger when she was rescuing Hakon? With the boys’ help, she will face any danger to reunite her family.


Again – you will need to hand sell this. Pasternack waits only 25% of the book to get to the point – sending the trio to Kiev, but it is still too long. Wait and buy thi sin paperback.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

The Radium Girls: young reader’s edition by Kate Moore - OPTIONAL

The Radium Girls: young reader’s edition by Kate Moore, 432 pages. Sourcebooks Explore, SEPT 2020. $11. 9781728209470


Content: PG (descriptions of the women’s injuries)


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


In the early years of the 1900’s radium was considered a wonder drug – capable of healing all ills.  Plus it was delightfully luminescent, its glow-in-the-dark qualities perfect for the watches and dials of the pilots and fighters during WWI. The women in the dial-painting studio pointed their brushed by licking the bristles before each stroke.  Plus the glowing powder was so much fun – they would paint their faces and bodies to make pantomimes. What they didn’t know, what America didn’t know is that radium was also a secret killer – the effects being held at bay for years before unleashing their fury.  It would take many years, many deaths and the perseverance of many women to finally win this fight – not just once but several times, before the public, the world, would acknowledge the dangers and take steps to protect the future.


As seminal and detailed Moore’s book is about this important, and little known chapter in world history, that detail and length will work against it being popular in school libraries. Unless you have a teacher who will champion it as an optional read for an American History or science class, you will have a hard time finding many readers. This is a good candidate for a purchase as an ebook in a shared account.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Anya and the Dragon by Sofiya Pasternack - OPTIONAL

Anya and the Dragon by Sofiya Pasternack, 416 pages. Versify (Houghton), 2019.


Content: G (mild danger)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Anya is happy in her small Russian village, surrounded by her parents and her Babulya. Even though they are the only Jews, their neighbors are largely welcoming, though the local magistrate is not always pleasant. Then comes the day a family of Fools move in. Anya overhears that they have been promised a house that sounds suspiciously like her home! And the Fools are here because they are in pursuit of a dragon for the tsar. In their wake, comes a Varangian – a fierce warrior who will stop at nothing to catch the dragon, even should it mean killing Anya.  Because Anya has seen the dragon and met the dragon and will do anything in her power to protect the dragon, who is kinder than many people – especially that Varangian.  It will only be with the help of one of the Fools that she has any chance.


You will definitely need to hand sell this to the right readers. The old-fashioned setting in a foreign country is just the first hurdle.  It also takes about 40% of the book for the dragon to appear – way too much set-up comes before that. Once the dragon appears, then the action moves into high gear. Promise your best readers that the last half of the book is worth the beginning. The author could have edited almost 100 pages from this and had a much more readable book.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Cinders and Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann - ADVISABLE

Cinders and Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann, 368 pages. Greenwillow (Harper), OCT 2020. $17


Content: G (mild danger)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


At 13yo, Zita has lived a long life of drudgery as an orphaned housemaid. Then comes the day she receives a fantastical letter – a letter that identifies her as the heir to the manor and fortune of the Brydgeborn family. The magical Brydgeborn family.  Zita undertakes the journey alone and finds an almost empty manor, populated by only the two young workers and the cantankerous Mrs. Cantaker. While Zita struggles to harness and use the magical part of her legacy, she begins to realized that she is being manipulated. Dark forces are waiting for Zota to set them free, How can Zita find the courage and the learning to forge her own path?


Though the tone and tenor of the book are dark and foreboding, it is not excessive. For readers who enjoy the Pennyroyal Academy books by Larson or Birdie Bloom’s book by Beltz.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg - ADVISABLE


The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg, 336 pgs. Flatiron Books, 2020. $19.

Language: R (53 swears, 13 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (drug and alcohol use, drug overdose (victim recovers), affair between student and coach (off page)), Violence: PG-13 (diving accident is described).

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS—ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL—HIGH

Ingrid is a high school star diver on her way to national acclaim and scholarships when in a moment of distraction, she falters and suffers a major injury. Recovering from her injury, Ingrid has turned into an insomniac and begins to watch the abandoned house next door, convinced something is going on. When her neighbor and crush, who is also fighting insomnia, joins her in her nightly vigils, secrets will be discovered and futures will be changed forever.

A fast paced read that has all the elements to thrill. Romance, mystery, and secrets to uncover will keep the reader intrigued and allow some of the shortcomings in the plot to be forgiven. The main character has an incredible amount to deal with and is realistically portrayed in her downward spiral as her perfectly organized world begins to crumble. As with most YA novels, the adults are withdrawn or conveniently out of the way allowing for many of the antics of the teens to occur, which otherwise would have been impossible to pull off. Readers will be satisfied with an ending that brings all of the plot threads to a close; however, more could have been said about the benefits and absolute need for many of the characters to seek and receive therapy. Serious situations with long-term consequences, which many readers may themselves have experienced, should be acknowledged to have no easy answers and a healing process that could take more than a few weeks. 

Reviewer: AEB

Super Adjacent by Crystal Cestari - ADVISABLE

Super Adjacent by Crystal Cestari, 368 pages. Disney, 2020. $19.

Language: PG-13 (42  swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (superhero violence)


BUYING ADVISORY: HS -ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Claire has been trying almost her entire life to become a part of the Warrior Nation – the group that supports Chicago’s superheroes as they fight crime. On the same day she reaches her goal, she also meets and is very intrigued by the newest Superhero – Joy, who is about to become Girl Power. Bridgette, on the other hand, has been part of Warrior Nation for years – as the girlfriend of Vaporizer, who originally was just her adorable boyfriend Matt before his superpowers manifested. When both girls are kidnapped, Bridgette is very blasé – until they realize that there is something different this time.  Someone is intent on taking down Warrior Nation – and it may be the ones without powers who will need to save the heroes.


Cestari writes a nice mix of romance and superhero adventure. And I especially loved the normals rescuing the supers. There are so many good superhero books for YA, but they don’t circulate well at my school – too bad for the students, who are really missing out.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan - OPTIONAL

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan, 327 pages. Putnam (Penguin), 2020. $18.


Language: R (100+  swears, 30+ “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G


BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW


As the stepdaughter of a famous comic book author, Jubilee is used to attending ComicCons, even if she doesn’t like the spotlight. Ridley, as the son of a ruthless comic bookstore mogul, really hates working for his father, but he’s desperate to be allowed to move back to the family home.  When Ridley and Jubilee meet at a costume ball, they both feel infatuation – and in his desperation uses the connection as a way to impress his father – who would love to take over Jubilee’s family comic bookstore.


I very much wish that Dugan had written this without making it a Romeo and Juliet twist. It is very obvious, very jarring, and not either enlightening or deepening of the original. Instead it is just distracting. I could never relax and just enoy the book for itself – especially because I just can’t buy that Ridley is capable of carrying off the double deception. Not as strong as Hot Dog Girl.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Monday, June 15, 2020

The Secret Runners by Matthew Reilly - OPTIONAL

The Secret Runners by Matthew Reilly, 342 pages. Crown (Random House), AUG 2020. $18. 9780593125809


Language: R (73  swears, 28 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (drinking, drugs); Violence: PG-13 (dead bodies, blood)


BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW


Skye and her twin Red have moved to Manhattan and started at a very exclusive prep school, but while the students have embraced Red, Skye still feels like she’s on the outside. The turmoil in Skye’s life is echoed by the growing chaos in the greater world, as a comet is coming closer to Earth, bringing warnings of global catastrophe. Then for some reason Skye is welcomed into the elite group and becomes party to a secret that has been around for ages – one family has access to very secret tunnels and a paranormal trick that moves them through time – a very dangerous time for this group. Skye first wants to unravel the secrets of this time, but the dangers are now greater in both her real time and the future time. Danger is now approaching on at least two fronts.


I wish Reilly had edited his plotlines – throwing out the debutante who wants Skye dead, as the time travel and natural disaster are plenty of danger for any book. The extra plot line comes over as cheap and superfluous. Too bad – because the rest of it was very interesting.  I am normally a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac - ADVISABLE


Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac, 320 pages. Dial Books (Penguin), 2018. $17.  

Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

12yo Cal and his dad have been living as hobos on the railroad tracks for the past year.  It is 1932, during the Great Depression, and Cal likes living with his dad, but when Cal’s dad goes to Washington D.C. to support veterans from World War I, Cal finds himself at a boarding school for Native Americans.  Cal misses his dad but starts to find his place as a Creek Indian among his friends.  

I loved the voice of Cal and the unique perspective of riding the rails during the Depression.  Cal and his father have a great relationship and the good and the bad of the government school are portrayed.  The Bonus Army march on Washington D.C. was well done and the author also adds more information and resources in the author’s note at the end.  The violence is a battle described from World War I.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming - ESSENTIAL


The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming, 372 pages.  NON-FICTION Schwartz and Wade (Random House), 2020.  $19.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Charles Lindbergh was a shy, yet determined young man who fell in love with flying.  When he heard of a contest to fly from New York to Paris, Charles took the challenge and completed the solo flight.  Lindbergh’s notoriety after the completion of his flight changed his life forever and he became a sensation wherever he went.  Lindbergh also showed an interest in science, especially eugenics and eternal life.  Lindbergh had multiple families, his first son was kidnapped and he flew all over the world.  

I have always been fascinated by Charles Lindbergh, but this biography would enchant any reader.  Lindbergh had strange ideologies and lived an unconventional life for his time period making this a compelling read.  I enjoyed the flow of the book and the kidnapping had details I didn’t know before.   Lindbergh was famous for his flying, but he was a controversial figure in history.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

My Maddy by Gayle E. Pitman and Violet Tobacco - OPTIONAL

My Maddy by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Violet Tobacco. PICTURE BOOK. Magination Press, 2020. $15. 9781433830440


Mature Content: PG (back matter has extensive discussion of intersex, among other details about gender non-conforming that is meant for adults)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


A little girl tells that reader all about her Maddy, who is “something in between, and kind of both, and entirely their own”.


I love the depiction of a non-binary parent. It is a very nice celebration of the relationship between a parent and child, each of them being as they are. Most of the time Magination publishes books that any child can pick up and understand. And while that is true of the front matter, the story, the back matter is quite detailed and way above the heads of most kids who might pick this up on their own.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins - ESSENTIAL

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins, 416 pages. Putnam’s (Penguin), OCT 2020. $18


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


Since her cousin Cal moved in with her family, Hannah, 12yo, has struggled to empathize with him or, sometimes, really tolerate him. She knows that Cal has dealt with a lot of crap – his mother died of cancer three years ago, and his entire life his father has been oppressive and abusive – even more so since Cal’s mom died.  Since Cal’s dad made his money by “acquiring” it from unwilling donors, when the police caught up with him, Cal needed a place to stay. Cal knows he struggles – to control his temper, to communicate on any sort of real way, to overcome the abuse. When Hannah’s family starts to fall apart, Cal blame himself, and so does Hannah, even though she knows in her heart that isn’t fair.


Okay – I’m doing an appalling job of explaining Hopkins newest story.  She started her career years ago looking at the effects of heroin on  a girl’s life.  This time she uses her free verse to explore the effects of anger and addiction of the life of a child of addicts. While I don’t love free verse as a writing choice, I totally love Hopkin’s exploration of Cal’s and Hannah’s lives.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Havenfall by Sara Holland - OPTIONAL

Havenfall by Sara Holland, 305 pages. Bloomsbury, 2020.  $19


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Against the orders of her father, Maddie, 17yo, is returning this summer to the town of Haven and to the Inn at Havenfall, to work with her uncle Marcus who is the Innkeeper – the one who guards the gates between the three realms and watches over the yearly peace talks between the realms. Maddie is also excited to get back to Brekken – her best friend and now love interest from one of the realms. When Uncle Marcus is attacked and rendered into something akin to a coma, Maddie is the only one who act as Innkeeper and work to keep all of the realms safe.  Is this an old menace that has been hiding amongst them all these years?  How can you defend against an enemy that can change its appearance at will? Maddie will need to unravel mysteries and quickly figure out who she can trust in order to save three – maybe four – worlds.


Holland tries really hard to craft an epic fantasy book for a YA audience.  It only partially succeeds. There is not enough meat to extend this into the realms of epic and because of that, there is a lot of background, setting, and personality that the reader has to infer – there is just not enough to fully immerse yourself into the story.  I had to always remind myself to pick it up to finish it, instead not being able to put it down.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS