Friday, July 31, 2020

Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson - OPTIONAL


Forged in Fire and Stars (Loresmith, #1) by Andrea Robertson, 371 pages.  Philomel Books (Penguin), 2020. $19.  

Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Fifteen-year-old Ara is a blacksmith who knows how to forge weapons and use them.  When the lost prince and princess of Saetlund find Ara, she realizes that she is the Loresmith from the legends she has heard since birth.  As the Loresmith, she can forge powerful weapons that protect Saetlund and the prince and princess hope to have Ara’s help as they reclaim their kingdom.  Along their journey they meet Teth a sixteen-year-old thief who has connections to the dark underworld of the kingdom.  Teth and Ara care for each other and work together to help the princess and prince.  

I wanted to love this book, especially because I really enjoyed Andrea Robertson’s Nightshade series, but this book was frustrating.  For most of the book it felt like the characters were just wandering around.  The main point and plot line were not returned to enough and I found myself trying to remember what the character’s goals were.  I liked Teth and Ara but wanted them to have a purpose that was clear.  Great premise, but disappointing execution.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena - ADVISABLE

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena, 384 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), 2020. $19.


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Gul has been on the run and in hiding with the Sisters of the Golden Lotus for years.  Though she has trained in martial arts, her only goal has been to get into the palace and kill King Lohar before her kills her. Because Gul, the girl with a star on her arm, is prophecied to be King Lohar’s death.


There is a beginning of a love interest here also, but Gul is the most important character. Lots of danger. Based around Indian culture, though I don’t think it is a mythology based story. I’m sure there will be a couple of sequels.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Peasant’s Dream by Melanie Dickerson - OPTIONAL

The Peasant’s Dream by Melanie Dickerson, 320 pages. Thomas Nelson, 2020. $19.


Content: G


BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


As the youngest daughter of the Duke of Hagenheim, Adela feels stifled.  When she sneaks into the marketplace one day, she meets Frederick. Frederick is the son of an angry farmer, but he wants a different life as a woodcarver.  That day he takes a chance to show his talent to the local church and he earns a commission for new chapel doors. Taking his mother and sister he moves to town, meaning he can see Adela more often. But his village life follows him as he gets peripherally involved in a plot to kidnap the Duke’s daughter – not knowing that the daughter is Adela.  The road back to love will be dangerous and complicated!


For those who like light romantic novels based on familiar fairy tales, this Dickerson series is a perfect fit.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor - ADVISABLE

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor, 240 pages. Viking (Penguin), AUG 2020. $17


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


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Nnamdi’s father was the chief of police in their small Nigerian town, until the day he was murdered. Nnamdi is sure that is was the Chief of Chief, the local head of all that is bad, but as a young boy, there is little he can do. Then one night he meets his father’s spirit, who gifts him with an Ikenga, an Igbo symbol of power.  Through the Ikenga, Nnamdi seems to have the power to bring bad luck to the Chief’s lackeys. But even has Nnamdi helps his town, he also feels out of control – he may not yet be old enough to wield the full power of the Ikenga.


Nnamdi’s desperation to help his mother, avenge his father’s death, and loose the hold of the thieves on his town will resonate with readers who like magical realism and against-all-odds main characters.Okorafor brings a small part of Nigerian mythology to life and introduces readers to the present-day culture of the region at the same time. As a librarian, I think it is time for me to update my world mythology books, as with the proliferation of new books based on a  wide variety of world mythology should spur a resurgence in kids wanting to learn more.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid by Victoria Tentler-Kaylov - ADVISABLE

Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid by Victoria Tentler-Kaylov. NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK. Orchard Books (Scholastic), NOV 2020. $19. 9781338282832


BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ESSENTIAL; MS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: EL, MS - AVERAGE


Zaha Hadid was born with her fascination for architecture.  Breaking stereotypes, she forged her own path to be able to design ground-breaking buildings all over the world – including being the first woman to design a museum in the US.


Fairly text dense for a picture book, but even though it is a PB, I am glad to see another focus on a woman who has contributed to the world in unique ways. Even MS can use this if they integrate bios of women amongst their varied unit themes.


Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Prince Freya Vol. 2 by Keiko Ishihara - OPTIONAL

Prince Freya Vol. 2 by Keiko Ishihara, 188 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. VIZ Media, 2020. $11.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

By pretending to be the prince in order to save her country, Freya has a responsibility to act like the prince and put her own life before others. But Freya has seen people die, and she won’t stand for that any longer. With the power of the prince, Freya can be an influence for good, if only she has the courage.

My interest was piqued by volume one, and volume two did not disappoint in its continuation. Freya is in a tough spot, and I admire the changes she is trying to make as she sacrifices for her country in ways they are completely unaware of. While the story has some inconsistencies, it’s engaging enough to encourage readers to keep following the series. The mature content rating for nudity, and the violence rating for battle gore and death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, July 24, 2020

Hungry Hearts by Julie Hoag - OPTIONAL

Hungry Hearts by Julie Hoag, 273 pages. Swoon Romance, 2020. $15.

Language: R (137 swears, 69 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Landra, a sophomore in high school, is thrilled when her long-time crush, Hunter, notices her. She’s been eating less and exercising more in order to not be fat, knowing Hunter would see her if only she can be pretty enough. But Brian is constantly pestering Landra with his flirting, which has escalated to daily offerings of the most delicious food Landra has ever tasted. Eat or don’t eat? Brian or Hunter?

While not explicitly stated, Landra struggles with an eating disorder, and a lot of the book is focused on her personal growth. The romance part of the story -- her interactions with and thoughts about the boys -- are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness; I didn’t know whether to laugh or roll my eyes at the cheesiness. If the book had just been about Landra and the boys, I would have put it down, but the growth that Landra makes with few characters realizing the change was powerful. Landra recognized that she needed to make a change and she wanted that change. The change she made might not have made a big difference to those around her, but it mattered to Landra. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, and mentions of nudity, orgy, orgasm, and sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley - ESSENTIAL

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 256 pages Dial Book for Young Readers Penguin Random House, 2020. $18

Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG Violence: PG13 (attempted sexual assault)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

10yo Della and her older sister, 16yo sister Suki have recently been placed in foster care. It should have happened years ago, when their mother was incarcerated, but instead they have been living with Clifton, who is not their father.  When something terrible happens, the girls run and Clifton is now in jail awaiting trial.  Suki has always been there for Della, watching out for her and making sure everything was ok, but who was watching out for Suki? 

Fighting Words is a hard hitting, raw story dealing with the after effects of sexual abuse.   Suki has had to grow up fast - as the primary caregiver and protector of her little sister, while Della, who swears a lot (but as she is telling the story, she replaces swears with the word "snow" - brilliant ) is coming to terms with the abuse her sister experienced without learning all the details. This careful handling of a very serious - but unfortunately too common - subject,  coming from the viewpoint of a 10 year old leaves a lot to be filled in by the reader; the more background knowledge you bring, the more the story blooms, and aches. 

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Avengers Assembly: Orientation by Preeti Chhibber - OPTIONAL

Avengers Assembly: Orientation by Preeti Chhibber, 176 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL, Scholastic, 2020, $14.


Language: PG (10 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Kamala Khan is an average middle school kid who unexpectedly gains super powers and fights crime in New Jersey.  Kamala gets a letter from Captain Marvel inviting her to an extracurricular superhero school to hone her skills.  Together with Miles Morales, aka Spider Man, and Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, they team up to hopefully rise to the top of their class. 


I realize I am not the target audience, but this was a confusing read for me.  I didn’t know who Kamala Khan was previous to the book and it was assumed that readers knew her super powers origin story as well as Squirrel Girl’s and Spider Man’s.  Is there really a Squirrel Girl?  I thought it a little puzzling that Kamala goes by Ms. Marvel when there is already a Captain Marvel.  Told in a collection of blogs, texts, stories, notes and graphic art, it was a fun idea but sometimes difficult to follow.  The narrators kept switching as well as the format, so it took awhile to figure out who was narrating.  The frenetic pacing and visual style will likely appeal to tech savvy middle school students who are into Marvel comics. 


Michelle in the Middle


Slamdown Town by Maxwell Nicoll and Matthew Smith - OPTIONAL

Slamdown Town
by Maxwell Nicoll and Matthew Smith
320 pages. Amulet Books (Abrams),

2020. $15.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Eleven year-old Ollie is a professional wrestling fiend.  He and his brother, Hollis, were raised on wrestling, since their mother was a pro wrestler before turning referee.  Ollie’s world changes when Hollis buys him some used gum chewed by Ollie’s hero wrestler, Professor Pain.  The gum transforms Ollie into a buff pro wrestler named Big Chew.  But life isn’t a barrel of singlets:  the Slamdown Town  Arena is in danger of being shut down, Hollis is a bully, and Ollie’s friendship with his best friend is in jeopardy.


Finally, there is a book for professional wrestling fans. There is no explanation about why the ABC (Already Been Chewed) gum works or why it would have been sold on the Internet instead of being thrown away.  If you can get past this weird plot point, the story is fun, if predictable.  Cool wrestlers and themes of family and friendship make pro wrestling fun for the junior set. 


Michelle in the Middle


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Hard Wired by Len Vlahos - ADVISABLE

Hard Wired by Len Vlahos, 312 pages. Bloomsbury, 2020. $18.


Language: PG-13 (33 swears, 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


15yo Quinn’s dad died of cancer when Quinn was young and each year on the anniversary of his death, his mom shows him one of the many videos that his father made before he died.  It’s something that Quinn looks forward to each year as a way to connect with his dad.  After a failed first date with his crush, Shea, he turns to his dad’s videos hoping for some insight.  What he finds are patterns and a puzzle he never picked up on before and he realizes his father is trying to tell him something.  Something he can’t quite figure out.  When he wakes up the next day,  his father is sitting on the edge of his bed.  Quinn thinks it’s a dream but his father assures him that he is real and instead of answering Quinn’s questions, he pushes Quinn to figure out the puzzle.  He tells Quinn over and over again that he knows the answer, he just has to say it.  Quinn fights it as long as he can, but finally accepts the impossible truth.  Quinn is an AI.  Everything Quinn thought was real was part of a virtual world created to “wake” him up.  His father and all his friends are actually part of the scientific team that has been waiting for Quinn to wake up.  Now that Quinn knows the truth, that he isn’t real, that his memories aren’t real, that he doesn’t have a body or a family, he is stunned, mortified, and feels betrayed by everyone he knows. 


Great science fiction novel and a solid addition to your collection.  Quinn was kind and funny and I really felt for him at first.  The author did a good job portraying his feelings of betrayal.  Imagine how hard it would be to find out, not only that everything you believed was a lie and you were the last to know, but that you were part of some scientific creation, and not even human.  I enjoyed the book and had a hard time putting it down, but the further along I got, the more unsettled I was by the whole thing.  The possibilities of what Quinn could do and his casual arrogance sent shivers up my spine.


Reviewer: RB


The Great Upending by Beth Kephart - ESSENTIAL

The Great Upending by Beth Kephart, 259 pages. Atheneum (Simon), 2020. $18


Content: G                 


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS  - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH   

Sara, Hawk and their happy family live with their parents on a big farm.  They are in the midst of a big drought, there is a fire in the haybarn, Sara has Marfan syndrome, and she needs heart surgery. Everybody pitches in to help and mom makes pies to sell for extra money. A mysterious and reclusive tenant has moved into the remodeled silo on the farm. Sara and Hawk call him ""The Mister."" Under no circumstance are they to disturb The Mister. Sometimes Sara is sure he is watching them; and they are certainly watching him. Sara and Hawk find out that The Mister is a famous, best selling author.       


I liked how this family stuck together and worked to keep the farm going. It's cute how Hawk has named the animals after characters from his favorite book. I could feel the hardships they had on the farm. Sara knew that her illness added to the weight and worry her parents. I loved the book and it gave great insight into what it is like to live with Marfan's syndrome. I highly recommend this book. I could not put it down and read it in one sitting.        


Ellen-Anita, Librarian

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Itch by Polly Farquhar - OPTIONAL

Itch by Polly Farquhar, 280 pages. Holiday House, 2020. $18.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Isaac’s sixth grade year is off to a rough start.  Set in rural Ohio, Isaac still feels like an outsider to his college football crazed town and tries to fit in, even when a tornado blows the roof off the cafeteria.  It doesn’t help that he has idiopathic angioedema that makes him scratch uncontrollably, so the kids as school call him Itch.  Isaac’s best friend, Sydney, has life threatening food allergies that are triggered because of Isaac’s actions.  When Isaac is blamed, he has to decide what lengths he will go to in order to have friends.


For anyone going through angst in sixth grade, this beautifully captures elementary life and the decisions that define us.  Isaac’s medical condition, paired with the food allergies of his friends, help remind us that navigating life isn’t always easy, while shining light on the seriousness of food allergies.  However, there isn’t a lot of action, and it almost seems like an episode of Sienfield where not enough happens.


Michelle in the Middle


Sunday, July 19, 2020

My Life in the Fish Tank By Barbara Dee - ADVISABLE

My Life in the Fish Tank By Barbara Dee, 320 pages. Aladdin Simon and Schuster, 2020. $18

Language: PG (3 swears 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril)

EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

12yo  Zinny loves science - well, she especially loves her science teacher Ms. Molina. Currently Zinny’s family is a bit upended - her oldest brother Gabriel, off to college, has been in an automobile accident, and as events unravel, her parents discover he’s been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and they have placed him in a residential treatment center. Telling Zinny (and her other siblings) to keep this news private her parents feel this is the best way for the family to cope, so Zinny has no one to share her troubles with, her best friends are frustrated, and even Ms. Molina can tell that something is wrong.

Tackling the effect of mental illness on a family, Barbara Dee has written another compelling and emotional novel.  While Gabriel’s problem seems all consuming, Zinny is still having to navigate middle school relationships, school and taking care of her family. Her parents are not managing well, and Scarlet, Zinny’s 16-year-old sister isn’t stepping up, so Zinny is the one to pull things together (weird that the family had an account at the local grocery store - do stores still do that?).  I loved her teacher - she doesn’t pry, just does her best to give Zinny a safe space, and she has helpful friends, and not-so-helpful friends.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Redwood and Ponytail by K. A. Holt - ADVISABLE

Redwood and Ponytail
by K. A. Holt
, 424 pages. Chronicle Books, 2019. $19 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

7th grader Kate is a popular cheerleader, hoping to be chosen as squad captain. When the mascot quits, Kate volunteers to be the mascot, just temporarily, but realizes she loves it. Tam is tall, on the Volleyball team, and often mistaken for a boy, but when she finds Kate in most of her 7th grade classes, they become friends, and maybe something more - for them it means linking pinkies while they walk down the hall. But when Tam's personality clashes with the cheer team, Kate wonders if she will have to give up everything she's worked for to keep the one thing she really wants. Kate is worried about making everyone happy, her friends, her coach, her mother, her sister Jill, even Tam - the one person she isn't making happy is Kate. 

K. A. Holt's 2 voices verse is amazing - sometimes it overlaps, often it's side by side, I loved it. Lyrical, poetic and frantic - mostly the verse was Tam or Kate, sometimes it was others - the outside voices watching the girls' relationship evolve - cheering them on.  A darling coming out story.

Lisa Librarian

Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai - ESSENTIAL


Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai, 293 pages. Christy Ottavaio Books (Henry Holt), 2019. $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Natssu lives with her father and little sister, Asa, in Manchuria during World War II.  Twelve-year-old Natsu loves her father and helping around the farm, so when her father is conscripted to the Japanese army, Natsu is heartbroken and finds herself in charge of Asa.  A single woman who lives near them takes them under her wing and becomes their Auntie, and when Natsu’s farm is overtaken she follows the other refugees from her town on a harrowing journey towards Japan.  

My heart ached throughout this book.  I loved Natsu and her courage and determination.  This historical fiction is about a little-known time and place in history but will help readers empathize with the journey of refugees.  What a fantastic read.  It is written in prose and contains war violence including death, starvation, mass graves and shootings.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Friday, July 17, 2020

Forget Me Nat by Maria Scrivan - ESSENTIAL

Forget Me Nat
 (Nat Enough #2) by Maria Scrivan,
234 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphix (Scholastic), 2020. $25 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Just before winter break, Natalie got "the cutest note" from Derek. Now, he's all she can think about, Nat has a huge crush. When they get back to school, Derek stops by her locker and lends her a comic book, she returns it at lunch and suddenly Nat's friends are forgotten and everything is about "Derek". But as the Valentine's Dance approaches, and Derek still hasn't asked her - Natalie decides to ask him herself. 

Maria Scrivan's "Nat" books are great! Fully relatable to upper elementary and middle school, with full color illustrations throughout. There's a scene with a kid campaigning for class president with a soft serve ice cream machine! I loved this so much! Still grinning as I write this review. Wonderful! 

Lisa Librarian

Bloom (The Overthrow #1) by Kenneth Oppel - ESSENTIAL

Bloom (The Overthrow #1) by Kenneth Oppel,
312 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), 2020. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

High School seniors Petra and Anaya used to be best friends, but had a falling out. Both of them struggle with allergies,  Petra is allergic to water - can't even drink it, while Anaya seems to be allergic to everything else.  One day, a big rainstorm hits and, strangely, the water doesn't hurt Petra, by morning spiky black plants are growing all over the island in Canada where they live. Growing quickly, and choking out the other vegetation, Anaya's dad gets involved - he is a biologist who studies weeds and he's stumped, they can't seem to kill them. When Seth's foster father tries to burn the plants the smoke is toxic and he is hospitalized. Then, when man-eating pit plants invade the school field and all three kids get sucked into them (but manage to escape) they realize that Petra, Anaya and Seth seem to be immune to the burning acid the plants excrete, as well as the noxious smell they send that disables their prey. Maybe these teens hold the key to where these plants came from and how to destroy them. 

I was caught up in this fantastic science fiction novel right from the beginning.It reminded me of "Little Shop of Horrors". It was action packed, full of danger, with the possibility of death by gross plants. The cover is cool, and the story is amazing - once word gets out, I won't be able to keep it on the shelves.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Missing! Mysterious Cases of People Gone Missing Through the Centuries by Brenda Z. Guiberson - OPTIONAL


Missing! Mysterious Cases of People Gone Missing Through the Centuries by Brenda Z. Guiberson, 230 pages.  NON-FICTION Henry Holt and Company, 2019.  $20.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW  

This is a collection of six different notorious missing people cases:  Jimmy Hoffa, D. B. Cooper, Barbara Follett, Amelia Earhart, William Morgan and the two princes in the tower of London. The cases are a random collection of facts and some of the missing people have theories about where they went.  Whether through mob dealings, lost airplanes, bad politics or murder, the stories about why they disappeared were interesting, but obviously they were never found so this is a book of open-ended questions.  

Of the six stories, I really enjoyed two of them-D.B. Cooper and Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa’s chapter was well composed.  But the other three chapters were not well organized and felt like a bunch of gathered facts and implied theories.  Some of the stories rambled on, losing the point and they don’t keep readers attention. The violence includes torture, mob killings and murder.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Joy McCullough - ADVISABLE

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Joy McCullough, 213 pages. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), 2020. $18.

Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


9yo Sutton is a homeschooled brainiac.  She recites the periodic table of elements every morning at breakfast and is intent on winning the state science fair with her mini-bot she is coding.  Luis is also her age, but he loves fantasy and dreams of adventure while writing a book, though he is stuck inside a lot due to a multitude of allergies.  Sutton’s and Luis’ worlds collide when their parents decide to date and Luis and Sutton have to suddenly put aside their differences in order to survive.


Told in alternating chapters, both characters have distinctive personalities and problems they are dealing with, both of which prove isolating.  Luis’ character builds empathy for those dealing with life-threatening allergies.  Sutton’s mother is alive, but heavily involved in an out-of-town career.  Both sets of parents and adults are portrayed sympathetically. Good way to broach themes of change, introspection, and going out of your comfort zone.  You may even learn something about penguins!


Michelle in the Middle 


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Twins by Varian Johnson - HIGH

Twins by Varian Johnson, 256 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic, 2020, $13.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


Francine and Maureen are twins heading into 6th grade and middle school.  Always together, Maureen is upset when Francine wants to head in a different direction and go by Fran.  Maureen feels betrayed and feelings come to a head when they run against each other for class president.


If you have a sibling you’ve always felt compared to or thought was better than you, this could be your book.  It’s a fast read, and the twins have believable and distinct personalities, which the author, also a twin, has captured well.  I didn’t like the idea that a store would go out of business for one employee’s mistake though. The election proves a nice backdrop for showcasing the sibling’s strengths and weaknesses and how sometimes we don’t look outward to see people for who they really are, especially the ones closest to us.


Michelle in the Middle


June’s Wild Flight by Max Brallier - ADVISABLE

June’s Wild Flight (Last Kids on Earth #6) by Max Brallier, 261 pages. Viking (Penguin Random House), 2020. $14.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


June gets separated from her friends, Dirk, Quint, and Jack.  She ends up in a town covered in Vine-

Thingies and new creatures.  June has to figure out how to get back to Wakefield, stay alive, and uncover information about the “Tower” that could be critical to the future of her post-apocalyptic world.


June gets a solo book in the Last Kids series. Though it would help to have read previous books, the set-up is quick and informative, so you could still jump into the storyline with this one.  June makes an intrepid heroine and we get more of her backstory.  The action is pretty much nonstop and the illustrations compliment the story nicely.  June’s Wild Flight promises a wild ride and readers will happily sail through it, especially if they are already fans of the Netflix series.


Michelle in the Middle


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Louder Than Words by Kathy Kacer - ESSENTIAL

Louder Than Words by Kathy Kacer, 228 pages. Annick Press, 2019. $19


Content: G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS  - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


The book is based on the true story of Nina Pukas and her tremendous heroism during world War II in Ukraine. She was hired to be the housekeeper  for a widow and her daughters. The family's home was burned to the ground and Nina protected the Jewish family by claiming them as her family. She secured new identification papers for the family to keep them safe. She continued to care for the girls after the mother was arrested. She kept them safe. 


I love to read about how people were so brave in the face of tremendous hardships. This story needs to be read and remembered. Nina was very brave and showed great love and empathy for the family. She protected them even when by doing so would mean certain death for her if she was discovered. The story was an easy and fast read, and it impacted me greatly. I remember my grandparents and my parents stories of life and hardships during the Germany invasion of Norway during the same war.


Ellen-Anita, Librarian                                                                      


Things Seen From Above by Shelley Pearsall - ESSENTIAL

Things Seen From Above by Shelley Pearsall, 253 pages. Knopf (Random), 2020. $17


Content: G


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS  - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


April does not feel like she fits in with the other kids in her 6th grade. Lunch is especially hard for her. She volunteers to be a Buddy Bench monitor during lunch. She is outside when the fourth grade students have lunch. She helps the students, talks with them and tries to be a friend. She notices a boy that is always by himself and he is always dragging his feet through the bark pieces on the playground. As the days go by April starts to worry about this boy that doesn't seem to fit in with the other students. One day she climbs up on the jungle gym to see if she can see what Joey is doing. He seems to be drawing pictures on a large scale. The janitor helps her up on the roof so she can get a better view. April discovers that Joey is an amazing land artist. He draws pictures as seen from above.


I loved this book and the story of April, Joey and the new girl from India, Veena. Sometimes seeing things from different perspectives changes how we view the world an our place in it.  Seeing things from different perspectives can change our direction in life and help us understand and appreciate others. It opens doors and we gain new insight and knowledge. I liked how the characters grew and learned from each other. April is stronger than she thinks, she has more influence on others and she does a lot of good. She is an impressive girl. The story is told by April and Joey. Joey's part is for the most part illustrations and very few words. I highly recommend this book. It would be a great read-a-loud.


Ellen-Anita, Librarian


Monday, July 13, 2020

Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson - ESSENTIAL

Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson, 352 pages. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (Macmillan), 2019. $18.                     


Language: G (0  swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (Discussion about sex tapes, sex and showing more skin. Sex is off the page); Violence: PG (Fighting, characters being killed)


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS  - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  


Sixteen-year-old Ariadne's entire life is filmed on camera and shown to the world. With the help of her two older sisters and her dysfunctional family, their show is the hottest thing on television. Fourteen contestants will soon compete in the Labyrinth Contest where they will face the Minotaur in the maze and attempt to kill him. Nobody has survived the challenge in 14 years. Ratings skyrocket when the gorgeous prince of Athens arrives in Crete for the contest.  Theseus asks Ariadne's help in defeating the Minotaur for he is determined to end the Labyrinth Contest for good.  Ariadne senses something different in Theseus and can feel herself falling for him.  Does he really care about the other contestants, or is he just another character her father has hired to boost ratings?      


Reality TV mixed with Greek mythology sounds crazy, but it works.  If you would like a glimpse behind the making of a reality tv show this is the book for you.  But first, you must refresh your knowledge of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur or you may feel like this story closely resembles Hunger Games. Emily Roberson has created a very clever modern take on the ancient Greek Mythology story.  The intense story line and the creative dialogue kept me up at night turning pages.  Students will really enjoy this book whether they enjoy Greek Mythology or not.  I cannot recommend it enough!       


Jessica Nelson Librarian                                                                  


The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy - OPTIONAL

The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy, 320 pages. Blink (Harper), 2019. $19.                


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS  - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


In the city of Craewick, Madam has designed a society where citizens are divided by ability and only the Gifted can take memories from others.  Seventeen-year-old Etta is desperate to save her mother from auction.  If she were to be auctioned, all of her memories would be sold to the highest bidder and then she would be killed.  In a land where memories act as currency, this would be devastating.  Etta will do anything to save her mother, even if it means joining the Shadows, the rebel group Etta swore off years ago. Etta must steal a map of the Maze in order to get the Shadows to trust her.  Etta soon faces many challenges along the way, revealing secrets from her past and deciding who she can indeed trust. As a romance blossoms, Etta makes her way closer to her mother, but will she arrive in time?


I really liked the concept of this book.  To be able to steals someone's memories of being an accomplished painter or dancer, then being one yourself, would be amazing.  For some reason it was a little difficult to wrap my brain around while reading. It is such an abstract concept that it was difficult to remember if the character already had that skill or stole it.  I did enjoy the adventure, the quest Etta was on and the romance that was beginning to take shape.  I feel like a prequel and a few more books will be added soon.


Jessica Nelson Librarian


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater - OPTIONAL

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team (The Derby Daredevils) by Kit Rosewater, 151 pages. Amulet Books (Abrams), 2020, $15.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Fifth grader Kenzie has dreamed of being on a roller derby team as long as she can remember.  Together with her best friend, Shelly, they want to try out for a derby team.  In order to stay together, they need to put together a team of five girls before tryouts.  This causes some changes in the girls’ friendships as they go from being besties to team players. 


Yay, a book for roller derby girls!  Though sadly, there isn’t a whole lot of plot besides the title.  Kenzie puts together a team and she struggles with putting Bree on the team because she has feelings for her.  Fifth grade seems a little young to be thinking of relationships, though there isn’t anything beyond feelings and brushing fingertips. The ending leaves the book open for a sequel, yet wraps up the storyline.  This is friendship/relationship angst with a dose of derby. 


Michelle in the Middle


Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon - OPTIONAL

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon, 308 pages. Scholastic Press, 2020. $18.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Justin has had a rough year.  His mother died and his best friend, Zee, went missing.  Zee suddenly shows up a year later, but he is changed.  At Zee’s welcome home party, things go from weird to horrifying when Justin and his sixth grade friends play hide and seek.  As Zee begins to spout strange riddles in rhyme, they realize that their game has dire consequences, especially as they begin to disappear one by one into a world of nightmares.


When Justin ends up in Nowhere, it is a lot like the Down Under in Stranger Things.  The kids in Nowhere are in a dark mirrored world below their real world as they are beset by their greatest fears.  I wanted to like this book more.  The rhymes were too simplistic and if I were terrified I don’t think I’d remember them anyway.  There just wasn’t a lot of tension and the consequences for not following the rules of hide and seek seemed pretty harsh for little kids. 


Michelle in the Middle


Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos - HIGH

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, 147 pages. NON-FICTION. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers (Macmillan), 2019. $18.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


Mexican author Villalobos gives insight on eleven teenagers’ immigration experiences as they risk their lives working their way from dangerous homelands across Mexico to try and find a safer life and often family in the United States. 


These stories are brief but compelling.  This quick read should build empathy into the immigration process and gratitude for what the United States offers.  My only problem with the book was that the stories weren’t more fleshed out.  These haunting stories will stay with you. 


Michelle in the Middle


City Spies by James Ponti - ESSENTIAL

City Spies by James Ponti, 378 pages. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division), 2020. $18.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


12yo Sara Martinez is in the foster care system.  Her foster parents are horrible, so she hacks into the juvenile justice system to expose them.  Unfortunately she faces juvenile detention until Mother, a British spy recruits her and she joins a team of youth spies living in Scotland.  At a youth summit in Paris, Sara and her team go undercover to stop a villainous plot that would endanger lives.


Although it was a bit of a stretch to have a 12-year old hacker who can get into any system, this story rocks.  Sara and her crew are likable with some mad skills and the story was engaging and well paced.  There are nice twists as Mother and his teen spies get closer to the truth.  Once you start reading, you will want to finish, and the locales make you wish you were there.  James Ponti has blended fun with danger brilliantly.


Michelle in the Middle


Friday, July 10, 2020

The Knights of Mars by Alex Alice - ADVISABLE

The Knights of Mars (Castles in the Stars #3) by Alex Alice, 54 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second (Macmillan). 2019, $20.


Content G


BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE


Seraphin, Hans, and Sophie return from the moon in 1869 with aetherite, a miraculous substance that defies gravity.  Unfortunately, they must remain hidden to keep it safe from the Prussians.  The Knights of Aether must rescue King Ludwig and Professor Dulac on the farthest reaches of the Prussian empire-Mars!


You will want to read the first two volumes before jumping into this one.  Translated from French, the storyline would make more sense to readers who have a basic grasp of European history.  The art is visually stunning. The size of the book is one of its strengths and weaknesses.  It is picture book sized, which allows the art to really shine, but is not the standard size to fit on your shelf.  The storyline is intriguing, but much too short.  There are many threads left dangling at the end, so with a deep sigh, I will just have to wait for book four. 


Michelle in the Middle


The Invasion by K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant - ESSENTIAL

The Invasion (Animorphs Graphix #1) by K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant, adapted by Chris Grine, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic, 2020. $13.


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


BUYING ADVISORY: MS –ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL:  HIGH


The Animorphs begin their adventures in this graphic novel adaption.  Five teens are on their way home through a construction site when they meet up with a wounded alien who gives them morphing powers before dying.  He wants to keep them safe from bigger badder invading aliens who want to use humans for hosts for their race. 


Whether or not you have read the Animorph series, you will probably enjoy the graphic novel version.  It’s a great way to be introduced to the series, and an awesome visual if you are already a fan.  Each of the teen’s personalities are brought forth, as well as the creepiness of the aliens they face.  I’m betting you won’t be able to stop at just book one. 


Michelle in the Middle


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon - HIGH


Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta’s Academy, #1) by Sandhya Menon, 361 pages.  Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $19.  

Content: Language: R (39 swears; 14 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Princess Jaya and her little sister, Isha, have been sent away to St. Rosetta’s Academy to disappear out of the public eye in India after Isha’s scandal. Isha and Jaya are under the impression that a rival family, the Emersons, were the ones to slander Isha in the press, so when Jaya realizes that the heir to the Emerson’s, Grey Emerson, is at her school, Jaya plots her revenge. Jaya and Grey are caught up in a long-standing curse between their families and they start to realize that maybe they should be allies, not enemies.  

I liked this twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.  I liked Jaya and she didn’t drag out her revenge, so the storyline moved at an enjoyable pace. I’m not sure why there are so many “f” words-it was a bit distracting and moved the book from advisable to optional. Grey is the perfect brooding love interest and the other minor characters and their drama were just as entertaining as the main story.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Standing Against Hate by Mary Cronk Farrell - ADVISABLE


Standing Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell, 196 pages.  NON-FICTION  Abrams Books, 2019.  $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

This non-fiction book concentrates on the African American women who joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during World War II.  Similar to the prejudice and discrimination that African American men suffered, the women in this book enlisted to help the United States win the war against oppression from Hitler but suffered from the oppression in their own country. Charity Adams was one of the main people highlighted throughout the book and she led her battalion as they sorted packages in England that were backlogged and not reaching the troops.  Adams ran a tight system that enabled troops to receive their mail and showed the Army that African American women were as capable as the rest of the Army.  

I loved the women in this book, and they were courageous and unstoppable.  It’s not easy to read about the poor treatment and discrimination suffered by African American women and the violence includes police brutality.  There are historical photographs which make the story easy to visualize.  This is a great perspective to add to your Black History or World War II collections.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson