Thursday, April 15, 2021

Treacherous Legacy by Kathi Oram Peterson - OPTIONAL


Treacherous Legacy
by Kathi Oram Peterson
, 251 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When 35-year-old Anna sees her uncle, her last living relative, die in front of her, he uses his last breath to tell her to run. Anna’s uncle had continued her father’s work to prove that their ancestors were not Nazi sympathizers, and now Anna feels the same duty to finish what they started. Following the teachings of her father, Anna starts down the right path, but digging into family secrets is dangerous for Anna’s heart as well as her life.

Anna runs from people trying to kill her and is forced to trust strangers in order to reach her goals; she gets misled and discovers things about her loved ones that are hard to believe; and, yet, through it all, she barely scrapes by -- as should heroes who are on a quest for justice. While all these elements made the story as outlandish as it was entertaining, the climax felt less involved and victorious than I hoped. Peterson has written a compelling journey with a quick ending as she ties up all the loose ends. My favorite part was the author’s note where Peterson explains which WWII details from Anna’s story are true.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus - ESSENTIAL

A Place to Hang the Moon
by Kate Albus
, 309 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $18.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo William, 11yo Edmund, and 9yo Anna are orphans - their parents died years ago and they recently lost their grandmother. Their solicitor is concerned that families wanting to adopt them may be looking more at their trust fund than at the children, so, when Mr. Engersoll suggests the children be sent to the country with other evacuee children out of London, and give them the opportunity to see some families for themselves, they take the chance. All three are good readers, and value it, so they make an instant connection with the village librarian - but she appears to be an outsider herself - some of the village leadership feels Mrs. Muller is "unsuitable" to billet the children, so they are placed with a family, and then another, they find themselves needing a miracle. 

What a delightful read! Oh the children were great - I expected them to be entitled and difficult, but just the opposite. So many books referenced and quoted - librarians will love "A Place to Hang the Moon", and will also love recommending it. A nice WWII historical fiction, a great companion read for those who loved Bradley's "The War that Saved my Life."

Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Turnover by Mike Lupica - ADVISABLE

 The Turnover by Mike Lupica, 243 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2020. $18

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

7th grader Lucas Winston loves basketball. There is nothing he loves more except maybe his mother and grandfather. Lucas’ grandfather is a basketball genius who shares Lucas’ love for basketball and coached Lucas and his team mates to victory the previous year. Lucas is hoping for a repeat, but when he is given an assignment to write about an important person in his life, Lucas discovers a past secret that could threaten to tear the relationship with his grandfather apart. 

Anyone who loves basketball will probably like this book. Lupica always delivers on court action. There is nice tension as Lucas begins to unravel his grandfather’s past. I thought the reaction to the secret seemed a bit extreme considering how many decades had expired. The ending is not a surprise, but is satisfying nevertheless. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

The Twin by Natasha Preston - NO

The Twin by Natasha Preston, 384 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2020. $12. Language: PG-13 (32 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (Off page killing).

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Twins Ivy and Iris have been living apart for years since after their parents’ divorce, each parent got custody of one of the twins. After the tragic death of their mother, Iris has returned to live with Ivy and their father. Both twins are devastated, but especially Iris. Now Ivy must find a way to bring Iris into her life sharing her school and friends with a sister she barely knows. Things seem to be going well until it seems that instead of sharing, Iris is more interested in taking over the Ivy’s life. Ivy may be paranoid or she may be in danger.

From the first page the direction of the plot is evident to even the most naïve of readers. A book that would better serve as a script for a cable network Saturday afternoon movie, this story is not worthy of the time it takes to read it. The characters are two dimensional and the ominous tone that is attempted is tired. The ending leaves the story unfinished in what is more than likely supposed to be a shocking cliff hanger, but will leave the reader angry for pushing through to the conclusion.

Reviewer: AEB

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard - ADVISIBLE

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard, 352 pgs. Blink, 2020. $19. Language: PG (5 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (child in peril, on page killings in battle, corpses placed on display).

BUYING ADVISORY—MS, HS - ADVISIBLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL—HIGH

Siria Nightingale lives in a land of perpetual darkness. She longs to experience the sun, but only knows about its light and warmth from stories of the old days. On her sixteenth birthday, as she prepares to be presented to the queen, Siria discovers something about herself that will put her on a drastically different path. Now instead of serving the queen who brought the darkness, she will join the rebels who are fighting to return the light.

A fast-paced read full of adventure, romance, and magic. The characters in this story are well written and appealing. The plot is original and has few holes enabling the reader to become immersed in an exciting battle of good vs evil. The only slight drawbacks are the magical setting that would benefit from a bit more background as the reader is thrust into the story quite abruptly and a plot where the energy is more stable instead of veering dizzingly at times between calm narrative and frantic action. 

Reviewer: Ali Bridge

Desert Diary: Japanese American Kids Behind Barbed Wire by Michael O. Tunnell - ESSENTIAL

Desert Diary: Japanese American Kids Behind Barbed Wire by Michael O. Tunnell
, 134 pages. Charlesbridge, 2020. $20

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

8yo Mae Yanagi and her classmates are prisoners in the Topaz Camp in Utah during World War II. She and her classmates kept an illustrated classroom diary. The diary, coupled with insightful research, illuminates what resilient people can do when faced with the unthinkable. Topaz was located in a harsh, square mile of Utah desert, holding upwards of 8,000 people. 

Loaded with pictures and photos of the original class diary, this is an inviting and captivating read. Information is presented in accessible themed chapters. This is a beautiful rendering of a dignified people unfairly placed in a terrible situation. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Crocodile Rescue (Wild Survival) by Melissa Cristina Marquez - OPTIONAL

Crocodile Rescue (Wild Survival) by Melissa Cristina Marquez,
240 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $8. 

Content G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Adrianna Villalobos gets to travel the globe with her older brother, Feye, and their parents, for the nature show her parents host. Adrianna is excited to finally be old enough to be on the show as they journey to Cuba in search of an injured crocodile. After Feye is injured in an accident partially caused by Adrianna, her parents want her behind the scenes, but Adrianna is intent on proving that she has a place in the show and with her adventurous family. 

Adrianna’s adventure is an easy read and the pacing is fast. I liked the use of Spanish terms and the glossary at the back insured that readers could understand them. Anytime an animal was mentioned in the book there was an informational insert with a line drawing so kids who like animals can pick up some quick facts. The plot is superficial though and easy to predict. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Logan Likes Mary Anne (The Baby-Sitters Club) by Gale Galligan - HIGH

Logan Likes Mary Anne (The Baby-Sitters Club) by Gale Galligan
, based on the novel by Ann M. Martin, 170 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL Scholastic, 2020. $13. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Mary Anne isn’t sure what to expect from her 8th grade year, but she is glad to get back with the Baby-sitters Club. When the group becomes overwhelmed with jobs, Mary Anne gets sent on a job with Logan, a dreamy boy who just moved to Stoneybrook, as a test run. Logan and Mary Anne seem to hit it off, but Mary Anne feels awkward and uncertain around Logan, and life for Mary Anne suddenly seems complicated. 

 Fans of the Baby-sitters Club books will devour this one, no questions asked. Mary Anne’s character is sweetly awkward and relatable. The art is colorful and bright and helps tell the story, so pull up some cake and celebrate Mary Anne’s angst and birthday with her. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Skywatchers by Carrie Arcos - ESSENTIAL

Skywatchers by Carrie Arcos
, 356 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin), 2020. $19. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The Skywatchers Club was formed to keep the skies safe from Soviet intruders. High schoolers Teddy, John, Caroline, Eleanor, Bunny, Frank, and Oscar volunteer to help and take a shift watching the skies. Most days are boring with only the occasional passenger plane flying by, if they do at all. But one day they see a strange green light and a mysterious object lands in the forest. When Teddy, John, Caroline, and Bunny go to investigate they disappear. 

 This story is inspired by true events pulls teens into a world full of UFO’s and aliens where they will have to save each other and possibly the world. I really liked this book. It was fun to read, especially because it was inspired by true events. Mature Content is PG because the story takes place in 1952 during the Cold War, so there is a lot of talk about McCarthyism, the Red Scare, the USSR, etc. 

Julia M., Student 

Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair by Ann Bausum - ESSENTIAL

Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair: Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge by Ann Bausum
, 144 pages. National Geographic. 2021. $20. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

In 1944, some of Hitler’s generals, believing that Hitler was endangering his own people and alarmed at the atrocities being committed, resolved to kill him. Code named Valkyrie, a bomb went off in the Wolf’s Lair, but did not kill Hitler. Enraged, Hitler rounded up not only the conspirators but their families as well. Within weeks, the Gestapo had taken as many as 200 relatives from their home, separating adults and children. 

 Though I had heard about Valkyrie, I had no idea that Hitler’s revenge was so intense he wanted entire families wiped out including giving young children new names and identities. Bausum delivers a well-researched book on a little-known topic. Pictures and primary source documents make this an informative and gripping read. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939 by Barbara Krasner - ADVISABLE

 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939 by Barbara Krasner, 160 pages. Kar-Ben publishing (Lerner). 2021. $18. 

Content G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Ruthie Arons is a young Jewish refugee on the M.S. St. Luis, bound for Cuba to escape Nazi Germany. Ruthie discovers a Nazi on board and worries about her father, especially when the ship is not allowed to dock in Havana. 

Though Ruthie is fictional, the story is based on actual events. Written in free verse, this is a fast read, though the verse doesn’t seem like actual poetry. Tough this is a nice introduction into the plight of the St. Luis, it doesn’t say anything new or go into much depth. The timeline at the back is a nice touch. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

The Dragon Path by Ethan Young - HIGH

 The Dragon Path by Ethan Young, 202 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic. 2021. $13. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Prince Sing, heir to the Wong Clan is on a journey to seek the Old Land and a better life. Taking a short cut through dangerous lands ruled by the Dragon Tribe, Prince Sing becomes separated from his family. The young prince discovers a traitor and family secrets that could either destroy or save him and his clan. 

 Magic mixes with steampunk to bring the Wong Clan to Old Land. It’s refreshing to find themes of family and honor. Though the novel ends satisfactorily, there is room for a sequel. If so, I’m in. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Houdini and Me by Dan Gutman - HIGH

 Houdini and Me by Dan Gutman, 212 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $17. 

Content G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

11yo Harry Mancini lives in the same house that Harry Houdini lived in. Harry knows tons of information about Houdini and his amazing escapes. Incredibly, young Harry finds himself getting texts from Houdini himself. At first Harry is flattered, but when Houdini comes up with a plan to swap places and send Harry back to 1921, things take a sinister turn that could cost Harry his life. 

 Gutman weaves actual photos and facts about Houdini into his book. This is a fun way to learn information about the man behind the legend. Harry is a likable character with a good friend, and even though Houdini tells him that everyone wants to escape from something, it’s nice to discover that happiness can be close to home. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Careful What You Wish Fur by Vera Strange - HIGH

Careful What You Wish Fur (Disney Chills) by Vera Strange
, 247 pages. Disney Press (Buena Vista Books, Inc.), 2021. $7. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

13yo Delia loves fashion. She is obsessed with taking the perfect selfie every day for the PicPerfect app so her ranking will stay high. Unfortunately for Delia, her hardworking single mom has finagled an opening in an upscale school where Delia is no longer top dog. As she struggles to fit in, she discovers a fur coat seemingly abandoned outside of House DeVil, that transforms her. Literally. Suddenly her skin is flawless and her selfies amazing. All is grand until the owner decides she wants her coat back. 

 These books are growing on me. Once you pick up the book you will want to finish it, which isn’t hard. These books are fast reads and don’t have to be read in any order. Delia is a fairly self-centered teenager, but getting hearts on social media comes at a high price for her. Lesson learned in the Twilight Zone. Also, you should not a fur coat off a mannequin. Ever. Kick back and enjoy a romp with the darker side of Disney. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Friday, April 9, 2021

The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae - HIGH

The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae
, 406 pages. Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2020. $19. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Zahru is a teenager itching to see the world outside of her small village. Fortunately for her, the ailing ruler has decreed a Crossing, a death-defying race across the desert to see which of his three heirs will rule. This is a rare event and the heirs will need a strong magical escort to help them. Even though Zahru’s magic of communicating with animals is considered weak, she manages to sneak into the palace so she can watch the festivities and sample fine food. Unfortunately for her, she ends up being selected as the human sacrifice the winning heir kills to gain the powerful magic that will win them the throne. 

 A fresh and engaging plot, Zahru’s experience is well written, combining danger and adventure. The characters all have their own issues and we get to know them better during the Crossing. Violence is not graphic or over the top. Zahru discovers the best (and worst) in people she meets. The book resolves enough to be satisfying, but leaves enough key loose ends that you will want to check out the sequel, The Cruelest Mercy sooner rather than later. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Race to the Moon (Escape This Book!) by Bill Doyle and Sarah Sax - OPTIONAL

Race to the Moon (Escape This Book!) by Bill Doyle, illustrated by Sarah Sax
. 186 pages. Random House, 2020. $11. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS (GIFT)- OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

With this book on space, the reader has three chances to join NASA’s space program and help the Apollo mission reach the moon, either as the mission commander, the moon buggy driver, or the flight director. Think escape room meets book. 

The book is loaded with interactive activities for the reader to do with the book, like cut up its pages and drawing in it, so getting a copy for a library may be dodgy. Readers could read it without vandalizing the book, but it may just be too tempting to follow the directions. Fun and immersive for readers interested in space, it will definitely hold your attention, but it may also be a one and one book as well. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Greek Mythology: The Handbook by Liv Albert and Sara Richard - ESSENTIAL

Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook
by Liv Albert, illustrated by Sara Richard
. 240 pages. Adams Media (Simon & Schuster), 2021. $17. 9781507215494 

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

BUYING ADVISORY:– MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Greek Mythology gets a fantastic new update. Smartly illustrated and designed, it is a great size to pack around. I thought I knew everything about the Greek pantheon, but I found new facts and got pulled in by format. Each deity or hero is divided into “What’s his/her deal?” “The Story You Need to Know,” and “Now You Know.” Sometimes just the illustrations would pull me into a section. Easy to find facts and great, succinct writing, this is my new go-to for Greek Mythology. More than a mere reference book, this is a marvelous read. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Even More Fantastic Failures by Luke Reynolds - ADVISABLE

Even More Fantastic Failures: True Stories of People Who Changed the World by Falling Down First by Luke Reynolds
, 288 pages. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster). 2020. $13. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

More fantastic failures details how people who changed the world, from celebrities to teen advocates, succeeded in spite of setbacks to follow their dreams and overcome obstacles. Individuals vary from Joan of Arc to Barack Obama with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Jamaican Women’s National Soccer Team. Segments are short and readable vignettes with even more examples in sidebars. 

 The format and cover didn’t do much for me initially. I admit it took me awhile to finally pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised by the readability, though I thought the beginning of each story pointing out how easy it must have been for each person and then refuting that belief unnecessary. There is also a fair bit of editorializing to go along with each entry. But these stories remind us that people are more than the successful images we see on social media and that it’s ok to fail because we don’t know where failure will lead us. 

Michelle in the Middle

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Merci Suarez Can't Dance (Merci Suarez #2) by Meg Medina - ADVISABLE

Merci Suarez Can't Dance (Merci Suarez #2)
by Meg Medina
372 pages. Candlewick Press, 2021. $18. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Merci is back for her 7th grade year at Seaward Pines. She and Edna have a truce, but things are not any better between them. For her community service project, she has been assigned to run the school store during lunch with Wilson who is great at math. Between the two of them - Merci has some great business sense, they turn the failing store into a success, but when selling tickets to the dance becomes part of the store responsibilities, Merci has to play nice with Edna, who has also started hanging around with Merci's friends. 

So funny - I love Medina's writing, she really knows the mind of the 7th grader and the kind of drama that goes on in their lives. Merci has a lot going on, besides her feud with Edna, she has friend trouble, she thinks she might like Wilson, and her Aunt is dating one of her dad's employees - yuck! I'll recommend this as a pair - readers will want to go right from Merci Suarez Changes Gears to Merci Suarez Can't Dance.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life by Dani Jansen - NO

The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life by Dani Jansen, 304 pages. Second Story Press, 2020. $14 

Language PG13; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - NOT RECOMMENDED 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

High School senior Alison Green wants to be valedictorian. It is her primary focus. Hoping to ingratiate herself with a teacher on the selection committee, Alison agrees to be the producer of the school Shakespeare Play. With no theater experience, Alison convinces her sister and friends to help her navigate the difficult task of putting on a show. Alison is also a lesbian who came out to her family, but not to her friends or schoolmates. However, when her best friend's crush asks Alison out for a date, she accepts, intending to turn the date into a meeting for him and her friend, but it backfires. Now the boy is mad at her and so is her best friend. When Alison's crush Charlotte lands the lead in the school musical, Alison thinks that maybe staying in the closet isn't helping her find happiness. 

I was so excited to read The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life because I am a Drama Teacher. I just can't get past handing over the production side of a school play to an inexperienced student with zero adult support. Of course it made for some funny situations, but the effect on the actors, the audience and school was unnecessary and irresponsible. I also didn't like the stereotypical representation of the theater and stage crew kids. Although the characters are high school, it reads more like a middle school farce. I really liked the other storyline. Alison deciding to be out and comfortable with her sexuality; it was interesting, timely and sweet. Too bad it was overshadowed by chaotic rehearsals, a self centered director and a community theater bent on shutting down the high school production. The theater community isn't like that. Having a hard time recommending this.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, April 5, 2021

It's Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run by Matt Doeden - ADVISABLE

It's Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run
by Matt Doeden
, 64 pages. NON-FICTION Millbrook (Lerner), 2021. $35. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The history of, and skill behind major league home runs. From the great Babe Ruth through the home run kings of today, we learn about their statistics, the race to the top and how home runs have changed the game of baseball. Short sections put together perfectly to keep the middle school reader engaged. Great captioned photographs, side bars with more information - like the home run derby, why Coors Field has the best home run chances and who hits this biggest blasts. 

 The history of Babe Ruth's records, who broke them and the fans' reactions was compelling. I'm not a sports person and I found it engaging and exciting. Also includes the stats and short bios for the 25 top home run hitters, a bunch of home run records a glossary and source notes.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Reaching for the Moon by Katherine G. Johnson - ADVISABLE

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson
by Katherine G. Johnson,
256 pages. AUTOBIOGRAPHY Antheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon and Schuster), 2019. $18

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Many of us are familiar with Katherine Johnson and her contribution to the space program, but her story is so much more than getting an American man on the moon. Growing up during the Great Depression, her parents made sure their children got the best education possible, and Kathrine excelled despite the restrictions of Jim Crow laws. A talented mathematician, Katherine also spoke french, taught school, was a wife and mother, and played an essential role on the team that sent astronauts to the moon. 

I loved getting all the background on her life. She was a math whiz at 4 years old! Throughout the autobiography Katherine tells an honest account of the affect of racism on her life and other African American people, as well as the inside scoop on working at NASA and some parts of "Hidden Figures" that was represented differently in the movie. Well written and perfect for a middle school reader. Lots of photographs as well. 

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat - ADVISABLE

A Wish in the Dark
by Christina Soontornvat, 
375 pages. Candlewick Press, 2020. $18

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Pong was born in a prison while his mother was incarcerated. In Chattana, the children of the prisoners are prisoners themselves until they are 13, when they are released. Pong, not yet 13, seizes an opportunity and escapes. But the outside world isn't as welcoming or easy as he expected. Nok is the warden's daughter. Pong's escape brought shame on her family, and now she will stop at nothing to recapture him. 

 Magical realism sets "A Wish in the Dark" apart. Soontornvat slowly introduces the magical elements, building a world as bright as the light sources created by the Governor. Each child in the story has their own power - Nok is a skilled fighter, Pong has heightened sensitivity, and Somkit knows and builds machines. Not just an adventure story, Soontornvat also addresses social inequity, privilege, and what fair means. 

Lisa Librarian

Friday, April 2, 2021

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée - ADVISABLE

A Good Kind of Trouble
by Lisa Moore Ramée
, 384 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins), 2019. $17 Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

12yo Shayla is just starting junior high.  She's always been a good kid, and avoids trouble. Her older sister is part of the Black Lives Matter movement, but although Shayla is black, isn't really interested in getting involved. They live in West Los Angeles where a police officer is on trial for shooting a black man. When the verdict comes back "not guilty" Shayla feels like it's time for her to take a stand. She wears a black arm band to school and brings some for her friends and teammates. When the principal announces that arm bands are against dress code, Shayla must weigh getting in trouble against standing up for something she really believes in.

Oh, such a great read for middle school, there's a bunch of friend drama, boy drama, lunch room, sports  and even a dance to advance the story. Shayla is a great character, trying new things, questioning old ideas and discovering who she is.  I also liked the discussions of racism and protesting that weren't necessarily political.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Influence by Sara Shepard - OPTIONAL

Influence by Sara Shepard, 361 pages. Delacorte Press, 2021. $18. 

Content: Language: PG-13 (42 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Four teenage girls are immersed in the world of social media influencing and their paths cross. Delilah is new to L.A. and wants to get in on the influencing scene, but at one of her first big events she falls for fellow influencer Scarlet’s beau.  Jasmine feels pigeon-holed in a role that started when she was a child star, and she doesn’t feel like she can be her real self.  Fiona has many anxieties, mostly stemming from an accident that Fiona feels responsible for and it left a girl dead. And the queen bee, Scarlet, seems to have the biggest secret of all but each of the other influencers are afraid Scarlet’s secret is about their secret.  When their whole life is on display for thousands, there tends to be secrets about who these girls really are, and those secrets start to leak out leading to the death of one of the girls.  

I really enjoyed Sara Shepard’s series, The Amateurs, so I was excited to read this book.  I liked the way that the possible suspects were set up and the storyline had a few twists that were fun and unexpected.  The characters weren’t relatable, and it has a superficial feel throughout. If the world of influencers is interesting to your readers, then they will fall into this story, otherwise it was a quick, shallow mystery.  The content includes underage drinking, teen pregnancy and an undescriptive murder. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson


Monday, March 29, 2021

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry - OPTIONAL


Tigers, Not Daughters
by Samantha Mabry
, 277 pages. CENTERING ME. Algonquin Young Readers (Algonquin Books), 2020. $11.

Language: R (31 swears, 39 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ana and her sisters planned to run away together -- they almost made it once -- but Ana’s death changed her sisters. Without their leader, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa have retreated into new roles and parts to play in the house they are stuck in. But Ana doesn’t want her sisters to continue this way, and it’s up to the sisters to work together and figure out what Ana’s ghost wants for them.

Grief is difficult and different for everyone; Ana’s three sisters cope by retreating into themselves and playing the roles they perceived necessary. They struggle as individuals and then learn to rise together through both the weight of their sister’s death and their individual challenges. Mabry has written a story that feels significant. I can imagine English teachers asking their students to analyze what’s going on in this book, but I feel like I missed it. Something more is going on; the climax had more power than I understood. Maybe I’ll have to read it again to figure it out. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, groping, partial nudity, and mentions of sex. The violence rating is for mentions of death and suicide and for blood.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson - ADVISABLE


Sing Me Forgotten
by Jessica S. Olson
, 336 pages. Inkyard Press, 2021. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

17yo Isda lives in the shadows because she has to, but she also thrives in the background of the opera house she calls home. If she steps into the spotlight she longs for, Isda’s magical abilities would become known and execution would soon follow. However, her music and the only father she has ever known is too small of a world for Isda once she hears Emeric sing. Expanding her world to include this stranger is a risk, but Isda is willing to take it.

As is common in books, readers drop into the story moments before a catalyst for change appears in Isda’s world and she chooses to invite that change into her life. With Isda still discovering the directions her new choices can take her, her character felt erratic. Isda was warring with herself, which made her character seem inconsistent and hard for me to connect with. Once Isda embraced her change, I had an easier time enjoying the story through to its amazing end. The way Olson chose to end the story is one of my top three favorite things about Sing Me Forgotten, with another being how the magic is tied up in music. Music is powerful and vulnerable, and I love how Olson has taken the real enchantment of music and broadened it for Isda’s story.  The violence rating is for blood, gun use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Frozen 2: Dangerous Secrets by Mari Mancusi - ADVISABLE


Frozen 2: Dangerous Secrets: The Story of Iduna and Agnarr
 by Mari Mancusi
, 338 pages. Disney Press (Buena Vista Books), 2020. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

The day was supposed to be about peace and a new alliance; instead, a battle rose up and separated loved ones. Amidst the confusion, Iduna saved Agnarr, the crown prince of Arendelle, but she is a Northuldra and must keep her identity a secret to stay in Arendelle. Secrets start to build on each other  and are kept for good intentions, but what if they start to be harmful?

Learning the story of Elsa and Anna’s parents charmed me. I loved reading the pieces that I knew would influence their family in ways Iduna and Agnarr didn’t know about yet and puzzling over other parts of the story that I couldn’t see fitting together in the moment. More than that, though, I am relieved that Mancusi expanded the beautiful familial love story that is so prevalent in Frozen and explained the choices that Elsa and Anna’s parents made in a way that is understandable. Disney fans do not yet know how much they need this book to love the royal family of Arendelle even more deeply.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Displacement by Kiku Hughes - ADVISABLE

Displacement
by Kiku Hughes
, 280 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second, 2020. $18.
 
Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (kissing) Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Her first displacement happened while 16yo Kiku and her mom were visiting San Francisco. Suddenly fog rolled in and Kiku was looking at the street her grandmother lived on in 1936, and there was a violin recital . . . but it only lasted a few minutes and Kiku was back. But it happened again. Even after returning home to Seattle, she was still displaced - time and place traveling to witness her grandmother's story firsthand. Kiku is sent to Tanforan incarceration camp, living near but not with her grandmother's family. Housed with another single woman, Kiku experiences the hardships of the camp and after 6 months she is moved to Topaz in Delta, Utah, where she attends school and is faced with the same questions and fears as other Japanese living in Topaz. 

I liked how Hughes accounts for the loss of Japanese culture in her generation, and the connections she makes to the current political climate. Very similar to "They Called us Enemy" by George Takai, I like that the interior illustrations were in full color - kids will be more likely to pick this up, but it lacks the power of personal experience brought by Takai for his graphic novel. I struggled with the time travel element as well, it just didn't work for me.

Lisa Librarian

Like Home by Louisa Onomé - AVERAGE

Like Home by Louisa Onomé
, 400 pages. Delacorte Press, 2021. $18

Language: R (100+ swears, 35 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (mentions drugs, underage drinking, and condoms); Violence: PG-13 (gang violence, vandalism)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Chinelo aka Nelo used to have a group of friends who did everything together but that all changed when a kid was killed at the arcade. Nelo’s friends began moving away from Ginger East to “safer” neighborhoods and now it’s just her and her best friend Kate. Kate’s family owns the corner store in Ginger East, but one night a brick gets thrown at the store window. Nelo is determined to find out who vandalized the store so that Kate and her family won’t move away from Ginger East. Nelo and Kate seem to be growing apart during this difficult time. Will this be the end of their friendship or can Nelo find a way to keep Kate’s family from moving away while keeping their friendship intact? 

Louisa Onomé’s debut, coming-of-age novel was a great read. Nelo’s character is strong and passionate, yet not too stubborn or immature. She shows that anyone can make a difference in their community, no matter their age. This book is a pretty quick read even though it is 400 pages, and I found myself not wanting to put it down. I became invested in the story early on and wanted to know what happened to Ginger Store. There is also a great twist at the end that I never saw coming. 

Reviewer: Tara McP., SLP 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Night Shine by Tessa Gratton - OPTIONAL

Night Shine by Tessa Gratton
, 390 pages. Margaret K. McElderberry Books, 2020. $19.99. 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (vague references to sex); Violence: R (fairly graphic fantasy violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

An orphan girl named Nothing only wanted to be around her true friend, Prince Kirin, but when he is kidnapped by the Sorceress Who Eats Girls, it is up to her and the prince’s bodyguard to save him. However, once they track him down to the sorceress’ stronghold in the Fifth Mountain, Nothing slowly starts to realize that she is much more powerful than anybody ever assumed. 

 If you can get beyond the fact that Nothing is the main character’s name, you will find an interesting Asian-flavored fantasy quest story, the heart of which focuses on gender-fluidity, transgender identity, and personal identity. Nothing has spent her whole life focused on Kirin, so when she was separated from him, she was forced to come to terms with who and what she really is. The Asian elements are a bit clumsy (the cover character doesn’t even really look Asian); they add flavor, but no meaning. The world-building is only acceptable, some bones, but no meat. Gratton has written much better books than this. 

Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

The Captive Kingdom by Jennifer A. Nielsen - OPTIONAL

The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance # 4) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
, 384 pages. Scholastic, 2020, $18. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Jaron is back as the Ascendant King. Jaron is 16 years old and King Eckbert has claimed victory in a war launched against Carthya. This book covers the missing year of Jaron’s life between books two and three. Jaron and Imogen are returning from a routine trading mission to Bymar as guests of Avenian pirates when their ship is brutally attacked by Prozarians. Jaron is taken hostage. Roden, Jaron’s captain of the guard, is coerced into serving the dangerous Captain Jane Strick. As Jaron tries to escape and save those close to him, he discovers that he is accused of terrible things in his past and that it could be possible that his older brother, Darius, is alive. Jaron must use all of his skill, planning, and cunning to save his friends and his kingdom. 

 Though I loved The False Prince, and Jaron’s character, there is a lot going on. Jaron is like a master chess player and it almost seems implausible that he could figure out how all the moving pieces of intrigue and people would work out, especially since he has a hard time sharing his ideas. Jaron’s strengths become the book’s weakness. By the fourth book, readers will be expecting plot twists and Jaron’s cleverness, and the constant action and power struggles become almost tiresome, especially with the brutality involved. How many times can someone be betrayed and still want a throne? But die-hard fans will probably enjoy the nonstop action and twists. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Daughter of the White Rose by Diane Zahler - ADVISABLE

Daughter of the White Rose
by Diane Zahler
, 246 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $19

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Twelve-year old Nell is born the same day as Prince Edward, heir to the throne of England. Nell’s father, a butcher, provides meat to the exiled queen, during her time of confinement and subsequently, Nell grows up with Edward. Nell intermingles with the royal family and is caught between two worlds, not quite fitting in with either. Nell’s days of feasts, watching dances, and archery practice end quickly when Edward’s father dies suddenly and rather suspiciously. Prince Edward and his little brother are imprisoned in the Tower of London by their power-hungry uncle, Richard III, who crowns himself king. Nell becomes imprisoned with them and it could be her bravery that ends up rescuing them. 

 This period of history comes alive through Nell’s voice. Historically accurate descriptions made me feel like I was stepping into the 15th century without being irritated by wordy explanations. The characters are relatable and believable and I found myself rooting for Nell and the royals, making Richard’s power grab even more reprehensible. There is a timeline at the back of actual events. Engrossing and informative. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

This is How We Fly by Ana Merino - OPTIONAL


This is How We Fly by Ana Merino
, 461 pages. CHAPTER BOOK. Philomel Books (Penguin), 2020. $ 19. 

Language: R (7 swears, 4 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (non-descript ‘bedroom’ scene); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ellen plans to spend every last moment of summer with her two best friends before they each head to different colleges in Texas. When Ellen is grounded for the entire summer by her seemingly evil stepmother, all her plans are crushed. Ellen and one of her BFFs, Melissa, convince her parents to let her join the local Quidditch team. An all-gender, full-contact game, although Quidditch isn't quite what Ellen expected... There's no flying, no magic... just a bunch of 'kids' holding PVC pipe between their legs and throwing dodgeballs. Ellen, who has never liked sports, is thrown into a very different world; her life is all practices, training, and running with a group of Harry Potter fans. When not at Quidditch, Ellen is tasked with chores and cleaning out the overfull garage and wonders if things with her dad and step-mother would be easier if she was a boy and not such a feminist. Overall, Ellen learns that she needs to stick up for herself and the things she wants. 

I really liked this, it was a cute “coming of age” story that I think many would relate to. The story focuses on Ellen and how she is so passionate about being a feminist and trying to keep her family from fighting. It also dealt a lot with self-identity and sexuality. 

Reviewer: Jenn J. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Girl from Shadow Springs by Ellie Cypher - OPTIONAL

The Girl from Shadow Springs by Ellie Cypher, 311 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2021. $20 

Language: PG (5 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (“bears balls”, “beaver’s ass”); Violence PG-13 (kidnapping, beatings, physical fighting, bleeding, use of guns and knives). 

 BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL 

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

 Jorie and her sister, Brenna, live in Shadow Springs on the edge of the Ice Flats. This part of the world has not seen a true spring in a generation and the weather is getting worse every year. Jorie makes a meager living for the two of them by scavenging off the dead bodies of those who are lured here to seek a legendary lost city and its treasures. One day Jorie takes the possessions of a dead man only to discover that someone thinks Jorie now has something valuable from the dead man. This desperate man takes Brenna as hostage. To get her beloved sister back, Jorie must bring the missing item to this man where he has taken Brenna – across the Flats. Jorie doesn’t even know what object the man wants, but she is determined to get her sister back. She reluctantly accepts help from the dead man’s nephew, Cody. Together the two of them face the deadly dangers of the Flats, outlaws, and supernatural forces as they try to bring Brenna home. 

The heroine was plucky and determined, but difficult to like through much of the book. Cold weather, continuous setbacks, and vicious opponents were unrelenting, making the book very tiring to read. The chosen use of “were” instead of “was” gave Jorie the feel of a girl without formal schooling, but it was inconsistently applied over the course of the book, so it was confusing. There were a number of plot holes, such as how people (and animals) in this part of the world make enough money/get enough food if there hadn’t been a spring in a generation? The supernatural aspect was resolved well in the end, but that was about the only satisfaction. 

 Reviewer: Shelly R 

A Secret Service by Joy Jenkins - ESSENTIAL

A Secret Service by Joy Jenkins
, 399 pages. Girl Power Galaxy, 2019. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

 As the daughter of a Secret Service agent, a single parent, 18yo Carter has been raised with all the skills she needs to survive a Taken-like situation. Her bluntness and ferocity hasn’t made her any friends at her private school. When her school takes in a hundred displaced students from another school, two in particular, Link and Donovan, catch her eye, because her very bones know that the pair are hiding something – something big. A she tries to keep them at arm’s length, they keep getting under her guard. When she learns their secret, it really is a big one, and she realizes that their lives are in danger 0 but more importantly, so is Carter’s heart. 

Whew! I don’t know why this hasn’t been picked up by a major publisher – so good! In the acknowledgements Jenkins mentions that she is a Gallagher Girl – and Carter (the heroine) very much is. The build-up to the final confrontation is slow, but makes for great reading about relationship dynamics, giving a satisfying spy novel and a realistic romance, which takes 2nd place like it should. My only beef is the cover – I kept thinking this was historical fiction, not the modern novel this is; the cover is dull and doesn’t hint at any of the excitement and danger lurking within. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Kamala Harris: Madam Vice President by Heather E. Schwartz - ADVISABLE

Kamala Harris: Madam Vice President by Heather E. Schwartz, 48 pages. BIOGRAPHY Lerner, 2021. $32.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Kamala Harris is always fighting for what is right. In fact, when she was in middle school she organized a protest to get her apartment managers to let the children play in the front yard. Her dream to become a lawyer was realized and by 1989 she was working as a deputy district attorney. In 2010 she was elected California Attorney general, by 2016 she was a US senator, and in 2020 ran with Joe Biden on the Democratic Ticket for President/Vice President of the United States. 

Heather Schwartz is a gifted writer for young readers. Although this is a short biography the Vice President's life and passions have been presented concisely and without political drama. Includes a timeline, lots of photographs and source material.

Lisa Librarian

Joe Biden: From Scranton to the White House by Heather E. Schwartz - ADVISABLE

Joe Biden: From Scranton to the White House by Heather E. Schwartz
, 48 pages. BIOGRAPHY Lerner 2021 $32. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

This short biography briefly covers Joe Biden's childhood and college years, and his rise from law student to elected official, US Senator, Vice President, and now 46th President of the United States. We learn about his struggles, losing his wife and daughter in a car accident, political successes and challenges, and his health concerns. It does not cover his time in the White House. 

A well put together biography, with full color photographs, a timeline of important dates and source material. I loved how thorough it feels while still being appropriate in length and readability for an upper elementary or middle school student. A great beginning source as a spring board for a longer project, or  as a quick read to find out about this president.

Lisa Librarian  

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Coronavirus Timeline by Matt Doeden - ADVISABLE

The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Coronavirus Timeline by Matt Doeden,
48 pages. NON-FICTION Lerner, 2021. $32 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In 2019, when a mysterious illness was discovered in Wuhan, China, no one could have imagined that in only a few months a Global Pandemic would change everything, shutting down schools, businesses, restaurants and life as we knew it. With doctors and scientists learning how to treat patients and looking for a vaccine, governors and politicians stepped in to try to control the spread. 

From the 1st cases in Wuhan, to toying with the possibility of a quickly developed vaccine, Matt Doeden has given us a well developed timeline, perfect for young readers. Mostly narrative non-fiction, with a few side bars spotlighting individuals and their contributions, politics are put aside, for the most part, with a mention of the protests surrounding George Floyd as an event people felt strongly about attending despite their concerns with the pandemic. It's hard to feel like a book published so quickly is complete, however, it's well written with photographs throughout, with a timeline and source notes. I'm excited to see the response from my middle schoolers - this is actual history they experienced.

Lisa Librarian

Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag to the Streets by Dr. Artika R. Tyner - ADVISABLE

Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag to the Streets by Dr. Artika R. Tyner
, 27 pages. NON-FICTION. Lerner, 2021. $25 (library binding). 9781728429564 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Tyner gives us an introduction to the recent #BlackLivesMatter movement and puts it into context of the Civil Rights Movement and the 2020 summer protests. 

A reasonable, if somewhat shallow, introduction to #BlackLivesMatter. Hopefully there will be future works for young readers that dive a bit deeper on the subject. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Rural Voices by Nora Shalaway Carpenter - HIGH


Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-town America by Nora Shalaway Carpenter, 300 pages. CENTERING ME, SHORT STORIES. Candlewick Press, 2020. $14.

Language: R (64 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

In 16 stories, these 15 authors invite readers to see small-town America in new ways. If we are going to overcome these little-acknowledged prejudices, we first need to recognize the problem. Experience these different lives through novel, memoir, poem, and graphic novel formats.

I love the perspective changes these stories have invited into my life, even though I didn’t love all the stories. Each author takes readers through a unique journey in the life of small towns all over America, and I was surprised to see more than just the South -- I didn’t even realize that image of small-towns being mostly southern was part of my thoughts. The mature content rating is for innuendo, mention of masturbation and pornography, groping, and drug use.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Rock by Rock by Jennifer Bradbury and Sam Broughton - ADVISABLE

 Rock by Rock: The Fantastical Garden of Nek Chand by Jennifer Bradbury, illustrated by Sam Broughton. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Atheneum (Simon), 2021. $18. 9781481481823 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Nek Chand was displaced when India and Pakistan were divided. He relocated to Chandigarh, got a job, and got married. But he still missed his jungles. After work he disappears into the jungles around his city, brings rocks, cement, and discarded bits with him, eventually creating a wonder of tunnels, figures, animals, walls. When the city discovers his garden, some want to tear it down. But many people take a stand to support him. Even though Chand is gone, his wonders still remain for the whole world to enjoy. 

If you want to read more about Nek Chand, you can read the novel Bradbury wrote and another picture book by Barb Rosenstock. It will fuel dreams of trips to India to see the wonders for yourself. Broughton’s illustrations enhance the magic. For classroom support, there a lot of photos of Chand’s work available online – it is a major tourist site. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS  

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland - NO

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
, 432 pages. Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears 69 'f'); Mature Content: R (on-page sex); Violence: PG13 (sexual assault, racist dialogue, sexual name calling) 

BUYING ADVISORY: NOT RECOMMENDED 

Sia Martinez mom disappeared in the Sonora Desert trying to return from Mexico after being deported. It's been 3 years and with no word from her, she's assumed dead. Sia blames the town sheriff for profiling and turning her over to ICE, but she's holding out a glimmer of hope and continues to light candles in the desert to "guide her way." When a new boy at school shows up in the same special place in the desert (between two seguaros Sia calls Adam and Eve) they start up an unlikely friendship which quickly becomes intimate. But they aren't the only ones to visit their spot - unexplained lights and a possible UFO crash brings back more than just memories for Sia. 

Too many layers, PTSD from her assault, her mother's death, the sheriff's son's bullying, racism, immigration issues, her friend's ultra religious father, aliens, conspiracy theories - and so much more. With so much going on, nothing was well developed. It was science fiction, coming of age, and magical realism story, and too mature for a school library.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, March 19, 2021

Black Voter Suppression by Dr. Artika R. Tyner - ADVISABLE

Black Voter Suppression: The Fight for the Right to Vote by Dr. Artika R. Tyner
, 27 pages. NON-FICTION. Lerner, 20201. $10 (paperback). 9781728429663 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Tyner explores a few of the ways that cities and states have worked to limit marginalized voters’ ability to actually vote and lightly touches on the reasons why they would do so. It also talks about ways that Blacks and others have worked around and actively lobbied for those very rights. 

A decent beginner level treatment of the topic. A good way to get the idea of voter suppression into students’ hand, but the subject deserves many more pages. I hope that someone comes out with a good 96 pages on the topic. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Breaking the Ice by Angie Bullaro and C.F. Payne - ESSENTIAL

 Breaking the Ice: The true story of the first woman to play in the National Hockey League by Angie Bullaro, illustrated by C.F. Payne. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Simon & Shuster, 2021. $19. 9781534425576 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

5yo Manon loved playing goalie for her older brothers as they practiced hockey in their backyard. When her dad’s peewee team needed a goalie, Manon stepped in and proved she could do it. Her hockey skills and her tenacity led her to become the first, and so far the only, women to ever play a game on a men’s major sports league in North America. 

An inspiring story and a necessary addition to any library collection. Great for Women’s studies or those rare occasions when you can get a PE teacher to read to their classes. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Controversial Monuments by Amanda Jackson Green - ADVISABLE

Controversial Monuments: The Fight Over Statues and Symbols by Amanda Jackson Green
, 29 pages. NON-FICTION. Lerner, 2021. $26 (library binding) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Green cuts to the heart of the fight between those who want to keep Confederate statues up around the United States and those who are working to take them down. She looks at the roots of the statues, including their purpose and moves to the modern day Black Lives Matter activism. 

A well-written if simple look at the issue. Accessible to elementary or middle school, though not enough depth for research, except as a single source among several. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Billie Eilish: The Rise of a Superstar by Heather E. Schwartz - ADVISABLE

Billie Eilish: The Rise of a Superstar by Heather E. Schwartz
, 39 pages. Lerner, 2021. 9781728404493 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

At 15yo, Billie Eilish became an overnight sensation. Since then she has released an EP and an album, and written a title song for a James Bond movie. 

For fans who just want a little bit of info, this is a good, light bio – just the highlights. I would suggest the unofficial biography from Adrian Besley if you have someone who wants more depth and details. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter - HIGH

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter
, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic, 2021. $13. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Maggie is looking for a place to belong. Her parents are expecting a new baby and her brothers have each other. Maggie desperately wants a pet, and is so excited to pick out a puppy on her tenth birthday. Maggie sadly discovers she is wildly allergic to anything with fur. Not only does she not get a pet, but she also has to undergo a series of shots that will help determine what she is and is not allergic to. 

 Similar to Guts and Smile, this book will help kids who are dealing with a difficult situation. Sometimes severe allergies can get in the way of friendships and make kids feel self-conscious. Colorful graphics make this book accessible and fun as it teaches empathy and coping. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

A Hopeful Heart by Deborah Noyes - OPTIONAL

A Hopeful Heart: Louisa May Alcott Before Little Women by Deborah Noyes
, 267 pages. BIOGRAPHY. Schwartz and Wade Books, 2020. $ 19

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Louisa May Alcott grew up the daughter of a transcendentalist father, Bronson Alcott. Among her father’s many friends such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa learned to love the world of thought and writing. She spent most of her life in poverty due to her father’s lack of financial motivations. She tired being a teacher to bring in money for the family, but her heart was set on earning her living from writing. 

Although Deborah Noyes used many delightful quotes from the life of Louis May Alcott, her writing of the story is tedious and insipid for the most part. The story takes on a blandness and the book trod from year to year through her life. I did enjoy learning that she felt romantically inclined towards a few men, including a European “romance”. I also thought it interesting how she came about writing “Little Women”, which is still classed as a number one book for young women and ranks with Harry Potter. 

Reviewer: MOMMAC 

The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez and Lauren Semmer - ESSENTIAL

The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Workman, 2020. $15. 9781523507498 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Cortez and Semmer collaborate to create an exuberant abecedarian of words especially important to Black lives – places, people, ideas, truths. 

The eye-catching full color illustrations compliment the bouncing rhymes and rhythms. The back matter delves into a bit of detail of each word. I would definitely buy multiple copies and make a teaching kit for a mini class project at any grade. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS