Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn - HIGH


Never Saw You Coming
by Erin Hahn
, 320 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2021. $17.

Language: R (90 swears, 48 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Meg just found out that her dad isn’t really her dad, making her gap year to find herself that much more important. Micah has mostly avoided thinking about his dad, but the upcoming parole hearing is reopening the not-quite-forgotten wounds. Affected by choices that weren’t their own, Meg and Micah struggle to move forward under the burden of their pasts.

Meg and Micah have relatable struggles with self-acceptance, with forgiveness, and with their relationships with God. My family issues and my wrestles with my faith felt understood; seeing my heartache and confusion in these pages was comforting, like being heard and supported by a close friend. Hahn expresses genuine pain, genuine healing, genuine sorrow, genuine joy -- genuine journeying through life. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mention of illegal drugs, innuendo, discussions of sex, and mentions of orgasm, masturbation, and rape. The violence rating is for mentions of intended suicide and of a gun.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, October 18, 2021

Why We Fought by Jerry Borrowman - OPTIONAL


Why We Fought
by Jerry Borrowman
, 208 pages. NONFICTION. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2021. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

World War II was devastating to families and countries, and it would have been worse if not for those individuals and groups whose stories are finally being told here. Risking their lives to help Jews flee and to help the Allies fight against the Nazis, these heroes knew to fight for what they believed was right even when it wasn’t easy.

Borrowman organizes this book into seven sections, and each true story pierces the heart of readers and will encourage them to act in a way that fights for good. None of the heroes talked about in this book went about doing good in the same way; likewise, readers can find their own unique ways of being heroes. Some of the accounts and facts can get dry, but the inspiring stories are worth it.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, October 14, 2021

War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman - ADVISABLE

War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman, 214 pages. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021. $17. 9781984850102.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 'F'); Violence: G; Content: PG (Racist comments)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Millie McGonigle is growing up on the coast of California in 1941. After her Gram's sudden death, she is anxious and a little bit obsessed with the dead and dying. And as war comes to America, its easy to see the morbid all around. In this coming-of-age historical fiction, Millie will grow to see her Gram's final message as one of hope and learn how important that hope and positivity will be in war time. 

I found this middle grade historical fiction novel to be rather meandering in its storytelling, and thus a little hard to really get into. Its a bit of a different Homefront take than the usual WWII piece as the story begins before Pearl Harbor, and ends before the war concludes. I enjoyed the anxious and gloomy protagonist--it was a delightful change from the usual WWII teens you meet in literature--and this felt very realistic with normal family life happening around big world events. Overall its a nice story but nothing I'd immediately recommend everyone needs to read. The PG rating on content is related to a neighbor family who are very prejudiced; their racist comments are always immediately responded to, however, by the protagonist or her family. 

Reviewer: TC

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Bickery Twins and the Phoenix Tear by Abi Elphinstone - ADVISABLE

The Bickery Twins and the Phoenix Tear
(The Unmapped Chronicles #2) by Abi Elphinstone
, 330 pages. Aladdin (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $18 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Fox and Fibber have been competing with each other their whole lives. Their parents have taught them to be selfish, uncaring, and rude. But when the family businesses are facing ruin, and neither twin can come up with a viable business plan, the twins stumble into an antique shop run by an old man, Casper Tock, and are whisked away to Jungledrop. Morg, banished there in book 1 is up to her old tricks again, this time her magic is causing a draught in our world, and if she finds the "forever fern" will take control of Jungledrop. The Twins can save both worlds, but they will need to learn to get along first. 

I love the magic - so many different kinds, magical food, magical beasts, enchanted maps and plants, even furniture that anticipates moods. The story moves along quickly and is so engaging, a terrific read aloud. This is a delightful series, and book 2 easily stands on its own. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Cross-Country Christmas by Laurie Lewis - OPTIONAL


Cross-Country Christmas by Laurie Lewis
, 245 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After crashing a Tesla (that isn’t hers) through a fence (that isn’t hers) out in the country, CC ends up staying at the ranch of the man, Reese, whose fence was broken. CC and Reese resist the nudges of their hearts to explore the pull between them -- at first. Mishaps with the sheriff, some exes, and a mother  seem to ruin their fragile relationship, but no one told their hearts.

Lewis created some interesting characters with deep wounds for readers to laugh and cry with. I loved how CC and Reese’s story shows readers that everyone has baggage and that baggage does not define us. However, I was disappointed by the long explanations that were used to give the backstories of the main characters; those passages were tedious and hard to pay attention to.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, October 11, 2021

Superpowered by Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary - ADVISABLE


Superpowered
by Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary
, 302 pages. NONFICTION. Random House Books, 2020. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

If you’ve ever felt anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, Jain and Dr. Tsabary are here to help. They’ve done all the research, and they know that you have superpowers to overcome your worries. Let this book be your guide to unlocking your powers and refinding your true self!

Jain and Dr. Tsabary don’t pretend that our anxiety doesn’t exist or isn’t hard to live with. They validate the struggles their readers are going through and literally empower their readers by teaching them how to develop skills to face challenges. This is not a book to read and set aside; the interactive exercises help readers practice what Jain and Dr. Tsabary propose, proving that we can save ourselves with these superpowers. I love everything about this book, from the sciencey stuff to the illustrations, and am excited to implement these ideas in my own life.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi - ADVISABLE

Me and Banksy
by Tanya Lloyd Kyi,
272 pages. Penguin Random House, 2020. $16. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Dominica attends a fancy private middle school that prides itself on the security of the students. In fact, the number of cameras in the halls and classrooms are a bit disconcerting. Especially when images from those cameras start appearing on the student online forum - images and clips that are embarrassing, someone picking her nose, a boy with his fly open, and even Dom, who thought she was alone in a private corner of the library and quickly turned her shirt right-side out. When Dom tells the principal, she is accused of violating the social media safety rules herself. So Dominica and a few of her friends decide to fight back themselves, organizing an art installation as a protest. 

There were a lot of things I really liked about "Me and Banksy" I liked that Kyi established right away that this school was pretty over the top - the kids wear a nametag that notifies their parents when they arrive at school. I learned about the artist Banksy, I knew about his/her art but not about the meaning behind some the work. However, making the principal's son the villain with no consequences felt very stereotypical, as did several of the other classmates. Includes an authors note about not trying to fight cyber-bullying without the help of a trusted adult. 

Lisa Librarian

How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman - OPTIONAL

How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman, 159 pages. NONFICTION. Storey Publishing, 2020. $17.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Figuring out what you need to know before you need to know it is hard. Newman gives readers simple instructions for 65 important skills, including how to make a bed, how to calculate a tip, and how to use a swiss army knife!

Newman is witty in her step-by-step directions and pop quizzes, keeping readers engaged in reading pages of instructions. I love that she breaks down tasks that can seem daunting into simple steps -- and then encourages readers to ask for help to learn and to make cheat sheets for themselves as reminders. Young readers will be empowered as they find they can do things like make spaghetti for dinner or write a condolence note.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

What Adults Don’t Know About Architecture by The School of Life - OPTIONAL

What Adults Don’t Know About Architecture by The School of Life, 183 pages. NONFICTION. The School of Life, 2020. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

You might not think much about architecture, but architecture shapes our world -- literally. Is your city boring or beautiful, and what makes it that way? By understanding what buildings are saying to us, we can work to build a better world together.

The School of Life has an agenda, and I felt pushed to agree with their opinions on what makes a place beautiful. While the later sections helped me understand their whys, I didn’t appreciate being told what to think. I still like some of the ideas this book offers on how to look at buildings in a way I never have, but the pushy language was a huge disappointment to me after I loved their other book, “What Adults Don’t Know About Art.”

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Plants on the Move by Emilie Vast - OPTIONAL

 Plants on the Move by Emilie Vast. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Charlesbridge, 2021. $19. 9781623541484 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Vast categorizes a wide variety of plants and the different ways they move their seeds to reproduce around the land. The text is accompanied by black and white illustrations with pops of colors that look like woodcut prints. 

Very useful for a class on pollination and reproduction. The text and the illustrations are a bit dry, so I don’t think students will grab this repeatedly, but a teacher will certainly embrace it. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado - HIGH

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
by Crystal Maldonado
343 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $19. 

Language: R (122 swears 26 Fs); Mature Content: PG (making out, talk of want to have sex); Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

16yo Charlie Vega has never kissed a boy, but she dreams about it all the time. More than anything, she would like a boyfriend. Charlie has a lot going for her: she's nice, outgoing, funny, and smart. She is also, admittedly, fat. Her best friend Amelia is pretty and thin, and Charlie always wishes people liked her as much as they like Amelia, especially her mom. Sometimes Charlie feels her mom wishes Amelia was her daughter instead. But when a popular football player asks Charlie to the dance, Charlie feels like her dreams are about to come true. But no one believes he is serious, what could he see in Charlie? 

Body image, high school drama, family drama, there's a lot going on but it doesn't weigh down this remarkable debut novel. I love the strong friend relationships and the message about being yourself. Charlie seems to have a positive body image, but still worries about shopping in the larger size stores. So realistic - can't wait to start recommending Fat Chance, Charlie Vega. 

Lisa Librarian

Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld - OPTIONAL

Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld, 400 pages. Entangled Teen (Entangled Publishing), 2021. $10.

Language: R (109 swears, 12 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cassidy is a senior in high school, intern for her father’s firm, and self-appointed successor of her mother’s work -- she does not have time to be abducted by aliens. As she struggles to remember the abduction and how to stop it from happening again, Cassidy discovers that she isn’t the only one who’s been taken. And she’s not the only one ready to do something about it.

Buying into the ideas of alien abductions and aliens living among us was difficult for me, so I allowed the pages to drag and took long breaks from reading Cassidy’s story. As the story got more complicated, I struggled with the alien conspiracies. Barneveld’s conclusion was unsatisfactory in how the antagonist was dealt with, but I found that I am content with her interpretation of aliens now that I have the whole picture. I’m still not a huge fan of alien stories, but this one isn’t bad. The mature content rating is for underage drinking and mention of drugs; the violence rating is for murder and mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow - ADVISABLE

So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow
, 288 pages. Feiwel & Friends, 2021. $18 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The four March sisters and their parents have escaped slavery and are building a new home in the Freedpeople’s Colony of Roanoke Island during the midst of the Civil War. Meg is teaching lessons in a tent, while the white missionary teachers work in the buildings. Joanna works alongside the men of the colony to build houses and other important structures to keep the fledgling colony growing. Bethlehem works as a seamstress – mostly of Union soldier uniforms, while youngest Amethyst stays home and entertains herself with dancing. 

While touches of Alcott’s Little Women are there to see, Morrow’s remix makes very important and interesting steps away from the classic. For example, when Jo takes Amy to Boston to further dancing career, Jo meets with prejudice from never-enslaved free blacks of the city. Morrow shows many other prejudices incited by well-intentioned and not-so-well-white people. All-in-all a fitting remake, with much to teach us all. I have many Google searches myself from my first reading. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

How to Apologize by David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka - ESSENTIAL

How to Apologize by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick, 2021. $17. 9781536209440 

BUYING ADVISORY: Pre-K, EL (K-3), EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When anyone makes a mistake, they need to apologize. Apologize with sincerity and make what amends you can make. 

LaRochelle’s book is needed not just for pre-schoolers, but for every grade level and on into adulthood. I’d love to know how much collaboration there was between author and illustrator for the artwork, because the animal antics are just the right fit to get the points across well. I am planning on reading this during a faculty meeting soon! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall - AVERAGE

Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall
, 276 pages. Ateneum (Simon), 2021. $19. 

Language: R (40 swears, 2 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (m**ating mentioned, descriptive body words); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

At the tail end of her junior year, Hayley Miles had a moment – a very public moment that ended with the police being called and endless replays via social media. The principal and the school therapist insists that now, as senior year starts, that Hayley step away from her heavy load of AP classes. As a compromise, Hayley agrees to give up competitive tennis and instead join the AV club. Lewis has spent his whole summer parked in front of his video game console – so much that he really feels like a schlub. He decides that running – really late at night, with absolutely no witnesses may be just the thing, even if the first few hundred steps just about kill him. What he doesn’t expect is to see Hayley Mills in his beloved AV club. As the pair craft profile videos about their fellow seniors together, they may each find something worth hanging onto. 

I love that both Hayley and Lewis are pushed out of their comfort zones and out of their comfortable assumptions about not just each other, bit about life. They also have supportive parents (not absentee parents, not helicopter parents), but are still allowed room to grow. For readers who like their reality with a little less danger, grit, or romance, Hall dishes up a beautiful slice of life. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Wild Girl by Helen Skelton - OPTIONAL

Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures by Helen Skelton, 163 pages. NONFICTION. Candlewick Press, 2020. $20. 

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Helen Skelton has run 78 miles in the desert, biked to the South Pole, high-wire walked between towers, and more! Through six wild experiences, Skelton shares her preparation and execution of her personal adventures to show readers that anything is possible. Each experience concludes with small and large adventures readers can try and descriptions of other women who have accomplished similar things.

I have started to plan a couple adventures for myself based on her recommendations, but my favorite part of Skelton’s book is that she shares her weaknesses as well as her victories. Skelton allows herself to be vulnerable with her readers by being honest about her insecurities and regrets. Go have an adventure and remember that the bad parts do not outweigh the successes.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Redemption by Traci Hunter Abramson - ADVISABLE

Redemption (Saint Squad #11) by Traci Hunter Abramson, 314 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Five years ago, Gage was a confused sophomore in high school who threatened classmates with a gun; now he wants to put all that behind him and build a new life for himself. Riley sees value in him and hires Gage despite her knowledge of his past, but others are not as happy to see Gage around. When a mass shooting occurs, will Gage be a hero or a villain?

While this is technically the eleventh in a series, readers don’t have to read all of them to enjoy this story. I’ve read a couple of the other books in this series, and I don’t feel like knowing any or all of the backstories to the related characters impacts much beyond a couple scenes. Abramson balances explaining enough for new readers while being conscious of not boring fans of the series. Reading Gage’s story was hard for me to put down because Abramson is able to set up conflicts without overdramatizing the situation to be unrealistic. Watching the believable conflicts build in conjunction with coming to dread bad things for the main characters made the waiting more suspenseful.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Thief of Worlds by Bruce Coville - ADVISABLE

 The Thief of Worlds by Bruce Coville, 275 pages. Random House, 2021. $17. 

Content: G (mild danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE; MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

How can the wind stop blowing? Well, it has, and no one on Earth can figure out why. Hurricane’s mother (yes, he was born during a storm)is sickened by the lack of wind and he is desperate to help her. Little does he know that the answer to the problem is his to solve and he will have to travel across dimensions and collect a ragged group to conquer the evil that wants to rule many worlds. 

Hurricane’s journey feels epic, and it will have its fans, but it won’t attract as much attention as Rick Riordan’s books. Coville has a nice deep backlist, so hopefully this newest offering will bring attention to those classics. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler - ADVISABLE

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler
, 328 pages. Aladdin (Simon), 2021. $19 

Language: G (0 swears, 0‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (non-graphic) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Summer 1936, 9yo Leo, Max, and Elsa were best friends, enjoying a perfect day at the Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. A year later everything changes – Elsa’s Jewish family is moving to Czechoslovakia to get away from the anti-Jewish climate, Max’s father has joined Hitler’s party and starts rising through the ranks, and Leo has been banished from his school because he is Jewish. Soon Leo’s family will escape to Canada, while Max is drawn farther into Hitler’s hate. A series of chance encounters will bring two of them together, while the one survivor will wait years to know the fates of the other former best friends. 

Kessler paints a picture of WWII through the eyes of children, torn apart and molded by the hate of the adults and others around them. A good addition for a large Holocaust collection. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Monday, September 27, 2021

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le - ADVISABLE

A Pho Love Story
by Loan Le
, 406 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2021. $20. 

Language: R (53 swears 7 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Linh's parents own a Vietnamese restaurant right across the street from Bao's family's restaurant. The families are more than competitors, there's something that seems to go deeper - a reason they don't like each other. Both Linh and Bao have been forbidden from even talking to each other, but when they are assigned to work on a series of articles for the school newspaper, they become friends and soon their friendship grows into something else, but how long can they hide this from their parents? 

With alternating perspectives, the reader sees both sides, but I felt it made the pace super slow. I loved the cultural conflict - both inside the Vietnamese community as well as the racial tensions with the American patrons at the restaurant. Lots of nice issues - family problems, running a business, conflict with parents about your dreams, art, writing, school - I also liked the sprinkling of Vietnamese throughout - as an immigrant family with American born kids would do - speaking in both languages, sometimes mid sentence, it gave a very realistic feel to the story. Oh the foods described sounded delicious. 
Lisa Librarian

Killing Time by Brenna Ehrlich - OPTIONAL

Killing Time by Brenna Ehrlich
, 333 pages. Inkyard Press, MARCH 2022. $19. 9781335418678 

Language: R (17 swears, 14 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Natalie has a secret obsession with true crime – in fact she runs her own true crime podcast, Killing Time. She has to keep it secret from her mother, though, because Helen truly hates anything do with crime and murder and would never understand Natalie’s obsession. Then Natalie’s favorite teacher is murdered and Natalie can’t stay away from trying to solve the crime, even if it puts her own life in danger. 

Natalie’s story is interspersed with flashbacks to her mother’s college days, explaining why she is so against Natalie’s interest, and also giving those tiny foreshadows of the current murder. Unfortunately Natalie didn’t have me sitting on the edge of my seat, closing my eyes with anxiety, or rushing to the end so that the suspense would be over. Fine, but not great. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young - AVERAGE

Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young
, 321 pages. Walker Books (Candlewick), 2021. $19. 

Language: R (82 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

17yo Alice Choy tolerates her family’s move to South Korea for her mother’s diplomatic post – her international school is just fine, and she adores her little sister Olivia. The Alice is discovered by a voice teacher during a sisterly jam session at a local karaoke spot and is invited to audition for a coveted spot in a new K-Pop group. Suddenly Alice finds herself living full time at Top10 Entertainment’s K-Pop campus and working with four other girls to get ready for their group debut – only five short months away. The others have been together quite a while, so Alice feels like an outsider. While she finds solace a friendship with a couple other artists, especially the very hot Joon, not even Alice’s beloved singing will be right if she can’t figure out how to bridge the gap, the void, that hangs between her and her group. 

Alice’s behind the scenes look at K-Pop stardom feels spot on, though I have no idea whether it really is. Alice is earnest and will take the stardom if it means she can sing. I was surprised by the final swear count, as this is a truly sweet book that romantics will enjoy, even if romance isn’t what it’s about. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Spy School at Sea (#9) by Stuart Gibbs - ESSENTIAL

Spy School at Sea (#9) by Stuart Gibbs
, 337 pages. Simon, 2021. $18 

Content: PG (some fighting and danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Ben, Erica, and Mike and headed on a cruise with Erica’s parents. Life is definitely not fun and sun for the spies in training, because Murray Hill is on the loose and the group needs to uncover and prevent his latest nefarious scheme. Little do they know that the cruise ship is a hot bed for several other illegal activities. Saving the world will come down to the last seconds – as always. 

Can you believe we’re at #9?! I keeping thinking, do I really have to read this one? But then I start and can’t stop until its finished, as do the intended kid audience. So glad Gibbs has so many great characters and plots rolling around in that brain! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Bear Bottom (#7) by Stuart Gibbs - ESSENTIAL

Bear Bottom (#7) by Stuart Gibbs, 308 pages. Simon, 2021. $17

Content: G (mild danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Teddy, his parents, the McCrackens, and some other FunJungle employess have been invited by JJ to check out JJ’s latest idea – a bison ranch outside West Yellowstone. All Is not serene on the ranch, however. It turns out someone has stolen a few of the bison and that the biggest, meanest grizzly bear, Sasquatch, has been spotted around the ranch. That first night, Sasquatch breaks into the ranch house and terrorizes everyone. In the aftermath, Mrs. McCracken’s huge (ang hugely expensive) sapphire necklace is missing. Did Saquatch swallow it? JJ wants Teddy to investigate – and if he runs in the bison thieves at the same time? Well, that’s just Teddy for you. 

Another hilarious FunJungle romp. I liked the change of location – the amusement park/zoo can only have so many emergencies, right? Funny, clever – would be fun to read aloud to any age. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Linked by Gordon Korman - ESSENTIAL

Linked by Gordon Korman
, 256 pages. Scholastic, 2021. $18. 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Someone drew a giant swastika on a wall at Chokecherry Midde School. As the only Jewish student, 13 yo Dana is getting way too many questions from everyone when she just wants to lay low until her parents finish their dig and move on to a new town and a new school. Then Link - a middle school BMOC, a jokester, a pain in Dana’s side – finds out that his grandmother was hidden in an orphanage as a child to escape the Holocaust and wants Dana help and support as he embraces studying for his bar mitzvah, even at this late date. The school student council, in response to the swastika incident and the other swastikas that have followed, have decided they are going to try to make a paper chain 6 million links long to show their fellow students how much 6 million means. When a prominent blogger picks up the story and the whole world knows what the kids are trying to do. When the truth comes out about the identity of the original swastika vandal, the fallout will be higher than can be imagined. 

While the pieces of Korman’s book paints a complicated picture, he has managed to weave them together with his signature humor and empathy. Very much a must read! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft - HIGH

The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft
, 226 pages. Adams Media (Simon), 2020. $22. 9781507214510 

BUYING ADVISORY: GIFT - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

How much do you love Disney? Especially the Disney parks! And the food? Of course you do, just like I do. Craft not only gives us recipes based on actual food served in the past or present in Disney’s US Parks, but she organizes the recipes by park and gives snippets of history. I was drooling by the time I finished. I love that the book is not recipes inspired by Disney food, but she has tried to replicate the actual food we all fell in love with. Many of them are very simple – others will take some skill, but the fun is in the memories as much as they are in the food. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Edge of the Ocean by L.D. Lapinski - HIGH

 The Edge of the Ocean (Strangeworlds Travel Agency #2) by L.D. Lapinski, 356 pages. Aladdin (Simon), 2021. $18 

Content: G some mild danger) 

 BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Flick’s summer has been unbearable – she is in so much troubles with her parents for vanishing without explanation. But how can she tell them that she traveled to another dimension, through a suitcase(!!), and saved all the worlds? Luckily Jonathan, who runs the Strangeworlds Travel Agency is able to offer Flick a summer “job”, which her parents agree to. Little do they know that a small world of pirates and mermaids is in deep trouble and the pair will have to go out to save a world again. 

How did I miss #1 in this fantastic series?! I’m very excited to read the first to catch me up on the backstory. Your fantasy reading middle readers will eat this up. The different worlds are fun and engaging, the action hits all the right spots. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

GraveMaidens by Kelly Coon - OPTIONAL

GraveMaidens by Kelly Coon
, 394 pages. Ember, 2019. $11

 Language: PG (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (references rape, themes of women's bodies and curves and how desirable beauty is); Violence: PG-13 (some blood brick and descriptions of dead people/ injuries) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kammani and her younger sister are the daughters of a healer. In the kingdom they live in, the tradition is when their ruler is on his death bed- the kingdom must supply three "Sacred Maidens"who are to be sacrificed when the ruler dies. Kammani is livid about this tradition claiming that it is awful to kill three healthy young ladies just because one man is dying. When the Kammani's younger sister is chosen as one of the Sacred Maidens, Kammani will do whatever it takes to heal the dying ruler and save her sister. 

I thought the premise was interesting, I've always been fascinated with Aztec culture and how they sacrificed people to their gods but this book just didn't have all the right elements. I found that the main character had right motivations and intentions but she just came out as so annoying and pessimistic. That the world was out to get her. Not to mention the world was so confusing- I could tell the by the descriptions of clothes and architecture that the kingdom got inspiration from ancient Egypt and Macedonia but the characters talked as if they were from our time period. I thought the writing wasn't up to par and that the plot was rather boring. 

 Kenzie Hoehne, Student Reviewer 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen - OPTIONAL

Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen
, 478 pages. Tom Doherty Associates, 2020. $11

 Language:PG-13 (23 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (Kissing, slight innuendos but nothing too sexual); Violence: PG-13 (Fighting ongoing war, hand to hand combat, blood and gore mentioned and horse cut open but nothing too graphic) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The gods are real. And the people of Mudamora are fighting an ongoing battle that is rumored to started because of a High Lord's son- Killian. Killian is a god "marked" which means he has strength and endurance unlike any man and he makes for a really good solider. But when the city's defenses fall because of him, he is reduced to being nothing more but a bodyguard for the Princess. But the longer he gets to know the Princess, the more he gets roped up in her depictions and manipulations. 

 I thought the world of Dark Skies was very cool one. I mean people that get 'powers' from their gods? Sounds creative and like nothing I've heard of before, I am in! I will admit the fantasy terms and names are hard to grasp at first but when you do, the plot becomes so complex. Speaking of complex, I thought the characters where complex, had very good motivations and where awesome. A problem I had with this book though was that it lacked in logic. Sometimes I would read a description and I would be confused how, logically it all worked. But this is a fantasy novel so I digress. 

 Kenzie Hoehne, Student Reviewer 

Loveless by Alice Oseman - NO

Loveless by Alice Oseman
, 393 pages. Scholastic Press, 2021. $13

 Language: R (65 swears, 40‘f’); Mature Content: R (The main plot is revolved around sex, making out and sexuality/attraction. Talks and jokes about sex and teen sex.); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NOT RECOMMENDED 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Georgia is a little confused. She's just graduated high school and yet she's never kissed anyone before. Is it her too high of standards? Or maybe the fact she doesn't like to party?I mean everyone in her grade has at least been kissed before, so what's her problem? As she goes into college with her two best friends she makes a vow to try harder in the romantic industry and hopefully get someone to kiss her. 

 Loveless tries to be funny, cool and relatable and falls flat on it's face with all three. I thought it played way into the quiet theater girl cliche way too much and just all the high school tropes rolled into one. I found the writing to be really just boring. There isn't an ounce of excitement or creativity in the author's words and she uses the same ones over and over again. I thought the plot relied heavily on the whole "she hasn't been kissed" before and it just got overused. 

 Kenzie Hoehne Student Reviewer 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel by Sheela Chari - OPTIONAL


The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
by Sheela Chari
, 284 pages. Walker Books, 2020. $18.

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

“Something BIG is happening soon.” When Mars’s idol says it, Mars believes it -- especially when Aurora goes missing. And then Jonas. Maybe the big thing made them disappear. Maybe the big thing is whatever Mars has to do to get them back.

The mystery of finding the kids who had gone missing was exciting until it became confusing. In the ending climax scenes, pieces are revealed as if they will explain everything, but I felt like the pieces didn’t all go to the puzzle I was trying to put together. Furthermore, Mars is loyal to a fault and is portrayed as a hero by making poor choices that readers shouldn’t emulate. Maybe the story would be more fun for me if I was familiar with the podcast it’s based on, but, at this point, I am not interested in the original story or this book’s sequel.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


What Adults Don’t Know About Art by The School of Life - ADVISABLE


What Adults Don’t Know About Art by The School of Life, 147 pages. NONFICTION. The School of Life, 2020. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Most books about art talk about pieces of art or artists, listing a bunch of facts you don’t really care about. That is not this book. The School of Life wants to help you answer the real question: why art is important?

I have a minor in art history, and I learned so much reading this book. The School of Life articulates the importance of art in a simple way that helps readers understand how and why they make connections with works of art. Of course there is a little bit of discussion about pieces of art and artists, but these facts are part of a conversation and not a boring textbook lecture. This is a non-fiction book that I will actually want to reread because I like it, not because I forgot all the information. The mature content rating is for some nude figures in art shown.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Destination Anywhere by Sara Barnard - OPTIONAL


Destination Anywhere
by Sara Barnard
, 312 pages. Macmillan Children’s Books (Simon & Schuster), 2021. $20.

Language: R (121 swears, 50 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Canada is a long way from England, which is exactly what Peyton wanted. This is where she will prove to the world that she can be independent. When reality turns out to be different from her expectations, Peyton must adjust the way she views other people -- and herself.

While I was initially impatient with the jumps between the present and “before,” Barnard crafted Peyton’s story so well that I was brought to tears with her at the most vulnerable part of her journey. Fear, loneliness, and discovering the meaning of friendship are talked about so sincerely that simple statements feel profound; that rawness was not what I expected from an adventure story. Also, Peyton’s story is punctuated with the occasional illustration from her sketchbook, which was a fun addition. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, drug use, innuendo, groping, partial nudity, crude language, manual sex (descriptive in a more explanatory way and not a graphic way), and vaginal sex (also not graphic).

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Meet Me Under the Kissing Bough by Kilpack, Walker, and McConkie - OPTIONAL


Meet Me Under the Kissing Bough
by Josi S. Kilpack, Anneka R. Walker, and Sarah L. McConkie
, 268 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Love has been lost and relationships hurt. In these three short stories, the main characters take advantage of the Christmas spirit to heal their hearts and give gifts of forgiveness.

Through the words of these authors, readers will be warmed and have their spirits lifted. Whether or not it’s Christmas time when these stories are read, seeing the fruits of honesty, kindness, and forgiveness will light your Christmas spirit. However, Kilpack’s story in this collection is about a widow, which might not be as relatable and interesting for high schoolers. Fun fact: Walker’s story is a companion to the short story she wrote for A Hopeful Christmas.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Great Stink: ... London’s Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff and Nancy Carpenter - ADVISABLE

 The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solves London’s Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Simon and Schuster, 2021. $18. 9781534449299 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

London, England, in the 1800’s was disgusting. Not only did it smell terrible, but the city went through several cholera outbreaks in short succession. Joseph survived the outbreaks and he was determined to not only find the source of the disease, but also straighten out London’s higgledy-piggledy sewer system, which he hypothesized was the cause of the outbreaks. Parliament stalls until the 1850’s. It takes only 6 years to build Joseph’s system and when the next outbreak comes, he is proven correct. 

 While the walking skeletons that represent London’s dead are a bit macabre, the book is fascinating. I would love to read this with a class – at whatever level or class covers disease, sanitation, pollution, or even the history of London. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

North & South: a tale of two hemispheres by Sandra Morris - ADVISABLE

 North & South: a tale of two hemispheres by Sandra Morris. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick, 2021. $18. 9781536204599 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Morris juxtaposes the hemispheres in a month-by-month look at a representative animal from each hemisphere. 

 The information is detailed, but each page could be read one at a time over several sittings, instead of trying to read it in one sitting. The beautiful endpapers show the location of each animal. Morris is a talented writer and illustrator. I would buy two or three copies of the book and ask the publisher for permission to make wall posters for each month; it would make a great classroom display! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Monday, September 13, 2021

In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens - HIGH

In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens
, 303 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2021. $19

Language: R (5 swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Prince Taliesin is about to embark on his coming-of-age tour around his kingdom, but his forbidden magic makes such an outing fraught with danger. On his voyage, he rescues a mysterious boy named Athlen, who has his own secrets. In the course of events, Athlen ends up jumping overboard and Taliesin thinks he is lost to the open sea. However, when Tal finds Athlen a couple of days later in town, he is left with more than a few questions. Athlen then helps save Tal in return. It is now up to Tal to save his family from war and help save Athlen from his own problems. 

 This queer teen fantasy adventure was a delight to read, mostly because of how normal it felt. In this world, there was no awkwardness or censure around the gay romance, it was just an accepted part of life. This story would appeal to teens of all sorts. The romance is sweet, however, there is some allusion to going beyond kissing, hence the PG-13 rating in Mature Content. The action can get a little graphic and bloody at times, as is expected with fantasy adventure, so be aware of that. I really enjoyed this world, the character growth for Taliesin, and his budding romance with Athlen. It would be a great addition for any high school library looking to build up their LGBTQIA options for teens. 

Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

Misfit in Love (Saints and Misfits #2) by S.K. Ali - ADVISABLE

Misfit in Love (Saints and Misfits #2) by S.K. Ali,
320 pages. Salaam Reads (Simon and Schuster), 2021. $20 

Language: PG13 (23 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG (reference to sexual assault). 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Janna is spending the summer after high school staying at her dad's lake front estate, and helping her brother prepare for his upcoming wedding in just a few days. As her friends and her brother Muhammad's friends begin to arrive - to also help with pre-wedding preparations, Janna anticipates Nuah's arrival, because feelings have grown between the two of them, and she is excited to announce to the family that they might be official. But, everything does not go as planned, her brother is a bit of a groomzilla, and Janna is recruited to help get the wedding back on track; a couple of guys she's never met, Haytham and Layth confuse her feeling for Nuah; and Nuah is acting strangely. 

A companion novel, it would be best to read "Saints and Misfits" first so that you understand Janna better and know all the friends as they arrive, however, it can stand on its own. I really liked reading about all the Muslim traditions surrounding a wedding, and appreciated the serious subplot surrounding the young people's reactions to the older generation's racist ideas. Well explained, you don't need Muslim background knowledge to become completely involved in the story, but I'm sure Muslim readers will have a much fuller reading experience. 

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Story of the Olympic Games by The Olympic Museum - ADVISABLE


The Story of the Olympic Games
 by The Olympic Museum
, 93 pages. NONFICTION. Welbeck, 2020. $23.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The Olympics brings athletes and spectators together from around the world -- and has been doing so since 1896! How did this world tradition start? Who are some of the great Olympians that have competed? Let’s find out!

The variety of pictures and facts keeps readers interested as this book talks about how the Olympics have developed over time into the games we know today. Readers get to learn about the host countries, how world events have impacted the Olympics, and the examples set before us by competitors -- whether or not they have won gold medals. I loved reading through the facts, especially as some athletes became familiar to me across several Olympics which made it feel more like a story than I expected from a nonfiction book. The mature content rating is for the use of nearly nude figures used in examples of past Olympic posters and medals.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life by Cheryl Blackford - ESSENTIAL

Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life by Cheryl Blackford
, 128 pages. BIOGRAPHY Clarion Books, January 2022. $18 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Mary Anning lived in Victorian England in a small village called Lyme Regis where she searched the cliffs at low tide for fossils, discovering some of the richest fossil beds, and beautifully intact specimens of her time. Anning sold most of her discoveries to support herself and her family, many to private collectors. She made a lifetime career in paleontology, and although today Anning is a celebrated and important paleontologist, during her lifetime her discoveries were credited to others and she was not welcomed into the scientific community. 

 I read this in egalley (thank you Netgalley) so I can't tell much about the physical book. It appears to be picture book size, with a colored illustration on the cover, however, the interior illustrations and photographs are amazing and intended for an older reader. The text is engaging and exciting.  Includes colored illustrations, photographs of contemporaries and artifacts, a timeline, glossary, where to see Mary Anning's fossils and a thorough bibliography. I'm anxiously awaiting my copy, as I can't wait to talk it up.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Out of My Heart by Sharon Draper - ADVISABLE

Out of My Heart
by Sharon Draper,
352 pages. Atheneum (Simon and Schuster), November 2021. $19
 
Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12 yo Melody is one of the smartest girls her age, but at first sight people don't know that - Melody is in a wheel chair and needs help to do almost everything. Last year she was on the Quiz Kids team at school, but now it's summer vacation and Melody is ready to try something new - like Summer Camp! With the help of her librarian, Melody researches camps for kids with special needs and find one still accepting campers and it's only 2 hours away! Both excited and worried, Melody finds herself sharing a cabin with 3 other girls and 4 counselors (each camper has their own) in a place designed especially for kids like her. But is she brave enough to try everything, like swimming, ziplining and even horseback riding? 

I loved seeing Melody making friends with other kids who get it, and being given the opportunity to not be constrained by limitations for the first time in her life.  While not as gripping as book 1, I found myself spending a day at camp with Melody, knowing she was well cared for and enjoyed seeing how regular experiences were accommodated for a special needs camper.   A wonderful companion/sequel to "Out of My Mind" which was originally published in 2010, so this is a great time to update your shelves and buy both books. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, September 6, 2021

Prehistoric Pets by Dr. Dean Lomax, Illustrated by Mike Love - ESSENTIAL

 

Prehistoric Pets
by Dr. Dean Lomax, Illustrated by Mike Love
 NON-FICTION, INTERACTIVE PICTURE BOOK Templar Books (Candlewick Press), 2021. $18. 9781536217148 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Did you know your pet has animal ancestors? Dr. Dean Lomax (a paleontologist) tells about the pet, i.e guinea pig, gold fish, parakeet, cat or dog; the kind of animal - rodent, bird, fish; and then, when you open the fold out page, the prehistoric animal ancestor pops up and you learn all about them! So full of great facts, and colorfully illustrated. Dr. Lomax shows what their fossil looks like, where they lived, even what they ate. 

Ok, pop-up books are usually for the little kids, but I was thoroughly surprised and engaged when I opened the flap and there was a huge snake! (or saber tooth cat or Velociraptor). The informational pieces are in text boxes which are also fully illustrated, and I've gone back to re-read several times because it's just so cool. Putting this copy in my middle school library, but taking it up to show the Natural History Museum so they can get copies in their gift shop.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, September 5, 2021

13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich and David Clark - HIGH

13 Ways to Eat a Fly
by Sue Heavenrich, illustrated by David Clark
PICTURE BOOK, NON-FICTION Charlesbridge, 2021 $17.00 9781580898904 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

So many things eat flies - they are the food source for at least 13 - frogs, spiders, water striders, wasps, fish, birds and more. And because it's 13 ways - the reader also learns HOW they are eaten. From catching a fly in a web, to a fungus that infects them - eating the fly from the inside, it's a good thing they are so abundant! 

Delightfully illustrated by David Clark, what sounds like it could be a gross book, really isn't. So full of information, both fly and consumer are identified as part of the illustration, and the simple explanation is just perfect. Includes "nutrition facts", a chart of the parts of the fly, a thorough bibliography, websites and books for additional reading. I'm at a middle school and will be adding this to my books about insects.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, September 2, 2021

It’s All Love by Jenna Ortega - OPTIONAL


It’s All Love
by Jenna Ortega
, 221 pages. NONFICTION. Random House Children’s Books, 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jenna Ortega is a young Latina working for balance between school, family, acting, and finding herself. She shares her personal experiences and lessons learned to encourage other teenagers to do the same.

Ortega’s book is half fortune cookie sayings and half personal thoughts. Her uplifting and encouraging words relating to a variety of subjects are nice to read one bite at a time. When I tried to sit down to read big chunks, Ortega’s positivity all ran together. The mature content rating is for mentions of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Brides and Brothers by Anneka R. Walker - OPTIONAL


Brides and Brothers
by Anneka R. Walker
, 288 pages. Covenant Communication, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Aiden has declared that finding a suitable wife in the months before his thirtieth birthday will be easy. Camille needs to find a new place to live by the start of next semester or else move in with her aunt. While brought together in part because of ulterior motives, will Aiden and Camille be strong enough to weather through their storms?

Aiden and Camille make a lot of their own storms unintentionally, and I wonder if they will make sense to readers who are unfamiliar with the film Walker based her book on, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The dramatics and cheesy scenes were fun to read because I could see the parallels of the film, and I loved the adaptations Walker made to modernize the story. While there are a couple applicable principles for relationships, the focus of this book is on how to get everyone to a happy ending, which led to speeding through some solutions awkwardly.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin - HIGH


These Vengeful Hearts
by Katherine Laurin
, 336 pages. Inkyard Press, 2020. $19.

Language: R (54 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Ember is a sophomore with a mission: become part of the Red Court. Once she’s part of the feared group that rules Heller High from the shadows, Ember will do everything she can to take them down from the inside. But what is she willing to lose in exchange for success?

Ember might be taking all the risks, but readers are not exempt from the fear of watching her best laid plans fail. My anxiety constantly spiked over when and where the twist would come -- and I knew it was coming. I enjoyed the entertainment of reading Ember’s story as much as I loved how Laurin explores the ugliest emotions possible in a lesson of morality and ethics. Like Ember, you can pinpoint the actions that are incongruent with who you want to be and channel your efforts into something more positive. While it might be embarrassing or bring about consequences you don’t want to face, you will be happier for letting go of the parts of yourself that make you miserable. Mature content rating for underage drinking and alcohol abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

To Marry an Earl by Karen Thornell - OPTIONAL


To Marry an Earl
by Karen Thornell
, 212 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kate has secret plans to be a spinster, for she has seen the pain of love and marriage. However, her father has plans to stop using resources to support Kate. In fact, her father is going to gain resources by selling her hand in marriage to the highest bidder. What if that bidder is a stranger? What if he’s not?

The premise of Kate’s story was exciting, but my expectations went unfulfilled. While I’m not sure what exactly I wanted, I was disappointed by the conflicts which were divided into two categories: repetitive and overly dramatic. Furthermore, I still have unresolved questions. Thornell brings up good points on the topics of forgiveness and love, but the overall story was not great.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Out of the Fire by Andrea Contos - NO

Out of the Fire by Andrea Contos
, 323 pages. Scholastic Press, 2021. $17

 Language: R (80 swears, 35 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (sexting mentioned, sexual abuse briefly mentioned, teens making out and smoking); Violence: PG (Dead body, fights and guns)

 BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - NOT RECOMMENDED 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Ever since 17yo Cassandra Adams was kidnapped 5 months ago, her life took a turn for the worst. Not to mention, 3 months ago her mother disappeared, not wanting to be found. While she narrowly escaped her kidnappers grasp, she didn't have any clue who it was or why they choose her to kidnap. Lost and confused, Cassandra meets three other girls who understand what it's like to be misunderstood and there a friendship is made. 

Contos tries, but ultimately fails, to create a novel of suspension and mystery. I found that every plot twist was predictable and sadly this book had more plot holes then twists. I liked how it discusses topics of misogyny, abuse and racism and how victims are often marginalized and ignored. I just didn't feel for any of the characters - I didn't sympathize for any of them. Each of them was forgettable and bland. Out of the Fire is a lower than average book with a weak plot and even weaker characters. 

 Kenzie Hoehne, 11th grade, student reviewer 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Summer of Brave by Amy Noelle Parks - ADVISABLE

Summer of Brave by Amy Noelle Parks
, 232 pages. Albert Whitman and Company, 2021. $17 

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

12yo Lilla Baxter-Willoughby does not lie, she just keeps a lot of things to herself. She does not tell her divorced parents how much she hates moving between their two apartments - having two bedrooms, but not really a place that is hers.  Lilla also keeps peace with her best friend and does not tell Vivi that she got the junior camp counselor job that Vivi wanted. Lilla is worried her life will be ruined if she starts saying how she really feels and what she really wants. During this summer of brave, Lilla and her best friends have a dare to write down every time they tell a lie or an omission. Lilla comes to realize that she tells way more lies (by omission) than she realized she did. She almost buckles under all the pressure from her parents, the camp counselor and her friends. She finally comes up with a brilliant way to let everybody know. 

I loved this book! I would recommend it to all students, 5th grade and up. Definitely a MUST READ. I could not put this book down. For me, it was a one-sitting read.

 Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Traitors Among Us by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch - ADVISABLE

 Traitors Among Us by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, 264 pages. Scholastic Press, 2021. $8. 

Content: PG (some torture) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Maria and Krystia thought they were finally safe in an American Zone refugee camp in Germany. However, one night some Soviet enforcers arrive and basically kidnap the girls after Sophie, the Hitler’s Youth daughter from the Huber farm, outs their hiding place. Now they and Sophie and a father/son pair have been dragged to the Soviet Zone and interrogated by the brutal guards. Not only do the Soviets despise the Nazis, they also can’t stand the idea that anyone who should “belong to them”, should try to find a new life for themselves. All of the new prisoners are desperate to escape, but it will take cunning and luck to survive. 

I love the new dimensions that Skrypuch has added to the WWII story. The arc of the Marie/Krystia story has been entertaining and educational. Just the right amount of tension. I do hope the girls have finally found a safe refuge! 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS