Sunday, January 31, 2021

All the Way to the Top by Annette Bay Pimentel and Nabi H. Ali - ESSENTIAL

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything
by Annette Bay Pimentel, pictures by Nabi H. Ali.
PICTURE BOOK Sourcebooks, 2020. $18. 9781492688976

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

6yo Jennifer is so excited to start school, but there are physical barriers because she is in a wheelchair.  Curbs and stairs make her feel like she doesn't belong. So, her mom helps her join a group of activists, disabled adults, who are working for change. Jennifer learns to speak up for herself, and even though she is a kid, she joins protests all over the country.  But it's still hard at school.  She can't even eat in the cafeteria. When she is 8, she's excited about a new law proposed called the "Americans with Disability Act", but when Congress isn't acting on it, Jennifer and her family decide to go to Washington to join a march and speak for themselves.

What an inspiring story! The illustrations are great, and there's a forward by Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins herself.  I loved that there were lots of "Stops" and "Gos"  I loved Jennifer's supportive parents. She's so young, makes this a great introduction to the disability experience and a chance to build empathy with even our youngest students. Includes extra material at the end - more info for further study, a timeline and bibliography. 

Lisa Librarian  

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Michele Wood - ADVISABLE

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood
PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Candlewick, 2020. $18. 9780763691561 

Violence: PG (Descriptions of brutality toward slaves) 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Born into slavery in 1815, Henry Brown worked for his master's son in a tobacco factory. But his wife and children are also enslaved, but to different masters, and Henry struggles. Occasionally paying a price to keep them close, Henry eventually sees them sold away further south. Henry puts together a plan to escape, which involves shipping himself in a box to an abolitionist in Philadelphia. 

Poetic vignettes recall not only Henry Brown's story, but the 19th century slave experience. Expressive illustrations on every page help tell the story as well. Because some of the text addresses abuse and violence, I would consider this more appropriate for older elementary and middle school.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother) by David Levithan - ESSENTIAL

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother)
by David Levithan
224 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), 2021. $17 

Content: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

For 6 days 12yo Aidan was missing. It seemed like the whole town was looking but he was nowhere to be found. The police were involved, interviewing family members, including Lucas, his 11yo brother who was the last person to see Aidan. But, just as suddenly as he vanished, he returned. Lucas found him on the floor in the attic a room that had been checked many times. But Aiden's not saying much about where he was, and what little he has isn't believed, especially by his parents. When the news gets around to the middle school that Aidan might have been in another world, maybe one with unicorns, Aidan begins to wish he hadn't told anyone. 

Wow. I could not put it down, when I wasn't reading I was thinking about it. The premise is brilliant, Levithan's writing compelling, exciting and unpredictable. A heartbreaking story about lost experiences and family dynamics - also the value of siblings. I was thoroughly engaged, I know my middle school readers will be too. Loved it. 

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, January 28, 2021

When Life Gives You Mangos by Kareen Getten - ADVISABLE

When Life Gives You Mangos
by Kareen Getten
, 208 pages. Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House), 2020. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Clara loves her beautiful island village, and when she grows up, she wants to be a surfer. her best friend is her cousin Gaynah, but lately their relationship is strained. It's been a year since a big hurricane hit the island, and Clara's memory of that summer is gone - - only bits and pieces - - and now she's deathly afraid of water. A new girl from New York is visiting a neighbor of Clara's, and she is independent, fun and vibrant. This summer is looking like it'll be unforgettable. But, another storm is brewing, and Clara may need to face her lost memories after all. 

I loved all the references to Jamaican food and culture. The setting was beautiful - down to the leaves on the trees, and the characters seemed so real. There's even a bit of adventure to add to the mysteries. 

Lisa Librarian

What if Soldiers Fought With Pillows? by Heather Camlot and Serge Bloch - ADVISABLE

What if Soldiers Fought With Pillows? True stories of imagination and courage by Heather Camlot, illustrated by Serge Bloch
. NON-FICTION. 40 pages. Owl Kids, 2020. 9781771473620 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL; ADULTS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Camlot introduces a variety of incidents from wars throughout history where people chose kindness and peace instead. While formatted as a picture book, this is really a text heavy, topic heavy book for older students. Any class that touches on the decisions that lead to war or any of these wars in particular might want to read snippets from this. You will have to hand sell it though – especially to the teachers. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf by Sam Weldich - ADVISABLE

 Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf by Sam Weldich. PICTURE BOOK. Scholastic, 2021. $18. 9781338359008 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL – ADVISABLE; MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Chicken Little doesn’t believe in the Big Bad Wolf – until he literally runs into one. When he tells the other chickens, he sends the flock into a panic. It is only upon further investigation that cooler heads prevail and they actually get to know the Wolf, who turns out to be a vegetarian. Weldich has given readers a lot to unpack in his second Chicken Little. 

 While similar to the first, this one becomes much more personal. Because the Wolf can be easily equated to any person that we do not yet understand. You can read this alone on the funny level, or use it to take a deep dive into relationships, fact-finding, and politics if you want to go that far. Clever middle school or high school teachers could reintroduce this to older students and apply the concepts to the new world situation. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone - HIGH

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone
, 288 pages. Crown (Random), 2020. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears, 2 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (abuse mentioned, shooting mentioned) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Justyce may be off to college, but Quan, who grew up just a block away, is sitting in a youth detention facility, accused in a police shooting. In his frustration, Quan starts writing to Justyce. Using flashbacks, Quan’s story – how a bright, curious, kind boy came to this – unfolds. 

Pair this immediately with Sharon Flake’s The Life I’m In and teach! Then hand your students Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. SO much rich material for talking about social justice, the prison system, and opening white eyes to all the different kinds of lives going on around them. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz - ADVISABLE

Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz
, 256 pages. Holiday House, JUNE 2021. $18. 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Madrigal (Maddie) may think finding emotion and heart in her oboe playing is her biggest worry, but then she learns that her older brother, Strum, has walked away from his college Through December, January, February, as her family is falling apart, Maddie finds comfort in music, in her best friend Emma, and in learning about climate change like her brother wanted her to. Maddie tries to find her voice and that elusive heart – to make beautiful music, to hold her family together, and to find her brother. He’s left a few clues in three emails, and those few words may be just enough for a girl who loves deeply and listens carefully. 

Told in free verse; reads mostly like sentences, though Fritz does use imagery at times. A sweet book. I love that though Maddie shows us her worries and some coping skills, she is not neurotic, just a girl dealing with tension and heartache at home and learning how to navigate school and friendships. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri - ESSENTIAL

Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story)
by Daniel Nayeri,
368 pages. Levine Querido, 2020. $18 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: PG (references to "sexing") Violence: PG13 (War talk, abuse, injuries) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Khosrou, whose American classmates and teacher call him Daniel, is a refugee from Iran. When his mother converted to Christianity, she was forced to abandon her medical practice and to flee Iran with her family, or risk being killed. Khosrou, who was born into privilege - an old family with both parents medical professionals, now lives in poverty in a small town in Oklahoma with his mother, sister and step father. Daniel tells his story to his classmates and teacher, like Scheherazade, weaving together century old Persian tales, his own family stories and relating them to his current situation and recent troubles. 

Nayeri, who has based this story on his own experiences, is an amazing storyteller. He uses "poop" references a lot, but it perfectly suits Khosoru's character and really adds to the humor. The dovetailed stories, his refugee experience, getting accustomed to American foods and traditions and the beautiful author's voice combine to make this a highly recommended read. 

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Alone by Megan E. Freeman - ESSENTIAL

Alone by Megan E. Freeman
, 416 pages. Aladdin (Simon). 2021. $18. 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Maddie wanted a secret sleepover with her best friends, but they both bailed on her. When she wakes up the next morning, her whole town is deserted. What happened?! She is able to piece together that there was an emergency evacuation, but everyone left their phones behind, so there is no way for her to actually contact anyone. Very slowly Maddie learns how to survive this new reality. She makes mistakes, endangers her life, finds companionship in a neighbor’s left behind dog – but as a one year, two years, pass, she also has to deal with the loneliness. 

I sat down and read this in one sitting. Written in verse, it is a very quick read and very engrossing. I do have SOOO MANY QUESTIONS, because once you’re finished, there are glaring logic holes, but as I ponder them, I also realize I don’t care. I loved reading the book and that experience is what matters most. I will be using this as a book club book because I want to hear what the kids have to say. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner - ADVISABLE


Tune It Out
by Jamie Sumner
275 pages. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Lou lives with her mom, on the road - getting by by singing on street corners or the beach, making enough coins for a bag of chips for dinner, and sleeping in the truck. Lou has a beautiful voice, and her mom has dreams of her becoming a star but, Lou hates singing in front a crowd - the people get too close, and sudden loud sounds or touch throw her into a panic. Once, a teacher mentioned Lou might benefit from testing, but her mom wouldn't here of it and pulled her out of school. But an accident (Lou was driving) sends Lou into the custody of CPS. She is sent to Nashville, to an aunt she barely remembers. Now, enrolled in a private school, her own room, a real bed - even a cell phone, Lou is seeing that those years with her mom weren't normal, but what if she's given the chance to go back? 

This look into a kid with a sensory processing disorder is presented sensitively and realistically. Her interactions with friends at school were balanced by the SPD and the fact that she hadn't attended school for a while. There are several books out just now about neuro-diverse children, Tune it Out will help readers build empathy, and let kids who have a similar life experience see themselves in this story. There's a bunch of music and theater references as well, as Lou joins the drama club.

Lisa Librarian

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu - OPTIONAL

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
, 336 pages. Putnam’s (Penguin), 2020. $19

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Nannerl Mozart wishes she could be remembered forever – not as the reknowned pianist she currently is, but as a composer, whose works would last thorught he ages. But as a girl in 1700’s Europe, under the control of her father, and definitely not a boy, playing is all she is allowed. She and her younger brother Wolfgang have a secret kingdom they have created, the Kingdom of Back. But one day a fairy Prince from the kingdom appears and offers to grant Nannerl the wish of her heart if she will only help him with some trifling tasks. Nannerl may win her wish, but when she understands the cost, it may be too late. 

Lu tries to mix history with fantasy, but the book tries too hard to be true to the history – it covers too many years and gets bogged down in the history and not nearly enough magic. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows - HIGH

My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
. Narrated by Sophie Amoss. 544 pages. Harper, 2020. $19 

Content: PG (3 swears, some innuendo) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok and Frank Butler are traveling through 1876 America with their Wild West show, entertaining the crowds with their shooting expertise. 16yo Annie, also an excellent shot, and definitely not interested in marriage, leaves home to audition for the show. Wild Bill and the others also hunt garou (Werewolves), but during their latest hunt Jane got bit and now she’s taken off in search of a cure. Annie joins with Bill and Frank to find her, but the truth – of the cure, of Jane’s family, of the Wild West show – is much, much more complicated. 

Following the pattern of the other “Jane” books, Hand, Ashton, and Meadows take a bit of history and add their special twists to all of it. Highly entertaining, very funny. The Jane’s are getting a Mary later this year when they tackle the life of Mary, Queen of Scots – I can’t wait! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, January 22, 2021

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur - AVERAGE

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur
(narrated by the author), 464 pages. HarperCollins, 2021. $18. 

Language: R (10 swears, 15“f”); Mature Content:; Violence: PG (sexual assault mentioned) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: ADVISABLE 

Kiran was supposed to get married, but after her fiancĂ©’s brother sexually assaults her, she hides that secret and leaves to attend college in Canada instead. She knows she’s pregnant and intentionally overstays her visa because there is no support coming from her mother – even after she shares about the assault. Living in constant fear of discovery, working menial jobs, she raises her daughter Sahaara with a tiny support system, hoping that when Sahaara turns 18, she can apply for asylum for her mother. As the time grows closer, however, an even bigger confrontation is looming. 

Because I listened to the audiobook, I didn’t hear this as poetry and didn’t see the illustrations. However, Kiran and Sahaara’s story did not suffer because of that lack. The audiobook clocks in at 10 hours and it was worth every minute. A well-crafted look at rape, family dynamics, immigration laws, and #metoo. The audiobook was provided by The King’s English Bookshop through libro.fm 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

SPOILER:





The last couple of hours of the book all I could keep hearing in my mind was -- paternity test, paternity test.  That's a Question I would really like to ask the author - why no offer for a paternity test?????

Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm - ADVISABLE

Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm, narrated by Maxwell Glick
. 272 pages. Random House, 2021. $17. 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Bell has lived his entire life on Mars in the American colony. He knows there are other countries up here, too, but has been warned to stay away because they are dangerous. When something goes very wrong with the adults, however, the kids take matters into their own hands and find out that the others are very kind and also a lot of fun. What big secret from the past still haunts America that the adults still refuse to cooperate? 

The emotional payout at the end is well worth the journey. If kids are approaching this from after having read Stuart Gibbs’ Moon Base Alpha series, however, they will struggle connecting. The audiobook was provided by The King’s English Bookshop through libro.fm 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

D (A Tale of Two Worlds) by Michel Faber - ADVISABLE

D (A Tale of Two Worlds) by Michel Faber, narrated by Isabel Adomakoh Young
. 304 pages. Hanover Square Press, 2020. $19 (Amazon) 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Why is the letter D disappearing? Young Dhikilo seems to be the only one who notices or cares. Then things that start with D disappear – dentists, dalmatians, etc. Dhikilo will need help from someone special in order to make a trip to the realm controlling the D’s. She will be put to the test and need to help to conquer this odd, crazy world and restore D to her world. 

What a wild, crazy ride! Young’s narration drew me into the world and I was seeing the weird new world stealing the Ds. Fantasy lovers will have a great time with this. The audiobook was provided by The King’s English Bookshop through libro.fm 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Ash House by Angharad Walker - OPTIONAL

The Ash House by Angharad Walker, narrated by Simon Vance
. 336 pages. Scholastic, FEB 2021. $18. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The 11yo boy has been dropped off at a place that he is told is his last chance. Given the name Sol (short for Solitude) by Dom (Freedom), he wants to fit in, buts starts by making a major mistake and now the other kids are wary of him. He also finds out that the Headmaster hasn’t been seen for three years. Sol believes he has been brought here for a cure, but when he finally gets the attention of the Doctor, the strangeness of the Ash House takes a menacing, life-threatening turn. 

The potential for a seriously spooky novel exists here, but the ending doesn’t bring the anticipated emotional payout. Small Spaces by Katherine Arden would be a better choice. The audiobook was provided by The King’s English Bookshop through libro.fm 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz - AVERAGE

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
, 384 pages. Delacorte (Random), 2019. $18 

Language: R (53 swears, 2 “f”); Mature Content: PG ; Violence: PG-13 (implied sexual assault) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

16yo Nevaeh Levitz has lived a loving life with her Black mother and Jewish father – until she doesn’t. Now she and Mom are living in Harlem with her grandparents and Dad has moved in his girlfriend. Life is now more than complicated. Mom has retreated into herself – an almost catatonic state. Her cousins aren’t very welcoming, because Nevaeh passes as white and attends an exclusive private school in the city. Her dad insists that she go through a bat Mitzvah, even though she is years older than the other students. When Nevaeh finds her mother’s journal in the attic, she learns a lot about her history and is determined to connect with her mother and help her over her trauma. 

Diaz touches on so many important issues and weaves them all together with skill. None of them feel shoehorned in or just brushed over. 

Love it. While Nevaeh’s mother story does get a little explicit in one spot, that is a minor part in a very rewarding read. Actually, it is an important part – as it shows how a girl can find herself trapped doing something she definitely doesn’t want to, but does because she feels trapped and without options. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth - ADVISABLE

Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth
, 352 pages. Harper, 2019. $18. 

Content: G (6 swears, 0“f”) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

For seven years, Violet Sterling has lived in exile from her beloved Burleigh House – waiting for her father, a traitor to the King of England, to die. When that day finally arrives, Burleigh is a wreck – its magic is falling apart, and by extension, the magic that is supposed to hold that part of England together is wreaking havoc throughout the countryside. The king has given Vi only a few days to get Burleigh under control for the next Caretaker. Feeling betrayed, Vi has plan – it may just send her down the same road her father took. Luckily, she has her childhood friend, Wyn, to help. 

The romance takes a backseat to the dramatic interaction between Vi, Burleigh House, and the king. Excellent choice for your readers who love gothic novels like Erin A. Craig’s House of Salt and Sorrows

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimara - AVERAGE

Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimara,
336 pages. Tor Teen, 2020. $18. 

Language: R (72 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

16yo Olivia has Olympic ice-skating dreams, but right now, after a disaster at her last doubles performance, she is stuck going to regular school and working at her parents’ ice rink instead in Arizona. Then comes Jonah Choi – hottie, for sure, but also a prospective Olympic speed skater, using up a lot of rink time. Olivia doesn’t want to give up her Olympic dreams, but she would need to reinvent herself and save her parents’ failing ice rink from a hostile takeover – and falling in love with Jason Choi is not part of the plan. 

Super cute romance read with enough depth and multi-dimensional side characters to add flavor without distracting. Great in paperback.

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Pig War by Emma Bland Smith and Alison Jay - ADVISABLE

The Pig War: how a porcine tragedy taught England and America to share by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Alison Jay
. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Calkins Creek (Boyds Mill), 2020. $19. 9781684371716 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In 1859, both British and American citizens lived on San Juan Island near Seattle, Washington. When a British pig ruined American potatoes, the American farmer shot it, setting off a chain of events that almost started an international incident. After much posturing, and arrival of naval forces, it took a calm head to broker peace. 

An interesting note for classes that cover this period in American history or to talk about diplomacy. I know our 8th grade covers this, so it will be a welcome addition.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling - ESSENTIAL

The Canyon's Edge
by Dusti Bowling,
307 pages. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Nora and her father are going hiking and rappelling in a slot canyon in the desert of Arizona. It's Nora's birthday and exactly 1 year since the tragedy that killed her mother. Things have been strained as both are dealing with their grief. But when the hike suddenly turns dangerous and Nora is separated from her father, she must rely on her wits, her skills and the emotional help she has received from her counselor to be resilient and survive. 

A novel in verse (mostly, some parts are prose), this was a quick read, well paced for the suspense and peril. Dusti Bowling represents Arizona so well, and my readers who loved "Insignificant Events on the Life of a Cactus" will be lining up for "The Canyon's Edge." 

Lisa Librarian

Blood and Germs by Gail Jarrow - ESSENTIAL

Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease
by Gail Jarrow
176 pages. NON-FICTION Calkins Creek, 2020. $19

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Photographs of Civil War injuries, hospitals and amputations that some may find disturbing) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The American Civil War was fought both on and off the battlefield. Even healthy soldiers lived in conditions rife with dysentery and other illnesses that both weakened the body and contaminated others. Doctors were not aware that microbes caused disease, so they operated with dirty hands, not even washing between patients. The medicines used to treat the sick were at least ineffectual and often poisonous. Hospital staff were not well trained, doctors who had only delivered babies were removing bullets and amputating limbs. But because of the necessity of battlefield medicine, many advancements were made that are still used today. 

Gail Jarrow is one of my favorite non-fiction authors. Her chapters are long enough to be thorough, they are full of illustrations, photographs and spotlights of the key players in the Civil War battle of saving lives. Unfamiliar medical terms are defined in context and then redefined again if necessary. Includes a timeline and glossary, places to visit (both in person and online) a great author's note, bibliography and sources. Gross enough to get initial interest, and so interesting, appropriate for both middle and high school.

Lisa Librarian

Marjory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rebecca Gibbon - ADVISABLE

 Marjory Saves the Everglades: the story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Simon, 2020. $19. 9781534431546 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL:A AVERAGE 

Marjory visited Florida as a girl and fell in love. When she returned in her 20’s, she was still in love. Over the years she find herself time and again fighting to keep the Everglades, restore the Everglades, protect the Everglades. What little we have left now (about 20%) is directly because of Marjory’s efforts. 

A great look at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas – yes, the woman who has a high school named for her in Parkland, Florida. Call it a synchronicity of activism. So many accessible, important lessons about conservation, activism, and ecology. So many uses in a wide range of classes. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard - ADVISABLE


Brave Like That
by Lindsey Stoddard,
272 pages. Harper Collins, 2020. $17 

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Bullying). 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Cyrus is expected to follow in the steps of his Dad, who is a brave fireman, and was the star of his middle school and high school football teams. There's still pictures of him in the trophy cases. But Cyrus doesn't want to play football or become a fireman. He doesn't know what he wants yet; except for "Parker" the stray dog Cyrus found at the fire station that is now at the Humane Society waiting for a family. Cyrus skips out on football practice to walk Parker. He can't do his first assignment in 6th grade "write about the best book you've ever read" because he has trouble reading, and his old friends are now bullying the new kid. 6th grade is turning out to be really hard. Cyrus isn't brave like his dad, but maybe he's got what it takes to stand up for himself and others. 


Cyrus is a great kid, full of questions about himself because he's adopted after being abandoned at the fire station. His dilemma about keeping his friends who've changed or moving on to new friends is realistic for middle school. His relationship with his grandmother is sweet - she has suffered a stroke and can only say "Na-na" but Stoddard brings her meaning across well. I loved all the references to children's books! The teacher reads a picture book to the class every day and his choices are spot on - I hope readers in my library ask for them (Red, a Crayon's Story and Each Kindness). Brave Like That is perfect for readers just starting middle school.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, January 18, 2021

Rescuing the Declaration of Independence by Anna Crowley Redding and Edwin Fotheringham - ESSENTIAL

Rescuing the Declaration of Independence: How we almost lost the words that built America by Anna Crowley Redding, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Harper, 2020. $19. 9780062740328 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When James Monroe saw that the British were headed towards Washington DC in 1814, he sent word immediately to America’s new capitol to “remove the records”. Stephen Pleasonton, Monroe’s clerk, knew immediately exactly what his boss meant – he had to get all of the documents from the founding of the country to safety – including the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. But it would take the help of many of the citizens to move the wagonloads of documents not just once, but twice, to keep them out of British hands. 

American History teachers will love this episode from the War of 1812. Any level class can happily use this as part of their American History work. Redding tells the story in a compelling way and Fotheringham’s illustrations have just the right old-fashioned look. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Second Star to the Fright (Disney Chills) by Vera Strange - HIGH

Second Star to the Fright
(Disney Chills) by Vera Strange
, 232 pages. Disney Press (Buena Vista Books, Inc.), 2021. $7. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

If the thoughts of getting older and taking, gasp, algebra, torment you as much as it does Barrie, then you would understand his 11yo wish to never grow up. When Barrie discovers a creepy old pirate’s hook aboard a museum vessel, he makes that wish. Kiss junior high, extra chores, responsibilities and bills goodbye. As Barrie’s wish become more real by the day, it may be more sinister than it first seemed. 

 There is no swaggering, bumbling Captain Hook in this book. He is significantly darker. Fans of Peter Pan will catch the many allusions to the book and movie. The story is engaging and you will find yourself getting anxious for Barrie. The tone of the book feels Twilight Zone-ish. Cue music. If that’s your jam, this is your book. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Nyxia Uprising by Scott Reintgen - ADVISABLE

Nyxia Uprising by Scott Reintgen
, 384 pages. Ember (Random), 2019. $10 (paper) 

Language: R (62 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (scifi fighting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Emmett, the other Genesis members, and the Imago are in a desperate march to get themselves to the launching stations spread throughout the planet before the moons collide and make Eden uninhabitable. Longwei has offered himself as a double agent to infiltrate one of the ships and help them survive the desperate chance to overtake Babel’s ships. But Erone may have been compromised and there is an unexpected, highly trained, and highly loyal Genesis 14 group to thwart their moves. Who will actually survive Babel’s machinations? 

Now that we have reached the third, high octane end to the trilogy, I have to say it – with all of the billions of dollars sunk into this venture, how could Babel NOT NOTICE that the moons of Eden were about to collide???? There, I said it. Despite that, I loved this trilogy very much. A great combination of science, aliens, actions, and romantic side stories! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

BenBee and the Teacher Griefer by K.A. Holt - OPTIONAL

BenBee and the Teacher Griefer by K.A. Holt,
336 pages. Chronicle Books, 2020. $18. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ben Bellows, Ben B, has failed the language arts section of the middle school Florida Rigorous Academic Assessment Test, commonly referred to as the FART. He and three other literacy challenged students have to take a summer school class so they can pass. Their teacher, Ms. J, doesn’t quite know how to engage them until they make a deal with her that for every minute they read aloud in class they can play Sandbox (a type of Mine Craft). Upon discovery, the administration is less than thrilled, and Ben B and friends must figure out a way to save their teacher’s job. 

The students express themselves in different modalities, so the text ranges from free verse to gaming texts to drawings. I liked that this book addressed the difficulties of reading and how diverse learning styles don’t always work in regular classrooms. The ending was fairly predictable, but a fun journey. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Part of Your Nightmare by Vera Strange - HIGH

 Part of Your Nightmare (Disney Chills) by Vera Strange, 218 pages. Disney Press, 2020. $7. 9781368048255 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

11yo Shelly Anderson’s parents own the Triton Bay Aquarium, which labels her a science nerd. Shelly desperately wants to be popular instead, so when she comes across a mysterious nautilus shell that belongs to Ursula, the sea witch, she thinks a deal to become the coolest girl in school is a grand idea. Doesn’t take a genius to know that deal is going south fast. 

 Based the Disney villain, the book explores what it would be like if an average middle schooler needed the sea witch. The plot is fairly predictable, but it’s a fast, fun  read. It’s like the Twilight Zone meets Disney. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu - HIGH

Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu
296 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020 $19

Language: R (6 swears 7 'f'); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13 (sexual assault content, not graphic) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Princess Jane is enchanted - well, cursed actually. 5 years ago, an angry young witch cast a curse of "without" on the princesses of Ever, and now each of the sisters, on their 13th birthday, becomes without something. Jane has suffered for 5 years without food, another sister without sleep, another without love etc. The time is quickly approaching where they can break the spell, but something besides the witch who cast it stands in their way. 

Told in alternating perspectives (Reagan the witch and Jane the princess), this fairy tale is strong female characters, a great message and a powerful story about finding out who you are and what you stand for. There are some triggers - sexual assault, eating disorder - that the author warns about up front, however the treatment of both is sensitive rather than graphic. Ever Cursed is a gripping read that wraps up nicely without the need for a sequel.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Beetle and the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne - HIGH

Beetle and the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne
, 256 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL Atheneum Books (Simon & Schuster), 2020. $22. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Beetle is a 12yo goblin witch. She is being homeschooled by her grandmother, but she would rather spend time with her best friend, Blob Ghost at the mall. Beetle’s old best friend returns to town unexpectedly for a sorcery apprenticeship with her aunt, Hollowbone. Hollowbone has plans that would destroy the mall and Blob Ghost along with it. Beetle is intimidated by Kat, who is gorgous and magical and seems out of Kat’s league. 

 The color and art are bright and fun, and blends a magical Halloween aesthetic with real world sensibilities. There is a LGBTQ relationship and the ghost goes by gender neutral pronouns. There are themes of self-discovery and friendship that will relate with readers. Though the story line was a little hard to follow in places and the ending expected, it was fast paced. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Fiends on the Other Side by Vera Strange - HIGH

 Fiends on the Other Side (Disney Chills) by Vera Strange, 198 pages. Disney Press, 2020. $7. 9781368048361 

Content G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Jamal has a problem: his twin brother, Malik. Malik is outgoing, popular, and talented. Jamal feels invisible next to him. When their grandmother passes away and leaves Malik a trumpet and Jamal an old skull necklace, it’s the last straw. Jamal makes a deal with a mysterious Dr. Facilier so he will never be in Malik’s shadow again. Jamal gets his wish, but with horrifying consequences. 

 Can anyone say, “stranger danger?” The endings in these Disney books are jarring for me because I always like the good to triumph over evil. But hey, these are villain books. Jamal is relatable and the shadow man is creepy, so if you want a fast read and you have sibling issues, read on. 

 Michelle in the Middle https://amzn.to/3rDje0s

The Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto - HIGH


The Obsession
by Jesse Q. Sutanto
, 304 pages. Sourcebooks Fire, 2021. $11.

Language: R (245 swears, 54 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Logan, a high school senior, has struggled ever since Sophie died, and everyone noticed -- his best friend, his classmates, even the school counselor. But then he meets Delilah, and the world is brighter. Delilah is like Sophie but better -- stronger -- than Sophie could ever be, and Logan won’t let Delilah end up like her.

Wow. Words cannot express how I feel -- partly because I, myself, am uncertain how all these emotions are tangled together. Sutanto brilliantly gives readers pictures of Logan and Delilah that morph through each chapter, adding layers as we follow the progression of their story. Delight, distress, and disgust warred within me as I tried to figure out who I wanted to win the struggle and how. The ending was one I would never imagine, but now, having read it, I also would never change it. The mature content rating is for innuendo, drugs and alcohol, and mentions of sex and rape. The violence rating is for physical abuse, homicide, and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Mary by Brea Grant - ADVISABLE


Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter
by Brea Grant
, 128 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Six Foot Press, 2020. $19.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13 (flipping the bird); Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Coming from a line of famous authors, Mary is sick of hearing about how great she should be at writing. Mary wants to find her own way without worrying so much about the future. When monsters start coming to her for help, Mary realizes she needs to know about the past and her family’s legacy to even get through the present unscathed.

Grant is imaginative and fun as she subtly, and not-so-subtly, makes references to Mary Shelley through this fictional descendant’s life. I love Mary’s spunk and ability to be herself despite pressure from her family and others. Mary chooses how to deal with her circumstances and how she wants to live her life, showing determination and confidence I wish were more present in my life. And the cherry on top is the beautiful illustration work that brings it all to life.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, January 15, 2021

Micah: The Good Girl (Flyy Girls) by Ashley Woodfolk - OPTIONAL

Micah: The Good Girl (Flyy Girls) by Ashley Woodfolk
, 135 pages. HI-LO. Penguin Workshop, 2020. $16. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Micah Dupree is in high school and suffers from anxiety following the tragic death of her brother. Micah works at a church-run camp where her boyfriend also works. She is “the good girl” but is starting to have second thoughts about waiting for sex, especially as her anxiety escalates. 

Because the book is short, it’s hard to delve deeply into the characters, so they come off a little one dimensional. There is a sexual situation but it isn’t too graphic. It’s a fast read with themes of friendship, family, and religion. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Lux: The New Girl (Flyy Girls) by Ashley Woodfolk - OPTIONAL

Lux: The New Girl (Flyy Girls) by Ashley Woodfolk
, 141 pages. HI-LO. Penguin Workshop, 2020. $16. 

Language: PG-13 (15 swears); Mature Content PG-13; Violence: PG-13 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Lux is new to the Augusta Savage School of the Arts in Harlem. She was lucky to be accepted since she got kicked out of her last school for fighting and breaking another girl’s nose. Lux wants to break into the popular group, the Flyy girls, but her plans could be derailed if videos of her fight surface. 

 Lux has a lot of issues, but they seem to wrap up almost too neatly. The length of the book is both its strength and its weakness: a fast read, but hard to flesh out character and plot development. There is use of sexual language. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Forever Phoebe by Chalon Linton - OPTIONAL


Forever Phoebe
by Chalon Linton
, 224 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

With fiery red hair and three protective older brothers, 18yo Phoebe has few fears and fewer reservations. If only she could get her brother’s friend to notice her instead of scold her as an honorary, fourth brother. When a new gentleman claims his estate in the area, will the added competition encourage the suit Phoebe’s been waiting for?

Romance-wise, this book is refreshing because there isn’t a dumb misunderstanding that leads the main characters to hate each other before falling in love. Mystery-wise, the story leaves a lot to be desired since the focus is on the romance and the mystery only acts as the backdrop. Overall, the story is well-written; I was simply disappointed by the anti-climactic involvement of the kidnapping drama, though the resolution was better than anticipated.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Of Sword and Shadow by A. L. Sowards - ADVISABLE


Of Sword and Shadow
by A. L. Sowards
, 251 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

She doesn’t know what name her parents gave her or even how old she really is. What she does know is that those things don’t matter because she’s a slave; all she has to do is please her master, Thomas, by assisting him in the shady jobs he’s hired for. But then she encounters a man unlike any she has known because he is kind -- even to her -- and makes her feel that she has worth beyond her skills. Can it be true?

Sowards took a real historical event and wove her imagined characters through the known pieces to create an engaging story of subterfuge, sacrifice, and self-discovery. I loved following the main character as she did what she knew -- and was successful at -- while struggling internally, when she was free to decide for herself, if what she was good at was what she wanted. While not on the same scale, we all need to self-evaluate and make that choice for ourselves: do I stay as I am or can I work for something greater? Whether readers want an exciting book of action or some food for thought, this book will deliver. The mature content rating is for innuendo, nudity, and groping.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis - NO


The Initial Insult
by Mindy McGinnis
, 384 pages. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2021. $18.

Language: R (166 swears, 47 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

In Amontillado, last names matter; they tell everyone else if you're rich enough to be important. Tress used to fall into that exclusive group before her parents disappeared and she started living with her Grandfather and his white trash zoo. No one knows what happened the night of the disappearance because no one else was there -- except Felicity, Tress’s former best friend who insists she can’t remember anything. But, tonight, Tress will find out the truth. Even if it kills her.

A lot happened, but I’m not sure what it was. Both the timeline and point of view skip around constantly, and the stream of conscious style the book is written in becomes a hindrance when the characters become discombobulated. I have no reason, as the reader, to like or want to know more about what happens with these girls, and the story is full of drama with zero resolve -- and not in the way that makes you yearn for the sequel. In the end, we’re all left in the dark. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, drug use, nudity, innuendo, and mention of masturbation and sex. The violence rating is for gore and assault.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Freiheit!: The White Rose by Andrea Grosso Ciponte - OPTIONAL


Freiheit!: The White Rose by Andrea Grosso Ciponte
, 96 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Plough Publishing House, 2021. $24.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Even Germans need to be careful as Hitler reigns. Sophie feels little freedom in being coerced to live the way Hitler demands, though she knows she has to be careful because her family is being watched. But, when Sophie discovers her brother in a group opposing Hitler, she knows the right thing to do is help them.

These brave activists are more than characters in a book: they are real people, people who opposed Hitler and found ways to stand up for what is right. I liked this book because, while our struggles today can seem different, the world still struggles with oppression and Sophie and the rest of the White Rose group show readers that good can win in the end, even when the enemy seems unconquerable. However, the telling of their story felt confusing and choppy. For me, this book is best read in conjunction with supplemental information.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang - ESSENTIAL

Dragon Hoops
by Gene Luen Yang
446 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second, 2020 $25 

Language: PG (6 swears 0 'f') Representative swears b****); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG. (Basketball fighting and injuries) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Gene Luen Yang teaches computer science at Bishop O'Doud High School in Oakland California, and has decided to write a graphic novel about their Basketball team the "Dragons." We follow the team for a season, but Yang also includes some history (of Basketball, of the school, former coaches etc.), interviews with the coaches and players, and glimpses into his home life - juggling work, comics and family. 

The page size seemed intimidating - carrying the book was like carrying a basketball, but I loved Dragon Hoops so much - and I'm not even a basketball fan. I loved watching Yang's process as it was included in the story line. The basketball action was authentic and exciting, there was a lot of cultural empathy and great messages about taking small steps to get to the great leaps. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, January 11, 2021

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker - ADVISABLE

Here in the Real World
by Sara Pennypacker,
308 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins), 2020. $18 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Ware planned to spend his summer with "Big Deal," his grandmother, but when she falls and ends up in rehab, Ware's mom enrolls him in "Summer Rec."  He feels he's too old, so on the first day he wanders off and discovers a demolished church and a girl named Jolene who is planting a garden there. Ware sees the ruins as the bones of a castle, Jolene sees the garden as a way to make some much needed money. Both Ware and Jolene find refuge in this sanctuary, but when it is threatened, Ware defers to the Code of Chivalry and pledges to be the champion of Right and Good - and save their castle and garden. 

An intricate story with a lot more going on than can be told in a short summary. "Here in the Real World" is about growing up, becoming your best self - maybe even being born again. Ware wants to be a normal kid - he's a loner who prefers his own company to that of friends, Jolene is private, shares little about her personal life but grows into a good friend for Ware. I loved his grandma (Big Deal - what a great nickname), and Ware's Uncle. Both great characters who give Ware advice.  

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, January 9, 2021

One Time by Sharon Creech - ADVISABLE

One Time
by Sharon Creech
, 253 pages. Joanna Colter Books (Harper Collins), 2020. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

11yo Gina has a hard time focusing at school. She's distracted by a lot - what's going on outside the window, the stories she hears from her grandmother in Italy, the fact that she has a hard time making friends. Antonio, the boy who just moved in next door is in her class - and he's popular, happy and nice, everyone wants to be his friend. Gina's homeroom teacher, Ms. Lightstone is innovative. With creative lessons, an inspiration board and a love for writing, she inspires the students to become writers themselves - and to learn about themselves and their classmates in the process.

While not plot driven, I enjoyed this internal study of Gina enjoying the process of becoming a writer. I really loved Ms. Lightstone's ideas (and wish I were still teaching ELA). The students shared their favorite book openers - source list included at the end, and also introduced each other to new words they could use to describe things they didn't even know there was a word for. A great read for the budding writers in your middle school.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, January 7, 2021

How to be a Girl in the World by Caela Carter - ADVISABLE

How to be a Girl in the World
by Caela Carter
, 304 pages. Quill Tree Books (Harper Collins), 2020. $17 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: PG - themes of inappropriate touching Violence: PG Teasing boys 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Lydia does not like the boys at school. She doesn't like the nickname they call her "Swing" she doesn't like the way they tease her, and she doesn't like that her friends think the boys are cute and funny. They aren't. She also doesn't like her mom's new boyfriend Jeremy. He gives her unwanted hugs, and sometimes touches her knee under the table. But, she doesn't tell anyone - she's afraid no one will take her seriously, or maybe she's just weird, and it shouldn't bother her so much. Her mom has recently purchased a "fixer-upper" and Lydia eagerly helps with the clean-up, its something to do away from the neighborhood boys and the boyfriend. When she finds a "spellbook" in a special room in the basement, Lydia hopes she can create a spell of protection to keep the boys and Jeremy away. 

The tension in this story is palpable.  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. So well written, great character development and all the parts make sense. Like "Maybe He Just Likes You" by Barbara Dee "How to be a Girl in the World" is an important book to have in your library. Young girls need to be empowered to do something when/if this happens to them. 

Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Haunted Lake by P.J. Lynch - ESSENTIAL

The Haunted Lake
by P.J. Lynch
PICTURE BOOK Candlewick, 2020 $18 9781536200133 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

The small village of Spetzia is now underwater. Most of the villagers moved to the bigger town when the village was flooded to make a reservoir. Now all that can be seen of the village is the bell tower that sticks out of the water. But Jacob and his father didn't move. Their home was above the village, and their mother is buried in the village cemetery, so now they are fishermen instead of farmers. When they take their fish to the marketplace, they meet a woman and her daughter, who eventually helps Jacob and his father fish. Ellen - the daughter - is in love with Jacob, but he's 19 and she only 14 - he thinks she's too young to marry, she doesn't. But when Jacob disappears during the night into the lake, Ellen won't give up looking for him. Jacob has been lured to an underwater world inhabited by the ghosts of the drowned town. 

This was the best ghost story! The perfect amount of creepy, scary, danger and romance. P.J. Lynch's illustrations are beautiful and haunting, his text tells a gripping story. I was enthralled, looking forward to reading this with kids. Loved it! 

Lisa Librarian

On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander - ADVISABLE


On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson
by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Chronicle Books, 2020. $19. 9781452142975 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Emily Dickinson loved so many things, her dog, birds, nature, her school friends, even her big brother. But she also felt sad about things, like why people get sick and die. Looking for answers at school, church and home didn't help. Eventually Emily spent more time inside than out, writing and writing and writing. After she died, her sister found boxes, drawers and closets full of her poetry. Today, libraries and bookstores have her poetry collections and people fall in love with poetry when they discover Emily Dickinson. 

Beautiful full page illustrations by Becca Stadtlander highlight this sweet biography. I loved that Berne incorporated Emily's poems into the story as well. Includes ideas on becoming a poetry writer, reader and sharer, as well as book recommendations for further reading about Dickinson.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Class Act (New Kid #2) by Jerry Craft - ADVISABLE


Class Act
(New Kid #2) by Jerry Craft
250 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Quill Tree Books (Harper Collins), 2020. $23 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Jordan is back for another year, trying to decide whether to stay at the prestigious school on scholarship, or go to art school. But, Class Act is about Jordan's friend Drew. Drew is also one of the few students of color, and like Jordan, is the victim of micro-aggression and racism. When Drew's friend Liam invites the friends over to his lavish home, Drew begins to feel like Liam is a stereotypical rich kid, so Drew distances himself. 

With a lot going on at school, Class Act feels like a set up for a sequel, rather than a companion. There are lots of new characters whose stories don't connect, year end plans that are talked about but don't develop and a plot that is all over the place. Class Act doesn't read as smoothly as "New Kid" did, but if you have it, you'll want to get Class Act, too. 

Lisa Librarian

The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz - ADVISABLE

The Dark Lord Clementine
by Sarah Jean Horwitz
, 332 pages. Algonquin Books, 2019. $18. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Clementine Morcerous is suddenly in charge of keeping Castle Morcerous running without the help of her father - the Dark Lord Elithor, because he's been cursed by a witch who is looking to take over the castle herself. But she's ready, sort of. Clementine has been expecting to inherit the castle and become the dark lord herself her whole life. But her magic skills are troublesome - she turned the family grimoire into a chicken, now she has to wait for it to lay eggs to get the spells she needs. With the help of some non-magical boys from the town, the Lady of the Lake and a sheep named Dave, Clementine will try to break the curse, learn the magic he needs and maybe make some friends along the way. 

I loved rooting for the bad guy and watching Clementine move quickly from awkward girl to confident young woman. The side characters are terrific - the Lady of the Lake throwing swords at the boys was my favorite part. A bit slow getting started, but once the world was built, I couldn't put it down.  A great stand alone, creepy enough for a nice Halloween read, but readers who like magic and humor will devour The Dark Lord Clementine. 

Lisa Librarian


Monday, January 4, 2021

Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski - OPTIONAL


Beauty Among Ruins
by J’nell Ciesielski
, 416 pages. Thomas Nelson, 2021. $17.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After being sent from New York to her aunt’s home in England, WWI starts and Lily is kept from crossing the ocean to return home. Lily accompanies her cousin to Scotland to help care for wounded soldiers at Kinclavoch Castle. Her optimism and reckless ways are not encouraged by those in charge, but perhaps Lily can make a positive impact in the dreary circumstances and create an atmosphere of hope for the soldiers, herself, and maybe even the gruff laird who owns the castle.

Lily’s story plays out like a melodrama; everything that can go wrong does go wrong up until the final chapter when everything miraculously comes together for the main characters. This is not to say that it wasn’t an entertaining story nor that the character arcs for the main characters are shallow. I was amused by (and even laughed out loud at) the characters’ antics and cheesy lines as well as relieved when all the conflicts were finally resolved.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen