Wednesday, February 24, 2021

All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat - ESSENTIAL

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat
, 280 pages. NON-FICTION Candlewick Press, 2020. $25 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

In June of 2018, 12 boys from a local soccer team and one of their coaches hike into a cave in northern Thailand. While inside, the cave floods and they are trapped. Soon, word spreads that the boys didn't come home, when a search of the village locates their bikes at the mouth of the cave a rescue effort begins, with rescuers and help coming from all over the world. But the boys aren't easy to reach, and no one is sure they are even still alive. 

I remember following this story while it was happening, and it was an amazing experience getting all the details filled in. Soontornvat's narrative is engaging and exciting. I loved the side bars describing the background of the prominent rescuers, as well as information about Thailand culture and religion. Full of captioned color photographs that bring the reader right to the cave, "All Thirteen" includes an author's note - Soontornvat happened to be in Thailand while this was all happening, index and sources.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon - OPTIONAL

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From
by Jennifer De Leon
, 323 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $19.

Language: R (18 swears 14 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (making out); Violence: PG (racist bullying). 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

15yo Liliana Cruz is not too thrilled that she got into METCO - a desegregation project that sends inner city students of color from Boston to high performing schools in the suburbs. She doesn't want to leave her friend Jade, whose boyfriend takes a bunch of Jade's time anyway, she doesn't want to leave her school - it's underfunded but fine - and she doesn't want to make things any harder on her mom - - Liliana's dad took off, and with twin little brothers, she's needed at home. But, this is an opportunity she can't pass up, and her dad put her on the waiting list for the program a long time ago, so Liliana agrees to give it a try. Now she goes to school at Westburg High where nearly every student (and teacher) is white, and the only minority students are part of this program. It's hard to feel accepted when even the other METCO kids don't act welcoming, and some of the white kids are outright racist. 

 Liliana has a lot going on, which in some books would be layers, but it just felt like a lot. Besides the new school, her mom suffers from depression, her brothers are a handful, dad has been deported - Liliana had no idea her parents were undocumented - her best friend is distancing herself, at school Liliana is having friend issues, boyfriend issues (mom says she can't date until she's 18), teacher issues and she's trying to find herself. Her culture is also a bit murky - why set Liana up as an American born girl with Guatemalan/Salvador parents and then not go anywhere with it? A beautiful cover and a nice message, but I think I'll pass on purchasing.

Lisa Librarian

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh - OPTIONAL

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh, 408 pages. Dutton Books (Penguin Random House), 2020. $18 

Language: F (29 swears 6 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (sexual situation); Violence: F (sexual abuse). 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, NEW ADULT - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ada is starting her freshman year in college. She's further from home than she's ever been, and has to make her own decisions for the first time in her life. As she navigates this new world, her love of dancing, college life, discovering she is in a classroom full of smart black kids. She reflects on her life in flashbacks. Ada grew up with her Nigerian father whose expectations were based on his culture, rather than American. Her parents were divorced, so her visits to her drug addicted African American mother were often toxic, and staying at her grandmothers put her in danger from a young cousin who sexually abused her. 

"Every Body Looking" is a coming of age debut novel in verse beautifully constructed. I liked this format because the poetry gave us Ada's story in snippets, like memories, showing pieces of her story that reflect the grown girl without a lot a narrative needed. I would recommend this for a college reader, it feels on the older end of YA. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, February 22, 2021

Apple: (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth - OPTIONAL

Apple: (Skin to the Core) A Memoir in Words and Pictures by Eric Gansworth, 340 pages. Arthur A Levine (Levine Querido), 2020. $19.

Language: R (3 swears 2 'f'); Mature Content: PG (teen smoking); Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, ADULT - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Eric Gansworth's grandparents were the children put in boarding schools like Carlisle and Hampton, intended to force out their culture and make them assimilate, his father rarely at home, his mother managing a large family of children. His siblings leaving for Vietnam and adult lives - shared music and stories that shaped Eric's life, and the next generation's who are struggling to return to the old ways, to preserve the fading culture. 

Gansworth's memoir of a childhood living on a reservation is told in prose and poetry and images - photographs and drawings. Although Gansworth is a teen and young man for most of the book, I would say it's more appropriate for adults; not because of the content, but it's nostalgic, thought provoking, a privileged look into Gansworth's family culture, Onondaga and Tuscarora. I loved the references to Beatles songs, made even more meaningful by the "Liner notes" at the end of the book. 

Lisa Librarian

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson - HIGH

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, 387 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2019. $9.

Language: R (57 swears, 11 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Five years ago, Sal Singh killed his girlfriend, Andie Bell, and sent a confession text right before he took his own life a couple days later. There are facts everyone in Fairview knows. But Pippa believes Sal was innocent. And she’s going to prove it.

Pippa’s story is one that reaches out to grab your eyes, making sure you are glued to every page and can only extricate yourself from the book painfully -- though it feels like a voluntary surrender at first. Jackson brilliantly focuses readers where she wants our attention, as masterful as any master-of-deception magician. All the pieces are given to readers alongside Pip as we work to solve the mystery, and, while the ending is a surprise, the solution doesn’t feel like a jarring leap but is, instead, as satisfying as snapping the key puzzle pieces in place. The mature content rating is for underage drinking; drug use; mentions of sex, masturbation, and rape; and partial nudity. The violence rating is for self-harm, mentions of suicide, and homicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, February 21, 2021

K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee - HIGH

K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee, 336 pages. Point (Scholastic Inc.), 2020. $10.

Language: PG13 (19 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Candace loves her Korean parents and their culture, but growing up as a Korean-American has made it difficult for her to know where she fits in the world. When she gets the opportunity of a lifetime, Candace goes to Korea as a trainee for a Korean entertainment company with the possibility of becoming a K-Pop idol. Candace fights for herself, for her dream, and for what’s right -- even when taking a chance risks everything.

Candace is an amazing person, strong in will and courageous of heart, and her story has inspired me to be more like her. Risks are scary, but nothing world-changing has ever come easily. Watching Candace’s growth shows readers that we can do more than we think we can and standing up for what is right is never a bad thing, even when it is the road with the most obstacles. Any time Lee decides to continue Candace’s story, I will be first in line to buy a copy and see what Candace will do next. The violence rating is for mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Six Word Story by Doug Weller - OPTIONAL

Six Word Story by Doug Weller, 88 pages. SHORT STORIES. Hebe Publications, 2021. $7.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Weller tells several stories with only six words each, inviting every genre -- suspense, comedy, tragedy, and more. Not meant to be rushed through, Weller invites readers to think on the stories to peel back the layers to find the double meanings often hidden. Weller also includes submissions from the 2020 competition and invites readers to submit six word stories of their own for the next one!

The six word stories are intriguing as an idea, but I was disappointed by reading a whole book of them. I think I was disappointed because they didn’t feel as profound when they were side by side for comparison. Some of the stories were clever, but the majority of them were average. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mention of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Playing Cupid by S. C. Alban - OPTIONAL

Playing Cupid by S. C. Alban, 263 pages. The Parliament House, 2021. $7.

Language: R (51 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Megan has been carefully upkeeping the walls around her heart since her mother died five years ago. She keeps her distance from everyone, including her father, and is counting down the days to her early graduation -- a goal being threatened by her flakey home ec partner Jay. When Megan accidentally hits a cupid with her car, he insists that she help him match his last three marks as compensation, which is exactly what this girl set against love needs.

Megan’s story is cute, funny, and imaginative with its new spin on the roles of cupid. Also, readers can learn a lot about love and trusting themselves along with Megan. Alban’s book was hard for me to read, though, because most of the humor felt like inconsistencies in the writing and negative put-downs. The mature content rating is for mention of underage drinking and drug use; the violence rating is for mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Fight For Her by Liz Plum - OPTIONAL

Fight For Her by Liz Plum, 352 pages. Wattpad Books, 2021. $11.

Language: R (52 swears, 8 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

17yo Scarlet has a loving family, a popular boyfriend, and a great job, but she is afraid of any change that reminds her of the hole left in her heart from her brother’s death. As Scarlet starts to be truer to herself and what she wants, she risks the perfect balance of her life. Is it better to feel the pain and move forward or stay content with where she is?

As entertainment, this book does its job: high school drama, relationship issues, family secrets, gangs, cheesy lines -- there’s a little bit of everything. I was annoyed with Scarlet’s decisions most of the time, but Plum conveyed the reasons why, making Scarlet’s character arc feel realistic. I’m not going to read it again, but I don’t feel like my time was wasted on it. The mature content rating is for mentions of nudity, sex, and pornography; innuendo; underage drinking; and drug abuse. The violence rating is for boxing scenes, blood, gun use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas - ESSENTIAL

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez
by Adrianna Cuevas
, 288 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux (MacMillan), 2020. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

6th Grader Nestor Lopez has moved around all his life, his father is currently deployed, and this move was to Texas to live with his Abuela. It's always just a few months until they move again - this is his 10th first day of school and he's in 6th grade, so Nestor plans to lie low, not make friends and get by with his sketch book and his mom. But this place is different . . . Nestor has always been able to understand animals, but in Texas they are asking for help. There's a witch in the woods, and some people think it's Nestor's Abuela. 

I loved the realistic representation of a military kid, the worry about his dad, his "not unpacking all his boxes," the letters and books they exchange. The story was exciting, a good amount of magical realism with witches and a snake and talking animals, and danger! I'd love to see more of Nestor and hope there's a sequel.

Lisa Librarian

Lifting As We Climb by Evette Dionne - ADVISABLE

Lifting As We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box
by Evette Dionne,
 170 pages. NON-FICTION Viking (Penguin, Random House), 2020. $20. 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (discussions of lynching, torture, sexual assault) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

It wasn't just white women fighting for their rights to vote, black women fought as well, but their fight included battling not only for gender equity, for for social and racial as well. Even within the suffragette movement they had to fight for their cause, a cause still relevant today. 

 From abolitionists of the 1830's through the 2018 Governor's race in Georgia and into the future, Evette Dionne has presented a thorough Well researched with extensive bibliography and sources. Includes captioned photos and mini-biographies of the women involved, beautifully dovetailed into the powerful text.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn - HIGH

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
, 512 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2020. $19 

Language: R (66 swears, 7 “f”); Mature Content: PG (adultery, rape mentioned); Violence: PG (fighting demons) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

After her mom dies, Bree needs a complete change of scenery, so she enrolls in the pre-college program at UNC that she knows her mother didn’t want her to join. Her first night an older student from home invites Bree and her best friend Alice to a secret, illegal party near the cliffs. While the girls don’t drink and don’t join in the partying, disaster still strikes in the form of an inhuman monster – that no one but Alice seems to see. Now she’s been assigned an extremely hot mentor, Nick, who seems to be able to see the monsters too. Reluctantly – VERY reluctantly – Nick introduces Bree to the Legendborn – a line of demon hunters from the time of King Arthur. If Bree survives the trial sand is accepted, she would be the first Black member of the society. At the same time, however, she meets the Rootcrafters, a group that her mother used to belong to. They also have magic, but are against everything the Legendborn do. 

There is so much more to explain in Deonn’s tour de force. Her writing is way better than my summary. The twists you are encounter are so excellent unexpected, but really not, if you had been paying attention. I am thrilled that there is another book in the series coming. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly - ESSENTIAL

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly
, 320 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $18 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

It is almost time for the Queen to turn the reins of the kingdom over to Princess Sophie. The Queen, however, has other plans. Her Huntsman takes Sophie deep into the forest and carves out her heart. By some miracle, Sophie doesn’t die and when the dwarves find her, they fashion her a mechanical heart. It takes a betrayal from the palace, but Sophie finally realizes that no one is going to save her – so it is up to her to save herself and the kingdom. 

This is just a surface summary of Donnelly’s deep look into the world of Snow White. An excellent companion to Stepsister, Donnelly’s dive into the Cinderella story

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis - HIGH

Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis
, 336 pages. Inkyard (Harlequin), 2021. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears, 31 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (drinking, pot smoking, makeout session); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

16yo Jerzie James has just been handed the job of her dreams – almost. Actually, she’s been given the job as understudy to Cinny, the latest it-girl pop singer, in Stephen Sondheim’s new musical – a hip-hop, urban version of Romeo and Juliet. Now she is to spend her days at the 42nd Street Studios, watching Cinny and her hot Romeo, the newcomer Zeppelin, 19yo, just in case something goes wrong. There is an instant spark between Zeppelin and Jerzie – a spark Cinny seems to resent. And other complications and obstacles present themselves. 

You don’t have to love musical theater to enjoy this layered Romeo and Juliet remix (Spoiler – no deaths involved). It will make you wish that Roman and Jewel were really being produced, though. I will probably read this one again. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay - OPTIONAL

Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay
, 384 pages. Houghton Mifflan, 2020. $18 

Language: R (93 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

17yo River hates his life. He’s stuck on a reality show, competing to be the last person to tap out on a wilderness survival contest. A couple of days ago there was a devastating earthquake, and now River finds himself saddle with a not just one other competitor, but two others. Each competitor has ulterior motives, but it looks at those the rest of the world has disappeared and the virtual reality world seems to be manifesting their worst nightmares, they will have to be smart and support each other in order to survive. 

Reads like a high-lo offering for reluctant readers. The final twists get a little tricky to follow, and the technology glitches are a little hard to believe. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn - ADVISABLE

Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn
, 304 pages. Philomel (Penguin), 2020. $17 

Content: G (mild danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – OPTIONAL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Andrea’s little brother, Francis, has been missing for 3 years. Her parents are moving on, but Andrea can not let go. When she sneaks out of the house one night, she follows a glimmer in the woods – to a mysterious circus, full of children and of intriguing tents. Reverie: the Land of Dreams, it says. The price – just one dream or one memory. Andrea knows just what memory she wants to give, and she enters the circus, where she meets the Sandman, who is in charge, and Penny, who seems to want to be her friend. As she leans into the celebration, she can’t but think there is something important she has forgotten – something that her heart wants her to remember. 

Like the children who go to Pleasure Island in Pinocchio, the children in Reverie don’t realize they have given up something important. Circus of Stolen Dreams also reads dark, but it is a gentle way to hope that the kids who read it will think before they choose running away as the answer. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan - HIGH

I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan
, 368 pages. Albert Whitman, 2020. $19 

Language: R(90 swears, 0“f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

10 years ago, Dee and Sibby slipped off to play in the woods, only Sibby never came home. Now 17yo, Dee hangs on, still in the same town, if a different house, and hosts an anonymous podcast dedicated to telling the stories of missing people. When another little girl goes missing, attention focuses on Dee and on Sibby’s disappearance again. Everyone thinks Dee should get involved and her listeners think that the Seeker, Dee’s alterego, should also get involved. Then an email arrives – someone has seen Sibby. It was 5 years ago, but it is the first sighting ever. No one else may understand, but Dee really does want to find her friend – even if it puts her life in danger. 

Reminiscent of April Henry’s taut thrillers – plenty of tension, some red herrings, and good detective work. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery by Ally Carter - ADVISABLE

Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery (Winterborne #2) by Ally Carter, 352 pages. Houghton Mifflin, MARCH 2021. $15 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

April and the others try to keep things going at Winterborne Mansion, but Gabriel aches from Isabel’s desertion. When he disappears again, April is sure that something is wrong and that Gabriel needs their help. However, a visit from an aggressive social worker, the appearance of a man who says he’s April’s father, and a second Sentinel are highly distracting. 

 Lots of danger, lots of surprises, lots of layers – enough to be somewhat confusing at times. Carter seems to be aiming this to be a second Gallagher Girls series – I won’t give things away, but like the original, there are many layers that are just being revealed at the end this second volume. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi - OPTIONAL

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi
, 320 pages. Quill Tree (Harper), 2020. $17 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Mimi and her mother are spending the summer with her maternal grandparents in Karachi, Pakistan. In America they are poor, but in Pakistan they and are rich with a beautiful house and servants. One of those servants is Sakina, the young daughter of the cook. Sakina’s family is poor – if Abba (Dad) doesn’t go to his job, they will have no way to make money. Because Abba is sickly, Selena has to leave school in order to help him. As the girls get to know each other, the both have many questions. Eventually those questions are also for the adults in their lives. 

Faruqi gives us a peek into a very different life in a different part of the world . The girl’s alternate chapters, so we see Sakina as much as we do Mimi. The side story of Mimi’s estranged father is okay, but is really a distraction from the friendship of the girls. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage - ADVISABLE

The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage
, 384 pages. Shadow Mountain, 2020. $18 

Content: G (some danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Celia’s mother may be a librarian, but Celia hates reading – her dyslexia makes it almost impossible. Tyrus, the strange boy who secretly shelves library books, does love books. When the pair finds a box that has been in Celia’s family for generations – a box owned by Lewis Carroll, - yes, the author of the Alice books – Tyrus insists they attempt to open it. Thus starts a chain reaction, sending them tumbling into the very real Wonderland. There the pair face many challenges – because Wonderland is broken, and local lore says that only The Alice can save them.  Well, Celia is no Alice. 

Savage takes a fresh look at the Alice on Wonderland story, creating a unique continuation of Carroll's story. What if Carroll himself had visited Wonderland and what kind of changes had his visit made to the ones he left behind?

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Amari and the Night Brothers by B B Alston - ESSENTIAL

Amari and the Night Brothers by B B Alston
, 416 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2021. $18 Content: G (some danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Amari knows that her brother Quinton is alive, no matter what the mean girls at her school say. Poking around in his room, she finds his briefcase and also receives an invitation to audtion for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. What? Turns out Quinton is very famous in supernatural circles. And Amari is determined to suceed and rescue him no matter what the obstacles. With a dragon for a roommate and a revealed talent that is actually illegal, Amari has most of the supernatural world rooting for her to fail. 

Whoa! Fans of the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend will gobble this up next. Lots of danger, great twists, and plenty of magic! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Heroes Level Up by Tom O’Donnell - ESSENTIAL

Heroes Level Up (Homerooms & Hall Passes #2) by Tom O’Donnell
, 416 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2020. $17 

Content G (Some danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When the Briandalorian adventurers find June Westray’s cell phone in a random bazaar, they seek out Albiorix. Reluctantly, Albiorix reprises his role as Hall Master. But as the group prepares to go back to Suburbia, they must face the wilds of high school! The makers have created more difficult tasks – starting them as lowly freshmen and challenging them to throw epic parties, join winning teams and other such. All along, a group of unscrupulous Briandalorians are moving to thwart their every move. 

Huzzah! Welcome back to an epic twist on Dungeons and Dragons. I had a grand time adventuring with the gang. I have a feeling this is the last of the series, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to be wrong. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Tiffany D. Jackson - HIGH

Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Tiffany D. Jackson
, 336 pages. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2021. $18 

Language: PG-13 (42 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content:G ; Violence: PG-13 (beatings, cruelties of prison mentioned) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – ESSENTIAL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

In 1946, as a 20yo, Malcolm Little is sentenced to 8-10 years in prison for theft. Life in the Charlestown State Prison can be brutal, but there are also chances to learn and tentative friendships. Throughout he is supported by his extended family and encouraged by to learn about the Nation of Islam. He also looks back at what brought him to prison – the frivolity, the “hustles”, the racism, too. And we see him emerge, ready to be the Malcolm X who fights for human rights. 

X’s own daughter worked with the incomparable Jackson to write a narrative look at these extremely formative years. It is very conversational, quick to read. A great complement to his own autobiography. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee - ESSENTIAL

Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee
, 320 pages. Holiday House, 2020. $18 

Content: G (some deaths) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Sora wants to be in school, but instead she is laboring at home, being forced by her mother to learn how to be a good Korean wife and caring for her 8yo brother. As the Communists start to tighten their grip on the North of Korea, the family decides it is time to make the long trek to the south. Along the way, however, the family gets separated and Song will have to do all she can to get her brother to safety. 

I don’t want to say too much – your reader’s should discover the details of Song’s journey and the aftermath on their own. I love being immersed into the Korean war through the eyes of a local – no American savior’s here. There is plenty of real danger here, and a lovely story of a girl rising above her “place”. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS https://amzn.to/3aDut1j

They Went Left by Monica Hesse - AVERAGE

They Went Left by Monica Hesse
, 384 pages. Little Brown, 2020. $18 

Language: R (9 swears, 4 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (sexual situations); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

18yo Zofia survived the Holocaust – only she and her younger brother Abek were told to go left, while the rest of her family went right – into the gas chambers. Liberated, Zofia, despite her poor health, is traveling throughout Germany and Poland in search of Abek. She finds a place in a displaced persons camp. She also finds a variety of friendships, including the enigmatic Josef, who intrigues her on a personal level. There are many levels of lies – to one’s self, to others, in order to protect the body and the heart. 

Hesse has given us a mature look at the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust. Very nuanced writing, the main characters are new adult aged – older in audience than Hesse’s other books I’ve read. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee - HIGH

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
, 400 pages. Houghton Mifflin, 2020. $18 

Language: R (100+ swears, 22 “f”); Mature Content: PG (allusions); Violence: PG-13 (racial slurs, war deaths) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

14 teenagers formed a wide-ranging group of friends and family in San Francisco in 1941. Then Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. Now, the only thing that seems to matter is that they are of Japanese descent – the enemy. Rounded up and incarcerated, they try to build new lives for themselves in harsh, unwarranted conditions. Through their eyes we see many different actions, choices, and indignities. 

A great choice for a high school classroom read for American history especially. I appreciate an honest look at the incarceration camps leveled at older teens instead of younger children. Definitely a 9th grade and up book. So well done! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Real by Carol Cujec - ADVISABLE

Real by Carol Cujec
, 304 pages. Shadow Mountain, 2021. $17 

Content: G (1 swear) 

 BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Charity knows she is labeled with low functioning autism. She can walk some, she can sometimes dress herself, but words don’t come out of her mouth, she can rarely control her hands, and if she is frustrated she has EXPLOSIONS (as she calls them). No one knows that inside her head she understands and retains everything. If there were some way she could let the world know what she has inside. But some, who are embarrassed by, wary of Charity don’t want her in school with “normal” kids and are willing to lie to drive her out. 

Cujec tells us the struggles of a personal friend through a fictional lens. Definite lessons here to listen to every child carefully and work together to support them. I think adults should read this and evaluate their behavior toward every student. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Double the Danger, Zero the Zucchini by Betsy Uhrig - ESSENTIAL

Double the Danger, Zero the Zucchini by Betsy Uhrig
, 291 pages. McElderry (Simon), 2021. $18 

Content: G (mild danger) 

 BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Alex Harmon prefers to run over sitting still and reading. When his Aunt Lu asks him to be a test reader for her book, he is quite rightfully bored. But if she can spice it up, she has a willing agent. Alex, with the help of his friends, has ideas for a totally new direction for the book. He is even willing to risk life and limb to try out the major stunts he proposes! Alex’s antics had me laughing out loud! 

 I can’t believe this is Uhrig’s first book – she had me cracking up and reading many parts out loud to my student aide (yes – loved it so much that I just had to sneak reading during the school day. Here’s one brilliant part for you: “You know, most times when a person says, ‘I think I’ll write a book’ the next thing you say isn’t ‘Uh-oh, someone’s going to get hurt.” Now go read it! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Love, Jacaranda by Alex Flinn - ADVISABLE

Love, Jacaranda by Alex Flinn, narrated by Caitlin Davies
. Harper Teen, 2020. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Jacaranda is a high school junior, a foster kid, and her mother is in prison. When a video of her singing goes viral, however, she receives a scholarship to a very prestigious performing arts boarding school. At school, as she tells her benefactor through letters, she finds joy in music, enemies in the school’s mean girls, and a handsome boy. 

Showing my age, I recognize this as a modern reworking of Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Flinn does so well with reworking the original , like 2018’s A Star is Born – an homage, not a copy – all the important themes and motifs retained, but a flair that makes it stand on its own. A worthy addition to any library with a busy romance-loving clientele. The audiobook was provided by The King’s English Bookshop through libro.fm. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS https://amzn.to/39URJbI

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Blood Sworn (Ashlords #2) by Scott Reintgen - ESSENTIAL

Blood Sworn (Ashlords #2) by Scott Reintgen
, 384 pages. Crown (Random), 2021. $18. 

Language: G (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (bloody fighting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Ashlord Pippa and Longhand Adrian are on opposite sides of the battle for control of their world. Dividian Imelda, who escaped the race (the first ever to leave in the middle), is also working for the Longhands, bringing back long forgotten alchemical mixes for the phoenix horses – mixes that can turn the tide. But there are deeper secrets that the gods have hidden from both sides for 100’s of years – secrets that will echo throughout history and be exposed and exploited in the present day. 

 Hooray! Reintgen has woven a clever story that includes unanticipated depths and twists, making for a thoroughly enjoyable wild ride. There’s no way even modern CGI could do the phoenix horses justice, but these books would make a great movie. Unfortunately, this is only a duology – I’d love to read much more about this world. I think I’ll have to search for fanfic! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley - HIGH

If These Wings Could Fly
by Kyrie McCauley
, 400 pages. Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2020. $18. 

Language: R (33 swears 22 Fs); Mature Content: PG13 (Teen intimacy); Violence: R (Domestic abuse). 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

High school senior Leighton has just this year to figure out what to do. She really wants to leave for college after graduation, but things at home are scary. Leighton's father, who was a football star in High School, and now runs a failing construction company is volatile, unpredictable and dangerous. Leighton fears what will happen if she's not there to protect her younger sisters. 

 I was caught up in the story right from the beginning. A terrifying look into a family struggling to survive their abusive father, it is a comment on family, small towns, football, and law enforcement, as well as victims feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and love. So many layers to this story that I can't go into in a short review. There's a great love story woven in with Leighton and the football star Liam. Contains a bit of magical realism as the crows and the house interact with the family. "If These Wings Could Fly" is a heartbreaking debut novel that will certainly build empathy with those who have not had this terrifying experience, and help those who have, know they are are not alone.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, February 8, 2021

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman - HIGH

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
, 400 pages. Quill Tree (Harper), 2021. $18. 9780061998676 

Language: R (100+ swears, 13 “f”); Mature Content: PG (girlfriend mental abuse); Violence: PG-13 (some fighting, some blood) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Ash, short for Ashley, lives a pretty normal life at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. At school. However, he is a valued member of the football team. Then one hard hit on the football field sends his universe out of whack. Actually, it sends the whole universe out of whack. At first the differences seem to be very small, but another hit sends Ash farther off course. With some tutoring from a group of mystic beings, Ash has a chance to right everything. But choosing incorrectly could end Ash’s universe forever. 

I am not going to tell you the several ways that Ash’s different universes change, but Shusterman has remained true to his brilliance at crafting books with many, many layers. The twists come at just the right pace – Shusterman has managed to address some very important issues – racism, homophobia, date abuse – through these layers. I can’t wait to read it again. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Recommended for You by Laura Silverman - ADVISABLE

Recommended for You by Laura Silverman
, 260 pages. McElderry (Simon), 2020. $18 

Language: G (5 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Shoshanna loves her job at the Once Upon bookstore in Wakesville, GA. When her boss asks her to teach a new hire the ropes, she is eager, but the boy, Jake, is diffident – he doesn’t even LIKE reading! Besides the tension at work now, there is tension at home. First, her beloved car Barbra Streisand is effectively DOA. But more importantly, her Mom and Mama are having problems, so there is lots of tension at home. When Once Upon’s owner announces a $250 bonus for the person who sells the most books during the Christmas rush, Jake and Shoshanna go head to head. But there are even more pressing problems - for the store may be closing. 

The budding romance between Jake and Shoshanna is framed nicely to the various tensions surrounding the pair. While definitely a romance, there are plenty of other events to keep the action rolling. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood - HIGH

It Sounded Better in My Head
by Nina Kenwood,
272 pages. Flatiron Books, 2020. $19

Language: R (1 swear, 5 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (teen sexual situations, teen drinking) Violence: G.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

18yo Natalie has always felt "less than." When she was in her early teens she had pretty severe acne. Now, it's under control, but her self image and the scars on her back are keeping her from being the outgoing funny person she could be.  Her best friends Zach and Lucy are in a relationship with each other, and while Natalie doesn't mind being a third wheel, it's still awkward. But a family beach retreat (with Zach's family) over New Years provides some unexpected sleeping arrangements, and suddenly Natalie finds herself it what might be her first romance. But can she let things happen naturally, or is her self confidence going to sabotage it?

Nina Kenwood's debut novel is a treat.  Natalie is so funny and sweet, I would have loved her as a best friend in high school.  A great teen rom-com but definitely on the mature side, nothing graphic on page, but there are certainly a lot of mature conversations and situations.  Too mature for my middle schoolers, but for older YA readers - - they will love it, I did. 

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok - OPTIONAL

Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok, 359 pgs. Tor Teen, 2019. $10.

Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (multiple murders and descriptions of corpses in a mortuary).

BUYING ADVISORY: MS,HS-
OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL-AVERAGE 

In 1887, Nathalie Baudin writes the mortuary column for a Parisian newspaper with the responsibility of recounting each day’s arrival to the city morgue. One day when viewing the body of a young woman, who has been murdered, Nathalie experiences a vision where she sees the murder from the perspective of the murderer. Horrified, she tries to cope with this experience as more bodies and more visions appear. Using her visions to try and bring justice to the victims will bring her to the attention of the authorities and a killer.

A book that is riddled with historical inaccuracies and a sense of the supernatural without much explanation or logic leads the reader to become quickly frustrated. The main character suffers an intense vision where she experiences committing murder through the murderer’s eyes and when she recounts it to friends and family, they accept this phenomenon without hesitation. Prior to this occurrence, no information for a Paris that contains supernatural elements has been set up leaving the reader feeling as though something has been left out of the narrative. As the story progresses more elements of the supernatural are woven into the plot without any time spent world-building a Paris that has all the aspects of the true city, but also a city where scientific experiments involving the manipulation of the human soul to develop superpowers are advertised in the newspaper. Confusion over the rules to this alternate Paris and how the fantasy and reality coexist overwhelm any sense of horror that the author attempts to create. 

Reviewer: AEB

Migrants by Issa Watanabe - HIGH

 Migrants by Issa Watanabe. PICTURE BOOK. Gecko Press, 2021. $19. 9781776573134 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Migrants are depicted as all different kinds of animals as they journey through harsh conditions to a safe land while Death follows respectfully behind them. 

Watanabe's wordless work may need some front loading for smaller children. The illustrations are colorful and exquisite; bright colors on a black background. This would be a thoughtful jumping off book to discuss migrants and issues they face without getting too graphic or in your face. It’s a gentle book that makes one think, and a great way to jump start discussions. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Hidden Wonders! A Can You See What I See? by Walter Wick - HIGH

 Hidden Wonders! A Can You See What I See? by Walter Wick. PICTURE BOOK. Cartwheel (Scholastic). 2021. $15. 9781338686715 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

By the co-creator of the “I Spy Books,” comes a truly wondrous book of finding objects. The pictures are magical and I enjoyed just looking at them. A great addition for those who like this genre and are looking for a fun diversion. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell by Jordan Sonnenblick - HIGH

The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell by Jordan Sonnenblick
, 206 pages. Scholastic, 2021. $18. 

 Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL/MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Jordan’s 4th grade year is anything but smooth. His teacher hates him. For reals. He has asthma, his snake gives birth to oodles of baby snakes who need a home, and there are bullies. Good news is that learning to play the drums is cool, even if it’s harder than Jordan initially thought it would be. 

This is a humorous memoir of Sonnenblick’s fourth grade year. It’s more of a slice of life than a plotted story, but the humor makes it fun. This story reminds us what it’s like to be a student and the difficulties and even joy of navigating challenging situations. And who knows? Reading about Jordan’s life adventures might inspire you to jot down some of yours. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit - HIGH

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit
, 360 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), 2020. $19. 

Language: G (2 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Yehuda Leib and Bluma, two children of a tiny village called Tupik, encounter the Angel of Death. This sends them on a dangerous journey through the Far Country, where demons dwell. To survive, they must make pacts with ancient demons as they try to achieve what each seeks, and to find the way back out. 

Since this story draws from Jewish folk tradition, readers not familiar with Jewish traditions may find parts of the book confusing. However, the prose is beautifully written. The Far Country is a perilous place and there are lots of unhappy dead. The premise is interesting and thought provoking, and will raise questions about what it means to truly live and whether Death is friend or foe or both. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Gridiron by Fred Bowen and James E. Ransome - ESSENTIAL

Gridiron: Stories From 100 Years of the National Football League by Fred Bowen, illustrated by James E. Ransome
. NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK. Simon & Schuster. 2020. $20. 9781481481120 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Football stories follow the creation of the NFL to the Super Bowl of today. The league began in an automobile showroom and was decimated during World War II. Stories range from the Ice Bowl to advances in the game. 

 As a fringe football fan, I wasn’t sure about this book, but it sucked me in. The stories were well written and engaging and the art phenomenal. The stories were just the right length. This is a great book to spark interest in football and true fans will either remember some of the greats or use this as a jumping off place to learn even more. These stories are interesting whether or not you like football. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein - ADVISABLE

Turtle Boy
by M. Evan Wolkenstein.
392 pages. Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House), 2020. $17 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY:, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

7th grader Will Levine loves turtles. Some of the kids at school call him Turtle Boy - but not because of his pets, it's because he has a funny looking chin. His Rabbi is helping him get his 40 hours of service for his Bar Mitzva, and arranges for Will to meet RJ, a teen a bit older than Will who is hospitalized and needs a friend. RJ is outgoing and a bit much for Will initially, but as their friendship grows, RJ helps Will "get out of his shell" by asking him to complete the last few things on RJ's bucket list. 

I liked the range of differences in this book. Will's needing surgery for his chin, RJ's Mitochondrial Disease, and even Will's friend Max was dealing with something. Some good issues addressed as well, death of a parent or friend, our fragile ecosystem (yes, Will's turtles were taken from the wild), health and emotional concerns, and fear of the unknown. The subplot of contractors taking over a beloved park has been in several books I've read this year, so I spotted that resolution right away. Over all, a nice read - Jewish kids will appreciate all the cultural and religious references.

Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War and Survival
by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess,
 368 pages. MEMOIR Bloomsbury, 2020, $20 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (kissing); Violence: R (war violence, severe injuries, talk of rape camps) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

16yo Amra is Muslim and lived in the city of Bihac when war broke out in Bosnia in 1992. Suddenly her city was under siege and her relatively normal life turned upside down. But a stray cat who follows her home is a bit of a miracle, giving comfort to Amra and her family, and being the cause of several events that "saved them> " Maci the cat becomes the thread that holds this family together for 4 long, dangerous and difficult years. 

A sweet love story, loving family dynamics, and Amra's grit and determination punctuate this heartbreaking, yet hopeful memoir about the effects of war on a girl, her family and her town. At times difficult to read because of the horror of the war -finding victims of bombs or soldiers who confront her and threaten sexual assault - The Cat I Never Named was emotional and poignant and I gained a different understanding of the war and the plight of refugees from Bosnia.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and R. Gregory Christie - ESSENTIAL

Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.
NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. McElderry (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $18. 9781534406230 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ella Baker listened carefully all her life and she kept asking – What do you want to accomplish? Her personal motto was “Lift as you climb”. As a black woman, she had little voice – even in the black organizations she supported and lifted. But regardless of this, she kept listening, asking, climbing and lifting to raise the lives of all blacks and all humanity. I loved this look at someone I’ve never heard of. Someone I should have heard of. Great addition to a diverse collection of civil rights and social justice books. A treatise on leading a movement and on how to be a human. Christie’s illustrations are bright and styled perfectly to emphasize Baker’s energy and work. There are a few pages that I wished the words were black instead of white, as they are hard to read. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

When Sharks Attack with Kindness by Andres J. Colmenares - ADVISABLE


When Sharks Attack with Kindness
by Andres J. Colmenares
, 126 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2021. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Colmenares has created a collection of cartoons featuring ocean animals, especially a great white shark and his best friend, a pilot fish. While giving readers snapshots into their lives under the water, Colmenares invites readers to find ways to be a friend to those around you.

Honestly, there is nothing about this book not to like as Colmenares gives readers opportunities to laugh and be inspired by goodness. Every page is full of puns, encouragement, and kindness: the recipe for friendship -- whether under or above water.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Catherine's War by Julia Billet and Claire Fauvel - ESSENTIAL

Catherine's War
by Julia Billet and Claire Fauvel
, 166 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Harper Alley (Harper Collins), 2020. $13. 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Rachel Cohen lives in the Sevres Children's Home near Paris. She loves photography and has learned how to use the dark room from one of the teachers they call Penguin. Penguin has given her a beautiful camera. Rachel is Jewish, and the school, faced with endangering the children gives Rachel and the others false papers and new names and distribute them to other orphanages in France. Rachel, now called Catherine, is allowed to take the special camera and records her experiences over the next 4 years as she is one step ahead of being discovered by the Germans. 

Translated from French and based on the experiences of Julia Billet's mother, this is a hopeful WWII story about a Jewish girl hiding in plain sight. Fauvel's full color illustrations are great. The story flows well even though characters go in and out of her story quickly. Tension and peril without war scenes make this appropriate for even upper elementary, although Catherine seems to be older. Contains photographs and a Q&A at the end. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, February 1, 2021

Revenge of the Sluts by Natalie Walton - HIGH


Revenge of the Sluts
by Natalie Walton
, 328 pages. Wattpad Books, 2021. $11.

Language: R (72 swears, 56 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

As executive editor for the school paper on top of all her classes and college applications, Eden expected to stay busy, but nothing could have prepared her for Nudegate. When a student sends nude photos of seven students to everyone at St. Joe’s, no one knows what to do. Eden knows it’s important to uncover what’s happening and why, but how can she report the truth when obstacles continue to pop up?

Walton has written a book about the real issues of cyberbullying, specifically with sharing nude photographs originally sent in confidence, and slut shaming in a tasteful way that explores several points of view, from liberal to conservative. While I was appalled by the actions -- and, in some cases, the lack thereof -- taken by characters in the story, I was made uncomfortable by their poor responses to the situation and not by the situation itself because I was forced to figure out what side of the issue I would take in a similar situation. Eden’s story is well-written as it highlights when to stand up for the truth and how bad things are often glazed over because no one is willing to say they were wrong. Walton, through Eden and her classmates, encourages readers to not stand idly by; you can make a change for the better. The mature content rating is for underage drinking; drugs; and mentions of nudity, sex, pornography, sex tapes, and genitalia.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Lupe Wong Won't Dance by Donna Barba Higuera - ESSENTIAL

Lupe Wong Won't Dance
by Donna Barba Higuera,
256 pages. Levine Querido, 2020. $18 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

7th grader Lupe is an athlete. She expects to the be the first female pitcher in the major leagues, so P.E. is obviously her best subject. Until . . . there's a square dancing unit! Lupe is shocked, dancing in PE? She'd rather run laps. She complains to the PE teacher, her mom, even the principal, but the school has been teaching this unit for years and there are no plans to change it now. Lupe has other ideas. As she starts looking into reasons not to have square dancing, she learns some unexpected information that may hold the possibility for shutting down the unit altogether. 

I loved Lupe's attitude. Even after most of her concerns were met with accommodations, she wasn't about to give up - on either her protest or keeping her A in PE. I loved that her friendships were complicated, I loved her mother and her grandparents, and the support characters and their issues. A solid middle grade read, however, there are some references to STDs, racism and white supremacy. Also, Lupe's father has died, so she's grieving as well.

Lisa Librarian