Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson - OPTIONAL

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson
, 405 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2021. $19

Language: R (12 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG - 13; Violence: PG - 13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Kat and Stevie are seniors, theater nerds, & best friends who are complete opposites. They decide to sneak away to spend an awesome night in NYC. They will see a show, peek at some celebrities, eat a bougie dinner and return to the suburbs with their parents none the wiser. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out, nearly everything - they don’t have phones, they don’t have purses, and when they get separated, they don’t even have each other. Can Stevie and Kat get back together before their wild night out falls apart? 

As someone who needs to have an itinerary, parking options, and driving directions before I go adventuring, this whole novel was anxiety-inducing. I can’t imagine being lost in a city and left to my own devices. However, it was fun and exciting (albeit totally implausible) to see what each girl got up to, and I was pleased to see their character growth as a result. It was a lot for one night, but I could see this book being appealing to teenage girls, especially those who are trying to decide future paths. 

 Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Glimpsed by G.F. Miller - OPTIONAL

Glimpsed by G.F. Miller
, 374 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2021. $20

Language: PG - 13 (14 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Charity is a fairy godmother. Not the poofy dress/sparkly wand type but rather a teenage cheerleader socialite who makes dreams happen for her “Cindys” a.k.a. Cinderellas. However when one of the wishes she orchestrated goes down in flames, it forces Charity to reconsider all of her life’s work so far. Can she actually get everyone a real HEA, even herself? 

At one point, I was going to toss this book across the room if I had to Google one more teeny-bopper Disney heartthrob namedrop, however, this book ended up surprising me. I loved Charity’s willingness to reevaluate her misconceptions and I loved how Noah’s geeky family was so unapologetic in their nerdiness. This is a super cute opposites-attract high school romance with a supernatural twist, however, beware of lots of Star Trek references, lots and lots of Star Trek. 

 Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

As If On Cue by Marisa Kanter - OPTIONAL

As If On Cue
by Marisa Kanter, 
389 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2021. $20. 

Language: R (99 swears 2 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (sexual teasing); Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

17yo Natalie has been competing with Reid for 10 years - he's her dad's clarinet student, and they've been pranking each other since they were kids. This year, due to budget cuts, there is no drama club. The only club the school is funding is Band, good for Reid, but bad for Natalie; she has written a play - "Melted" a parody of "Frozen" but with no budget or advisor the school doesn't plan to produce a play this year. Until one of Natalie's pranks gets out of hand, and Reid's answering prank also causes a lot of trouble - the school's answer? Make them work together as co-directors of "Melted" and make it a musical by making Reid write the score. 

The pranks were sometimes funny, but often terrible, even though they had agreed that the pranks weren't supposed to be mean, when they turned out that way Natalie seemed surprised because that wasn't her intention. I had trouble liking Natalie - she was just too much. There were also a lot of characters - lots of kids in the cast and Nat's friend group. I also hate when the school leaves the production up to the kids, puts an adult without theater experience in charge and they don't supervise; too much pressure on the kids and not a realistic example of a student production. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner - ADVISABLE

 

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner, 317 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL Simon and Schuster, 2021. $21.99.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

  Vega's two dads have moved her to Seattle, Washington and she is struggling about leaving her best friend behind. In an attempt to help Vega get to know new people, her dads sign her up for a summer camp.  Vega feels socially awkward, and the camp has a weird vibe, but slowly she starts to make new friends. The new friends also notice that there is a boy who seems to live at the camp full time and the counselors aren't who they appear.  The clues are stacking up to make this the weirdest summer camp any of the campers have ever attended.

     I loved Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner, so I was excited to read this.  I liked Fake Blood better as this gets way out there and at a point I felt like I was watching a Saturday morning cartoon gone wrong. However, I like Vega and I think her struggles socially are something most kids can relate to.  Although the plot gets very sci-fi strange, I enjoyed the unpredictable plot.  The image are well done, bright and attractive and for those kids who devour graphic novels, this book will be a hit.

Reviewer, C. Peterson


Monday, November 22, 2021

Camp by L.C. Rosen - NO

Camp by L.C. Rosen
374 pages. Little, Brown and Company, 2020 $18.

Language: PG-13 (70 swears; 1 'f'); Mature Content: R (Sexual references, sexual innuendo, on page sex) Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: NO

16 yo Randy has had a crush on campmate Hudson ever since he started coming to Camp Outland (a camp for queer teens) when he was twelve. But Hudson likes boys who are more masculine, so this year, Randy returns to camp as "Del", a masc version of himself, ready to win Hudson's heart and become his boyfriend. But that means Randy also gives up some of the things he loves best about camp, mostly the camp musical - his theater friends are surprised but supportive. His plan seems to work - Hudson asks him out right away, but how far is Randy willing to go, and how much will he have to change for Hudson. 

"Camp" is funny, and a great use of the "changing yourself for love" trope. I hate that in many YA novels the gay kids are the theater kids, so it was nice to see a story that was more rounded that way. The message of be who you are took a long time to develop, but it had a satisfying ending. There was a lot of gay culture talk and references, I liked the gay history lectures the kids attended at the end of the day. Too explicit for a school library. 

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Queen Will Betray You by Sarah Henning - ADVISABLE

The Queen Will Betray You
(Kingdoms of Sand and Sky #2) by Sarah Henning
, 352 pages. Tor Teen, 2021. $18 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13 (battles, lots of blood and guts and talk of torture, moderately graphic) 

BUYING ADVISORY:, MS - OPTIONAL, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

As Amarande and Luca part ways, Amarande returns to her kingdom only to discover that she has been declared dead, that her mother - the runaway Queen - has returned with a brother she didn't know about and has installed him as king. Rescued from the tower in which she has been imprisoned , the princess and her arch enemy, Taillefer, embark on another adventure to reunite with Luca, and save the kingdoms from a pair of evil queens bent on taking over everything. 

While just as exciting and action packed as "The Princess Will Save You," "The Queen Will Betray You" was full of back story connecting all the pieces needed for - most likely - book 3. While age appropriate for middle school, the number of sub plots and the age of the characters and as well as the number of sub plots and characters fits this better to a high school library. 

Lisa Librarian

Friday, November 19, 2021

Needle and Thread by David Pinckney and Ennum Ana Iurov - ADVISABLE

Needle and Thread
by David Pinckney and Ennum Ana Iurov,
200 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Mad Cave Studios, 2021. $20 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Noah is a Senior this year, and his parents are anxious that he get his applications in for college. Ideally, they would love for him to go to UCLA, but that's not what Noah wants. Noah wants to sew, he'd love to attend Stonewell, an arts college. But his parents don't approve. Azarie is the Mayor's daughter - she's perfect in every way - - model daughter, head cheerleader, contending for Valedictorian, lots of "only the best" friends - but that's not who she really is. She loves cosplay, and is friends with Noah - but her parents don't approve. 

Engaging story - I loved the "Trending Hashtags" previewing each chapter. Iruov's illustrations were great - it felt animated, rather than just drawn - the angry faces were my favorite. Yes, there's lots of friend drama, but I feel Needle and Thread would appeal more to the Middle School crowd than the high schoolers. Will certainly purchase. 

Lisa Librarian

Tu Youyou’s Discovery: Finding a Cure for Malaria by Soungju Ma Daemicke and Lin - ADVISABLE

 Tu Youyou’s Discovery: Finding a Cure for Malaria by Soungju Ma Daemicke, illustrated by Lin. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Albert Whitman, 2021. $17. 9780807581117 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

After a serious bout with tuberculosis in the 1940s when she was 15, Tu knew that she wanted to be a medical researcher and help others heal too. When malaria made a huge resurgence in China, and wasn’t being cured by typical Western medications, Tu looked into Chinese herbal medicines. It took her and her team several years, but they finally find a plant and a preparation that did the trick. It wasn’t until 2015 that Youyou was recognized for her persistence. 

A great look at the process for compounding treatments, the contribution of herbal medicine to modern medicine, and, of course, the undervalued work of women in even the recent past. While the illustrations are childish, the information is still well worth reading with a middle school, especially if your science classes cover any of the topics. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use by Sara Levine and Kate Slater - ESSENTIAL

 A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use by Sara Levine, illustrated by Kate Slater. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Millbrook (Lerner), 2021. $20. 9781541587342 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Fascinating! Levine tells us about all kinds of birds and their useful beaks. Slater’s illustrations compliment the text perfectly. Any age science class that talks about adaptations can fit this in with glee. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Graceling (graphic novel) by Kristin Cashore - ADVISABLE

Graceling by Kristin Cashore, 272 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Clarion Books, 2021. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Katsa has been graced with the ability to kill, making her valuable to her uncle, the king. He sends her out to do his bidding, though she doesn’t always agree with the missions the king sends her on. When Katsa meets Po, he gives her a way out, if only Katsa can bring herself to trust him.

I first read the novel Graceling a decade ago, and I’ve reread it a few times since then. I could not have been more thrilled to see it come to life as a graphic novel. Yes, a few things had to be changed and simplified for the adaptation, but the same compelling characters and fascinating world of higher abilities are portrayed. Being able to see the imagined world and getting a new taste of the story I’ve enjoyed reading made me find a full length copy to reread yet again. I have no doubt that readers new to Katsa’s story will enjoy this graphic novel as much as the loyal fans. The violence rating is for frequent murder and battle gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball by Madison Moore and Lonnie Ollivierre - ADVISABLE

More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball by Madison Moore, illustrated by Lonnie Ollivierre. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Albert Whitman, 2021. $17. 9780807552711 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Basketball originated within the walls of the segregated YMCAs in the late 1890’s. Soon it was played by all over the U.S. – even by Blacks, who had first been left out. Before the formation of the NBA, Black players formed Black Fives teams to play each other and also some white teams. Now more than 70% of the NBA players are Black. 

I loved the introduction to the Black Fives and their place in basketball history. The denser text makes this a book best for older elementary students, and can perhaps reach up to middle school in places with a robust picture book collection. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Of Daggers and Deception by A. L. Sowards - OPTIONAL

Of Daggers and Deception by A. L. Sowards, 238 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Sixteen years ago, Rasheed was disowned by his family for kissing a girl promised to someone else. Since then, Rasheed has found a new family, fought and won impossible battles, and bought a bathhouse. When an attractive woman (promised to someone else) and his brother show up in the same day, Rasheed’s life makes another permanent turn -- for better or for ill, only God knows.

Sowards tears at her readers’ hearts as we, alongside the characters, struggle to understand who is friend and who is foe -- and who has been killed in the meantime. I admire how Sowards is able to place her characters naturally into little-known historical settings, but I admit that I skimmed over some of the more political-heavy details. Don’t get bogged down in the details and let yourself feel the hope and betrayal, the desperation and faith of these characters. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, mention of brothels, and the implied threat of rape; the violence rating is for murder and battle gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sea Lions in the Parking Lot by Lenora Todaro and Annika Siems - HIGH

 Sea Lions in the Parking Lot: Animals on the Move in a Time of Pandemic by Lenora Todaro, illustrated by Annika Siems. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Minedition, 2021. $19. 9781662650499 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When people went inside in the early days of Covid-19, the animals responded pretty quickly by moving in to the usually loud people spaces. Todaro introduces us to 12 instances of animals seen in unusual places. 

A fun look at how nature moves in when man retreats. Todaro includes a couple of paragraphs int eh back about animals who were more in trouble because poachers were bolder during this time. My only gripe – Todaro should have done a better job of citing her sources for the stories on the pages. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Monday, November 15, 2021

An Accidental Romance by Karen Tuft - OPTIONAL

An Accidental Romance by Karen Tuft, 237 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Rebecca has taken the shortcut through Mr. Arnold’s property countless times without mishap, so, of course, this crossing must result in a broken ankle only two days before she should be off to London for her first Season. Ben feels terrible for startling Miss Rebecca and causing her disappointment, and now he feels he must make it up to her when all he really wanted was to be alone. Rebecca and Ben now have to decide if what they thought they wanted is still desirable.

Rebecca and Ben are delightful characters who surprise readers with their contrast of levity and depth. While not all the details of the story comply with purported standards of the time period, Tuft’s book is entertaining. One of the best parts was discovering mid-read that it’s a companion novel to her book The Duke Meets His Match and includes character overlap -- a fact that also explains some of the story’s ridiculousness.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

We Want to go to School! by Maryann Cocca-Leffler and Janine Leffler - ADVISABLE

 We Want to go to School! The fight for disability rights by Maryann Cocca-Leffler and Janine Leffler. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Albert Whitman, 2021. $17. 9780807535189 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

As recently as the 1970’s, children in the United States with disabilities were rarely allowed inside schools, or in regular classrooms. Then a group of families in in the District of Columbia filed a class action law suit against their school district, demanding the right for their disabled children to attend school. 

Cocca-Leffler and her daughter Janine, born with cerebral palsy, give us an excellent, easy to understand look at one of the two landmark cases that changed the lives of children in the U.S. forever. I didn’t know that the seven families that started the original court case were all Black, the parents having been affected by Brown vs Board of Education. Any easy purchase for any school that covers the topic. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Shipwreck Reefs by Aimee M. Bisonette and Adele Leyris - ADVISABLE

 Shipwreck Reefs by Aimee M. Bisonette, illustrated by Adele Leyris. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Albert Whitman, 2021. $18. 9780807512876 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

While nature can create reefs from build-ups of coral, man has helped ref building through the many shipwrecks and purposefully-wrecked items around the ocean floors. 

Bisonette’s writing makes me want to become a certified scuba diver so that I can explore reefs around the world. The variety is so enticing! She includes a lot of interesting information and includes the man-made pollution problems that are affecting reefs. This one would also be of interest to older students, I believe. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

How to make a Book (About My Dog) by Chris Barton and Sarah Horne - ESSENTIAL

 

How to make a Book (About My Dog) by Chris Barton, illustrated by Sarah Horne. PICTURE BOOK. Millbrook Press (Lerner), 2021. $20. 9781541581289 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Chris Barton (and the whole publishing team) gives us a behind the scenes look at what it take to publish a book – this one about his dog, Ernie. With his usual wit and the support dynamic of Horne’s illustrations, we a easily understandable book, that is also a lot of fun. I would use this in any school that has a creative writing class. Truly one to share with everyone! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Hold the Flag High by Catherine Clinton and Shane W. Evans - ESSENTIAL

 Hold the Flag High: The True Story of the First Black Medal of Honor Winner by Catherine Clinton, illustrated by Shane W. Evans. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Katherine Tegan (Harper), 2021. $8 (paperback reprint from 2005). 9780060504304 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

William Carney was a soldier of the 54th Massachusetts regiment – an all Black Civil War company. During their most famous battle, Carney grabbed the flag when the flag bearer was shot and rallied the troops to protect it and keep fighting. 

Another nice dimension to stories of the Civil War of also of Black heroism. You should be proud to share this story with any age. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

After She Falls by Carmen Schober - OPTIONAL

After She Falls by Carmen Schober, 368 pages. Bethany House Publishers, 2021. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

25yo Adri wants to leave her mistakes behind when she moves back in with her uncle, but Sparta is too small a town to avoid those she knew before and the rumors running rampant now. As she starts boxing again and opens up about the last six years she’s been away, Adri makes a couple steps forward. However, the fear and mistakes that haunt her aren’t going away easily. Not without making Adri face her toughest fight yet.

On the one hand, Adri’s story is inspiring in that she chooses to go after her abandoned dreams even though they’re harder to reach now. On the other hand, I quickly got tired of the constant wishy-washiness of the main characters. They rehashed the same issue every other chapter, and I found it annoying. Setting the slow, repetitiveness of that issue aside, I liked how Adri’s story is as much about faith as it is about fighting. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, mentions of sex, and innuendo. The violence rating is for domestic violence and frequent MMA fighting.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Across The Desert by Dusti Bowling - ESSENTIAL

Across The Desert by Dusti Bowling,
310 pages. Little, Brown and Company, 2021. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Jolene watches "Desert Aviator" a live stream of "Addie Earhart" who flies her ultralight across the Arizona Desert. Jolene wishes she could be an adventurer like Addie. But one day, Jolene witnesses Addie crash the ultralight, and as possibly Addie's only viewer/fan - it's up to Jolene to get help. But she doesn't know Addie's real name, and couldn't tell where the ultralight went down, only that it's in the Alamo Lake Area. With only vague details to go by, no one will believe her, and she has to be careful - she doesn't want to risk anyone coming to her house to check on her story - Jolene's mom is addicted to opioids, and Jolene is afraid of being put into foster care. So, once her mom goes back to sleep, Jolene sets off on an impossible rescue, to find her friend who is over 100 miles away, hurt and alone in the desert. 

Bowling captured me on the first page and I couldn't put it down. Not just a survival story, "Across the Desert" is also about friendship, and trust, and dealing with an addicted family member (one who should be taking care of you). Bowling has a great note at the end with a message of hope to readers who may be dealing with issues similar to Jolene's. I would love to know if she walked through the desert alone at night for research - because I was right there with Jolene, hearing all the sounds and feeling just as anxious. Definitely buying. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

City of Illusion by Victoria Ying - ADVISABLE

 City of Illusion by Victoria Ying, 252 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Viking (Penguin Random House). 2021. $15

Language: PG (5 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In the follow up novel to City of Secrets, Evan Barnes and Hannah Morgan have enjoyed three peaceful months after saving their beloved Oskars and activating the powers of their city’s Megantic. Peace ends quickly when Hannah’s father is kidnapped while they are visiting nearby Alexios, and the two companions have to fight a street gang and an evil villain to protect the city and those they love. 

Interesting premise of mysterious other-world protection. This is a unique steampunk setting mixed with themes of unity and friendship. The action should keep readers engaged and the story wraps up nicely. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Stretched Thin by Nadia Shammas and Nabi H. Ali - OPTIONAL

 Stretched Thin (Ms. Marvel) by Nadia Shammas, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, 128 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic. 2021. $13

Language: PG (6 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel) has too much on her plate. She is trying to maintain her schoolwork, her fanfic writing, her friendships, family, and her super hero skills. Kamala has a hard time asking for help, but when a robot invades the Avengers Tower, she has to draw upon her skills and her friends to save the day. 

 I like that Kamala’s family is from the Middle East and that her family is so strong. That is refreshing in YW lit. This is a fun read that shows the power of friends and family, though the plot is predictable. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens - ADVISABLE

Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens
, 256 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphic Universe (Lerner Publishing). 2021. $17

Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

8th grader, Artie Irvin is being raised by a single mother and faces down bullies at school. Her photography keeps her going. One day her life abruptly changes when she is photographing the moon and sees a huge wolf shift into her mother. Finding that she comes from a line of werewolves is exciting to Artie and she wants to know everything she can about them. Artie’s mom takes her to a community of werewolves to help Artie process her new abilities. As Artie learns more about herself and her father, she discovers that wolves aren’t the scariest thing in the woods-vampires are. 

Artie is a strong, black female character. She comes from a supportive community and family that rally around her and her family story is revealed in stages, maintaining tension until the end of the story. The art and coloring add to the story. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Cardboardia: The Other Side of the Box by Richard Fairgray and Lucy Campagnolo - OPTIONAL

 Cardboardia: The Other Side of the Box by Richard Fairgray and Lucy Campagnolo, 108 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Pixel Ink (TGM Development Corp). 2021. $21. 

Language: PG (6 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Pokey is turning six and she’s super excited. Her older brother, Mac, and his friends Maisie and Bird are in middle school. When they get weird tokens in their cereal boxes they are transported to a land made of paper and cardboard named Cardboardia. They have to navigate their way through the land while someone evil seems to be following them. 

The artwork is awesome and the premise of traveling to a parallel universe via cardboard box is great. The downside is that the story ended quite abruptly just when the plot was established. The reader doesn’t know what the kids’ special talents are and neither do the characters, so it was less than satisfying. Hang on for the sequel. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Awakening Storm by Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong - ADVISABLE

The Awakening Storm (City of Dragons #1) by Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong
, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Scholastic. 2021. $13

Language: PG (15 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content PG; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

After her father dies, Grace moves to Hong Kong  with her mother and her new stepdad. She has to try and make friends in an unfamiliar place and to add to her problems, a strange old woman gives her an egg that hatches into a dragon. Grace and her new friends must protect the dragon and themselves from those who want to steal the dragon’s power. 

I like the setting and the dragon mythology. I also liked the diversity of the characters and how their different personalities interact. Though there is certainly a sequel in the works, the story wraps up well. If you like ancient Chinese stories worked into a modern setting, this might fit the bill. 

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

What About Will by Ellen Hopkins - ADVISABLE

 What About Will by Ellen Hopkins, 384 pages. Putnam’s (Penguin), 2021. $18 

Content: G (undescribed drug overdose) 

 BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE; EL - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Trace and his 17yo brother Will have always been best friends – Will has never made Trace feel like a bothersome little brother. Bit 17 months ago Will was criticallly injured in a football game and has been dealing with the effects of severe brain damage. He broke up with his girlfriend and has isolated himself from all others who care for him. Plus. Trace discovers that Will has been self-medicating with drugs – consorting with a dangerous crowd to get the highs and lows he craves. What can a little brother do? 

Hopkins uses her free verse (not to be mistaken for poetry) to illuminate Trace’s inner turmoil as he deals with Will’s descent into darkness. Everything is handled thoughtfully, in a way that even 5th and 6th graders can relate to, without being unnecessarily graphic or coarse. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Unofficial Disney Parks Drink Recipe Book by Ashley Craft - ADVISABLE

The Unofficial Disney Parks Drink Recipe Book by Ashley Craft
, 224 pages. Adams Media (Simon), 2021. $17

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: GIFT - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Craft has written the perfect complement to her previous book – The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook – by giving a wide range of Disney drinks to round out your next gathering. I love the tidbits of history that accompany each recipe. If you drink your way around the park (with or without alcohol), you will very much enjoy not just reading about the various drinks, but also trying out the recipes - both with or without alcohol. I will caution – many of the drinks require what can seem like exotic ingredients. But ready-made syrups are available commercially and the effort to recreate that Disney touch will dazzle your family and friends. Throw on some Disney tunes, think back to those days at the Parks, and sip your cares away. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson - ESSENTIAL

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
, 400 pages. McElderry Books (Simon), 2021. $19 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (fighting against evil forces) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Artemesia is more than happy to be a Gray sister and help in their vital work to send the spirits of the dead to the other side before they can become revenants and need to be exorcised. She has the Sight, so she can not only see the spirits, but also hear them all. The most dangerous spirits have been confined in various relics, but Artemesia is near when an extremely powerful relic is broken and now she is sharing her body, wrestling for control, with that spirit – she is possessed, but in control. But that possession drags her to the attention of those who control her world and have ulterior motives for one who proves to be so powerful. 

Rogerson has written a very creepy horror book that will be sure to find a following among those who like their books with that edge of danger. Perfect for fans of Beth Revis’ Give the Dark My Love. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Castles in Their Bones by Laura Sebastian - OPTIONAL

Castles in Their Bones by Laura Sebastian
, 528 pages. Delacorte (Ransom), FEB 2022. $19 

Language: PG (13 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G (mild violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Daphne, Sophronia, and Beatriz, 16yo triplets, have been raised by their mother, the Empress Margaraux, as the perfect weapons. The day after their birthday the sisters are split up for the first time in their lives – each girl headed to their wedding with a prince of a different country, destined to become queens. Maybe. Because their mother has sent them with ulterior motives – send the countries to war to weaken them, so that the Empress can conquer them and bring them back under one rule. But the best laid plans of dictators may not survive the desire of the heart. 

Sebastian works on a slow build as we meet each girl, each country, each prince, and learn the back stories of the intrigue within each throne room, a big plus for readers who love character-driven novels and extensive world-building. The last third of the book brings us to the crisis of heart for each girl and events that bring deep betrayal from many sources. While I personally hard a hard time warming to the girls, I felt rewarded by the anguish-filled events that set up, hopefully, the sequel. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, November 5, 2021

So This is Christmas by Tray Andreen - ESSENTIAL

So This is Christmas by Tray Andreen
, 368 pages. Viking (Penguin), 2021. 

 Language: R (83 swears, 6 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (some drinking); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

After a disastrous first semester, 16yo Finley is ready to call it quits with the New England boarding school of her dreams. In a funk, she returns to her home town, Christmas, Oklahoma, to break the news to her parents. But she returns to even more chaos. Her mother went to visit her sister six weeks ago and hasn’t returned. Her ex-boyfriend is daiting her now ex-best friend. And her arch nemesis is working at her family Bed and Breakfast, so Finley has to see and interact with her every day. Anything else? Oh yes. Arthur, the boy that has seen her humiliated countless times at boarding school has arrived to the B and B with his aunt in tow for a traditional American Christmas in Christmas, Oklahoma, based on the town website that Finley bragged about (and maybe spruced up on the sly with events that don’t really happen). Cue the embarrassment. 

Romance lovers have a treat in Andreen’s first novel. It has the makings of a great Netflix Christmas movie with real heart. Or just balm for a reader seeking a happy ending. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst - ADVISABLE

 Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst, 288 pages. Clarion Books, 2021. $17 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Sisters Emma (Even) and her sister Olivia (Odd) have always known that they are not from Earth – they are from Firoth, a magical dimension. Their parents run a store for magical visitors and the girls are preparing for their level five exams at the Academy of Magic. Even is super excited and very worried, because her magic only works on even days. Odd’s magic woks on odd days, of course, but she isn’t even interested in the exams. Then on an even day when she is practicing her transformations, the magic stops – Even is stuck as a skunk. Even and Odd and the unicorn Jeremy sneak through the flickering portal to see if they can discover what is happening to the magic. Things in Firoth are jumbled indeed – actual pieces of land are moving out of place. It is only with determination and a kid’s ability to see through lies that the teens have a chance to save the families and their worlds. 

Durst, as always, has a deft hand with a new middle grade magical world. Her fount of creativity never seems to run dry. Even and Odd and Jeremy are heroic characters with a lot of humor and spunk. Keep adding to your Durst collection. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS https://amzn.to/3ETw6pd

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg - ESSENTIAL

The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg
, 400 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears, 111 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG (suicidal ideation) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

April 17, 3:45 PM: Aaron Boroff has been staring at the Hudson River, flowing under the George Washington Bridge, when a sobbing girl rushes past him. Is she contemplating suicide also? What if she does and Aaron doesn’t – will he carry her memory with him? What if she doesn’t but Aaron does? How will lives left behind be affected if they both do? Is it possible they can save each other if neither of them do? 
Konigsberg looks at all four possibilities in this deep, rich novel that gives no easy outs for the reader. I found myself rereading each part to connect even more deeply with Aaron and Tillie’s choices. I didn’t even notice any of the content issues as I was reading, but the story is so emotionally charged. Very much a winner. The book is so compelling to read that I was surprised at the swears counts when I totalled them - I really didn't notice those word choices during the reading.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

See No Color by Shannon Gibney - NO

See No Color by Shannon Gibney
, 192 pages. Holiday House, 2020. $9 (paperback). 

Language: R (40 swears, 14 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (on page sex); Violence: PG (racist names) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Alex, 16yo, a biracial black girl, was adopted by her white family before her two younger siblings were born. Her baseball obsessed dad has raised them in the game – Alex and Jason join wholeheartedly, but youngest Kit wants nothing to do with the game. Alex has, of course, always known that she is a different color than her family, but they have done their best to protect her from other people’s cruelties. Now, however, Kit has uncovered letters that Alex’s birth dad wrote to her, complete with an address. And an intriguing ball player from a rival team challenges her lack of knowledge of her blackness. 

Alex’s sports-at-any-cost father is a distraction from Alex’s questions about her birth family and her heritage. He didn’t need to be portrayed as an emotionally abusive parent her Alex to be interested in her roots. And the quick slide from intriguing boy to ending up in bed is a real turn off for me, especially with descriptive parts. It’s too bad Gibney decided to obscure a very good story about a girl coming to terms with herself with the other questionable choices. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen = ADVISABLE

A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen
, 336 pages. Razorbill (Penguin), 2021. $18 

Language: PG-13 (28 swears, 0‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Liza Yang, 12th grader, is always wary of the blind dates her tiger mom finds for her with “good” Asian boys. Liza’s dream is to go to culinary school and become the head baker in her mom’s bakery, but mom insists that she become an accountant - a better way to help their family’s Yin/Yang Bakery and Restaurant. When the time comes for Mom’s annual junior baking competition, Mom allows Liza to be the technical judge. When the morning of the competition arrives, every contestant is a teenaged Asian boy! Mom! Feeling like a contestant on the Bachelorette, Liza will still do her job well. But she can’t help noticing James, the hot, kind of annoying, new guy in town. 

 A fun romantic romp with a great baking competition framing. Liza’s struggle to get her parents to accept her love of baking, not accounting, will ring true for many young people as they also struggle to separate from their own parents.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza - ADVISABLE

The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza, 304 pages. Amulet Books (ABRAMS), 2021. $19.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Vera feels an unexplainable sadness. Everyday things like spaghetti and the number four make her cry, but there isn’t any reason for her pain. All Vera knows is that she isn’t the only one feeling it, which means it can be fixed, and nothing is going to stop her from figuring out how.

Magic is prevalent in Vera’s world, but the experiences of the characters with mental health are applicable for us in our magicless existence. Priemaza has expertly crafted a world that feels real to readers because of emotional connections despite the differing circumstances. After the emotional ride I went on with Vera, I could only sit and stare at the last page for a while. My heart broke and hoped with hers, not knowing how anything would turn out but praying for a happy ending -- for both her world and our own. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mentions of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Renee Hartman and Joshua M. Greene - ESSENTIAL

 Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Renee Hartman and Joshua M. Greene, 122 pages. NON-FICTION. Scholastic Press, Jan 2022. $18

Content: G (some Holocaust based violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

10yo Renee lives with her sister, 8yo Herta, and their parents in Bratislava. Renee is the only person in the family that can hear. The other three people are deaf. The family relies on Renee being their ears, and telling them in sign language everything that is going on. The Nazis invade Bratislava and quickly start mistreating the Jews. Soon they all have to wear yellow stars on their clothing. Renee is blond so the soldiers do not recognize her as Jewish. This helps Renee, with Herta by the hand, move around Bratislava. One day their dad moves them out of the city to a farm where he thinks they will be safer. He has to pay the farmer a lot of money every month to keep the girls. After several months the money stop coming and the farmer sends the girls back to Bratislava. They are unable to find their parents, but learn that they have been moved to Auschwitz. The girls, being the only Jews left in town are soon on their way in a cattle car, but to Bergen-Belsen. What they lived through there is horrifying. 

This book is from an oral history project on the survivors of the Holocaust. It reads much like an oral history and it is a fast and easy read. It is well written, and I could vividly "see" Renee and Harta and the trials they endured. When the war ended Renee was 12yo or 13yo, but she weighed less than a three year old. This is a must read, a really good book. It goes well with World War II and would be interesting to children studying that period of time. I highly recommend this book.

Ellen-Anita, Librarian 

Elephants: strange and wonderful by Laurence Pringle and Meryl Henderson - ADVISABLE

Elephants: strange and wonderful by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Meryl Henderson. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Boyds Mill Press, 2021. $18. 9781635924794 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Pringle explores the anatomy, living conditions, and human interactions with all three species of elephants. 

The book is quite text dense – an excellent source of material for a report of any sort on the elementary level. It concludes with a warning to stop buying ivory in order to protect the few elephants left on earth. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman - ADVISABLE

Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman, 320 pages. Entangled Teen (Entangled Publishing), 2021. $9.

Language: PG (16 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cupcake is highly aware that being a plus size girl takes her outside the accepted standards of beauty, which makes her nomination for Homecoming Queen her senior year so suspicious. And then it goes a step further when Cupcake is paired with Rhys, the star quarterback. This has got to be a prank -- right?

If you’re in the mood for a rom-com but can’t decide which of your favorites to watch, read Cupcake instead. This rom-com includes classic tropes and references to all the best rom-coms, since Cupcake and her mom are obsessed. O’Gorman teases readers as Cupcake frequently reminds herself that she is not in one of her favorite rom-coms. The whole book has a fun, cheesy feel that is sure to make you smile. The mature content rating is for innuendo and a reference to male anatomy.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, November 1, 2021

This Poem is a Nest by Irene Latham - OPTIONAL

This Poem is a Nest by Irene Latham, 99 pages. POETRY. Wordsong (Boyds Mills & Kane), 2020. $18.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Latham’s poem “Nest” has four parts. But within that poem, she "found" 161 other poems hiding and waiting to be found. “Nest” is about more than twigs -- it’s also about bedtime, the color indigo, being confused, Pluto losing its status as a planet, and more!

The found poems inside of Latham’s original poem are short and don’t always make a lot of sense, but I loved seeing how she played with the words. In the introduction and after the last poem is shared, Latham gives readers tips on making their own found poems. She has inspired me to try it myself.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen