Friday, December 31, 2021

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo - OPTIONAL

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
by Malinda Lo
416 pages. Dutton Books (Penguin Random House), 2021. $19 

Language: PG (4 swears 0 F); Mature Content: R (on-page lesbian intimacy); Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In 1950's San Francisco, 17yo Lily Hu is fascinated with an ad for the lesbian bar, The Telegraph Club, which features a male impersonator, Tommy Andrews. Her friend Kath, the only other girl in her advance math class has been there, and invites Lily to come along. According to Lily's friend Shirley, Kath is someone Lily should avoid because she was "caught" with another girl in the band room last year, and isn't the sort of person a good girl like Lily should associate with. But Lily likes Kath, and as they spend time together, Lily finds herself attracted to Kath, and soon their relationship progresses. She's not altogether surprised, as she has wondered for a while about her attraction to certain female movie stars. But China Town is a small community, and Lily must keep all of this a secret. 

Set amidst the Red Scare, there's some political worries as well - Lily's father has had to turn over his naturalization papers because he would't tell the FBI what they wanted to hear. I loved the night life and the descriptions of the Telegraph Club and its people. but overall, a lot of detail really slowed down the story. Quite a bit of side stories that didn't develop well including the Miss Chinatown pageant - starting the story with it,  and having another within the plot line, I expected it to be a pivotal, plot point, but it just got caught up in all the details.  Also, the flash backs to Lily's parents courtship felt superfluous. Although the characters (Kath and Lily) are in high school, it reads older.

Lisa Librarian

Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds - OPTIONAL

Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds
, 384 pages. Razorbill (Penguin), 2021. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears, 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

17yo Abby finds herself alone and sad before her senior year of high school. When she goes through her recently deceased grandmother’s possessions, Abby finds love letters written back in 1958. She decides to follow them to Nantucket, to a home known as The Golden Doors, where she hopes to find answers about her grandmother’s time there and her grand passion. What she finds is a family with dark secrets – her grandmother’s former love, his wife who is desperate to keep control, and their grandson, Noah, who tugs at Abby’s heart. 

A possible beachy read. The family drama on Nantucket is very contrived and old-fashioned - all dynastic concerns and money is more important than anything – not as relatable to modern sensibilities. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Beautiful Wild by Anna Godberson - HIGH

Beautiful Wild by Anna Godberson
, 368 pages. Harper, 2020. $19 

Language:G (9 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

17yo Vida needs to settle her wild ways. As the daughter of a proper family in 1900’s San Francisco, her mother is determined to marry her to the right man – in this case, Fitzhugh Farrar, the son of the owner of the “Princess of the Pacific”, a luxury liner ready for its maiden voyage. Vida and her parents join the voyage, where Vida also meets Sal, Fitz’ best friend. When the Princess goes down and group needs up on an island, Vida finds a part of her that would be stifled in civilized places. Vida has a fight between her head and her heart. 

Godberson writes another sweeping, lush romance that is more about the girl and her choices than it is about the romance. A winner for your romance readers. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Blue by Nana Ekua Brew-Holland and Daniel Minter - ESSENTIAL

Blue: a history of the color a deep as the sea and as wide as the sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Holland, illustrated by Daniel Minter
. PICTURE BOOK. Knopf (Random), Feb 2022. $19. 9781984894366 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Brew-Holland and Minter have a created a beautiful, accessible and frame-worthy book about the history of the color blue. I don’t know if other colors have such intriguing stories, but my heart wants a book like this for many more colors! Deep enough for a high school art class, but understandable for young readers too. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse - ESSENTIAL

Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse. GRAPHIC NOVEL. RH Graphic (Random House), 2021. $13. 9780593119303.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Effie is a young witch living in Brooklyn. Her first book was about discovering her magic and seeing the good witches can do, and the positive lessons continue in the sequel. Effie struggles with friendship issues when her best friend is suddenly enamored with a new kid at school and leaves Effie feeling left out. At the same time, Effie and her fellow witches are focused on troubles affecting a corner of 6th Avenue. The two pieces of the story will come together as Effie makes new friends, discovers even more witches in Brooklyn!, and learns the difficult but important lessons on talking things out. 

This is a fantastic graphic novel for middle grade readers. I loved the first book and the sequel might be even better! The illustrations are really well done and the story has a wonderfully positive and fun message. I highly recommend this one for all readers. 

Reviewer: TC

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Tracking Tortoises: The Mission to Save a Galápagos Giant by Kate Messner and Jake Messner - ESSENTIAL

Tracking Tortoises: The Mission to Save a Galápagos Giant
by Kate Messner, photography by Jake Messner
NON-FICTION Millbrook (Lerner) 2022 $35.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The Galápagos Islands are the home to the endangered Giant Tortoise. Conservation efforts are helping, but climate change, residents who live on and farm the island, as well as tourists who visit all take a toll on these gentle giants, as well as other unique animals there such as the blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and the beautiful frigate birds. 

 Messner chronicles the efforts of a team of scientists as she accompanies them over the islands while they check on, track and monitor the dwindling Giant Tortoise population. Photography from Messner's actual visit to the islands was done by her son Jake. I loved that some contained QR codes to links of clips for sounds (I heard a Giant Tortoise!) or more information (I watched them install a radio tag). Messner includes an authors note, Tortoise timeline, and a glossary, as well as ideas for readers to help with the conservation efforts.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything by Mara Rockliff and Daniel Duncan - ESSENTIAL

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer by
Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Daniel Duncan.
PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Candlewick Press, 2021 $18. 9781536212525 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Beatrice likes to make things, and fix things and take things apart. As a young woman, she got a job working as an apprentice engineer. She was good, and her employer suggested she study at University. She also liked racing, and was faster on her motorcycle than the men were. But, after graduation, she had trouble finding work because she was a woman. Finally she got a job with the Royal Aircraft Establishment where she worked on planes used for fighting in WWII. 

 I love these picture book biographies which highlight people like Beatrice Shilling. Her adaptations to the British Fighter planes saved lives. She was groundbreaking and remarkable.  Duncan's illustrations are perfect, expressing the time period as well as the characters.  I'm excited to include "The Girl Who Could Fix Anything" in my biography section.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Book of Stolen TIme (Feylawn Chronicles #2) by Dashka Slater - ESSENTIAL

The Book of Stolen Time (Feylawn Chronicles #2) by Dashka Slater
, 416 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux (MacMillan), February 2022. $18.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Because the fairies were successfully sent home, Rufus and Abigail have an impossible task - maintaining Feylawn - per Iris' checklist - with only Nettle to help, and Nettle is more trouble than he's worth. And - someone is trying to buy Grandfather's property, it's a couple of Goblins, and Rufus is certain Mr. Diggs is behind this somehow. Rufus and Abigail are going to need to save Feylawn again! 

Dashka Slater's fairy world is fantastic - The Book of Stolen Time is imaginative, exciting and dangerous. Picking up almost immediately after "The Book of Fatal Errors" the page count (over 400) isn't daunting, as there's very little world building, just full of action and magic. I loved Iris' malapropisms as they are hilarious - and make sense how she is using them. Oh I hope this doesn't end the series - keep going, it's incredible!

Reviewer: Lisa Morey

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas - ADVISABLE

The Last Rabbit
by Shelley Moore Thomas
, 279 pages. Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin Random House), 2021. $17.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Hybrasil is a magical island. On it live 4 sisters and a magician. Now the sisters have been enchanted and turned into rabbits - one by one they leave the island to find their destiny, and then they will be able to turn back into girls. The last rabbit - Albie, wishes to visit each of her sisters before she decides, and must face real enemies who threaten her sisters, and internal struggles as she tries to right some wrongs along the way. 

The time period is WWII, not necessarily relevant in the magical world, but helps tie a lot of the story together. Engaging and exciting - practically an epic adventure as Albie finds her sisters in a circus, their family home,  and there's even pirates! Julie Mellan's illustrations are so cute. 

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Raven and the Dove by Kaitlyn Davis - OPTIONAL

The Raven and the Dove by Kaitlyn Davis, 506 pages. Kaitlyn Davis, 2020. $22. 

Language: PG (13 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lyana is Princess of the House of Peace, born with the dove wings of her kingdom and with healing magic she hides from everyone. Rafe is visiting the House of Peace when a dragon attacks, suffering wounds no one should be able to recover from. Risking her secret to save the raven-winged stranger, Lyana hides Rafe in a cave until he’s healed, unaware of the secrets he, too, is hiding.

Davis weaves subplots and motives together in a way that begs readers to turn the next page. However, I was disconnected from the story by inconsistencies, annoyance with characters, and passages that dragged. The ending ties the subplots together enough for a sense of satisfaction while still leaving tantalizing questions that lead to the sequel. I am ensnared by the whispers that tell me I need to know what happens next, but I know I’ll get over it because I didn’t love the story enough to read more. The mature content rating is for innuendo, and the violence rating is for self harm, battle gore, and attempted murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft - OPTIONAL

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft, 400 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2021. $19.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Having the Healing Touch is Wren’s only redeeming quality. Her aunt, the queen, only tolerates Wren as long as she’s a useful member of the Queen’s Guard. But Wren has always let her emotions get the best of her, and her friend, Una, can’t save Wren from the consequences of her last blunder. Desperate to regain what little favor she had, Wren considers taking the biggest risk: deserting.

The premise drew me in, but annoyance with Wren’s actions nearly made me set the book down – multiple times. Saft challenges her characters and readers to consider the roles of magic versus technology, vengeance versus mercy, duty versus compassion. I liked the mental exercise of considering the viewpoints of different characters on these subjects more than enduring Wren’s wishy-washiness. The story ends well, but getting there was more painful than I wanted it to be. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, nudity, and sex. The violence rating is for gore and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson - OPTIONAL

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson, 311 pages. Chicken House (Scholastic Inc), 2021. $19.

Language: PG13 (27 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Her little brother died in a car crash two years ago. Her father left six months later. Her mother cares more about her dead brother than her. Lydia (17yo) has never been more alone, which is why she is so proud of her AI, Henry. Together they can do anything – and no one can stop them.

I enjoyed the AI what-ifs that drive Gibson’s story, even though there were some technological leaps made that seemed to break her own rules. Lydia’s overdramatics were taken seriously by herself and Henry, which made it difficult for me to tell if the tone was intended to be humorous or dark. Whether or not Gibson did it purposefully, the story felt dark to me, and my dark interpretation has led me to be conflicted over the ending because the tone shifted and felt lighter than the rest of the book. All in all, I don’t know whether or not I liked the book as a whole. The mature content rating is for illegal activity, underage drinking, groping, nudity, and sex. The violence rating is for persistent violence and blood.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, December 20, 2021

The Family Plot by Megan Collins - OPTIONAL

The Family Plot by Megan Collins, 320 pages. Atria Books (Simon & Schuster), 2021. $27.

Language: R (43 swears, 33 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Dahlia hasn’t been home in seven years, and she hasn’t seen her twin brother, Andy, in ten – since he ran away on their sixteenth birthday. Gathering with her siblings and mother because of the death of her father just reminds Dahlia of how distant they all are. Her father’s death has started an avalanche of secrets, and Dahlia will not stop until she learns the truth.

Dahlia’s story is raw, with pain seeping through the pages. As a reader, the twists and turns kept me on my toes in an enjoyably suspenseful way. However, stepping back, I ached for Dahlia and her family, and I felt a kinship because of my own broken family – even as I also felt relief that my broken family isn’t quite as broken as Dahlia’s. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mention of rape; the violence rating is for alcohol use, mentions of drugs, and discussions of murder and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, December 17, 2021

The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life... by Kekla Magoon and Laura Freeman - ADVISABLE


The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life, Leadership and Legacy
by Kekla Magoon, illustrated by Laura Freeman
PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Quill Tree Books (Harper Collins), 2021. $17. 9780062912510 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Even as a boy, Thurgood Marshall saw things that were unfair, he wanted to change them - he started by changing the spelling of his name. Joining the debate team in high school taught himto work with a team to win an argument, attended law school - at Howard University, worked with the NAACP and soon began to fight unfair laws, including school segregation - all the way to the Supreme Court. He was appointed to be a judge by President Kennedy, was President Johnson's solicitor general, and sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice in 1967. 

So text friendly - the pages are more picture than text, and the illustrations provide more detail and context. I loved how Marshall is represented mostly with others (as he didn't work alone) and my favorite illustration was 7 different Thurgood Marshalls arguing cases before the Supreme Court. Includes a timeline, bibliography and summary of some of the major court cases Marshall worked on. A great short biography of a very important lawyer and judge.

Lisa Librarian

Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly Sews Her Way to Freedom by Connie Schofield-Morrison and Elizabeth Zunon - ADVISABLE

Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly Sews Her Way to Freedom by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHY Holiday House, 2021 $19.00 9780823439638 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Lizzy was born to enslaved parents in 1818, she learned to read write and sew from her mother. As a teen she was sent away to work, the only enslaved worker in a household, doing the work typically done by 3. But her skills at hand made dresses eventually drew attention to her from fancy patrons wanting her services, and she was able to raise $1,200 to buy her own and her son's freedom. In 1860 she moved to Washington, DC where she made dresses for the wife of Jefferson Davis as well as for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. 

Based on Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly's autobiography, this story of perseverance and grit is a great addition to my short biographies section. Actual excerpts from her memoir are included in the text, which is a nice bonus. I loved the illustrations, they are overlaid with fabric and stitching and handiwork. Occasionally Zunon has left the raw edge of the fabric on a finished dress, which to my eye made the illustration look like a fabric piece was used rather than a dress was made, but my taste may differ from the artists. Also includes an author's note, timeline and some great online and other sources.

Lisa Librarian  

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Retake by Jen Calonita - ADVISABLE

The Retake by Jen Calonita
, 258 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2020. $17

Language: G (no swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Zoe (12yo) and Laura have been best friends since they met in first grade and now it's the summer before 7th grade. Zoe spent most of her summer on vacation with her family, but now she is back and plans to finish the summer with Laura by throwing her a surprise birthday party. Unfortunately, Laura has made new friends and planned her own party which Zoe was not invited to attend. Zoe is hurt and surprised, but if she is honest, things were a little off before summer started. Now she is desperate to fix things with Laura, and hopes the first day of school is good. Unfortunately, it ends up being a disaster. What is she going to do? Then she notices a mysterious new app on her phone that seems to be the answer to her problems. It's called Retake and before she thinks twice about it, she clicks on it. Much to her surprise she finds herself back at the end of the year slumber party when things were beginning to change. Zoe knows this is her chance and is determined to fix what went wrong that night and get her best friend back. 

I'm sure at some point we all wish for a do-over moment so when Zoe gets her chance, I'm torn between shouting “take it” and cautioning “don't do it, it never turns out the way you hope it will.” Zoe tries so hard and you have to feel for her and her determination to save her friendship, but things don’t always work out and maybe they shouldn’t. She does learn a few things along the way about friendship and growing up. The author does a great job keeping all her story lines straight and keeping the story realistic, and I appreciated that she didn’t paint Laura and her friends as all bad, but also growing up and changing. Nicely done. 

Reviewer: RB 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Freshmen by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison - OPTIONAL

Freshmen by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison, 335 pages. Delacorte Press, 2018. $18

Language: R (100+ swears, 142 “f”); Mature Content: R (drugs, sex, and alcohol in abundance); Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Phoebe and Luke went to the same high school and now are freshmen in college together. Phoebe has had a longstanding crush on Luke, and Luke is sort of single now and he wants to be different since he is in college, playing soccer. Just when they start hooking up, there is a scandal involving the soccer team and their "Wall of Shame" where the players post pictures and rate girls they've slept with. Can Phoebe and Luke’s fledging romance take flight despite the drama? 

This is what I assume the Jersey Shore was like, except British? Lots of drinking, swearing (142 fs alone), drugs, and sex, on and off screen. Needless to say, this wasn't my college experience and I am surprised that any of the characters survived the year considering the messes they got into. I didn't love Phoebe or Luke. I didn't feel like the ultimate problem was adequately resolved. I don't think any lessons were learned. There were moments where I could see an interesting discussion on toxic masculinity, or public vs private persona, or anything more, but ultimately, it fell flat. I wouldn’t recommend this book for purchase for any school library 

Reviewer: BookswithBeddes  

Zero to 60 by Michael A. Tompkins and Chloe Douglass - NO

Zero to 60 by Michael A. Tompkins and Chloe Douglass
, 253 pages. NON FICTION. Magination Press, 2020. $16

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (teen issues, not graphic; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - NOT RECOMMENDED 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Michael A. Tompkins attempts to make an appealing emotional discussion book to teenagers. Talking of anger, stress and anxiety and how to prevent yourself from getting sucked into the world. This book also teaches how to cope with such emotions. Filled with experiences from teens to teens, this book pulls out all the stops. Although it maybe tailored to teenagers in general, the language can be for preadolescent people as well. 

Going into this book, I believed that it would be a more in depth novel about people's emotions and how their perception can be effected by such feelings. (boy oh boy was I wrong). This book isn't in depth, boring and well a little condescending. Everything seems so basic level understanding and not well tailored to teens. For me personally, this book hardly seems well thought out in helping me personally with my anger.

 Student Reviewer: Kenzie Hoehne 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier - ESSENTIAL

Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier
, 367 pages. Harper, 2018. $10 (paperback) 

Language: PG-13 (35 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (possession, fighting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Elodie is happy to leave her abusive stepfather behind, but bereft at leaving her mother and half-siblings. But she has had an offer to work at Black Oak cottage outside a far off village. The journey has its own dangers, but what awaits her is even more so – Aleida is the latest of the Blackbone witches. She has just defeated her evil mentor and is hurt. Elodie tries her best to nurse Aleida back to health, befriending a nearby farm family and a mysterious boy who lives in the forest around the cottage and village. But just because the evil Gyssha is dead, doesn’t mean she won’t keep trying to possess whomever she needs in order to live again. And while Aleisha doesn’t want to be as evil as Gyssha, doesn’t mean that she will be beloved by the normal humans around her. 

I let this one sit for too long until I finally read it – there is a second book out and I am looking forward to reading it too. It is no more “witchy” than Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson. A good fight between good and evil - but also a fight with the possible evil inside us.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte - ADVISABLE

The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
, 423 pages. G.P Puntam's Sons (Penguin), 2020. $14 

Language: R (13 swears, 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (corpses described, murder) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

 For the last two years Tempest has been living on a man-made island called Equinox without anyone to care for her. When she was 12, her parents died in a tragic accident and just 2 years ago her dear sister, Elysea drowned. For the past 2 years since Elysea died Tempest tried desperately to salvage enough money to 'revive' her sister in the strange island of Palindromia where they can regenerate the human heart for 24 hours. What secrets will Tempest uncover when her sister wakes up being dead? Will 24 hours be enough time to say goodbye? 

I was excited for this one; Astrid Scholte wrote Four Dead Queens, which I though was a great read, so my hopes for this book were high. Scholte does a really great job at character motivation. I felt for each on the of characters and their mission and I feel like their motivations where more complex and deeper than some other novels. The plot was also interesting and I found that it was constantly flowing and keeping me entertained. 

Kenzie Hoehne, Student Reviewer 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau - ADVISABLE

Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau
, 311 pages. Delacorte Press, 2021. $19

Language: PG (1 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG ; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Mia has only ever dreamed of becoming a professional ballerina, so she leaps at the chance to attend an elite summer ballet program in Paris. She can’t wait to eat-breathe-sleep ballet and finally prove her worth to the program director of the American Ballet Theatre, on the recommendation of her ballet teachers in Paris, if she does well. Only, there is a cute French boy that is pretty distracting and it is Paris in the summertime after all. Can Mia get the part and get the guy? 

This is a love letter to Paris if I’ve ever read one. It’s cute, and fluffy, and just so FRENCH. Perfect for the francophile in your life. There isn’t much in terms of depth, but for the students who have an Eiffel Tower print hanging on their wall or who watch Audrey Hepburn movies for fun would probably love reading this book. 

 Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

The Thirteenth Fairy (Never After) by Melissa De la Cruz - ADVISABLE

 The Thirteenth Fairy (Never After) by Melissa De la Cruz, 336 pages. Roaring Brook (Macmillan), 2021. $17 

Content: G (some danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

6th grader Filomena is so glad that today is the day that the 13th book in the Never After series is being released! But – it isn’t. The bookstore owner tells her that not even the publisher knows if it ever will. Disappointed, Filomena heads home, only to meet a boy who looks an awful lot like Jack Stalker, the hero of the Never After books. Jack, who is accompanied by Allstair – also from the books. Then Filomena defeats a troll – using a spell from the books! How can this be possible? What’s a girl to do but follow the boys through a portal and embrace her destiny to save the kingdom of Westphalia. 

 Lots of complications await Filomena on her quest. She is a great new hero character. I’m looking forward to more of her exploits – at least this seems like it will have a sequel. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Kingdom Keepers: Inheritance by Ridley Pearson - ADVISABLE

Kingdom Keepers: Inheritance by Ridley Pearson
, 320 pages. Disney, March 2022. $18 

Content: G (some violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Eli Whitman is turning 13 today, but his parents are out of town, having been called in to some secret meeting with Disney Corp in California. Eli and his parents live in the Communitree – the subdivision built around Disney’s Epcot. Most of his other friends are cool – their parents have known each other since before the kids were all born. Scoot, however, is kind of a bully and taunts Eli to use Finn Whitman’s sword (which Eli is NOT allowed to touch) is his VR battle with Jafar and Eli rips open a hole in time and space instead – allowing two mysterious figures to jump through. Now Eli and his real friends are the ones who must step in and stop the Disney villains’ latest plot to take over the world. 

A fun, if complicated, introduction to the newest generation of Kingdom Keepers. You have to have read all of the other books (well, at least 3 or so of them) to understand the Kingdom Keeper background. Very fast-paced and involved. A good buy if you still have the whole series on your collection. Eli is white, but his friends are a diverse group like the original Keepers. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

In Every Generation by Kendare Blake - OPTIONAL

In Every Generation by Kendare Blake
, 400 pages. Disney, JAN 2022. $19 

Language: PG-13 (32 swears, 0‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (vampires, fightings, killings) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

As the daughter of Willow Rosenberg, Frankie has always known about the Slayers and all things Buffy related. But her mom is more like any middle aged suburban mom – not a bad-ass witch or anything. Then when all of the slayers created when Buffy unleashed the slayer power are killed at their annual retreat (Slayerfest, they call it), the power of the slayer seems to have reverted to Frankie. Now she has Spike as her Watcher (oh the irony) and Hailey, who is the little sister of a (now former) slayer is with her at Sunnydale High – which for some reason was rebuilt on the site of the (hopefully) closed Hellmouth. Enter Jake, who is the protégé of Oz and the next generation of Scoobies is assembled. Now that the slayers are gone and Frankie has zero training, some big, bad, ancient vampire has big plans for opening the Hellmouth and pouring evil all over Sunnydale again. 

I have to say – I prefer Kiersten White’s Buffy reboot. Frankie is clueless and inept – though she is supposed to have slayer power, it seems to be buried really deep. I mostly enjoyed watching Spike flail as the high school librarian and Hailey would have made a way better slayer. Maybe in book 2 Frankie will have more of a spine. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

XOXO by Axie Oh - ESSENTIAL

XOXO by Axie Oh
, 352 pages. Harper, 2021. $18 

Language: PG-13 (33 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

High school junior Jenny and her mom are headed to Korea because her grandmother has cancer and need surgery and help. Jenny has been accepted at a prestigious Korean performing arts school because of her skillful cello-playing. In fact, her dream is to be accepted into a NYC performing arts school. What she hasn’t done is been able to get ahold of the Korean boy she met at her uncle’s karaoke bar in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. - the very cute Korean boy with whom she shared a meal, some pictures, and a flight from some college kids. The extremely cute Korean boy whom she hasn’t heard from since. Imagine her surprise when she finds out he is actually part of a very popular K-pop group. While there might be chemistry between the two of them, they may not have any sort of a future. How can there be? 

Many of my students are loving romance books right now. While I may not know any K-pop music, through this book and a couple of others I’ve recently read I have learned a lot about the culture surrounding it. Jenny and Jaewoo’s meet cute makes for very cute reading too. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney - AVERAGE

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney
, 368 pages. Harper, 2021. $18 

Language: R (100+ swears, 9 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

18yo Quinn’s journal is missing! All of her lists – personal goals, judgmental lists, embarrassing lists – all of it. She knows Carter had it, but he says it disappeared on the bus. Now someone is blackmailing Quinn – if she’ doesn’t fix the items, the highly personal items, on her ‘to do” list (tell Mom and Dad that she didn’t get into Columbia like she told them, for example), then every page of the journal goes public. Quinn has may hard truths to acknowledge about herself. She needs to also stand up against the racist bullies in her own school, and acknowledge even to herself why she really dumped her former best friend. 

What a vivid cautionary tale about the lies we try to tell ourselves and delicate nature of the lies we tell in public. Goffney also weaves in the racism Quinn experiences in her 99% white private school and the racism she receives from Carter for not being Black enough. Quinn and Carter’s families are all Clack, while the other characters around them are white. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, December 10, 2021

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows - ADVISABLE

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
, 512 pages. Harper, 2021. $19 

Language: G (7 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G (mentions being naked during shapeshifting); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When King Henry of France dies, it’s time for his son, Francis to step into his shoes, which includes marrying his long-time betrothed, Mary, the Queen of Scotland. Mary and her ladies have been living in France, preparing for this day, but all of them have been keeping a deep secret - all of them are Eoian (shapeshifters), which is strictly forbidden in France. And Francis’s mother, Catherine de Medici, has other plans for her son. Using the potion-making skills of Ari (Aristotle), the daughter of Nostradamus, Catherine orders a shape-changing potion for Francis and puts the now frog-king, into Ari’s care. The pair will have to follow Mary to Scotland, however they can. 

Our trio of writers have woven a complicated, but still highly readable, story full of action and humor. Ari, for example, has visions of the future, just like her father, but the audience knows that she is seeing scenes from famous movies (“I see a girl with pale hair singing in the snow. She wants to let it go.”). We also see Lady Jane again. Fans of the series will definitely want to indulge. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS  

Escape from Chernobyl by Andy Marino - ADVISABLE

Escape from Chernobyl by Andy Marino
, 176 pages. Scholastic, 2021. $8 

Language: G (1 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G (mild danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

16yo Yuri thought that working at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was his dream job. Instead, he spends his days cleaning and mopping – Chernobyl is very leaky. He lives with his aunt and uncle and their two children in Pripyat, Russia’s model atomic city. Uncle Pavlo is even a renowned radio announcer. Little does Yuri know that his latest graveyard shift will be a night the whole world will never forget. 

Marino brings not only the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to life, but also highlights life under Communist rule, which includes control of information and control of lives – party-loyalty above all. I was surprised at the short page count – a lot happens within a small span. While we don’t cover Chernobyl or the Cold War era in middle school. I still want this for those curious readers. Great cover. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity and Christopher Baldwin - ADVISABLE

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity and Christopher Baldwin,
224 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster). 2021. $22

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Haley is a high school student obsessed with gothic romances, which works to her advantage when she jumps in a river to rescue a drowning man. After she pulls him to safety, she finds herself in Willowweep, the perfect gothic romance setting. It has a stately manor, a sinister housekeeper, three brooding brothers and an invisible ghost. Willowweep has secrets of its own and may be the only protection the world has against sweeping evil. Haley needs to rescue more than a drowning man to save the day. 

The vocabulary and occasional sexual inuendo make this a high school read. Background knowledge in gothic romances, like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights would make the read more enjoyable as readers get the allusions to the gothic trope. Haley is a strong and spirited protagonist, the characters are likeable, and the plot was engaging. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

The Stowaway by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth - OPTIONAL

The Stowaway by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth, 320 pages. St. Martin’s Press, 2021. $18.

Language: R (103 swears, 9 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: R

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULTS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Maria was a juror on one of the most high profile cases in a long time, and Wyatt Butler was set free because of a mistrial – because the jurors did not come to a unanimous decision. The case haunts Maria. When her fiancé convinces Maria and her children to go on a cruise, it’s a break they desperately need. Until bodies start appearing.

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it’s pretty gruesome. The second thing you need to know is that it is brilliantly crafted. I was disappointed when a book entitled “The Stowaway” didn’t start immediately on a boat, but the thrill is worth the backstory. There were a few times that I had to take a break to breathe because I started turning pages faster than I was actually reading them, caught up in the intense emotions of chasing down a meticulous serial killer, and I already wish I could read it again for the first time. The mature content rating is for mention of drugs and alcohol use. The violence rating is for mentions of domestic violence, gun use, gore, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore - ADVISABLE

Winterkeep (Graceling #4) by Kristin Cashore
, 528 pages. Dial (Penguin), 2021. $20

 Content: G (some danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Bitterblue may be the Queen of Monsea, but she is still surrounded by enemies and intrigue. Gracelings are still being exploited in other kingdoms and the discovery of more kingdoms across the seas only has compounded Blue’s problems, because her envoys to the kingdoms have disappeared. The new mineral, zilfium, seems to play an important role in the danger – someone wants control of it and is willing to kill for the privilege. I

f you still have the Graceling books in your library, you should buy the 4th in the series. If you have already weeded them, you don’t need to restock your shelves. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Space Explorers by Libby Jackson - ADVISABLE

Space Explorers: 25 Extraordinary Stories of Space Exploration and Adventure by Libby Jackson, 191 pages. NONFICTION. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2020. $22.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

These 25 stories talk about the space accomplishments that started in the 1950s, with the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, and what is going on now to explore even farther. Readers will get to know the first astronauts, the requirements for going into space, and even the guy that recorded the first album in space!

Jackson highlights the amazing problem solving skills of astronauts through the years and encourages readers to reach for the literal stars. Under all the excitement, though, danger lurks around every corner, and Jackson offers a tribute to those who have lost their lives in these space endeavors. I appreciate the realism in both the good and the bad of exploration of the moon and stars.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Monster Missions by Laura Martin - ADVISABLE

 The Monster Missions by Laura Martin, 320 pages. Harper, 2021. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Berkeley and her best friend Garth work as salvage scavengers on the Atlas – a cruise ship that was repurposed for family living when the polar icecaps melted and all land on Earth disappeared. When Berkeley stirs up a vicious, giant sea monster, she and Garth are banished to the Britannica – a submarine that specializes in tracking and trying to destroy monsters before they can attack the few ships that remain. There the pair learn the truth about their new world and the monsters of the deep which are making their presence more frequently known. 

Berkeley’s encounters with sea monsters and her ingenuity are fun to read. If you have kids who like apocalyptic fiction or books about cryptids, you have a winner. For elementary students this would also be a good classroom read aloud option. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab - OPTIONAL

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab, 416 pages. Inkyard Press, 2020. $16.

Language: R (93 swears, 33 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Sixteen-year-old Susannah loved her body and the way she swam before biology changed her shape and ended her swimming career before it really started. She’s still fighting for her dream of swimming in the Olympics, but it’s slow going. Susannah is convinced that the only way to make it is to block out everything else – which becomes a challenge when she meets Harry.

Susannah and Harry feel like real people with dreams, secrets, and flaws. I love how Jarzab made these people that I have nothing in common with feel relatable, but my favorite part of the book is actually her descriptions of water and life through Susannah’s point of view. Life is hard for all of us, and finding the beautiful, joyous parts helps us endure difficulty and make the changes we need in order to move forward – even if it means turning at the crossroads. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, and sex; the violence rating is for self harm and mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, December 6, 2021

Twin Daggers by MarcyKate Connolly - ADVISABLE

Twin Daggers by MarcyKate Connolly, 368 pages. Blink, 2020. $11.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Aissa and Zandria are spies, though most of the time their mission of mapping the drainage tunnels isn’t very exciting. When they find and report a magic door, they get called off and given new missions. But Aissa knows the door is important. As she determines to work on both the mission assigned to her and the missions she feels she must do herself, Aissa finds her way littered with secrets and betrayal.

Connolly’s words are as imbued with magic as the world she has created. I was pulled in and lost sleep over Aissa’s story -- and I’m not even a little upset about it. While I was occasionally confused and had to reread parts, straightening out those details was worth it in order to get the full picture. I love how Connolly dropped all the necessary hints for readers to make connections for the twists she set up, so that the explanations made sense and didn’t feel contrived. I am doing everything possible to get my hands on the sequel.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, December 5, 2021

How Not to Fall in Love by Jacqueline Firkins - OPTIONAL

How Not to Fall in Love by Jacqueline Firkins, 239 pages. Clarion Books, 2021. $18. 

Language: R (72 swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Harper is doing her best to keep her mom’s wedding dress shop moving towards the black, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. But when her best friend, Theo, has his heart broken again, Harper offers to teach him how not to fall in love -- by getting into a relationship herself to show him how it’s done. Falling in love and not falling in love turn out to be much harder than anyone anticipated.

I had been looking forward to reading this book for months. In some ways, like how each character’s quirky personality permeated the pages, the wait was well worth it. However, I was disappointed by how big of a role sex played in the relationships and, thus, the book itself. The back and forth between Harper and Theo was agonizing as they simply failed to communicate clearly and then rushed forward without thinking and went back to failing to communicate. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, discussions of sex, innuendo and implied sex, and nudity.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Where Her Heart Lies by Carolyn Twede Frank - OPTIONAL

Where Her Heart Lies by Carolyn Twede Frank, 227 pages. Covenant Communications, 2022. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Finished with finishing school, 19-year-old Celeste is happy to be home in the Wild West -- and is ready to get married. Celeste is set on convincing Logan to court her until he does nothing and one of her old suitors shows up, determined to win her back.

Celeste is immature, which made the whole book painful to read. Simple communication would have let the characters avoid much heartache. Furthermore, while the ending is happy, one of the decisions that Logan feels forced into making still doesn’t sit right with me. The overall message of how who you are matters more than what you have is a good one, I’m just not a fan of how the characters teach it.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Legend of the Christmas Witch by Dan Murphy and Aubrey Plaza - ADVISABLE

The Legend of the Christmas Witch by Dan Murphy and Aubrey Plaza, illustrated by Julia Iredale
56 pages. PICTURE BOOK Penguin Random House, 2021. $19. 9780593350805 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY:  EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Kristtorn is the twin sister of Kristoffer. They each possess magical gifts. Kristtorn can talk to animals while Kristoffer can disappear and reappear at will. One day, while playing in the woods a Danish couple named Kringle happens along and find Kristoffer - he is so distracted by the yummy food they offer, he leaves with them forgetting his sister was hiding in the woods. Eventually a witch, gathering mushrooms in the woods finds Kristtorn, and brings her home. But times are not good for witches, and Kristtorn's gifts soon put her at risk, so the witch sends her off to find her brother. Always impatient, Kristtorn doesn't follow instructions and ends up as far away from Kristoffer as she can be - -  The South Pole. 

I first listened to the story in audiobook (provided by libro.fm) and fell in love with the story. Well paced, unusual and perfectly narrated by author Aubrey Plaza. Picked up a copy and WOW! So beautifully illustrated. Coffee table book - it will add to your Christmas decorations as well. The size looks like a picture book, but the length of the story would make it more appropriate for an older reader. Buying for my library for sure, but giving as a gift to several friends this Christmas.

Lisa Librarian

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Without Separation by Larry Dane Brimner and Maya Gonzalez - ADVISABLE

 Without Separation: Prejudice, segregation, and the case of Roberto Alvarez by Larry Dane Brimner, illustrated by Maya Gonzalez. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Calkins Creek (BoydsMill), 2021. $19. 9781684371952 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The school board of Lemon Grove Grammar School decided that children of Mexican heritage were dragging down their test scores, so unbeknownst to most of the community, they had a wooden shack built to only serve the Mexican community. The parents of the children turned away from Lemon Grove got the backing they needed to take the case to the courts in San Diego, where the school district lost and the children were welcomed back to Lemon Grove. 

While the book may not attract a lot of casual readers, in terms of importance Brimner has found an important history story that needs to be shared – especially in light of all the ways racism is again playing too big a part in education. Because we use picture books so much in my middle school, I will definitely have this one on hand. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Where Snow Angels Go by Maggie O'Farrell and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini - ADVISABLE

Where Snow Angels Go
by Maggie O'Farrell, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
68 pages. Candlewick Press, 2020. $19. 9781536219371 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

One night, Sylvie wakes up and finds an angel in her room - an angel who is astonished that she can see him. The snow angel she made last winter has come to save her life. If things work out as usual she will forget by morning, but even after a long illness (he did save her life that night) she can't stop thinking about this amazing visitor and wants him to return. And what about her mother and her friends who have never made snow angels? Who is going to protect them? 

Beautifully illustrated from the swirly shiny bits on the cover throughout the story, this lovely tale is a perfect bedtime read, or a great seasonal choice. I loved the story idea, that children make guardians when they make snow angels. O'Farrell's first children's story is a great read that I would recommend through middle school. Not a quick picture book, there's plenty of story contained within these lovely illustrated pages.

Lisa Librarian

For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World by Michael W. Waters and Keisha Morris - ADVISABLE

 For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World by Michael W. Waters, illustrated by Keisha Morris. PICTURE BOOK. Flyaway Books, 2020. $18. 9781947888081 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When young Jeremiah hears about Trayvon Martin, he is concerned. When shots are fired on his own block, he is afraid. He and his sisters attend a vigil with their parents for another Black death. AS Jeremiah is ready to talk, his parents tell him the many different ways they and others are fighting to create a world where Blacks and other can be confident about their futures instead of afraid. 

 Waters brings today’s headlines right into the pages of his book, supplemented by extensive back matter with extension activities for school and home. Very timely and very important – I am betting that many schools will be passively censor this book by omission – afraid of the current school book police. But, as every death mentioned in the book is factual and Jeremiah’s feelings are justified, librarians shouldn’t be afraid. I would rate it higher, but the wordsmithing and craftsmanship of the illustrations don’t reach that ESSENTIAL level for me, though the subject matter does. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS