Friday, July 19, 2024

Hum by William David Thomas - ADVISABLE

Hum by William David Thomas, 199 pages. Charlesbridge, 2024. $18. 9781732213722

Content: G (danger, mild violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE; MS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL

11yo Allen’s nightmares have been occurring more frequently. In order to help him, his grandmother, who has been his guardian since  both of Allen’s parents died when he was six, decides they should move back to her hometown - hoping that Allen will be able to make some human connections. In that village, Allen finds Zach and Birdie, two new friends at school and an eccentric, but kind mentor in Max, a senior. Unfortunately, he also draws the ire of the town bully, who is not hesitant to punch when he is annoyed. When Allen goes to a local fair and meets a llama, memories come flooding back and Allen is sent immediately on a desperate flight into the high mountains to save the llama, whom he seems to remember from his early childhood, and to escape the bully and his brute of a father who are out for blood.

I know that any adult reading this will love it. The cover doesn’t reflect the anger and danger within the pages, so perhaps add this to a display of survival books to draw attention.  I would highly recommend reading it aloud to a class. The main character is a little young for some middle schools. The main characters cue white.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS


Thursday, July 18, 2024

Whales to the Rescue by Adrienne Mason and Kim Smith - ADVISABLE

Whales to the Rescue: How Whales Help Engineer the Planet
by Adrienne Mason, illustrated by Kim Smith
. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Kids Can Press, 2022. $19. 9781525305375

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

APPEALS TO: SOME


A fascinating, fact-filled book about how helpful and necessary whales are to planet Earth. Complete with a table of contents, glossary, and index, this book would be a fantastic resource for students doing research or students simply wanting to learn more about oceans, whales and ecosystems. The book is text heavy, making it perfect for upper elementary or middle school students, but has gorgeous, detailed illustrations that support the text and make the book enjoyable for younger children as well.

I learned quite a few facts that I didn't know before reading this book! There's a lot of text but the book is written in a simple-to-understand way and I never felt bored or anxious to be done with the book as I read. While I was a little squeamish reading the detailed bits about whale waste (did you know a fin whale pees 257 gallons a day!?), I'm confident that students will be utterly fascinated and morbidly delighted by the sections titled "Living on Sunshine" and "A Poop Pump".

Angie Campbell - EL Librarian

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Bad Princesses Perfect Villains by Jennifer Torres - OPTIONAL

Bad Princesses Perfect Villains
by Jennifer Torres
, 166 pages. Scholastic, 2023. $8. 9781338833140

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL


Dalia and Dominga are not happy to be attending the Fine and Ancient Institute for the Royal (FAIR). They would rather be attending the Bewitched Academy for the Dreadful (BAD). After discussing and rejecting a few ideas, together they come up with a villainous scheme to ruin the first day of classes for their other classmates. They are certain the plan will get them kicked out of FAIR and admitted to BAD. Some things go according to plan and some do not.

Dalia and Dominga recognize right away that they do not fit in with the other princesses at the school. I am glad that they were able to find kindred spirits in each other. I like that that book has Spanish words sprinkled throughout. It is a fun story, with a simple plot perfect for kids just starting to get into chapter books.

The princesses are implied Latina.

Reviewer: A. Snow, Librarian


Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Friend or UFO by Julie Buxbaum - OPTIONAL

Friend or UFO (The Area 51 Files: Book 3)
by Julie Buxbaum
, 268 pages. Children's Fiction Delacorte (Random House), 2024. $15 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Middle schooler, Sky, calls Area 51 home because everyone she loves is there. Except one, her grandma. Sky gets a mysterious VHS tape where she discovers her grandma is a secret agent for the FBAI (Federal Bureau of Alien Investigations) and may have been kidnapped. Sky is beside herself and she and her friends will have to solve secret puzzles, codes, and find clues in Area 51 to rescue grandma. 

This is a fun read. Lots of emphasis on family, which is nice. Lots of puns and plays on words. The illustrations help the story along. This is like CSI for elementary kids and who wouldn't want to live with aliens and solve mysteries? Sky is of Indian descent and her friends are a wide variety of cultures and aliens.

Michelle in the Middle 

Monday, July 15, 2024

The Big Flush by Julie Buxbaum - OPTIONAL

The Big Flush (The Area 51 Files Book 2)
by Julie Buxbaum
, 252 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Delacorte (Random House), 2023. $15 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Sky Patel-Baum's middle school is bizarre. She lives in Area 51 where there are aliens everywhere. Sky is learning to love her new home when it looks like it will be destroyed by space junk in the form of a giant toilet heading straight for her home, which could also take out all of Nevada. Sky and her friends race to figure out who on base is giving out coordinates to angry aliens before they are wiped out. 

 This book in the series is heavy on potty humor, especially when the town gets sprayed by human feces. Don't eat while reading this book. There are a lot of puns and it's nice to see people and aliens get along despite their differences. Nice themes of friendship and family. And fighting poop. Sky is of Indian descent and the other characters are a diverse collection of cultures and aliens. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Power Button: The First Invasion Zack Soto - OPTIONAL

Power Button: The First Invasion
by Zack Soto
, 202 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphic Universe (Lerner), 2023. $23.

Language: G (1 swear, 0 "F"); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Kaz Savage is 10yo when his 11yo cousin Truly is dropped off at his home in Oregon. Kaz uses a walking stick because he has a degenerative eye disease. The two of them stumble upon some space relics that summon a space knight, Trinn Cyclo, who must may be able to save earth from an invasion by a 15yo space alien who has family issues of his own. 

The art is done all in blues, purples, and greens, which seems to work with the story. The plot is fairly straightforward, though there is a strange uncle who is a cat. The robot space knight saves the day and will most likely be back in subsequent books. I liked that Kaz has a disability he copes well with. Kids will probably like it but I was hoping for more tension in the plot. Truly is black and Max is white. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Life Log by Lea Redmond, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi - OPTIONAL

Life Log by Lea Redmond, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi, 96 pages. NON-FICTION. Chronicle Books, 2022. $15. 9781452166247

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - GIFT - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SOME

This is an interactive book meant to be personalized by writing and coloring in it, so it would NOT be a recommended purchase for a library. It teaches ways to collect data and log observations, patterns and details using different infographic techniques. The first ten pages are very wordy in describing various infographics. Once you make it through the text-heavy intro pages, the book is filled with about a dozen fun data-collecting activities like "Bubble Gum Contest - which brand blows bigger bubbles?" and "The Life of a Pencil - how long does my pencil last?"

I think the data-collecting activities in this book are a fun way to encourage non-digital activity and could be enjoyed by a child on their own or with family or friends. Some of the activities require documenting over time, while others can be done in one afternoon. I think the book does a good job of showing that observation and collecting data can be interesting and fun, and some of the activities are things I'd enjoy doing with my own kids.

Angie Campbell - EL Librarian https://www.kingsenglish.com/book/9781452166247

Friday, July 12, 2024

Jacob’s Missing Book by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, and Chris Case - ADVISABLE

Jacob’s Missing Book by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case
. PICTURE BOOK. Magination, 2024. $18. 9781433844584

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

APPEALS TO: MANY


Jacob wants to read the penguin book during library time, but the book isn’t anywhere in the library. The next day Emily mentions that she has two dads and that she likes the penguin book too. AFter their teacher can’t talk about why the school no longer has the penguin book, at recess the kids pretend to be penguins hatching eggs in their nests of rocks and explain the book to the kids who haven’t read it.

The Hoffman’s remind us that kids are not as uptight about books as much as some adults are. And if one kid has read and loved a book that is now missing for some reason, they will happily share the story with the curious minds around them, And there is nothing wrong with that. If a teacher at any level wants to talk to their students about the history of banned books, here is a great place to start.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The World's Loneliest Elephant by Ralph Fletcher and Naoko Stoop - ADVISABLE

 The World's Loneliest Elephant: Based on the True Story of Kaavan and His Rescue by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Naoko Stoop. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Little Brown, 2022. $18. 978031636459

 PG (Animal cruelty- elephants in chains without proper care; no graphic images)

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

APPEALS TO: SOME

Kaavan became the loneliest elephant in the world after he was taken from Sri Lanka and moved to a zoo in Pakistan where he did not receive proper care for a very long time. After more than thirty years in a small enclosure, kept in chains, and not receiving veterinary care, Kaavan was rescued by a veterinarian from Egypt, Dr. Khalil. With the help of people from all over the world, Dr. Khalil worked to move Kaavan to an animal sanctuary in Cambodia where he could be happy and healthy.

The illustrations, which are painted on wood, are gorgeous! I loved that this was a recent event (Kaavan was moved to his new home in 2020). The humans illustrated are from different countries and are illustrated with various ethnicities.

Rachel, Elementary Library Specialist 

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Mr. Whiskers and the Shenanigan Sisters by Wendelin Van Draanen - ESSENTIAL

Mr. Whiskers and the Shenanigan Sisters by Wendelin Van Draanen, 196 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Random), 2023. $17

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

APPEALS TO: MANY 

When fake FBI agents kidnap 10yo Misty and 11yo Zelda's Nanigan's dad, a stray dog named Mr. Whiskers jumps in to help them find him. The girls do not always understand him and don't always believe him but Mr. Whiskers does not give up. There are clues to find, high-speed dog chases, secret rooms, help from friends, and gold coins to add to the adventure.

I loved that the book was narrated by the dog, Mr. Whiskers. The book is full of dog puns and observations on humans from a dog perspective. This is a fun adventure that will appeal to many. It is assumed that all of the characters are white.

Reviewer: A. Snow, Librarian
 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate by Deeba Zargarpur - ADVISABLE


Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate
by Deeba Zargarpur
, 336 pages. Labyrinth Road (Random House), 2024. $18.

Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

APPEALS TO: MANY

Once a year on her birthday, Farrah (12yo) gets to see her dad. Their climbing trip this year is a little rocky, and then it takes a sudden turn for the worst when Farrah’s dad turns blue and disappears right before her eyes! Her family doesn’t believe her, so Farrah sets out by herself to find her dad, no matter what kind of magic trouble he’s involved in.

Zargarpur’s fantasy world is based in some Islamic mythology, specifically about jinn, and it was fun to see these mythical beings brought to life in a new way. Farrah’s whole story revolves around a wish to change her fate and her journey that reveals her true power—a power each of us could wield in our lives. Wishes sound great in theory, but we don’t need wishes to make our world better.

Farrah and Arzu are Muslim Afghan Americans. The violence rating is for fantasy violence and mentions of execution.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

The Flicker by H.E. Edgmon - ADVISABLE

The Flicker by H.E. Edgmon, 288 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), SEPT 2024. $20.

Content: G (some danger)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

APPEALS TO: SOME

Millie and Rose are only step-sibling, but share a baby brother.  With their parent figures now gone and supplies rapidly dwindling, they make a bold move to strike out in search of Millie’s maternal grandmother - an Indigenous person. Walking their way in what they hope is the right direction, they happen upon a school bus of kids from a summer camp who are also trying to find their ways home. Danger lurks, however, in a group that calls themselves The Hive - a corporate conglomerate that has been hoarding supplies.

A decent upper elementary, middle grade post-apocalypse book.  The danger is palpable without being bloody and graphic. There are not a wide variety of this genre for this age level - so could be a good choice for them.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS



Monday, July 8, 2024

Weird But True-The Middle Ages by Michael Burgan and Carmen Sanchez - ADVISABLE

Weird But True-The Middle Ages
by Michael Burgan, illustrated by Carmen Sanchez
. 192 pages NON-FICTION. National Geographic (Disney), 2023. $13. 9781426373299

PG (Because this book is about the Middle Ages, there are several pictures and facts about fighting with swords and war)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL


Jousting knights, peasants, Vikings and more! This book contains so many facts about The Middle Ages! Weird But True-The Middle Ages teaches students about the world during this time period in a fun and exciting way.

This series is very popular with elementary students. I don't know why this book would be any different. Brightly colored illustrations and photos are on every page. Small paragraphs describe the pictures and keep the reader engaged.

Tracie, Elementary School Librarian


Sunday, July 7, 2024

Just Keep Walking by Erin Soderberg Downing - ESSENTIAL

Just Keep Walking by Erin Soderberg Downing, 256 pages. Scholastic, 2024. $25.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

APPEALS TO: MANY

For Jo’s 12th summer, she was supposed to hike 100 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail with her dad, but this year he is too busy with his new insta-family to bother with Jo, so she is hiking with her mom instead. After the first .6 of a mile, Jo is about ready to give up, but she refuses to let her dad “win”. And thankfully she persists, because adventure, a bit of danger, and heartfelt talks coupled with a lot of growth await her.

I love a good man vs nature story that is as much about conquering self as it is about surviving nature. Downing gives us an authentic look at long-trail hiking while helping Jo complete her own journey of the soul.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS



Saturday, July 6, 2024

The Mysterious Life of Dr. Barry by Lisa Williamson - OPTIONAL

The Mysterious Life of Dr. Barry by Lisa Williamson, 137 pages. Pushkin Books, (rerelease) 2024. $

Content: G (minor arguments, c-section mentioned, main character spends her life disguised as a man)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE; MS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SOME

Margaret wanted more than living at home caring for her mother, so when the chance came, she reinvented herself in the guise of a man and enrolled in medical school in Edinburgh. For the next 50 years, Dr. Barry pursued a career as surgeon - battling against society’s perception of him as just a boy, keeping most people at arms-length, having only few close friends, and always dealing with politics in the towns and military units in which he was placed. While a few may have suspected, it wasn’t until Dr. Barry’s death that their secret was revealed.

Williamson manages to avoid any pronouncement about whether Dr. Barry was just disguised as a male, or whether they were transgender. The author had to create dialogue and embellish a bit to flesh out the few details known of Barry’s life; thus, this is fiction, rather than a biography. Regardless of Barry’s origins, they are important for performing the first successful C-section - both mother and baby survived despite the non-existence of anesthesia. The illustrations make the book feel very young.

Dr. Barry is from Scotland.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS


Friday, July 5, 2024

Paige Not Found by Jen Wilde - ADVISABLE

Paige Not Found by Jen Wilde, 256 pages. Scholastic, 2024. $19.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - ADVISABLE

APPEALS TO: SOME

12yo Paige already struggles to deal with the world through the lens of her autism.  When she finds out that her parents enrolled her in a study that implanted a device (The Dot) into her brain in order to assess her and control her, she is livid. Along with her best friend, she needs to track down the other kids from the study - because their data is about to be sold to a company that has a very poor track record about data privacy.

The near-future setting doesn’t feel that far down the road, but does put this into science fiction. Paige is queer (possibly non-binary, but she hasn’t changed her pronouns yet), which she just is - it is not a plot point. A decent book about body autonomy, data privacy, and consent. The action is just enough to keep some students interested once they catch on to the plot.

Paige cues white.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS


Thursday, July 4, 2024

The Wrong Way Home by Kate O’Shaughnessy - ADVISABLE

The Wrong Way Home by Kate O’Shaughnessy, 322 pages. Knopf (Random House), 2024. $18.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL

12o Fern loves her life with Dr. Ben and all of the others on The Ranch. When her mother sneaks away with her in the middle of the night, Fern is very confused. They’ve traveled for days and landed in Driftaway Beach, California, where Fern is surrounded by all of the toxic things of the world that Dr. Ben has always warned them about. As she tries to find a way back to what she considers to be home, she has much to learn - not just school stuff (which she totally does), but also about herself, her mother, and what real family and home look like.

O’Shaughnessy’s lovely book is the definition of bildungsroman - a young person goes from believing what others tell her about the world to a place where she now knows she doesn’t know everything and that trust needs to be earned. Powerful stuff that I devoured in an afternoon. The only reason I didn’t rate this ESSENTIAL is that it isn’t the romantic, or sports-centric, or action-packed, or spooky books that my students have been gravitating to on their own. The cover is uninspiring and confusing once you now the story, so you will probably need to spotlight and hand sell to the first students.

Fern and the other characters cue white.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS



Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Hearts That Cut by Kika Hatzopoulou - OPTIONAL


Hearts That Cut (Threads That Bind #2)
by Kika Hatzopoulou
, 336 pages. Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2024. $17.

Language: R (43 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL

Io and Bianca have been following Thais’s thread to the gods for weeks, needing to understand the reason for all the deaths they witnessed in Alante. But the gods and their followers continue to stay one step ahead—and their adversaries aren’t the only ones misleading Io’s power.

There seemed to be more expository sections in this book than in the prequel, which were cumbersome to read but important to the conclusions Io makes to unravel the antagonists’ plan. With betrayal, reconciliation, and more of the amazing magic system, the non-expository parts were action-filled enough to make the reading worth it. I am satisfied by the climax and conclusion, though I would not say no to more stories set in Io’s world.

Hatzopoulou’s main and side characters are diverse in skin tone and sexual orientation. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol, illegal activity, partial nudity, and an intense make out scene. The violence rating is for assault, gun use, fantasy violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

The Night Ends with Fire by K. X. Song - OPTIONAL


The Night Ends with Fire (The Night Ends with Fire #1)
by K. X. Song
, 432 pages. Ace (Penguin Group), 2024. $21.

Language: PG (8 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL

In order to save her family, Meilin (18yo) needs the matchmaker to arrange a betrothal to a wealthy suitor. The matchmaker does her job, but Meilin is unable to do hers. Instead of marrying the merchant chosen for her, Meilin calls herself Ren and joins the army, determined to be the best and force everyone to acknowledge her.

This retelling of Mulan focuses on the gray areas between ambition and greed, between equality and pride, between duty and mercy. Meilin struggles with herself and how she fits into the new situations she has placed herself in, which is the focus of the majority of the internal conflict and becomes repetitive since she struggles with the same issues again and again. Readers feel this struggle as well, trying to fit Meilin into either the box of hero or villain—but few things are that simple.

Meilin is described as having “dark” skin, and Sky is described as having “pale” skin, though the overall impression is that the characters are implied Chinese as it is a retelling of Mulan. One significant side character is lesbian. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use, innuendo, sexual harassment, mentions of concubines and prostitutes, rape, and sexual touching. The violence rating is for assault, child abuse, war and battle, murder, and mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, July 1, 2024

Crashing into You by Rocky Callen - OPTIONAL


Crashing into You
by Rocky Callen
, 288 pages. Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan), 2024. $20.

Language: R (96 swears, 56 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: MANY

Street racing is something that Leti (16yo) is good at, and she’s determined to prove that she deserves to be there by getting invited to the underground races. Her crew is fully behind her, even if her father isn’t supportive. But when Leti and Jacob become friends, she gains another reason to win—and so much more to lose if she doesn’t.

I love the metaphors that come to life from Leti’s view of the world, from how she describes Jacob as an entire forest in one being to how her car feels like a rocket to how the entire ocean can come between people. Leti’s and Jacob’s interest in flying and in the stars are different, and yet Callen uses imagery to bring them together in a beautiful way. The street racing is exciting and the aforementioned figurative language is amazing, but the core of this book is about grief and promises—when to let them define your life and whether any good can come from letting them go.

Leti and her family are implied Latinx, Jacob is Jewish, and a couple of side characters are gay. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, mentions of drugs and sex, illegal activity, innuendo, groping, and sexual harassment. The violence rating is for assault.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Skip by Sarah Burgess - OPTIONAL

Skip
by Sarah Burgess
, 256 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2023. $15 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (questioning gender); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Jay is shy, feels invisible, and questions whether they are a boy or a girl. Jay feels like a nobody and struggles with friendships. Beah, on the otherhand, knows what she wants and is a force to be reckoned with. Beah is all about Double Dutch street skipping. Jay's friendship with Beah is a game changer for Jay, but Jay and Beah still need to understand themselves. 

 Jay is trying to understand themselves and how they fit into the world. Jay's insecurities can resonate with middle school readers. Sometimes the text is difficult to read because it gets super small in places. I'm not sure if Jay and Beah are just friends or are becoming something more. Beah is black and Jay is nonbinary white. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Shiny Misfits by Maysoon Zayid, illustrated by Shadia Amin - ESSENTIAL

Shiny Misfits
by Maysoon Zayid, illustrated by Shadia Amin
, 256 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphix (Scholastic), 2024. 415 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

APPEALS TO: MANY 

Bay Ann is in middle school and she wants to shine. She wins the school talent show with her tap routine, but when her classmate, Alyee Maq, steps up to accept his second place trophy, she wobbles and almost falls and Alyee catching her goes viral. Bay Ann has cerebral palsy and doesn't want to be seen only as her disability but as the best. She does everything in her power to beat Alyee at his attention seeking game. 

The characters are great. Bay Ann is flawed, but her angst about getting clicks and going viral is relatable. Bay Ann talks to her cat who answers in rhyme. My favorite character is the teacher, who makes me smile. It is interesting to see how Bay Ann deals with her disability and even works it to her advantage. I love the diversity of the characters and their situations, the humor, the art, and the divorced parents. It all works together to make a fun and compelling read. The two main characters and their families are Arab American. 

Michelle in the Middle School 

Saturday, June 29, 2024

The House of the Lost on the Cape by Sachiko Kashiwaba and Yukiko Saito - OPTIONAL

The House of the Lost on the Cape
by Sachiko Kashiwaba, illustrated by Yukiko Saito (translated from Japanese by Avery Fischer Udagawa)
, 224 pages. Yonder, 2023. $18. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (attempted kidnapping, monster violence, some pets and people injured - not gory) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SOME 

Yui and Hiyori are strangers on a train, but when an earthquake followed by a tsunami destroys the town they have stopped in, they find themselves together in a shelter. When an old woman, Obächan, mistakes them for her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Yui goes along with it and they begin a new life as a family. Renting a house near the sea, Hiyori, is enrolled in the 5th grade at the local school, and although she has been silent since the death of her parents, she quickly makes a friend. But the twin disasters have opened a portal that may have released a dangerous monster. Good thing Obächan has connections to the magical world and knows a thing or two about protecting her community. 

I struggled to keep track of all the characters, as The House of the Lost on the Cape was obviously written for a Japanese audience who would be familiar with the mythology. There's not much world-building, and my digital copy didn't have a glossary. I'm certain a Japanese reader, or someone with more cultural knowledge than I would find it engaging and exciting. The suspense was well delivered, and the battle with the Sea Snake was satisfying, but I was painfully aware I was missing a huge part of the story. The characters are Japanese 

Lisa Librarian 

Unstoppable Us: Why the World Isn't Fair by Yuval Noah Harari and Ricard Zaplana Ruiz, - ADVISABLE

Unstoppable Us: Why the World Isn't Fair by Yuval Noah Harari and Ricard Zaplana Ruiz, 181 pages. NON-FICTION. Bright Matter Books, 2024. $25. 9780593711521

CONTENT: PG (The book discusses wars, discrimination, and more)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

APPEALS TO: MANY

"Unstoppable Us" follows humanity for thousands of years. We learn about the beginnings of civilization, farming, inventions, discovery, and more. With this, we also learn about oppression, unfair systems, world events, disasters, etc. In this book, we can learn about the good and bad about humanity and remember it. This book is a funny, interesting choice for older kids that want to learn more about the world around them and appreciate a darker sense of humor.

This book was a funny perspective of human civilization and how we've evolved and learned. By covering almost every topic, we learn through illustrations and fun facts about how humans have come to be. This book covers inequality and discrimination in a way that's respectful but funny. The book addresses homosexuality, different cultures, and more.

Bryant Baird, Librarian



15 Secrets to Survival by Natalie D. Richards - OPTIONAL

15 Secrets to Survival
by Natalie D. Richards
, 376 pages. Delacorte (Random House), 2023. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

12yo Baxter, Turner, Abigail and Emerson have known each other since pre-school. Their parents are friends, but they are not - more like frenemies. So when the group starts arguing with each other and saying mean things on a group chat during a school competition, they are disqualified and given an alternate assignment. As a team building activity, the children are delivered to Baxter's great Uncle Hornsby - a survivalist - in the mountains of northern Montana (and it's December). But what they think is survival training turns into life and death as Uncle Hornby disappears and the kids find themselves alone in the wilderness. 

Wow, so much peril - winter, snow storms, collapsing shed, frozen rivers, an avalanche, dangerous wildlife, oh, and they have an 18 month old little sister with them. It felt like a bit much for the 2 days? they were together. Uncle Hornsby is portrayed as super elderly - so many wrinkles - and I puzzle at the wisdom of the parents just dropping the kids off and heading to Aruba. All in all, exciting, as the action never stops - they go from one dangerous situation right into the next, I'm not sure some of them might have permanent injuries. A bit long for middle grade, nearly 400 pages. The author gives us hair colors, but races are not defined, so the characters default white. 

Lisa Librarian 

Friday, June 28, 2024

Kaya and the Lizard Riders by Wes Craig - ADVISABLE

Kaya and the Lizard Riders, Book 1 by Wes Craig
, 160 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Image Comics, Inc. 2023. $10 

Language: G (2 swears) Mature Content: G Violence: PG (fighting, death, destruction) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Kaya is a young girl who must take her 8yo brother to a safe haven after their village is destroyed. He is a prince and may be the answer to a prophecy. The siblings have not grown up together, and while the prince still thinks he can give orders, it is Kaya and her magic arm that keep them alive while fleeing the empire and battling monsters. 

If you like comic books, this one is for you. Kaya has just enough attitude and moxie to make her an unlikely, yet interesting hero. The plot is fast-paced and the subplots, about a possible relationship and having honor are intriguing. This is book one of five, and readers will want to find out what happens to Kaya and her brother. Kaya may or may not be black, and her love interest is a lizard man. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Next Stop by Debbie Fong - ADVISABLE

Next Stop by Debbie Fong
, 268 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House, 2024. $22 

Language: G (0 swears) Mature Content: PG (death, mental breakdown) Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Pia is on a desert bus tour with a bus full of interesting characters but no family. Pia is drawn to the tour because of a chance to see a mystical underground lake that is supposed to grant impossible wishes. Pia has a deep secret she's been hiding from her new friends on the bus and is searching for healing. 

 The bus ride is an adventure in quirkiness. Think of all the weird things one could possibly see on a road trip, and they're probably included. Pia's secret is revealed in flashbacks and by the end your heart will break for her. The text type is small but readable. The issues of grieving and loss are identifiable and touching. Pia is most likely Taiwanese. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Arthur the Always King by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Chris Riddell - OPTIONAL

Arthur the Always King by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Chris Riddell, 237 pages. Candlewick, 2023. $30. 9781536212655

CONTENT: PG-13 (The book has blood, death, war, and violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SOME

"Arthur the Always King" follows the story of King Arthur. Through war, love, light, and darkness, we learn about the impact King Arthur had during his life. The tales of these journeys have been passed down for generations, which are still adapted and retold today. While some are violent and gruesome, some are romantic and kind. 

Arthur’s story is perfect for kids who have a darker sense of humor, love fairy tales, and love knights in shining armor. Riddell has filled the  stories with great illustrations to match about countless stories throughout the years. The art and stories themselves are very violent, with blood and more. This book might be difficult for many readers, especially younger ones. 

Bryant Baird, Librarian



Choosing Sides (Sweet Valley Twins #3) by Francine Pascal & Nicole Andelfinger and Claudia Aguirre - ADVISABLE

Choosing Sides (Sweet Valley Twins #3)
by Francine Pascal, illustrated by Nicole Andelfinger and Claudia Aguirre
, 220 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House, 2024. $22 

Language: PG (3 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Elizabeth's best friend, Amy, is trying out for the new cheer squad. Unfortunately, the Unicorn's cheer squad only wants the most popular girls and are actively working against Amy. Elizabeth gets caught in the middle between her twin and the Unicorns, and friends who want to have a chance no matter the odds. 

 Pretty much a standard plot line with good twin vs. demented twin caught up in the popular universe. Elizabeth finds a way to make things right and stave off the mean girls. If you like Sweet Vally Twins, then you will like this book. The art captures the spirit of the books well and helps advance the story. The twins are white but there are different skin tones in the book. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Undercover Latina by Aya De Leon - OPTIONAL

Undercover Latina by Aya De Leon
, 336 pages. Candlewick, 2023. $9 (paperback) 

Language: PG (8 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (brief fight against a terrorist) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SOME 

14yo Latina Andrea and her family are part of an undercover international group called the Factory, which helps governments around the world extend protection to people of color. Andrea and her mother are activated to infiltrate a suburban Arizona school to befriend the estranged son of a white supremacist - but Andrea and her mom have to pass as white to do so. Add complications from Andrea getting her first crush and perhaps her first kiss. 

As fun as the book was to listen to (major Gallagher Girl vibes here), SPOILER - I hated that Andrea’s cover was so thoroughly blown at the end that she might get little chance in the future for the spy work - I was really hoping for a whole series. Also - book #2 is now out, but both books need major cover redo’s - the first is too cartoony and the second too dark (at first glance it looks like Amani has a beard). At over 300 pages, most of my students will pass it up for something tighter. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS 

Not if You Break Up With Me First by G.F. Miller - ESSENTIAL

Not if You Break Up With Me First by G.F. Miller
, 278 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2024. $19. Content: 

PG (no overt content issues, but lots of simmering anger about pranks as the two main characters resolve their issues)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL

APPEALS TO: MANY

13yo Eve has been waiting all summer for her best-friend-for-life Andrew to get home from his family’s all summer trip to Florida. He’s already missed the first week of school! As soon as he steps off the airplane, though, things are weird - their mothers are whispering about what a cute couple they are, and at school all of Eve’s track team friends are sure that they are destined to be a couple - they’ve even started trying out couple names for them. Now everyone assumes they are actually a couple. But neither of them wants to be the one to back out. Eve and Andrew decide independently to be outrageously bad “dates” so that the other will do the breaking up. What can go wrong? How about everything!

Miller has written an awesome what-not-to-do-in-a-relationship book! High on misunderstandings, bad advice, and sheer drama. I would dub this a must-read for everyone entering middle school and hormones. This is everything that a middle school dating book should be. Good to the last drop! All of the characters cue white.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

A Kingdom to Claim by Sian Ann Bessey - ADVISABLE

A Kingdom to Claim by Sian Ann Bessey, 352 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $19.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: ADVISABLE - HS

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL

Daughter of an ealdorman, Aisley (12yo) watched her sick father leave for battle against the Vikings, his loyalty to King Alfred of Wessex overpowering the pleadings of his family to stay home. And the Saxons lost terribly. The Vikings were happy to be paid off then, but, seven years later, they return—and Aisley braces herself, fearing what more they could take from her if they win again.

While the story is mostly focused on the romance blooming amidst war, the main characters are not the only ones with character arcs. Bessey does her research and shares which parts of the story are true at the end, pointing out fun facts like how King Alfred is the only English monarch to be referred to as “the Great.” The political and religious dealings of the time period are as fun to learn as the story itself is to read.

Most of the characters are Saxons (southern English), and some of the Vikings are implied Danes. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, kissing, and mentions of rape. The violence rating is for assault, battles, war, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Eowulf by Mike Cavallaro - ADVISABLE

Eowulf
by Mike Cavallaro
, 222 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second (Macmillan), 2024 16 

Language: G (1 swear) Mature Content: G Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: MANY 

Eowulf, daughter of Deowulf, son of Ceowulf, descendant of Beowulf, has problems. She is a Dungeons & Dragons whiz with her friends, but when she tries to stick up for a kid who always gets bullied, her friends suddenly seem distant. Besides, Eowulf has a secret she hasn't shared with her friends: she is a monster hunter with her dad. But boring New Jersey may have a monster and secrets of its own. 

 I liked that there is a plot within a plot. There is a story about the D&D campaign that dovetails nicely with Eowulf's narrative. While the premise is pretty bizarre, it's relatable because of common threads surrounding friendship, bullying, misunderstandings, and finding common ground. I ended up liking the story and the bright, colorful graphics. The story wraps up nicely, but there will be a second book. Race or cultures are difficult to assess, but there is a variety of skin tones. 

Michelle in the Middle 

The Secret Language of Birds by Lynn Kelly - OPTIONAL

The Secret Language of Birds
by Lynn Kelly
, 232 pages. Delacorte (Random House), 2024. $18. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (girls discussing bras and possum nipples) Violence: PG (mention of poaching) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

13yo Nina has a way with birds. She loves them, and knows a lot about them - she even imagines they are speaking to her. So, when given the opportunity to spend the summer at her Aunt's birding camp, Nina is all in. Although she'll be staying in her Aunt's cabin, she quickly falls in with a group of three who call themselves The Oddballs. On a secret campers' hike to the marsh to investigate a ghost story, the girls are startled by a huge white bird. Nina stays behind. She thinks it might be a rare whooping crane, but they don't live in Texas! Nina wasn't supposed to be at the infirmary, and she's afraid if she tells her aunt about the crane, she'll be sent home. So the Oddballs come up with a plan. 

I expected some magical realism, based on an encounter with a bird in the first chapter, but that sort of thing didn't happen again. I don't feel the characters were all that well developed. I wanted to know more about Nina - she was loner at school, but seemed to fit right in with the girls at the camp - it felt like a disconnect. I learned a lot about bird conservation, especially Whooping Cranes. Cool cover art. While not a sequel or even a companion novel, I liked the occasional nod to Song for a Whale, even including Iris in the storyline. The characters default white - the wildlife official is described as Black. 

Lisa Librarian 

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fun Fact: I Love You by Gina Lynn Larsen - OPTIONAL

Fun Fact: I Love You by Gina Lynn Larsen, 256 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL

Nellie (17yo) has a plan, a five-year plan. She is going to be valedictorian in a couple of weeks, go to UNLV, and then go on to grad school to become an astrophysicist. Getting her first kiss is not in the plan, nor is her second, and it definitely doesn’t include her father’s sudden death.

Larsen explores both sides of having a plan and not having a plan, and how life has a way of pushing and pulling us in various directions regardless. While grief is often not in our plans, it can reshape them, and that is not a bad thing. Nellie’s story highlights how our support systems help us through the difficult times to continue moving forward to our dreams—even when those dreams change. Also, the “keeping a secret” trope for the romance side of the story stressed me out, but it was handled well, and I am satisfied with the conclusion of the book.

The majority of characters are implied white. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mentions of drugs, innuendo, kissing, and partial nudity. The violence rating is for mild assault, death, and mentions of child abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Didn’t See that Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto - OPTIONAL

Didn’t See that Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto, 320 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2023. $13.

Language: R (290 swears, 20 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Kiki’s parents make her switch Chinese schools, she’s confident that she’ll be able to make new friends and get along with her teachers like she did at her last school, but her first day goes terribly—she becomes known as “Crazy Kiki.” The only bright side is that Kiki’s online gaming friend, Sourdawg, tells her that he also goes to that school. If Kiki can find her friend, then maybe she’ll survive the strict school and her standoffish classmates.

When Kiki switches schools, the shockingly different environment is hard for her to handle, and she loses herself. As pieces of Kiki’s personality fall away in order to fit into the new group, Kiki’s happiness decreases and she isolates herself. This downward spiral is easy to get caught up in—it’s as easy in real life as it is in Kiki’s story. As Kiki gains the courage to reclaim her confidence and sense of self, readers can learn from her strength. The dramatization of this process is entertaining, but it still offers hope.

Most of the characters are implied Chinese Indonesian, Liam is half Singaporean, and Cassie is part of the LGBT community. The mature content is for underage drinking, sexual harassment, innuendo, and mentions of drugs, sexting, sex, and rape. The violence content is for video game fantasy violence and mentions of murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Mapmakers and the Flickering Fortress by Cameron Chittock and Amanda Castillo - ADVISABLE

Mapmakers and the Flickering Fortress (Mapmakers #3) 
by Cameron Chittock, illustrated by Amanda Castillo
, 234 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL RH Graphic Penguin, 2024 $14 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

In the third book of the the trilogy, Alidade and Blue reach the land of the Night Coats and discover a sinister power lurking beneath the surface. The magic of the Memris may be extinguished for good if the Mapmakers can't come together to fix the ever encroaching darkness the Night Coats have unleashed. Alidade and her fellow Mapmakers are intrepid and care for the world around them. They are not afraid to use their gifts to help others. Even though there are over arching themes of environmentalism, the mystery of the Night Coats will keep you reading. There is a lot of jumping back and forth between characters and worlds, so that could be confusing, but the page colors help. Nice resolution to the trilogy and it wrapped up before getting too drawn out. Though no culture or race is specified, Alidade and her Mapmaker friends seem largely South American. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Sweet Valley Twins: The Haunted House by Francine Pascal, & Nicole Andelfinger and Knack Whittle - ADVISABLE

Sweet Valley Twins: The Haunted House
by Francine Pascal, illustrated by Nicole Andelfinger and Knack Whittle
, 220 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House, 2024. $22 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: MANY 

Nora Mercandy has moved into town and lives in the local haunted house, spawning rumors that she is a witch. The school spurns her, led on by the Unicorn Club and their rumors. Elizabeth determines Nora is a nice girl and tries to befriend her. The bullying escalates and Elizabeth is caught between her new friend and her twin. 

The art is great and helps carry the book. The bullying is really mean and I have a hard time liking Jessica's character even if she is a good literary foil for her twin. The ending wraps up a little too easily and not everyone who gets bullied will have a way out as easy as Nora. It's a relatable read though and it's a vehicle to build empathy for those who may not fit in. No culture or race is specified, though the twins are white. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Tryouts by Sarah Sax - ADVISABLE

Tryouts by Sarah Sax (The Brinkley Yearbooks #2)
, 286 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Knopf (Random House), 2024. $22 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: MANY 

13yo Alexandra Olsen lives for baseball. She's played on little league teams forever, but has aged out. She wants to be on the middle school team but it's an all boy team. She tries out anyway. With a tenth consecutive championship on the line, her team isn't working together well at all. What's a girl to do? 

Ali is a great character. She's a go-getter and she really just wants to play. Her friends are doing different things at the middle school and this book is really a celebration of what makes students thrive, whether it is sports or something different. Great themes of friendship and that life is not all about winning or losing, but about people. I totally loved the unexpected ending. There is hope for middle schoolers with this book! Race or culture isn't mentioned. Ali has red hair and freckles and there are a variety of skin tones throughout the book. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Summer Vamp by Violet Chan Karim - ADVISABLE

Summer Vamp Violet
by Chan Karim
, 238 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House, 2024 22 

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

BUYING ADVISORY EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: MANY 

Maya is excited to go to culinary camp, even if it is her dad's girlfriend's idea. Unfortunately, she takes the wrong bus and ends up at a camp for vampires. Maya has never fit in anywhere and she certainly doesn't feel like being the only human at camp will help. 

Even though this is a vampire camp, the issues of friendship and belonging are addressed really well. Maya also struggles with speaking up for herself and telling people what she's really thinking, which is fairly universal. The graphic art is well done and totally adds to the story. The characters are relatable and diverse. I loved it. Break out the blood box drinks! The campers were all a mixed bag of personalities and skin tones. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Once They See You by Josh Allen and Sarah J. Coleman - ADVISABLE

Once They See You
by Josh Allen, illustrated by Sarah J. Coleman
, 192 pages. Middle Grade, Holiday House, 2024. $19 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Thirteen short stories ranging from a killer bike to a possible class of zombies. Nothing is at it seems in these stories. 

 There's lots of different types of scare to choose from and the art adds to the stories. Fun way to get your creeps fix because it's a super fast read. The stories are engaging and just the right amount of scare for middle school readers. There is a variety of characters in each story and no culture or race is specified. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Guardian Test by Christina Soontornvat - ADVISABLE

The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) 
by Christina Soontornvat
, 148 pages. Middle Grade Scholastic, 2023. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: SEVERAL 

Plum is surprised that she has been accepted to the Guardian's Academy on Lotus Island. Though reluctant to leave her grandparents, Plum really wants to learn to transform into a magical creature who helps take care of the natural world. Plum struggles with school, however, and while her classmates begin to transform, she hasn't, which means she may have to leave the school and her new friends. 

While it sounded hokey at first, Plum is a great character and there's enough depth to pull the story off. This is a good fantasy novel to dive into the genre, since fantasy novels tend to be large. There is some intrigue going on that should lead nicely into a sequel. Besides, I want Plum's gift for talking to worms to find out where plants will grow the best. Since this is fantasy, who knows what races or cultures there are. The cover art has different hair and skin tones though. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Friday, June 21, 2024

Gamer: Virtual Kombat: Book 1 by Chris Bradford - OPTIONAL

Gamer: Virtual Kombat: Book 1 by Chris Bradford
, 126 pages. Middle Grade Union Square, 2024.  in U.S. 2012 in Great Britain $10 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G PG (video game violence and real-world violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO: MANY 

Scott, age unknown, lives on the streets with other orphans after the killer virus of 2030 wiped out a vast amount of adults. He is running from a gang when he gets the chance to prove his gamer skills and is accepted to be a Virtual Kombat gamer. Life should improve wildly for Scott, but with the catchphrase, "So real it hurts," Scott might be in for something more sinister than he bargained for. 

This is the first in a series of three books. At just over 100 pages, all three books could be compiled into one, but the size will appeal to reluctant readers. Fast-moving action combined with video gaming will draw in readers. While the characters don't get a chance to be very fleshed out, the premise will keep you going. A great way to "kill" an afternoon. Literally. No races or cultures are specified in this futuristic setting. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Heiress Takes All by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka - HIGH

Heiress Takes All by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, 368 pages. Little, Brown Books, 2024. $19.

Language: R (79 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Two years ago, Olivia’s parents divorced—and the prenup they had signed meant that Olivia and her mom were kicked out of the house with nothing. Olivia (17yo) doesn’t care about being an heiress, but her mom deserves to not be drowning in bills. When the perfect opportunity presents itself, Olivia puts together a crew to steal the money they need from the man who took it from them.

I love a good heist, and this team of teenagers scheme, manipulate, and improvise with the best of them. There are so many hidden agendas and unforeseen obstacles that I never knew for certain whether The Plan would work. Overall, it was an entertaining ride that occasionally stressed me out as much as it did Olivia.

Olivia is implied White, Cassidy is described as “cream pale,” Deonte is Black, and there are some Swiss family members mentioned. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, illegal activity, kissing, innuendo, and mentions of drugs and sex. The violence rating is for mentions of bombs.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen