Saturday, April 20, 2024

Wander in the Dark by Jumata Emill - OPTIONAL

Wander in the Dark
by Jumata Emill
, 400 pages. Random House Children's/Delacorte Press, 2024. $17 

Language: R (154 swears 64 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (drugs, underage drinking, talk of hooking up); Violence: PG-13 (bloody death and violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

APPEALS TO SOME 

17yo Amir is accused of murder and his 16yo brother Marcel is determined to prove Amir’s innocence. One of their classmates was murdered in her home and Amir has been placed under house arrest under suspicious circumstances. Living in New Orleans, Amir and Marcel both attend a private school because their family wants the best for them. Being Black, they’re a minority in their mostly white, rich high school. When the girl is murdered, the white community immediately blames Amir but when horrible secrets are revealed, the tables turn. 

The bad grammar representing the local community in the book is annoying but necessary to the setting of the story. I like the strong loyalty between the brothers, Marcel and Amir. The mystery was enjoyable to read. The ethnicity is a white and Black community. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Friday, April 19, 2024

Unstuck by Barbara Dee - ADVISABLE

Unstuck by Barbara Dee
, 272 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2024 $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO SOME 

7th grader Lyla is so glad to be in Ms. Bowman's class because she's getting to work on her fantasy novel in Creative Writing! (Last year her teacher was all about 5 paragraph essays - ugh). She is full of ideas, but can't seem to get anything down in her notebook, except a list of names, a "family tree" and a map. She's got a lot on her mind this year, her best friend went to a different school, her parents and her sister seem to be always fighting, and she hasn't yet made any real friends - just Journey, who she really only eats lunch with. She's stuck; her teacher calls it writers block and has lots of suggestions to break it, but Lyla thinks they won't work. She wants to have something to enter into the library's writing contest but so far she has only a great first sentence. 

I really love Barbara Dee's stories. Lyla drives me crazy, always so hard on herself, but not accepting any help or trying new ideas. I know some kids who can relate. There's also a subplot about figuring out her friend situation and dealing with some problems at home that keep the book moving. Not full of tough topics as some of Dee's recent works have - Anxiety (Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet), Bi-polar - (My Life in the Fishtank), Sexual Harassement - (Maybe He Just Likes You). The characters default white. 

Lisa Librarian 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Busby - ADVISABLE

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Busby, 236 pages. Carolrhoda, 2019. $20. 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

APPEALS TO: SOME 

Struggling to connect with her mom, 13yo Safia chooses to live with her dad post-divorce, facing frequent arguments during weekend visits with her mom. Cultural differences between her Kuwaiti mom and English dad exacerbate their conflicts.  After a severe argument, Safia discovers her mom has had a stroke. Dreaming, she learns about her mom's youth in Kuwait, believing that sharing these memories could help her mom recover. Despite a dire prognosis, Safia dedicates hours at her mom's bedside, sharing stories.

I really enjoyed this book and it made me think about how we treat our families and those around us. We should always be kind.

Ellen-Anita Librarian

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

I'm Trying to Love Germs by Bethany Barton - ESSENTIAL

I'm Trying to Love Germs by Bethany Barton.
PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Viking (Penguin), 2023. $19. 9780593326725 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

With the help of a talking germ, learn all about microbes and pathogens and the ways they can harm or help us. 

 Barton's 5th book is as cute and informative as the rest of them. I would buy any of the books that correlate with the curriculum at your school. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Skybound! by Sue Ganz-Schmitt and Jacopo Bruno - ADVISABLE

Skybound! Starring Mary Myers as Carlotta, Daredevil Aeronaut and Scientist
by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Jacopo Bruno
. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY Calkins Creek (Astra), 2024 $19. 9781635928150 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Mary Myers had her head in the clouds - literally! She dreamed of flying and worked with her husband on the science of aeronautics - even helping create a new fabric for balloons, even though it was dangerous to formulate. It isn't until she is 30 that she finally goes up in a balloon of her own - on her own - and doesn't ever stop. 

How fabulous! I love that Ganz-Schmitt and Bruno have brought Mary forward from the fringes of history and back into the limelight she so deserves. Our 9th graders build hot air balloons with tissue paper every spring, so I am very excited to be able to share this with them. The main text is exciting to read and view. The back matter is a great supplement, with a few photographs and artifacts of "Carlotta" and her exploits. Carlotta is white. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Fabulous Fannie Farmer by Emma Bland Smith and Susan Reagan - ADVISABLE

The Fabulous Fannie Farmer: Kitchen Scientist and America's Cook
by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Susan Reagan
. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY Calkins Creek (Astra), 2024. $19. 9781635926125 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

After a bout of polio when she was 16yo, Fannie turned to her love of cooking. It wasn't until she was 31 that she entered the Boston Cooking School, going on to become the principal. Dissatisfied with cookbooks of her day, Fannie and her students started experimenting and standardizing the measurements and instructions for recipes - pioneering a new standard and helping home cooks for generations. 

While text heavy, Smith still keeps the story simple and engaging, supported by Reagan's old-fashioned illustrations. Every cooking class would welcome this addition. Fanny is white. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Fastest Drummer: clap your hands for Viola Smith by Dean Robbins and Susanna Chapman - ADVISABLE

The Fastest Drummer: clap your hands for Viola Smith
by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Susanna Chapman
. PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Candlewick, 2024. $18. 9781536224863 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

As part of her family's all-girl jazz band, Viola loved the drums and would always talk to other, more seasoned, drummers at their shows, trading tips and tricks. When the other girls left to pursue other interests, Viola formed her own band and advocated for women in music throughout her 107 year life. 

Viola's enthusiasm shines through a rare combination of enthusiasts text and swooping illustrations. What a fun book for any music class. There are some videos of Viola on the internet - so a great way to back-up the picture book with footage of her playing. Viola and her family are white; some of the other drummers are Black. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Wrong Kind of Weird by James Ramos - OPTIONAL

The Wrong Kind of Weird by James Ramos,  320 pages. Inkyard Press, 2023.  $19.

Language:  R   (100+ swears, 67 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (teenage sexuality e.g. frequent make out sessions, heavy petting, references to losing virginity throughout, several drug references); Violence: PG (one minor physical conflict at school);

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cameron is a bicultural senior (mom is latina, father is black), who has a small group of geek friends in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They even have a club (GANU - Geeks And Nerds Unite) where they watch anime, design cosplays, and celebrate that #geeklife. However, when one of the most popular girls in school starts working with Cameron, he tries to break down the rigid clique system at his school to make their relationship more acceptable to their different friend groups. However, Cameron's complicated web of half-told truths and posturing catches up with him and falls to pieces around him. Can Cameron figure out who he really is and what he really wants?

This was not my favorite contemporary YA rom-com that I’ve ever read. I had a hard time getting into it and the storyline kept jumping back and forth, from the summer when Cameron and Karla first met to the current school year, without a lot of rhyme or reason. Add to that, there was a LOT of language throughout the book. The one thing I liked about it was the celebration of multicultural students in geek culture. It shouldn’t be that revolutionary, but it was nice to see someone other than sickly white boys being the nerds.

Reviewer: Kiera Beddes, #bookswithbeddes

Friday, April 12, 2024

The Reappearance of Rachel Price by Holly Jackson - HIGH

The Reappearance of Rachel Price by Holly Jackson, 448 pages. Random House Children's/Delacorte Press, 2024. $16

Language: R (53 swears 121 'f'); Mature Content: PG (kissing); Violence: PG-13 (assault) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Rachel Price, mother of 18yo Bel, has been missing for over sixteen years. Bel’s father needs money to care for his elderly father, so he decides to participate in a documentary about the disappearance of his wife, Rachel Price. Bel doesn’t want to rehash everything over and over again but she wants to help her dad. She wonders if the documentary will help find her mom by rekindling the investigation. Also, Bel can’t shake the thought that her mom abandoned her all those years ago and that she just might be alive somewhere. The documentary is just the beginning of the chaos that's to come.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery! The character development was interesting and the author showed Bel’s coping mechanisms of cruelty and shoplifting small items as a way to deal with the abandonment she’s had in her lifetime. The documentary idea was great as it helped show the changes in the family and Bel’s perspective of the situation. The ethnicity is predominantly white with mention of a brown skin background character.

LynnDell Watson, DHS Library

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Murtagh by Christopher Paolini - HIGH

Murtagh
by Christopher Paolini
, 690 Young Adult, Adult Fiction Knopf (Random House), 2023. $30 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; R (graphic killings, torture, cults, possession) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, ADULT - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Murtagh and his dragon, Thorn, are outcasts following the toppling of Galbatorix and their forced role in his reign of terror. There are whispers of evil in the brittle ground and brimstone in the air. Sensing an unknown danger, Murtagh and Thorn risk their lives as they face down a witch and those who follow her. 

 Murtagh is a complex character and a dark hero that you will end up rooting for. Both he and Thorn have to overcome the fears and trauma faced in their formative years. If you haven't read Eragon for awhile, there is just enough recapping to understand this book without having to reread the first series, but a more recent read through would make this book more compelling. The action is fast paced and well written. There are definitely dark moments, but fans of Eragon will eat this up. While the book concludes well enough, a second book is surely lurking, just like the danger that would overthrow Alagaesia. There are many cultures and races in the book as befits a fantasy novel 

Michelle in the Middle 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A Place for Vanishing by Ann Fraistat - OPTIONAL

A Place for Vanishing
by Ann Fraistat
, 456 pages. Delacorte (Random House), 2024. $20 

Language: R (114 swears 4 'f') Mature Content: PG-13 (suicide attempt, self harm, mild sexual content); Violence: R (graphic violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, ADULT - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

16yo Libby, her 13yo sister, Vivi, and their mom, are moving into a derelict Victorian mansion that has been in the family for years for a fresh start following Libby's suicide attempt. There have been many disappearances connected with the house: it has creepy stained glass windows, a strange bug infestation, its own hedge maze, and unusual blue roses. Libby soon discovers that the secrets that the house holds could destroy all of them, though she may have to harness a power beyond her own to fight back. The cover is beautiful and the premise promising. The house is appropriately creepy. Libby is a relatable character, but at over 400 pages, the book seemed long. The ending was unbelievable for me, but readers who have a healthy fear of bugs may enjoy the creep factor. Race is never specified. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Evil Spy School: The Graphic Novel by Stuart Gibbs and Anjan Sarkar - ADVISABLE

Evil Spy School: The Graphic Novel
by Stuart Gibbs, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
, 352 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Simon and Schuster, 2024. $25 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

13yo Ben Ripley just got expelled from spy school. Luckily (or unluckily) he gets picked up by the evil organization, SPYDER. They begin training Ben but he's not sure for what. Turns out Ben is so deep undercover in SPYDER, not even he realizes it at first. He will have to make his new evil companions trust him while finding a way to communicate to his CIA friends. 

 As the graphic novel rendition of the book, this is fabulous. It is well illustrated and the pictures help tell the story. The story is fun and keeps. you guessing. I loved Ben's new evil friends and their quirks. There's plenty of humor to go with the high adventure and kids will be wishing they had spy missions of their own. The Spy School novels just got another reason to cheer. Race is never stated, but most of the characters are white. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Bright Red Fruit by Safia Elhillo - ESSENTIAL

Bright Red Fruit
by Safia Elhillo
, 368 pages. Young Adult, Book in Verse Make Me a World, Penguin Random House, 2024. $20.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (kissing) Violence: PG13 (sexual assault attempt) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

16yo Samira has an unearned bad reputation. When she was younger, a boy she knew bragged a lie, and now adults and others in her community believe the worst. She's not yet even kissed a boy, but who she's with, and what she's wearing are reported to her mother, who doesn't believe Samira. So she's closely watched. Samira is a poet, and wants to go to college and New York where her life can be different. She meets a poet "Horus" online, and although he's much older she agrees to meet him IRL when he comes to D.C. for a reading. 

I love that Samira's story was told in verse, although I know they aren't for everyone. Samira is young and naive, but trying to break free of the strict rules of her culture, so it's no wonder she gets caught up in the excitement of this older man. Considering the topic, I was pleasantly surprised that the story is told without swears or adult content. Elhillo has woven the Persephone myth throughout which was genius. Oh, I loved this so much. Highly recommended.

Samira is Sudanese, many of her friends attend Arabic school with her. 

Lisa Librarian 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna - OPTIONAL

The Gilded Ones
by Namina Forna
, 432 pages. Random House Children's/Delacorte Press, 2022. $12 

Language: PG-13 (23 swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: G; Violence: R (bloody deaths, implied Sexual Assaut) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

16yo Deka is worried that her blood is impure in a society that shuns those that are different. The village holds a ritual to know if a person is impure or not and it’s time for Deka’s participation. She lives alone with her weakened father who had an illness a few months ago; the illness that killed her mother at the same time. When her true nature shows itself while she’s protecting her village, everyone turns on her thinking she’s a demon. An emperor’s helper saves her and takes her to the capital to receive training to fight off death shrieks who wreak havoc on villages. Deka will discover more than her fate and the truth of who she is.

I love the cover of this book. Deka's strength is inspiring. Deka and Keita have a cute romance. "Deka has dark skin and her father is pale with blonde hair. The Emperor has bluish black skin. People with dark brown skin, golden skin, pink skin, and every shade from deep brown to eggshell are mentioned.

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Saturday, April 6, 2024

The Summer She Went Missing by Chelsea Ichaso - OPTIONAL

The Summer She Went Missing
by Chelsea Ichaso
, 384 pages. Sourcebooks Fire, 2024. $9 

Language: R (61 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking); Violence: PG-13 (bloody death and abuse)

BUYING ADVISORY:  HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

16yo Paige and 16yo Audrey are summertime best friends. Paige is looking forward to seeing Audrey and 18yo Dylan, Paige’s long time crush, this summer when they all arrive at Clearwater Ridge. Audrey starts off the summer by talking about jobs and her goal to save enough money to buy her own horse, since she’s always wanted one and spends so much time at the equestrian club. Since Audrey is busy and growing distant, Paige and Dylan get to spend more time together. One summer night, Audrey never returns home and she becomes a missing person case and a year later there’s still no evidence or help in finding her. Dylan and Paige take it upon themselves to find Audrey and the deeper they dig, the more dangerous the situation becomes. 

I enjoyed reading the mystery’s journey as it built up and unfolded. The alternating points of view added intrigue and suspense. I highly recommend this mystery for young adults. The ethnicity is predominantly white. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Friday, April 5, 2024

Kendrick Lamar Platinum Rap Artist by Heather E. Schwartz - OPTIONAL

Kendrick Lamar Platinum Rap Artist by Heather E. Schwartz
, 48 pages. CHAPTER BOOK BIOGRAPHY Lerner Publications, 2024. $10. 9781728491745

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

The story of hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar from his childhood in Compton, California to the fame and fortune he found through his music. The book highlights how he made a name for himself, his awards and honors, how he tries to be a role model, and how he uses his platform for good. 

An interesting biography. It is filled with photographs that add interest. There is a timeline and bibliography at the end of the book. The writing is clear and easy to understand. 

A. Snow

Thursday, April 4, 2024

The Heartbeat of the Universe by Emily Hockaday - OPTIONAL


The Heartbeat of the Universe by Emily Hockaday
, 110 pages. POETRY. Interstellar Flight Press, 2024. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Hockaday believes that poetry is not limited by reality or literalness, and the poems in this collection illustrate her belief. With facts and emotions meeting over topics of identity, love, discrimination, hope, family, time, and more, there is a poem for everyone.

I loved the meeting point between science and creativity that these poets embrace, though overall only a couple of the poems spoke to me. The concept was enjoyable. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol and sexual harassment. The violence rating is for mentions of assault.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

One Last Breath by Ginny Myers Sain - OPTIONAL

One Last Breath
by Ginny Myers Sain
, 384 pages. Penguin Young Readers Group, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2024. $18 

Language: R (164 swears 52 'f'); Mature Content: R (sexual related nudity); Violence: R (bloody deaths) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

18yo Tru doesn’t know what she wants for her future, not even whether or not she wants to leave her hometown of Mount Orange, Florida. She feels stuck until 18yo Rio shows up in town. Rio is a female diver like Tru and they instantly become friends. They both want to solve the twenty year old cold case murders of Bailey and Celeste , who were teenagers when they were killed. Tru and Rio feel a deep connection to Bailey and Celeste and when they dig into the evidence and ask questions, their lives become endangered. 

I love that there’s more than one mystery inside this story. The suspense was great and kept me riveted. Tragic and scary and such a good read. The ethnicity is white. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Otherworldly by F. T. Lukens - OPTIONAL

Otherworldly by F. T. Lukens, 352 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster), 2024. $20.

Language: R (22 swears, 9 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Winter began five years ago and then never turned to spring. With the farm failing, Ellery (17yo) had to move and work in the city while her parents continued to foolishly petition the goddess. When a regular at the diner Ellery works at runs her over, he introduces himself as Knox, a magical familiar that serves the goddess Ellery no longer believes in—and he needs her help.

The magic and mythological creatures are the most interesting parts of the story. Most of the characters are flat, and the story was more about Ellery and Knox’s growing relationship than about solving the winter issue. While I was expecting more from the story than fluff romance, Lukens did the fluff romance well, and the conclusion was satisfying.

Ellery and Knox are described as “pale,” Zada is described as having “dark brown” skin, Lorelei is described as having “golden brown” skin, and the goddess is described as having “olive” skin. Charley and Zada are part of the LGBT community. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol, innuendo, and sexual harassment. The violence rating is for blood, assault, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Perfect Guy Doesn’t Exist by Sophie Gonzales - OPTIONAL


The Perfect Guy Doesn’t Exist by Sophie Gonzales, 304 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2024. $20.

Language: R (101 swears, 15 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Living across the street from her ex-best friend, Mack, is made impossible when Ivy’s parents ask Mack’s family to check in on Ivy while they’re out of town. On her first night alone, a huge storm comes, and all Ivy wants is to not be alone—so she writes a short fanfic about her favorite TV character being with her. And, when she wakes up, he is.

Honestly, the whole situation with the TV character appearing in Ivy’s life is as disorienting for the reader as for Ivy and her friends—maybe more so because they accepted the situation faster than I did. The creativity involved in crafting this story astounds me, and I laughed out loud several times. Furthermore, Gonzales writes about struggling friendships and trying to get a grip on how to life in a way that makes readers happier with imperfect reality.

Ivy is White on the cover, and Mack is Black on the cover. Also, Ivy is bi, Mack is lesbian, and Henry describes himself as “aroace.” The mature content rating is for innuendo and mentions of sex. The violence rating is for assault and for mentions of murder and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Monday, March 25, 2024

What Was the Children's Blizzard of 1888? by Steve Korté and Dede Putra - ADVISABLE

What Was the Children's Blizzard of 1888?
by Steve Korté, illustrated by Dede Putra,
106 pages CHAPTER BOOK NON-FICTION Penguin Workshop, 2023. $8. 9780593520710  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

On January 12, 1888, a surprise blizzard hit the Great Plains which lasted several hours. Many people were caught unaware and unprepared. Especially hard hit were the teachers and students stranded in their schools. They had to make the hard decision to wait out the storm in the school without heat or food or to brave the blinding snow and try to make it home. Many children and adults died. But there were also amazing stories of survival and bravery. 

I enjoyed this book. It was well-written and easy to understand, and I learned a lot. The book tells the story of the blizzard and what happened to the people caught in it. It also provides insight, context, and background information about other things happening during this time in history. There are small illustrations throughout the book to add interest. A timeline and bibliography are included at the end of the book. 

A. Snow

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Guts for Glory by Joanna Lapati - ADVISABLE

Guts for Glory: the story of the Civil War soldier Rosetta Wakeman by Joanna Lapati
. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Eerdmans, 2024 $20 9780802854643 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

At 19yo, Rosetta Wakeman left her family farm and headed out to join a unit fighting in the Civil War. Throughout the war she sent letters home - the only known existing letters from a disguised female soldier. 

Lapati's scratch board illustrations are quite vivid and interesting to look at. The story is very simple. Wakeman's gender was never discovered, in fact her youngest sister thought that "Lyons" was her older brother. Those are the most intriguing parts of the story - the rest is pretty typical and simple. Rosetta is white.

Cindy, MS Librarian, MLS

Saturday, March 23, 2024

One Last Breath by Ginny Myers Sain - OPTIONAL

One Last Breath
by Ginny Myers Sain
, 384 pages. Penguin Young Readers Group, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2024. $18 

Language: R (164 swears 52 'f') Mature Content: R (sexual-related nudity); Violence: R (bloody deaths) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

18yo Tru doesn’t know what she wants for her future, not even whether or not she wants to leave her hometown of Mount Orange, Florida. She feels stuck until 18yo Rio shows up in town. Rio is a female diver like Tru and they instantly become friends. They both want to solve the twenty-year-old cold case murders of Bailey and Celeste , who were teenagers when they were killed. Tru and Rio feel a deep connection to Bailey and Celeste and when they dig into the evidence and ask questions, their lives become endangered. 

I love that there’s more than one mystery inside this story. The suspense was great and kept me riveted. Tragic and scary and such a good read. The ethnicity is white. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Friday, March 22, 2024

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park - OPTIONAL

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park
384 pages. Delacorte Press 2024 $16 

Language: R (49 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking) Violence: PG (death) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

17yo Jeon lives with her twin brother, mother, and grandmother in the extremely harsh environment surrounding Snowglobe. The main job for residents is producing power by running on giant hamster wheels for ten hours each day. Jeon is asked to leave her home and family to be a replacement for the Snowglobe star Goh Haeri. Jeon is thrilled because this means her family will be taken care of and her mother will no longer have to work but can stay home with her grandmother instead. Jeon arrives in Snowglobe excited and happy but things aren’t adding up and when she discovers secret passages by accident, her existence is threatened.

Strange concept that’s hard to grasp and become engrossed in. I enjoyed the mystery behind Goh Haeri. The story has an interesting and unique concept. The ethnicity is predominantly Korean. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Saint Juniper's Folly by Alex Crespo - OPTIONAL

Saint Juniper's Folly by Alex Crespo
, 295 pages. Peachtree Teen, 2023. $13 

Language: R (94 swears 8 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Passionate kissing); Violence: PG (a spell gone wrong causes animals to die and a boy's hands to bleed uncontrollably, a boy is struck by lightning and almost dies, a ghost cuts a boys hands with glass) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

It is the summer before senior year for Theo and Jaime. Theo is feeling stuck in his small town and is wondering how he will measure up to his parents' expectations. Jaime returns to town hoping to find a fresh start after spending a few years in the foster care system. One day Jaime wanders into a haunted house in the woods and soon finds himself stuck in the house with no way to get out. Taylor just graduated from high school and is trying to figure out her next step while at the same time mourning the recent death of her mother. Even though her father forbids it, Taylor is trying to learn the magic and which craft her mother started teaching her before her death. Theo finds Jaime stuck in the house and enlists Taylor's help to get him out before the house is demolished. As the teens try to work out the mystery of the house, the ghost that haunts it, and how to release Jaime from the house Jamie and Theo begin to fall for each other. 

The book is about three teenagers each feeling lonely and that they don't fit in and each dealing with family issues and trauma of their own. Through the experience of saving Jaime, they develop friendships and acceptance and learn how to rely on each other so that they can take on the things they need to do. I liked the layers of mystery that are revealed as the story progresses. I liked how each chapter was told from the different points of view of one of the three main characters. I liked the character development. The spooky, paranormal, horror aspects are present but minimal. I did feel like the story dragged at times and the timeline was a little choppy and disjointed. Overall a good horror book that is not too scary. Taylor has Puerto Rican heritage. Jamie has Mexican heritage. Theo is white. 

A. Snow 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury - OPTIONAL

Tender Beasts
by Liselle Sambury
, 416 pages. Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2024. $15 

Language: R (165 swears 54 'f's); Mature Content: PG-13 (Mention of sex. Underage smoking. Mention of drug use); Violence: R (bloody deaths) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

After Sunny’s mother dies, her family seems stretched to the breaking point. Her father and siblings have all followed the mom’s lead in keeping up appearances and keeping secrets. On the surface, Sunny sees that her 15yo brother Dom has always been shunned by the family and left alone, now he’s suspected of killing his girlfriend. She knows that her mother wanted her to take care of Dom, so she befriends him and the two siblings start to investigate information their mother left behind. When murders occur at their school, Sunny is frantic to clear Dom’s name. What she discovers changes her life forever. 

I like the unique storyline with a mix of mystery that includes horror and supernatural elements. Alternating between past and present made the story more interesting. The author showed how loyalty can be good but also twisted. The ethnicity is predominantly black with some white side characters. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park - ADVISABLE

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park, 384 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2024. $21

Language: PG (23 swears, no ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (alcoholism, mention of suicide throughout, enslaved people); Violence: PG-13 (assault, on-page death: not gory)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS-ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE: HIGH

After the Warring Age, which resulted from extreme climate change, the world has become an icy tundra. Snowglobe is the only place left that means warmth, comfort, and a life those outside the dome only dream of. However, this dream life comes at a price. Residents of Snowglobe must consent to their lives being broadcast to the people outside the dome as 24/7 television programs. When one of the most popular actors dies, instead of letting her adoring fans know, a plot is devised to replace her with a lookalike and keep her show going. Chobahm, who lives a brutal existence in one of the outside settlements, is given this opportunity, but is this chance at the good life really a dream come true or the beginning of a nightmare?

Fast-paced and captivating, the engaging character development and action scenes makes for an enjoyable read. The book has a clever plot twist that is fully explained before a cliffhanger is served up at the end that sets up the next book nicely. Necessary trigger warning for continual mention of suicide should be in place for potential readers. 

Reviewer: AEB

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker - PUBLIC ONLY

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker, 416 pgs. Tor Teen, 2023. $19

Language: R (100+ swears, 138 'fs'); Mature Content: R (racism, underage drug and alcohol use, homophobia, underage on-page sex); Violence: R (off-page murder, on-page murder: gory, traumatic car accidents, sexual assault, and domestic violence)

PUBLIC ONLY

In New Orleans, a woman was murdered, a family was lynched, and a throne was stolen. This tragedy of the magical community is still reverberating thirty years later when on the anniversary of these events, 16-year-old twins, Clement and Cristina Trudeau, find themselves fighting to regain their magical destiny. 


The premise of the book sounds intriguing, however, the book does not deliver. The world building is non-existent; the characters are many and underdeveloped; the twins, whose ages are given as 16, read more like they are in their mid-twenties; and the scenes of violence are many and gory. There are also subplots that go nowhere and characters that are introduced only to be dropped without explanation. There will be more books to follow, so perhaps these flaws will be rectified with further reading.


Reviewer: AEB

The Witch in the Woods by Michaelbrent Collings - ADVISABLE

The Witch in the Woods (Grimmworld #1) by Michaelbrent Collings, 320 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $19.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

When their parents get new jobs, Willow and Jake reluctantly move to New Marburg. The technological advances in the town are exciting, but none of their pictures will stay on the walls, their new teacher hates them, and some guy with gold eyes keeps appearing out of thin air to yell at them in gibberish before disappearing again. Strange things are going on in New Marburg, and Willow and Jake’s mom won’t even listen to them!

Collings’ narration style feels like he’s constantly joking with the reader. Almost everything that can be made over-the-top is, and parentheses mark Collings’ asides that aren’t relevant to the story except for a laugh. With riddles, fairy tale retellings, and impossible things made possible, this story has a little bit of everything. I can’t wait to find out which Grimm’s story is retold in the next book.

Willow and Jake are implied white, and Froggy is described as having “brown” skin. The mature content rating is for illegal activity. The violence rating is for assault, fantasy violence, murder, and mentions of cannibalism.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, March 18, 2024

Planting Hope by Philip Hoelzel and Renato Alcarao - ADVISABLE

Planting Hope: a portrait of photographer Sebastian Salgado by Philip Hoelzel, illustrated by Renato Alcarao
. PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHY Atheneum (Simon), 2024. $19. 9781534477650 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Sebastiao Salgado grew up on a huge farm in Brazil, but left to be educated and then traveled the world with his wife to study. Once he discovered the camera, his life was taken with photography, and using photos to show the world the ills caused by war and by inequity. When returned to his family farm, he discovered a land ravaged by indiscriminate clear cutting. He and his wife had a new project to embrace - restoring the forest ecosystem and spreading that restoration as far as possible. 

Hoezel gives a good example of what a picture book biography can look like. For Middle schools and High schools I would recommend this if a teacher has a biography unit. The text is dense - not suitable for a read-aloud with younger students. While Salgado is from Brazil, he is portrayed as a white blond in the book - he probably comes from the white upper social class. 

Cindy, MS Librarian, MLS

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Bird is Dead by Tiny Fisscher and Herma Starreveld - HIGH

Bird is Dead
by Tiny Fisscher, illustrated by Herma Starreveld
. PICTURE BOOK Greystone Kids, 2024. $19. 9781778401176 

Content: PG (Did you read the title? Shows a dead bird and its burial) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL - OPTIONAL; MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When the other birds find Bird, who is dead, they gather to grieve and to decide what they need to do. 

I LOVE what Fisher and Starreveld have done. From the gorgeous collage birds to the succinct, matter-of-fact text, the creators have composed a work that fascinates and helps turn death from a macabre mystery to a part of life that deserves time and care. Pair with The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown  and The Funeral by Matt James both also about birds dying. Elementary librarians - if you have either of the other books on your shelf, add this one - it is a delight (in a totally respectful way). Middle school and High schools - buy this either for the content or for the beautiful collages - some of my students saw me showing the book to their teacher and they want to read it immediately. 

Cindy, MS Librarian, MLS 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Wren Martin Ruins it All by Amanda DeWitt - OPTIONAL

Wren Martin Ruins It All by Amanda DeWitt,  400 pages. PeachTree Teen, 2023.  $19.

Language:   R  (100+ swears, 18 “f”); Mature Content: PG ; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

17yo senior asexual Wren Martin wants to make his mark on his small, beachside town of Rapture, Florida. For his first act as the student council president, he wants to abolish the Valentine’s Day Dance, an expensive rite of passage that Wren would rather use that money elsewhere in the school. ​​His vice president, annoyingly perfect Leo Reyes, suggests partnering with a viral social media app to pay for the school dance and thus, pay for Wren’s fix-it list for the school. So now, Wren is juggling planning the year's biggest party, fixing the school, flirting with an anonymous match, and managing inconveniently changing feelings for one student council VP. Nothing will go wrong, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed this YA rom-com, appreciating its snarky narrator and a predictable, yet engaging anonymous flirtation, reminiscent of "You’ve Got Mail" for the TikTok generation. However, the unrealistic portrayal of the main character and the high school setting took me out of the story a little. Additionally, the book missed an opportunity to fully explore and explain the asexuality end of the LGBTQIA spectrum, despite the main character's identification with it. Regardless, these are things that an average high school reader isn't going to notice or care about. The biggest red flag is the amount of language in the book, making it optional for school libraries.

Reviewer: Kiera Beddes, #bookswithbeddes

Friday, March 15, 2024

Animal Eyes by Francoise Vulpe - ADVISABLE

Animal Eyes: How Creatures See and How Their Eyes Have Adapted to Their World
by Francoise Vulpe.
PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Firefly Books, 2023. $15. 9780228104131 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Some animal eyes work like the human eye or camera eye, while other animals have interesting adaptations. Some creatures can see in ultraviolet wavelengths, or in near total darkness. Some creatures can rotate their eyes independently. Animal Eyes guides us through the wide range of eyes found in the animal kingdom and how their eyes help them survive in their habitats. 

Animal Eyes was full of intriguing photos of creatures, their eyes, and fun facts. It was very interesting to read. Younger children could enjoy the photos while older kids would like the extensive information. 

PGPowers

Thursday, March 14, 2024

In the Orbit of You by Ashley Schumacher - OPTIONAL

In the Orbit of You by Ashley Schumacher, 313 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2024. $21.

Language: R (54 swears, 10 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When they were young, Sam had to move away from Nova, but he promise, promised to find her again when they were older. Years later, it’s Nova (17yo) who finds Sam when her mom’s job temporarily moves them to town. Neither of them are the kids they used to be, but neither knows who they are now either—or who they might be together.

Schumacher’s characters struggle with identity, belonging, and feeling like someone gets them, on both ends of the spectrum making them relatable to a wide range of readers. Sometimes it feels like the happily ever after choices are not always the best choices—a hard lesson for parties both on and off page. And still Schumacher brings everything together in a satisfying conclusion.

Nova and Sam are depicted as White on the cover. The mature content rating is for mentions of drugs and alcohol, kissing, innuendo, and partial nudity. The violence rating is for mentions of child abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler - HIGH

What We Saw
by Aaron Hartzler
, 336 pages. HarperTeen, 2015. $11 

Language: R (79 swears 5 'f'); Mature Content: R (sexual assault) Violence: R (rape) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

17yo Kate and Ben have been friends since elementary school and now she wants more than that. They began dating and everything was going well until accusations of assault started happening to Ben’s teammates. Many people want to hide the evidence and pretend nothing happened but Kate can’t get the wrongdoing out of her head. Secrets come out after a video was shared. The aftermath will drastically change lives and the community of Coral Sands, Iowa.

I’m frustrated with the situation the community is dealing with. I’m also frustrated with some of the main character’s actions. The author represents entitlement and community politics well. The ethnicity is predominantly white, with an African American deputy mentioned. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Immortality: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz - HIGH

Immortality: A Love Story (The Anatomy Duology #2) 
by Dana Schwartz
. 400 pages Wednesday Books, 2023. $10. 

Language: PG (6 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (kissing);  Violence: PG-13 (bloody death) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

18yo Hazel lives in her family’s manor and continues to help those in need of medical care until she’s arrested for murder. She’s released and brought to the ailing princess to heal her. Hazel still has to fight the societal standards that believe a woman isn’t capable of intelligent work, let alone being a doctor. While at the palace treating the Princess, Hazel receives an invitation to a Companions to the Death meeting. She’s astonished at what she discovers! 

The romance is sweet. Intense parts kept me glued to the pages. I wish there was a third book in this series. The ethnicity is predominantly white with mention of a Black man. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Monday, March 11, 2024

SoulMatch by Declan Ryder - OPTIONAL

SoulMatch by Declan Ryder, 225 pages. Declan Ryder, 2024. $5.

Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULTS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Sara (32yo) is missing something in her life, and her friend recommends a matchmaking app. She starts talking with Alex, and Sara falls fast and hard. Everything is perfect—until Sara wants to meet and Alex’s excuses start to sound suspicious.

The premise is farfetched but still could have been intriguing, if not for the poor execution. Besides the odd word choices and the repetitive sections of the story, the book was riddled with inconsistencies. It felt like Ryder forgot details from previous chapters when he wrote the next one and didn’t bother to double check.

The characters are implied white. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, kissing, and implied sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera - OPTIONAL

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera, 352 pages. Celadon Books (Macmillan), 2024. $27.

Language: R (243 swears, 94 “f”) ; Mature Content: R; Violence R

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULTS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lucy (29yo) left her hometown five years ago after being accused of killing her best friend, Savvy. Her anonymity in California is shattered when Ben Owens (28yo) starts season two of his true crime podcast, trying to solve the cold case of Savvy’s murder. With her identity exposed, Lucy doesn’t have a reason to say no when her grandma asks Lucy to come back home for her birthday—with the murder fresh on everyone’s minds.

Tintera’s writing is compelling. I was invested from the first sentence—I couldn’t wait to figure out what was true and what wasn’t. With the subject matter at hand, Tintera did a fabulous job of balancing the thriller suspense with dark humor that provided comic relief—I laughed out loud so many times that I lost count. This is the first non-YA book that I’ve read by Tintera, and the only negative thing I have to say is that I’m disappointed that she put so much sexual content in the book. Everything else was great.

Paige is Black, Nina is Latina, and everyone else is implied White. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use; innuendo; illegal activity; groping; nudity; mentions of condoms, genitalia, rape, and oral sex; and sex. The violence is for blood and gore, assault, mentions of domestic violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Saturday, March 9, 2024

Small Gods of Calamity by Sam Kyung Yoo - OPTIONAL

Small Gods of Calamity by Sam Kyung Yoo, 144 pages. Interstellar Flight Press, 2024. $15.

Language: R (8 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

On the surface of everyday life, Han-gil is investigating suicides, but his assigned partners keep abandoning him because of his odd behavior—the things Han-gil does to investigate the paranormal murders that appear to be suicides. With his newest partner starting to ask questions and his sister out of town, Han-gil is stuck working with Yoonhae (27yo), an acquaintance from his past.

An outcast of both the normal and paranormal communities, Han-gil is just trying to do the best he can, which is relatable and pulls at the reader’s heartstrings from the very beginning. The magic was interesting, though the final battle felt anticlimactic. Despite that and the questions left unanswered, I still liked the conclusion that ended on a hopeful note.

Han-gil is Korean and bisexual, Azuna is Japanese, and the majority of other characters are Korean. The mature content rating is for transphobia content. The violence rating is for blood and gore, description of corpses, mentions of murder, suicide, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, March 8, 2024

My Father the Panda Killer by Jamie Jo Hoang - OPTIONAL

My Father the Panda Killer
by Jamie Jo Hoang,
361 pages. Crown Books, 2023. $19. 

Language: R (81 swears 38 'f'); Mature Content: PG (The whole book is about generational trauma so it's a heavy topic) Violence: R (Graphic descriptions of war-time violence, rape, suicide, and deaths from starvation and violence; repeated child beatings) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, ADULT - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

It’s 17yo Jane’s last summer at home and she can’t wait to escape her Vietnamese father’s oppression when she goes to UCLA in the fall. Now she just has to figure out how to tell him, and her little brother Paul, who she worries will never forgive her for leaving like their mother did. But she has to get out. Her dad’s unpredictability and physical abuse have made Jane’s life unbearable, but so far she’s been able to shield Paul from the worst of it. Jane knows her dad must have suffered horrors during the war and during his escape to the United States, but Vietnamese people don’t talk of such things. As Jane learns more about his story, she starts to understand some of why he is the way he is, even as she understands that it doesn’t justify his behavior. 

This was a hard read, but an important one, and I openly wept a couple of times at the brutal reality of Jane’s life. Several of the beatings were pretty severe and my heart broke for Jane and Paul. Told in alternating chapters, the story bounces between Jane’s present day and the story of her dad’s life in and escape from Vietnam. We often only learn about the Vietnam War through the American lens and I appreciated the authentic telling of this part of history. It was also a window into the experience of children of refugees and their struggle to live in both worlds. I struggled, though, with a lack of condemnation of the abuse Jane suffered. She sort of just reconciles herself to it as the consequence of her dad’s horrific experiences rather than understanding that she’s being abused and getting help. I can’t say I liked this book, but I’m still glad I read it. Jane is Vietnamese-American. 

Andrea R

King Cheer by Molly Horton Booth, Stephanie Kate Strohm,and Jamie Green - OPTIONAL

King Cheer (Arden High) 
by Molly Horton Booth, Stephanie Kate Strohm and Jamie Green
, 158 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Hyperion, 2024. $25 

Language: PG (5 swears, 0 "F") Mature Content: PG (relationship themes/LGBTQ issues) Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

It's cheer captain Leah's senior year and she has a lot on her plate, like getting into her dream college and questioning her identity. Leah has decided to step down and focus on her future, which means appointing a new captain. It isn't as easy as it seems when power hungry twins want to take over the cheer team and the basketball team wants to take over the gym. 

There were so many relationships in this book that it got hard for me to remember who was going out with who, or who wanted to go out with who. The art is colorful, bright, and well drawn, but some of the characters are androgynous, adding to my confusion. There are some good themes of finding oneself, inclusion, and what it means to be a leader. No race is specified, but there is a variety of skin color and identities. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli - OPTIONAL

Heartless Hunter
by Kristen Ciccarelli,
416 pages. St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books, 2024. $15 

Language: R (25 swears  8 'f'); Mature Content: R (on-page sex); Violence: R (bloody deaths) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

18yo Rune lost her only family to witch hunters two years earlier when Nan told Rune to betray her. Nan was a witch who knew her time was up and she wanted to save Rune. Nan made Rune promise to turn her into the witch hunters and denounce everything she grew up knowing and loving. After Nan’s capture and death, Rune became the Crimson Moth; a vigilante who rescues witches and helps get them to freedom. Rune attends social events to discover the witches who are next in line to be captured, so she can swoop in and save them. Her disguise seems to be working but one guard suspects her and will do everything he can to catch her.

I enjoyed the mystery and the reveals. The world building was done well. The danger makes the story even more interesting. The ethnicity consists of mostly white, with ocher and golden skin tones mentioned. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian