Reviews by Linda Peters
Title Secrets of the Seven - The Eureka Key
Author Sarah L. Thomson
Sarah Thomson has begun a series called Secrets of the Seven which combines solving codes and puzzles with American history and a suspenseful mystery. The first book in the series is called the Eureka Key. This book introduces the reader to the main characters and sets up the entire plot line for the series. Middle school puzzle master Sam Soloman is constantly getting in trouble at school even though his teachers say that he is terribly smart but lazy. His parents wonder when he will ever grow up and stay out of trouble. Martina Wright is the complete opposite of Sam. She loves books and learning new things, she has a photographic memory and loves American history. The one thing they have in common is that they are both winners in the American Dream Contest. Their prize, an all-expense paid trip around the United States during the summer. Sam’s parents let him go once he convinces them that the contest says that it will be a life changing experience and isn’t that what they want for him. Sam and Martina are met at the airport by Evangeline Temple, who Sam nicknames the Ice Princess and another young man by the name of Theodore who doesn’t smile and seems very aloof. The four of them board a small plane to start their summer adventure in Death Valley, Nevada. Little did Sam and Martina expect their adventure of a lifeline to start with everyone but them getting sick and passing out while the plane is still in the air. The trip doesn’t get any better when several bad guys force them to lead them to a mysterious rock formation. All of this revolves around a mysterious group of men from the American Revolution. The only question is whether Sam and Martina, along with the strange Theo, can figure out their history and the puzzles to unlock their rocky prison and solve how Benjamin Franklin is involved in all of this. Readers from age 8 to 14 will find this to be a suspenseful and challenging mystery that entertains. I highly recommend it as an excellent mystery that combines history, humor, and puzzle challenges that will make readers wanting to read the next book in the series.
Title Princess between Worlds
Author E.D. Baker
E.D. Baker’s series called A Tale of the Wide-Awake Princess continues with the fifth book called Princess between Worlds. This book continues the adventures of Annie and Liam after their wedding. They are planning their grand tour of the neighboring kingdoms when a witch gives them a wedding gift of a collection of magical postcards. All they have to do is touch each postcard and they will magically appear at that place. Their gift takes them to faraway places that they have never heard of or knew existed. At each place they are met by suspicious villagers and often accused of being trouble. They also discover many new people like the Yeti and magical dragons who help them survive. As their travels continue to get stranger and stranger they discover that a nemesis of theirs from past books is trying to kill them with the postcards. Annie and Liam long to return home but none of the postcards show their kingdom. It is only with clues from each place that they are able to find someone who can help them find the Magic Marketplace that sells magical postcards like their gift. This book was not as exciting as the first four books, but readers of the series will want to continue to follow Princess Annie’s adventures. This is an optional book for readers from age 8 to 12 who like fairy tale books or have read other books in the series.
Title The Enemy Above
Author Michael P. Spradlin
Publisher Scholastic Press
There have been many Holocaust books written about the hiding and escaping of Jews during World War II. The Enemy Above by Michael P. Spradlin ventures into the Nazis takeover of the Ukraine. This was a country use to the Russians and others always wanting their land and resources. Late in the war, after Russia has halted the German machine, the Nazis turn their eyes and troops toward the rich farmlands of the Ukraine. Much of this land had been farmed by Jews for generations and they, like other Jews in Europe, never thought that the Nazis would come to their farms and villages. While this story is a work of fiction, it is based on a true story. Anton, a twelve year old Jewish boy lives with his two uncles and grandmother on a farm in the Ukraine. His mother died in childbirth and his father left sometime before to help the Polish army against the Germans. He has not been heard from for months. Now the Germans are getting closer and closer to their farm. His uncles warn Anton that if the Germans come he must take his grandmother and run to a cave the townsmen have found that the village can hide in till the Germans leave. Among the Germans is a young Gestapo officer who is determined to move up in the German army by bringing in all of the Jews that he can find in this country. When Anton and his Grandmother try to escape to the caves, they find that they may have waited too long and his grandmother is captured by Major Von Duesen. Anton must come to her rescue. In doing so he makes himself and his grandmother become the symbol of hate for the Major as he vows to find them and make them into an example to other escaping Jews. Anton and his family eventually make it to Priest’s Grotto, a series of underground caves that have a water supply and miles of underground tunnels. The only question is whether the Jews can stay hidden till the Germans leave or are defeated. Based on the story of the Jews who did hide in Priest’s Grotto which is still in the Ukraine. This is a fascinating read that must be added to any collection of Holocaust stories. Readers will gain a new perspective of life for Jews in Eastern Europe during the end of the third Reich. Highly recommended for readers from ages 10 to 15.
Author Gordon Korman
Publisher Scholastic Press
Gordon Korman has once more found a topic that will be a sure hit among his readers. Cameron Boxer is a gamer. He has spent his thirteen years preparing himself for doing nothing but improving his gaming skills. He does just enough to get by at school and to keep his parents off his back. His whole goal in life is to be left alone and to improve his skills to enter the Rule the World gaming contest. That was his whole goal till his undivided attention of gaming caused him to let the house catch on fire. His very upset parents have now decided that his slacker attitude and total involvement in gaming has to end. The parent ultimatum – gaming will be cut if he doesn’t form some other interests. To appease his parents he forms a new school club with his two best friends. The club is called the Positive Action Group. A fake club that supposedly does good deeds in the community. The club would be Cameron’s way to make his parents get off his back so he could get back to his real life-gaming. What Cameron didn’t count on was a guidance counselor who needed a group like this to help make his career and another eighth grader who wanted the group to save an old beaver that was eating its way through the town. Before Cameron knows it, his club has been turned into a real club doing good deeds all over town and he is the president of the group. As the club grows, so does Cameron. Life lessons are learned and eventually all of the students in the middle school find their lives changed by positive action. The only person who can’t seem to realize that he is changing is Cameron himself. The book is full of surprises, laughs and engaging storylines. Different chapters are told through the eyes of different main characters in the story making the book even more interesting. Recommended for readers from 10 – 14.
Title Strange Mr. Satie Composer of the Absurd
Author M.T. Anderson
Publisher Candlewick Press
First published in 2003, Strange Mr. Satie Composer of the Absurd, is reprinted for new readers. Erik Satie was born at the turn of the twentieth century in Paris. He was involved with many new composers who were experimenting with new sounds in music. His music was considered to be very experimental and strange. Many people didn’t understand it and didn’t like the sound of his compositions. His music followed no known rules, which pleased him, but not others. At age 39 he went to school to learn the rules of music so he could break them and create music that people would respect. He was known for his famous temper, his acrobat girlfriend who he threw out his window in rage, his peculiar lifestyle of very strict daily schedule and personal hygiene rules. He was friends with Picasso, puppeteers, and wizards. After several failed musical productions, in 1924 he wrote a ballet with painter Francis Picabla that involved a movie, a cannon, and a camel. Shortly after the success of his ballet Satie died. His music is still available for music lovers of the absurd. M.T. Anderson, the author of the book, and Petra Mathers, the illustrator, have presented a very interesting picture book of a music genius who lived in his own child-man life, struggling to make his brilliance shine. Fascinating book for ages 5 and up of a man who influenced many other musicians after him, but during his lifetime received little acclaim. Recommended for libraries wanting to include musicians or unheard of people that have influenced today’s world in their biography sections.
Title Gary’s Garden
Author Gary Northfield
Gary’s Garden by Gary Northfield is a long picture book written in comic book form. Readers are taken into Gary’s back yard to meet some very strange critters who live there. Each strip is one or two pages long. The problem with this book is that I am not sure who would read it. Young readers would find the stories hard to follow and the humor above their heads. Older readers who might find the book humorous will not pick up a book that looks so babyish. The print is small and readers have to really struggle to read the strips. (This is an uncorrected proof so that problem may be fixed in the final printing.) I also found the strips to be confusing at times, redundant, or lacking humor that I would have expected in a book proposed for young readers. I would not recommend this book.
Reviews by Melissa Sokol,
Title: Blue in the Face
Author: Gerry Swallow
Evaluation: Elspeth Pule is a spoiled brat. Her parents are at their wits end since she has been expelled from yet another school and is insisting that she get an alpaca as a pet in their small apartment near Seattle. At the recommendation of an overpriced psychologist her parents simply ignore Elspeth the next time she holds her breath to get her way. When her parents try out this tactic Elspeth passes out and wakes up in a forest where everything is alive; rocks, twigs, and even her doll Dolly Dew Eyes. Soon Elspeth is meeting famous nursery rhyme characters only to find out the rhymes she knows have been changed by King Krool and the truth is she has been written about in a prophecy that says she will be the one to lead a rebellion against King Krool and will be instrumental in returning their land to the benign rule of King Winkie. A fast paced and fun plot with a main character that is realistically slow to change her spots and see the errors of her ways. The author did a lovely job of changing nursery rhymes but keeping their original cadence. The illustrations are cute, but do not always correctly relate to the text. For example Elspeth is given a pair of silk slippers that are compared to ballerina shoes, but in the illustration they appear to be high heeled shoes. Recommended for any library serving students in grades 2nd -5th grade.
Title: Fridays with the Wizards
Author: Jessica Day George
Evaluation: Celie and her family are just recovering from their latest Castle Glower adventure and their kingdom is embracing the known presence of Griffins again. However the Castle still has secrets to reveal to Celie and the rest of their family; parts of a ship from a long time ago, a tower with foreign instruments meant for who know what, and the evil wizard Arkwright hiding in the secret passage ways. How can they capture the wizard and stop his mayhem and attempts to steal Griffin eggs. This is the fourth book in this fantastical series that will please fans and continue the character development of the story’s key players. This book would not stand alone easily. Recommended for any library owning the previous books in the series and serving children in grades 1st through 5th.
Title: My Family is a Zoo
Author: K A Gerrard
Evaluation: Family members are introduced with their animals as they all gather to take a trip and deliver two polar bears to a new family member. By the end of the narrative you realize that all the animals are favorite stuffed animals that family members have treasured all their lives and the polar bears are a gift for a new set of twins that have just been born. Cute illustrations by Emma Dodd and a good storytime book that fits the themes of family members and stuffed animals/toys. Optional Purchase for any library serving children age 3-7.
Title: Secrets of Bearhaven
Author: K E Rocha
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Evaluation: Spencer Plain has spent his entire life steeped in bear facts and lore. After all both his parents work tirelessly and worldwide to rescue bears in peril. His parents have been away from home longer than usual when his uncle Mark shows up at school and pulls him out. His father has been captured and his mother has become unreachable which means it’s time to bring Spencer to the safety of Bearhaven, where computers help bears communicate with humans and rescued bears are brought for rehabilitation. Spencer struggles to come to grips with his temporary home and with trying to convince his uncle and the bears who care for him to let him help on the next bear rescue and hopefully to find some clues to his parents’ whereabouts. This book is the first in a series. Children will likely enjoy the sci fi elements mixed in with the mission of saving bears, but I had a hard time trying to rationalize where they would get the funds to build all the mentioned technology and transport by only rescuing bears. Optional purchase for any library that serves children in grades. 2nd-5th.
Title: Oons Finds an Egg
Author: Adele Griffin
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Evaluation: This is the first title in The Oodlethunks series. Oona and her brother Bonk are playing hide and seek in the woods around their cave in prehistoric times when a storms lets loose and Oona can no longer find her brother or her way home. While crossing a rope bridge it snaps and Oona lands in the river next to a giant egg! She decides since she and her brother need a pet she will bring it home to care for until it hatches, but what kind of animal is in that egg? And will it eat plants or meat? While the premise, illustration, and characters in this book would appeal to children in 1st through 3rd grade the reading level would be more appropriate for a child in 4th or 5th grade. I often have parents ask for higher reading material that is still emotionally appropriate for children in younger grades and this book could fit that need. Optional purchase for libraries serving children in grades K-3 that have some very high achieving readers.
Stephanie Bange - Wright State University
Begieu, Penelope. (2015). Exquisite Corpse. New York: First Second/Roaring Brook Press. $19.99. ISBN 9781626720827 hardback; 124pp. Grade Range: 10-adult
Evaluation: Recommended with Reservations
Zoe is tired of the lack of respect that men in her life show her. When she meets the mysterious Thomas Rocher, she stumbles into the greatest opportunity of her life. The theme of the story – love and the
ultimate revenge – has an ending with an unexpected surprise. First published in France in 2010, this edition was translated by Alexis Siegel. Aimed at ages 16 and up, this is loaded with sex, sexual innuendo, and raw language. Bagieu’s artwork in this graphic novel is simple, yet strong. It often carries the story forward. She reveals much of the emotion of the characters through their eyes, facial expressions, and body language. It is intriguing to watch Zoe evolve from being a naïve young woman who receives disrespectful, sexist treatment by men to a self-confident young woman in control of her life – all due to a friendship she develops with her lover and his wife. Readers will cheer at the come-uppance Thomas receives when he realizes he has been double-crossed. School libraries will want to proceed with caution with this title intended for female readers – and know their community’s
acceptance of the topics included.
Krull, Kathleen. (2015). Dolley Madison: Parties Can Be Patriotic!. Illust. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher. Women who Broke the Rules Series. New York: Bloomsbury. $16.99. ISBN 9780802737939
hardback; 48pp Grade Range: 2-5
Evaluation: Optional Purchase
Dolley Madison is probably best known today for cutting out and saving the painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart when the White House was burned by the British during the War of 1812.
This biography about her includes that episode, but digs deeper into her past in order to help young readers understand the importance of her actions at the time and why President Zachary Taylor referred
to her as the “First Lady” (a term never used before to describe the wife of POTUS) during her funeral. A master at writing both short collective and picture book biographies for children, Krull deftly weaves the
tale of Madison’s life and legacy in this short chapter biography – from her roots as the daughter of a Quaker, to her first marriage to young lawyer John Todd, to her widowhood and single parenthood, then
meeting, courting, and marrying (at the time) Senator James Madison, her partner in life and the reason
behind her success at crafting the future role of First Lady. Krull’s text is very casual in nature by addressing the reader and offering commentary in the text, making Dolley seem a living friend rather
than an object of the past. The cover art of the book (by Edwin Fotheringham) reflects the humor found in the text. In contrast, Johnson and Fancher’s lovely acrylic on watercolor paper artwork is very
traditional, placing the focus back on the informative nature of the work. Appended are a bibliography (with titles noted for younger readers), links to websites for additional information, and an index. An
accurate, solid introduction; however should be considered a secondary source due to the casual nature of the writing and the disparity of the humor-filled cover illustration and the serious interior
Krull, Kathleen. (2015). Sacajawea: Lewis and Clark would Be Lost Without Me. Illust. by Matt Collins. Women who Broke the Rules Series. New York: Bloomsbury. $16.99. ISBN 9780802727991 hardback; 48pp Grade Range: 2-5
Evaluation: Optional Purchase
Sacajawea is best known today for guiding the Lewis and Clark expedition mapping and exploring the upper portion of the Louisiana Purchase. This biography focuses on what is known about her life
through Lewis and Clark’s writings and conjectures a history to fill in the blanks of her life, based on research of what life was like for Native American women at the time. A master at writing both short
collective and picture book biographies for children, Krull deftly weaves the tale of Sacajawea’s life and legacy in this short chapter biography – from her kidnapping by the Hidatsa as a war prize, to her
marriage to Toussaint Charbonneau and exploration with Lewis and Clark (the bulk of the text), drawing closure with the probability of her death in South Dakota and what happened to her children after her
death. Krull’s text is very casual in nature by addressing the reader and offering commentary in the text, making Sacajawea seem a living friend rather than an object of the past. The cover art of the book (by
Edwin Fotheringham) reflects the humor found in the text. In contrast, Collins’ Prismacolor pencils on vellum with Corel Painter artwork is very traditional, placing the focus back on the informative nature of
the work. There are a few inconsistencies in the artwork and the text. An example, the child pictured on p.25 is standing on his two feet yet on p.36 the baby was described as “beginning to crawl”. Also,
there is an inconsistency in depicting Sacajawea, sometimes she appears to have Shoshone Indian facial features and others it looks very Anglo. Appended are a bibliography (with titles noted for younger
readers), links to websites for additional information, and an index. An accurate, solid introduction; however should be considered a secondary source due to the casual nature of the writing, the disparity
of the humor-filled cover illustration and the serious interior illustrations, and the inconsistencies of the interior illustrations.
Parish, Herman. (2015). Amelia Bedelia Sets Sail. Illustra. By Lynne Avril. Amelia Bedelia New York: Greenwillow/HarperCollins. $15.99 ISBN 978-0-06-233405-3 hardback; 145pp. Grade Range: 3-4
Evaluation: Not Recommended for YAs, as this book is a beginning chapter book for grades 2-4
Princess of the literal, Amelia Bedelia and her mother spend time at the beach with her Aunt Mary and cousin Jason, where she experiences skimboarding, finds a surprise in a seashell, and learns the rules of the nautical road as she solves the mystery of why Jason has been sneaking out of the house at night, dressed as a pirate. Filled with the usual puns and plays on words found in most books about Amelia Bedelia, this one – the tenth in the series -- is predictable enough to satisfy beginning readers. Avril’s black and white line drawing/gouache illustrations extend the lively text, making Amelia Bedelia leap off the page. Good, beachy fun.
Selznick, Brian. (2015). The Marvels. New York : Scholastic Press. $32.99 ISBN: 9780545448680 hardback; 672pp. Grade Range: 5-8
Note: Reviewed from an ARC
Aut Visum Aut Non -- “You either see it or you don’t”. Brian Selznick has created a third tome to join The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, c2007) and Wonderstruck (Scholastic, c2011) to complete this trilogy of sorts. All three can/should be read as independent books, as the stories themselves are not dependent on each other. Rather, they are related by the structure of the tale being told and the artistic style used to tell the story, though each is employed differently. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is told by alternating illustrations and text to move a single story forward; Wonderstruck is two parallel stories from different time periods told at the same time in alternate chapters, using only illustrations for the historical story and text for the modern one, bringing them together to a single resolution/ending. The Marvels is two distinct stories -- separate, but related – told one after another.
It does not fit neatly into any one category of fiction, as there are elements of historical fiction and mystery interwoven. The first story begins in 1766 and is the history of five generations of actors, whose roots are in tall ship sailing -- told using only illustrations. It ends abruptly with a blank page. The second story picks up in 1990 and details what happens to Joseph, a young boy who runs away from his
boarding school in order to live with his Uncle Albert, a recluse who lives in London. Selznick does an amazing job of sprinkling in clues as to how the two stories are interrelated as the story unfolds. Many times Joseph is told or else sees the message, “You see it or you don’t”. Just when he thinks he understands Uncle Albert and the secrets of the house at 18 Folgate Street, he realizes there is so much more to understand and he has so many new questions. Selznick literally draws the story to a conclusion as the ending of of the story is told in illustration. This book is steeped in literature, with many literary references in the text – to Shakespearean plays, to poetry by Yeats, and to titles of and characters from many classic adult and children’s books. Selznick does an outstanding job of building and developing characters both visually and through text. Joseph, Frankie, and Uncle Albert all are misunderstood and imperfect, with huge chunks missing from their lives. The house with all its mysteries supplies answers and provides the solution for each. The story was inspired by the Dennis
Severs House in London, and Selznick provides an extensive afterword about it. Have the tissues nearby as the ending has dramatic flair and flourish as only Selznick can deliver. He has put together so many
wonderful things in this story, yet I still have to wonder – who did he write this story for?
Stewart, Melissa. (2015). Hurricane Watch. Illustr. By Taia Morley. Let’s Read and Find Out Science Series. New York: Harper/HarperCollins. $17.99 ISBN 978-0062327765 hardback; 36 pages Grade Range: Preschool-gr. 3
Evaluation: Not Recommended for YAs; this is for up to grades 3
Using simple text, Melissa Stewart breaks apart a hurricane and reconstructs it back into a storm in this nonfiction title, from the “Let’s Read and Find Out Science Series”. Stewart deftly includes definitions of terms that might be unfamiliar with, all the while moving forward with the progression of the storm. Readers will find there is a feeling of being part of the story, although there are no characters in it. Morley’s wonderful full-color watercolor illustrations expand on the text, adding detail and showing the drama of the storm as it builds and finally hits shore. Included in the text are comparative charts and lists (for example, what to do if there is a hurricane watch or a warning and the Saffir-Simpson Scale). Backmatter include a glossary, a couple of experiments, and suggested websites for more information. A worthy update to the 1985 edition by Franklin Branley.
Joey and Johnny The Ninjas: Get Mooned by Kevin Serwacki and Chris Pallace - Juvenile Recommended
Joey and Johnny The Ninjas; Get Mooned is completely baffling from start to finish. The peculiarity level on this book is so high that by the end it’s hard to accurately describe the mayhem. Readers who enjoyed the dearth of Diary of a Wimpy Kid readalikes or who finished all the Tom Angleberger books should be handed this novel immediately. Not only does it read like something maybe their parents or teachers wouldn’t like, it is illustrated and had the best sort of fun funny that isn’t mean funny at someone else's expense. The plot is a lot like Star Wars Jedi Academy by Jeff Brown, the two boys are in ninja school and the entire school is staffed by teachers straight out of Dan Gutman’s My Weird School. The novel has tons of readalike potential and tie ins to Avatar or Naruto that will make it easy to pitch to kids. The cover art and story illustrations are bold lure readers with its comic book appearance. An ideal choice for boys, gamers, reluctant readers in upper grades and kids who watch too much tv and need to be weaned onto fiction. This isn’t recommended as a classroom read aloud though, the vaguely nonsensical plot is written in a sort of magical juvenile language that will make perfect sense to kids but will need some translating for adults. An adult reading this out loud, possibly without reading it through first will be totally bamboozled. This book is already in our collection. We will add this copy to our collection as well and it will most likely be checked out by the end of the day. This is a recommended title for school and public libraries serving readers age 8-12 or grades 3rd-7th. Keep your eyes peeled for another book in the series due out in 2016. Laura Perenic
Blank by Trina St.Jean - middlegrade optional purchase
Blank by Trina St. Jean is a realistic story of Jessica/Jessie who is injured on the family farm, resulting in a coma and memory loss. Though physically healthy aside from some scars, Jessie remembers only random information; nearly everything about her friends, family and past life are gone. Jessie’s relationship with her younger brother Stephen is endearing. Her relationships with her parents are more awkward and Mom and Dad feel like caricatures. Just as Jessica works to reveal her past the reader has to wait for the plot to develop. The story is slow and many reader may get bored. Reader’s expecting a dramatic climax or a big reveal at the end with a science fiction or paranormal twist will be disappointed. Blank is more about accepting change and dealing with adversity. Watching Jessica make discoveries about who she was and who she can is motivating. The inspirational message of Blank will appeal to readers with their own personal challenges. It is an easy read and there are are few objections for content besides some underage drinking. This is an optional purchase for school and public libraries serving readers ages 11 and up or 6-8 grade. Laura Perenic
Legend the Graphic Novel by Marie Lu - teen optional purchase
Graphic novels of fiction novels can be challenging to pull off. The graphic novel should be entertaining to readers who have or have not read the first novel. The the graphic novel should make the reader want to read the novel it is based on or encourage the reader to read the comic even though the reader knows the plot points from the original material. Having read the first book already, the graphic novel is surprising in places but not all that exciting. The majority of the plot is developed on the cover and the dust jacket so that the reader knows a lot about the two main characters. June is the privileged prodigy and Day is the criminal intent on ruining The Republic. The pair of opposites end up on the same side and fight together presumably into the next book since there a lot of setup at the end. Its impressive the 300 page chapter book was encapsulated in a 150 page comic book. The story could have been shown in greater detail if more time had been taken with the storyboard to really draw things out. Overall the book lacks tension and impact. A minor quibble as it pertains more to the book than the comic version but what is it about being in mortal danger that makes people want to kiss? Optional purchase for grades 6 and up. Minor reservations for fantasy violence and death that are handled vaguely. Laura Perenic
Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips - teen high school recommended
Crazy, set in the 1960s and told in verse, is the first person perspective of Laura who fears mental illness is hereditary and she will be institutionalized like her mother. With the stigma of mental illness so clearly reinforced by the adults in her life who avoid the topic, Laura doesn't share her fears with friends or caring teachers. The verse was a great way to explain Laura’s tangential thoughts. It was easy to get involved in her life and worry for and with her as things progressed. Keeping track of the family members that flit in and out focus as Laura’s mother suffers a series of setbacks was a little challenging. Using the 1960s was a unique way to show how little progress has been made in the field of mental health and it really highlights how keeping these issues in the open is best way to deal with them. The adults in this book are mostly all shut down with a few stand outs in Laura’s art teachers who struggle to push Laura toward answers without also pushing her away. I really didn't want to like this book, I think I judged the cover. I was truly worried for the character and I felt connected to her struggle as least as an adult who wanted to help. I think this will circulate with some effort. I do wish the ending had been different. A bit reveal about the mother was abrupt and it seemed little of the plot focused on that detail again. I guess its realistic, life progresses even when the book is done. Recommended for school and public libraries serving readers grades 8th - 12th. Minor reservations for mention of rape. Laura Perenic
Title: The Endless Lake by Erin Hunter
Author: Erin Hunter
Evaluation: The story follows the trek of a group of dogs as they try to find their old pack. The first half is confusing and hard to get through if one has no background on her post-apocalyptic dog world, but the second half is somewhat interesting with decent pacing. This is a buy if her other books were checked out, but a no if there is no existing fan base. Optional. - Peter Kilkelly
Title: The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell
Author: Don Mitchell
Evaluation: This is an excellent nonfiction book about the Freedom Summer Murders in Mississippi in 1964. The book does a good job of describing the murders to draw in interest and then laying out the lives of the three murdered activists and pointing to how the impact of the murders extends to today. The only mild criticism is it might be tough for someone who knows nothing about the civil rights movement, but most high school students should know enough. Highly recommend, particularly for high school but could be read by 7th or 8th graders.
Title: Athlete vs. Mathlete: Timeout
Author: W.C. Mack
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Evaluation: The book is about a summer camp experience of two brothers who are learning about themselves. The book is funny and does a good job of differentiating the brothers and providing an arc for them to grow up over the book. This would be good for middle schoolers looking for light fun reading about sports and growing up. Recommend for school/ library serving 5th through 8th graders.
Tap to Play
Salina Yoon - Balzar and Bray - 15.99 - 9780062286840
Full of bright, bold colors, this book delivers an interactive reading experience that is sure to be a hit for the PreK-1 set. By tapping the red dot, the narrator of this simple story, readers embark on quest similar to a video game which requires shaking, tilting, flapping and knocking. The red dot, with big, cute eyes and a silly smile, encourages readers to be hands-on and engaged in order to help him get to the end of the level. Sure to produce giggles and smiles, this book is recommended for school libraries and will be requested by students in the primary grades, particularly Preschool through first.
#prehistoric Follow the Dinosaurs
Scholastic - 9.99- 9780545823418 -John Bailey Owen
What if the prehistoric era had a social media site? That’s the premise for this book featuring over 60 dinosaurs, early mammals, and major prehistoric events and places who post facts about themselves in the “about me” section of their page, and interact with each other via a message board. InterruptingDina, also known as Iguanadon, is the first to join the social site. He is soon followed by the trillobite, screen name Trill_O_byte who reminds any confused friends that he is the ancestor for the now ubiquitous insect. Plenty of favorites appear, including the velociraptor and the woolly mammoth, with a few surprise members like Pangea and something with the screen name “AttackPony.” This is a clever way for dino lovers to find out more about their favorite lizards and prehistoric animals. It has plenty of full color pictures and maps to help readers visualize the online predator or prey. Fun screen names and hashtags are educational as well, such as Official_Rex1, soon to be known as Tyrockasaurus Rexington with #rebrand. Elasmosaurus (KillerSeaGiraffe22) tags with #PebblesHelpWithDigestion and #MiraclePebblesDiet. This book is recommended for school libraries who will find it flying off the shelves into the hands of readers grades 2-6.
Temple Run-Run for YOur Life!: Doom Lagoon
Egmont, Chase Wilder, 6.99 9781606845721
Jungle Trek 9781606845714
Based on the popular video game, these choose-your-own-adventure books are a fun and easy read, perfect for boys or reluctant readers. The covers feature Guy Dangerous and Scarlett Fox, characters in each book, as well as a boy who is the “you” in the stories. Both books are set in remote areas where simple choices at the bottom of the page can lead the reader to further adventures, or sudden death by crocodiles, drowning or demon monkeys! It is quite easy to start again and to read a new ending to the story, and would be a great read-aloud for students in lower grades. Students in grades 3-7 will enjoy reading the books on their own. These are recommended for school libraries.
Orca Book Publishers 19.95
Wallace Steven’s beautiful illustrations are the highlight of this book featuring crazily mixed-up creatures from the mind of Professor I.B. Doodling. From the first page where the Whalephant leaps into the air above the ocean, giggling readers will be captivated by the magical silliness of the colorful drawings. Some animal mixes are quite rega according to the rhyming couplet that accompanies each illustration- the proud Hawkodile “sits and ponders all the while.” However, others are just plain awkward, including the Toraffe whose tortoise backside must held up by a balloon while her giraffe head is “held up with pride.” The last two pages of the book include additional creatures that appear the book with rhyming couplets. It will lead to rereads of the book as readers scan the illustrations to locate the mismatched animals. Perfect for read-alouds, this book is recommended for grades K-5.
The Magic Thief: Home
Harper Collins 17.99
The third book in The Magic Thief series finds Conn returning to his roots. Despite proving himself as a trustworthy wizard, the elder wizards don’t believe he can ever be anything more than a common pickpocket. Determined to prove he is not the culprit in the disappearance of the powerful locus magicalicus stones that give the magicians their power, Conn returns to his thieving and grubby beginnings. With the help of his royal best friend, Conn must make find the real thief and avoid being pulled back into the grip of old enemies who’d like to see him fail. This series is a perfect fit for readers who are in search of Harry Potter but aren’t ready to fail in their quest due to a higher reading level. Older primary students in grades 3-6 will enjoy the characters and magical setting. It is recommended for school libraries who have the other books in the series.
Ostow’s book uses the real-life murders from the newspaper and not the novel and movie that put the town of “Amity” on the map as the basis for this book. Told in two voices, the book spans across a decade. Connor moved into the house in Amity ten years before Gwen and her family did. Both share their experiences in the house, from bad dreams and shadows to violence and death. The house in Amity is the power in both stories, and its presence looms largely in the lives of the teens. In the end, their live parallel each other more than either would ever want, and Amity claims it’s last victim. Teen readers who are not familiar with the real story of what happened in the house in Amityville, New York may find a compelling read in this novel. However, the book and movie have had a large impact on popular culture, and their influence will be hard for readers to shake. There are some creepy parts to be sure, and readers will find themselves reading this in a well-lit place, but overall, the story is not compelling enough to compete with the fictional images from the movie. It is an optional purchase for readers in grades 9-12.
Title: The Dark Unwinding
Author: Sharon Cameron
Katharine Tulman has not led a happy life. Orphaned at an early age, she is the ward of her father’s widowed sister-in-law, a money-grubbing shrew who coddles her grown son. Katharine’s uncle holds the Tulman family’s fortune in his power and is reportedly squandering money that should come into Robert’s possession. Aunt Alice will have none of that. She sends Katharine on her first trip ever to visit the family estate and determine Uncle Tulman’s mental health. Arriving at the family home, Katharine finds a house that can only be described as elegant squalor. One woman remains working in the large home, and Uncle Tulman is nowhere to be found. Maintaining as much dignity as she can, Katharine withstands the instant mistrust, cold disdain and rude reception of all the inhabitants of the estate – employees of her Uncle. One of these employees finally shows Katharine her absent uncle. The brawny and silent Lane leads her to “Mr. Tully’s” workshop. Here Katharine finds a childlike man, controlled by routine who creates delicate and exquisite clockwork figures. He is lovingly protected by the people on the estate who work in the foundries and mills he had built on the grounds of the Tulman land. Each of the inhabitants has been saved from poor houses and work houses and has been given a new life by the eccentric Mr. Tully. Katharine learns gradually that despite his shortcomings, her uncle is responsible for the well-being of many, and his savant status has endeared him to all who care for him. Caught up in the mystery of the gothic Tulman home and the intrigue of her Uncle’s brilliant creations, Katharine must choose between her dreary former life and her new existence with the common people of the Tulman estate. It is only a tragedy and betrayal that will lead her finally to her destiny and to the first love she has ever known. Cameron’s debut novel is a dark and thrilling book that is a little bit steampunk, a little bit romance and a little bit gothic. Readers who enjoy classic gothic tales such as Jane Eyre will love this book as well, with a strong heroine and unique and memorable characters. A vivid sense of place and time are captured in strong writing and clean plot. This book is a recommended read for students in grades 9-12.
Reviewer: Emily Rozmus
School/Public Library: Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools
Author: Kirsty McKay
Bobby can think of a million different places she would rather be than on a school trip with her classmates in the Scottish wilderness. A transplant from the USA, Bobby tries to remind her snobby peers that she was actually born in Britain, but she is still an unwelcome outcast. The snow is piling up, and instead of going to the diner to eat with the rest of the group, Bobby stays on the bus with Smitty, the class rebel. While trying to balance being bored and indifferent to the bad boy come ons of Smitty, the bus is hit from behind. The driver leaves to find out the problem, and Bobby and Smitty are left to wonder what is happening. Their questions are answered when queen bee mean girl Alice stumbles onto the bus in tears. Everyone inside the diner is dead, including their teacher Mr. Tyler. Worse yet, Mr. Tyler has returned from the dead and tried to grab Alice. When a quick survey of the snowy parking lot reveals more blood and bodies, the teens know for sure they have a lot more to worry about than who is included socially and who isn’t. Forming an unlikely team, Bobby, Smitty, Alice and Pete, another social outcast, battle the undead in a fight for their lives. Their flight from the horde leads them to a seemingly deserted castle on the Scottish highlands and the teens finally feel safe. However, the castle holds the key to the zombie outbreak, and Bobby finds herself in the middle of the cause and the cure. The book’s abrupt ending screams for a sequel, and readers will want to know what happens to the team of teens in this humorous, gory and suspenseful zombie book with a twist. Characters are the stars of this book, with fully developed personalities that are realistic and empathetic. Protagonist Bobby has enough backstory to allow readers to invest in her and her relationships with her fellow zombie fighters. The plot of the book is fast-paced and dotted with snarky humor and a good dose of bloody gore. Zombie lovers will love Undead. It is recommended for readers in grades 9-12
School/Public Library:Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools
Title: Murder Notebooks : Dead Time
Author: Cassidy, Anne
Publisher: Walker & Co
With her mother missing and presumed dead, Rose has moved in with her dower Grandmother Anna. Rose has changed schools and is far from Josh, the sort of half-brother she gained when her mother began to date Brendan. When Rose’s mom and Josh’s dad both go missing the pair is separated for
nearly 5 years. Now a series of killings in their neighborhood seems related to other unsolved cases like that of their parents. Rose is the narrator and thus the character you are most concerned about when teens around her start to drop dead. Although she is close to Josh, I didn’t feel I knew him well and felt sort of ambivalent about his involvement in things. The story isn’t overly gory but Rose does witness a murder and walk into a crime scene at a cemetery. Dead Time isn’t a forensic novel; it’s based on clues and detective work. Cassidy strings the plot along slowly but if the effect is meant to be eerie the sensation just gets lost; the story felt slow. The ending leads you to believe there will be
more books in the series so we can learn more about the missing parents who also happen to be police officers who were working on cold cases. A lot of the mystery felt muted and dissatisfying; not bad per se but a tad boring.
No reservations for language, drinking or drug use. Optional purchase for grade 8th and up.
Reviewer: Laura C Perenic
School/Public Library: Middletown Public Library
Title: Just a Dog
Author: Bauer, Michael Gerard
The classic underdog tale, Corey Ingram relates how from infancy and through childhood, his beloved pet Mr. Mosely has always been a member of the family. Mr. Mosely’s love for Corey, his mother and his father is matched only by the family’s love for their sweet mutt. Recommended for grades 3rd-5th, the end pages suggest Just a Dog would be for grades 4th – 7th but its unlikely older teens will gravitate to such a charming story. Described down the last spot, Mr. Mosely is a gentle giant more scared of storms and cats. At the fair the dog not only wins the prizes for Biggest and Friendliest, but he also earns his kibble by saving Ingram from an ill intentioned couple who wanted to kidnap the boy.
The story is predictably sad as most dog tend to be, Mr. Mosely survives being hit by a car only to succumb to bone cancer later. It’s a tame book for younger readers and would be a good way to help elementary school students learn to grieve for a pet. No reservations for any content, there is some
mild violence when Corey’s dad and his Uncle Gavin have a fight which results in a bloody nose for Uncle Gavin. It was funny that when the grownups yell at each other it says they use ‘swearwords’ but actual curses are never used.
Reviewer: Laura C Perenic
School/Public Library: Middletown Public Library
Title: Tempest Unleashed
Author: Tracy Deebs
In this sequel to Tempest Rising, we meet Tempest, who is half-mermaid and half-human, as she is trying to adjust to life in the ocean. After a few months in the ocean, she begins to miss her family that she left behind on land. She travels to her old home in order to see her family and accidently see her old boyfriend
Mark surfing. She begins to have old feelings arise for Mark even though her current boyfriend Kona is a selkie prince. She returns to her new home and is injured by some of the sea witch Tiamat’s henchmen while en route. She later finds out that her youngest brother has been injured by Tiamat and is in a coma.
She then travels back to her old home and tries to help while she begins to be drawn to Mark. Meanwhile in the ocean, a battle rages between Tiamat and Tempest’s new clan. While the previous installment was great, this volume seems very sappy and superficial while Tempest cannot decide who to date when a battle is raging. This will appeal to fans of paranormal romance, but is considered an optional purchase.
Reviewer: Sarah Thornbery
School/Public Library: Springboro Jr. High School Library
Title: I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery
Author: Cynthia Grady
In this beautifully crafted text, we are introduced to poems of American slavery. The author provides poems written in free verse that consist of ten lines with ten syllables per line. In the preface, the author explains the connection that quilt making and poetry both utilize patterns and that each poem is named for a quilt block. In each poem, the author utilizes religious, musical, & sewing references. After each poem, there is an example of what the quilt pattern consists of and then provides information related to the poem. The illustrations for each poem were illustrated by Michele Wood and were wonderful imagery of what story has been told in the poem. This is a must have for any library serving students in grades 5-8. This is highly recommended by this reviewer and received a Kirkus Starred review in January 2012
Reviewer: Sarah Thornbery
School/Public Library: Springboro Jr. High School Library